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Exercises to Strengthen Fine Motor Skills

by Christina Schnell

Fine-motor skills describe your child's coordination of all the tiny muscles in her hands and fingers. Building strong fine-motor skills allows your little one to button her shirt, tie her toes, set the table and eventually write letters. Most children don't enjoy doing exercise drills, which is why HighPoint.org recommends strengthening her fine-motor skills with activities and materials that naturally work those muscles.

Drawing and Painting

Drawing a picture with a crayon, tracing shapes and painting a picture with a paintbrush all require purposeful muscle control in the fingers, hands and wrists, thereby strengthening fine-motor skills. Encourage your little one to draw or paint in a variety of positions, including standing at an easel and sitting at table for maximum muscle versatility. Provide different sizes and shapes of materials so he can work different muscles, recommends HighPoint.org. Crayons, markers, chalk, and paint brushes of different thicknesses each require slightly different pressure and hand position.

Practical Life Exercises

Fastening and undoing snaps, buckles and fabric fasteners require careful, methodical hand and finger movement, which is why the National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends these activities for strengthening fine-motor skills in children. A younger child can strengthen her motor skills by snapping and unsnapping shirts, pulling zippers and fastening Velcro. An older child can continue strengthening her fine-motor skills by performing more challenging tasks such as buttoning shirts, buckling belts and shoes, and securing hook and eye clasps.

Manipulating and Molding

Materials your child can sculpt and manipulate with his hands and small tools exercise the muscles that affect fine-motor skills. For a younger child, molding a small castle from soft, wet sand requires hand and finger coordination and strength. He can also pound, mash and manipulate play dough. An older child working with play dough strengthens the muscles in his hands and fingers by operating small shaping tools, such as a tiny rolling pin, rolling trimmer or shape-cutter. Rolling and stretching bread or pizza dough is another way your child can practice coordinating the muscles in his hands and fingers.

Build and Fit

Fitting objects into specific spaces strengthens fine-motor skills by requiring your child to carefully arrange and position the object. For a younger child, this can mean fitting together stackable blocks to form a tower, fitting shapes through the correct slots on a bucket lid and completing peg puzzles. Older children build fine-motor skills by inserting small pegs or posts into narrow openings, fitting together grooved wooden blocks or logs or completing jigsaw puzzles.

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