Fine Motor Skills Play

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From the moment little ones find their own hands, fine-motor skill exploration is under way. Gradually it develops to include picking up a Cheerio on a highchair tray to using a spoon, tying shoes and snapping pants. Touching and grabbing are the ways babies and toddlers explore their world, as well as how they begin to develop the coordination and muscle control that grows their fine motor skills.

“Everyday Play: Fun Games to Develop the Fine Motor Skills Your Child Needs for School” (Gryphon House, May 2010, $12.95) is a new book filled with developmental activities for parents who want to add fun, fine-motor skill practice to their child’s daily activities. Written by occupational therapist Christy Isbell, the book aims to help children master preschool skills, such as tying shoes, zipping coats, buttoning shirts and pants, using a fork or spoon, and how to correctly hold a crayon or pencil. The activities include materials or props.
Here are three activities Isbell suggests — one each for a 3-year-old, 4-year-old and 5-year-old.

No-Mess Finger Painting (Age 3)
Develops your child’s finger isolation and helps him learn to make simple lines or shapes.
What you need:
• Resealable plastic freezer bags
• Finger paints
What to do:
• Give you child a resealable plastic freezer bag.
• After he chooses the color he wants, help him pour finger paint into his bag.
• Help him securely close and seal the bag. Make sure the bag does not have excess air inside.
• Place the sealed bag flat on the table or floor and show your child how to use his index fingers to make lines or shapes in the paint.
• Talk about the different shapes or designs your child makes.

More fun!
Squirt two different colors of paint into the bag. Encourage your child to use his index finger to mix the paint together. Explore the new colors he creates by mixing paint.

Kite Flying (Age 4)
Develops your child’s eye-hand coordination.
What you need:
• Thick paper, such as oak tag, card stock or construction paper
• Yarn or string, stapler, hole-punch and tape
What to do:
• Show your child what a large diamond shape looks like.
• Then ask her to draw two large diamond shapes (as close to the same size as she can) on her paper to cut out. Note: Many 4-year-olds will draw a square or shape other than a diamond, which will work fine for this project.
• Show her how to put the matching “diamonds” together using a stapler or tape.
• Help her cut a piece of yarn or string for the kite tail and punch a hole at the bottom of the kite.
• Invite your child to thread the yarn through the hole and help her tie a knot or secure it.
• Next, help her cut another piece of string to fly the kite. Punch a hole at the top of the kite. Thread the yarn through the hole, and tie and knot.
• Encourage her to hold onto the kite string and run around to “fly” her kite inside or outside.

More fun!
Set out markers and other materials for her to decorate the kite.

Painted Flower Pots (Age 5)
Helps your child manipulate tools in play, learn to create art with a variety of materials and use an effective grasp of tools.
What you need:
• Terra cotta flowerpots
• Acrylic paints
• Small paintbrushes, foam stamps and clear acrylic spray
• Vinyl tablecloth, shower curtain or newspaper to keep work surface clean
• Paint shirts for children
What to do:
• Give your child a flowerpot and set out the decorative materials. Invite her to decorate it.
• Spray the painted pot with clear acrylic spray (adult-only step) and allow to dry.
More fun!
Fill the pot with dirt and plant some flowers or a green plant.

What Skills Should My Preschooler Learn?
By the time your child is 6, she should be able to perform the following basic fine-motor actions.
• Reach. Move her arm forward to grasp or touch an object.
• Grasp. Use his fingers to get an object into his hand.
• Carry. Use her hand to move an object from place to another place.
• Release. Let go of an object he holds in his hand.
• In-hand Manipulation. Let go of an object she holds in her hand.
• Bilateral Hand Use. Use his two hands together in an activity