Tags: fine motor skills
It is no coincidence that you often hear that key learning stages are referred to as the 'building blocks' of life. Building blocks have the most marvellous property that while a single block is uninspiring, small and unnoteworthy, put together with many others it can create the most fantastic palaces or castles, the greatest zoos or fun parks or the most wonderful houses. A building block is a unit of a much larger creation, and the possibilities of what a pile of blocks can become are limitless.
The same is true when it comes to learning fundamental principles. Learning letters is the first step on the way to learning to read and write; learning numbers is the first step to learning complex mathematics. Craft play includes many fundamental principles that help to develop fine and gross motor skills, as do sports and games. Each small step is repaid with much more value by way of long term reward.
Active children who participate in a healthy mix of games, craft and learning will be collecting 'building blocks' through life. These building blocks will make well rounded individuals, and in the same way that traditional building blocks can make almost anything, so fundamental learning blocks will create a child capable of almost anything they put their mind to.
Making a collage is easy, fun and a great way for little ones to practice their fine motor skills. Once assembled, they can see their work and touch it too experiencing all the different textures and materials. Collage is actually one of the areas of artistic experience that children should be exposed to within the EYFS, along with painting, drawing, printing, textiles and 3D.
So, how to go about having some collage fun:
- Find your materials: go out into the park for leaves, to the shop for paper, look in the recycle bins for other materials. You could make the looking an activity in itself by talking about how each item feels, how heavy it is, whether it will stick onto paper and what colour it is.
- Then you can start sticking and gluing!
- Make sure the paper you use is heavy enough to hold the collage. You don't want it ripping.
- Make sure you have plenty of strong but non toxic glue so bits don't fall off!
- Make sure you have plenty of space to really get stuck in!
- Make sure everything is covered i.e. clothing and table tops to ensure no gluey accidents.
- Don't tell the children what to do necessarily; let them experiment!
- Cotton wool, wool, string.
- Leaves, grasses, flowers.
- Tissue paper, wrapping paper, newspaper and magazine pictures.
- Glitter, sequins, beads.
Other associated activities:
- Foraging for the materials can be fun. Talk about looking high and low, up and down, round the corner etc. Use lots of different words to describe where you are looking and what you are looking for.
- Close work: look at the materials you find closely. Are they rough or smooth, are they prickly or bumpy? Again, describe the items and talk about them.
- Sorting: sort them into little piles and then put them in pots. Label them for next time. All the buttons together, all the cotton wool together etc.
- Look at the letters that each material begins with: p for paper, and g for glue etc.
Learning to use scissors is a skill that takes time and practice to master. Just like learning to use cutlery or learning how to walk, the children need to be given guidelines to help them, rules to make sure they are safe and plenty of practice to get it right!
Here are some scissor activities to get them trying it out!
- Holding the scissors - Show them where to put their fingers and how to operate them so they snip. Practice with of strips of paper or old wrapping paper: something easy to cut. Use all the snippings to make a picture!
- Cutting in straight lines - Take some strips of paper about 8cm wide and see if your child can snip down the middle to make two smaller strips! Then snip the strips horizontally so you end up with lots of little square shapes. Then, snip the strips diagonally so you get a feathery effect.
- Draw some curved shapes on some small pieces of paper and see if your child can follow the lies to make curve shapes. Glue them together, add some googley eyes and features to make a funny-shaped monster!
- Shapes - Draw a Square, Circle, Triangle and Diamond on some paper and see if they can cut the shapes out! Colour the shapes and make a shape picture!
Shape sorters feature in every nursery and offer a great way for babies to begin to understand the world around them and how they interact with it. Research over the last few years, however, suggests that babies learn shapes regardless of whether they have access to these sorts of manufactured toys. Studies of babies born in developing countries, without access to the toys we enjoy in the Western world, confirm that they are just as able to differentiate between different shapes regardless.
This prompts thinking that babies have a disposition to recognise lines that don't change as an object or shape moves in space before they recognise more complex shapes that do. For example, they can see that straight lines remain straight while an object moves, even though the angles between lines change, making them harder to recognise.
This research helps us begin to form an understanding of how babies really begin to understand the world around them which in turn will allow us to develop aids that may help and accelerate children in their learning.
