Fine motor development refers to the small muscle movement in the hands and fingers, coordinated with the eyes, to perform simple tasks like buttoning and lacing to more complex tasks like writing, sewing, or soldering. Young children begin to develop their first fine motor skills during infancy and continue throughout early childhood. Wooden toys provide lots of opportunity for fine motor development during every stage.
As a newborn, babies are learning to focus on objects with their eyes and grasp things in their hands. Once a baby learns to grasp an object, she will begin reaching for toys and will soon after master grabbing and pulling on things that hang in front of her. Wooden toys like rattles and activity bars are great choices to encourage this stage of fine motor development.
By the first birthday, most children have mastered a number of fine motor skills, the most important being relatively precise hand and eye coordination and the ability to pick up small objects with a thumb and index finger. One year old children are learning to feed themselves and will soon develop the skills they need to hold and release a ball in throwing and to grasp and move a crayon to color. Wooden toys like shape sorters and peg games with small wooden handles help young toddlers develop the fine motor skills they need for these activities.
Around two years old, a child can typically unwrap things, string large beads onto a string, and turn pages in a book, though most likely not one at a time. A few wooden toys that help develop these skills are lacing beads, stacking rings, and simple puzzles with a small number of large pieces.
Early preschool age children are learning several self care skills, like dressing and undressing, washing their hands, and feeding themselves with spoons and forks. A great deal of hand and eye coordination as well as strength and dexterity in small finger muscles are needed for these activities. Wooden toy blocks are great toys to aid in the development of these fine motor skills. Blocks are fun toys that not only enhance fine motor skills, they foster creativity and cognitive thinking as well. Wooden puzzles with several pieces of varying shapes and matching games with square wooden tiles are other toys that help children develop the muscles used to fasten a button or turn a single page in a book.
Around five years old, most children have mastered all the skills needed to dress themselves, except possibly tying their shoes, and can use scissors and pencils pretty well. During the early elementary school years, most children will perfect and hone their fine motor skills for complex tasks they may perform as an adult. During this age, children should continue to play with a variety of sized and shaped wooden blocks. Other wooden toys that encourage fine motor development and are appropriate for school age children are typically wooden games and puzzles. Games like checkers and board games with dice enhance fine motor skills. Ring toss and wooden maze games are excellent for sharpening hand and eye coordination. Parents should always consider their child’s individual interests when selecting the best wooden toys for building fine motor skills. Children only learn from toys they enjoy playing with.