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  • Writer's pictureKate de Bass

The importanct of Creative Play for Fine Motor Skill development

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

Creative play encompasses an array of activities - art and crafts, playthings that require making and manipulation, dressing-up and role play. Any activity that involves a level of creative and imaginative input is creative play. It is an essential element of a child’s development, and key to their ability to master fine motor activities.

I was interested to read this article on the BBC website yesterday: “Can kids hold pens in the digital age?”. In it the head paediatric occupational therapist at the Heart of England foundation, Sally Payne expressed her concerns to the Guardian Newspaper:

"Children coming into school are being given a pencil but, increasingly, they are not able to hold it because they don't have the fundamental movement skills. To be able to grip a pencil and move it, you need strong control of the fine muscles in your fingers. Children need lots of opportunity to develop those skills”

I have met and spoken to numerous teachers and teaching assistants about this very subject over the past few years, many who have come to chat to me at the various events I’ve been too with Pipity. Their feedback has echoed that of Sally Paynes: children’s fine motor skill development is markedly less year on year, impacting on their hand eye co-ordination and ability to learn skills such as handwriting.

Children’s play habits have changed dramatically with the convenience and availability of tablets and smart phones. They’re an easier option, don’t involve mess and conveniently work around busy family life. As Sally Payne noted “It's easier to give a child an iPad than encouraging them to do muscle-building play such as building blocks, cutting and sticking, or pulling toys and ropes". They are also incredibly engaging and addictive, the variety and sophistication of online activities has a great appeal to children, and is so often now their first choice of play thing.

Whilst many online activities have educational benefits, it is important that it’s not to the detriment of creative play that develops fine motor skills. A tidal wave of technology has infiltrated family life in recent years, and it’s obvious that it will continue to play an increasing role in our day to day life. In 2014 a study suggested that one in three adults went six months without writing anything by hand. However, writing is still a key skill required during our children’s educational life, and as outlined by Dr Mellissa Prunty, a lecturer in occupational therapy and the vice chair of the National Handwriting Association, "If handwriting is laboured that can have a knock-on effect to all areas of writing from spelling, punctuation to generating ideas".

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