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Fine Motor Fun

Improving Fine Motor Skills At Home

Katrina Karpeichik, MS, OTR/L

Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills are a set of skills that many of us don’t even think twice about. Fine motor skills are those that require the strength and refined movements of the small muscles of our wrists, hands, and fingers to do so many everyday things! Some activities that require fine motor skills are writing, typing, managing clothing fasteners, using utensils to eat, and so many other things that feel like second nature to many of us! While we might not think twice about it, for many Complex Learners these types of activities can be particularly challenging. 

While at school, your child may be doing fine motor warm-up activities like using therapy putty or tongs to get their muscles ready to hold their pencil before diving into a writing task. This is just one example of how an OT may be working with your child to help them strengthen and grow their fine motor skills. While many Complex Learners work on building their fine motor skills with their Occupational Therapist in school, did you know there’s also opportunity to help your child continue to build these skills at home? When your child is out of school, there are many household items or tasks they can be using or doing to continue to build and refine these skills without even realizing they are “exercising” their hands! 

Arts & Crafts

You can create a variety of crafts using materials you may already have at home. Crafts that include opportunities for cutting, coloring, ripping, and gluing all require us to use our fine motor skills. 

  • Some crafts you could make with everyday objects include:
    • Make a bracelet or necklace with string and your favorite colored beads, cereal, or pasta.
    • Painting with your fingers, a paintbrush or Q-tips 
    • Create your own paper airplanes, paper snowflakes, or paper bag puppets

Help around the house

There are many tasks that your child can help you do around the house to continue building those fine motor skills.

  • Encourage your child to join you in the kitchen!
    • Prep/clean up: Spraying household cleaning products will require your child to use their finger muscles to squeeze the bottle for every spray.
    • Help with food prep: Are there items you have to peel, crush, or rip up? Have your child peel some fruit, crush some crackers up, or rip up lettuce for a salad. 
    • Serve: Are you serving something that you can use tongs for? Have your child help serve your meal by using kitchen tongs to pick up and place your food. 
    • Baking also requires a lot of fine motor skills between scooping, rolling out, and dividing up recipe items. This means not only will your child be working on their fine motor skills but they’ll also have a sweet treat at the end!
    • Opening/closing containers: This may be hard for some kids but is so helpful for skill development so be sure to encourage continued practice!
      • Containers come in all different sizes – from toothpaste containers to jars as well as bagged snacks! Try to encourage your child to open the container first and if they are still struggling, give it a little start and have them continue to open it. Even by starting it for them, they will still gain practice in the way you open various containers and over time can open them independently.

Encourage play

There are so many ways to play around the house that will help encourage your child to build their fine motor skills. Some of these are…

  • Play-Doh: Play-Doh is an OT favorite tool to build fine motor skills. Opening/closing the container, pulling the Play-Doh out, rolling it, ripping it – everything about it will target those hand muscles! To encourage some connections to what your child may be working on in school, have them build letters, numbers, or sight words with their Play-Doh too. Bonus! Play-doh can be pretty easy to make and the process of making it will target those fine motor skills too.
  • Legos: Legos are a great way for kids to either follow a model to build a specific figure or use their creativity to make their own fun creations. Legos of all sizes are great for fine and visual motor skills while allowing your child to be as creative as possible! 
  • Outdoor play: A lot of outdoor messy play such as digging and scooping are great ways for children to build fine motor skills. Using items such as sidewalk chalk is another great way to build skills through drawing, writing, and having fun.
  • Board games: Many board games may require more fine motor skills than you might think! Most games require the use of small pieces that you have to manipulate around the board or cards that reveal your next move. Encourage your child to use their thumb and index finger (“pincer fingers”) when moving their piece around the board. Some fine motor favorites are Perfection, Trouble, and the Sneaky Snacky Squirrel. 

In many cases, your child is able to practice their fine motor skills without even realizing it! While they’re having fun and building memories, they’re also strengthening a critical skill set that will benefit them now and into the future!

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