By TEIS Early Intervention Staff
During your child’s first years of life, there are a variety of outdoor activities and indoor crafts that encourage the development of both gross and fine motor skills.
From finger painting and working with homemade play dough indoors to playing with a ball or coloring with sidewalk chalk outside, there are many fun activities that strengthen muscles, help develop fine motor coordination, and challenge your child to be active and creative at the same time.
Let’s take a look at a few activities that parents can organize and encourage with little effort.
Babies and toddlers love to move. There’s crawling, pushing, pulling, throwing, and ever more determined efforts to navigate and manipulate their environment. Your help can be as simple as supplying a carboard box to climb on, pillows to crawl over and around, balls to roll and throw, cups to stack, stuffed animals to hug, or a play tunnel to crawl through. Many of these activities strengthen gross motor skills, those requiring whole body movement and involve the core stabilizing muscles of the body.
You’ll find many simple recipes online for turning some flour, water, and food coloring into an all time favorite for squeezing, molding, and decorating shapes. Pushing, pulling, rolling, and shaping all help develop both hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. These actions build strength in the little muscles in the fingers and hands, the same muscles children will later need for holding a pencil or cutting with scissors!
Finger painting is the kind of colorful fun that strengthens the finger and small hand muscles. It aids in color recognition and helps develop pre-writing skills. Stamping can be as simple as taking a toilet paper roll and applying play paint to one end so that your child can stamp circles on paper. (Appling a crease/indent down one side of the roll changes the shape to a heart.) Grasping and maneuvering a simple stamp to make shapes on paper aids in fine motor control.
Being outside and climbing and walking on uneven surfaces is both good for your child’s health and helps build core muscles and endurance. On a day in the park, encourage walking over uneven surfaces as well as climbing on hilly surfaces. Landscapes with changes in elevation can be fun to explore and are great for enhancing gross motor skills.
Sidewalk chalk presents amazing opportunities for developing motor skills. Drawing develops hand-eye coordination and the fine motor skills of fingers and hands. Squatting, hopping, jumping, walking a maze, tossing bean bags into colorful circles, all combine elements or coordination and endurance. By ages 4-5, hopscotch is an age-old game that calls on a variety of motor skills to good effect.
The classic summertime fun of swings, sliding boards, monkey bars, ladders, push-pull merry go grounds and teeter totters are all great for improving balance, coordination, and fine motor skills. In addition to physical growth and strength, playground activities represent opportunities for your child to develop socialization skills too.
Physical movement takes a lot of coordination for a young child. Movements that start out as awkward are gradually mastered as toddlers learn to explore their environment. If you feel your child is lagging behind, especially in comparison to other children in your community and social circle, it may be time to ask the experts.
Would you like to learn more about childhood motor skill development? Call TEIS Early Intervention at 412-271-8347 or Text INFO to 412-543-8398 During Regular Business Hours (8:00 am to 4:00 pm, M-F).
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