Of course, shape sorters aren't just about learning particular shapes - they also help develop fine motor skills as babies practice picking up objects, rotating them in their hands and guiding them through holes on another object. The ability to post objects through holes offers the first steps towards being able to pick up and control objects in the wider world.
Early skills form an essential part of the Early Years Foundation Stage - make sure that your babies are interacting with objects in a nursery setting and you are already following several Areas of Learning!
It is amazing how much children love making things out of old cardboard and boxes - they can create great buildings, instruments and who knows what else just with a few tubs and a bit of tape! Here are a few ideas if you need some inspiration to guide them:-
- Rocket: an old favourite made from a kitchen roll tube, some yogurt pots and some silver foil wrapped around it to make it shiny
- Robot: Always a good one! Make a robot by sticking all sorts of boxes together, with tubes for arms and legs. Add a face and cover with foil
- Buildings: Take a cardboard box, add some cling film squares for windows, a flap of cardboard for a door and another flat box for a lid
- Castle: Lots of different sized boxes taped together into a castle shape. Cover with brown paper and draw on some windows. Add a cardboard box door and some flags on top
- Treasures Box: Use boxes and lids to create a special treasure box for craft materials or collections of bits and pieces
- Shapes: Just make any old shape and decide what it is!
Why do modeling?
- Making models is great for learning about construction
- Craft helps to develop fine motor skills
- Craft and model making is tactile, so children get used to touching and feeling different boards, plastics and materials
- Making things grows imagination and children can choose their own design and structure thus empowering them to make decisions themselves
- Children encounter problems along the way, so this is great for thinking and problem solving
- Reusing old cardboard and materials offers a good lesson in recycling
ToucanLearn activities are designed to promote and assist with the development of fine and gross motor skills, as well as other skills too, but do you know what fine and gross motor skills are? Here's a simple outline of what they are and how they develop.
What is a Motor Skill?
This is an action that involves movement of muscle in our body: walking, writing, clapping, painting. Any movement at all.
What are Gross Motor Skills?
These are the larger movements involving limbs such as arms and legs plus feet. Or, indeed, using the whole body. Examples include crawling, kicking, running, jumping.
What are Fine Motor Skills?
These are finer movements that we use, specifically the fingers and thumbs, and toes, to do smaller and more specialised actions such as picking things up or wriggling toes.
How do they develop?
Both gross and fine motor skills tend to develop in tandem as so many activities rely on both gross and fine motor skills.
At 3 months: a baby will wave their arms around across their chest and will then play with their fingers. This practices both gross and fine motor skills.
At 18 months: a toddler will use gross motor skills to reach for a toy or puzzle and to sit up and play with it and fine motor skills to do the puzzle or post the shapes into the box.
Gross and fine motor skills Milestones:
At one month a baby can:
- Move a leg when a foot is tickled
- Grasp a finger when it is held out
- Move head from side to side when lying on their front
At three months a baby can:
- Support upper body with their arms when lying on their front
- Bear weight on legs when supported
- Reach for and bat a mobile or toy hanging above their head
- Grasp and shake small objects
- Follow a moving object with their eyes
At six month a baby can:
- Hold head steady in a supported position
- Move objects from one hand to the other
- Sit with a little support
- Roll over from tummy to back
At twelve months a baby can:
- Crawl forward (or back or side depending on their own special technique!)
- Pull up to a standing position
- Cruise round furniture (walk holding on)
- Pick up things with thumbs and index finger
Of course, all this can vary from child to child and some may be learn more quickly than others while others catch up later, so don't be worried if your child is not reaching these milestones precisely when they should. If you have any doubt or fears about gross or motor skills, simply go to the doctor or health visitor for advice.
Board games have been around for centuries, they were enjoyed by ancient Chinese, Egyptian and Mayan cultures, and are enjoyed just as much today! Most of us don't play games so often, until we have families and our children grow into an age that they enjoy games.
Games for the youngest children focus on improving hand-eye co-ordination, recognising and matching objects (shapes, animals, colours etc.) and on fine motor skills. Games for 2 - 3 year olds are designed to encourage concentration - children are required to begin learning to take turns in sequence, to improve attention span and to follow simple instructions. Games for older children encourage further skills such as basic maths and reading, social skills, simple strategy and self-confidence.
