Fine motor skills involve the movement and dexterity of hands and fingers. These skills are the ones that allow your infant to grasp her toys and are used by your toddler when he manipulates and turns his toys between his hands. The primary use of fine motor skills in everyday life is for writing. Children must have already developed some strength in their fingers to properly hold a pencil and learn to write so it is important to offer a variety of activities that promote fine motor development.
The best fine motor activities are those that encourage your child to manipulate a toy with his hands and fingers and, like with all educational activities, should be something your child finds enjoyable. Modeling clay and play dough promote creativity and offer all kinds of opportunities to develop fine motor skills. Encourage your child to roll various sized balls out of the clay and let him use toothpicks or short, blunt dowels to etch designs and details into his play dough creations.
Building with blocks, like a 100 piece wooden block set, encourages young children to build their fine motor skills as well. Activities like puzzles, lacing cards, or bead stringing also allow children to use their small muscles to manipulate an object.
Art activities are great ways to develop fine motor skills. Have your child tear small pieces of tissue paper, then crumple the paper into a small ball and glue it onto a picture. Paper-mache art builds fine motor skills too. Allow your child to tear newspaper into small strips, then dip into a flour based glue solution and smooth onto a balloon. Medicine dropper paintings are another terrific art activity to enhance small muscle development.
Play board games with your child that include dice and encourage her to roll the dice to strengthen her hand dexterity. Games that involve turning over cards, like Memory, or games with small pieces to move, like Checkers, are other fun ways to enhance fine motor development. You should also provide your child with finger puppets and help her to use them during your song time or story time.
Cutting with scissors is one of the best activities for a child to prepare her finger muscles for writing. Supply your child with a sturdy pair of safety scissors and give her a variety of different materials to cut. Plastic straws or cardstock are great for building strength, while already shredded paper scraps can build dexterity as well as hand and eye coordination. Have your child cut in a number of different ways, including short, quick cuts to create a fringed line on construction paper and steady, long cuts to follow along a drawn line.
After some fine motor skills have been mastered, usually around preschool age, you should provide your child with a number of prewriting activities. Drawing with chalk and painting are excellent fine motor development activities. Draw large letters on a piece of paper and let your child trace the lines with a marker. Dot to Dot games are also great for developing finger dexterity and hand and eye coordination.