Finger isolation is the ability to move one finger at a time. Separating the movements of one finger from the movement of the other fingers is a tricky, but important fine motor skill for kids.
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Think about everything your child does throughout the day that requires finger isolation: pointing, typing on the computer or another device, tying shoes, counting on his fingers, completing clothing fasteners, picking up small objects, and much more!
A baby as young as 6 months may begin to isolate her index finger and thumb to pick up small objects like Cheerios. And by her first birthday, she’ll be able to point to objects in her environment to draw your attention.
As babies grow into toddlerhood and the preschool years, they begin to get better and better at isolating the movements of their thumb, index and middle finger – what we call their Super Fingers! This is so important for the development of pencil grasp and for being able to complete tasks that require precise fine motor coordination like handwriting, using manipulatives for math, stringing beads, and completing craft projects.
There are lots of fun ways to promote the development of finger isolation in kids! Here are a few of my favorites:
-Instruments and other toys with buttons: Little Hands Button Art, a piano toy, or a cash register toy.
-Finger plays where you use your fingers as props: Where is Thumbkin, 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, 5 Green and Speckled Frogs, 5 Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree, etc.)
-Putting small objects into a container with a small slit (e.g. pushing marbles through a small slit/hole cut in the top of a clean yogurt container)
-Tucking a small object (bead or marble) into the ring finger and pinky finger while the Super Fingers hold a pencil or work with manipulatives
-Putting small objects into or taking small objects out of the holes of an egg carton or an ice tray
–Playing with play dough – pinching, poking holes with one finger, etc.
-Playing with finger puppets
-Teaching simple sign language
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At The Inspired Treehouse, we believe that information about developmental skills and child development should be accessible to everyone, not just medical professionals. You won’t find a lot of complicated lingo here – we prefer breaking things down into terms that are a little less intimidating. That’s why we’re bringing you this awesome series: The ABCs of Child Development!
Over the next few months, we’ll be making our way through the alphabet, assigning the letters to different developmental skills. From gross motor to fine motor to sensory and more…when it comes to developmental terminology (and easy-to-understand definitions), you’ll find everything you’re looking for all in one place!
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Deb Maxwell says
I teach 1st grade, and I think I’ve noticed a correlation between a deficit with this skill and difficulty with basic math. I have wondered if there is any research on this. I have also wondered if including interventions for finger isolation combined with math interventions would lead to quicker improvement in math. Do you know of any work in this area?
Such a great comment. I have also noticed this correlation, especially in my kindergarteners at school. I don’t know of any specific research on the topic, but anecdotally, I can think of at least a handful of students I saw over the past year that struggled with both finger isolation and basic math. For kids who really struggle with finger isolation, I also try to help them replace “finger math” with manipulatives for counting, which may be easier for them to manage. Although many kids who struggle with finger isolation may also struggle with manipulation skills. It would be so interesting to combine interventions for finger isolation, in-hand manipulation skills, and basic math skills and track your students’ improvement! If you do – please let us know! I’d love to hear the results!
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