This winter has already been a long one! Cold and snow are gripping many areas of the country. Children are already isolated during the pandemic and are now stuck inside due to inclement weather! So, what is a parent/caregiver to do when children say, “I’m bored”? Fine motor skills are necessary for all academic, play, and self-care activities. Play is important because it gives children the motivation to learn and improve in areas they may be struggling. Here are some fun indoor activities you can do with your children to keep them engaged, help develop various motor skills, and create family bonding experiences!
- Baking: Baking is a great activity to do with children from preschool age and up. Baking helps children develop confidence and visual perception skills by showing them a tactile example of something they’ve successfully completed. Mixing and kneading help to develop hand strength; chopping helps to develop eye-hand coordination skills. Following recipes help children to develop motor planning skills by following directions and problem solving. Baking also helps to develop cognitive skills; children are thinking, being creative, and learning cause and effect relationships. For slightly older children, baking helps to reinforce math skills including measuring, fractions, weights, and learning the differences between cups, liters, teaspoons etc. Baking is an excellent way to teach children about safety too; children learn oven and stovetops are hot, knives are sharp, and they must keep their hands/work areas clean and sanitized. Finally, baking teaches children about cleaning up the messes they’ve made; children can help empty bowls into the trash or dry dishes.
- Craft Projects: Craft project activities can teach children the proper way to hold crayons and markers which can be translated to pens and pencils in school. Proper grasp on pens, pencils, etc. is an important part of fine motor skill development; it helps to develop finger strength, in-hand manipulation, and hand preference (right or left-handed). Craft projects also help with scissor use and proper cutting, which are complex skills for children. Proper scissor use, like proper pen/pencil grasp, is important in furthering the development of the aforementioned fine motor skills. Proper scissor use is important to teaching children about safety when using sharp objects. Craft projects are a good activity to do with children who have tactile defensiveness; it can expose them to different textures and materials, distracting them from their discomfort with fun. This also helps to create a new relationship between textures/materials that once made them uncomfortable and associates them with a positive experience. Craft projects can give children a sense of independence by planning, prepping, and creating a project they’ve designed with materials they chose.
- Scavenger Hunt: Scavenger hunts are fun and can also be educational! Scavenger hunts encourage children to use their hands; this can further the development of fine motor skills if you hide certain objects such as buttons to be put through buttonholes, or items they can squeeze and squish. Scavenger hunts help children to problem solve and work with others; they can form teams with siblings or friends and work together! Searching for objects also helps children to improve their hand-eye coordination by seeing the hidden items and correctly reaching and/or grabbing them. This activity will also help children to identify certain items. Scavenger hunts can be educational by hiding items related to science, reading, writing etc. Finally, scavenger hunts can be used to help children form a positive association with objects/textures/materials they are uncomfortable with, similarly to craft projects. When a child finds an item that causes them discomfort while playing in a scavenger hunt, it helps to alleviate some of the fear associated with that item through play.
Remember that play is an important part of learning for children. We hope that you try some of these fun indoor activities with your family this winter!
My name is John Haber. I’m a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and the founder of Nogginsland. I became a COTA in 2003, and then went back to school much later, receiving my Master’s Degree in OT from Mercy College in New York in 2016.
Over the years, I’ve worked with a variety of populations in different settings, from school districts, to developmental disability centers, to children’s hospitals.