Fine motor skills are the ability to make movements using the small muscles in our hands and wrists, to be able to coordinate these small muscle groups with competence and precision.
We consistently use our fine motor skills for daily activities as they aid in many of self-help tasks such as eating, dressing, cooking and brushing teeth. They are essential life skills that begin to develop as early as 1 to 2 months old.
Often children with Autism can face some coordination difficulties and these skills can be more challenging to master; they may develop later than that of their neurotypical peers. Difficulties stem from a difference in brain wiring, motor planning and sensory processing.
Working on fine motor skills with a young child requires patience and persistence, they are still very much developing their skills and if they are a bit behind in the area it can be a very stressful experience for them. But this is a tremendous time to work on them, the key is to simply focus on play first and then work the skills in that way.
When working on fine motor activities for autism there are a few handy tips to keep in mind.
-Ensure the environment is free from distraction
-End with some sensory reinforcement
-Minimise noise and use noise cancellation headphones if required
-Keep sessions short
-Use materials that won’t cause frustration
-Try activities that they will have some success with
-Give their fingers and hands a stretch prior (deep pressure – create alertness and stimulation)
-Praise efforts rather than results
Fine motor activities for a one year old
Squeezing strengthens muscles in hands and wrists and what better way to practice than to use water, it’s always a motivating sensory play experience. Simply set up some containers of water (add food colouring to make it even more enticing) with an assortment of different sponges. The aim is to transfer the water amongst the containers by squeezing the excess water into a different one each time.
Any type of posting activity is always motivating for young children, watching their object disappear is just so appealing for their little minds. The perfect cause and effect game. An easy to set up DIY home posting activity could be to cut some small holes in a shoe box/cardboard box to post objects into. Objects that work great for this age are small balls (not too small so it won’t be a choking hazard) or Duplo blocks, just make sure the holes aren’t too big so that some pressure is needed to Post it inside. This activity will not only work on a range of fine motor skills but will also work on hand/eye coordination.
Pom-poms are a great tool to use when working on fine motor skills as they encourage a pinching grip, it’s a good way to practice getting the fingers to isolate. For a quick and easy home sorting activity set up a range of different sized Tupperware containers and add Pom-poms. Filling them, then tipping the pom-poms out is all the motivation they will need for a fun little fine motor activity.
An enjoyable activity that will get your little one moving. Stick pieces of tape all over the floor for your child to find then peel off. Something so appealing about ripping tape off a surface and it’s a great way to practice pinching the fingertips together. This is an action that is involved for many everyday skills and works on hand strength and coordination.
This is a fun one that requires the use of hand strength. Fill some squirt bottles (sauce bottles) with water for your child to squirt. Either just add a large container for them to squirt the water into or squirt them outside on the concrete or onto plants. Another motivating activity could be to firstly use chalk to draw on the concrete, then squirt the water on top to see how it transforms the look of the chalk. The squeezing motion requires strong force for little hands so it’s a perfect way to build up strength.
A kitchen whisk is the perfect tool to hide little squishy or fluffy toys! Such a motivating way to encourage little ones to use their bimanual and fine motor skills to ‘save’ their toys. Another great object to put in the whisk is large pom poms, so many can fit inside therefore multiple opportunities to practice their skills.
When working on the development of any skills with children it is important to bring in a playful approach. Focus on their interests and base learning activities around that. Fine motor development is an essential and important life skill but there are so many fun and motivating ways in which it can be practiced.