Fine motor play is one of the most important parts of early childhood, and now that my baby boy is old enough to be interested in it, we are having fun experimenting with all sorts of fun hands-on play. He is currently obsessed (yes, obsessed!) with using his pinchy little fingers to pick up puffy poms and place them in an empty water bottle. At first he’d try and miss, and then try again and miss again, but after a minute or so of practicing his new skill, he was hooked! He seriously attended to this task for at least ten minutes straight…and the child is 12 months old! I’ve never seen a baby so focused on what seems like such a simple task – he LOVED it! And after every few poms, he’d look up at me with a huge pride-filled smile and let out a satisfied sigh. It was so cute.
The great thing about this task is that there are lots of ways to “grade” it to make it easier or more difficult, depending on your child’s age and skill level.
Here are some ways to make it easier for beginners:
- Use a container with a wider opening, such as a large juice bottle, cup, or bowl
- Use larger poms (most packs include a variety of sizes)
- Hold the container steady for baby and tilt it forward for easy access
And here are some ways to increase the challenge for older babies and toddlers:
- Use a container with a smaller opening
- Use smaller or thinner items such as shells, beads, coins, or smaller poms
- Spread the items out around the child so they must visually scan the floor in order to find them
- Have the child hold the container with one hand while placing items in with the other (gotta learn how to make two hands work together!)
- Have the child place items with their eyes closed (no peeking!)
- Place the items on the side that’s opposite their favorite hand so they will either have to cross over midline with their favorite hand in order to get it, or so they will use their less-preferred hand to pick it up and develop some skill (in this example, my child’s favorite hand is his left, so he has to reach to his right side)
- Have the child place items while laying on their tummy (it challenges strength in their trunk and shoulders, which is important for furthering fine motor skills)
- Encourage the child to try using kitchen tongs to place poms in container (great for pre-scissor and pre-writing hand skills)
- Challenge the child to see if they can hold a few items in their palm at once and then “slide” one at a time to their fingertips as they place them in the container (these in-hand manipulation skills are also great for developing handwriting muscles)
If your little one is anything like mine, he requires very close supervision because he is still all about putting stuff in his mouth (and he’s lightning fast, too!) so PLEASE be sure to supervise your child during this activity and watch them light up as they discover new ways to use their ever-developing fine motor skills!
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