Did you know that a toddler is particularly predisposed to develop motor skills and coordination between the ages of 18 months and 4 years? In the space of a few months, he will make lightning progress that will enable him throughout his life to use his closest tool: his body. Motor coordination is the ability of an individual to voluntarily move in order to reach a certain object or to perform intricate tasks. The brain works with all the muscles to reproduce voluntary movements. A baby begins to show coordination from the moment he or she intentionally grabs the objects around him or her. With time and practice, the finesse of their movements becomes clearer, and more elaborate gestures emerge.As your baby’s motor skills improve your questions that include “when do babies walk?” will also be answered.
Developing The Motor Skills of 0-12 Months Babies
You may help your child with his development in his first year with some exercises to help strengthen his muscles.
- Using Play Mats
Until your baby can safely explore on his own, a play mat is a good way to stimulate him. He’ll be able to turn his head to see all the designs, touch different textures and reach for the little animals, characters, and rattles. Play mats are considered as the key source which assists motor skills learning of infants.
- Contact and Massage
To stimulate your baby’s neuromuscular system; therefore, early childhood fine motor skills, nothing beats contact with loving parents. Gently massage or hold your baby in skin-to-skin contact. Enjoy this while she’s small, because soon she’ll want to explore and won’t be still for as long.
- Textures and Shapes
When your baby can reach out and grasp things, place different shaped objects around him. That will be one of the best activities for fine motor skills learningof your baby. He’ll have to move in all directions to reach them. Be careful not to frustrate him by placing objects too far away, your baby prefers small victories to big challenges.
- Playing on Your Tummy
Muscles are needed in the development of motor skills. By laying your baby on his tummy for a few minutes each day, you’ll encourage him to lift his head and turn it, which will strengthen his neck muscles. Gradually, he’ll also try to lift himself up on his forearms and gain some muscle strength.
At the end of 6 months babies begin to crawl. To encourage them and give them places to go, don’t hesitate to make small, short tunnels with a light roof that he can crawl through to reach objects cleverly placed on the other side. That will assist them to develop basic motor skills.
- Some Splish Splash
During bath time, encourage the baby to splash around in the water and make toys available. These activities will not only keep him entertained but will also help his muscle development.
- Baby Trainers
Starting from 7 to 9 months, your baby may want to stand up. This is the age when a baby trainer becomes useful for strengthening leg muscles. But be careful not to put your baby on it too young or leave him on it too long, as this could affect his posture.
When your baby starts sitting up straight, she’s also old enough to imitate you. Sit in front of your baby and ask her to imitate your actions. Raise one hand, then the other, touch your nose… Your beloved infant will enjoy a lot while she continues her development at the same time. Mirror games are also very interesting for his development.
- Pots and Pans
By about 8 months, your baby can grasp objects with a force he can control. He can also bend his arms for a long time, and he develops an interest in pencils and “big” objects. This is a good time to let him play with wooden spoons, plastic bowls, and pots to develop dexterity and grip.
- Flexible Shoes
Although your baby is gaining independence and standing upright, she’s not yet agile enough to catch her fall if she gets caught in the right angle of rigid soles. It’s best to get your baby soft shoes that will protect her just as well and will be lighter for her to lift as she learns to walk.
Many one-year-olds pick up a song and ask you to play it over and over again. When this happens, dance with them to the rhythm of their song. They’ll get used to keeping their balance and fall less while walking, and they’ll also develop a good sense of rhythm.
Some Good Ideas to Develop Fine Motor Skills
Fine motor skills allow children to pick up food with their fingers, then hold a small object, draw, and finally write with a pencil. In order to understand the importance of fine motor skills; here are some more efficient ways to help develop them.
In addition to developing children’s motor skills, crafting allows them to exercise their imagination, open them up to art, and drive them to focus. Invite children to use different materials (paper, fabric, pipe cleaners, foam, etc.) and techniques (collage, papier mache, etc.).
- Cutting Shapes Out
Letting your child cut out shapes with scissors will also be helpful on this journey. At first, he will only cut small slits in a sheet of paper, then random shapes. As he evolves and learns to hold his scissors better, invite him to follow more complex patterns. An excellent and comprehensive exercise is to trace the outline of his hand on a sheet of paper and cut out the shape afterwards.
Drawing with large crayons similarly helps your child. You’ll quickly see his drawings, with more and more details, getting more and more defined. It is recommended to gradually move from large felt pens to smaller ones, to wax crayons, to chalk, and finally to wooden crayons.
Stringing beads, marbles or even pasta on a string is great! Plus, it’s a lot of fun for such an easy activity. Come on: this weekend, we’re making jewelry for the whole family!
How Does Hand Exercises Help with Developing Motor Skills?
- Make the child try touching the end of all his fingers with his thumb, one after the other; gradually speeding up.
- Have the child flip a coin on the table with his thumb and forefinger (for younger children, you can also use a spinning top).
- Ask the child to touch the table with his hand and then with each finger, alternating. (Thumb-hand, index finger-hand, middle finger-hand…)
- Invite your child to stack coins as high as possible.
- Introduce a thread. The child must wrap the thread around one finger, two fingers, three fingers and then all around his hand.
Games and Toys for Fine Motor Skills
When the concern is your baby’s health and improvement not only mind developing toys and games but things that’ll add up to the motor skills are quite important:
- Construction Games
About the construction games, the first thing that comes to mind is the famous blocks games, which are indeed perfect, since they are small and require more agility to handle. But there are all kinds of bricks, of different shapes and sizes, adapting to the age of your child.
- Pouring Water Games
In terms of motor skills physical education, in the bathtub, in the pool or in the sink: pouring games are also excellent. The goal is to transfer the contents of a glass of water into another, while trying not to spill a drop! In addition, water has a calming effect. So, it is perfect before bedtime, naptime or to help the overexcited children with calming down.
Some Additional Motor Skill Exercises
- Eating with Your Hands
Without even realizing it, the baby is doing fine motor skills exercises. By cutting his food into small pieces and letting him eat with his hands – without constant help – you are helping him develop. With time and practice, he will eventually use the different utensils. For example, by age 4, he should be able to cut up soft foods with a small knife.
- Opening Containers
It’s a well-known fact that all children love to play with containers and boxes. That’s good, because opening bottles, cans and latches helps develop fine motor skills. So does putting together nuts and bolts!
Did you know that kneading playdough helps strengthen hand muscles? According to your child’s age, you may start by making large balls, small balls, or snakes. With older children, you can have fun reproducing 2D images in three dimensions.
With fingers, sponges, brushes and so on… Painting is also a great way to get your kids working on their skills. Change between the mediums and types of paints to add diversity: gouache, water-based and eventually, acrylic.
- Dressing Up by Himself
When dressing alone, your child’s fine motor skills are gradually honed. As a part of your morning routine, set aside some extra time for your child to complete this task on his own. At first, he’ll start by just putting on his shoes, socks, and clothes, but soon he’ll be able to deal with zippers, buttonholes and eventually start to tie his shoes.
- Sorting Out
Every time your child picks up small objects with his fingers, he is developing his fine motor skills. Place several small objects (buttons, chickpeas, cotton balls, etc.) in front of your child and have him sort them out, boxes or even egg crates.