Some children experience difficulties with their gross and fine motor skills in a way that other children don’t. There can be a number of reasons for this, and if you have any concerns about your child’s health you should contact a professional. Here are five tips for developing motor skills:
1. Give children activities to do
One of the most effective ways to develop a child’s motor skills is to give them specific activities to do. You’ll need equipment and materials in order to help children who struggle with their motor skills, so think about what you’ll need to invest in (coordination skill games are available to buy at LDA, as well as resources and pieces of equipment too). Here are some activity ideas for developing fine motor skills:
· Get to grips with play dough. Squeezing and stretching, moulding and separating help to strengthen finger muscles and improve coordination, and it’s a great sensory experience too.
· Cut out paper bunting. Supervise children while they’re using scissors and encourage them to carefully cut around lines, fold tabs and unfold the bunting at the end. Larger shapes are easiest to start with, whereas smaller pieces can be cut once if they become comfortable using scissors.
· Make necklaces. Start with a thick piece of string and large shapes with large holes. As children grow in confidence and ability, gradually make the string thinner or give them smaller beads or shapes to thread in more complex patterns.
2. Use everyday tasks as an opportunity to work on skills
As much as specific activities are great fun and are very effective, many daily activities are an opportunity to strengthen motor skills. You can set tasks such as setting the table, pouring water into a cup, opening and closing containers with lids and wiping the table with a cloth.
3. Encourage children to spend time outdoors
Gross motor skills such as running, catching a ball, balancing and jumping on a trampoline can be performed in almost any environment, but a dedicated space designed for enabling it is worth visiting regularly. Take children to activity play centres and parks so that they have plenty of opportunities for balancing, climbing and pedalling. It won’t be easy, and it may occasionally be frustrating for them, but the opportunity to keep practicing is key.
4. Intensify the challenge, but start easy
If a child struggles with fine and gross motor skills, presenting them with insurmountable challenges are only going to cause frustration, apprehension and low self esteem. For that reason, it’s important that you present new tasks at a level of difficulty that’s suitable for their stage of development, pacing the tasks and intensifying the challenge appropriately. Consult an occupational therapist if you need some help to do this.
5. Offer praise and consistence
All children respond well to praise and encouragement, so although it might seem like an obvious point to make, it’s worth celebrating every small achievement and major milestone. Display the things they produce, thank them for their contributions around the house, watch them when they’re playing outdoors and be consistent if you’re following a programme.
Above all else, be patient – try to resist the temptation to always perform tasks on behalf of a child, such as tying shoelaces, getting dressed or cutting food – instead, be there to assist them if such a level of intervention is possible.