---- — Typing on a computer keyboard. Peeling a banana. Buttoning your shirt. Unwrapping a straw for your cool drink. Texting or dialing on your cellphone. Tying your shoes. All of these things have one thing in common. They require fine motor skills for you to do the job. Fine motor tasks are anything that you use your hands or fingers to do. We use these skills every day, mostly without even thinking about it. That is until you CAN’T do something you need or want to do. Maybe it’s because of a hand injury, arthritis, carpal tunnel or just stiffness from not using the muscles like you should. Or maybe it’s because you are a young child that hasn’t developed the strength and skills. Whatever the reason, we need our fine motor skills on a daily basis. Below are a few tips everyone can use to help strengthen and develop the muscles in your hands and fingers. Who knows, maybe you’ll become the world’s fastest texter! • Pincer grasp: This is the grasp most people are familiar with. It is picking things up with your thumb and pointer finger. Toddlers and young children do this when they pick up pieces of food, cereal and crackers with these fingers. Develop it by picking up raisins, M&M’s, nuts, cereal, etc.. with your two fingers. You can practice by putting these small objects in a cupcake tin/ egg carton (or in the case of M&M’s in your mouth!). Good for toddler through adults. • Building: Use Legos or K’Nex pieces to build a creation. Picking up these small pieces builds finger strength. The added benefit is using your imagination to make different things. Puzzles are another great builder. You not only develop the motor skills but you are growing the problem solving skills by figuring out where the pieces should be placed. Good for pre-school through adults. • Coloring/painting: Remember when your teacher told you to stay in the lines? Well there is a good reason for that. Coloring/ painting in small spaces helps develop control of objects in your fingers. So using crayons, chalk, pencils, markers and paintbrushes in lined spaces, all are excellent for developing control. Tracing over lines is also an excellent way to be VERY controlled in your motor movements. These skills are precursors to using a writing instrument for writing. Good for toddler through adults. • Cutting/Ripping: Using scissors to cut on specific lines or around intricate shapes is another good way to develop skills. Practice cutting pictures out of magazines or newspapers. I used to save old Christmas and birthday cards and wrapping paper for my kids to cut out the shapes. Then they can pasts on paper to draw a picture, make a card or whatever. Just remember to use safety or blunt tip scissors with young children. Ripping old newspaper and wrapping paper is great too. Rip different colors into small pieces and then glue on to make a picture (kind of like a mosaic). Or just use it as confetti at your next party! Good for pre-school through adult. • Lacing/weaving/sewing: Using shoelaces to lace shoes or go in and out on a piece of plastic canvas is fun and beneficial for young children. Weaving with paper strips, yarn or basket material is also neat. There are even kits in hobby stores to weave pot holders and rugs. Remember weaving the paper placemats for parties when you were in grade school? It helped you develop your motor skills! Sewing in another terrific way to develop very precise and controlled motor movements. Whether you are mending a rip, hemming pants, doing needlework or embroidery, using the needle in very small stitches is great for your fingers and hands. Make sure to use plastic or blunt tip needles with young children. Good for young children through adult. • Stickers: As a teacher, I always use stickers on kid’s work. But stickers are good for motor skills too. Draw a shape such as a circle or heart on a piece of paper. Then use small stickers to stick all the way around the shape. The peeling and placing of the stickers makes great finger control. You can also get stickers like farm animals and let kids create pictures after the stickers are on. Adults can peel a sticker and put it on the back of card and letter envelopes. Good for pre-school through adult. • Games: Board games are a fun activity for motor skills. Moving the pieces with your fingers builds strength. Playing cards and holding them in your hand builds hand strength. A great game is marbles. Shooting them and picking them up helps fingers. Try shooting marbles into a shoebox. Or place ten golf tees in some floral styrofoam. Then place a marble on each tee. It’s not as easy as you think! The benefit to games is the bonus of socialization and problem solving when planning your next move. Good for young children through adults. • Music: Playing a musical instrument can develop motor skills. Whether you are strumming strings, pushing valves or playing keyboards you are strengthening your fingers and hands. Even percussion instruments can be beneficial. Added bonus: developing brain activity and making beautiful music. Good for older children through adults. • Cooking: Slicing, dicing, crunching and chopping are ways to develop motor skills. Slice and dice your onion into small pieces. Try snapping green beans into small chunks, unhulling peas or peanuts or picking the seeds out of watermelons (do this with tweezers). The squeezing of kitchen tongs to pick up or flip things is helpful as well as using chopsticks, or placing food on skewers or toothpicks. Good for older children through adults (although young children could snap beans). • Miscellaneous: Stretch rubber bands over doorknobs (be careful they don’t snap back), screw nuts on and off of large bolts and pinching clothespins on and off of a clothesline (or any other thin object). Good for young children through adults. Try some of these with yourself, your children or grandchildren. It can make for some new, fun experiences and great memories! Crystal Dardini and her husband live in Boone County. As a busy working mom of three boys and an elementary teacher, she is always looking for ways to make life a little easier. She will be contributing ideas biweekly on ways to help make your life a little less challenging and maybe even a little more fun.