Guest Post By Jennifer Landis
As a parent, watching your children reach their milestones is an exciting experience — but it’s up to us to make sure our children are getting all the experiences they need to develop the skills they need to achieve their goals and thrive once they’re older.
If you’re concerned about your child’s motor skills, what can you do to help develop them? Here are six suggestions.
- Play With String
Do you remember making a cat’s cradle with string when you were a child? If you don’t, there are plenty of YouTube videos that can refresh your memory. These string games are a fun way to increase manual dexterity and improve motor skills. It can take some practice, but once your child figures it out, you may find all your yarn and other string disappearing as they come up with more creative and elaborate designs.
- Break Out the Playdoh
Playdoh is a fun way to let your kids create without making too much of a mess — as long as you can keep them from grinding it into the carpet! The motions you must make to build with playdoh helps to strengthen the muscles in your child’s fingers needed for manual dexterity. For children who have sensory issues, the playdoh can provide a pleasant smooth sensory experience for them.
- Embrace the Power of Play
Children love to play — it’s an integral part of childhood and a great way to keep kids healthy and happy. It helps to reduce childhood obesity and encourages children to build relationships and learn interpersonal skills that will serve them throughout their lives. Play also helps to increase both gross and fine motor skills, as well as balance and coordination. Fine motor skills come from navigating playgrounds, climbing monkey bars and learning things that can’t be taught in the classroom.
- Get Messy
You can’t make it through childhood without finger painting. It’s fun, messy and lets your kids play with colors and create amazing masterpieces — or what passes for a toddler’s masterpiece. Finger painting also helps to improve your child’s hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity.
Make sure you’ve got a place where your kids can get messy. If you’re worried about keeping your house clean, try setting them up in the yard or your garage where you can hose down their work area.
- Don’t Buy New Crayons
There is something eminently satisfying about opening a new box of Crayola crayons. The smell transports you back to a happier time, and the sharp points glide smoothly along your paper. It’s tempting to start tossing crayons that are too short or dull, but hanging on to them is a good idea if you’re looking to develop your kids’ motor skills.
Using short crayons to color can help increase your child’s manual dexterity. It teaches them how to hold a writing implement correctly and increases finger strength, which will come in handy later in life.
- Practice Safe Scissor Use
Putting scissors in the hands of young children can be a nerve-wracking experience. You never know how they’re going to use them after you hand them over, so it’s important to have something for them to work on. Paper dolls or designs are a great way to keep them engaged — and keep those scissors pointed in the right direction. Give them designs to cut out, or let them draw and cut their own designs.
Cutting helps to strengthen hands, fingers and wrists, all of which are key players in developing those fine motor skills.
The Importance of Motor Skills
When developed at young ages, motor skills will help your children throughout their lives. Come up with exercises and activities that challenge your children to use their hands and fingers, even if those activities end up being a little messy.
Don’t be afraid to join in, either. You could plant a garden with them — digging in the dirt can help to improve gross motor skills and provide the strength needed to develop fine motor skills later. Plus, digging in the soil can help your children to build a healthy immune system!
Kids love to play. If you can find something they like to do that also improves their motor skills, you can help them develop skills that will last a lifetime — without them even realizing they’re learning them.
Make it fun, and you won’t have to fight about it. Anytime you can turn something important into a game, you should — even turning teeth-brushing into a game can encourage your children to turn it into a lifelong habit. Motor skills are essential, so if you can make it a little easier or more fun for them to learn and develop them, so much the better.
Jennifer Landis is a mother, wife, and the editor of MindfulnessMama.com. She enjoys yoga, green tea, and dark chocolate. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferELandis.