Fine motor skills require the use of fingers to perform activities such as cutting, drawing and picking up small objects. They require finger strength and control that takes time to develop. While there are basic milestones your physician or preschool teacher will look for, it is important to remember that all children develop at their own rate. There are fun ways to test and improve fine motor skills that you can do at home with your toddler.
Test your child’s fine motor skills with a tracing-and-cutting exercise. With a black marker, draw a circle or other shape on a piece of paper. Place another piece of paper over the drawing and ask your child to trace the object. Do not expect perfection. What you are looking for is your child’s ability to follow the basic pattern with his finger movements. Ask your child to cut out the object with the safety scissors. Again, you are looking for ability, not perfect cuts.
Cut a small opening in the lid of a margarine container, similar to the opening of a piggy bank. Place this in front of your child, along with a bowl of assorted coins. Ask your child to transfer the coins, one by one, into the margarine container. This activity looks at fine motor coordination and helps develop the small muscles in the hand.
Look for a good tripod grasp on items such as crayons and pencils. With a good grasp, the pencil is held between the index finger and thumb while resting on the middle finger. Using broken crayons or shorter pencils with smaller children help to promote a good grasp.
Strengthen fine motor skills by performing various games that use small tools and items. Purchase some fun suction cup shapes used to prevent bathtub slipping. Place them on a table with the suction cups up. Fill a bowl with water and add a few drops of food coloring. Have your child suck the water up into an eyedropper and transfer single drops to the suction cups. For a different variation, use tweezers to transfer small beads into the sections of a paint palate or ice cube tray.
Strengthen the small muscles in the hands by playing with clay. Kneading, squeezing and rolling clay helps to work the muscles in the hands. Try hiding small beads inside the clay and having your child find them.