Fine motor skills is the ability for children (adults too) to use their hands and fingers in synchronization with their eyes; the use of small muscles and their coordination. Examples of fine motor skills are using the pincher grasp to hold a pencil and make a line, using scissors to make a cut in paper, using tweezers to pick up a pom pom, pouring water from a pitcher into a cup without (or with minimal) spillage, stacking one block on top of another. The list goes on and on, there is practice and exposure to fine motor activities in a lot of what we do at tumbleweed.
Over the course of a year I have witnessed a lot of fine motor development within Cohort 10 and even in the 6 months I have had with Cohort 12. Toddlers never cease to amaze me, maybe that is why toddlers have always been my favorite age group. When introduced to a new material, children go through a process of investigating said material, observing what peers are doing with the material, and testing theories. For this blog I am going to be using scissors as my example material; it is still a new material for some, but everyone has had a chance to investigate. During this process I witnessed children sitting quietly in a chair as they watched what other children were doing with the scissors. When they did pick up the scissors they were using both hands to open and close the handle, looking closely at the work they were doing with their hands and noticing that opening and closing the handles was also opening and closing of the blades. The opening and closing of the scissors is where a lot of children are at with this material, they have watched other children cut the paper available but have not shown interest in doing it themselves; they are still investigating their materials.
Practicing is a next step, whether it be a continuation of their investigation or a step all on its own. The children are finding a way that works for them to use the material and there is no wrong way. Regardless of whether the scissors cut paper they are still working their fine motor skills by coordinating their fingers to grasp the handles and their hands to open and close them. They use their practice time to fine tune their skills and continue to test their theories of what works and how they can do work with these scissors.Mastery is a step some of the older kiddos are at. When they see scissors available they recall all of their experience with the material and remember the process (investigation, practice and execution). They have spent an adequate amount of time investigating and testing the material, and now they have learned how to hold the scissors with one hand and the paper with the other while they make a small cut. Often what I notice at this point is that they are not cutting all the way across the page, but making a slit to then ripe the paper or even cutting close to the corner or edge so a small piece comes off. It is their greatest accomplishment.