Need some inspiration for fine motor activities for your toddler?
I decided to chat to one of the Clamber Club franchisees, Kelly Westerman. Kelly is immensely success and is not only a business women and Clamber Club Expert, but is also an Occupational Therapist, so I knew she would be able to give me some great ideas for fine motor activities. Here is what Kelly had to say:
“When it comes to parents asking me what activities they can do at home to assist with their toddler’s development; I am passionate about turning ‘everyday’ activities like bath time and feeding time in to stimulating activities that offer therapeutic benefits for toddlers and save busy parents heaps of time,” says Kelly. “Most parents have very full schedules, so the goal is to turn ‘must dos’ in to rich learning experiences,” she adds.
Here are my top five age-appropriate fine motor activities for toddlers. These activities are my favourite because of how simple they are. They can be done with little to no ‘special’ resources.
12 to 18 months
- Books are a wonderful way to develop language, but they can also be used to develop visual perceptual skills and fine motor skills when we encourage our little ones to locate and point to objects in a book.
- Allow your toddler to feed themselves. Although this can be a messy business the benefits for toddlers are endless. At this stage your toddler will use just their hands, so trade off feeding them foods that require cutlery yourself and encourage them to use their hands to eat foods that do not require cutlery.
- Encouraging your toddler to assist with removing their clothes at bath time is excellent for the development of body awareness and fine motor skills. Start with something simple like removing shoes, socks or pants. Remember that taking clothes OFF is much easier than putting clothes on.
- Invest in a large/jumbo crayon set and allow your toddler to scribble on paper. Toddlers may still be mouthing objects at this stage, so make sure that the crayons are non-toxic. Instead of lying the paper on a horizontal surface, attached the piece of paper to the wall. This will further engage the core, back and shoulder muscles.
- Stacking cups or blocks can be used to develop fine motor skills at this age. Encourage your toddler to make a tower and then let it crash over. This will provide endless joy and laughter for a toddler who is all about cause-and-effect at this stage.
18 months to 2 years
- It is probably wise to start with robust board books as they are still refining their skills at this stage.
- Upgrade feeding time for your toddler by giving them a spoon to eat with. Initially the mess with be vast and the amount of food that actually makes it in to their mouth negligible, but without practice they will never learn. If you are concerned about the mess feed them outside or on a towel that can be easy placed in the wash after the meal.
- Invest in a shape sorter from your local plastic shop.
- Encourage your toddler to start threading activities.
- As toddlers are putting less in their mouths at this stage, it is a wonderful time to introduce painting and play dough. Non-toxic fingers paints and play dough are widely available, alternatively you can make your own.
- Filling up and dumping out activities offer so many wonderful benefits to toddlers and they are loads of fun. Simply give your toddler two containers and some water and allow them to pour water from one container to the other. This can be done during water play or at bath time. This activity, although very simple, develops fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, depth perception and basic mathematical skills.
- Keep encouraging your toddler to assist with removing clothes and by this stage toddlers should also be able to start putting clothes on with a little bit of assistance. Although mornings are usually a big rush to get to where you need to be, you can allow your toddler to dress themselves after bath time or after a nappy change or toilet trip. It is also a good time to get toddlers involved in hygiene activities like bathing and brushing their teeth.
- Toddlers in this stage will begin to enjoy constructing things with their large blocks (Duplo). Play alongside your toddler and encourage them to copy a design you have made and then copy a design that they have made.
- Toddlers who enjoy drawing will begin to hold crayons with their thumb and fingers (and less with their fingers and palm). Toddler will be able to draw lines, circles and possibly imitate you drawing a cross.
- Paper folding is a lovely activity that you can do with your toddler. Allow your toddler to fold paper and then do a design on the paper for birthday cards, Christmas cards or even allow them to make their own birthday party invitations. They will be very chuffed to see their creations being put to good use!
- From about 30 months you can introduce child safe scissors to your toddler. They will not be able to cut lines or curved edges just yet, but they will enjoy snipping strips of paper.
Remember that the foundation for good fine motor skills is good gross motor skills. By ensuring that your toddler is getting enough time during the day to run, jump, climb, swing and ride their bike, you are ensuring that they are getting a wonderful foundation for the development of the abovementioned skills.
Do not panic if your toddler prefers gross motor play to fine motor play. There is plenty of time to develop fine motor skills. Simply encourage your toddler to assist with every day activities related to their care and they will be well on their way to developing fine motor skills.