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How to Help Your Little One's Motor Skills

Do you think you need to work on helping your child improve his motor skills? Have you recently watched your child tumble as he clears the table and dumps all the food on the floor? Instead of panicking, it is best for you to try different ways of working with him to help improve his motor skills.

All of us have seen kids who aren’t as coordinated as some of their peers and have thus been labeled clumsy or a klutz. Although quite a few such kids suffer from a condition known as ‘developmental coordination disorder’, the good news is that there are quite a lot of things you can do to help your child improve his motor skills.

Whether it be his gross motor skills (the ability to control the larger muscles of the body used for activities like running, walking, crawling and sitting), or his fine motor skills that are needed for formal school work, there are lots of activities that can assist in increasing your child’s muscle strength and coordination. A few of these are:

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6 Get Your Child to Play with a Large Ball

Get a large ball for your child and encourage him to kick it using one foot and then the other. Once he’s mastered the art of kicking, get him to throw and catch it too. If your child is struggling with learning to catch, it's best for you to just let some of the air out of a beach ball to make it easier for him. If your child has started sitting independently, it’s about time for him to learn how to roll a ball back and forth to you. 

The best part about children at this age, is that they pick up things rather quickly. As he continues to use both hands to push the ball to you, his upper body will strengthen while his sitting skills get refined as well. If you have a large exercise ball available at home, help your child sit on top of it with your support. While holding onto their trunk (in case he needs a lot of support) or her hips (in case he just needs help to balance himself), then roll him forward. 

Make sure that you give him a bit of time to keep his head upright and then move back to the upright position.This particular exercise is highly recommended to help you develop your child’s head and trunk control. With it, your child’s muscles of the back, abdomen and neck will get strengthened.

Other exercises using a ball

If your child has mastered the art of walking, you can get him to refine his balance by practicing kicking. Just place a ball next to your child’s foot and make him kick it while standing still – get him to kick the ball using alternating feet to strengthen his balance on both his feet.

5 Use Play-dough

Play-dough has long been a childhood favorite for children around the world. Apart from being downright fun, handling Play-dough can go a long way in terms of helping your child develop some really important skills. As your child continues to squeeze and stretch it, he will strengthen his finger muscles while gaining a valuable sensory experience by touching it.

To add to your child’s strength, get him to work with the play-dough up in the air instead of on the table using just his fingers – not his hands as a whole. Play-dough presents an amazing sensory medium, which means it can also help children who struggle with sensory processing disorder. With play-dough, you can also enhance your child’s coordination skills.

This is because playing with play-dough requires your child to use hand-eye coordination to poke, cut and prod it. The same applies for when he starts using cookie cutters in the dough. By manipulating play-dough, your child will develop better control over his fingers as well.

Play-dough activities

There are many activities for your child to indulge in using Play-dough. To begin with, get your child to pound a ball of Play-dough so as to flatten it. Also, make him use alternating rhythm, or both hands at the same time. If your child finds this difficult, encourage him to pound it a little and then move on to squashing the flattened dough into a blob again.

Let him do this for a while before moving on to other activities. Once done, your child could roll balls of play-dough with a bit of guidance from you.

3. Try Finger Painting

The utilization of finger paint can help strengthen your child’s hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity. The best part is that you don’t need too many things to get started with finger painting. All that is required is an easel or a thick piece of paper, a few finger paints and a space where you can let your child get as messy as he wants to.

When it comes to early childhood education, finger painting is going to be one of your child’s very first painting experiences ever. The best part is that getting your kid started with the activity is very easy – all you need to do is put paint into trays for your child’s little fingers to play and paint with. But, what makes finger painting so good is the fact that the activity offers plenty of benefits in terms of child development and learning.

In terms of motor development, it can help strengthen your little one’s fingers and small hand muscles, thereby assisting him in developing excellent pre-writing skills.

A few ideas

To get your child started, place small blobs of paint onto a large tray for your child to work with. The best option in this regard is the lid of a plastic container. Now place small blobs of paint with your child, each color of the rainbow in a row onto paper to make a rainbow. Now blend the paints together using your child’s hands and fingers. For the best results, try using either an easel or a glass window when finger painting with your kid.

4 Stacking, Sorting and Stringing Can Help Too

Stacking is more so a toddler tradition irrespective of whether it involves carefully balancing one block on top of another or placing multi-colored rings on a pole. What’s most interesting is the fact that stacking, sorting and stringing can also go a long way in helping your child use and strengthen his nimble fingers while also refining his building skills.

