Little Ways to Practice Fine Motor Activities Without even Trying

“Fine motor skills involve the use of the smaller muscle of the hands, such as when doing up buttons, opening lunch boxes or using pencils or scissors. Fine motor skill efficiency significantly influences the quality of the task outcome as well as the speed of task performance. Efficient fine motor skills require a number of independent skills to occur simultaneously to appropriately manipulate the object or perform the task.”

Source: Kid Sense

I like Kid Sense’s easy to understand explanation on what Fine Motor Skills are, how they are used and why they are needed. You can continue to read up more on other ways fine motor skills are important;  the building blocks; ways to identify if your child may need extra help; and how to improve fine motor skills here.

At home, we are all about finding ways to practice these important skills that are crucial in prewriting, writing… pretty much the presets for self-care. I gathered a list of the things we do at home. I remember doing such things for my parents, but not until much later, like in elementary school when mom would ask me to pick the ends off string beans or clean the windows. I never really saw any of those tasks as a chore because personally, I enjoyed doing them (most of the time). I felt grown up and I always was eager to help! Little did I know I was working on my fine motor skills and strengthening my hand muscles too!

Fast forward about 20 years and now now I have my own children. It never ceases to amaze me the joys they find in doing little things (such as the ones I listed below). I never think “I’m giving them work to do” because their little faces light up, whoever I ask them to help me with a “grown-up” task.  I see these as hands-on activities they are doing in their natural environment; I relish in the way they explore their world through their senses and through means of all the natural wonders of the world we live in: through plants they see; food we prepare, touch and eat; the sticks they pick up in the park; they rocks they collect; the smells they take in after it rains, at a BBQ or when they’re  at the beach; the breeze they feel in the park as they hang from the monkey bars or going fast down that slide. All the world we live in, they live in, IS our learning canvas.

1. PLUCKING LEAVES OFF FRESH HERBS

We received fresh basil from my cousin the other day and they were more than ready to be picked! I had the Ayla and Esme pluck the leaves off into a colander to be rinsed later on, while I cleared the last of the dishes in the sink. They loved exploring the leaves and smelling them too. Ayla may have even taken a bite out of them, she was so drawn to the smell.

2. Peeling Clementines or Mandarins

They all love this because I don’t know about you, but isn’t there just something very satisfying about peeling perfect cute little sweet clementines, the way your fingers swerve under that peel and it all just comes off flawlessly? This is one of the easiest “activities ” I have them do and they must spend between 15-20 minutes rinsing, peeling, eating and tossing out the skin/ dish in the sink! That’s enough time for me to prep the base (onions, garlic and veggies) of almost any dish or soup I make! Plus, they are pretty much taking care of their own snack time. Ace!!

3- Trimming String Beans

I haven’t gotten to having my kids explore this task yet, but it’s next on my list! I’ve been spoiled by the pre-washed and already trimmed beans available at Costco. I always get prewashed when I know I have a busy week ahead and this is one way to guarantee there is always a vegetable side for dinner. It takes just minutes when you only have to quickly blanch or stir fry with a few cloves of mashed garlic. It’s already trimmed and washed so no prep time, except to fill up that pot of water. We don’t own a microwave, but I suppose you can also microwave them too, to have an easy veggie side dish. Simply demonstrate a few times how to do it and have your children pluck with their fingers or cut off with scissors (if your child is old enough) the wavy ends of the beans. As always, please remember to supervise!

4- Hair Accessories ExtravaganzaThis activity was purely inspired by my girls and their obsession with hair! This had been extremely helpful in strengthening their fingers–great for practicing several of the hand muscles they need that are used for gripping a pencil, holding it sturdy and writing. I have tongs and pom-poms available for the girls to work on for those small hand muscles, and they’re great for the first day or two and then, you kind of just put it away for another day because they lose interest. I would imagine doing hair feels more natural to them, as I am always doing their hair and they sit still though it all and thoroughly enjoy it. Different types of clips have different levels of strengths; different barrettes have different types of opening and closing mechanisms ; pony tail ties requires different muscles again and lots of practice to wrap around several time. Pony tail ties are something my kids are all currently still working on when they are creating hair styles  on their pony, dolls and often even my hair. The have mastered all the clips, even the two year old! These hair accessories they use for their dolls are also the same ones I use the for when I do their hair. I have several others that I keep in a “safe” place because they are always ending up all over the house or lost. They play with this almost on a daily basis. As always, do monitor the kids because sometimes there are small pieces that can come off the hair accessories and kids are always trying to put things in their mouths. This is great for when you are trying to finish or start eating your now, cold lunch or breakfast left from earlier that morning! You can eat, while supervising them.

5- Spray or Water Plants

Do you have plants in the house? Have them spray away! Every opportunity they get to spray or water the house plants, they jump for it! If you don’t have plants, try mixing paint and water by shaking it up in the spray bottle, and do an art activity with that.

6- Decorate a Paper Gift Bag

I don’t often have time to wrap gifts, even though I love pretty wrapping paper; so I ended up ordering different size paper bags in bulk! I have a paper bag that can fit just about any gift. How often do you give your child stickers and they end up everywhere?? How many rolls has your significant other tried to throw out? I purchase large rolls of stickers and take them out when I need to decorate the bags. Sometimes, I have them use the rolls of stickers; other times I have them doodle a drawing or I will doodle a drawing myself (so much fun!); and sometimes, if I am sitting there with them, I will take out stamps for them to stamp on a cute print for the paper bag. It’s a great and fun activity that doesn’t go immediately to the “snap a photo” and recycle pile right after your child tells you they’re done with their 10th page of their drawing that day. They also love seeing that it gets applied to real life, such as when we are gifting something to their auntie, uncle, friends, family, teachers, doctors and dentists, and etc.

7-  Feed your Cat!Meet our cat, Willoughby. The kids love helping him refill his food and water bowl. Scooping from the large bag of cat food and bringing it over to his food tray without spilling it takes practice and skills! Filling up the water halfway is actually math and they use coordination and balance to bring that water over without spilling it.

I needed a band-aid the other day and had my kids took turns opening them for me. Occasionally, I also give them a few each to take care of their stuffed animals… we call them loveys at our house. Can you share ways that you like to engage your children using things that can be applied to real life, using things that are of their interest; or taking advantage of their natural learning environment?  

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