If you’re working with your child on their coordination, there are toys on the market to improve their fine motor skills. Let’s first talk about what motor coordination and in-hand manipulation are.
Motor skills are your ability to move yourself and other objects, and they’re skills that develop as your child grows. In-hand manipulation is the ability to pick up an object and turn or manipulate it in your hand so that it’s in the right position.
A great example of this would be using change. When you’ve got a handful of coins, you need to manipulate the quarter with your index and thumb fingers, in order to place it correctly into a vending machine. But for children learning and developing, having toys that can develop these skills can be important for their development. Children typically start to develop this ability around the 18 months mark, up through kindergarten.
For occupational therapy and improving your child’s fine motor skills, there are toys on the market that can be used to grow their abilities. While almost any toy with pegs or pieces that need to be put in place or manipulated will help with their fine motor development, here are a few specific ideas to try.
- Travel Lite Brite
Did you know that this iconic toy has a travel version, for busy families on the go? The original version works fine as well, but if you’re bringing items to OT or you’re looking for toys that you can use while you’re away from home, the Travel Lite Brite is an excellent choice.
The toy requires your child to make a decision with pattern cards, placing pegs in the toy, which lights up and creates an image. Because the pattern cards can be a bit difficult to push through, this is not only a great fine motor activity but one that’s great for hand strength as well.
When using this toy with your child it’s important to see if they’re avoiding in-hand manipulation by using one hand to pick the pegs up, and another to maneuver or place them. If you see your child doing this, you can gently correct and model how to manipulate the pieces, and have them practice the movement.
- A Mancala set
Another classic child’s game you can use to develop your child’s fine motor skills is Mancala. The game is great for children of all ages, as long as they’re able to pick up the small pieces. It is definitely one where you’ll need to be watching to make sure children don’t swallow any pieces!
At its heart, it is a strategy game, where you pick up all of the marbles in a cup space and move them to other cup spaces, but even if your child can’t master the strategy element just yet, it does offer some great in-hand manipulation practice time.
Your child will need to move the marbles to the tips of their fingers and let them go into the cup. Some children will avoid in-hand manipulation with Mancala by dropping them and using gravity to finish the task, but you can gently correct and show them how to properly place the marbles in the spaces.
These are just a few of the toys you can use to improve your child’s fine motor skills, but they’re an excellent starting off point. Spending time with your child working on in-hand manipulation will help them develop their skills tremendously, and you’ll also all benefit from spending quality time together, engaged in play.