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Ways to Improve Fine Motor Skills

Written on . Posted in Quick Tip, Sensory Tips

Fine motor skills are very important at all stages of life. That’s why finding ways to improve fine motor skills is vital for developing and maintaining these skills, which many people practice daily without even realizing it! In this blog, we’ll look at some fun activities to enhance fine motor skills primarily for children, with some focused exercises to improve fine motor skills in adults as well.




Fine Motor vs Gross Motor Skills

The main difference between fine and gross motor skills is the muscle groups they work. Gross motor skills typically engage larger muscles in your core, arms and legs to accomplish tasks like standing, running, walking and jumping. Fine motor skills are focused on smaller muscle groups in the wrists, hands and fingers for more dexterous tasks.


Why are Fine Motor Skills Important?

Fine motor skills are vital to a range of daily activities. If these skills are underdeveloped or deteriorate over time, the individual may find difficulty completing some common tasks.

Some examples of fine motor skills include:

Holding utensils or other objects such as a pen or pencil

Putting a socket into an outlet

Tying shoes

Brushing teeth and flossing

Pouring drinks

Turning the pages of a book


 


Activities to Enhance Fine Motor Skills in Children

There are  many activities to enhance fine motor skills, including simply practicing the daily tasks that require them. However, practicing fine motor skills with a child, and keeping them engaged means you might need to try something more fun.  Here are some examples you might use with children: 

1. Ball pools

There are many ways to practice fine motor skills in a ball pool – picking up the balls, throwing them and catching them are great activities to enhance fine motor skills, with the added bonus of working on hand-eye coordination at the same time.

2. Puzzles

Who doesn’t love a puzzle? Puzzles are great for improving fine motor skills because they are typically graded, meaning you can start with larger pieces and make the pieces smaller as the user’s fine motor skills improve. You can use puzzles as an exercise to improve fine motor skills in adults and children because all ages can enjoy puzzles.

3. Switch-Controlled Items

Ideal for practicing cause and effect skills, as well as fine motor skills, items controlled by a switch provide users instant feedback, and more control over their environment. 

For example, Experia, offers a range of IRiS wireless products, split into talkers and listeners. A talker is a switch that controls the listening device, such as our maze controller, which has the user guide a ball towards a hole of a specific color. When the ball lands in that hole, the listener, which could be a bubble tube, for instance, will change to that color. 

4. Play-dough

Molding and remolding play-dough is a great way to improve fine motor skills. You could move on to rolling snakes of play-dough, pinching it, forming bowls and including (age-appropriate) cutting implements. Plus, the feeling of squeezing play-dough in your hand can be a pleasant tactile sensation that can encourage users to stay engaged with the activity.

5. Fiber optics

Sensory fiber optics can be particularly useful if you’re looking for a calmer way to practice fine motor skills. The soft lighting and changing colors can be mesmerizing, while picking up or stroking the strands encourages use and development of the hand muscles.

Fiber optic strands are designed to be safe for users to touch, as they use fiber optic filaments to power the LEDs rather than electricity. This also means you won’t have to change any bulbs!

6. Coloring and painting

An exciting hobby for all ages, coloring and painting both require the use of an implement (markers, crayons, paintbrushes etc.) and give the individual a space to express themselves freely. Picking up and putting down the implement, as well as manipulating it in the hand, across a paper or canvas are all great ways to build fine motor skills.  This can be particularly useful for those who struggle with communication skills, as there are no expectations.

7. Cutting with scissors

Using scissors can be very beneficial for the development of fine motor skills. Try starting with something easy like paper and then moving on to a thicker material like card or felt! This can be a really useful activity, but anyone with limited fine motor skills must be supervised while using scissors to minimize the risk of an accident.

8. Building blocks

Using blocks to create towers, shapes or even just a stack to knock over is a great way to encourage both fine motor skills and imagination! Incorporating skill development into play ensures that the individual feels relaxed and can enjoy themselves as well as getting the physical benefits.

9. Gardening

Encouraging a child or young person to join you in the garden is a great activity to enhance fine motor skills in many ways. For example, digging with a mini spade or using a mini rake encourages the child to grip and manipulate the tools. Picking flowers or pulling up weeds can also help develop the grasp. 

10. Interactive LED Hand Carpet

The interactive LED Hand carpet works on focusing the use of the hands to one place, encouraging users to work on color recognition and hand-eye coordination. Pressing on the handprints to change the color of the LEDs in the carpet also gently strengthens the wrist.


 


Exercises to Improve Fine Motor Skills in Adults

While many of the previous activities can be as much fun for adults as kids, older individuals may benefit from different exercises as well. Some great examples of exercises to improve fine motor skills in adults include:

Stacking coins on top of each other

Squeezing a stress ball

Doing rubber band resistance – wrap a rubber band around two fingers and gently move them apart to strengthen muscles in the finger

Separating assorted small items such as a tub of different buttons or beads

Origami – this can get intricate, but there are basic origami shapes that are ideal for enhancing fine motor skills, and you can keep the finished product!


Finding ways to improve fine motor skills can be as simple as practicing lifting and holding items around the house. Adding an element of fun or usefulness can make the activity more valuable and engaging for the individual. See how sensory products can impact fine motor skills (among others) in our blog post on the benefits of sensory stimulation. For more useful products, check out our full range of sensory solutions or get in touch for a free sensory room design.