It’s not unusual for babies and toddlers to learn gross (larger movements) motor skills – such as rolling over, sitting and walking – more quickly than fine motor skills. Precise hand, finger and wrist movements, as well as grasping objects and picking them up with pinched fingers, are tasks that toddlers need to practice and perfect over time, and in different ways than their gross motor skill counterparts.
There is a lot you can do in any given day of play, however, to help fine-tune these fine motor skills. Following are some activities to consider integrating into your toddler time:
- Scribbling – Give your toddler some crayons and let him or her scribble away on blank pages. Those squiggly lines are precursors to artwork and letter formation.
- Stacking blocks – The act of grasping blocks and stacking them atop each other is important developmental play for your toddler.
- Puzzles – Explore options for age-appropriate puzzles; at first these will be shapes with pegs attached for easy lifting and placing. As your toddler gets older, the puzzle shapes will fit flush into the board, without pegs, requiring his or her little fingers to be able to pull out and put back the pieces without additional assistance.
- Stickers – Although they may not seem like much of a challenge at first thought, most stickers need to be pinched and peeled off of their paper backing, helping to exercise your toddler’s fine finger and hand dexterity.
- Clay – By rolling it, squishing it and forming shapes – no matter how lumpy – your toddler is exercising his or her hands.
- Buttons and beads (be aware of choking hazards) – Let toddlers string large beads onto pipe cleaners or shoe laces, or fasten large buttons into place, to practice those motions and coordination.
Don’t just stop with play. Toddlers will have lots of opportunity to practice their fine motor skills with age-appropriate finger foods, too. Prepare a plate full of cut-up pasta or veggies and let your child pinch each one and feed himself or herself; the reaching, picking up, and hand-to-mouth coordinating will all help your toddler to develop fine motor skills.