Fine motor skills, also related to hand-eye coordination, are critical to healthy childhood development and academic success. This requires coordinating small muscle movements in the fingers with what our eyes are seeing. We use our fine motor skills to guide our hands and fingers in reaching and grasping.
Adequate hand-eye coordination is necessary to perform everyday tasks. Children who lack fine motor skills may be unable to carry out the simplest actions, such as picking up a toy or using a phone.
If children have problems with fine motor skills, they will have difficulty developing the muscles of the hands and wrists. This is where manipulatives can save the day.
What Are Manipulatives?
Manipulatives are objects that appeal to multiple senses and are maneuverable with our hands. Ancient civilizations used them to solve everyday math problems. The late 1800s saw them used in education to teach mathematical concepts.
Today, they help in not only teaching math concepts, but also in the development of fine motor skills and the improvement of concentration. Focusing on specific objects and specified tasks can help the mind to disregard distractions and improve concentration time and intensity. In fact, educators call manipulatives “objects to think with.”
Manipulatives in the Classroom and at Home
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics recommends using manipulatives when teaching mathematical concepts, regardless of grade level. Whether at home or in the classroom, the following are some suggested activities to incorporate into any lesson plan. They will help a child develop the precise control needed for adequate mastery of fine motor skills.
- Play Dough for Everyone: This childhood favorite is great for developing important motor skills. The squeezing and stretching exercises and strengthens finger muscles. Touching the play dough also provides important sensory input.
- Finger Painting: Not only is this activity fun, it can improve development of your child’s hand-eye coordination and increase manual dexterity. The bright colors also provide important sensory stimulation.
- Coloring with Broken Crayons: A broken crayon is harder to grip, forcing the child to hold it properly between the thumb and forefinger. Whether you’re teaching math with pictures to color or geography with maps to fill in, bring out the broken crayons to improve fine motor skills while learning the day’s lesson.
- Cut Out Paper Dolls: Children love paper dolls. The cutting and folding required to create paper dolls can strengthen hand and wrist muscles.
- Macaroni Necklaces: Stringing necklaces improves hand-eye coordination while developing ability to manipulate objects.
Tools, activities and games are not only fun but can improve a child’s fine motor skill development and increase hand-eye coordination. So, let the games begin!