One of the unfortunate side effects of the tremendous technological advancements of the past twenty-odd years is the diminishing of physical playtime for children. Kids are no longer enticed by the prospect of playing sports, riding bikes or just going on adventures, since they have electronic outlets that do all of those things for them with the simple guidance of a game pad controller. These archaic activities teach children coordination, encourage the sharpening of reflexes, build muscle and play a key role in obesity prevention. Now it is believed that this important part of childhood has a crucial role in how kids develop scholastically. A recent study reported in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences stated that children with poor motor function are more likely to experience academic difficulties in their teenage years.
A group of scientists in Finland studied the physical activity, motor function and academic achievement of 8,000 children at ages 8 and 16. The study found that obese, physically inactive 8-year-olds whose parents reported substandard motor function tended to have poorer grades and demonstrate academic indifference in their adolescent years.
Poor motor skills can often be brushed aside as clumsiness. Kids who tend to stumble, drop things, have slow reflexes, who experience difficulty tying shoelaces or using cutlery or who have trouble throwing or catching balls have poor motor skills. The good news is that this is something that is completely correctable. Here are a few techniques that can improve a child’s motor function:
- Engage in outdoor sports – For young children, a simple game of catch can help to improve reflexes and even build core strength. Teaching a child to throw a ball back and forth with force, control and accuracy will increase both fine motor skills (the precision with which a person can employ hands and fingers to complete a task effectively) and gross motor skills (head to toe muscle function
- Take Dance Lessons – Dancers have rhythm, are able to isolate muscle groups and are in top physical condition. Dance training helps enormously with coordination and muscle isolation. Moreover, it’s fun!
- Learn to Knit – Arts and crafts like knitting can assist with fine motor skills. The delicacy with which one must work the needles helps to improve cognition, concentration, hand/eye coordination and visual acuity
- Learn to juggle – It sounds odd, but learning to juggle is a fun way to master hand/eye coordination and sharpen reflexes. Juggling requires breath control and rhythm and balance. It’s a great party skill, and is quite effective at relieving stress. Juggling can even make you ambidextrous!
Things found at home ( lock and key, sorting coins, tying shoelaces, zip/ unzip manipulate buttons and snaps, using a scissors ( adult supervision) and open/ close objects are great for enhancing your child’s motor skills.