Looking for creative ideas on how to improve your little one’s motor skills? Searching for fun, easy-to-do activities that you and your child will really enjoy practicing? As a parent or teacher, you’ve probably experienced that heart-tugging when you watch your young one struggle with holding a scissors, tying a shoe, or just stacking blocks together. You resist the urge to do it for them and patiently explain, showing him how to do it. But learning should be fun—not a chore! Here are ten fun ideas on how you can improve your child’s motor skills.
(Remember that every child learns differently, so activities should be taught according to learning level. Activities mentioned are suggested for ages two through five and should always have parental supervision.)
1. Catch a balloon.
Children love balloons, so play catch with your little one. Try throwing a balloon straight in the air and catching it, throwing it to each other, bouncing off a wall or the ground and catching it, or throwing it high and seeing how many times you can clap before you catch it. Tip: (A young child might be fearful of catching at first, but will progress to catching with his whole body, his arms and hands, to eventually hands only. Choose an item that matches your child’s size; inappropriate sizes will frustrate your child if he can’t develop the skill.)
2. Act out nursery rhymes.
Nothing is more natural than singing nursery rhymes. All you have to do is add actions! For “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, add hand movements, reaching to the sky. For “Jack Be Nimble”, you can add a hop or jump; and for “Jack and Jill”, add a climbing action and a rolling motion across the floor. For “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, practice galloping around on wooden horses.
3. Build blocks (and imaginations).
Start with buying blocks or stick toys that are easy to connect! From there show your child how to put the items together to build something fun. Pretend you are building a palace or a house. Let your imagination flourish, and encourage your child to create. Puzzles with very large pieces can also be used. Be sure to show your child how to put each item together and help him complete it until he can do it independently.
4. Play animals.
Add fun to learning body movements and become animals! Teach your child how to creep like a snake, waddle like a duck, hop like a rabbit, roar like a lion, stomp like an elephant, chomp like an alligator, fly like a bird, and so on. Be sure to add all the fun animal noises too.
5. Follow the leader.
Your child watches every action you do, so make copying fun and purposely have your child shadow you movements and. Walk about and perform simple actions like standing on one foot, hopping and kicking, kneeling, jumping, sitting, marching, lifting arms or hands, and moving your head. Tip: (Make sure your actions are distinctly different and clear to your child. If your child copies incorrectly, show him the correct position then move on to the next action. Repeat missed positions throughout the sequence so your child doesn’t get frustrated.)
6. Walk the line.
Improve your child’s balance by practicing walking on a line. Make a line on your floor out of tape and have your child practice walking on it. Demonstrate how to walk in a line to your child by having the watch you walk on a curb or log. Go to a gym or park and practice walking on a beam or board.
7. Climb up and down.
Practice walking up and down the stairs. Show your child how to place their feet and hold on top walls or railing for support. Most children will learn to go down the stairs backwards at first. Always have your hands and arms to support children while they are learning. If stairs are too scary or out of the question, start small on padded furniture or small chairs. Practice climbing on and off them until your child is more comfortable with the movement. Tip: Add incentives like a favorite toy to each step to encourage them to reach where you are. Note: Food should not be used as a reward.
8. Touch fingers.
Teach your child finger names, always pointing to the correct finger as you name it. Compare your fingers with your child’s fingers. Do finger plays. Show your child how to make shapes out of fingers like circles triangles, rectangles, squares and teardrops. Make paper finger puppets with band-aids and draw faces on them.
9. Color his world.
Your little one will learn how to draw by copying. Start with a simple shape and let your child watch you draw it. Be sure to explain what you are drawing as you do it. Draw straight and curved lines and have him try to copy your actions. At first you can just draw an item and have your child guess what it is. Eventually your child will want to draw with you. If your child has a hard time holding a crayon or marker, try finger painting or drawing in sand first. Tip: Ensure you have many types of drawing utensils to try. Begin introducing color names as your child learns to draw. You can designate a specific spot in your home for coloring, but make sure supplies are in reach of little hands.
10. Cut and paste.
Cutting is one of the most difficult fine motor skills to master for young children. Start slow and be patient. Make sure you use a small safety scissors. Show your child how to cut by placing your hand over his in the scissors and doing the motion with him. Then give him the scissors at let him cut by himself. Tip: Junk mail works well for this! Allow your child to just learn how to cut before introducing shapes or lines to follow.
Pasting takes practice, so start with easy, simple projects. Since it is messy, plan ahead and wear appropriate clothing. Use a drop cloth to minimize mess and use non-toxic glue. Remember the point is to have fun teaching this skill! Show your child how to glue simple items together like paper, cardboard, boxes, etc. Move to cotton balls, rice or beans, wood, noodles, glitter, feathers, and buttons after your child has mastered the simple items first.
Improving your child’s motor skills takes time. Use these fun early childhood activities as a place to start, and add variety with your own ideas! Remember your child is young and has a short attention span. Do activities according to how you feel you child is developing and gauge his receptiveness to learn before trying new things. Always be patient, and don’t expect your child to master a concept in a single day. Encouragement is very important. With your enthusiasm, you can make early childhood activities fun and exciting!