4 ways you can boost a child’s motor skills

Liz Connor finds ways to naturally bolster your little one’s dexterity — from origami to painting.
4 ways you can boost a child’s motor skills
FOLDING PAPER: An origami unicorn on blue background. Origami requires nifty fingers.

RESEARCHERS have long warned that too much time spent online can have a negative effect on children’s mental health, but it turns out, it’s pretty bad for their hands too.

A professor has warned that the trend for using digital devices is having a catastrophic impact on future medical students, as increasing numbers of surgeons in training lack the dexterity to stitch or sew up patients.

Roger Kneebone, who is professor of surgical education at Imperial College London, says many young people struggle with practical tasks because they have spent so little time developing craft skills.

“It is important and an increasingly urgent issue,” he told the BBC.

“It is a concern of mine and my scientific colleagues that, whereas in the past, you could make the assumption that students would leave school able to do certain practical things — cutting things out, making things — that is no longer the case.”

Parents and teachers often rely on technology to keep children occupied, and it’s now estimated that a third of under-fives own a tablet device.

But while technology can be an efficient tool for learning new information, it’s also vital that children have a variety of playtime activities to help them develop fine motor skills — the coordination of small muscles in our hands, wrists and fingers with the eyes.

So of you want to help little ones get a better grasp, it’s going to involve rolling up your sleeves and getting stuck into some good old fashioned messy play.

Here are four family-friendly, sensory activities that will help get hands and fingers moving...

1. Origami

The Japanese art of folding paper into shapes and figures has been around since the 1600s, but still remains one of the easiest ways to get children into crafting.

From folding and creasing, to turning and working the paper, the whole process requires mammoth amounts of concentration, nifty fingers, and with a little bit of engineering and patience, kids (and adults) will be rewarded with their own 3D artwork.

And you’ll be left with lots of colourful flowers, animals and shapes to hang around your home too.

2. Paper doll chains

Who doesn’t remember painstakingly snipping away at a piece of folded paper to create a chain of paper people holding hands?

There was something super satisfying about folding the paper accordion-style, setting to work with a pair of scissors and then uncurling your finished army of paper men.

As well as being fun for kids, the opening and closing motion of cutting with scissors is particularly good at helping them develop the small muscles in their hands.

While paper dolls are pretty cool on their own, with some crayons and biodegradable glitter, you can make them extra special by giving them their own faces and sparkly outfits.

3. Learn an instrument

Whether plucking a guitar, hitting the keys on a piano or simply banging a tambourine in time to the beat, the speed and precision needed from fingers, hands and palms during a DIY music session is pretty unrivalled.

You can start kids young with formal lessons, or simply buy some percussion instruments and get them rattling along to the radio. Sure, it might make an unruly racket for an hour or so, but all musical geniuses have to start somewhere.

4. Create Playdough models

Ah, Playdough — the eternal marker of youth. From palming and flattening to forking and moulding, there’s so much this colourful dough can be sculpted into.

If you really can’t bear to part with the iPad, there are loads of creative follow-along tutorials on YouTube, that can show you how to make everything from burgers to dinosaurs.

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