Your kids are learning and growing every day. From the classwork they do at school to the activities they choose at home, every moment can be a learning experience for them. When it comes to something as essential as developing fine motor skills, your child benefits from practicing at school and reinforcing the skills at home.
For young children, fine motor skills can be learned by fastening clothing, using art materials, putting together a puzzle, and other skills that help strengthen the small muscles in their hands. While good handwriting may seem obsolete in the age of keyboards and smartphones, experts argue that it is an essential fine motor skill to develop, with long-term benefits. Researchers have found that a solid grasp of fine motor skills in kindergarten are a predictor of science, reading, and math achievement in elementary school.
Let’s dive into why fine motor skills, especially handwriting, are so essential and examine some easy ways to support your child’s fine motor skill development at home.
Why is Developing Fine Motor Skills Important?
Fine motor skills are necessary as your child grows and becomes more self-sufficient - grasping and using utensils, buttoning and zipping clothes, making crafts, and writing by hand all fall under the umbrella of fine motor skills.
An early and firm grasp of fine motor skills will help as your child learns how to write clearly and legibly. Not to be written off, good handwriting has far-reaching effects on many aspects of your child’s life. Researchers have conducted studies to emphasize how the brains of children are stimulated through handwriting.
The results? Children who write letters tend to produce more words and express more ideas than kids that only type on digital machines. The act of writing things down on paper helps the brain to focus better and think clearly. Outside of idea formation and organization, good handwriting and academic achievement seem to be correlated. Researchers stated that working early with preschoolers on fine motor skills helped with the coordination of cognitive, motor, and neuromuscular processes.
How Can You Improve Your Child’s Fine Motor Skills at Home?
Finger dexterity is a foundation of handwriting and fine motor skills in general, and can easily be practiced at home. These activities will help your child develop these essential skills outside of the classroom:
Pincers and Tongs
Young children use their thumbs and forefingers together in a “pincer” motion. Little learners will enjoy placing clothespins around the edge of a box or hanging doll clothes on a low clothesline. Another activity is using small kitchen tongs to grasp and move pom poms or cotton balls from one container to another - make it a game by putting a time limit on the activity, sorting by colors, or counting as they move the pom poms.
Playdough allows children to use finger and hand muscles as they pat, pound, poke, and roll. Preschoolers enjoy working with playdough and creating a finished product to show off, but the process is what is important to build finger dexterity. Additional learning opportunities can be included by encouraging children to form three-dimensional shapes or the letters in their name with the dough.
Puzzles can help build eye/hand coordination and fine motor skills. The ability to coordinate what the eyes see, the mind wants to do, and what the hands can accomplish takes a lot of practice. Knobbed puzzle pieces are especially good at working the hand muscles that are needed later for pencil gripping.
On a piece of cardstock, draw green lines (meaning GO) and a red dot (for STOP). Let the child use safety scissors to cut the first green line, stopping at the red dot. Then, move the scissors to the next green line and repeat. More advanced crafters can cut out images from old magazines or newsletters.
Pencils and Crayons
Nothing provides better fine motor skill practice than creating art! Painting, water coloring, tracing, and coloring all play an important role in improving fine motor skills. Let your child choose their which type of art they would like to create and let them craft a masterpiece. Holding crayons, markers, or paintbrushes and manipulating them will help strengthen fine motor muscles.
How Stratford Schools Can Help
Your child’s fine motor skill development doesn’t need to end when they leave the house. At Stratford, we use a scaffolded approach with our young learners to boost their fine motor skills through a variety of activities. Preschoolers are exposed to a variety of art mediums and fine motor activities to strengthen these important early learning skills.
Learn more about Stratford Schools’ approach to fine motor skills and handwriting by scheduling a school tour.