motor skillsIt’s important for parents to help their little ones develop fine motor skills in their hands and wrists in order to build up their muscles. Very often an afterthought when it comes to development; parents wonder why their little learner is struggling with holding a pencil, using scissors, or even decorating with crayons. There are six simple things you can do with your baby and child now that will help them be able to build up their strength in these necessary and valuable muscles. Read on to learn what they are!

1. Break Out the Playdough

Break Out the PlaydoughYes, it’s messy. Yes, they try to eat it. Yes, it drives you crazy when you find it squished in your floor tiles weeks later. But, playing with playdough is a must. Why? Pick up a piece and play with it yourself. Do you feel yourself squeezing, squishing, and stretching it (you are also probably having a lot of fun with it too!). All the muscles in your fingers and hands are getting a thorough workout. Plus, your child will get a lot of sensory stimulation from this fun forming dough.

2. Paint Away

paint away

Finger painting is something that can be done with babies when they are as little as six months old. There are also many kinds of finger paint that are non-toxic and that are mess free, if that’s what’s holding you back from introducing your child to this colorful activity. It will not only build their hand and eye coordination, but strengthen their fingers and encourage them to wiggle them and move them in different ways.

3. Sponge Play

Sponge PlayFill a water table up with water. Place different shaped sponges inside and allow your child to begin picking them up and squeezing all the water out. You can also do this with an infant bathtub if your 8 or 9-month-old has outgrown their little tub. Pre-school aged children can also dip sponges in buckets and practice filling and emptying each with the sponge. All of the gripping and grasping will strengthen the hands and forearms.

4. Play Keep Away

play keep awayYou can play this simple game with a little baby! Show them their favorite snack (a Puff, Yogurt Melt, Cheerio, etc.) As they go for it, close your hand. They will most likely continue to go for it, requiring you to clench your hand shut. Encourage them to use the strength in their own hands to pry your fingers open to retrieve their treat. You can even take turns and try to remove something from their closed grip.

5. Shell Impressions

Shell ImpressionsMore geared toward school-aged children; roll out some playdough. Hand your child some shells that you’ve collected from the beach (or any kind of textured three-dimensional item will do). Allow them to press the shells into the dough and pull up; making an impression in the clay. The best part is, once they are finished, they can scrunch it up and help you roll it back out to start again.

6. Pom Pom Drop

pom pom dropAll you need is an empty water bottle and some soft, colorful pom-poms. Allow your toddler to pick up each item and drop it carefully in the bottle. Once they become proficient with handling the little pom-poms, time them to see how fast they can transfer them. This is great for developing the muscles in their fingers.

By doing these six simple activities, you will notice that your child will have an easier time tying their shoes, writing their letters, and cutting objects when they reach school age!

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