By Michelle Ramirez, ECI Occupational Therapist
As summer approaches, opportunities to engage your child in play to build her fine motor skills can be even more fun than ever! Warm temperatures allow for digging in the dirt with a shovel, pouring water into different size cups and bowls, and picking flowers on a long walk. As an Occupational Therapist working in early intervention, I really look forward to offering strategies to parents to help them make play fun and educational at the same time. Here are some ideas for you to enjoy no matter what your age!
Our fine motor skills are actually directly related to how strong our cores and shoulders are. Your core and shoulders offer the stability that is needed to allow use of your fingers in a very specific manner. So in order to build strength in these areas, how about giving your child a paintbrush and a bucket of water. They can “paint” the fence, brick wall, or cement over and over without you ever worrying about cleanup. Digging in the sand and emptying out the heavy bucket over and over is a great activity to build both eye hand coordination and arm strength. Gardening and pulling weeds are also great sensory and fine motor strengthening tasks that your child will enjoy. Drawing with chalk on an outside wall or on the sidewalk can also be a fun way to build strength in your upper extremities. Allow your child to “wash” the chalk off too using their paintbrush and water for extra strengthening.
For more specific fine motor tasks, how about going on a nature walk and helping your child to point to different things they see using only the index finger in isolation. Label the bird, squirrel, flower, or leaf to build his language skills too! Save your plastic food containers and lids and cut holes of different sizes to allow your child to fill the container with different items such as popsicle sticks, cotton balls, dry beans, and straws. These small objects are more difficult to pick up and place in a hole so your child may be challenged by this fun activity. The skills being built include dexterity, grasp, and pinch strength. You can also work on her ability to use her hands together by having one hand hold the container and the other hand hold the object or try holding the container sideways while your child places the object in the container so that he has to use a different approach at varying heights. Using your imagination and creativity will make these play ideas fun for both of you. Remember all activities should be supervised to ensure your child is safe and so that they get the most out of the activity. Hope you have a fun summer!