3 things every parent needs to know about fine motor skill development
1 – Be well informed about the risks of technology
With the advancement of technology, children’s fine motor skills have declined. I see children who find it difficult to undo zips, do up their own buttons, put on their shoes, and write their name.
I often meet parents who feel like video games are improving their child’s fine motor skills. However, we mindful of the type of hand exercise that the child is doing during video games because the thumb is involved heavily in holding a gaming controller, but it’s the use of our forefinger and middle finger that is important for handwriting, doing up buttons, and opening our own drink bottle.
Despite the benefits of technology, it is still vital that children consistently practice their fine motor skills every day to be adequately prepared for school and life.
2 – We don’t naturally learn fine motor skills without practice
As a busy mum I understand the temptation for putting on our kids socks and shoes so they get out of the house quickly in the morning. However, as you put your child’s shoes and socks on next, think about who is learning this fine motor skill in that very moment. What is actually happening in this moment is that your brain and muscles are getting the practice for this skill, while your child’s brain and muscles are missing out on the practice.
If you want your child to develop this skill, they need to be given the time and opportunity, and of course they also need to be given the chance to make mistake after mistake after mistake.
I understand this is overwhelming and frustrating as you’re running late for daycare drop off and work. However, practice this skill as you get home when time isn’t rushed. Think of these opportunities as a gift to your child’s development and independence.
My School Readiness Motor Skills Training Manual also outlines activities you can use to further develop fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and spatial awareness.
3 – Make handwriting fun through incidental writing practice
My daughter is the perfect example of hating handwriting. She broke her right wrist on the 4th day of prep and it took me 6 weeks of fun handwriting activities to encourage her to want to even write her name again.
What these fun handwriting activities included were:
- play cafes and encourage children to write down your order
- play concerts where children write down the order of performances
- encourage drawing birthday cards for family members
- write love notes to each other
- draw with a range of tools such as sticks at the park, crayons on the concrete path, wet paint brushes on the outdoor brick wall
The key factors that helped my daughter to write again included:
- I never corrected her spelling – if the word was incorrect I encouraged effort instead of worrying about perfection
- I never judged her drawing quality – every piece of art was celebrated and rewarded with praise and dancing time together
- I expanded her drawing and writing by drawing and writing next to her at our dining table. She was able to see that my stick figure drawings weren’t perfect but we enjoyed this quality time together