Using food crafts to help develop precision in fine motor skills
The skills needed to coordinate small muscles of the body, such as the muscles of the fingers, eyes, and ears take the longest time to mature. Synchronization of these smallest muscles requires sustained attention, along with the ability to remember little details about the actions of these muscles. The ability to pull together miniscule details such as the degree to which each muscle stretches, the force and distance stretched, as well as attention to other small muscles working together to accomplish a specific action, is required.
A food craft, such as making the initial of your first name from blueberries, requires integration of feedback from several systems. When you consider the factors listed above together with the need to add sensory feedback from the skin of each fingertip, letting the owner know about the surface of the blueberry or cracker being touched, one begins to realize the integrity of neural networks required to process all of this information.
Using food crafts makes dealing with the myriad unseen details of coordination such as muscle force, distance of movement, and timing of the movement, real and engaging so that children with SPD will sustain interest needed to attend to and learn from these processes. For example, too much force and the berry will be squeezed beyond recognition.
Therefore, although the multiple processes are complex, you’ll want to keep it simple for the child. Using the pit marks on graham crackers, Ritz crackers, saltines, or matzos can help with spatial organization of the activity of making the initial for the name. Using small fruit such as raisins, blueberries or cranberries enhance the tactile (or touch) sensations needed to activate the neural circuits that integrate vision with finger movement.
Most of all, make it fun and appealing in order to optimize the learning experience of sustained attention to the fine motor task. Who knew that playing with your food could be such a wonderful opportunity for learning!