SUPPORTING YOUR CHILD’S FINE MOTOR DEVELOPMENT AT HOME
Watching your child paint their first picture is something truly special. We love and appreciate those brush strokes and no matter what, they look incredible and beautiful to our eyes. Holding a paintbrush requires the development of fine motor muscles and coordination. When we talk about fine motor skills, we are talking about the movement of the fingers and hands, skills which are largely dependent on the physical development of the core and shoulder which provide a stable base for more refined movement of the arm and hand. There are many ways we can support fine motor development at home and see the benefits in everyday life.
From a young age, we supported our daughter’s fine motor development by letting her eat with her hands as well as introducing a spoon and fork from six months. Additionally, we gave her a series of materials to work with to encourage her pincer grasp and to be manipulated in a variety of ways. When taking a bath, she enjoyed playing with the washcloth by squeezing the water from the cloth, building those necessary muscles. We introduced writing utensils such as paintbrushes, crayons, and pencils around one year. However, since she could stand, one of our favorite places to work on fine motor skills has been the kitchen.
Fine Motor in the Kitchen
Our daughter started off helping in the kitchen with some simple tasks getting her breakfast and snacks ready. Peeling is a great way for children to build fine motor skills and muscles without needing to hold a utensil. Starting off with a more simple task such as peeling a banana and working towards more challenging tasks such as peeling the shells off hard-boiled eggs, peeling a clementine, peeling garlic and onion skins- there really are so many opportunities for children to partake in preparing their own snacks or helping parents with preparing family meals while benefiting developmentally.
Holding a variety of utensils, such as spoons, whisks, forks, knives (child-safe ones or with close supervision), and scissors gives our daughter the chance to grasp and use objects using different coordination and muscles. She learns to mix and stir with a spoon and whisk, she learns to mash with a fork, she learns to spread and chop with different knives, and to cut with scissors.
Baking bread has become a favorite task as our daughter can use her hands to manipulate the dough. Kneading the dough is a great way to build muscles in the arms and wrists which are necessary later on when learning to hold and control a pencil.
As our daughter is interested in practical life in the kitchen, a lot of her work takes place in her Learning Tower at the kitchen counter. However, with Montessori, we always encourage parents to follow the child. This may mean your child rarely joins you in the kitchen. In which case you can look for other opportunities to build their fine motor skills either through shelf work or incorporated into their gross motor play.
Fine Motor on the Shelf
As always, follow your child when selecting activities and work for your child’s shelf. You can put work on the shelf that your child finds interesting as well as a bit challenging and there are often ways to use things from around your home to meet these needs.
Opening and closing lids are a great way to develop fine motor skills and there are opportunities for making the task progressively more challenging. You can start with simple flip lids by using empty wipes containers and add in small tins or containers that have removable lids and eventually build up to screw-top lids.
Posting activities are also easily differentiated to fit the needs of your child. You can start with something simple such as placing blocks into a container with a hole in the lid- an empty formula container works great for this! As your child gains more control and precision you can use straws or dry spaghetti to put through the holes of a colander or salt/sugar shaker.
Threading activities aid in fine motor development along with necessary hand-eye coordination. Beginning threading activities such as placing a ring on a post may be easier purchased whereas more difficult activities such as threading using a shoelace can easily be made at home using things from around the house. Some DIY threading activities we have created are by gluing a piece of twine to a small wooden stick, then giving large leaves with different-sized holes to thread. Another option if you’re heading to the beach is to pick up shells with holes to thread-once threaded, these also make a lovely sound clanging together!
Fine Motor meets Gross Motor
Some children just want to move ALL day. They are running and climbing and buzzing from one activity to the next. Their interests and needs lie mostly in gross motor development. However, there are ways you can incorporate fine motor activities in their gross motor play to ensure their smaller muscles in charge of those more refined movements are getting attention as well.
Relays and obstacle courses are an excellent way to set up a gross motor challenge for your child at home. You can make obstacle courses using anything you have at home- couch cushions and pillows, chairs, boxes, a great addition would be a Pikler Triangle to add another dimension of climbing. To incorporate fine motor into your obstacle course, give your child a task such as pick up a small ball or pompom hold onto it while going through the obstacle course then put it into a container on the other end. You can easily incorporate posting and threading activities by placing one part of the activity at the start of the course and the other part at the end of the course.
It is also important to be aware of your child’s needs as they may change from one moment to the next. Giving your child the tools they need to work on their gross motor development may also allow for them to later sit and focus on their shelf work where you can have their fine motor work.
Remember with any activity you set up for your child, observe their interests and needs first and then create the activity that will meet their developmental needs and interests. There are endless ways to incorporate fine motor development into your child’s daily life as they learn to help out in the kitchen, to dress themselves, to use a washcloth during self-care, and we can continue to support their growth through work on their shelf or other practical life around the house.