There is something in the sense of achievement children feel when they succeed in creating their own original masterpieces, even the small ones. Besides acquiring new aesthetic abilities when they do things with their own hands, working on creative projects allows children to develop "fine motor skills" — skills that are essential for activities like writing, eating and playing a musical instrument.
For many parents, fine motor skills represent another category of "milestones" they need to worry about, but it is actually easy and fun to help your child develop fine motor skills. Some of the most mundane and seemingly simple activities can teach your children about the world and help them improve their dexterity. Mona Gad, former dean of the Kindergarten Faculty of Cairo University, believes children should tap into their creativity and develop both mentally and physically through a focus on fine motor skills.
"At the age of three years, parents should train their children to do complex things by developing their fine motor skills," says Gad.
She says these skills reinforce children’s ability to use small muscles, specifically their hands and fingers, such as holding pencil to write, using crayon to draw or holding a spoon to eat. Simple artistic activities involving multi-sensory strategies such as cutting and pasting, fitting things together, tracing shapes and building with blocks encourage intellectual development in children.
"They are taught how to concentrate, select, make a decision on their own, and become aware of their surroundings by having the opportunity to explore," Gad explains. With everyday practice, children become more efficient; consequently these movements become automatic and no longer require mental effort to execute.
"As children grow, parents should introduce certain activities that are parallel to the stage of their intellectual development," advises Gad. For example, children can start with simple chunky puzzles and gradually increase the degree of difficulty to large jigsaw puzzles. Gad points out that puzzles are a great tool to enhance children’s fine motor skills through myriad stages of development starting from how to pick up and grasp pieces to practicing problem-solving skills.
"Skills like sewing prompt children to test ideas and teach accuracy," says Gad. She adds that the experience of producing aesthetically pleasing creations on their own awakens what we know as a sense of "taste." This skill helps to encourage imagination and brings out creativity, as there is not one right way to come up with an original artistic creation.
Mastering carpentry basics is a way for kids to go a bit more in depth into design principals with practical planning and measuring. "Creating crafts out of wood is a great way for older children to better hone their fine motor skills," Gad points out.
Any three-dimensional project requires hand-eye coordination, which accelerates the pace of mental and physical development. Younger kids can begin with sand paper and a chisel, leaving sawing and mechanical work for adults. Keep them under supervision, however, because even tools used in small carpentry projects are dangerous.
If you do not have the supplies at home for a woodworking or sculpting project, check an art center in your area to see if any woodworking or sculpting classes are offered for children.
"Sensory integration, which is part of motor skills, easily develops over the course of working alongside a parent in ordinary home duties," says Gad. Let children give you a hand in household tasks including carrying laundry to the washing machine, folding clothes, making beds, settingthe table or preparing a salad. Such simple contributions teach new skills and encourage a sense of responsibility and concern for others.
Gad believes that even if things are done slowly or imperfectly, children gain the satisfaction of making a difference when they help their families in daily tasks.
Parental encouragement is essential for children to gain self-confidence, especially if they fail repeatedly. The skills parents teach their children are engraved in their memories, and they grow up knowing them by heart. Fine motor skills are, in fact, not taught but rather developed through creative and physical activity.