As young children develop, they need to learn a lot of minor movements and skills that we, as adults, take for granted. Motor skills involve how you control your muscles and identify your surroundings–for example, through colors or textures. If you’re looking for ways to help improve and further develop your children’s motor skills, there are dozens of fun activities, from crafts like diamond painting to games like Pom Pom Pick Up. Try to work on some of these skills for a little bit every day until your child has mastered them. Then, move on to more complex skills.
The Difference Between Fine and Gross Motor Skills
The main distinction between fine and gross motor skills are the muscles that are used for specific actions. Gross motor skills control larger muscle movements that humans use while walking, sitting up, crawling or even running. Fine motor skills, on the other hand, refer to small, more delicate muscle movements like picking up a spoon and grabbing or controlling objects. Gross motor skills almost tend to come naturally to children as they begin to develop and have the desire to move on their own, though you should practice skills like sitting, standing and walking with them on a regular basis.
Fine motor skills can be a bit more difficult for children to master as these are more refined skills that can be built up through practice. As your child grows into the age where he or she can start eating solid foods, they certainly can use their hands to grip and pick up food, but as time moves on, you can work on their fine motor skills by teaching them to eat with utensils.
What Is Considered a Fine Motor Skill?
Although fine motor skills refer to small muscle movements, there is a range of skills that falls under this category–from academic understanding to play and self-care skills. Learning how to hold and use pencils, markers and crayons can be attributed to academic skills as these are motions your child will have to carry out in school and professional settings later in life. When working on fine motor skills with playtime, children can master small movements and object manipulation by playing with items like shape sorting cubes, dolls and building toys such as Legos or train tracks. Finally, self-care skills can include brushing their teeth solo, learning to eat with utensils, getting themselves dressed and other basic hygiene routines. Working with your child on these skills not only improves their ability to control their muscles, but also gives them a sense of responsibility.
Activities to Improve Fine Motor Skills
- Diamond Painting
One of our favorite activities to do as a family, diamond painting is a craft that uses a design grid that has been labeled with colors and numbers that correspond to specific colors of faceted beads called “diamond beads.” This activity is perfect for children because it really involves a lot of control of minor movements as you place small beads onto the grid. It also can help with teaching precision and patience as a single diamond painting can take several sessions to complete. If you’re working with a small child on a project like this, it’s best to start with a simple design that doesn’t feature too many details. You can pull out your diamond art projects once a day or once a week and help your child create something that he or she is proud of while also teaching them a valuable motor skill.
For children who are just beginning to learn how to master minor hand movements, practicing how to string beads is a great activity. Get some fun, brightly colored beads and string that can easily fit through the hole and then encourage your child to try making their own necklace or bracelet. Young children learn best by copying modeled behavior, so be sure to stay nearby and string your own beads to help them comprehend the action and learn it for themselves.
- Pom-Pom Pick Up
This is a fun, easy game to play with your child to help them learn to grip and pick up items. The first level of Pom-Pom Pick Up involves having the child simply pick up brightly colored, soft pom-poms (for example, the kind that you often use in arts and crafts projects). After they have mastered picking these items up with their hands, you can make the game more challenging. Give them a pair of plastic toy tongs or tweezers and ask them to pick up the pom-poms using these tools. This will be a bit more challenging for your child as using these items requires a bit more control over your minor muscle movements.
- Utensil Practice
A very useful way to refine children’s fine motor skills is through utensil practice. Before giving your child plastic forks, spoons and knives to use on real food, try using fake food. This prevents you from cleaning up a big mess as your child will definitely spill and drop things as he or she is learning to master the art of eating with utensils. Invest in a set of children’s utensils and explain to your son or daughter that these are special tools just for them, but they have to learn how to use them first. Then, you can use fake toy food or other toy objects to help them learn how to scoop items up with a spoon. You can also use simple foods like fruits or veggies to practice using a fork. These types of foods won’t make a huge mess and provide a kind of reward to the child for being able to pick up a delicious snack.
Learn Together with Your Child
Working with your child on developing fine motor skills can be a time-consuming process, but there are dozens of ways to make it fun. Get the entire family involved in completing a diamond painting as a way to bond together and encourage your child to exert greater control over their own movements. Playing games like Pom-Pom Pick Up or rewarding kids with snacks during utensil practice is the perfect way to practice motor skills. As long as you work together, your child will be supported and proud of their new achievements.