We use our hands on a daily basis. We type memos at work, wash dishes at home, operate a car and hang out on the couch flipping channels on the remote control. Regardless of what the activity is, we are constantly using our hands.
It is important that we teach our children fine motor skills when they are young. By starting at a young age for proper development and practice, kids can begin to utilize the small intrinsic muscles in their hands. Because we rely so much on our hands, we depend on the activities that are taught to us from childhood.
Simple Activities Can Help
Simple activities such as learning how to tie shoes or zipping or unzipping pants are both great examples of using our fine motor skills every day. These are tasks that are required day in and day out. In order to function and perform ordinary and difficult tasks as we get older, it is imperative that we teach our children the following activities:
• Buttoning and unbuttoning pants or shirts
• Turning pages in a book
• Opening a drawer
• Eating with utensils
• Pinching objects between fingers
• Screwing and unscrewing certain objects
• Picking up and holding things
• Throwing and catching things, such as balls
• Writing or drawing
• Other activities that require the use of our hands
These activities may seem too simple to the average adult, but to a child, they require time and patience. Once these basic skills are mastered, children can continue to use them in their everyday lives.
Although the list above is basic, activities for children can use a little extra creativity. For example, instead of teaching your child how to button or unbutton his or her pants in order to go out for the day, engage them in a little game of dress-up. For example, you can pretend that you are taking him or her to look for dinosaurs or to go to discover the pyramids in Egypt. Set out outfits that he or she thinks are appropriate for each occasion and ask him or her to button up their pants on their own.
Eating with utensils and knowing how to hold them properly might take a little practice with small children. This involves coordination between your child’s eyes and hands. By showing your child how you eat and how you use them, they should start to get an idea of how eating with utensils is supposed to be. You can kneel beside them and guide them through it, as you go through the motions.
Throwing and catching balls is a challenge that involves eye-hand coordination and the ability to determine how much space is between the thrower and catcher. With the little ones, you can start by sitting on the floor at least a foot apart. Roll a soft ball to your child and see if he or she can hold on to it. Then, ask them to roll it back. Once the rolling is mastered, you can slowly start with the throwing and catching.
Recognizing Problems With Fine Motor Skills
Sometimes, problems arise with your child's developing fine motor skills. It's important to be able to identify these as soon as possible, so that you can get your child help. Here are a few things you should be looking out for.
If your child is unable to grasp the concept of tying their shoes, buttoning their pants, or similar activities after you've demonstrated them and spent a lot of time practicing, this could be a problem. If your child is continuously fumbling with their shoelaces or pants button, this could mean they have a hard time properly controlling the muscles in their hands.
Many young kids have messy handwriting while they're learning how to write. However, if your child's writing is unusually messy, or does not improve with time and practice, this is a cause for concern. A child who is unable to write properly usually has some sort of developmental disability.
Finally, if your child is struggling to hold or manipulate objects with their hands, this is another problem. Your child should catch on to how to grasp objects and use them fairly quickly. An early object that a child may struggle with is scissors. If your child isn't improving in this area after some time and effort, it could be evidence of fine motor difficulties.
If your child is struggling in any of the aforementioned ways, or if they are otherwise finding it difficult to use their fine motor skills, consult their pediatrician. Never try to self-diagnose your child. Your child's pediatrician can help you determine what, if any, problems your child has. From there, they can guide you to therapy or other forms of help.
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