When your preemie has a developmental delay, such as a speech or gross motor delay, nothing is worse than when other parents say you will “rue the day” you ever complained about your preemie not talking, or not walking. Or how about when they have a fine motor delay and can’t pick up toys to play with? Then they just laugh and say, “you just wait until they start throwing stuff!” Of course, my response always was, “But I can’t wait!” And now that I have a walking, talking, and throwing, 3-year old on my hand, I am beyond grateful that he is finally doing all those things.
I am especially grateful for the amazing early-intervention program in my county. They followed my preemie closely after his discharge from the NICU until he turned 3 and transitioned into special education preschool. Because of his cleft lip and palate, he automatically qualified for speech therapy (ST). Then, when he was not hitting his developmental milestones, he started receiving physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT). When he was diagnosed with global development delay shortly after his 2nd birthday, a special education teacher began working with my son, as well.
While all of his therapists have been wonderful and have worked extremely hard with my son to help him achieve so much these past three years, it is with his fine motor development that he has made the most progress. I believe that it is due in part to the types of activities his therapists, and his dad and I, have done with him. I’m sharing some of those activities with you today.
Activities for fine motor skills
I’m pretty sure anyone reading this knows just how much fun it is to play with bubbles. But did you how your child plays with them can help their fine-motor development? For babies, encourage them to “clap” the bubbles to make them pop. Older kids should practice holding the wands and blowing the bubbles themselves. A fun activity for the whole family is making your own bubble wands using pipe cleaners and beads. By manipulating the pipe cleaner into a shape and stringing beads onto it, kids are developing both their fine motor and visual motor skills.
There are so many ways this can be used. Rolling, squeezing and twisting it. Older kids can roll it, or use plastic tools, to make letters, numbers, shapes…the possibilities are endless. Both toddlers and preschoolers love to remove hidden objects (i.e. coins, beads) from it. However, store bought play dough is expensive. The best part of making your own play dough is involving your kids in the process. They will learn so much and further develop their fine motor skills with all the pouring and mixing that is involved. And if you’ve never squeezed warm play dough before, mama, you, too, are in for quite the therapeutic treat! See below for a simple recipe you can make at home!
Coffee Can Toys
Reuse empty coffee cans by decorating them in colorful paper. Cut a slit into the plastic top and have your child push coins, popsicle sticks or similar sized items, into the can through the opening.
While I personally prefer to read my books on a Kindle, I insist on reading print books to my son, so that he can practice holding the book and turning the pages. This is very important for fine motor development. Definitely stick to board books, especially for babies and toddlers, because they are sturdier. Your local library should have them!
Babies and toddlers just love the simple act of tearing up any and all paper. Preschoolers can turn their ripped paper pieces into works of art! My favorite craft to do in the fall is this picture of a tree adorned with colored leaves:
If your child isn’t ready for all that paper tearing, you can do that part for them. Then, all they have to do is grab that glue stick and start sticking. They still will get a great fine-motor workout! If you really want to challenge those fingers and hand muscles, have them tear colored tissue paper instead. Then, crumple it up for the leaves on the tree.
This is one of my son’s favorite strengthening activities that he does with his occupational therapist (OT). It’s push-ups against the wall. Bring nose to wall, keep feet still. Although, my son doesn’t do it quite that way when he is home. He will simply push on the wall and exclaim, “strong!” and “mama, strong?” And my response is always, “yes, buddy, but not nearly as strong as you are.”
All you need is some yarn, cardboard, and tape to complete this activity. It is definitely one for older kids, but the results are stronger hands as well as super fun decorations. Cut simple shapes out of cardboard. Tape end of string to back of shape. Start wrapping!
Please share in the comments section any fine motor activities that your child enjoys!
DIY Smelly Play Dough Recipe
- 2 cups of flour
- ¼ cup salt
- ¼ cup salt
- 1 package of Kool-Aid
- 2 tsp cream of tartar
- Oil of your choice
- 1 cup boiling water
Mix dry ingredients together. Add 1 ½ tbsp. of oil. Gradually add 1 cup of boiling water to mixture. Mixture will be sticky while it’s hot. Let it cool and knead mixture. Add more flour if needed. Save in fridge in plastic wrap until use.