Physical Development is one of the six areas of learning in early years education and covers moving and handling skills combined with health and self care skills. We’re taking a look at Fine Motor Skills in this blog post (we’ll cover Gross Motor Skills in a separate post). Fine motor skills is the coordination of the smaller muscle movements such as the hands, fingers, wrists, feet, toes, lips and tongue and eyeballs. Hand eye coordination is vital for manual dexterity – the small actions such as picking up an object between thumb and forefinger, using a crayon to make marks, picking up a piece of food and popping it in the mouth. All of these small movements that adults don’t even think about are vital skills for day to day living and your baby needs to learn them.
At first, baby’s grasp is a reflex action and he/she will not have the ability to purposely grasp objects and toys. However, it won’t take long and about the age of four months or so, voluntary movement will begin as your baby reaches out to pick up small toys. At first baby will only be able to squeeze object in a closed fist, but he’ll soon move on to using thumb and forefinger to pick up small toys intentionally, transferring them from hand to hand or hand to mouth.
Plenty of mark making or manipulative play will do wonders for your baby’s dexterity. Crayons are great for early mark making – easy to grasp and not too messy for mums and dads either! Clay or playdough is vital for all sorts of play and really comes into its own when used to develop hand-eye coordination. Encourage baby to prod and poke and manipulate the clay into different shapes. It’s tactile and squishy – it can be rolled out and then baby can use tools to make marks in it. It can be pulled apart and squished back together, exercising baby’s hand and finger muscles and developing the strength and finesse needed later on in childhood.
Rudimentary construction toys are another great way of developing fine motor skills – stacking rings, building blocks, stacking beakers – all with the added benefit of developing concentration in your little one too. Using the right toys and equipment is vital to ensure that baby develops the fine motor control they will need when entering early years education.