Everything Fine Motor

Everything Fine Motor

"Fine Motor Skills" is a bit of a catchy hot phrase in the early learning area but what exactly is it about and why is there such a focus on it?  

The reason fine motor skills is often a big focus is all the things that are bundled in there are very important pre writing skills. In order to give the kids the best chance once they start school of having a successful introduction to writing they need to have had the foundations covered at home or at pre-school. Lots of kids will gravitate towards writing earlier than school and that's okay but its essential to work on the skills that are underlying that.

So what skills are we talking about specifically?
  • Hand and finger strength: An ability to exert force against something using the hands and fingers that allows the necessary muscle power for controlled movement of the pencil.
  • Crossing the mid-line: The ability for hands and arms to cross the imaginary line running from a person’s nose to pelvis that divides the body into left and right sides.
  • Hand eye coordination: The ability to process information received from the eyes to control, guide and direct the hands in the performance of a task such as handwriting.
  • Bilateral integration: Using two hands together with one hand leading (e.g. holding and moving the pencil with the dominant hand while the other hand helps by holding the writing paper).
  • Upper body strength: The strength and stability provided by the shoulder to allow controlled hand movement for good pencil control.
  • Object manipulation: The ability to skilfully manipulate tools (including holding and moving pencils and scissors) and controlled use of everyday tools (such as a toothbrush, hairbrush, cutlery).
  • Visual perception: The brain’s ability to interpret and make sense of visual images seen by the eyes, such as letters and numbers.
  • Hand division: Using just the thumb, index and middle finger for manipulation, leaving the fourth and little finger tucked into the palm stabilizing the other fingers but not participating.

(source: childdevelopment.com.au)

So let's break those down a little and give you some practical tips and ideas.

Hand and Finger Strength.

fun dough rainbowThe number one tool for developing good hand and finger strength is.......playdough!!  Anything like putty is good too, and of course real dough. So kneading bread dough has the same effect as squeezing and squashing playdough. Other mediums that are also good are our Cotton Sand and Sensory Sand. So encourage lots of kneading, squishing and squeezing of dough and other 'thick' things.  Heading to the beach and scooping and playing in the sand is another way to do this outside the home and at home encourage them to open jars and packets, lunchboxes and do things like wiping up spills with a sponge.

 

Crossing the Midline

rainbow pebblesThis one is needed for children to be able to cross the page of paper once writing. Kids who struggle might prefer to write all one one side of the paper or move the paper to their dominant side to compensate. Crossing the midline is something that once you look for it, a lot of kids do it naturally, but if your child doesn't here are a few tips and things to work on. Try setting up a colour matching activity for them on the floor with all the coloured objects on one side and the destination on the other and challenge them to do it one handed by sitting on their opposite hand. They will be forced to reach across their body!  Swap hands and do it again and keep it light and fun. Floor puzzles are good for this as the kids tend to use their whole body to reach across for pieces that are scattered on the floor. A couple of extra easy things include sticking stickers on one arm of your child and asking them to remove them with the other hand, getting them to have a go tracing each of their hands on paper and in the bath give them a cup and ask them to pour water over their opposite hands/arm.

Hand Eye Coordination

lacing beadsThis one is super important for school and life and is an easy one to work on. It's the ability to get our hands to do something based on visual input we see, so threading and lacing are a big one here, where kids have to line up threads with a shapes hole. This skill is what allows us to have accuracy when we write. In addition to lacing and threading, things like getting them to paint a shape you have traced on a paper, pushing or posting objects into a box with a hole and using a shape sorter are great ones. Another favourite is jigsaw puzzles, so getting the pieces into the right spot!

Bilateral Integration

scissor skillsSounds fancy but its just really kids using both hands for a common goal. So one hand holding the paper while they draw, or one hand holding a thread while they put shapes on it. Dress and eating are ways this is done naturally at home! Other things you can focus on if its something you see your child not doing are taking on and off dolls clothes, using scissors to cut paper or dough, using Duplo or Lego to build tall towers or structures where they have to use one hand to steady it whilst they put on extra blocks, and also gluing and sticking things.

