Developing fine and gross motor skills in children can really help them in their development. I was a clumsy kid. I’m also a clumsy adult. I could have really have benefited from more focus on these skills when I was little.
Since my son appeared in the world, I’ve wanted to find a range of activities to improve his motor skills. Introducing easy activities at an early age can help your children succeed at sports, improve their ability to do fiddly things like write or paint, and have better coordination.
By implementing these easy activities in your child’s day-to-day life, you can watch them develop physically and grow in confidence. And you don’t just have to rely on my word – there’s a number of toys designed to improve these skills as well as a large body of academic research.
Table of contents
- What Are Fine and Gross Motor Skills?
- How Best To Develop Fine and Gross Motor Skills
- Key Activities For Developing Fine and Gross Motor Skills
- The 5 Best Toys To Develop Fine and Gross Motor Skills
- A Quote From An Expert
- In Conclusion…
What Are Fine and Gross Motor Skills?
“Motor skills” just means skills that we have practiced and perfected with our body. They can be anything – jumping, grabbing, throwing. If we have practiced developing a skill, we have used and now perfected motor skills.
A lot of babies are clumsy because they haven’t had time to develop their motor skills. By encouraging motor skill activities and making them part of our daily routines, we are helping them to become more school-ready.
Broadly speaking, you can break motor skills into 2 categories.
- Gross motor skills: using the big muscles like torsos, arms, and legs.
- Fine motor skills: using small muscles in our hands and wrists.
These skills are very important when a child comes to school age. By practicing them from an early age, you can give them an excellent start in life.
How Best To Develop Fine and Gross Motor Skills
Your kids will develop their fine and gross motor skills naturally through play, but you can encourage them to develop even further. Introduce motor skill activities that force your children to use their bodies and figure out how they work.
This will be frustrating at times for kids. How many times have you heard about children getting angry about writing? There’s a chance you and your children will go through the same process. But that’s fine – these are difficult things to control!
Encourage your children every day to practice with these muscles. Regular practice and exercise lead to an average 80% increase in motor performance. This will help your children’s skills with day-to-day tasks as well as their self-esteem.
For gross motor skills, you might want to encourage jumping, running, or using balance beams. Drawing, using Lego, or anything else that requires small hand movements will help your children develop.
By building these activities into your children’s days, you can encourage quick skill acquisition and develop fine and gross motor skills that will help them throughout their life.
Key Activities For Developing Fine and Gross Motor Skills
Building these games into your day can make developing motor skills easy. Here are 3 ideas I had for each – the floor is lava, trampolining, and obstacle courses for gross motor skills and the penny slot game, play-doh monster, and tower building for fine motor skills.
The Floor Is Lava
This was a bit of a craze a few years ago, but it’s a really amazing activity for developing gross motor skills. I like to put cushions from our sofa on the floor when my son and I play. By trying to avoid stepping on the floor, we practiced core strength, balance, and coordination.
This game is really easy to play and extremely safe when you set it up correctly. All you need is a floor and some things to put on the floor. The aim is to never touch the floor itself. Simple, right?
My son is a particular livewire. By the age of 2, we had to think of new ways to stop him from jumping off furniture. Although he thought it was funny, we were in constant fear of him hurting himself.
That’s why we bought him a trampoline. Trampolines are fantastic for burning off energy and developing gross motor skills. Whenever he is jumping on it, he is exercising his leg and core muscles. This builds strength and (if they’re old enough to try simple techniques like seat drops) coordination.
You can even turn this into a game by including it in an obstacle course.
Here is where you get to be creative. Obstacle courses can be anything you want. But to encourage gross motor skills, you need them to include 3 types of activities:
- Climbing games
- Crawling games
- Jumping games
If you can include all 3 of those activities, you will be encouraging core strength, coordination, and balance. And it doesn’t need to be complicated at all.
One obstacle course that my son really enjoyed was climbing onto the sofa, jumping off onto a cushion, and crawling to his trampoline. When he jumped 5 times on his trampoline, I helped him do a front roll on our rug, and then he started again. Although it was repetitive, he really enjoyed burning off all his energy!
