There are many things in life we learn and acquire without even being aware of the learning process. Motor skills, along with many other development essentials, are one of those things. And even though obtaining these skills in most cases happens spontaneously and naturally, putting in a bit of effort to fine-tune the movements can't hurt. This is especially important if you notice your kid struggling with certain tasks such as grabbing, moving, and using various everyday objects. While every responsible parent would be alarmed by this, it's crucial to remember that there are fun ways to improve your child's motor skills that both parents and kids can enjoy.
What are motor skills?
We get up every day, brush our teeth, make breakfast, use our smartphones, lock and unlock doors, tie laces, etc. Rarely, however, does anyone think about how we are able to do these mundane things. You probably realize by now that motor skills are what make most of these movements possible. But what exactly are they?
Motor skills are learned abilities that allow us to execute planned and calculated movements with the utmost precision. In most cases, the learning process occurs naturally and is a result of spontaneous practice and experience.
There are several types of motor skills, but they are most commonly grouped into two categories:
- Gross motor skills include larger muscles and movements such as crawling, walking, balancing, running, jumping, swimming, catching, throwing, etc. The development of these skills happens during early childhood.
- Fine motor skills require smaller muscles for more sophisticated movements. These movements include everything we do with our fingers, wrists, hands, feet, and toes.
Why are they important?
Even though we don't pay much attention to them, motor skills are essential in our lives. They are even more important when it comes to early child development since they enable physical strength and flexible movements, which are imperative in almost every aspect of our daily routines. Additionally, with good motor skills, children are able to explore the world around them and learn and soak up even more things.
Exploration is essential in every child’s life.
Because they play such a huge role in learning and undisturbed daily functioning, it is easy to understand why it might be a good idea to improve your child's motor skills even if they aren't struggling.
How can you improve your child’s motor skills?
The good news is, there are many things you can do to encourage your child to perfect their motor skills. If you are reluctant and don't want to take up your kid's time with seemingly needless exercises, know that they don't resemble those boring math classes in school. These activities are kid-friendly and nothing more than play in their eyes. Therefore, you can be sure they will enjoy them. If, however, you notice your child becoming bored, either try to offer them a different activity or let them do what they want to avoid them feeling pressured or agitated.
1. Toys and games
When choosing toys for your child, many things should come into consideration aside from cuteness and aesthetics. Luckily, nowadays, there are many excellent options to choose from, whether you have a toddler or a school-aged child. Depending on your little one's interests and age, you can opt for blocks, puzzles, remote control cars, etc. Younger kids should focus on practicing picking things up and bettering their grip, as this will enable them to properly hold a pencil and eventually write.
Card games are great parent-child activities
When it comes to games, the options are even more abundant and are sure to entertain not only children but parents as well. Jenga, board games such as Enter the Spudnet (for older kids), and even video games can do wonders for improving motor skills, as well as critical and executive thinking, and many other abilities.
Whatever you choose, make sure it is appropriate for your kid's age and interests, as even the most educational toys and games won't be as effective if your child does not enjoy playing them.
Most children enjoy making things with their hands which is excellent news as crafts are terrific for improving motor skills. Even the simplest activities, such as paper-cutting, have proved incredibly effective for building muscle control and perfecting hand-eye coordination.
If you have a toddler, you can draw shapes on a piece of paper and allow them to cut them out with kid-friendly scissors. Older kids can try origami, make cards, snowflakes - the possibilities are virtually endless. To make things more interesting, consider including colorful decorative paper, stickers, beads, seashells, glitter, and anything else that will add sparkle and shine to your kid's project.
Besides motor skills, crafting will help your kid develop creativity, so don't be afraid to get as inventive as possible. Allow your little ones to express themselves and enjoy the creativity flow together. In the end, remember that the results are not what matters - it's the process during which children practice and repeat specific movements.
3. Water play
If you are looking for a way to improve your child's motor skills and entertain them on a hot summer day, water play is your best bet. Not only is some good old H2O going to keep them excited for hours (maybe even days if you don't stop them), but it will allow them to practice specific movements, as well. Depending on what kind of activity you decide on, your kid will be able to practice both their gross and fine motor skills.
Water play is an excellent choice when it comes to improving children’s motor skills.
If you don't have a backyard and are not into the idea of making a wet mess in your home, you can give your child a glass of water, an empty cup, and an eyedropper. Instruct them to transfer the water into the empty cup with the eyedropper until there is nothing left in the first cup. They get bonus points if there is no water on the table or their clothes when they finish! If you want to make things more challenging and exciting, you can replace the eyedropper with a spoon and even add food coloring to the water. Sponges and different toys are also excellent options, but they might be more appropriate in the bathtub.
If you want to focus on gross motor skills more and help them discover love for sports, get a kiddie pool for your backyard and fill it with lukewarm water. Encourage your child to play with balls and toys, jump, swim, etc. With water, good times are always guaranteed!
4. Painting and drawing
Painting and drawing are excellent activities that can awaken a young Picasso in your kid and help them practice their fine motor skills. Moreover, these activities are appropriate for almost all ages and interests, so you can rest assured knowing your little one will enjoy them. Depending on their age, you can give your child some non-toxic paint for finger painting or go the more traditional route with watercolors, crayons, pencils, brushes, and anything else you can find around the house. Allow them to paint and draw whatever they want and remember - the bigger the mess, the better!
Play-dough might be every parent's nightmare, but it is highly effective when it comes to improving motor skills. With it, children can practice many different movements that require precision, such as squeezing, pinching, rolling, stretching, etc. If you don't feel like running to the store to get some play-dough, you can always make your own, which is another activity your child will surely enjoy.
Playing with play-dough can do wonders for movements such as squeezing, pinching, and rolling.
Older kids can attempt to make things with clay, and they can even paint them once they are dry. This way, not only will they practice and improve their motor skills, but they will also create precious keepsakes you can display in your home or gift to your loved ones.
What should you do if you notice your child struggling?
Since motor skills are so important for proper development, paying attention to warning signs is imperative. If you notice your child struggling with certain movements on time, you will be able to react accordingly and inform your pediatrician. In this case, it is essential to stay calm and avoid going into panic mode, as many issues with motor skills can be overcome with simple exercises and activities such as those mentioned in this article. Persistence, patience, and a positive mindset will undoubtedly help your child achieve milestones and develop their skills.
Motor skills are an essential part of everyone's life, and paying attention to their development is vital during childhood. With good gross and fine motor skills, children can better explore the world that surrounds them and participate in many different activities crucial for broadening their skillset. Whether or not you notice them struggling with simple tasks such as holding a pencil or catching things, you should attempt to improve your child's motor skills as this can only benefit them. Just remember that fun and enjoyment should be your top priorities as children learn best in pleasant environments.