You don’t need much more than natures playground to help give your little ones the best start in life, honing your childrens fine motor skills can be achieved by spending time outdoors.
This weeks Guest Blog comes from Julie Kurrasch. Julie is a Paediatric Occupational Therapist based in Indianapolis and gives us some great tips to help develop your childrens fine motor skills in nature.
Julie is passionate about coming alongside children and their families to promote play, learning, motor development, feeding, and participation in daily activities. Specialties include sensory processing, autism spectrum, picky and problem eaters, early childhood development and outdoor/nature play. Julie is the owner of Deer Trails Therapy, a nature-based occupational therapy practice in which barriers to outdoor play are removed for kids with special needs and the power of nature is harnessed in creative ways within treatment sessions.
Julie lives with her husband and two dogs in Indianapolis, IN. Aside from playing outdoors, she enjoys traveling, cooking, and crafting in her spare time and here is what she has to say.
Every parent wants their child to succeed and to be on track developmentally. For many parents, however, the task of developing their childrens fine motor skills seems daunting. Do I have the right supplies? Do I need to create a special, child- friendly work space? Will my child even sit still long enough to engage in a fine motor activity? Is it really worth the time, energy, and mess? Take heart, fine motor development does not need to be overwhelming, it does not require expensive supplies, and it does not need to take place in a Pinterest worthy play space. In fact, some of the best fine motor development can happen outside, where the supplies are free and the “mess” can be left behind.
Playing outside lays a strong foundation for fine motor development, both physically and emotionally. Because nature does not believe in flat surfaces and straight edges, outdoor play requires continual awareness of where one’s body is in space and how each body part is contributing to movement. As children engage in activities such as hiking, climbing trees, and digging in the dirt, they are providing feedback to their muscles, teaching them how to grade their movements to produce the perfect amount of force.
Additionally, outdoor play provides endless opportunities to build core strength and shoulder stability, which provide a strong base of support for precise movements of the hands and fingers. As children hop across rocks to cross a creek, they are adjusting their vision from near, to far, and back again, they are honing their balance, they are learning the limits of their strength; all skills necessary for successful fine motor development.
Emotionally, nature creates the optimal learning environment. Unlike many indoor environments that can be visually overwhelming, loud, and cramped, the outdoor spaces are often calming to the nervous system,
resulting in increased attention and decreased anxiety. Nature provides a multi-sensory experience, enhancing every learning experience with rich textures, brilliant colors, and a symphony of scents, sights, and sounds.
Outdoor play does not need to be structured, resulting in increased opportunities for children to follow their curiosities and discover a balance between increased independence and asking for help.
Next time you head out the door with your little one, leave the parent guilt behind, knowing you are about to embark into a developmental paradise: the great outdoors!
Here are a few outdoor activities that will hone those fine motor skills:
1. Snap, Zip, Buckle: Outdoor activities provide tons of opportunity for your little one to work on managing fasteners of all sorts. Whether you have a toddler who is learning to fasten their shoes, a preschooler who is beginning to zip their own coat, or a child learning to tie knots to secure the tarp at your campsite, plan extra time to allow your child to work on these skills.
2. The World is Their Canvas: Take time to make art during outdoor play. This can look like gathering loose materials such as pinecones, stones, leaves, sticks, and flowers to make a collage or it can be drawing in the dirt with a stick. When snow falls, you can sculpt endless creations or use colored water in a spray bottle to paint your surroundings. Get creative!
3. Construction Zone: Stones, acorn tops, logs, sticks, leaves, and moss all make perfect building materials for tiny worlds and life size structures alike. Digging motes with shovels and transferring dirt with a bucket or wheel barrel adds an extra workout to little hands.
4. Bake Off: Whether you are making pretend muffins in a mud kitchen or delicious snacks over a fire, involve your little one in the cutting, stirring, measuring, kneading, scooping, and pouring.
5. Jam Session: Clapping hands, snapping fingers, tapping stones, and banging sticks on hollow logs build fond memories and strong arms, hands, and fingers.
-Julie Kurrasch, MS, OTR/L
Owner and founder of @deertrailstherapy
Follow Julie Here www.instagram.com/deertrailstherapy for lots of outdoor activity inspiration
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