Games have a recommended minimum age for their audience, for example games may signal that they are suitable for children aged 3, 4, 5 or 6+. These recommendations are based on various factors such as danger posed by the playing pieces, the level of understanding required and the skills that should have been acquired in order to begin playing the game. Just because a game states a recommended age, it doesn't mean that you can't adapt the game for younger children, or create an entirely different game based on the same game contents. For example, you could play Trivial Persuits with all the family, ask real questions to the adults, but make up easy questions for the children. You don't need to let on that their questions aren't genuine! You could use a Monopoly board to make up an entirely different game, moving around the board and maybe just collecting property cards for the properties landed on. There are also lots of games that toddlers can play with decks of traditional playing cards.
Board games can give hours of fun and as your children grow, just adapt the games to suit them accordingly. Why not get your old games down from the attic, dust them down, and start playing them with your children today?!
Growing up is full of minor achievements but none make a parent more proud than those early defining moments when baby first rolls over, learns to crawl, walk, talk and one day, to write! The first few years of life are filled with milestones when your child achieves something that you've not seen them do before.
There are four main developmental areas, learning control of the body with fine and gross motor skills; personal and social development and language. Here are a few milestones to look out for in your baby's first year:-
0 - 3 Months
- Spontaneous smiling
- Turns towards source of sound
- Tracks an object waved in front of face
- Learns to roll over
3 - 6 Months
- Starts chewing
- Learns to squeal and gurgle
- Looks at own hands
6 - 9 Months
- Feeds themselves with their fingers
- Pulls up to a standing position
- Passes an object from hand to hand
- Starts uttering 'dada' and 'mama'
9 - 12 Months
- Drinks from a cup
- Starts 'cruising' - uses furniture as a support and moves around room
- Begins to use recognisable words
Of course, babies develop at different rates and reaching milestones late may not have any bearing on wider development. They may even skip milestones, for example starting to crawl without managing to roll over, or taking first steps unaided without cruising.
Every child registered in ToucanLearn has a private blog space. Log milestones for each of your children and in time you'll have an invaluable record of their early lives that not only will you look back on fondly, but one day your children might thank you for too!
ToucanLearn presents lots of fun game, craft and fun activities for toddlers and preschoolers, but have you ever wondered what the benefits of craft for toddlers are?
You probably realised that ToucanLearn is a pun on Two Can Learn, and this highlights our first benefit - supervising craft with your little ones helps strengthen the bond between you and your children. This can be especially useful for working parents who miss out seeing their children every day, undertaking craft with your young children will ensure that you dedicate quality time to them!
Craft offers an excellent way for your babies to explore the world and learn. Every ToucanLearn activity promotes child development and in the early years this is all about learning through experience. Craft comprises a diverse range of materials, tools and techniques, all of which will introduce new experiences to your preschoolers whilst developing their analytical and problem solving skills.
Most craft activities promote precise motor skills - the ability to hold a crayon, being able to direct it carefully around the page for colouring and writing, the ability to squeeze small dots of glue, to bend pipe cleaners into shape, to stick googly eyes onto fur balls; making pictures and models requires precision and as toddlers practice and practice craft, so their motor skills will improve.
Craft activities help to build confidence and self-esteem in your little ones. Craft gives them the confidence to interact with materials, to make decisions about how their craft develops, to learn to use tools and to choose what tools to use in different situations and to build self-esteem when they present you with a masterpiece!
While you're undertaking craft activities with your toddlers you'll be talking with them too, and the more they hear and communicate with you, the more their language will develop - that's all part of the quality time you're spending with them.
There are so many benefits to doing craft activities with your babies. They're never too young to start learning, even the youngest baby can begin just by touching and exploring materials, and you are never too old to undertake craft, perhaps you'll enjoy learning new techniques too!
Drawing is an activity that toddlers enjoy from an early age. During their early years, drawing is all about learning movement rather than creating representations on paper. Ask a toddler 'What is it?' and they may reply, 'A house' or 'It's Mummy', but they don't really have the concept of drawing to represent real world things. Instead of asking what they have drawn, ask about the colors, and praise them for the shapes. Toddlers enjoy the experience of freedom when they draw - of swirling their arm. At the early stages they don't have the control to start and stop a line at particular points. This comes with practice as they refine their fine motor skills - the ability to control small movements in their arms and hands. Drawing is a great learning tool for your toddler - it lays the foundation for writing letters and numbers, and for doing representational drawings as they grow older.