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art therapy - fine motorThe process of creating art is a fun way for kids with various isms to maintain and increase fine motor skills.  Many times skills are being increased without the artist even realizing it.  It isn’t “work”.  It’s fun!  Here are some benefits and tips for using art to support and increase these skills.

Increase Eye-Hand Coordination
Whether it is drawing, painting or working with clay, art offers an opportunity to increase eye and hand coordination.  Increased eye-hand coordination can lead to benefits in other areas.  A child may not be thrilled with writing if they have fine motor challenges.   They may be willing to work on different ways of holding a pencil if they are drawing a picture they are interested in.  Learning the different ways to  shade and draw lines can be a different way to increase skills for holding and moving a pencil.   The artist is learning to move their hand and pencil with intention toward a goal and practicing to get the effect they want on their project.  These skills can transfer over when it is time to work on writing skills.

Optimize Muscle Control and Strength
Moving hands, arms, and fingers promotes muscle control and strength.   Manipulating and experimenting with different materials gets the muscles moving.  It can also offer repetitive actions that strengthen muscles and teach control.  As an artist becomes proficient with each project they can continue to move to new projects that promote even more opportunities to build on increased abilities and accomplishments.

Have a Reluctant Artist?
For some kids who are challenged with fine motor skills the idea of any activity requiring them to use their hands is not going to be fun.  It can represent a place of failure and embarrassment.  This can be especially true for tweens and teens.  For these kids, have them work on the art task and then they can stop when they are tired.  Encourage the child to work for at least ten minutes.  Have them work on the project another time.  See if they can increase the time to 15 or 20 minutes.  Continue another time and expand the amount of time of participation.  Tell the artist there is no rule that says art has to be finished in one sitting.  If it takes 5 times to complete the project it is no big deal.

Sometimes kids stop at a certain level and it can be challenging to move them to the next level that can bring them enhanced benefit.   Have the artist work on their art project.  If they need it, let the artist rest their hands.  Then continues to work on the project .  Who says an artist can’t take a break during their art creation?   (Example:  The artist works for 10 minutes, takes a 5 minute break, then works for another 10 minutes.

Suggested Art Materials

Printing Projects:  Printing projects are a great option for kids who are challenged with motor skills.  Picking up an object, dipping it in paint and dropping or placing it where they want also creates hand and eye coordination.  Using the arm to lift, stretch and cover the whole paper is one example of using and building muscles.  To increase skills start by printing with one object.  Do another project and use two items to print with.  Try another project and print with three items.  This will increase tolerance and skills.

Clay:  Start by creating a simple pinch pot.  This is a great way to increase pincer grasp.  To go to the next level create a simple coil pot.  This involves rolling clay using the open palm.  Keep expanding skill levels of project to add more “layers”.

String:  String can be dropped.  Have the child hold the string one at a time in between the first finger and thumb .  Hold it up over the paper.  Have them let go on the string.  This develops the pincer grasp.  String will drop and form interesting designs.

As your child is using art materials, experiment and think about different ways they could hold things.  Think about “dropping” things on collages.  Use fingertips to press down glued items.  There is always an opportunity to practice and enhance fine motor skills when creating art.