It’s well known that handwriting deficiencies and fine motor skills development in children are one of the most common reasons children are referred to receive Occupational Therapy.

So, with the holiday season nearly upon us, why not let your children have some fun and improve their fine motor skills at the same time? How? By teaching them how to wrap presents!

Make the time to allow your child to assist you in wrapping holiday gifts. Just 15 minutes of fine motor skills development each day for two or three days in fun and creative ways is all it takes to give your child an important boost for his/her handwriting. That’s all!

What exactly are fine motor skills?

Fine motor skills are those skills that require refined use of the small muscles that control the wrist, hand, fingers, and thumb. Properly developed fine motor skills are necessary to carry out such tasks as:

  • writing
  • drawing
  • holding small items
  • buttoning clothing
  • turning pages
  • eating
  • cutting with scissors
  • using computer keyboards

Mastering fine motor skills demand coordination and precision. Fine motor skills development is essential for handwriting. This is because the hand must have enough control of the pencil to form letters. Also, the correct pressure of the pencil on the paper is necessary.

How gift wrapping helps to develop fine motor skills

Research shows that there are a variety of physical activities known as sensory-motor skills and movements that are critical in developing the skills required for proficient handwriting. These sensory-motor skills are those that most children progress through naturally in everyday movements. However, without reaching each of these milestones, fine motor skills (such as handwriting) will remain undeveloped.

An important and effective way for parents and occupational therapists to help children to develop fine motor skills is by finding fun activities that incorporate these types of movements, such as wrapping presents.

Scissor-work

Begin by marking where you want the piece of gift wrap cut, and then let your children use their scissors to cut. Using scissors both requires and enhances many important developmental skills. Cutting builds the tiny muscles in children’s hands as it requires them to reopen and close their fingers.

Cutting also demands eye-hand coordination, meaning that children must be able to move their hands while simultaneously looking at something else. Among the multiple skills that cutting with scissors requires is hand separation. This is the capacity to use the thumb, index, and middle fingers independently from the ring and pinky fingers.

Tearing the tape

You will find that tearing tape will be tricky for little fingers! And that is why it can be so helpful in developing fine motor skills. Let your child tear off 4 or 5 pieces at a time (and stick these to a surface edge nearby for safe-keeping). This will give your child some repeated practice. Also, when it comes time to use the tape, your child can leave one hand on the gift box while the other snatches a piece of pre-cut tape in one motion.

If you happen to be using a tape dispenser, show your child how to lift the tape off the cutter, pull it straight out, and then pull it down and slightly to the side to cut it. If instead, you’re using a roll of tape without a dispenser, you will probably need to lift the edge off the roll to get your child started.

Tissue Paper Tricks

For first-time gift wrappers, tissue paper can be easier to use than wrapping paper. When you use several layers you’ll get more coverage and less tearing. When it comes to gifts with unusual shapes, tissue paper will be much easier to negotiate. And with tissue paper, you can wrap small gifts like candy by rolling them up and twisting the ends so that it will be just like a candy wrapper.

Decorate Plain Gift Bags with Stamps & Stickers

Another great way to fine-tune hand movements is to have your child press a stamp into ink and roll it gently side to side to make the full image. And peeling off stickers demands significant tactile precision as well. If your child isn’t quite up to being able to manage regular stickers, then try thicker, foam stickers instead.

Tying Ribbons

Many children have difficulty in learning how to tie their shoelaces. And on a busy morning when you are running late, it isn’t the optimal time for your children to practice this skill. So, having the opportunity to practice a few times with larger, easier manipulated ribbons during gift-wrapping sessions is a wonderful alternative method to develop this critical life skill.

A way to make this even easier is for the parent to tie a few knots in a piece of ribbon before beginning, and then asking your child to first untie the knots. This is because it is conceptually easier for your child to untie knots than to tie them, meanwhile your child is developing fine motor skills and strengthening those little finger muscles.