The Secret To Making Fine Motor Skills Activities For Children Fun



Fine motor skills activities for children are the best way to ensure proper

development and practice of fine motor skills to promote the most functional use of a child’s hands.

You see, normal development DEMANDS that children are able to accurately and effectively use the small muscles (intrinsic muscles) in their hands. These intrinsic muscles will be used for the rest of their lives and for essential functional activities.

Childhood is the critical time to properly develop these muscles, and I think you might be shocked (unless you are an OT) at how many children we, as Occupational Therapists, see in the schools and clinics every single day who have significant delays in fine motor skills. I must add it is nobody’s “fault”… it just is. These are skills that simply may need some extra work to develop optimally, that’s all. So, please… no blaming the child or the parents. Deal? Thanks!

The building of fine motor skills in children will enable them to perform a variety of important functional tasks. These include:

  • tying shoes
  • zipping and unzipping
  • buckling and unbuckling
  • writing legibly and without significant muscle fatigue
  • playing games that require precise hand and finger control
  • drawing, painting, and coloring
  • manipulating buttons and snaps
  • putting small objects together
  • doing puzzles
  • making crafts
  • using scissors
  • manipulating small objects such as coins
  • opening and closing objects
  • picking up and holding onto small objects
  • developing and maintaining an effective and proper pencil grip
  • pinching objects between fingers
  • using locks and keys
  • being able to isolate finger movements (i.e., using one finger at a time, such as in playing the piano or typing)
  • turning things over or turning pages of a book
  • holding and using utensils properly and effectively
  • screwing and unscrewing
  • doing ANYTHING that requires small precise hand and finger movements

    Certainly you can now see the importance of fine motor skills and the impact it would have if not developed properly! If your child is struggling to do any of these aforementioned activities and you are concerned that they may have poor fine motor skills, then it is time to practice, enhance, and evaluate these skills.

    I just want to mention, there is a very high correlation between children with sensory processing disorders and children with a delay in fine motor skills. It is often a big part of sensory integration therapy and one of the main reasons children are initially referred to an Occupational Therapist. Please understand, I am NOT saying they HAVE a sensory processing disorder if they have poor fine motor skills… fine motor delays may be an isolated issue.

  • Properly Developed Fine Motor Skills Are Important To Every Day Living

  • The ability to complete functional activities that require these skills will follow you your entire life. So, I beg of you… if you see signs of fine motor difficulties in any child, please address it with a teacher, Occupational Therapist, or through educating yourself (as you are now… yay you!) on how to improve fine motor skills.

  • Speaking of improving fine motor skills, here is what you have been waiting for… how do we do it? Truthfully, you will see the greatest improvement through targeted activities that are practiced, practiced, and practiced some more! True, that is the “therapy” of it… but, I always believe in making that targeted practice fun and varied! It really NEEDS to be for the development of the various muscles, and so the child doesn’t get bored, frustrated, or resistant to engaging in these therapeutic, skill building activities.

     Activities To Improve Fine Motor Skills

    The best way to do this with children is… Toys and Games, of course! Below, you will find some great games and toys that are both fun, challenging, and great for developing those critical fine motor skills.

    But, before I show you those, I must share my all-time favorite activity for hand strengthening and fine motor skill development. It’s easy to do anytime/anywhere, it’s fun, it works on a variety of hand skills, and THE KIDS LOVE IT! It is… Theraputty! Ah, for those of you who don’t know, Theraputty is a strong silly-putty-like material that probably every Occupational Therapist uses. It comes in a tub and has different “strengths” to it (more or less resistance when squeezed). It is one of the best inventions ever!

    Okay, here is my favorite activity (if you are an OT, don’t give it away, shhhh)… Stretch the Theraputty out and hide coins or any tiny objects in it. Then mush it up into a ball. It is now the child’s job to pull the putty apart and find all the objects you put in there (oh, make sure you count how many you put in there, because the child WILL keep asking if they found them all). Just a hint… children can even do this whole “game” themselves; hiding the objects AND finding them. Or do it with friends that come over to play. And, if they need extra incentive… you can use all those pennies you have kicking around the house and tell them if they do a good job finding them all 3 times in a row they get to keep them! Bribery…*ahem*, I mean REWARDS, are always a great way to get a child to do his “therapy”.

