This is Part Two of a series of posts that will concentrate on the inherent benefits of play for children with special needs. In this post we focus on how toys and the experience of play help with physical development and the growth of fine motor skills. Part One of the series was related to gross motor skills and toys that could help with the development of Gross Motor Skills.
For the average person the concept of play is considered helpful in assisting a child to grow, learn, develop and thrive. What many don’t know is that play is extremely helpful when it comes to physical, social, emotional and cognitive development.
The Importance Of Physical Development
With every age and stage children learn and master new motor skills. Fine motor skills involve small muscle planning within the hand and require eye coordination in order to manipulate objects. These skills are used every day to live and play. Fine motor skills provide children with the abilities they need to explore and interact with the world around them and develop the independence needed to perform daily activities.
Fine Motor Skill Development
Fine motor skills, as with gross motor skills, develop through practice. The best way to practice is through play- coloring a picture or playing with play dough for example. When the motions are repeated enough, muscle memory is created and the movements become automatic.
Fine motor movements are the actions performed with the small muscles in the hands, fingers and wrists. Eye-hand coordination is promoted when a child colors a picture or writes her name with a pencil. Repeating this activity will help a child refine her fine motor movements and become more precise.
With the assistance and supervision of a caregiver, a child can play with a plethora of household items in addition to or instead of toys to fine tune small muscle movements.
Three Household Play Ideas for Fine Motor Skill Development
Give your child Cheerios to pick up off of the kitchen table or highchair tray to eat or place into a bowl. For a little extra help, place the Cheerios on a cookie sheet or high chair tray that has raised edges.
Play with magnets on the refrigerator. Using tape, create a square on the refrigerator and have the child move the magnets inside the square.
3. Rip Scrap Paper
Let your child rip scrap paper into pieces and count how many pieces they created.
Seven Toy Ideas For Fine Motor Skill Development
It’s time to get cookin’! Fine motor skills are used as children grab, hold and place the individual food items on the grill and serve the food to their guests during imaginary play.
This product is going to get all 5 of the senses working! Children must use their breath control to make music. Playing the keyboard can improve fine motor skills and increase coordination, specifically eye-hand coordination.
Great for bath time fun! The size of the accessories makes them easy for little hands to hold with a whole hand grasp or more refined pincer grasp to hone in on fine motor skills.
Approx. Price: $25
This cloth box is a great tool for little hands to reach and also promotes small and large muscle movements. The box comes with 8 small objects, but adding in bigger and smaller objects with the help of a caregiver can challenge a child to use whole hand grasp or pincer grasp depending on the size of the object in the box.
Grasping and releasing is worked on while using eye-hand coordination when a child picks up and stacks a Wee Wedgit during play. Wee Wedgits are soft and can be manipulated to stack many ways for lots of fun!
Price: $14.99-59.99 (depending on # of pieces)
Pattern Smart is a fast-paced pattern-recognition game that develops familiarity with patterns and shapes naturally. Children use their eye-hand coordination to match the tiles to the pattern pictures. Isolated finger movements and pincer grasp can be promoted during play while moving tiles to create patterns.
A new twist to stick-on tattoos! Place self-adhesive stencils on your skin, then brush on glue dab on some glitter to create your sparkly tattoo. Peeling the stencils will assist with strengthening the small muscles in the hands and refine eye-hand coordination.
The Importance of Play
Children have opportunities for fine motor growth while brushing teeth, tying shoes, using a pencil or cutting with a child-friendly scissors. Each child develops his fine motor skills at different ages and stages, but promoting play can assist the child to grow, learn, develop and thrive while mastering the milestones of physical development.
“Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength” as stated in the American Academy of Pediatricians report, The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds.
Image Credit: ntr2
This article was written by Ahren Hoffman, Manager of Industry Relations and Partnerships for the National Lekotek Center. Lekotek, is a not-for-profit and leading authority on toys and play for children with disabilities. Lekotek is dedicated to providing children of all abilities access to the benefits of play experiences. Visit www.ableplay.org for a complete listing of toys for children with special needs.