Help­ing your young­sters get to grips with fine mo­tor skills

LIZ CON­NOR FINDS WAYS TO NAT­U­RALLY BOL­STER YOUR LIT­TLE ONE’S DEX­TER­ITY

South Wales Evening Post - - FAMILY HEALTH -

RE­SEARCHERS have long warned that too much time spent on­line can have a neg­a­tive ef­fect on chil­dren’s men­tal health, but it turns out, it’s pretty bad for their hands too.

A pro­fes­sor has warned that the trend for us­ing dig­i­tal de­vices is hav­ing a cat­a­strophic im­pact on fu­ture med­i­cal stu­dents, as in­creas­ing num­bers of sur­geons in train­ing lack the dex­ter­ity to stitch or sew up pa­tients.

Roger Knee­bone, who is pro­fes­sor of sur­gi­cal ed­u­ca­tion at Im­pe­rial Col­lege Lon­don, says many young peo­ple strug­gle with prac­ti­cal tasks be­cause they have spent so lit­tle time de­vel­op­ing craft skills.

“It is im­por­tant and an in­creas­ingly ur­gent is­sue,” he told the BBC. “It is a con­cern of mine and my sci­en­tific col­leagues that, whereas in the past, you could make the as­sump­tion that stu­dents would leave school able to do cer­tain prac­ti­cal things – cut­ting things out, mak­ing things – that is no longer the case.”

Par­ents and teach­ers of­ten rely on tech­nol­ogy to keep chil­dren oc­cu­pied, and it’s now es­ti­mated that a third of un­der-fives own a tablet de­vice.

But while tech­nol­ogy can be an ef­fi­cient tool for learn­ing new in­for­ma­tion, it’s also vi­tal that chil­dren have a va­ri­ety of play­time ac­tiv­i­ties to help them de­velop fine mo­tor skills – the co-or­di­na­tion of small mus­cles in our hands, wrists and fin­gers with the eyes.

If you want to help lit­tle ones get a bet­ter grasp, it’s go­ing to in­volve rolling up your sleeves and get­ting stuck into some good old fash­ioned messy play. Here are four fam­i­lyfriendly, sen­sory ac­tiv­i­ties that will help get hands and fin­gers mov­ing...

1 ORIGAMI

THE Ja­panese art of fold­ing pa­per into shapes and fig­ures has been around since the 1600s, but still re­mains one of the eas­i­est ways to get chil­dren into craft­ing.

From fold­ing and creas­ing, to turn­ing and work­ing the pa­per, the whole process re­quires mam­moth amounts of con­cen­tra­tion, nifty fin­gers, and with a lit­tle bit of en­gi­neer­ing and pa­tience, kids (and adults) will be re­warded with their own 3D art­work.

You’ll be left with lots of colour­ful flow­ers, an­i­mals and shapes to hang around your home too.

2 PA­PER DOLL CHAINS

WHO doesn’t re­mem­ber painstak­ingly snip­ping away at a piece of folded pa­per to create a chain of pa­per peo­ple hold­ing hands?

There was some­thing su­per sat­is­fy­ing about fold­ing the pa­per ac­cor­dion-style, set­ting to work with a pair of scis­sors and then un­curl­ing your fin­ished army of pa­per men.

As well as be­ing fun for kids, the open­ing and clos­ing mo­tion of cut­ting with scis­sors is par­tic­u­larly good at help­ing them de­velop the small mus­cles in their hands.

While pa­per dolls are pretty cool on their own, with some crayons and biodegrad­able glit­ter, you can make them ex­tra spe­cial by giv­ing them their own faces and sparkly out­fits.

3 LEARN AN IN­STRU­MENT

WHETHER pluck­ing a gui­tar, hit­ting the keys on a piano or sim­ply bang­ing a tam­bourine in time to the beat, the speed and pre­ci­sion needed from fin­gers, hands and palms dur­ing a DIY mu­sic ses­sion is pretty much un­ri­valled. You can start kids young with for­mal lessons, or sim­ply buy some per­cus­sion in­stru­ments and get them rat­tling along to the ra­dio. Sure, it might make an un­ruly racket for an hour or so, but re­mem­ber – all mu­si­cal ge­niuses have to start some­where.

4 CREATE MOD­ELS WITH PLAYDOUGH

AH PLAYDOUGH – the eter­nal marker of youth. From palm­ing and flat­ten­ing to fork­ing and mould­ing, there’s so much this colour­ful dough can be sculpted into.

If you re­ally can’t bear to part with the ipad, there are loads of cre­ative fol­low-along tu­to­ri­als on Youtube, that can show you how to make ev­ery­thing from burg­ers to di­nosaurs.

In the past, you could make the as­sump­tion that stu­dents would leave school able to do cer­tain prac­ti­cal things – cut­ting things out, mak­ing things – that is no longer the case.

Roger Knee­bone, pro­fes­sor of sur­gi­cal ed­u­ca­tion at Im­pe­rial Col­lege Lon­don

The speed and pre­ci­sion needed from a child’s fin­gers, hands and palms dur­ing a DIY mu­sic ses­sion can be par­tic­u­larly ben­e­fi­cial when it comes to de­vel­op­ing their dex­ter­ity

Mak­ing a pa­per doll chain helps de­velop mus­cles in the hand

Origami is an easy way to get crafty

Get sculpt­ing with Playdough

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