From the Occupational Therapist

Improving Motor Skills

Improving fine motor coordination - Fine motor activities involved the use of small muscles of the hands.  Many school activities involved fine motor skills, such as writing, cutting with scissors and drawing.

  • Paper is a great medium with many fine motor possibilities. Cutting or tearing, coloring, folding and pasting are all excellent activities.  Try making cards, photo or memory albums.
  • Playing with jacks and marbles helps a child to learn to control their motor movements.
  • Have your child use spring-type clothespins to clip things together. Make index cars with number written on them.  The child then clips the correct number of clothespins to the numbered index card.  You can do the same task with colored clothespins and color dots.
  • Sort small objects such as nails, screws, bolts, paper clips and/or rubber bands into groups.
  • Sewing cards require coordination from both hands.  They can easily be made from small shapes cut out of cardboard with holes punched through then.
  • Stringing beads, tube macaroni, Cheerios or Fruit Loops are always fun ways to help a child refine motor coordination.
  • Put coins into a bank, play with wind-up toys, and twist bottle caps off and on.
  • Clothing fasteners such as buttons, zippers, snaps and shoestrings require fine motor hand control.  Dress-up and doll activities provide a good context for using fastening skills.
  • Many commercially available games and toys provide great opportunities for using the small muscles of the hands.  Blocks, puzzle, Lite-Brite, Lego’s, tinker toys, pick- sticks, potholder looms and easy to assemble (and paint) models are all good activities that involved the use of fine motor skills.
  • Wall push-outs.  Stand with feet 6-12 inches from the wall.  Place palms flat against the wall, bend at the elbows and bring the face towards eh wall, push out again.  Practice counting while doing it.
  • Wheelbarrow walk.  Start by supporting your child from the hips, if necessary.  Then work out to the knees and ankles.  Start on the grass or carpet for safety.  Count so that you can see gains!
  • Screw nuts onto matching bolts.  Start with the largest size first and then move to the next size down.  Add washers for variety.
  • Use a hole puncher to make “snow” or confetti.
  • Play dough is very versatile.  You can make snakes with it.  Roll out using the whole hand (finger tips to wrist). Make the snake into a coil pot.  Make meatballs for spaghetti with the palms of the hands slightly bent.  Make the spaghetti with a garlic press.  Also use a pizza cutter (with supervision) roll pin, plastic knives and forks and the fingertips for more imaginative play.
  • Use dry erase markers to write on glass or mirrors.  It will wipe off with a damp cloth.
  • Chalk on the sidewalk or driveway can be fun.  There is fat sidewalk available commercially. Try breaking it into shorter pieces so that the child has to hold it with their fingertips.  “Erase” the chalk with water and a paintbrush, water in a spray bottle or with fingers dipped into water.
  • Involve your child in coking and shopping whenever possible.  Use this to practice money counting, measuring, and cutting skills by cutting coupons.  Some parents split the money saved by using coupons with the child, if they help cut.
  • Play tic-tac-toe with letters other than x’s and o’s.

Activities to improve gross motor coordination - Gross motor skills involved the coordinated effort the large muscle groups and involve balance and patters of movement.

  • Get outside and play!  Anything, running, biking, swimming, play tag got to the park, improves gross motor skills. Encourage your child to hand (with support as needed) to help build up upper body and core strength.
  • Set up as obstacle course in the back your or on the sidewalk.  Use boxes or cones to go around.  Try going turned around backwards, sides or even go in the opposite direction.  Walking, riding a bike or even crab walking are all options for moving through the course.
  • Have your child jump or hop with feet together around a box, a table or in the yard.  Have them pretend to a frog or a kangaroo.
  • Hop into and out of objects such as a Hoola-hoop or a shallow box.
  • Walk on a 2x4 board that is about 10 feet in length positioned on the floor.  Try having your child walk heel-to-toe, backwards and sideways.
  • Hopscotch is another excellent motor activity and any other opportunity to practice counting.
  • Set up targets in the yard and have your child throw beanbags at them.  Throw a ball or beanbag into a box or through a propped up tire or other large round object.