The Penny Slot Game
My son has always been fascinated with coins. Ever since he could start to grip small objects, he wanted to hold coins. So I decided to make a game out of it.
Getting a bag of change and a money box (any box will do, but it needs to have a slot). Spread them out on the floor and let your child sort them into the money box. It’s as easy as that.
Because they have to fit coins of various sizes into a relatively small slot, they have to focus on their grip, the angle, and the size of the coin. These are really complex skills. After a few sessions of sorting coins, my son was able to slot multiple coins in at a time. It really helped his motor skills.
A lot of parents dread play-doh, but I found a way to use play-doh that is both fun and encourages fine motor skills development.
You need play-doh and anything else you might need to make a monster. Pipe cleaners, googly eyes, cotton wool, fake teeth, anything. If you have play-doh, you can make a play-doh monster.
Using your materials, model the play-doh and add whatever extras you have. For the best results in the first few sessions, bring a few pictures for inspiration. It can be difficult to think up new activities when you have lots of choices, so give them an idea to develop on their own.>
If they decide your ideas are boring and making something original, that’s even better!
Building towers is one of the classic childhood activities. Children start to stack blocks around the age of 1 and a half to 2 and can make full towers by the age of 2 and a half. Most of this time is spent picking up blocks after they’ve knocked over a tower, however.
I loved building towers with my son because it meant that we could practice wrist movements and pincer gripping at the same time.
You can do this with anything. We received a wooden block set as a birthday present from a family member, but you can do this with anything which has flat sides. While my son was prone to knocking his tower over, I helped him by holding it up whenever he wanted to add another block. Fine motor skills are more important than actually building a free-standing tower.
Even better, when the tower is built, you can practice gross motor skills by knocking it down!
The 5 Best Toys To Develop Fine and Gross Motor Skills
These are my favourites. They make practicing gross motor skills easy by giving kids something cushioned and safe to jump on and off. Best of all, you can use them indoors or outdoors.
Practicing fine motor skills is really easy with these toy eggs. Kids can take the shells apart into 2 pieces, remove the egg, and then put it all back together.
Here’s one for the gamers. If your children love to play with your console remotes when you aren’t looking, you can use this toy controller to develop their dexterity and response time.
Lego is an industry-leading company for a reason. Lego toys are fantastic for both fine motor skills and encouraging creativity. Although you can buy kits for building specific things, a crate of random lego blocks is enough to start building your child’s fine motor skills.
And I couldn’t end my list without including my son’s favourite. Building (and destroying) towers has been his favourite thing to do since he was able to pick them up. The Melissa & Doug Wood Blocks set is a fantastic kit for building simple towers that develop fine motor skills (and gross ones when you knock them down!).
If you need any more ideas, check out other recommendations on Daddilife like our Best Toy Swords article or our guide to finding the Best Beyblade toys one the market right now. Every play session is an opportunity to develop fine and gross motor skills!
A Quote From An Expert
You don’t have to just take my word for it, though. I reached out for expert analysis and a Daddilife reader from Reddit said:
For the most part, young children learn through frequently using their skills in high frequency, daily routines and complex play.
If you extend play, you are naturally providing the highest motivation and most advanced opportunities to use fine motor in a natural way at the limits of the child and without stress. Scheduling fine motor activities or designing activities around fine motor is considered slightly controversial in progress early pedagogy and early intervention.
The same goes for gross motor. A child may experiment with a lot more gross motor movements in open-ended play and for much longer than in a goal-oriented activity.
So there we have it – make fine and gross motor skills a normal part of daily play routines and your child will be more enthusiastic to pick them up. Thanks /u/Yammy_Lyfe!
Helping your child develop their fine and gross motor skills can give them a real boost for later life. A few simple activities throughout the day can help them to develop these skills in a way that is useful for them and also natural.
Spending 5 minutes a day playing the Penny Slot Game isn’t going to improve your child’s fine motor skills like magic. You need to develop these skills and make them relevant to their lives. That’s why playing with educational toys, using cutlery, and other fine and gross motor skill activities are important every day.