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Early Learning, Parents & Families,

Building Motor Skills Without Breaking the Bank

Check out how you can help build your child's fine & gross motor skills with materials you already have around the house.

As parents, we spend a lot of time and money shopping for a healthy balance of what goes into our little ones' bodies for proper growth and development. We need to keep that healthy focus on the exterior too. Incorporating a variety of physical activities into everyday routines and play is essential for building fine and gross motor skills. When kids channel the energy from their minds and bodies in coordinated efforts both big and small, they are working toward achieving important developmental milestones. We're constantly bombarded with ads for top toys and programs to help our kids excel, but the road to success in motor skill development doesn't need to involve a trip to the bank. Instead, a quick trip around the house to collect some everyday items will pay off nicely!

[image: deftly putting a quarter in a piggybank]
by kenteegardin / Some rights reserved

There are many opportunities around the house for kids to work on their fine motor skills. Any little one with a love of all things kitchen can pick up utensils and a container for some focused fun. Kids love moving objects from one spot to another. You can have them start big by transferring towel or toilet paper rolls with tongs, and as their coordination improves, they can work on moving straws or toothpicks with tweezers. Cut up straws can also become a cost effective alternative to beads, and kids can thread them on spaghetti or string. There's nothing cuter than the noises and facial expressions that accompany the concentrated efforts of a three or four-year-old, and any cabinet or drawer in the kitchen can usually offer some fine motor fun. It's just a matter of helping your child discover some entertaining activities with the everyday objects you already have in the house.

Fun with everyday objects doesn't have to be limited to time spent at home. When you're out and about, it's great to have a few tricks up your sleeve for some quiet activities. When you take a look around, it seems that electronic devices are often the on-the-go pacifier of choice these days. We need to choose alternatives that don't involve screen time and do involve important fine motor development opportunities. I love the bevy of fine motor ideas shared by MamaOT1. Using a bent straw as tongs in a restaurant is a great way to keep kids quietly occupied while waiting. The Tic-Tac container with Q-tips is another activity that's the perfect size for when you need a quiet distraction. Take a few minutes to prepare some on-the-go activities, and you'll never have to worry about low battery warnings again!

Speaking of batteries, I sometimes wonder if my kids have a backup pack to explain the vast amounts of energy they possess. Kids need as many chances as possible to get in the groove for gross motor development. Big movement has a big impact on healthy development, and just like fine motor development, it's also not going to come from staring at a screen. Climbing, bouncing, skipping, hopping; put an –ing on any movement and help kids burn off some of that energy as they develop large muscles and coordination.

The energizing gross motor activities compiled by Hands on as We Grow2 will get your little ones moving toward achieving those large muscle developmental milestones. When you can get them outside for a fresh air and movement combo, it's great, but there are plenty of indoor ideas for cold weather or rainy days too. Mop with Your Socks can help your floors sparkle, and Musical Chairs with Cards offers educational fun to your favorite beats. You can create multiple fine and gross motor skill stations for a Rainy Day Challenge to save your sanity when there's no chance to get outside.

It's important to provide a healthy balance of various activities every day, but it doesn't mean you have to hit the store for the buzz item of the week. Sometimes we need quiet and contained focus, and sometimes we need to give kids a chance to get in the groove. By repurposing and utilizing everyday objects, you don't have to break the bank to develop your child's fine and gross motor skills!

Backpack Bonus: Ideas to tuck away for another day.

Pick up an extra strand of holiday lights to create this adorable light table from TinkerLab.

Additional Resources & Works Cited

1. 25 Fine Motor Activities Using Household Items by MamaOT

2. 30 Gross Motor Activities for Kids with Lots of Energy from Hands on: as We Grow


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