Guest Blog Post by Tegan Franks, Teacher (Bachelor of Education, Honours)
Have you ever seen a toddler buttoning a shirt or a baby picking up a bottle to feed themselves? Babies are not born with self-care skills; we know this for a fact. They are born with an almost clean slate, in terms of fine motor development. Fine motor skills are when people use smaller muscles in their hands with purpose. Proficient fine motor skills require practice… and for little ones, it can be hard work. They are skills that require practice in order to strengthen pathways in their brain. Fine motor skills are connected to hand-eye coordination, the nervous system, and the brain. The more you practice, the easier tasks requiring these muscles will be, such as handwriting and dressing and completing intricate tasks. With each fine motor activity, whether it be set up or incidental, children are building up strength and dexterity using these important muscles.
There is a milestone sequence to fine motor skills in babies and children. For infants, it begins when they first grasp your finger, and it slowly builds to children being able to complete more intricate activities such as drawing, writing, cutting with scissors and feeding themselves effortlessly.
One goal in a child’s schooling years is to learn how to effectively handwrite. Numerous young children struggle with this task in a classroom setting. Before handwriting can be taught, children need to first develop their proprioceptor skills (sensory receptors in muscles – think balance), gross motor (large muscle movements – jumping) and fine motor skills. These key skills are developed in their early years of life and are skills that require ample opportunities to develop… similar to teaching your child how to walk, talk, eat. The more opportunities to learn, the better chance they have to enhance these skills.
But why are these skills important to develop in the early years of life? As humans, fine motor skills are used in our everyday life. Whether it be turning a page in a story, typing an assignment, buttoning pants, using tools to fix a car, phoning a friend or writing a letter. All of these abilities can be attributed to your development of fine motor muscles. These skills are not something that needs to be ‘taught’, but merely allow opportunities to develop. There are endless opportunities in their lives for fine motor skills. A simple example is providing them a box of small items from around the house (larger items if under 3 years old). Children are naturally inquisitive and will want to explore these items using their fine motor skills.
Loose parts boxes and kits are a great go-to for any parent/educator wanting to invite their child to work on their fine motor skills. These boxes also promote play-based learning. Play-based learning enables a child’s brain to make pathways faster than any other way. This is because, for children, it doesn’t feel like ‘work’… it feels like ‘fun’. If they are having fun with an activity, then they are more likely to keep working for longer periods of time. Enjoying learning will help your child build up stamina and persistence.
Nesk Kids boxes are a perfect size, putting their little hands into a Nesk Kids box and pulling out an item will encourage children to work on their ‘pincer grasp’ or ‘tripod grip’. The boxes are just the right size to promote this movement. The pincer grasp is something children begin to develop around 7 months+ and slowly develop into their older years. It involves the index finger and thumb to grasp an object. Tripod grip is a skill that starts to develop around 3 years+. This trickier skill involves using the thumb, middle and index finger. In order to learn how to handwrite in the most proficient way, these two skills must first be mastered. Just by pulling out an object from this box, they will be incidentally working on these two skills.
Nesk Kids Grapat loose parts kit offers objects that are shaped to encourage this kind of grip, as well as offering a sensory factor. These items are made from wood and have a texture that supports children in gripping and picking up an object.
Crafting is another way to develop these important skills. By offering items to make crafts, they are using the small muscles in their hands to pick up, glue, cut, place and arrange items, developing their creative thinking in the process. They are also known to be effective in role play and early mathematics, such as sorting and counting.
All of this fine motor development help your child build invaluable pathways in their brain. When a child is playing with their loose parts box, not only are they role-playing/counting/building, but they are also building upon the foundations they will come to rely on as an adult. As a child, you may not recall when you first learned to draw. By then, your brain had already made numerous pathways in order just to pick up the pencil!
So much thought has gone into the loose part kits available in the Nesk Kids store. Not only do Nesk Kids offer visually interesting items that promote play-based multi-sensory learning, but they also offer an invaluable service… enabling the development of a person that is provided multiple opportunities to form complex brain connections in early life.
To view the entire collection of Loose Part Play Boxes and Kits, visit the Nesk Kids online store today!
Written by: Tegan Franks, Teacher (Bachelor of Education, Honours)