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What Are Fine Motor Skills?
Fine motor skills generally involve the hands, and so hand function is a crucial part of fine motor skill development. Fine motor skills are seen in many everyday activities such as threading a needle, tying shoe laces, doing up buttons on a shirt, manipulating a pencil or paint brush, using a fork or spoon, and fastening a watch strap around the wrist.
Without fine motor skills, we would find many daily tasks difficult to perform. Children who show poor fine motor skill development often find small, intricate tasks difficult and frustrating, and may give up quickly on these sorts of activities. For these students then, lots of positive reinforcement and encouragement is needed to keep them on task and motivated about their learning.
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Fine Motor Skills and Vision - What's the Link?
Our fingers do not operate in isolation - they work as part of a large team of 'workers' - the eyes, the brain, the larger muscles of the body which support us in a good, stable position - all of these team members must be operating at peak efficiency to allow us to perform fine motor tasks with ease and skill. For example, if our eyes cannot work together to make a strong, in focus image of an object, it is very difficult to manipulate it easily. Likewise with balance - if the body is working hard just to remain in a stable position at a table, then the hands are likely to be well down on the list of things that the brain is able to concentrate upon, as it is busy focusing on the far more important task of remaining upright and balanced.
With students who show poor fine motor skill development, it is worth checking out other performance areas such as gross motor skills, visual perceptual skills and balance and co-ordination. Children who are low in one area are sometimes also struggling in other areas. It may be useful to pin point the areas which need work and then target activities which develop all of them, with the support of a therapist or other specialist.
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Some useful activities to improve fine motor skills activities include:
- threading - including using cards with a repeating pattern as shown in the image above, so students need to match, select colors and plan a pattern
- tearing paper to paste onto a large picture
- making papier mache
- using clay to create the initials of a student's name
- placing tooth picks into play dough
- grating vegetables or fruit for a cake
- playing musical games involving fine hand control ('open, shut them' etc.)
- using finger puppets to tell a story or join in a play
- drawing faces onto finger tips then making the faces 'kiss'
- finding hidden small items in a bucket of rice or beans
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Hopefully these ideas will work well for you. Post a comment and let us know how you get on with implementing them. If you have any other ideas for improving fine motor skills with activities then please let us know.