Experts believe that toddlers today have weaker fine motor skills than those of previous generations due to the change is placing babies on their backs in the crib instead of their stomachs. The purpose of placing babies on their backs is to prevent sudden infant death syndrome, but one of the by-products of that may be that babies aren’t using their arms to push themselves up as much as if they were on their backs.
With that in mind, it is the responsibility of teachers and parents to help toddlers catch up with their fine motor skills. There are many daily activities that you can do with your kids at home to help develop these skills. The act of getting dressed includes many fine motor skills, as simple as figuring out how to put on a sock, to the more difficult task of buttoning. Encouraging your child to dress himself at age two or three with simpler tasks that will allow him to move on to more difficult ones as his fine motor skills improve.
Encourage your child to use crayons to scribble or draw freely. Play dough or clay is another wonderful tool to develop small muscles while having fun. Hide small toys inside a ball of play dough and encourage your child to find them and pull them out. Use chop sticks or tongs to play a game where the child picks up cotton balls, marbles, or other objects. Jacks and pick-up-sticks are also fun games that promote the use of fine motor skills. Give your child strips of construction paper and have him rip them into small pieces. Ripping is a great precursor to cutting.
If you don’t mind the mess, and I encourage parents to find a place where their kids can get messy, shaving cream is a great medium to play in. Let your child trace shapes into the shaving cream, or practice writing his name. You can also mix water and corn starch (about 3 parts corn starch to 1 part water) to create a cool mixture to play with. Again, you can hide small objects in the goop, trace letters and shapes, or just have fun letting your child run his fingers through it.
A three year old should be able to cut with scissors, but until his fine motor skills are strong enough, that is really tough for many kids. Encourage your child to work puzzles, play with worry ball, and even make taffy out of marshmallows. To do that, have your child grab a marshmallow between the thumb and index finger of both hands and pull it apart. Continue to flip your fingers so that the right hand thumb is on top, then on the bottom, which allows you to keep pulling the marshmallow. Not only will it turn into a delicious treat, but it will work those small muscles in your child’s fingers.
The more practice our kids get in working their small muscles, the easier time they will have cutting and writing. There are many things you can do at home to get them off to a great start.