The more your baby or young child engages in the world around them the more independent they will become. Each new skill they learn and master changes their experience. As your child learns how to lift their head, sit, crawl, walk, run, talk, they are developing their brains and physical skills and expanding their interaction with the environment.
In the early years your child is developing ways to combine their motor skills and hand eye co-ordination. Finding activities and exercises that support this early development can have a significant effect on your child’s independence and confidence. The physical development can be broken into two areas – their gross and their fine motor skills.
Gross motor skills – the ability to control the different parts of the body (examples would be crawling and walking.)
Fine motor skills – the ability to coordinate the different parts of the body (an example would be grasping and moving objects around in their hands.)
Hand eye coordination – the ability to coordinate the eye and hands together (examples would be picking up a small object with their thumb and index finger and catching.)
Young babies and children are driven by a natural motivation and curiosity to master skills that are hard for them at first. Helping your baby or child to develop these skills through practice and repetition increases their opportunities to learn and develop their skills. A mix of maturity and practice determines the pace of their progress. Appropriate play and exercise enhances the process.
In April 2009’s issue of Sprouts newsletter we discuss ways to develop these skills for toddlers and older children through art activities and using the downloadable worksheets from the book. In August 2009’s issue of Sprouts newsletter we discuss how to make ‘a box of interest’ to encourage the curiosity and coordination through their investigation of the objects in the box.
For young babies it is important to have safety in mind as they put most things in their mouths. There are many multipurpose colourful baby toys that encourage clutching and squeezing, helping the development of the muscles in the hand. There are toys that have objects to pull in and out of pockets helping the hand eye coordination.
Jigsaw puzzles are an excellent activity for combining the motor skills and hand eye co-ordination. Start with a small puzzle with 4 or 5 pieces with knobs on top of each piece to encourage the grasping activity of small hands. Gradually move onto more challenging puzzles, remembering to keep them at a level that allows your child to be successful and not to get frustrated because they are too difficult.
Large Lego blocks and building blocks encourage pieces to be fitted together and stacked. Peg and hole toys help your child to develop the skills to differentiate colours and shapes.
There are many opportunities around your home that encourage the combining of skills and building of independence for your baby or child. Picking up small pieces of dry cereal, cooked pasta, small pieces of cooked vegetables, and then putting them into their mouth. Floating objects (i.e. a rubber duck) in the bath water and letting your baby splash and try to retrieve the objects. Threading cotton reels onto a lace, and eventually completing sewing activities (page 16 ‘Teaching Parents How To Teach’) are excellent activities for developing fine motor skills and the pincer grasp (holding a pencil between your thumb and index finger.)
Children learn through doing, not being told how to do. You can set up activities in your home to allow your child to develop their fine and gross motor skills, and hand eye co-ordination. (excerpt taken from ‘Teaching Parents How To Teach’)
The more capable and comfortable your child becomes in participating in their world the more complex and challenging the opportunities to develop and learn will occur. Our goal is to raise happy, healthy and independent children. Enjoy!