    Or, here is another idea;  Holly, an OT from a school in New York gave me this great suggestion…

    When using putty I will sometimes put “googley” eyes in it and when you shake the putty you can hear the eyes wiggle, the kids love it and enjoy the silly challenge.

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10 Ways to Raise a Grateful Kid

By Homa Tavangar

When my favorite uncle first met my daughter, then age three, he enthusiastically hugged her and gave her a toy he’d brought all the way from Uganda. My daughter wouldn’t even hold it, let alone say “Thank you.” I was mortified.

My daughter is now 17, and looking back, I realize that many factors could have contributed to her behavior: being unprepared for such exuberance, her natural shyness and biology. Kids under seven have difficulty understanding others’ feelings and being internally motivated to do the right thing. Nonetheless, parents can actively, gently instill a sense of gratitude.

The matter goes way beyond etiquette. According to research by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, “people who practice gratitude feel considerably happier (25%) than those in a control group; they are more joyful, enthusiastic, interested, and determined.”

An attitude of gratitude helps us thrive. Try these steps to instill a mind-set of gratitude in your little ones.

  1. Say “Thank you.” When “thank yous” are instilled in our vocabulary at home, a lifelong practice begins, even if it doesn’t stick at first. You can gently restate a sentence with polite language inserted, or suggest saying “Thank you” together.
  2. Live it. Set an example and show appreciation by conveying you paid attention to real effort: “Your room looks so nice with the toys in their bins. I’m so happy that you remembered to put them away!”
  3. Teach through role play. If your little one is too shy to say “thank you” in a social setting, they can pretend to teach their stuffed animals or dolls to do so, while you play along.
  4. Create daily or weekly routines. A regular question, “What are you most thankful for today?” can serve as a comforting routine at bedtime or a highlight of a weekly dinner ritual.
  5. Give concrete examples. At dinner, you can play the Rose and Thorn game, where the person whose turn it is to speak holds a rose and tells about one rose (a good thing) and one thorn (a challenging thing). A metaphor like the rose helps children develop gratitude even when things aren’t going their way. Keeping the rose in a vase all week serves as another reminder of coping with natural ups and downs. Books like The Giving Tree, Have You Filled a Bucket Today? and Mama Panya’s Pancakes offer simple, powerful metaphors of virtues.
  6. Set expectations when shopping. Melanie Etemad of Bryn Mawr, PA shared a useful approach that her husband, a psychiatrist, came up with when their daughter Elyse was just two: “We’d say today is a ‘look’ day. Just like going to the museum, we enjoy the beautiful things, but we aren’t planning to buy anything. … We also tried to ensure that there were more ‘look’ days than ‘buy’ days, specifically to inoculate against the idea of always buying things, knowing that it breeds discontent. Now, at age six, Elyse knows that most of the time when we go out, we are not necessarily planning to buy anything and has the habit to ask if today is a ‘look’ day or a ‘buy’ day.”
  7. Make giving and volunteering a habit. Set aside toys and clothing in good condition. Deliver the items to a deserving cause together. Talk about the process and why you care. Tap into organizations like Global Giving that offer a virtual marketplace for making a difference.
  8. Create gratitude gift lists. Alongside a holiday or birthday gift wish list, for every item, family members can list something they are grateful for. These are the “priceless” gifts. By generating the list in a beautiful way, you demonstrate how valuable the alternate list is; it can be a keepsake for years to come.
  9. Thank those who serve. Your example of acknowledging those who quietly make a difference in your life, from the bus driver to the person sweeping up the aftermath of a family lunch out, sends a powerful message to your children. Likewise, organizations like Operation Gratitude and Blue Star Families remember those serving in the military. Kathy Roth-Douquet, Founder and Chair of Blue Star Families, says, “In addition to a thank-you letter, we ask the participant to pledge to do some form of community service … thanks and appreciation is best when it involves action, and a sense of all being in a worthwhile effort together.”
  10. Be patient. Kids can’t be cajoled into showing appreciation, but your gentle efforts and examples will instill gratitude as a way of life.



