Gross and Fine Motor Skills for Special Education
Special needs students often lack gross and fine motor skills. Here are a list of game ideas you can use with severe and profound students to encourage physical activities in your classroom. These games can be used for preschool students through adults and easily can be transferred into the home.
Gross motor skills refer to the use of the legs and arms. Good games to encourage walking and running include tag, hide-and-go seek, and I Spy. Balance games include freezing games, statues, or musical games where students have to stand on one leg or move one arm in a specific direction. Walking on uneven surfaces such as water, sand, or snow teaches students to move carefully on various surfaces. Scooters, happy hops, bikes, yoga, stilts, and the game of Twister@ also teach good balance skills. Stop-and-go games are also good to utilize with quick, short, controlled movements. Races are also great to involve both the arms and legs movements. Listening games such as What is the Time, Mr. Wolf, Simon Says, and Mother May I involve other skills that use all five senses. Throwing a ball involves both gross and fine motor movements. Emphasis should be on good control of the ball, not perfect performance in games and activities.
Fine motor skills involve the small movements of the body. Do not wait to begin focusing on them until after the child has mastered the gross motor movements; instead, work on them alongside of the gross motor skills. Princer grips—moving the thumb and hand together—are very important. Movement of the thumb and forefinger together should be practiced. Toys and healthy finger food can be used to practice fine motor movement. Skills that utilize one part of the body are called unilateral movements. Holding a cup with one hand and using a pen with another is a good way to teach unilateral movement. Wrist rotation and extension are important to teach kids to turn knobs and handles. Extension and flexion of the finger and wrists are great way to encourage unilateral movements. Muscles working together that utilize both the right and left sides are bilateral movements—such as scrunching up your toes or bending your wrists at the same time. Hand strength can be taught to snap items together such a blocks, cubes, and other plastic equipment.
Functional skills can be taught in combination with gross motor skills such as running and movement. Feeding, dressing, toileting, and important life lessons that will transfer to a more independent life are great subjects. Using scissors, pens, and sewing can be taught first with hand-over-hand eye coordination and then moved to partial and fully independent practice. Hand-over-hand is also helpful to teach pre-writing skills.
Finger plays are a great way to integrate listening and vocal direction of fine motor skills. Finger plays can be taught with songs or made-up rhymes. I often use traditional holiday/children’s tunes along with the finger plays to teach basic life skills.
This is only a general group of ways you can integrate gross/fine motor ovement in your classroom. With plenty of opportunities for repetition and patience, you will see growth in your children’s lives.
Fit 4 Fun Adaptive Fitness
Smith, Jodene Lynn. Activities for Gross Motor Development. Winchester, CA: Teacher Created Resources, 2005.
Smith, Jodene Lynn. Activities for Fine Motor Development. Winchester, CA: Teacher Created Resources, 2005.