Fine Motor Skills for Tweens & Teens
It is a fact of life that children grow up into tweens and teens whether we like it or not. As they get older, it gets harder to get them to work on developing their Fine Motor Skills. Many of the activities that are recommended for children to do that help with the development of fine motor skills can be challenging to get tweens and teens to do.
Luckily, there are plenty of activities you can get your tweens and teens involved in that will help them develop these fine motor movements that many of today’s youth are struggling with. While these activities are not going to suit all individuals, hopefully, there will be at least a few that you can get your loved one to do.
Paper Folding Crafts
Making paper airplanes or origami involves folding, twisting, turning and manipulating paper with your hands. There are countless books and YouTube videos out there on both paper airplanes and origami. Even making a good old fashioned fortune teller can work on the muscles while making it and then the added benefit of the finger movements while telling everyone’s fortune.
Painting and Colouring
Painting and colouring are pleasant calming activities that have the added benefit of working on fine motor skills. There are several different adult colouring books and fancy pens available these days that your teen could colour without feeling too childish. Paint by numbers can provide a few hours of entertainment and have them produce something they may be willing to display. Community Centres and Art Studios offer several different types of painting classes that help them work on their skills.
Magic tricks provide a skill that kids can use later down the road for entertaining their friends and family. Many magic tricks involve a quick slip of the hand in order to fool the audience.
The throwing and catching of objects involve several muscles in hand to work together. When you’re juggling, you have to be able to do this with a few objects at the same time and has the added benefit of working on both hand-eye coordination as well as fine motor skills. Learning to juggle takes time and practice, but it is awe-inspiring once it is mastered.
Learning to play a musical instrument
Playing musical instruments have many benefits, including promoting self-discipline, strengthening your mental capacity, working on your listening skills and fine motor skills. Almost all instruments involve some form of coordination and movement of your hands. String and woodwind instruments are excellent at increasing your manual dexterity and strengthening the muscles in your fingers.
Building and painting models of any sort require time and patience, but the end result can be gratifying. When selecting models, be sure to look at the size of the pieces to make sure they are an appropriate size to start out with. Make sure to start with the beginner kits that have larger pieces and are easier to work with before moving to the more complex kits.
Making jewelry and friendship bracelets.
Beading, working with wire, weaving and or knotting are all different ways you can make jewelry and friendship bracelets. Making knotted friendship bracelets out of embroidery thread and gimp are great ways to pass the time in a car ride. There are several books and videos available about different techniques for making the bracelets. For more serious jewelry makers, several craft stores, community centres and some jewellers offer classes to help develop these skills.
Chores are not necessarily a fun way to work on fine motor skills, but it is one more reason for your tween or teen to help out around the house. Activities like washing dishes by hand, washing windows and mirrors, folding laundry, matching and rolling socks all get those little muscles in your hand, applying pressure in different directions and working to hold objects. They also involve twisting and turning of the wrists and forearms.
Completing a jigsaw puzzle is very gratifying. Manipulating the small pieces in your hands are great for developing small muscle movements. Larger puzzles can be, but there are no rules saying you have to complete the puzzle in one sitting. Some families leave one on the go on their dining room table so anyone who has a few spare minutes can sit down and work on it.
Board Games and Card Games
Anything that can be done in a game-like manner that doesn’t seem like work is always the easiest way to get your tween or teen to buy into participating. Board games and card games are perfect for this. The manipulation of the dice, pieces and cards in games all involve movements of the fine muscles in the hand. Shuffling and dealing a deck of cards has many movements that are beneficial for fine motor skill development. As they get better, they can practice doing the waterfall and even learning some different card tricks. Playing these games can be great ways to bond with your children and also things they can do with their friends. Some games to consider are Ticket to Ride, Apples to Apples, Jenga, Trouble, Kerplunk and Life.
Fancy writing with calligraphy, brush lettering and more have come back into fashion. There are workbooks, websites, and instructional videos galore on different methods of letter formation. There are even instructions on how to do fancy lettering with Crayola markers! Practicing these different strokes can be a sneaky way to have your child practice their letter formation in a way they might enjoy. As an added bonus, these practice sheets typically give instructions for proper letter formation (top->down, left->right).
Many handy-crafts like sewing, knitting and crocheting are starting to make a comeback. Others such as French knitting, cross stitching, latch hooking and needlepoint are quite as popular but still readily available at many craft stores. These crafts all require fine movements of the hands. For beginners, many craft stores have complete kits available that have everything you need to complete the craft. Take your tween or teen with you, give them a budget and let them choose the project they would like to do. This will make it more likely that they will actually finish it.
Baking and Cooking
Baking and cooking are just like big kid play dough with the added bonus of something to consume afterwards. Spending time in the kitchen looking through recipe books, finding the ingredients they need, getting out the equipment they will need, measuring out the ingredients and creating their culinary masterpiece all require different fine and gross motor movements. Just think of all the arm, wrist and finger movements involved in chopping, measuring, pouring, mixing, whisking and stirring. Plus, one sign of a good chef/baker is one who cleans up after themselves. There are several places besides community centres that are offering regular culinary classes as either a one-off or a whole series.
This is the age where many children start to care about their appearance. While it is up to you as the parent for how much you want to encourage the time spent on hair, make-up and morning routines, they are great ways to work on fine motor skills. Everything about getting ready for the day has elements that can promote fine motor skills. Think about how you use your fingers to wash your face or shampoo your hair. Styling your hair, especially if you have long hair can be an excellent exercise for your fingers. Learning how to do different hairstyles from a bun, French braid, ponytail or a fancy up-do again require subtle movements of your fingers and wrists.
Make-up has many opportunities with both the application of the make-up (using different sponges, brushes, and applicators) and the opening of the make-up containers.
“Cat’s Cradle” is actually one of the world’s oldest recorded games. It involves using your hands and fingers to manipulate a loop of string into different shapes and forms. When played as a game with two people, they take turns using their fingers to manipulate the string resulting in different patterns. It is a game that can be played in a variety of different settings and pass the time while waiting at or restaurant. There are several books, websites and YouTube videos to instruct you how to play Cat’s Cradle.
The different tools required for woodworking all provide opportunities for various muscle movements with their use. Think of the twisting motion and pressure needed for screwing in a screw with a screwdriver. When hammering a nail, you have to pinch the nail with one hand while you start it and then use the other hammer to lightly tap it in a few times before you can let go and hit the nail with more force. Using power tools requires you to squeeze the trigger with your finger in order for them to work while using larger muscles to safely control the tool. Using a pencil and ruler or measuring tape to draw the cut lines on the wood. These are just a few of the different opportunities that woodworking provides for strengthening the fine motor muscles in your fingers, hands, wrists, and forearms.
Word Searches, Crosswords, Sudoku and Mazes
These pen and paper activities are a great alternative to always reaching for an electronic device to pass the time. All of these activities require you to hold a pen or pencil and make small movements with it to finish the puzzle. Circling a word for a word search causes the hand to make a bigger movement than typically needed for printing. Writing the letters or numbers in the small boxes for crossword puzzles or sudoku requires you to control the size of your letter. Tracing your way through a maze, around the different corners and curves allows for longer strokes with the pen. All of these activities have the added bonus on working on some critical thinking skills while practicing fine motor skills and passing the time.
In today’s increasingly digital world it can be very hard to get tweens and teens away from the screen. When they spend the majority of the time attached to a screen they do not have a chance to develop a lot of the small muscle movements that are important for many daily skills. By encouraging your child to do any of the activities mentioned above, they will have the chance to work on the fine muscle movements they are not getting from using electronics.