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The Word Gap

Article taken from

The “Word Gap” has come to symbolize the gulf that can separate very young children who have rich opportunities for positive early learning experiences from those who do not. Science reveals that early language and literacy skills are important predictors of later success in school—and that as a group, children in families of lower socioeconomic means have fewer skills and know far fewer words than their more privileged peers.

How does our country close the word gap? Babies are driven to communicate to let the trusted adults in their lives know what they need, think, and feel. Developing language and literacy skills is about more than just hearing and learning words. It is about the social, back-and-forth communication that takes place through everyday interactions with parents, families, and caregivers which builds not only babies’ language skills, but also their thinking skills and their self-esteem. Strong language skills result from babies building close, nurturing relationships with trusted adults, which encourage babies to want to keep connecting and communicating.

The Mom and Dad Project has several classes surrounding foundations of developing early literacy and strong language skills. Please see our calendar or call (909) 878-2326 for more information!

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7 Things a Great Dad Knows

Posted by Ryan Sanders at

We’re already midway through January; if you’re like us, you’re in disbelief! However, we’re still committed to helping you be the best dad you can be in 2013! After our first post for “New Year, New Dad!;” hopefully you’ve had time to reflect on your goals and are ready to tackle the year. In hopes of making sure your goals are in check and you’ve considered everything you need to for your family, use the seven questions below to help you assess the needs of your family and be sure you’re setting the right goals for the coming year.
Here are seven questions that great dads ask themselves:

1. A Great Dad Knows the Importance of Improving His Family.
Take the time to write down three things and post them in an area where they can be easily referenced. These things can be areas of weakness or things that you simply want to do more. These areas of improvement need not be statements; simply write one word to help you keep the ideas in mind this year.

2. A Great Dad Knows the Importance of Communicating with His Spouse/Ex-Spouse.
This will be much easier if your living with your child’s mother. But admittedly, it’s often easy to not communicate with your child’s mother regardless of where she resides! Be intentional about asking your spouse what she thinks of your goals and work together to agree about those goals. Single dads: the idea here is to work toward being on the same page as your ex-spouse with where you want to take the family regarding goals.

3. A Great Dad Knows What His Child Needs.
If you’re a new dad, or the father of a teenager, you may find your children have different needs. Assess what those needs are by age. If we make goals at all, we tend to focus on ourselves. Be sure you are considering where your children are in developement when creating goals and making plans. For instance, you will find your travel plans change drastically depending on the age of your children.

4. A Great Dad Knows His Child’s Favorite Experiences.
Ask your children what their favorite memory was for 2012 and begin brainstorming other similar activities you can do this year. Work to create a time, perhaps over dinner, to let the kids not only talk about their favorite memories but come up with a list of things they would enjoy doing this year.

5. A Great Dad Knows His Schedule.
A schedule is beneficial for children and parents. Consider stopping unnecessary routines and starting better ones. This may be one of the most difficult steps in the process. The point here is to reflect on your daily or weekly routine and see where changes could be made.

6. A Great Dad Knows His Family’s Schedule.
With school, dance, theater, and/or sports in full effect, check in with your family on how they are handling things. As a leader in the home, create appointments with yourself on your calendar to remind you about checking in periodically. It’s too easy to get too busy and often consider EVERYTHING as IMPORTANT when in reality, not everything is important. Depending on your assessment, consider cutting back on activities as a family.

7. A Great Dad Makes Time for His Family.
Schedule time each day to be intentional about being face to face with your spouse. Additionally, be intentional about being face to face with your kids daily. Of course this isn’t easy. Strive to be creative and caring this year. If you can change daily routines with family priorities in mind, you’ll notice a difference in your marriage and/or relationships with your kids.

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