Should children be coloring with an iPad and stylus instead of with paper and crayons? Not necessarily. Old-fashioned coloring is an activity for kids that has far-reaching benefits. While technology is a great learning tool for kids, kids build dexterity by coloring with crayons, or even pieces of crayons. Kids love coloring as much as they love technology because it is a fun, hands-on activity and parents love how good coloring is for their kids' development.
When kids color, they hold a crayon with their hands and fingers and push the crayon around on paper. Kids begin to gain strength in their hands this way and learn how to hold a writing tool properly. Dexterity, the skill and ease in using the hands, helps us perform daily tasks from printing our names to tying shoes. Coloring helps to develop kids' dexterity. Have a bucket full of broken crayons? That's even better. Grasping broken crayons helps kids develop a better grip for holding writing tools.
Fun activities that build kids' dexterity can be done at home with simple objects. Making miniature snowmen out of cotton balls or marshmallows? That's a good activity for kids. Making necklaces out of string and beads? That's another good activity for building dexterity. Grasping small objects and placing them in a pattern helps kids develop fine motor skills. For more at-home ideas, check out a blog article by Loubina Buxamusa and Ann Mahoney called “Fine Motor Skills Developmental Milestones: Early Childhood Activities.” The article gives parents a list of ideas for developing their kids' fine motors skills with helpful exercises.
Toys made for the purpose of helping kids develop fine motor skills can also be helpful. Sorting shapes toys--kids put a shape in the same shaped hole--helps kids with eye-coordination and fine motor skills. My First Green Toys® Shape Sorter is an example of this popular kids toy and it's free of BPA, phthalates (chemicals found in plastics), PVC or external coatings. Tobbles Neo by Fat Brain Toys is an award-winning stacking game with large, cup-shaped “blocks” for the 2+ crowd. (See this Parents’ Choice® review.) Visually appealing, this toy will help kids develop eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills.
Grasping and placing stickers is another fun activity for kids that helps them develop fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination. Of course, the trick is to get kids to try putting stickers on a sheet of paper instead of the wall! School Zone's Bubbles books for toddlers give them plenty of practice grasping large, circular stickers and placing them on specific spots. For the coloring crowd, School Zone also has a line of coloring books designed specifically for toddlers. They include the My First Coloring Book Sticker Skills Books, which also include large stickers.
Parents, there are lots of way to help kids develop the skills they need to write. Would you like to learn more? I suggest checking out the blogs of occupational therapists, such as MamaOT or Your Kids OT.
Shannon Mullally is an editor for School Zone Publishing, in Grand Haven, Mich. She has a doctorate in Creative Writing. Find her on Twitter @SMMullally. The views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily represent those of her employer.