Three fine motor activities that every parent of an under two needs to know
When you have your baby, it's so amazing to witness just how quickly they grow and develop, people told you it would go fast, but living it is a whole other reality, right?! Along with a each age and stage there is also a brand new set of vocabulary for parents to understand; regressions, leaps, gross motor skills, and fine motor skills. If you’d like to know more about what to expect in terms of your child’s development, there is a brilliant PDF you can download from Pre-School Learning Alliance available here. The great thing is when you understand more about these terms you can provide the right kind of activities to enhance your child’s learning, and one question I have been asked a lot is, ‘’what are fine motor skills?’’ and ‘’why are fine motor skills important?’’, so we are going to explore that here!
What are fine motor skills?
Fine motor skills are the coordination of using the muscles in the hands and fingers along with the muscles in the eyes. You need these skills for lots of self-care tasks, for example, managing toileting, getting dressed and eating and drinking. You also use fine motor skills for everyday tasks too that involve using tools e.g. writing a list, drawing or using scissors, skills children will need increasingly. Babies aren’t born with developed fine motor skills, but the rapid rate of development that takes place in the first three years means that they develop all their muscles, including their hand and eye muscles very quickly. As well as physical development the brain development is particularly rapid in under two’s, in fact, there is very little difference between the size of a ten-year-old and a two-year-old brain. Your child will need well developed fine motor skills to manage their self-care needs and for more formal learning, in preparation for starting school. We know that the best way for children to learn is through play, here are some great play activities for children under five from Hungry Little Minds, for now, lets take a look at some play based activities which will support your little one’s fine motor development!
Play with dough
Playing with dough is quite possibly the most versatile way to develop your child’s fine motor skills. Rolling, pinching or squishing it into moulds is exactly what is required to build up the hand muscles for more complex tasks. In addition, it's also a soft malleable material that is gentle on your young child’s joints. Here are some quick and simple ways of using dough to support your child’s fine motor skills:
- Putting things in playdough is a great way to encourage children to pick up items with their thumb and forefinger which supports the ‘tripod’ grip they will need to develop for writing. Of course, you’ll need to be mindful of young children mouthing objects but some great ideas are: craft sticks, pom poms or feathers
- Filling silicone ice trays with play dough
- Make a sausage shape with the dough and allow your child to use the cutters and tools, such as the play knife to cut into smaller bits (great practice for building up independent cutlery skills!)
Sorting activities are really useful for fine motor skills because they give your child a reason to pick up a toy and find where it goes. Peg puzzles are one activity that is great for this, but the play with a peg puzzle tends to end once it is complete. At Rosa and Bo we have also recently released our Woodlies collection, choosing from either our woodland animal Woodlies or our little friends Woodlies there are spaces for all the characters in the wooden boat, but rather than having a specific space for the character to go in, children can self select where each character might fit. This means children are thinking creatively and critically about where they think a character could go, and this game can be repeated coming up with different sequences each time, allowing children to consolidate this new skill. As the characters are quite large, this activity is particularly suited to younger children who have not yet developed the ability to skillfully use their thumb and forefinger, they can use their whole palm to grasp the character and find them a space.
These are so much fun for parents to create and for children of all ages to do! There are plenty of busy boards for you to buy, but the secret to long-lasting play is to create a DIY board you can adapt over the years, growing with your child’s interests.
What you’ll need:
- Sticky back plastic
- Masking tape
- A plain surface (a wall or a door will do!)
- Things to stick on (you can use anything that your child loves, here are my favourite ideas: pictures of family members, art and craft resources, characters from books or TV your child loves, reuse wrapping paper and cut up cards)
- Empty containers to encourage self-selection
Then you just allow your child to create in whatever way they please. Your child’s learning is in the creative process rather than the finished creation. Allowing your child to select items from the container will help them develop their pincer grip (so important for writing, using scissors etc) and pushing the items onto the sticky plastic will help build their wrist muscles too. Check out my latest reel on Instagram to see my daughter having fun with our super-simple busy board!
I hope this gives you some brilliant play opportunities, plus the opportunity to develop your little one’s fine motor skills, and if you share any of the fun you get up to on social media, don’t forget to tag us in your post, we love seeing what you get up to, happy playing!
This blog has been written by our Resident Play Expert here at Rosa & Bo, Sarah Doman. Sarah is a Hypnobirth and Early Years Expert. She helps families from pregnancy to children of school age to give birth and parent with confidence. You can find her on social media @sarahldoman