There's a disturbing problem I've noticed happening throughout my years of making with kids. Before I sound all gloom and doom telling you all of the problems I'm gonna start by telling you this is totally WORKABLE! But, it is gonna require a little planning and a little time.
Kids across the board, whether homeschooled or public schooled, girls or boys, older or younger, are having a hard time with fine motor skills. I see it in my classes, I've heard other parents and teachers talk about it & I've read countless online articles from therapists about it.
I'm not going to venture a guess at what's causing it'll or spend time pulling out facts to convince you. What I am going to do is tell you that just like soccer, ballet or reading, it's absolutely true that practice makes perfect.
I've put together a list of ways for you to help your kids brush up on these skills without it ever seeming like work.
Remember all of those art projects we did with scissors and glue this year...(wink, wink)... fine motor skills. Use those scissors! From preschoolers to teens, scissor skills need practice! Use them to cut different weights of paper, cut up cereal boxes before putting them in the recycle bin or cut some version of play dough.
Wanna be an even bigger rockstar in the minds of your littles? Cook some pasta, separate it into bowls and stir in a few drops of food coloring, then let the kids cut it up with scissors.
But scissors aren't the only way, tearing paper is a GREAT way to practice too. Tearing large pieces is tons of fun, but using those tiny muscles in the fingers & hands to create a picture from small bits of torn paper is a even better. If tearing is a challenge, start with tissue paper & work up to cardstock. Challenge kids to create a snow day scene or a flower by tearing small bits of paper.
String beads or dried out colored pasta on yarn or pipe cleaners.
Speaking of pipe cleaners, they are a super fun, super cheap way to sneak in some skill practice! Twist, tie, pinch, wrap, coil, bead, bend, break, cut & create with them. Invite kids to make jewelry, wrap a pencil, build a pipe cleaner family, create a finger puppet or string them with dried dough beads. A quick google search for pipe cleaner crafts will provide loads of ideas!
Play dough? Salt dough, brand name dough, cinnamon dough all make great doughs to work with. Roll, pinch, twist, cut, create beads and make faces with it. How about
creating people or creatures & a scene with it, then use your phone to make a stop motion film with kids. The more details they can add the better, whether its adding texture to beads, blending colors or making leaves on trees, you'll see their skills improve every time they are challenged to add details.
Got kids who like games? Play Pick Up Sticks and Operation, Jenga, Scrabble & Monopoly. Chess and checkers will also quietly build those fine motor skills.
What about older kids? YES! Even teens need practice. The key here is to not tell them they are practicing 😉 Puzzles, Legos, modeling clay, model cars building, remote control cars, crochet, knitting, weaving, threading needles, sewing buttons on and even cooking are great ways to build skills.
Cooking with kids gives them great life skills lessons, will help contribute to the good of the household AND provide fine motor skills practice if you're purposeful. Consider letting kids measure and pour the small items like baking powder, vanilla and salt.
Chop veggies, knead dough, stir batter and peel fruits. Even the smallest children can help too. Unwrapping small wrapped ingredients like carmels or mints during holiday baking, pulling grapes off the stems, opening containers all help. Wanna be a hero? Tell them to play with their food & task them with making a face from their lunch or an animal with their breakfast before the eat it. All of these processes work on those little muscles, refining their abilities.
Need another task that will accomplish a chore? Let your kids use tools! Hammer nails, use a screwdriver, twist wire with pliers. Want to accomplish something? Sort all of those nails & screws into jars, change batteries in the remotes remotes or change the light bulbs.
And, for older kids a super fun art & science combo is to build a magnet sculpture with large magnets, nuts, bolts and washers. Want to get some actual schoolwork accomplished while working on these skills? Science and math manipulatives provide a great forum for using fine motor skills if you let them set up and do the experiments without doing it for them.
As adults we often don't think about how important our fine motor skills are, but we use them everyday. Whether it's cleaning up the broken glass, planting seeds, removing splinters or typing on a keyboard, great fine motor skills take as much practice as gross motor skills. Giving kids extra practice now will benefit them for the rest of their lives, so what other things do you do with your kids that works those tiny finger and hand muscles?