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Read more about Life & Thinking Skills
Games that Build Fine Motor Skills
Gameplay is a great way to build and improve fine motor skills – the movements that involve the careful control of small muscles in the hands, feet, fingers, and toes. Fine motor skills are essential in performing everyday tasks and duties such as dressing, using utensils, writing, using technology, and much more. Playing games to build fine motor skills can often be the best method to teach children new things. So, schedule a family game night and try one of these fine motor skills games that focus on developing these essential life skills:
- Dreaming Dragon: Shhhh! Don’t wake the Dreaming Dragon as you attempt to rescue the colorful lizards stacked on the dragon’s nest! Focus, planning, patience, and a good pincer grip are important skills practiced to save the lizards without dropping the golden eggs or waking the Dreaming Dragon! The challenge of using a pincer tool to carefully remove the lizards from atop the Dreaming Dragon is fun that kids will want to experience over and over again. It’s also a perfect game for developing spatial reasoning and self-control. Play Dreaming Dragon with 2-4 players ages 6 and up in as little as 30 minutes!
- Ice Tumble: A steady hand is needed to create unique three-dimensional sculptures in Ice Tumble, a fun, tactile, spatial reasoning, and fine motor skills game for ages 7 and up. Players must stack their blocks carefully to make an ice sculpture without letting any fall off. The blocks are slippery, so be careful or the sculpture may come tumbling down!
- Hazel’s Helpers: Hazel’s Helpers is a fun game for ages 4 and up to develop fine motor skills and decision-making skills. It’s also great for construction craft and planning as young learners explore creative ways to construct their own beaver lodges using the logs.
- Kilter: An irresistible game and hilarious family fun! Kilter also happens to be an introduction to levers and predicting outcomes and is another great fine motor skills game. Players use their judgment (and patience) to make the most of each turn. But shhh, don’t let them know they’re learning! Play Kilter with 2-4 of your pals to balance out the fun!
- Share a Berry: Turn your cards over and add berries to your string, then follow Beary’s directions to either share or receive a berry from another player. Collect the most berries to win. A fun way for young players to develop fine motor skills and learn to take turns. Perfect for 2-4 players ages 3 and up.
Spatial Intelligence and Spatial Reasoning
Spatial intelligence is the basis for spatial reasoning, the ability to both see objects in our mind and then transform them in some way. Having solid spatial intelligence is a key success factor in many of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines. And frankly having some spatial intelligence just makes getting a big, tangled knot untied a lot easier.
The ability to evaluate the result of the transformation of an object within our minds is something that is uniquely human. Take the M-PMV enzyme as an example. In 2011 after just THREE weeks, gamers were able to decode this enzyme even though scientists had been trying with computers to decode it for over a decade. Computers can get there in the end, but they must review every potential solution weighing them all equally. Humans use judgment in combination with spatial intelligence to eliminate unlikely possibilities moving towards a solution at a much faster pace.
Building the foundation of spatial reasoning skills can begin at a very young age. A study by the University of Chicago showed that children who play spatial reasoning games, like puzzles, between the ages of 2 and 4 later develop better spatial skills. And we know through a study in the State of California that scoring well on just math and verbal does not necessarily identify those children that will be our ‘problem-solvers’ of tomorrow. We need to help our kids develop many skills including spatial reasoning to give them the best chance of success in today’s world.
Ready to test your skills? We suggest playing a game of Diggers Garden Match. It’s not just a cute spatial reasoning game, it allows you to learn so much about a child’s spatial intelligence in just one round! Watch how a child handles the tiles. At first, they will hold the tile and turn it in their hands to try and match it up with potential solutions on the board. But then something amazing happens. They stop turning the tiles and simply look at them. The turning of the tile is no longer happening in their hands, it is happening in their mind. They are beginning the development of spatial intelligence! Another young mind that may someday solve a previously unsolvable spatial problem that will once again transform our worlds for the betterment of us all.
Strengthening Executive Functioning Skills
Ensuring kids have plenty of practice building their executive functioning skills is one of the most important gifts you can give them. Executive functioning includes life-long skills like working memory, planning, decision-making, and regulating emotions. Here are a few steps you can take to support this development:
- Working Memory: Give kids plenty of opportunities to strengthen their working memory by challenging them with memory games! Assign multiple tasks – like putting away their shoes, hanging up their jackets, and washing their hands – and see if they can accomplish them in that order. Take notice if they can only complete some or just one of the tasks, which indicates more practice is needed. Another great way to use working memory is to ask them to do a math problem in their head. When you ask them to add 5 plus 10 and subtract 6, can they hold and visualize those numbers? If not, start with simpler problems and work your way up to more difficult ones. Practice is the key to building working memory.
- Planning: Why not do some mental pushups by flexing those planning, organizing, and goal-setting muscles? It’s so important for kids to practice these skills early and often to help with their independence. Kids thrive on structure and grow from opportunities to have a say in their day’s plans. Try to get them involved in creating a daily agenda, write it down, use a timer or a clock to help them visualize the time, and give them options like whether they want to eat a snack before reading time or after. These are simple ways for them to build confidence and autonomy, which leads to more self-sufficient kids.
- Decision Making: Evaluating choices, assessing risk, and understanding potential outcomes are all part of learning to make solid decisions. It is important for kids to begin practicing their decision-making skills early, first with either/or types of decisions (do I want an apple or a piece of candy?) and then on to more complex things (should I do what my friend is doing even if I know it’s wrong?) Work with them to assess the pros and cons (I get the candy now, but that means no dessert tonight), and remember to verbalize your own decision-making process so that you can help them learn from you.
- Emotional Control: Even when confidence wavers, having control of emotions is a powerful and necessary skill. We all have times when we feel overwhelmed, angry, frustrated, and discouraged. However, practicing resilience, thinking about things in different ways, and acknowledging yucky-feeling emotions are all ways kids can feel more empowered to self-soothe and continue trying after a setback. Gameplay is an awesome way to help kids experience success and defeat and learn to handle the emotions surrounding each of those events in the safe environment of play. Demonstrate what that looks like by playing with your kids and showing what good sportsmanship is all about.
Just like muscles that need exercise, executive functioning skills need practice, so they are ready to be used when the time comes. These are the skills we use our whole lives, so get your kids practicing and using them early to help set them up for independence, resilience, and ultimately success along the road of life!