One of the things parents are often keen to tick off in the developmental checklist for their babies, is when they develop the ‘pincer grip’ and can pick up individual little things like cheerios, peas etc with ease and can then start to manipulate objects with their fingers.
This is the first step in the development of your child’s FINE MOTOR SKILLS.
Why are parents so concerned about pincer grip? Well in addition to picking up individual cheerios, the pincer grip helps the child develop the tripod grip (combined use of the index, thumb and middle finger, leaving the fourth and the little finger tucked into the palm stabilising the other fingers but not used in grip) required to hold a pencil and manipulate it with maximum efficiency.
So what are fine motor skills?
Motor skills are movements and actions of the muscles, these are categorised into two groups: gross motor skills (movement and co-ordination of arms, legs and other large body parts) and fine motor skills (smaller movements such as hands, fingers and toes). One important point to note is that before children can gain full control over their fine motor skills in their hands they need to work on the muscles in their shoulders and back (upper body strength), so movements like making big circles with pom poms, scarves and ribbons and twirling are really good for this.
- In order to write comfortably and hold a pencil well, children need to develop muscle control in their hands.
- Developing hand arches – There are 3 arches in the hand, one is rigid but the others are flexible. These need developing and strengthening so children have the stability and mobility required for writing, gripping and lifting.
What you quickly realise when your children start to write is that fine motor skills are REALLY important and I recently realised that I had become a bit complacent over my eldest daughter’s fine motor skills; she is only 4 and her independent writing and use of scissors are both really good and she has great control, so I thought everything was fine. But then I realised just how poor her pencil grip was and although she has great control when writing, she is obviously only writing small amounts at the moment and when she is older and writing for long periods of time, if I don’t help her to improve her pen grip and build up those muscles, then her hands are going to be really sore and she will struggle with writing.
At the same time, I am not going to be there constantly rearranging her fingers and standing over her when she is writing, that will just make her uncomfortable and turn what she currently sees as a fun activity into a task! So if I’m not going to do this, how can I help her? – through Fine motor skills activities and play.
Pick a clothes peg up and you can easily get the correct grip on the peg, squeeze and open it, hand the peg to your child however and they may struggle. When starting to do fine motor skill activities with your children you quickly realise just how often you use these movements/muscles everyday yourself and how important they are. Just think how often you use one of these spray bottles! –
Here are our top 20 favourite Fine Motor Activities:
Top 5 for hand arch strength:
- Using tweezers to pick things up and sort objects (see image)
- Using clothes pegs to attach things together
- Using small hole punches to make patterns in coloured paper (see image)
- Cutting with scissors
- Spraying things with trigger action bottles, such as diluted paint (see image above)
Top 5 for control and hand-eye coordination:
- Threading beads onto pipe cleaners
- Putting cheerios onto spaghetti/ pipe cleaners/ kebab sticks (see image)
- Putting paperclips onto toilet rolls or other objects
- Poking straws/pipe cleaners into a colander (see image)
- Weaving material or laces
- Painting with cotton buds (see image)
- Playing with Play doh
- Playing with stickers (see image)
- Making pasta necklaces
- Using squirters/pipettes/droppers
- Practising doing up zips and buttons
- Playing with spinning tops (see image)
- Playing with clippy purses and bags
- Popping bubble wrap (see image)
- Sensory play writing with fingers in shaving foam