Cre­ative & low cost ideas to help de­velop your child’s fine mo­tor skills

Great Health Guide - - CONTENTS - Deb Hop­per

Some­times it’s the lit­tle things in life that make the big­gest dif­fer­ence and some­times the lit­tle things in life can be the most dif­fi­cult. Many chil­dren strug­gle with fine mo­tor skills, or the abil­ity to use their fingers to get the lit­tle things done. This might in­clude do­ing up but­tons, zips, do­ing up shoe laces, play­ing with favourite con­struc­tion toys such as Lego, hold­ing cut­lery, or help­ing to pour them­selves a drink for ex­am­ple.


There are three main rea­sons why chil­dren might find th­ese day to day things dif­fi­cult to do. Th­ese are hand and body strength, dex­ter­ity and fin­ger co-or­di­na­tion and the abil­ity to plan what they need to do. Prac­tic­ing th­ese skills at home can be easy, fun and low cost to do. If your child con­tin­ues to strug­gle, please con­tact your oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pist, preschool or school teacher for some more ideas.

Here are 5 top tips for mak­ing the lit­tle move­ments eas­ier. 1.Some­times a child finds it hard to con­trol fine fin­ger move­ments needed in things such as draw­ing or Lego be­cause they don’t have a sta­ble body base.

We need to have strong core pos­tural mus­cles and good con­trol of big arm move­ments, be­fore we can do small move­ment tasks such as draw­ing. Body strength­en­ing ac­tiv­i­ties such as swim­ming, tram­polin­ing, or ly­ing on a skate board and push­ing them­selves around helps chil­dren to cre­ate a strong pos­tural core, arms and legs, to act as a solid base for fin­ger based co-or­di­na­tion tasks.

2. Some­times chil­dren also need to strengthen their hands and arm mus­cles so they have the strength to open milk con­tain­ers, lunch boxes or the tooth­paste.

Just like adults go to the gym to strengthen our big mus­cles, chil­dren can also strengthen their hand mus­cles. For younger chil­dren, pull out the play­doh and roll snakes, pinch pat­terns and make snails. For older kids, they need ex­tra re­sis­tance so try plas­ticine or a soft to medium strength ther­a­putty, for hand strength­en­ing. Or, think out­side the box and get them to ‘paint the fence’. This ac­tiv­ity is cheap and the large arm move­ments needed will help strengthen their arms. For strength­en­ing lit­tle fingers, buy a cheap water sprayer and give them the job of wa­ter­ing the pot plants. It’s a great strength­en­ing ac­tiv­ity and will help you too!

3. If your child is strug­gling with a daily task, such as ty­ing his or her shoelaces, help to give them the feel­ing of suc­cess.

Back­ward chain­ing is a great way to build con­fi­dence in fine mo­tor skills. This means that you com­plete most of the task and then they do the last part. You say, ‘Well done!’ and build up their self-es­teem. The next time, you do one less step and coach them in what to do, to com­plete the last two steps, giv­ing praise at the end. Con­tinue un­til they can do the whole task.

4. Play the ‘tell you what to do game’. This game is great for kids who strug­gle with plan­ning or

mo­tor plan­ning. Start with big­ger move­ments while they learn the rules of the game, for ex­am­ple, jump­ing. Get them to tell you what their body is go­ing to do when they do the ac­tiv­ity, e.g. ‘jump’. For ex­am­ple, for jump­ing you need to bend your knees, put your bot­tom back­wards, push up, jump and land. Once they get used to ‘telling’ you how to do big­ger tasks, get them to tell you how they do things with their fingers. For ex­am­ple, ask them to tell you how they will pick up their glass of milk at break­fast time. This could be ‘reach out, open my hand, pick up cup, move to­wards my mouth, take a drink, put it back on ta­ble’. Con­nect­ing thoughts of plan­ning words into ac­tion can help cre­ate links in the brain to make fine mo­tor tasks eas­ier.

5. You don’t need to buy lots of fancy toys with bells and whis­tles to im­prove mo­tor skills.

The best way to learn is to use and prac­tise with con­tain­ers, jars, lunch boxes, open­ing ce­real boxes or help­ing to pack the dish­washer. If you child is find­ing a par­tic­u­lar task dif­fi­cult, say ‘Stop, think, breathe, what is your plan?’ Once we can stop and get a plan to­gether, it can help to over­come feel­ings and re­sponses of frus­tra­tion, makes learn­ing the task eas­ier and cre­ates best feed­back path­ways to the brain for the next level of learn­ing. So next time your child is strug­gling with some­thing fid­dly, ‘Stop, think, breathe, ask what their plan is’. Think about what fun and low cost games you can do with them, or set up for them, to make it eas­ier next time.

Deb Hop­per is an Ama­zon #1 Best Seller au­thor. She is a prac­tic­ing Oc­cu­pa­tional Ther­a­pist at Life Skills 4 Kids on the NSW Mid North Coast, Aus­tralia, she un­der­stands the day to day strug­gles that chil­dren, par­ents and teach­ers face and can be reached on her web­site.

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