Fine motor skills are important for a variety of activities such as writing and feeding, so its important they develop properly in young kids. This paper talks about the importance of fine motor skills and how it can be improved with proper intervention and the right activities.
Fine motor skills and their importance
Fine motor skills are the skills that involve the use of small muscles in the hands such as fingers. The biggest challenge in fine motor skills is the coordination of the hand with the eyes and brain and it is more complicated than what many people imagine. It develops at a young age, typically before five or six and it plays an important role in the way our hands function during adolescence and adulthood.
The development of fine motor skills is vital in young children because it is these skills that help them to do many finer tasks such as writing and eating. In fact, when these skills are not developed properly, it can lead to many problems such as inability to feed, write, put on dress, groom, use a computer and turn the pages of a book. For these reasons, a lot of emphasis is laid on the proper development of these fine motor skills.
These skills develop in an orderly sequence, starting from the larger movements that do not require high levels of coordination such as movements of the wrist and hand to more refined movements such as writing that use smaller muscles and bones like fingers. These skills can be divided into three major categories, namely, grasp, reach and release. Each of these three categories are important for overall development (Curtis & Newman, 2005).
Fine motor skills have a direct impact on student attention at the kindergarten level. In a study that explored the relationship between the development of fine motor skill and student attention among 68 kindergartners in five classes, it was shown that students who showed a higher level of fine motor skill development had a longer attention span and this is another reason why parents and teachers should focus on this aspect (Stewart, Rule & Giordino, 2007).
Development of Fine Motor Skills
Normal and advanced development of fine motor skills will help a child to have a clear advantage in school and other extra-curricular activities. There are many reasons for the improper development of fine motor skills such as injury, illness, developmental problems and diseases and problems associated with the brain and spinal cord (Medline Plus, 2011). This is why pediatricians constantly check a child's growth and development to identify if there is a weakness with fine motor skill. If a weakness is identified, then certain toys and games are suggested. In some extreme, some form of physical and motor skill therapy is also suggested to help children get over their weaknesses with respect to fine motor skills.
One of the ways by which a doctor identifies fine motor skill development is by using developmental milestones. For example, an 18 to 24-month-old child should be able to clasp hands, fold papers, imitate a crayon stroke, pound or squeeze bits of clay, scoop sand with a shovel and throw a ball (Smith, 2003). By the time a child is five, he or she should be able to draw recognizable human figures with a clear face and legs and hands attached to the body. At the age of si, children should be able to write words and numbers easily and they should also have the hand and eye coordination to help with many household chores such as caring for pets and making crafts. At seven, they should be able to write words uniformly in the same size and shape and by eight, they should be ready for cursive writing (Charlesworth, 2010).
When a child is unable to perform these actions, then the parent or caregiver should work on the fine skills development using different toys and activities. In general, some of the key ways by which a parent, teacher or caregiver can improve the child's fine motor skills is discussed below.
There are a range of options available for teachers and parents to develop the fine motor skills from a young age. The list below briefly describes some of the activities.
The first step in the development of fine motor skills is tactile awareness. The skin is the largest sensory organ in the body and it is the one that sends touch signals to the brain. Tactile awareness s the ability to identify different textures and feel comfortable using them. To get children to feel comfortable, teachers can provide a variety of materials in the sensory table such as sandpaper, sand, clay and cotton for students to play with. They can also go on a fun texture hunt game. An assortment of different objects that have varying textures should be kept in the room and the students can touch and collect each item. This improves their tactile abilities and lays the foundation for the development of fine motor skills. Writing comes automatically when these skills are well-developed.
Art activities give strength and dexterity to the wrist and shoulders and this is why toddlers and preschoolers should be encouraged to do many different art activities. Painting, writing and drawing are the most important activities for young children and parents should encourage them at home from a young age. They can be given various surfaces to work on to keep them interested in the activity. Paper, sand and black board are some of the bases while the materials used can be paints, crayons, pencils, chalk and even sticks that will work well on sandy surfaces. At school, teachers can ask the children to try different postures such as sitting, standing and kneeling while they paint or draw to further strengthen the shoulders and arms. The fine movement of moving hands for painting will eventually lead to writing in young kids. It will also increase their interest in writing.
Pretend and Play
Preschool age is the magical pretend and play time where kids imagine different environments an enact them. During this phase, teachers and parents can give children different objects that they can use in their play. For example, paper streamers can be given for each hand and children can be asked to dance with it to a tune. Alternately, teachers can ask them to imagine that a snow is falling down or a butterfly is flying and ask the children to imitate the same with the streamers. This will bring about a range of motions that are good for the shoulders and in turn, this will have a positive impact on the development of fine motor skills. It will make the small hands stronger and will improve the overall dexterity that will aid in writing.
This is the biggest way to develop fine motor skills in children is through a variety of games. This will keep the child interested and at the same time, it will help them to develop fine motor skills. These games can be adapted to work in groups or for individuals only. Many practical life materials can be incorporated in these games to bring a greater degree of awareness of objects and their use as well to students. In a study conducted on 101 public school kindergartners over a six-month period, they were given practical objects such as spoons and games were developed around these objects. At the end of the period, the writing and drawing skills were better in a majority of the children (Rule & Stewart, 2002).
So, teachers can use many of these materials for their play time. They can ask the children to walk with a spoon and lemon, dress-up game, playing guitar, climbing a ladder, shooting an arrow and anything that involves the use of small muscles in the hands to encourage the development of fine motor skills (Smith, 2003).
Large floor puzzles help children to develop fine motor skills because they have to pick out the individual pieces and fix them to other pieces. This improves their mental understanding, encourages problem solving skills and improves hand-eye coordination. When kids work with these large pieces of puzzles, it improves the fine motor skills.
Large Blocks and Legos
Another toy that is useful at this age is the large blocks because they also encourage problem solving skills, hand eye coordination and fine motor skills. Children can be divided into groups and each group can be asked to build a large castle or building. Legos are ideal for older children who are fine-tuning their fine motor skills because the lego pieces are smaller and geared towards larger hands.
These are some of the important activities that are simple to follow and effective for fine motor skill development. These activities for fine motor skills will eventually lead to better writing among young children. So, these should be incorporated as a part of the curriculum in…