Building fine motor skills and why it matters

Use these simple activities to help build your child’s fine motor skills.

Young children need time to practice using their fine motor skills in everyday situations.

Young children need time to practice using their fine motor skills in everyday situations.

Fine motor skills can be thought of as the small movements of muscles that involve using the hands and fingers together to perform movement. Fine motor skills are movements such as pinching or grasping. These types of movements are important for young children to practice as they develop because they help a child lay the foundation to do such everyday tasks as buttoning a shirt, tying shoe laces, grasping a pencil, using utensils, typing on a keyboard and much more. Fine motor skills can also help develop hand-eye coordination in young children.

Young children need time to practice using their fine motor skills in everyday situations. Although it can be tempting for adults to jump in and finish buttoning or snapping shirts or pants or tying shoes because it is faster, it is important young children get the opportunity to finish these activities because it helps them work on developing their fine motor skills.

How can you help your child practice fine motor skills? Michigan State University Extension suggests these 10 simple activities to try at home. These activities will help develop hand-eye coordination, develop finger control and help children learn how to manipulate objects.

  1. Play dough. Roll, squeeze, stretch, pat, pound or use tools such as plastic knives, scissors or rolling pins for cutting and rolling.
  2. Finger paint. Use fingers to paint pictures, letters or numbers.
  3. String noodles. Use dry noodles of all shapes and sizes and loop them on string or yarn.
  4. Tweezers, clothes pins or chopsticks. Use tweezers, clothes pins or chopsticks to pick up and sort objects like beads, cereal, cotton balls, pompoms or other small objects (watch closely for choking hazards).
  5. Crayons, markers, pencil, chalk. Draw, scribble or write.
  6. Plastic containers. Allow children to open and close empty plastic containers with lids.
  7. Buttons and zippers. Practice buttoning and unbuttoning, Zipping and unzipping.
  8. Pouring. Place objects (corn, beads, cereal, etc.) in one small container, then have children pour the objects into an identical empty container.
  9. Legos and blocks. Connecting, stacking, building with Legos and blocks.
  10. Loose change. Sort loose change into different containers with fingers.

Practicing fine motor skills will help children have a solid foundation for their future everyday tasks. For more ideas about activities and articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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