How to Develop Fine Motor Skills
Within the Education Sector (from Preschool onwards) we hear ‘education’ words that often mean very little to the average parent or guardian at home.
When I was teaching Prep I often spoke to parents about helping their children develop ‘fine motor skills’ and was often met with a blank stare. Basically, fine motor skills are the skills a child is required to learn in order to help them hold a pencil, cut with scissors, draw, paint, type, text, glue, stick – you get the drift.
There are a few reasons why such skills are so important. Children who don’t develop their fine motor ability from a young age will often become easily tired when writing, drawing, colouring and cutting at school. Children who have not yet developed these skills or are behind in developing these will often have trouble forming letters and numbers and may also have difficulty writing and reading back their own writing (due to not being able to understand what they have written). This, combined with the energy and effort it takes, often results in a discouraged child who is not enthusiastic to learn. Not a fun way to feel at school.
The thing is there are some really simple ways to help your child develop these skills from a very young age. A baby holding a rattle or grasping objects such as pieces of fruit or rusks. A young child learning to use a spoon or a fork. I know, it makes such a mess, but the growing and development that happens with this skill are so rewarding. I think we often feel that babies and young children need a lot done for them (and even though they do) there is a lot that they can be learning to do independently (with supervision of course) that will enable fine motor skills to be established and refined.
I first let our son have scissors when he was two. He cut paper with them and often I just gave him one of my old interior magazines (as a parent we have to share the things we treasure the most) and he would cut to his heart’s delight. He loved it and I found that he was able to use scissors at the age of two better than some students I had in my prep class. He is now four and is confident with cutting and has even mastered using chopsticks!
Rules around scissors
I have the following rules around scissors and have used these rules with him from a young age.
- Hold them correctly when we walk with them. That means the scissors are closed and he holds his fingers tightly around the closed blades so they can’t accidentally open and cut him.
- Cut paper only and check with Mummy before we start. Heartbreaking if he cut an old love letter that his Daddy may have given me. Not so heartbreaking if he cuts the rates bill up.
- Sit at the table while you are cutting. We walk from the drawer to the table and don’t get up again until we have finished.
- Use little scissors – not Mummy’s scissors because there are special ones made for little hands.
And that is it. It takes effort doesn’t it to give them something so hugely responsible to ‘play’ with? I always make sure this is an activity we do together (meaning I am sitting near him or cooking in the kitchen nearby where I can see what he is doing).
Free printable cutting resource
Here is a simple free printable cutting resource that you can use with your child to help them develop these skills. Simply download the free printable template below, cut out each page and pull up a seat with your toddler or preschooler. You may need to explain what to do with each cutting line depending on your child’s age.
And there you have it – Fine motor skills (using our fingers and hands) need to be developed from a young age so that children can write and form letters correctly. Using scissors (and a range of other things – see my amazing list below) helps them develop their fine motor skills and coordination and makes for a happier learner when school begins.
My Amazing List of Fine Motor Activities (the list could go on and on but you get the idea)
- Playdough – Check out this easy 3 ingredient playdough recipe.
- Finger painting
- Utensils (mixing, cutting, scooping)
- Eating with our hands
- Maze Activities – Here is one you can download for free from the Imperfect Mummy.
- Sewing (with big blunt sewing needles)
- Pouring (bath time fun)
- Stickers or playing with sticky tape
- Playing cards
- Sand Play
- Cooking and Baking (those good old rolling pins and cookie cutters)
- Opening Packets, containers, clasps, buttons, zips
- Holding a Cup
- Putting shoes and socks on
- Playing with matchbox cars and small figurines/toys
- Games/Activities on an iPad or device