Fine motor skills refer to the small muscles, often in the hands, used for activities like tying shoes, cutting paper, eating, drawing and writing. The term dexterity is often used interchangeably with ‘fine motor skills’ because it refers to the skillfulness in which your mind and muscles react to your movements and handling of objects.
As your baby’s brain grows, his or her body discovers all sorts of new ways to move and interact with the world through by using fine motor skills. Fine motor skills start developing as early as 3 months of age!
As children refine motor skills, they sharpen their ability to express themselves and function during daily activates. Underdevelopment of hand muscles or poor motor skills can cause problems in multiple areas:
- Zipping and unzipping
- Writing legibly
- Putting small objects together
- Doing puzzles
- Making crafts
- Using scissors
- Manipulating small objects such as coins buttons and snaps
- Opening and closing objects
- Picking up and holding onto small objects
- Being able to isolate finger movements (i.e., using one finger at a time, such as in playing the piano or typing)
- Screwing and unscrewing
Activities to strengthen hand muscles include cupping the hand to strengthen the palm or holding items with the index finger and thumb, middle finger and thumb and ring finger and thumb to stabilize the hand for using one finger at a time. These exercises are often completed when playing with “hands-on” games and handling toys and objects.
To help children develop their fine motor skills, MindWare suggests the Design and Drill Activity Center. This hands-on toy helps kids develop coordination and hand muscles through gripping and handling the drill and small plastic bolts. The battery-powered drill offers realistic sounds as it spins forward and reverse, and keeps kids entertained with matching and counting activities.
Other favorite educational toys include the Take-A-Part vehicles. These fun vehicles each have parts that can be disassembled and reassembled with their battery-operated drill, allowing kids to use their hand-eye coordination. Then they can play with the vehicles as long as they want, before they take it apart and do it again! Style options for the Take-A-Part vehicles include a Crane Truck and an Airplane.