As a busy mom of three kids, I love writing these types of articles; articles where I share activities that can really set the stage for major skill development while promoting child independence and confidence (plus, they will hopefully allow you to have a second or two to do a thousand other things…or sit).
I know that the simplest types of home exercise programs that I have completed are those that fit most seamlessly into my daily life; the more steps, the more extra ‘stuff,’ the harder it is! Why not use daily life activities, routines, and structures that are provided and utilize them to work on focused areas of intervention? I have written in the past about visual perceptual and motor skills. In this piece, we are going to focus on fine motor skill work activities to incorporate into our busy lives. Here are some helpful tips:
- In the Kitchen: When making dinner/lunch/breakfast, ask your children to help you open and close a variety of containers, scoop out ingredients, and mix.Using small utensils, such as spoons, will work on building up the tripod grasp pattern, further strengthening a functional grasp pattern for writing and drawing activities. Encourage them to open their own food containers independently, especially when you are not in a rush. Sometimes, I have to sit on my own hands to do so! This reinforces self-care independence, along with fine motor control and dexterity.
- Drawing Time:Have those ‘what do we do?’ moments during the week (for example, while trying to get one kid to bed, or helping an older sibling with homework)? Want an activity idea that will help your kids decompress and replace screen time? Set up designated drawing time during the day, put on some calming music, and this will not only set a relaxing mood for the house, utilize their imagination, but will allow routine and consistent times for your kids to practice their fine motor skills!
- Art Center:To make it easier for our kids to access art supplies, we converted part of our den to include all of their art tools, organized by type. One shelf is designated for coloring pages and paper, one shelf is designated for different art projects that are boxed, one shelf is set aside for putty and play dough, another shelf is specifically for different writing and drawing utensils, etc. (Small space hacks!)
- Board Games Area:Our kids spend a good part of their mornings (and weekends!) going to the board games and playing together (or alone, depending on the activity) for hours! Similar to the art supplies, another part of our den has been set aside for board games. See below:
- Play Dough and Putty:Another independent activity that our kids love to do throughout the week is to play with the various play dough and putties that we have, adjacent to the art supplies in our den. (For these activities, we have a rule that they need to use these manipulatives at the kitchen table-they can stick to carpet!) For examples, see the picture of the art center.
- Building Manipulatives:In our playroom, we have areas devoted to just different types of building toys. Examples include, but are not limited to Legos, Clics, Magna Tiles, Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, ZOOBs, Squigz, and K’nex. Simply suggesting, “Why don’t you build me something fun — surprise me!” usually has them off and creating their next project. They are ‘building’ on those fine motor skills, along with visual motor and imaginative play skills, as part of every-day play! See below for an example:
Through this set up, kids can have a degree of ownership over a choice of an activity choice, skills are embedded in motivated and joyful play, and are thus acquired happily and in a manner that fits into everyone’s lifestyle with minimal fuss, and hopefully, maximal function and smiles!
Lauren Brukner is a Senior Occupational Therapist and author who graduated with a Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy from New York University. She is a mom of three kids, ages 7, 6, and 5. She specializes in sensory integration and self-regulation strategies in children and young people, and their implementation in home, school, and community settings. She is an author with Jessica Kingsley Publishers, and is the author of “The Kids’ Guide to Staying Awesome and in Control: Simple Stuff to Help Children Regulate Their Emotions and Senses” (July 2014), and of the upcoming book:”How to Be a Superhero Called Self-Control!: Super Powers to Help Younger Children to Regulate their Emotions and Senses” (November 2015). Brukner holds advanced training and certification in Integrated Listening Systems, and is a Certified Screener for Irlen Syndrome/Scoptic Sensitivity. She is a contributing author to Autism Parenting Magazine and Fireflyfriends Special Needs blog. She has appeared as a guest on The Autism Show and The Manhattan Neighborhood Network’s School-Home Connection. Brukner’s books have been listed as resources on websites such as Everyday Health, Aol’s Health and Wellness, MSN Health, and Friendship Circle, as well as Special Needs Book Review, among others. She blogs at www.awesomeandincontrol.com.
This article was featured in Issue 44 – Strategies for Daily Life with Autism