Teachers nationwide are finding that more and more children are entering Kindergarten without the fine motor skills necessary to grip markers, hold their paper still while coloring, or cut and glue shapes. Teachers must take time out from their lessons to help children with basic skills that they should already have. Why is this happening?
The natural instinct is to blame it all on technology and tablets. Much of the “messy” play (play-doh, finger painting, and cutting paper into little bits) has been replaced with the much cleaner play of tablets. We are doing our children a huge disservice when they are not using their hands. While the tablets are a big factor, they are not the sole reason for the decline of fine motor skills in our children.
While the “Back to Sleep” campaign has made parents aware of the dangers of SIDS and saved many lives, infants are now spending much more time on their backs. This makes tummy-time play much more important. Some parents skip tummy-time with their infants if they seem to not like it. But these children are not getting the experience of pushing their bodies upright using their hands and arms, nor holding themselves up, which is a basis for strong posture.
Today’s children spend less time outside. Outdoor play provides opportunities for children to explore how their bodies move and balance. Many children also learn to hold tools and push toys during outdoor play. Some parents are simply afraid to let their children get hurt. These children don’t engage as often in physical play, which helps with strength.
Cutting with scissors is known to build fine motor skills. Some parents are fearful of scissors and don’t allow their children to cut with them. However, there are safety scissors available for supervised learning, which provides a safe way for children to use their fine muscles.
There are plenty of ways that parents and care givers can ensure their children’s fine motor skills are on the right track. For instance, work on tummy time with both infants and older kids. Older children can be encouraged to do a puzzle or read while lying on the floor. Kitchen-based play, such as making flour-based dough, or stringing together necklaces with uncooked pasta, is a fun way for parents and kids to learn together. Even a fun and easy finger play like the Itsy, Bitsy Spider helps develop fine motor skills.