Develop your child's fine motor skills to build muscles that help him complete activities.

Activities to Strengthen Fine Motor Skills and Tactile Perception

by Victoria Thompson

Developing your child's motor skills is probably a task that you don't think of on a daily basis. You may practice colors, the alphabet and counting, but you haven't quite made it to fine motor strengthening. It's actually as important as reading and writing, since these skills will impact everyday activities for a lifetime. You don't have to run out and buy anything, like expensive kits, to practice. Everything you need to heighten your little one's tactile perception is probably right at your fingertips. Make the activities entertaining, and your child won't even realize how much of a workout he's really getting.

1. Use Modeling Clay

Working with clay isn't all play. This soft, colorful concoction actually helps build strong hand and wrist muscles. Clay is extremely pliable, so when a child manipulates it by pulling and pounding, he is really exercising his little fingers and developing fine motor skills. The rolling motion used to roll modeling clay gives the wrists a work out as well. So the next time your little one insists on pulling out the clay, remember he's getting his daily finger exercise. Gladly take it out of the toy box and let him play as long as he wants.

2. Self Care Activities

If you haven't yet, give your child some independence and let him try dressing himself. Now, this could take a while, so don't have any urgent plans to go anywhere. This important skill that involves many finger mechanics, like buttoning, snapping and zipping, includes finger motions that are sometimes difficult for tiny fingers to achieve. You may not want him to tackle it all at once, however. One week practice buttoning, and choose a new skill the next week. The practice actually makes his fingers stronger with the repetitive motion. You have to celebrate once he can complete a task and doesn't have to call you to the bathroom anymore to zip his jeans. Don't worry Mommy, he's not quite ready to move out yet. He's still yours for years to come.

3. Fingerpainting

What child doesn't like the feel of wet finger paint between his fingers? It's messy, slimy and gooey, one of the best feelings a kid could have. Spread out some newspapers and throw a smock on your little one to protect his clothing. Pour the various colors onto paper plates and let his fingers become the brush. Play with him and watch all the different strokes he comes up with as he stimulates his sense of touch. At the end, if he just wants to go for it and smear his hands across his masterpiece, then let him enjoy the feel of paint oozing across his hands. You may not be inspiring a mini Picasso, but don't forget to proudly hang this work of art on the fridge when it dries.

4. Sensory Bowls

Your little one is just beginning to become aware of various substances around him. Set up sensory bowls of substances like gelatin, dried beans and sand. Blindfold him to create some mystery. Dip his fingers into each bowl, so he can squeeze and sift the substances through his fingers. He'll then guess the substance. Let him know it's not a taste test, since the gelatin might smell appetizing to him and end up in his mouth. He probably wouldn't care for the taste of sand too much. Take off the blindfold so he can see how many he guessed correctly.

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