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Gross and Fine Motor Skills Development Goals and Games

Gross motor skills are defined by the mastery of large muscle movement (i.e legs and arms). Toddlers between 12 to 18 months should be able to walk, walk backwards, crawl up stairs with support, throw a ball overhand, kick a ball with support, roll a ball with hands, imitate more complex motor skills (lifting objects), and change clothes (without use of buttons, zips, clasps, etc.). Toddlers between the ages of 18 to 24 months should be able to run, walk up stairs with support, and jump over small obstacles.

Gross motor activities for 3 to 4 year olds by using masking tape:

  1. “Walk the Tape Line”   Use tape and place the tape down in the form of a zig-zag or a curve and then have a child walk it.  This will increase the child’s balance.
  2. “What Does It Land On”   Make a taped circle, square and triangle.  Let the child roll the ball to one of the taped designs.  Have the child describe where it is rolling. 
  3. “Indoor Newspaper Basketball” with wastebasket.  Crunch the paper up, stand about 5-feet from the  wastebasket and throw the wad of paper into it.  Can have 2 groups of 5 and if it goes in, it scores 2 points.  Highest score wins.
  4. “Bowling with a Chair” and ball.  Child stands back about 5 feet and rolls the ball towards the chair.  If the ball goes through the chair without hitting any legs, the child gets 2 points.  If the ball hits a leg and goes through the legs, it is 1 point.  If the child misses, it is 0 points.  Each child gets 3 chances to build up the score.  

Fine-motor skills are defined by the use of small muscle groups and precise movements, such as picking up a pencil with the fingers.  A toddler between the age of 12 to 18 months should be working on scribbling with crayons on papers, picking up objects, grasping and throwing a ball, stacking blocks, mastering puzzles with over-sized pieces, and holding and banging objects together.  A toddler between the age of 18 to 24 months will begin to use a spoon or fork in feeding himself with parental guidance, grasping a cup or bottle for drinking, and turning the sturdy pages of a children’s book with assistance.

Fine motor activities for 4 and 5 year old:

  1. “Blow Cotton Balls Relay Race”   Try to blow a cotton ball to the other side about 5 feet away.  The second child then reverses to blow the cotton ball back to the other side.  Use masking tape line for each side as the cotton ball must cross that mark.    
  2. “Paper Clip Race”  Two different children holds a paper clip.  Use large paper clips, as the other 2 children race against each other to pick up one of 5 paper clips from a paper plate and connect the paper clip to the children holding the paperclip.   This continues til all 5 paperclips are connected to win the game.  
  3. “Marshmallow Sculptures” using toothpicks.  Give the child 2 minutes to design a sculpture and have the class pick out the winner of the best design. 
  4. “Clothespin Relay”     Tie a string across two chairs and have two teams.  The child races to the string and hangs the clothespin on it.   The next child in line does the same until all 5 clothespins are hung to win.

Fine motor skills, as with gross motor skills, develop only through practice and more practice.  And as small muscles repeat motions over and over and over again, those muscles remember the movement (called “muscle memory”) and the movements become automatic.  A prime example is seen in the process of learning to play a piece on the piano.   At first the child slowly and methodically plods through each note and measure of the song.   But with continued practice, eventually the piece is played smoothly and almost without think

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