Play is an integral part of fine and visual motor skill development.
What are Fine and Visual Motor Skills?
Fine motor skills involve the coordinated movements of the small muscles in the hands and fingers. These skills include, but are not limited to, using manipulatives (small objects), grasping, and tool use (scissors, tweezers, writing instruments such as pencils, markers, and crayons). In most cases, these types of activities also require vision. This combination of motor skills and vision is referred to as visual motor skills, and may include such activities as coloring, tracing, writing, and cutting with scissors. Where fine motor skill allows the child to hold the pencil, and grasp the scissors, it is visual motor skill that allow them to connect the dots, and cut on the line.
These general skills, among other more specific abilities like in-hand manipulation (moving small objects around in one hand), visual perception (interpreting what is seen), and motor planning (thinking of, planning, and carrying out a movement) are necessary for virtually all academic, play, and self-care activities. These typically develop along a similar timeline for all children, and progress in a manner of skills being built upon one another.
What is Play?
“Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. It is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them. It allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practicing adult roles, sometimes in conjunction with other children or adult caregivers. As they master their world, play helps children develop new competencies that lead to enhanced confidence and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges” (Ginsburg, 2007).
“Play is the work of childhood”, “It gives children a chance to practice what they are learning” – Fred Rogers
Ginsburg, K. R. (2007). The importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining strong parent-child bonds. Pediatrics, 119(1), 182-191.
Why is Play so important in the development of Fine and Visual Motor Skills?
Development of skills in children, be it fine motor or any other, is contingent upon motivation. When a child is enthused about, and willing to engage in a therapeutic or educational task, they are more apt to improve. Often in the attempt to teach children such mundane skills as handwriting, scissor use, or grasping, the idea of fun or play is lost. Interventions can lack fun and enjoyment, leading to a loss of motivation.
With that said, it is imperative that the aforementioned skill development continue to be addressed, but with the inclusion of a sense of play and fun, ensuring motivation and therefore the cooperative engagement in therapeutic and educational interventions.