By Andrea Doumar OTR/L
Have you ever thought about how often you use your hands in a day? The number is endless. We use our arms and hands for so many different tasks throughout the day without even thinking about it. Using the smaller muscles of our hands targets fine motor skills to be able to complete specific tasks efficiently.
Some fine motor activities may include:
● Writing and Coloring
● Cutting with Scissors
● Stringing beads
● Building with Blocks
● Buttoning a shirt or pants
● Zipping up a coat
● Opening and Closing a Lunchbox
As an OT, I often see children who may be struggling with specific fine motor activities or maybe exhibiting some decreased hand strength. These difficulties may be impacting their skills and abilities to complete tasks within the classroom. We also do not realize that sometimes these motor weaknesses may be coming from our sensory system. The body has 5 main senses, and they can impact both gross and fine motor skills. There are also two other important sensory systems including proprioception and vestibular systems.
If you think your child may have some fine motor difficulties, you may want to first ask yourself important questions:
● Is my child crossing midline?
● Does your child tire or avoid fine motor tasks, like coloring, or cutting?
● Are they holding the pencil or crayon correctly?
● Are they able to sit and maintain upright posture at the table?
● Are they avoiding fine motor-related activities?
● Do they appear clumsy during tasks?
● Does their hand strength appear weak?
● Are they constantly bumping into things or falling out of their chairs?
If you answered yes to any of those questions this article is perfect for you. I am going to be sharing some tips and activities that you can do at home with your child to try to increase fine motor skills.
As mentioned above, the vestibular system plays an important role in gross and fine motor movements. The vestibular system is important for our balance and position in space. Our vestibular system is also able to coordinate our eye and head movements, such as being able to copy from a board or a book while in school. With larger movements, such a swinging on a swing, our body is getting more vestibular input. Our vestibular system can impact:
❖ Fine Motor Skills
❖ Gross Motor Skills
❖ Visual Motor Skills, such as hand-eye coordination
❖ Body Awareness
Soundsory is a great tool that compliments the vestibular system to increase fine motor skills. Soundsory works on a child's motor skills development through music and movement therapy. Soundsory builds on the foundation of the senses to stimulate the brain to work on all areas of development. Your child can wear the Soundsory headphones while completing any of the vestibular and fine motor activities listed below. Targeting the vestibular system has been known to make improvements in motor skills, and using the Soundsory program in conjunction can lead to position results. *Disclaimer: All children respond differently to various sensory inputs. You will want to watch for their responses during certain activities or tasks*
Examples of Vestibular Activities:
❖ Sitting in a rocking chair
❖ Rolling on a Yoga Ball
❖ Climbing the jungle gym
❖ Swinging on a Swing
❖ Riding a scooter
❖ Spinning in a Chair
❖ Wheelbarrow walking
We can take some of these vestibular activities and turn them into fine motor activities targeting both the vestibular system as well as increasing hand strength. Those activities can also be done as a preparatory activity.
Here are some activities you can try at home:
❖ Using a scooter board to complete a task
➢ Try using a scooter board to complete a fine motor activity, such as completing a puzzle!
■ Using the scooter board to propel yourself forward and backwards is strengthening all of the muscles of the shoulder and arm. It is also providing the body with vestibular input.
■ Instead of a puzzle, use pompom and tweezers to work on color matching. This is further targeting grip and hand strength through the use of tweezers. It is also educational by reinforcing different colors.
■ During this activity, try to encourage crossing of midline when reaching.
❖ Coloring in different positions
➢ Coloring on the wall
■ This activity can be completed standing at a wall or sitting on a yoga ball. Coloring on a wall is great to encourage shoulder strength as well as keeping the wrist in neutral position while coloring.
■ Sitting on the Yoga ball will provide your child with that extra movement he/she may need while coloring. It will also work on balance and core strength.
■ Always remember to use the helper hand to stabilize the paper.
➢ Coloring on your stomach
■ Lay on your stomach to color in a picture or complete a craft. This targets shoulder and core strength.
■ Make sure your child is propping themselves up on their elbow and not falling over. If your child begins to fatigue maybe take a break and complete one of the vestibular activities from above.
➢ Coloring under a table
■ Try taping a piece of paper under your coffee table and color! Your child may enjoy trying this new position of coloring, which is working on shoulder strength, as well as, wrist extension.
❖ Obstacle Courses
➢ Obstacle courses are a great way to target both fine motor skills and provide your body with vestibular input. Obstacle courses can incorporate anything around your house. Try crawling through a tunnel or underneath a table and then climbing back up on a couch or bed. These changes to position in space are providing the body with necessary input. Add a goal to the obstacle course, such as grabbing a puzzle piece from one side of the room, going through the whole obstacle to then place the puzzle piece correctly at the end.
➢ Crawling is a beneficial way to target fine motor skills, as crawling assists in developing further shoulder and arm strength necessary for fine motor activities.
❖ Wheelbarrow Walking
Similar to obstacle courses, try wheelbarrow walking back and forth to place an item within a targeted location. The body will be changing positions, as well as strengthening all of the muscles in the arm.