When we hear “fine motor skills development”, we typically think of babies and toddlers. But, the truth is, learning and developing these skills continues to be essential — even as our kids get older!
In fact, as children and pre-teens spend more time using touch screen technology, opportunities to improve their fine motor skills can become limited. So it’s up to us to keep them up practicing!
“How can I encourage these skills in my children?” we hear you ask.
The simple answer is: make it fun!
To help you get the ball rolling, we’ve put together a list of 8 different fine motor skills games and activities suitable for all ages.
But before we delve into those, let’s go over exactly what fine motor skills are and roughly what kind of skills your child should have at their age.
What are fine motor skills?
The term ‘fine motor skills’ refers to all the delicate movements you make, using the small muscles in your fingers, hands, and wrists.
We need these skills to make even the smallest of movements. So everything from cutting a piece of paper using scissors, to being precise with a ruler, or even making a circle with a pen requires fine motor skills.
Some will be developed sooner, some later (you can’t expect your one-year-old to be drawing like Da Vinci!) but there are certain guidelines on where your child should be at their age.
What fine motor skills should my child have?
Remember, all kids are different, so not every child will fit into categories below…
For children under a year:
- At around 3 months, you can expect to see your child deliberately grasping, bringing their hands to their mouth, and starting to hold things (like your finger).
- By the time they’re 1, they’ll be at the dreaded “putting everything in their mouth” phase. Although it may be stressful for you, it shows fine motor control from them.
Age 1-2, they should be:
- Turning a few book pages at a time and even managing things like doorknobs (much to our horror!)
- Building towers, and putting rings on a stick
- Scribbling and painting with the whole arm moving
- Holding a cup and drinking on their own
Age 2-3, they should be:
- Developing a preference for a dominant hand
- Eating on their own
- Turning pages more precisely, one at a time
- Holding pens and pencils with the thumb and finger instead of a fist
- Painting with the wrist instead of the whole arm and starting to do horizontal, vertical, and circular strokes
Age 3-4, they should be:
- Getting better with scissors
- Creating shapes with playdough like balls and snakes
- Using the non-dominant hand to help with activities and precision
Age 4-5, they should be:
- Cutting in a straight line
- Writing their name and numbers up to 5
- Dressing/undressing on their own
Age 6+, they should be:
- Staying within lines when coloring
- Using three fingers to hold and use pens and pencils
- Forming letters and numbers
- Building more complex structures with LEGO and similar blocks
- Tying shoelaces
As we said, some fine motor skills might develop earlier, and some a bit later, so don’t worry just yet if your child isn’t doing everything it says on this list.
The most important thing you can do is to create an environment that will nurture your kid’s development, and here’s where we’ve got you covered…
Improving fine motor skills: 8 games and activities
Treasure boxes/Sensory boxes
Babies are all about texture exploration, so have a box or basket full of different sensory objects — for example, a ribbon, a wooden spoon, CDs, a gel ice pack (not cooled!).
As they get older, change what’s in the box (usually this means things get messier!). Slime is a favorite for kids aged 8+.
A classic and a favorite no matter the age! From early on they’ll just focus on squishing, but as they get older you can set them challenges to create things — making it harder as you go.
Puzzle pieces are perfect for fine motor skills activities! You get them for any age (just up the piece amounts or picture difficulty), then make things interesting with 3D puzzles as they get older.
Playing family board games like Monopoly, Battleships, or Ludo are suitable for kids around 6 and up — and can be fun for adults, too! Moving the pieces and navigating the game hones their fine motor skills and it’s a great way for the whole family to bond.
For older children and teens, model kits demand more advanced attention and fine motor skills than puzzles or LEGO. There are so many model kits out there, you won’t have trouble finding something to keep them engaged.
When your child asks for a drum kit or a violin, you’ll be tempted to save yourself the headache and say “no”. But the amount of fine motor skills and coordination that your child will gain from playing a musical instrument is immense. Even babies and toddlers can practice their fine motor skills with toy drums and shakers.
Younger children love to use their imagination and dress up, so why not turn this love into a learning opportunity? By including outfits with zips or buttons, playing Dress Up can be transformed into an effective fine motor skills activity!
For younger kids, sorting different objects like buttons, shells, stones, sticks, or simply anything you can find, into sizes or areas can keep them entertained for ages. Or, if you’re looking for a quick activity, why not challenge your young ones to see who can sort them the fastest?
Set your kids up for life
Nowadays, we all tap more than we write — and our fine motor skills are suffering!
As a result, we now need to place more emphasis on fine motor skills development in our kids.
That’s not to say you should ban phones and tablets, just make sure to include fine motor skills games and activities into your kid’s routine (no matter what age they are!).
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