Developing your toddler’s fine motor skills
Holding, reaching, coordinating, walking
Now your baby is at the toddler stage - whether they’re trying to stand, hold a cup, carry toys or reach up – everything will be a bit wobbly and unsure! But that’s perfectly normal because they’re learning ‘fine motor skills’.
These are simple movements that we take for granted but actually take a lot of coordination of the hand, eye and brain in order to happen smoothly.
Why are fine motor skills important?
Fine motor skills are all part of your toddler’s amazing development . What we take for granted, such as picking up a beaker, holding it and then taking a sip, requires a tricky combination of thumb, finger, hand and head movements.
Even playing with toy bricks develops these skills as your toddler is learning that it takes care to stack them, or they fall down. So helping to develop your toddler’s fine motor skills supports all the other skills they’ll need during the rest of their life.
Helping to improve your toddler’s fine motor skills
Your toddler won’t need much encouragement to improve their coordination . All it takes is plenty of opportunity, encouragement and practice. Here are some fun things you can do to help your toddler learn:
Make a play space
Your toddler probably loves pulling things apart and emptying boxes of toys. It’s one of the first ‘motor skills’ they learn and an important part of your toddler’s brain development.
So rather than have your little one take the whole house apart, it’s a good idea to make sure their play area has the right kind of toys to keep them occupied!
Fill it with a box of simple building bricks, large puzzle pieces, a peg board and chalk board. These are the kind of activities that keep toddlers interested – developing ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’ skills at the same time. They’ll even gradually learn how to put things back too.
Play dress up!
Helping your toddler to get dressed and undressed really does develop their fine motor skills as they have to coordinate their entire body. Another bonus is that it means less work for you, as it develops their independence.
To begin with, you can make dressing easier if your toddler’s shoes have Velcro fasteners rather than laces or buckles. Elastic waists are easiest on pants or skirts. And pull-on tops are better for little fingers than those with buttons or zips.
The more enjoyment your toddler has, the more they’ll learn. So give them some dressing up clothes, or your old scarves, gloves and shoes – and just watch them have fun.
Scribble, doodle and draw
Your toddler probably already enjoys scribbling away with a crayon or piece of chalk.
As well as being fun, it’s developing one of the most important skills your toddler will need in life – the ability to write.
So make their doodling time as fun as possible with lots of different materials like:
- Plenty of colourful crayons
- Washable pens
- Chalk crayons to play with outdoors as well as indoors
- Paints, brushes and sponges
- Finger, hand and foot-printing
Let them get to grips with things!
Toddlers love the feel of things like sand and soft play dough. So keeping their hands busy with simple sandcastles and play dough is a good way to build their strength and co-ordination.
Try soft, colourful paper too. It’s easy to scrunch up and unravel, creating shapes your toddler will find fascinating.
The right toddler diet for fine motor skills
Holding, reaching, talking, balancing, scribbling – all your toddler’s fine motor skills depend on healthy brain development. So it’s important to include plenty of iron-rich foods as part of a healthy balanced diet for your toddler.
We've put together some good sources of iron-rich foods, plus useful advice on how to give your toddler a healthy balanced diet.
Remember, toddlers develop at different rates – but if you have any concerns please speak to your healthcare professional.