Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

July 12, 2014

Warm-up! says the Occupational Therapist

Melissa Petcu, Occupational Therapist, suggests a warm up before big activities. 

Have you ever been to an exercise class or popped an exercise DVD in at home and heard the instructor talk about how important it is to warm- up before your work out? You probably heard something along the lines of heart rate, blood pressure, reducing injury to muscles….

Well, as a pediatric occupational therapist, I have found that doing a little warm-up prior to fine motor activities is just as beneficial (admittedly not as crucial) as warming up before exercise. I have a game that I play with children that works on stereognosis- holding an object in your hand and using your fingers to figure out what is in your hand without looking. It helps your brain and your fingers talk to one another without getting your eyes involved. So, when that top button on your shirt needs to be completed and you can‚Äôt quite see, it is important for your fingers to be able to know if they are pushing or pulling; touching something cloth, or smooth. You could try this game at home with simple house hold items such as a chip clip, paper clip, spoon, apple, ice cube, cotton ball, marker- anything that could easily fit into your child‚Äôs hand. Let the child see 3 or 4 of the items and have them close their eyes.  With eyes closed, place one of the objects into his or her hand and have her feel the edges and report how the object feels when determining what he or she is holding.

Another great warm-up prior to fine motor activities could be playing with play dough or putty. It helps to “wake up” those fingers and get them ready for small precise movements. The proprioceptive input that is provided during this play helps to tell your brain where the fingers are and how they are moving. Scooping sand, dried beans, or water can provide this same input.

Weight bearing on your hands during activities such as animal walks helps to prepare and “wake up” the core, arm, and hand muscles for upcoming fine motor work. Finger play such as the “Itsy bitsy spider” is another great option to warm-up those fingers before practicing fine motor activities.

What warm-up activities have you found to best help your child succeed with fine motor tasks?