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Rebecca Dean
BY Rebecca Dean

6 Ways For Your Child With Special Needs To Develop Fine Motor Skills at Home

To succeed, you have to put in hard work and practice. Sure, this is a universal concept, but it’s particularly relevant to the development of fine motor skills in children with special needs.

Fine motor skills focus on the hands, fingers, and small muscles of the face, mouth, and feet. The main focus, though, is on developing the skills of the small muscles in the hands.

Play is a child’s “work,” and it’s extremely important for children to engage in play to build control, strength, and precision in their hands and fingers to allow them to feed themselves, zip, fasten, draw, and write.

To help children develop the awareness, planning, strength, and coordination they need to complete tasks, it’s important to incorporate activities into their routine to encourage daily practice. The more adults go to the gym, the stronger they get and the faster they see results from their workouts. Similarly, strengthening children’s muscles through practicing skills at home — not just in class or in therapy — will develop results faster.

Fine motor development shouldn’t slow down once a child leaves the classroom or a therapy session. Introducing playful activities at home can nurture children’s development and give them a head start in reaching important fine-motor milestones, including:

1. Stacking, sorting, and stringing

Carefully stacking blocks, placing colored rings on a pole, fitting plastic shapes into their corresponding slots, and stringing lettered beads are all great ways for children to use their fingers to develop sorting and building skills. As a bonus, it can help children learn colors, shapes, letters, and words.

2. Filling up and dumping out

 It’s easy for children to dump all of their toys out of a truck or box, but it requires much more attention to put everything back in. To encourage this, play dump trucks, and inspire children to use their pincers (their thumb and pointer finger). This activity will improve motor planning and will help with learning the concept of cleaning up as well.

3. Playing with Play-Doh

All kids love Play-Doh, and it naturally refines motor development. Take it one step further by including other tools such as rolling pins, child-safe scissors, plastic pizza cutters, cookie cutters, and even dental floss to slice the Play-Doh. Why not have children use their imaginations to create a meal similar to what’s being cooked in the kitchen for dinner? Kids will feel like they’re cooking alongside their parents.

4. Bath time and water play

During bath time, put medicine droppers, turkey basters, measuring cups, strainers, plastic tongs, and whatever else you can think of into the tub. Children will have fun learning how these tools work while refining their motor development.

5. Cutting

Using child-safe scissors, children can cut old magazines, Play-Doh, poster paper, or a shoebox to develop hand strength. Next, move on to cutting out shapes and figures to further develop finger and hand coordination and control. Make sure they keep their thumbs up.

6. Board games

Traditional games like Trouble, Sorry, Chutes and Ladders, and Connect Four all require pushing with fingers to improve strength, cupping to roll dice, and using pincers to move pieces, which improves motor control and prehension while learning concepts of turn-taking, counting, identifying colors, and using social skills. They make for great family time.

Parents Should Participate Too

It’s particularly important for parents of children with special needs to create and participate in these activities with their children. You’ve heard the phrase “practice makes perfect,” and the same goes for developing fine motor skills. With extra attention and support from their parents, children can consistently improve hand and finger strength and coordination.

Not only do these activities encourage daily practice, but they also provide an opportunity for the entire family to be a strong support system and have fun together. So, what are you waiting for? Start playing!

 

Rebecca Dean

Written on September 4, 2014 by:

Rebecca Dean is the president of Tiny Tots Therapy Inc.and a partner in Therapy Nook and Kids Blvd. Sensory Gym. She earned her degree in occupational therapy and is certified and trained in sensory integration. Rebecca believes in a holistic therapeutic approach and realizes that alternative methods, combined with traditional therapy, allow children to acquire functional and developmental skills and retain them.
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