Having adequate motor skills is essential for a child’s occupation. A child’s occupation consists of playing, going to daycare/school, and basically just being a kid. Many parents don’t always recognize that their child has motor difficulties. This is because it is not that obvious. I recommend to all parents to look up the developmental milestones and observe if their child is functioning at or close to the appropriate developmental age. Whether or not there are any difficulties, you can improve your child’s motor skills by:
Changing your attitude

  • boutonsThe first thing I tell parents is to be patient! We are in a fast-paced mode of living and we forget at times that children function at a slower speed. We therefore do not give them enough time to experience and try things on their own. We are too quick to do it for them. For example if you are in a hurry in the morning and do not have enough time to allow your child to dress independently, then maybe anticipate waking up earlier, or take more time when you pick them up from daycare or school, the latter being more reasonable. With time, they will learn to do buttons, zippers and shoe laces (all of which practice bilateral coordination skills).
  • Congratulate your child after successfully completing a small task. Children are often told about their mistakes but not always what they have done well. Keep that in mind, because children will develop a greater self-esteem and will become more confident in trying something new on their own and thus will improve their motor skills.
  • Most importantly parents have to understand how their child’s motor difficulties impact their daily functioning. Being upset or aggravated at their lack of participation can be avoided if you understand that sometimes their lack of participation is due to a motor difficulty.

Modifying the activity
It is important to modify the activity based on the child’s level, in order for him/her to live a successful experience and to have fun while doing it.

  • boutons2Insure that your child has a good seated position while doing table activities. If the child is not seated properly, then the finer muscles of the hands will also not function properly. Adapt the environment so that the child is seated with an upright posture, feet touching the floor, knees at 90 degrees, hips at 90 degrees and elbows at 90 degrees. If feet are not touching floor you can put a step stool.
  • You can also modify the tools that the child is using during fine and gross motor tasks. Some adapted tools include: self-opening scissors, big triangular crayons, pencil grip tools, electric toothbrush, etc…
  • Find the ‘just-right challenge’ by making the activity not too easy nor too hard in order to
  • Reduce any kind of visual distractions and background noises to allow the child to focus more on the task at hand and thus be more successful at completing it.

Facilitating their learning
So how do you help, if your child is not able to do the task?

  • First provide a demonstration for your child. Children like to imitate and therefore learn best by visualizing the different steps of the activity.
  • boutons3Give physical cues such as correctly placing their fingers in the scissor holes, correctly placing their elbow and hand inside the sweater when dressing, correctly placing their hands with palm facing up to catch a ball, etc…
  • Use visual cues, words, simple phrases, or songs to help your child remember the sequence of actions to complete a task.
  • Use the ‘hand-over-hand’ technique by placing yourself behind your child and lightly supporting his/her hand with minimal assistance to direct their movements.
  • Ask a simple question to guide the child and to direct his/her attention to the task. Examples of questions are: “where should you look?” or “what should your other hand be doing?”
  • Divide the activity into smaller steps and allow the child to do the easiest steps alone while helping and guiding him with the harder steps.
  • Repetition, repetition, repetition! With repetition all motor skills can be improved!

All of these strategies cannot be applied all at the same time, pick a few to start with and vary gradually. Remember, it is important to situate your child’s level of functioning and adapt to make him/her live a successful experience.