Motor skills play an essential part in child development. These skills consist of gross and fine motor skills, both of which begin developing early in life. Gross motor skills involve using several body muscles to do things like sitting, crawling, walking, running, and jumping. Fine motor skills require smaller muscle movements of the hands to do “finer” activities like writing, zipping zippers, and picking up small objects. For children with any developmental delay, these controlled movements tend to be very challenging. What are some ways to help encourage children to exercise these skills?
Here are a few ways to help:
- Work with children to practice the specific movements that challenge them.
- Encourage children to try increasingly difficult new movements.
- Divide difficult motor skills into smaller steps so they’re easier to learn.
The following apps offer some fun and creative ways to encourage motor skill development for early learners.
10 Apps to Practice Motor Skills
1. Awesome Xylophone
This app is as simple as it gets and is appropriate for the earliest of learners. On Awesome Xylophone, children can tap common tunes like “Happy Birthday” or even make up new songs! Playing on this xylophone is a fun way for children with motor challenges to learn fine motor skills like tapping a target or using their non-dominant hand.
2. Bugs and Buttons 2
This is a fun game with easy-to-follow visual instructions and engaging graphics. This app that may be especially beneficial for children with dyspraxia and other fine motor issues. There are six games at three levels, each covering early math, pre-reading, and critical thinking skills. While playing these games, children work on their pincer grasp, hand-eye coordination, touch-and-drag motion, and more.
3. Dexteria Jr.
Dexteria Jr. is a great app for the youngest of children–or individuals with special needs–to begin practicing their fine motor skills on a touchscreen. Children with dysgraphia may especially benefit from the hand and finger exercises to help develop handwriting skills. There are three simple games in this app, all which require only three movements: tap, tap and drag, and pinch. The app also offers progress reports so that parents, therapists and educators can track each child’s scores.
4. iTrace—Handwriting for Kids
This app is a handwriting skills practice app for early learners and includes numbers, letters, words, and even a special mode to practice the user’s name. The neat feature about this app is that it demonstrates the correct way to hold a pencil and exactly where to trace on the model number or letter. iTrace may be especially useful for children who have trouble with letter spacing and fine motor problems. Each letter includes a default version and an alternate version for different styles and preferences, including options for left-handed individuals. The app also offers detailed progress reports for parents, which include images of each tracing and assessments, such as “too shaky,” “out of bounds,” and “overextended.”
5. iWriteWords (Handwriting Game)
iWriteWords offers practice for children learning to write letters, numbers up to 20, and basic words. In this app, children drag Mr. Crab to trace the letters and numbers provided, following the numbered dots. Because it uses this follow-the-numbered-dots approach to teach handwriting, it is recommended children already know how to count and read numbers up to 10. After tracing each item, children can flick or tilt the letters into a corner of the screen where they fall into a vortex, which adds some excitement to this game. If children trace outside the tracing area, Mr. Crab will make them start over again to ensure they trace correctly.
6. Writing Wizard – Kids Learn to Write Letters & Words
Writing Wizard is a highly customizable and engaging app that helps children practice tracing letters, numbers, and words while learning letter names and phonetic sounds. Audio and visual prompts show children exactly where to trace from the start of the letter to the finish. Parents can use multiple settings to adjust letter size, show or hide letter model, and create their own words. Not only is this an ideal tool for children who struggle with handwriting and visual spatial relations, it may also benefit those who need to hear the phonetic spelling of a word. This app offers detailed progress reports for parents.
“LetterSchool makes handwriting cool!” It is a visually stimulating handwriting app with animated features. After a child writes each letter, the letter becomes animated by lighting up or turning into a rocket flying through outer space. Children will enjoy watching the animation for each letter, which may help them remember the correct formation. Children can write letters in any order they choose. The app guides them to first tap on the starting points for each stroke, then trace the letter, and finally write it without any hints. If children struggle in the last part however, hints will appear to help them.
8. Jake’s Never Land Pirate School
In Jake’s Never Land Pirate School, early learners become engaged with its many activities. Children trace pixie dust to form shapes, tap pirate drum beats, use a spyglass to discover treasure, navigate a ship around buoys, practice colors and more! After winning one of these activities, children go searching in virtual sand for gold doubloons and practice counting through the reward.
9. Touch and Write Phonics
Touch and Write Phonics is an interactive phonics and letter-tracing app for beginners. It features 18 fun “writing textures” (i.e. pudding, pumpkin pie, chalk, and more), and 35 writing-paper styles for backgrounds. Players can listen to a brief, animated lesson for each phonics concept: “Vowels,” “Blends,” and “Digraphs,” then trace letters as they first hear a voice speak the phonetic sound and letter name. Children are guided by a little monster who follows cupcakes along the tracing path. Options exist for children who need more traditional pencil-and-paper choices to minimize distraction, and there is also darker paper for children who are visually impaired.
10. Tozzle—Toddler’s favorite puzzle
Tozzle is based on the standard wooden jigsaw puzzles often found at home or school. In this app, there are 40 jigsaw puzzle designs including animals, shapes, food, letters and more–in a non-standard typeface. The puzzles begin with big, basic shapes and increase in difficulty to smaller, more complicated designs. If a player has trouble completing a puzzle, the game will prompt the child with an arrow pointing the way and a circle around the correct location. By matching these colors and shapes, for example, children work on hand-eye coordination.