Many parents of young children might intuitively understand that letting their youngsters play with a tablet or smartphone can help improve their fine motor skills. Erin Abell, director of therapy at Associates in Pediatric Therapy in Louisville, Ky., says she immediately saw the potential benefits of mobile devices and technology for her physical therapy patients when the iPad was launched in 2010. She purchased her first iPad shortly thereafter, and has been using these devices in her therapy sessions ever since.
“I am always looking for ways to motivate kids to do things that are difficult or in which they’re not highly interested,” Abell said. “For example, patients working on ambulatory skills are willing to crawl or move toward an iPad so they can play with it.”
Beyond encouraging children to walk or crawl with the promise of playtime, mobile devices can help improve motor skills through app usage. Occupational therapist Kara Vonderheide of the Kids Center for Pediatric Therapies recommends several apps, many of which she uses in therapy and others that she suggests to parents. One of her favorites is Dexteria Jr., which helps kids work on using their thumb and forefinger together and adds both a speed component and colors as the child progresses to higher levels.
“The app starts by developing small motor skills as the child pinches his fingers over the little crabs moving across the sand, but as the crabs move more quickly and turn colors, so that the child should only pinch certain color crabs, [the game] moves into the realm of developing cognitive thinking skills,” Vonderheide said.
Vonderheide recommends several other apps for enhancing motor skills, including I AM LOVE: Kids’ Yoga Journey for large motor control, Letter School and Shelby’s Quest for visual motor control and Smart Oral Motor for oral motor control.
“We are always trying to direct parents toward a game or app where the kid will be using layers of thought and working on divided attention skills,” Vonderheide said, adding that she encourages her families to “look for apps that are less repetitive and more productive.”
Have you found any apps that are beneficial for your kids’ motor skills or overall child development? Let us know on Twitter at @VZWnews.