Now that the excitement of the Easter weekend is over, and hopefully, all the chocolate eggs consumed, the end of the holidays is in sight and another school term beckons. With the end of Term One, many schools provide parents with some initial feedback on how their children have settled into the school year and for some children it may have been a faltering start. Teachers may have cited poor pencil grip as an issue, or problems with inattention and staying on task or not working independently enough.
If this was your child, you are not alone. The reality is an increasing number of children are starting school with poor finger strength and impaired fine motor skills. This can be due to a wide variety of reasons from a little developmental delay, to too much screen time – playing with iPads, watching TV etc – instead of spending time doing traditional play activities when younger. A symptom of our times. This can lead to difficulty in holding a pencil properly when forming letter and number shapes which can damage a child’s self esteem and dent their confidence in those crucial early days of school. This in turn can lead to feelings of frustration which can affect how they feel about school in general and alter their behaviour in the classroom.
So what can we do to help? We have put together some of our favourite fun activities which you can create at home to help your child improve the vital fine motor skills which are so fundamental to success in the classroom. These activities have been chosen as useful in strengthening the finger and hand tendons which should eventually enable them to write clearly, as well as develop hand/eye co-ordination and concentration using everyday objects round the house and a bit of imagination.
- Homemade play dough is a classic standby but is actually incredibly good at strengthening little fingers and building kids’ imagination. To increase variety and add extra opportunities to develop fine motor skills, supplement with a selection of other objects to play with – such as googly eyes, pipe cleaners, shells, pebbles, even herbs, leaves and flowers from the garden to add a multi-sensory experience.
- Another great multi-sensory idea from The Imagination Tree is a sensory salt tray for mark making and letter practice. The child can make endless shapes and letters in the tray using their fingers offering a wonderful opportunity for kinesthetic learning.
- For a simple finger strength development activity check out this cute octopus clothes peg game created by Therapy Fun Zone. Clipping clothes pegs for each octopus tentacle provides a fantastic opportunity to strengthen little fingers.
However, whilst we would all like to be able to create a multitude of beautiful homemade activities for our children, there will be days when younger siblings are tired and fractious or work commitments reduce the time we have available and you will wish you had something ready to go at hand. On those days, one of our Shapeeze packs is the perfect solution.
Our packs are specifically designed to strengthen fine motor skills, provide entertainment and, more importantly, allow children to engage in self-directed, educational play. The process of pushing out the brightly-coloured pre-cut shapes, gluing them on the page and tracing the accompanying letters and numbers using the special triangular shaped pencils are all aimed at strengthening small finger muscles. All our activity sheets are designed to be completed by the children independently, without parental supervision, building their attention skills and problem-solving abilities, which leaves you free to attend to other tasks. A win-win for both you and your child.