Upper Body Strength

This is something that most kids develop through play. Swimming, swinging, monkey bars, hand stands, dancing and hugging! If you think your child is lacking in these areas compared to same aged peers make a focus of being active and engage in physical activities and see if you get improvement.

Object Manipulation

beehives by plan toysThis is what allows kids to hold and move a pencil in their hand. Before that its how they hold and use their cutlery, toothbrush, hairbrush or tongs. There are some great toys and activities for this like Kerplunk, Beehives by Plan Toys and balancing and stacking animals. At home things like tongs for serving meals or using for colour sorting is great. Another one that is great to focus on is scissor skills. Grab some dough scissors early on and kid sized scissors once they're ready for paper.

Visual Perception

This allows us to make sense of what we see visually. It's easy to do with shape and colour association early on and moving on to matching activities like snap games and our rainbow pebbles. Keep it light and fun, flash cards are great but there are more fun ways kids can practice these skills. Check out our educational range or games for inspiration based on your child's interests.

Hand Division

finger print kit kids play toysThis is where kids can manipulate fingers individually and move from a fist grasp to a finger grasp. This ones a tricky one and usually comes on naturally a bit later in most kids. Fun ways to practice is putting on and using finger puppets, playing hand games like Incy Wincy Spider and also counting songs where they raise individual fingers. Finger Painting will also help if you encourage them to make finger prints with each finger!

 

I hope this has helped, and you can see a bunch of our resources by clicking below:

Educational

Activities

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Things to do at home to keep the kids busy

Things to do at home to keep the kids busy

This is our second blog filled with things to do at home - the first one you can find here - and this one is overflowing with suggestions, links, ideas and inspiration!

Sensory Play

This is a great option for kids of all ages and you can be so flexible based around things you already have at home and cater to the child's interests.

rainbow rice sensory tubFor preschoolers a great 'go to' is just a tub filled with some form of sensory material like rice, coconut or lentils (anything food based and dry is ideal and that will be easy to vacuum up if the kids make a mess and also non toxic and not a choking hazard) and add a few cups, funnels, scoops and sit back and relax while they scoop, pour, measure, tip and rummage their hands in the tub. (pic source busytoddler.com). dinosaur playStep it up by 'hiding' a bunch of small plastic animals and send them on a mission to find them all.  These Wild Republic animal sets are great value to add to sensory play of all kinds. sensory play for older kidsFor older kids sensory play can mean all sorts of things! Bi-Carb soda on a tray with droppers and coloured vinegar in ice cube trays is awesome - just be sure to supervise. A great one if you want the hassle taken care of for you is our Sensory Sand kits - available in two sizes here and are a ready made all in one solution!

 

Independent Play

A skill that some kids develop earlier than others is playing independently, and while it's certainly something that just happens more and more as they get older there are ways to gradually increase the time your kids will spend on an activity alone. Our best outcomes have been when there is a clear intention or activity and not just a general 'go and play'. So you might find you spend time setting up activities throughout the day or getting things ready but this is all part of the children developing their own skills. 

pebbles activity for preschoolersA great starting point is an activity with a clear purpose. For pre-schoolers things like stacking and sorting games, puzzles and threading & lacing all work really well. beleduc stacking animalsGive them clear instructions and leave them to it. No doubt that they will rush back and want to show you something, ask a question or wonder where you went, but over time and with redirection back to the activity to do the next thing, another thing or a different thing - will reinforce that they actually can play alone. This stacking game is a great one to start with as are any threading and lacing activities.

sassi puzzles for kidsPuzzles are another one that are perfect for any age. The older the child the better able they will be to complete it without guidance or help and if you really want that little break then make sure you pick one they can do without help no matter the age, rather than making it a challenge. We often encourage challenge puzzles as its better value for money long term but there's also a place for 'quick and easy' achievable puzzles which allow you and them that solo time. Check out our kids puzzles here and the collection includes everything from 2 piece wooden puzzles, floor puzzles like the world one shown here, peg puzzles and right up to puzzles for 9 year olds.

smart games single player gamesSingle Player Games are another way to encourage the kids to work things out themselves and Smart Games are very good at making games for as young as three year olds, in themes that are appealing and age appropriate and right up to adult brain teaser challenge games. The important part is to initially sit with them and show them the game, explain the process, the rules and how to work through each level - the kids pick it up pretty quick but often skip to the 'play' before actually understanding how to which can lead to frustration just like trying to put Ikea furniture together without looking at the instructions!!

