Molding clay, splashing paint onto a blank canvas, and even building castles in the sand, are all important activities for toddlers. They provide an outlet for creativity, and give the kids a sense of accomplishment and pride in their creations. These activities also help develop children’s fine motor skills which are essential to further learning. Once students advance into kindergarten, they are expected to be able to cut, write their letters and use their fine motor skills constantly. For most children, these things take practice. It is only through the repetitive use of their fingers that some kids are able to gain the strength they need to be successful in these skills.
“Kids need experience trying to engage in fine motor tasks, succeeding and sometimes failing, to develop those skills,” says Nathan J. Blum, MD, Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “Kids need a variety of fine motor activities but some of them are more messy than others. It doesn’t have to be with finger paints and clay, but children need fine motor experiences and they need engaging activities.”
Of course, crayons and pencils are always ideal. For younger children, up to age four or five, the fatter crayons are more appropriate than skinny ones because they are easier for the child to manipulate. And don’t feel that you need to buy a brand new box of crayons every year. In fact, when a child needs to work with a smaller, broken piece, it provides great work for his fine motor skills.