Those with learning disabilities, the elderly, and adults recovering from an accident or stroke need to consciously build or restore fine motor skills to live independently. Shredding newspapers and rolling it into small balls using one hand, building Lego models, cutting out shapes, etc. are exercises that can be practiced at home. Yoga can improve focus needed to execute fine movements.
Fine motor skills are the little movements we often take for granted as adults, and those that toddlers battle to master. Adults who have suffered a setback following an accident or stroke may also find themselves in a position where they need to relearn their fine motor skills so they can continue to live independently. The elderly too may find their fine motor skill ability diminishing with age and might be helped by some exercises or therapy. There are some simple but effective ways to improve these skills, employing a blend of both modern medicine and alternative therapy.
Fine v/s Gross Motor Skills
Unlike gross motor skills that involve larger movements through the use of big muscles in the torso, legs, arms, or feet, fine motor skills rely on the smaller muscles found in fingers, wrists, lips, the tongue, and toes. Whether it is picking up a spoon and grasping it correctly, holding a pencil properly, putting a button through a buttonhole, or sifting through a basket of beads and picking out the one needed, our fine motor skills help us get through the day as much as gross motor skills.
Tips To Improve Your Fine Motor Skills
Here are some activities that aid the building of fine motor skills. Because they use easily available household objects, these can be organized without too much difficulty. While some of these activities are targeted at engaging children or toddlers, the same principles can be applied to help the elderly as well as adults. These are also useful as a supplement to physiotherapy for an adult trying to regain fine motor skills after a stroke.1
Shredding a newspaper into strips using your fingers and then crumpling it into a small ball is a skill that can be practiced. Once this is mastered, have the child or adult move on to crumpling a sheet of newspaper into a ball using just one hand.
Use any modeling clay and get the child or adult to start rolling it into balls. Start with bigger balls and then try and make them smaller and smaller until they can manage pea sized rounds. Try using a plastic knife to get them to cut the dough into bits or shapes. Simply squeezing the dough in each of the hands or, alternatively, using a massage ball or ‘stress ball’ to exercise the fingers while watching television or reading can help adults.
An eye dropper can be used to pick colored liquid and drop it into a glass of clear water. It can also be used on canvas paper to create art.
Building Kits and Pegboards
As fine motor skills develop, more challenging tasks like building simple models that use screwdrivers or interlocking parts, like in a Meccano or Lego Technic set, can be used. Peg boards to create patterns are also a useful tool for building fine motor skills. Creating a pattern by picking up pegs of different colors, fitting them into the slots on the board, and then removing them help improve dexterity.
Sticker mosaic books and kits can be used to develop fine motor skills and tap into the creative side of children or adults.
Simple lacing activity kits are fun for children and can be used to create beautiful pasta jewelry or bead jewelry while building motor skills.
Special child-safe scissors are a good tool whether it is a child or an adult with diminished fine motor skills who is going to use them. Use them to cut out shapes or fringes.
Keep in mind that not all these may work equally well for all ages and backgrounds of individuals. The actual therapy may need to vary depending on the ability and medical background as well as age of the adult. Activities involving scissors may not be a good idea for someone who has limited control over their muscles. Sticker art and lacing kits may not be engaging for an adult or elderly person. Weak eyesight might make pegboards a challenge for an older person. And that’s where alternative therapy like yoga can make a difference.
The Power Of Yoga
In one study, finger dexterity in adults showed a 19% improvement after they performed the kapalabhati in yoga, underlining the impact simple yoga exercises can make.2
Yoga has a calming effect on the mind, thereby reducing anxiety while also improving sleep. For those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), yoga helps free the mind of distractions, allowing them to concentrate better and improve their fine motor functions.3
For seniors, a yoga session could begin with a warm-up to improve blood flow to the joints, followed by yogic stretching exercises for a few minutes. Gentle and slow movements, accompanied by relaxing music to aid meditation, will also help calm the mind and improve the control and focus that are needed for fine motor activities afterward.4
Yoga stretching and poses are also being employed by some schools to help supplement learning. One occupational therapist found that after a session of yoga, the children were able to perform better on fine motor skills like cutting, coloring, tracing, and gluing. Besides the effect on in-hand manipulation as well as tactile work, yoga can also improve motor skills in children with attention deficit disorders. Pranayama or yogic breathing was also found to help children who had learning disabilities and struggled with fine motor skills including gripping problems and hand-eye coordination issues.5
A combination of skill building exercises and yoga can go a long way in improving the fine motor skills in both children, adults, and the elderly.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Tips for Improving Fine Motor Skills, American Stroke Association.|
|2.||↑||Telles, Shirley, Nilkamal Singh, and Acharya Balkrishna. “Finger dexterity and visual discrimination following two yoga breathing practices.” International journal of yoga 5, no. 1 (2012): 37.|
|3, 5.||↑||Singh, Sunita, and Jay Prakash Singh. “Impact of Pranayama on Fine Moter Coordination Ability of Children with Intellectual Impairment.” Creative Education 5, no. 4 (2014): 273.|
|4.||↑||Susan Brhel. Therapeutic Activities & Successful Aging: A Guide for Seniors, Families and Caregivers.|