Development and mastering of the gross and fine motor skills is one of the most important milestones of the toddlerhood phase. As the child grows up the child’s gross motor skills develop before his fine motor skills.
The gross motor skills include larger actions where the child makes use of his arms, legs, feet or his entire body. Examples: crawling, walking, jumping, etc.
The fine motor skills for toddlers include smaller actions which involve the fingers, wrist, etc which involve the smaller or finer muscles in the body. Examples: tearing a paper, making smaller pieces of a chapatti with your fingers, kneading dough/ clay, etc.
It is important for one to as parents to help child develop both the gross and fine motor skills, the reason being that this is the phase when children start schooling. Although the scenario of education and the schooling system in India is gradually changing, but once in school, children need to use their fine motor skills more effectively more over because they need to use their fingers and other finer muscles for the activities and academic work in school like drawing, writing (an action that children need to do most of the time when they are in school) and learning to use a computer (which starts at the pre – primary section in many schools)
Why is it important to develop the fine motor skills for toddlers?
Children start schooling at a pretty early age today. Once in school, children have to go by the flow and speed of the academics in school. One really does not have much control over that. A lot of parents and teachers especially of those children who are studying between std. 7th and std. 10th may agree with the fact that quite a few children are unable to complete writing their examinations in the given set time as their fingers tend to pain after having written the paper for some amount of time initially. This does affect the number of marks or the grade that they score in the examinations. Helping children develop their fine motor skills right from the toddlerhood stage helps them develop these skills at an early age when these fine muscles are developing and strengthening gradually.
There are different simple ways or activities that parents can do with children during their daily routine to develop the child’s fine motor skills. This can be easily clubbed with play or developed as a fun activity. By doing this for atleast a few minutes every day, we can help keep the toddler busy in an activity as well as attain our goal of helping the toddler develop fine motor skills.
10 Novel Ideas to Develop Fine Motor Skills for Toddlers
One can consider the following activities with toddlers:
- Separating green peas from the pod
- Sorting vegetables after a visit to the market (this also helps in recognizing vegetables, colors, numbers as well as helps develop fine motor skills)
- Sorting mixed pulses (unsoaked, only under supervision)
- Teaching the toddler to make different shapes and objects from clay which available in the markets in different colors.
- Stringing the beads: there are beads available in different shapes and sizes available in the market. One can buy beads (big ones with a bigger hole to ease the beading activity) of different colors for this activity. There are stores which also sell the beads which are already put together in a string. (This activity also helps in develop color recognition as well as helping the child in learning to count).This helps develop good eye hand coordination.
- Puzzles: there are different types of puzzles available in the market for children. The best suited for the toddlers are the ones which are made from wood. These are made from thick ply of wood and are most appropriate for this age. Start with those with 4 pieces and then the complexity can be added by buying puzzles with larger number of pieces as the child grows older.Puzzles also help develop good eye hand coordination.
- Paper tearing and/ or crumpling: toddlers love to crumple as well as tear papers. Keep some amount of old or waste paper for this activity. This is a fun activity for the toddler.
- Drawing/ scribbling: thick wax crayons are available in the market. These help develop a good grip for their fingers.
- Helping the child eat a paratha/ chapatti/ dosa on their own (including making pieces all by themselves). This helps them with develop fine motor skills, eye hand coordination as well as it gives them the satisfaction of having eaten on their own.
- Putting coins in a coin box. This can be linked with imbibing the importance of saving in children eventually.
A few tips for parents:
- When doing the activity with green peas, kindly open the pod before giving it to the toddler and ensure that there are no worms in the pod.
- When buying clay from the market for child, kindly unsure that you are buying clay of a good quality so that the residue of the clay/ color does not remain on your child’s palm/ fingers after the activity.
- You may also use firm dough kneaded for the chapattis at home in place of the readymade clay bought from the market.
- One can come up with many more activities similar to those mentioned above. But make sure you start with simple tasks/ activities first so that they are not too difficult for them. Too difficult tasks right in the beginning may lead to the child giving up trying the task.
- Place the activities in rotation so that there is something new for the child to look forward to while developing his skills. The activities in the same order or done too frequently may lead to monotony and boredom.
Article by Deepali Kulkarni
Deepali has a BA in sociology from Pune University; Masters in Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Mumbai); PG Diploma in School Psychology from Janana Prabodhini Institute of Psychology. She has the experience of working in the field of Family & Child Welfare since the last 15 yrs. She is currently a freelancer with 3 different adoption agencies. She is an adoptive parent herself.