Fine motor skills may often be challenging for children with diagnoses such as cerebral palsy, global development delay, traumatic brain injury, Down syndrome, apraxia and autism. Thought of as the movements that involve the fingers and the hands, fine motor skills are essential for supporting independence with dressing, feeding, eating and performance in school.
The best way to foster fine motor efficiency is to build practice into your child’s everyday! To help supplement your child’s occupational therapy, here are some of our favorite outdoor fine motor activities:
Sidewalk chalk is an inexpensive tool (often available at the dollar or 99cent store) that can help your child build fine motor skills. Drawing on the sidewalk or driveway will help your child build hand and finger strength and improve coordination while stimulating creativity at the same time. The bonding, laughing and fresh air don’t hurt either!
Laces and beads can form the basis of an activity that encourages bilateral integration and concentration. By slowly threading laces through the beads, your child will be boosting muscle memory, which will make similar everyday tasks easier to complete. Start with larger beads and then gradually make them smaller as they become more adept. Mix up the threading challenge by threading Cheerios on pipe cleaners or Rigatoni on yarn.
Putty is an effective tool to develop hand and finger strength. You can add putty to your fine motor skill activity list whether your child is only capable of squeezing the putty in their hands to alter the shape or can use their fingertips to sculpt specific shapes and figures. Try rolling balls, making snakes, and hiding coins or beads inside to increase the fine motor strengthening challenge.
Pick up sticks is a classic game where sticks are scattered on a tabletop or other hard surface and players are required to pick them up carefully one stick at a time. Focus on improving finger isolation by encouraging your child to use the index finger and thumb for one round, middle finger and thumb for the next, and so on.
Bubbles – an ultimate child favorite – are a great and easy way to add fine motor fun to your day. Just blow some bubbles and have your child visually track them and reach out to grab them before they float away. Your child can poke them with one finger at a time, pinch them with a couple of fingers or grab them with their entire hand.
Coin and bead sorting will help develop hand and finger strength and teach your child how to identify different items and group them together. For this activity, you can place several coins and/or multi-colored beads in a container, in a box or on a table and have your child pick up and sort them based on the type of coin or bead color. Ice cube trays make great sorting containers.
It’s no secret that parental involvement in the occupational therapy journey provides better results. By integrating fun activities that will help boost fine motor skills into your child’s everyday routine, you can add tremendous value to your child’s therapy program.
NAPA Center’s intensive, individualized therapy programs will cater to your child’s unique needs and incorporate a range of different therapies to help them realize their full potential.
For more information about how we can help, get in touch with us today.