Monday, March 15, 2010

Let Your Kids Do Messy Activities

Some parents have trouble allowing their youngsters to create a mess in their home. We specifically encourage the use of play dough in the classroom because we recognize that some children aren’t allowed to play with it in their own houses. I understand that it can get into their children’s shoes and end up trekked throughout the house and I know that it is virtually impossible to remove dried play dough from a carpet. Yet, I encourage parents to find some contained place either inside or outside their homes where kids can enjoy messy projects.

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.”
There are a variety of toys that help develop fine motor skills and don’t leave behind a mess. Working puzzles, manipulating pegs, lacing, and playing with marbles and jacks, all help work their small muscles. Of course, if your child puts things in her mouth, you need to avoid very small items. Many adults enjoy worry or stress balls which are balloon-like balls filled with sand. These, too, are great for children to squeeze to work the muscles in their fingers and hands.

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.

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