In order to make this activity even more interesting for your child, it is highly recommended for you to let him experiment with blocks of various sizes, shapes and colors. Apart from that, you should also offer a variety of other materials to him for manipulating and building purposes. To keep him busy, you could also consider letting him sort out refrigerator alphabet magnets by size or color.

Also, take an initiative to get him started with bead stringing with plastic snap-together beads – rest-assured that activities such as these will help develop your child’s motor skills and make the entire process much easier for him. As soon as your child has mastered those, give him a thick shoelace together with a piece of felt with holes cut through it.

A few more ideas

You could also use a sturdy string and big wooden beads for this purpose. This activity is particularly exciting for girls as they can make edible jewelry this way!

Encourage your child to match different forms, shapes or pictures by placing them in pocket charts or side by side on the floor or table. You could also get him involved in matching real objects to similar pictures – for instance, ask him to match a stuffed toy cat to the picture of a real cat.

3 Let Him Dress and Undress Himself

There’s one thing that you will definitely notice about your child sooner or later - though you ‘just’ dressed him up in his Sunday best, he’s standing stark naked in his room now that you’re about to leave. Toddlers love putting things on and taking them off. This habit definitely ticks off a lot of parents, but you need to bear in mind the fact that your child isn’t doing this to tax your patience.

While you’re at it, remind yourself that dressing and undressing – irrespective of whether it’s himself or a toy – can assist him in developing his finger and hand coordination. Considering the benefits that it has to offer, it is highly recommended for you to let your child carry on with this habit as much as he wants to.

If you have a daughter, you will soon find that tiny doll clothes are way too sophisticated for her to manage and will only lead to tears. The best options in this regard are big capes or ponchos for her teddy bears as these are much more easily manageable. Most importantly, you can easily cut these out of felt. You could also consider getting felt boards with people shapes and a few changeable outfits for your kid too.

Give him challenges

These are great considering that they will let your child indulge in his fashion sense and sorting skills without having to face too many challenges.

When it comes to dressing himself up, it’s best for you to get clothes for him that he can easily manage on his own. This includes pull-on tops, pants with elastic waists and Velcro-fastening shoes. To up the ante, give him a new challenge every other day – such as a big snap or a large button – but make sure that you do so one at a time.

2 Encourage Them to Fill Up and Dump Out

If you’ve paid any attention to your child’s daily wake of destruction, you must have noticed how he finds it easier to empty a container as compared to filling one. Bear in mind that this is going to be one of the first motor feats that your toddler is going to master – and once he does, he’s going to keep repeating it with a vengeance.

Although you’re going to find ‘cleanup time’ to be nothing but exasperating, the ‘dumping’ part of this activity is a very important cognitive exercise for your child. The reason is that it allows for your child to understand that one object, such as a bucket, can hold lots of other objects, like dirt. As soon as he realizes this, he is going to establish that the same dirt can be emptied out of the bucket.

To prepare for this stage, it’s recommended for you to set up play areas and offer manageable activities to your little one. For instance, get him to take pegs out of a pegboard, blocks out of a large box, sturdy puzzle pieces out of a puzzle and toys out of a trunk. The one thing you can be assured of is that these activities will keep your angel busy for a long time.

It’s time to move on

Once your child masters the art of ‘taking out’ things, it’s time for him to move on to the ‘putting in’ part. Most of the tasks mentioned above can be reversed so you wouldn’t really need to put in any extra effort. The best part is that these activities will flex your child’s visual and mental muscles, thereby enhancing his fine motor skills.

1 Action Songs Can Help Too

Singing and music are an important part of many cultures around the world. It’s for this reason that you will find music present in many different aspects of our lives including worship, theater, celebrations, television and even government and military ceremonies. But did you know that music can also play an important role in helping your child develop his motor skills? Surprised, right? 

Yes, learning action songs and performing the said ‘actions’ as you sing them to your child can go a long way in strengthening your child’s muscles. To get your child going, learn action songs and perform them together with him while singing them out. The best action songs for this purpose are ‘Hokey Pokey,’ ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes,’ and ‘The Grand Old Duke of York.’ With these songs, your child will be able to recognize the different parts of his body and learn to control and time their movement too.

You should also consider playing Simon Says with your child to enhance his motor skills. In this game, your child will copy your body posture. In order to give your child a bit more input on his joint movements and positions in space, you should place weights on your child’s arms and legs.

The great outdoors

There’s so much your child can do in the outdoors that will assist in strengthening his muscles. For instance, he can climb a hill or take a small hike with you. If you want, you can even get him to pretend to be different animals in your backyard – encourage him to jump like a frog, hop like a bunny and walk like a bear!

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