Art & Craft

Art, making, building, creating are all great ones to have in your back pocket but it's good to think ahead and plan for it as they can often be messy either in terms of things like paint or just mess and clutter!

We've found over the years that half the fun is actually making the mess, so for younger kids embrace the mess, consider it part of the activity and just be ready for clean up at the end. Half the fun with my kids was washing the paint off their bodies in the bath tub and watching the bath water change colours!! Start keeping old sheets to lay on the floor under messy activities, cardboard boxes for box creations and get a stash of paper or card that can readily be created upon and turned into cards and gifts for relatives.

things to do for kids

Our biggest successes were things that had multiple times you could use them in creative ways. So we'd bring out some boxes for stacking, using as car garages or doll beds and that would get you one round of play. Next time grab the paints out and paint them. Next up use a marker and draw detail on them like eyes and faces or doors and windows and make a play world. Then lastly use them for a vigorous activity of ripping, stomping, throwing and destroying and then into the recycle bin once they are well and truly done.

Playdough is always a winner, if you are time poor we have some Australian made playdough here and we love that you can add small animals, gems, rollers and tools to add to the experience. One thing that we love is getting a book and making things that match the theme or illustrations in the book.

chalk fun outside

Two related things we adore is using chalk outside (mostly as the rain or a hose just washes it away!) and also doing full body drawings. So this time round we combined the two, the kids drew whatever they wanted, I drew obstacle courses to follow with the chalk, and I loved tracing the outline of their body and then they fill in, decorate and illustrate their own bodies. Some times they end up as butterflies or animals, other times with purple hair and pirate boots - so much fun and imagination and time spent outdoors. (pic source two clever mums)

Game Time

Games deserve a blog of their own, so stay tuned for that one, but in the meantime check out our blog on our Single Player Games here that I mentioned earlier and Co-Operative Games here and I'll publish a full Game Time blog soon. 

Lego

Lego is a great resource for kids who are at home. You just need to tap into what it is about Lego that they love and focus on that. If you are new to Lego, figure out what your kids like doing already and find a way to incorporate Lego into that to start with.

For little ones Duplo is the first step, and we suggest you start off with plain Duplo bricks and a few animals or accessories. Then build into whatever they love from there.

lego

For older kids it's always good to focus on a theme they like, but our biggest suggestion for keeping them engaged is setting them Lego challenges. Lego are great at this on their social media channels or you can make up your own.

 

 

Hope this gives you some new ideas to try.

thanks for reading!

Kelly

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Single Player Games are up their on my all time favourite thing, closely followed by Co-Operative Games.

I truly believe that all kids need to be able to engage with games in a solo way. It brings an element of concentration that is not hindered by in game chit chat or distractions. It allows them time to set their own pace. Whoever is playing the game is playing to their own goals. It's enjoyable when you achieve something as it just yourself who put in the effort. From a family dynamic perspective its great for all kids to have some solo time without siblings (or parents) to wind down. For parents a great thing to send the kids to opposite ends of the house with their own game and a time and have peace to have a cuppa, a wine or make a phone call in peace.

Most single player games are great at teaching sequencing, strategy and logic. These are essential skills for daily life.

single player games

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They are great for calming down, relaxing, utilising and stretching our brain muscles are perfect as there is no set game time or beginning or end, do a single challenge, ten or 20 - whatever you feel like.

We stock games from as young as three year olds and you are never too old!

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