Off late media has been abuzz with the news of how fine motor skills have drastically declined in children. Occupational therapist and teachers are concerned with the rising number of young children lacking nascent fine motor skills. While it is being treated like a fresh news, the decline began almost 20years ago and off late it reached its pinnacle. More kindergarteners are entering the system without the requisite fine motor skills essential to take them further. Lot many people would attribute this fall to technology and the use of touchscreen devices. Though technology did trigger the steep dive, there are many other factors at play.
Decline in Tummy time for infants and babies: This is starting point of building fine motor skills. When a baby pushes itself up, it uses the muscles in wrist and hand to support the weight, thus laying the foundation of fine motor skills.
Increased time in Walkers and Activity seats: Walkers and activity chairs are great but they should be used mindfully. Much like screen time, they need to be monitored and time spend in them quantified.
Parent assisted feeding: This one is a huge problem. More and more kindergarteners are fed by their care-takers. What that essentially means is that they are not skillful enough to handle spoons and forks. The lack coordination and certainly do not have the dexterity to self feed.
Increased Television: With busier parents, many young children are left to entertain themselves in front of the idiot box. Now, anything that does not require them to remotely move cannot work at tuning motor skills.
Less messy play: With less outdoor play and increased fetish of parents around dirt and keeping hands clean, messy play has witnessed a steady decline. Messy play which in our times revolved a lot around making mud cakes really strengthened our fingers and got them ready to hold writing aids later on.
Children need to develop fine motor skills before they enter kindergarten. They need to find ways to strengthen their little fingers and develop hand-eye coordination. Back when we were kids, our mothers were just so creative or should I say carefree (in a right way, to let us play) that we learned them well before we were given pencils to hold. But now with decline of play in kindergarten coupled with touchcreens and never ending emphasis on academics, we need to start focusing on these skills and help our little ones learn these finger tricks.
Good news is, most of these skills can be build at home without batting an eyelid! All we need is a bit of creativity. Here are a few activities that will get those little fingers moving and strengthen the right muscles.
1. Push pinning Shapes/Alphabets: This is a simple Montessori activity wherein the child is supposed to push the pins around the boundary of the shape/alphabet . It works those finger muscles and at same time teaches shapes and alphabets.
2. Dough Kneading: This life skill based activity invites children to knead dough – be it snow dough, salt dough or regular chappati dough. To add more fun, you can add food coloring to the dough h and let them make their own colorful chappati’s.
3. Sock Sort: Another Life Skills based activity. After drying the laundry, hand over the socks to your child and ask him to match the pairs by identifying colors and patterns on the sock.
4. Sidewalk Scribbling: All you need is a big chunky piece of chalk and a sidewalk. Let your child draw and scribble to strengthen his tripod grip.
5. Spray Painting: Put some diluted water color in a spray bottle and let those little fingers work on a craft sheet to create spray painting murals.
6. Lacing: Don’t spend on the fancy lacing toys rather hand over a washed clean shoe to your child and ask her to lace it. This will not only help with her fine motor skills but also her self esteem. Children feel valued when asked for help from an adult.
7. Thumb Fight: A simple fun game to play with your child, thumb fight is great for building strength in hands.
8. Rubber Band Stretch: These are pretty easy and simple. All you need is few rubber bands. Ask your child to make his/her doll’s pony using a rubber band. Alternatively, you can ask her to stretch it between her fingers to make a shape or put the bands on an empty glass.
9. Make a Wool Ball: Grab some loose old wool lying around and ask your child to roll it on ball. You can also roll in on your thumb and pinky to make a little bow.
10. Play Spider Walk: Pretend that your hand is a spider. Run your fingers on the table, imitating how a spider walks, to catch your opponent who makes ants with his fingers.
Simple activities like these are great at building the requisite fine motor skills and do not cost a rupee. We cannot control our environment and the challenges that it will bring forth, but surely we can start working at them. Our children will the first generation to grow up with technology and touchscreens. We do not really understand their effects yet. But what we do gather is that our children need to play more and sit less.