Generally, when we think of fine motor we think of picking up tiny objects between fingers, but fine motor movements can also include grasping an object with our hands and using the small muscles in the forearm. I love this activity because it not only offers a variation in fine muscle movement it also brings in large muscle movement and hand-eye coordination components. It’s so great when we can include activities that get the whole body moving! (You can find additional instructions in the Summer Week 3 plan!)
Let’s take a quick second and talk about how to make 1 activity work across the huge developmental span of ages 1 through 4! How we do this, or any activity, with a 1 year old is going to vary greatly from how we do it with a 3 or 4 year old. The key is knowing your child and being creative about how you modify the activity. With a younger toddler I recommend using a big spoon, or even a small plastic bowl to hold onto. Demonstrate how to hold the ball on the end of the spoon, and see if they would like to try. If your young toddler isn’t mobile, don’t worry about it. Just adapt the activity so that they are interested in it, and it fits their abilities. To keep it interesting with a stationary toddler you could show add a component of dropping the ball into a different bowl on the floor.
For an older toddler, do the same modifying, just make it harder or easier based on their developmental abilities. For my 3-year-old son, I used a larger plastic serving spoon for him to balance the ball. My 5-year-old daughter didn’t want to miss out! So she attempted this activity only with a much smaller spoon. (I also encouraged her to walk faster). Eventually it turned into a race with an imaginary competitor! They would cross the finish line with the ball on their spoons and yell “I won!”
One amazing thing about kids is that they have no limit to their minds yet. As adults we tend to be boxed in by how to do things… read a book from front to back, color a picture a certain way with realistic colors, use the toys the way they were meant to be used. “By the book” thinking has it’s place, especially with older children and in adulthood. With toddlers and preschoolers, it’s all about the experience, so it is important to think outside the box when we play with toys, and it also means when activities are about them, let them take the lead. Toddlers and preschoolers learn from a more trial and error creative type of play.
Did this activity go exactly how I pictured? Definitely not! But by adapting the activity to fit their needs and interests all they knew was that they were playing with something new. They didn’t even realize they were still getting the fine motor, large motor, and hand-eye coordination practice!