As the teacher of three year olds, I find that children’s fine motor skills are often extremely weak. One theory is that now we place our babies on their backs instead of their stomachs to help prevent Infant Death Syndrome, and that has prevented infants from strengthening their arms and hands. Whatever the cause, we must find ways to help kids develop their small muscles and the kitchen is a great place to start.
Let your children help you make a salad by tearing the lettuce. The act of ripping is wonderful to help develop fine motor skills. At the same time, they are learning how to make a salad and feel proud to have helped prepare dinner.
On spaghetti night, let your child break the strands of uncooked spaghetti that you will then put into the pot of boiling water. They can help you sprinkle the garlic and parmesan cheese on the garlic bread. If you enjoy baking, let your toddler help. Kneading dough for bread, holding measuring spoons and cups, and even stirring batter, all help strengthen their small muscles.
If you are nervous having your children take part in the actual meal preparation, have a special container of toys in the kitchen that they can play with while you cook. Play dough, puzzles, safety scissors, and balls filled with sand, are all activities that help develop fine motor skills. Even coloring with crayons and pencils is great.
All the while, you can talk about the meal you are preparing or just chatter about your day. It’s a bonding experience that is good for your child, and you, in many ways.