Wednesday, October 5, 2011
How to Improve Fine Motor Skills in Your Preschooler
We have already been reprimanded by the local Kindergarten teacher and Munchkin Girl is only three years old. Several weekends ago our local elementary school offered a fun program to kids ages 3-5. The idea is to have a bunch of crafts and games and get to meet the Kindergarten teacher. I was really excited and so was Munchkin.
We found a good station right away and my daughter happily started coloring. Pretty soon the Kindergarten teacher walked over. She seemed very warm and we introduced ourselves.
"This is my daughter," I said. "She's three and is very excited to be here."
The teacher looked down at Munchkin and smiled but then grabbed the crayon right out of her hand.
The teacher walked away and everyone was staring at us. It had never entered my mind before to think about how she was holding her crayon. This wasn't exactly turning out to be the fun experience I had in mind. I was actually beginning to panic. She needed therapy! She was going to need extra help! If I was a good Mommy, she would already be holding her pencil the right way! Maybe if I didn't work, I would have been able to cultivate her fine motor skills....and ON and ON and ON went my brain. You get the picture. General frantic thoughts of a doting Mommy.
Then I took a deep breath. She's not even 3 and half yet for crying out loud. She's a very bright kid so I'm sure she won't go to high school holding her pen in a fist. That being said, although we work on fine motor often, we clearly needed more practice and maybe some fresh ideas. I decided to consult with my good friend and former Kindergarten teacher, Susan Case. Susan is an expert on young children and even has her Master's Degree in this field and is the author of Kindergarten: Tattle-Tales, Tools, Tactics, Triumphs and Tasty Treats for Teachers and Parents. I told her what happened and here is some advice from her, which I think every Mom should know:
It is disturbing that the kindergarten teacher made you and Little Munchkin feel badly for not holding a pencil correctly. She is three! Having her self-esteem nurtured and playing/learning with age appropriate activities are far more important than doing something she is not ready to do.
The ability to correctly grasp a pencil is achieved after the large and small muscles have gone through stages. There is a process of development called "big to small" and "proximal to distal". This means that children develop the larger muscles of the trunk, shoulders, and arms before the smaller muscles of the hands, wrists, and fingers. Using the finger muscles to “correctly” grasp a pencil can only be accomplished when the muscles are strong enough and the child is interested and willing.
Developing fine motor skills can be frustrating and challenging for some children. Watch your child’s level of frustration. Use praise and rewards for accomplishments. Gradually increase the time of activities. This play/work time needs to be pleasurable, attainable, and rewarding so that your child will continue to engage and make progress.
Young children learn through sensory-motor integration. They enjoy learning with interesting textures and materials. The following activities will foster fine motor skills:
Activities to Develop Fine Motor Skills:
- Pouring sand, water, salt, sugar, rice, or beans using bowls, funnels, spoons, cups, tubes, rolls, colander
- Sorting small objects with interesting textures like cotton balls, pastas, sponges, and rocks placing them into egg cartons
- Pushing objects through a slot like pennies or buttons into a Piggy Bank or container with a slit in lid; pushing pegs into a board
- Picking up marbles and putting them in a jar; for variety, have child stand up and drop marbles into jar or drop balls or other small objects into container or sack
- Building with blocks, logs, legos
- Lacing with lacing cards – poking string through holes and pulling
- Grasping wooden puzzles pieces and placing correctly
- Arranging rocks, leaves, beans, cards, pasta, sticks or whatever interests child
- Picking stickers off page and successfully placing onto something
- Playing with Play Dough and clay: pulling, pressing, stretching, rolling, pounding, squeezing, pinching
- Squeezing glue bottles, water guns, sponges
- Shaking bottles of glitter
- Beading necklaces with yarn or pasta wheels and lacing string
- Pushing pipe cleaners into foam shapes with center cut out or push into colanders
- Marking with fat pencils, crayons, markers, and sidewalk chalk
- Cutting with child safety scissors which are blunt and fits hand. Opening and closing the scissors as well as cutting increases hand strength.
First, we tried a squeeze bottle project. We mixed equal parts flour, salt and water and the mixture into four different squeeze bottles with some paint at the top:
Next I got a bunch of Christmas stickers and Munchkin Girl peeled them all off and stuck them on her tree. Little Buddy had fun with this too, although I had to peel his stickers
We also have really enjoyed pouring. We use water, buttons, even colored rice. I bought some paper cups and put letters on them and they use them for pouring and also to practice learning the letters. I also get out plastic measuring cups, spoons, etc., anything that's fun for pouring. This makes huge messes, but literally will keep them both busy for an entire hour so the cleanup is worth it!!
They also enjoy playing with money. Lots of money. I took an old empty salt container and took out the top silver part. This made a perfect jar to drop pennies into. It was a little hard to get the pennies out, but I have lots of pennies.
After all this, I'm happy to report that with just a little bit of practice and coaching, Munchkin Girl can hold the pencil correctly! I try not to push her too hard though, because as Susan said, she's still learning!!
If you enjoyed this post, you will love our book! Susan and I teamed up and released The Happy Mommy Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide on Keeping Your Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy, Out of Trouble, and Motivated to Learn in July, 2012. If you have ever tried to cook dinner while your kid clings to your leg and cries, this is the book for you! As we did above, we give you a Mom's point of view and a teacher's point of view, so that you can do activities that not only keep the kids busy, but also keep them motivated to learn and develop their natural curiosity. Kids behave better when they are given challenging projects to work on, which will in turn give you more free time to do the things you really need to do, like washing dishes, paying bills, and relaxing so that you can be a better Mom!
We were thrilled be to be given the opportunity to talk about this to you in person! Check out this video we created to show you more about the book!