WFine motor skills are the movements of smaller muscles in our body, like fingers, toes, wrists, hands, tongue and lips. A child with a spinal cord injury may need help improving fine motor skills.
It is important you know and understand which activities are best suited to improve fine motor skills for the given disability.
Arts & Crafts
- Use paper with different texture and thickness that may be easier to grip and manipulate with restricted hand function e.g.typing paper, thin cardboard
- The child may have difficulty tearing, cutting or using children’s craft scissors that cut different patterns. The S.N.A may facilitate this action but avoid taking over and doing all. The child must select what to cut, Use these shapes to make a picture, and glue them onto a different piece of paper.
- Choose a topic to include disability and find pictures in magazines to tear or cut out to make a collage.
- Move paints/material closer to enable the child easy access.
- Open lids where necessary.
This is a fantastic fine motor activity for the special needs child. Cut a shape out of an old cardboard box, and using wooden pegs (the kind that you squeeze on one end so that the other end opens) show the child how to peg them on and off around the edge of the cardboard. Make a mask. Using a paper plate cut out eyes, nose and a mouth. Paint and colour the mask, and use the tearing activity above to or pegs to make the hair.
- Play dough
You can get cookie cutter and small plastic rolling pins from most toy
shops. Roll out the play dough and cut different shapes. You can also take balls of play dough and squeeze them into funny, blobby shapes. Add some plastic eyes that you can get from any craft shop and create characters.
- Take account of space available. Carry out adaptations to the physical environment as necessary for example rearrange furniture to make the environment accessible.
- Make sure all corridors and emergency exits are clear
- If possible anchor toys and educational equipment so that the child will not become frustrated by knocking them down due to poor finger dexterity
- Make sure the child plays with other children, is included in team games and is never isolated.
- Explain how to do tasks but avoid taking over and doing it. Avoid over-talking and providing a ‘running commentary’ of what to do next – this allows the child to concentrate and think independently.
- Encourage independence and promote self belief. Encourage the child to do as much as possible themselves.
- Break down a task that make seem challenging. Allow sufficient time to do tasks.
Games and Imaginary Play
- Through play you can help the child master gross motor skills.
- This takes time to learn especially if the child has special needs, and/or developmental delays. Gross motor activities builds the child’s upper body strength and also improves their balance which is especially useful for a wheelchair user.
- Gross motor skills are all about controlling the larger muscles of the body which may be impaired in a child with a physical disability e.g. balance, posture, becoming aware of the left and right side of the body, special awareness like where his body is in space in relation to other objects.
- Without reasonable gross motor skills children often struggle with fine motor skills as well, that are needed for formal education. While writing is a fine motor skill, the gross muscles need to be strong to support the torso for this task.
- Keep the activities varied, and make them fun because it is important the child does not become bored or frustrated. Examples include:
- Lids and containers
Save various different shaped container and lids from around the house and keep them in box. This is a great activity to either mix up the lids and let the child match them to the right container, as well as learning to either screw or press the lids back onto the container.
- Coins and Buttons
Collect coins and buttons of varying sizes, and an empty container. Let the child pick up the coins and buttons by sliding them to the edge of the table, and then put the objects into the container. As the child with the disability progresses that you can cut a wide slot in the lid of the container to place coins through.
- Bean bags
These are great for throwing and catching, especially if children are in wheelchairs or struggle to run after balls. You can throw them to each other, into a laundry basket, that you can move further away, or to the left and right. Cut a hole into a cardboard box or throw the bean bags over a rope adjusting the height.
- Yoga Balls
You can purchase these at any sporting goods stores. Sitting on their chair with ball against the knees and a wall, children can move on to the ball and back with their hands. This is good for balance, core and special orientation.
Using tape, make a line on the floor. Children can walk on the line or push their chair on the line with a bean bag on their head. Next progress to letting the child move in a zig zag pattern, across the tape.
- Chasing bubbles
This is a great way for children to practise their gross motor skills. Blow bubbles outside, on a windless day and let the child chase them in a safe environment.
- Pillow Mountain
Take many different pillows and make them into a mountain or alternatively hang blankets over frame like structures to form a mountain which children in wheelchairs can go under.
Hang a ball from the ceiling. If the child is in a wheelchair, you can give them either a ping pong bat, or some rolled up newspaper, and they can use this as a bat to swat at the balls. Get a collection of balls that are different sizes and shapes, even some textured balls like koosh balls. Using either a box or a laundry basket, let the child throw these balls in, using different movements, from above the head, with one hand, over their shoulder etc.