Boys lag behind girls in their development of the fine motor skills needed to hold a pencil and use scissors. We choose the best toys to help them along.
Steve Biddulph, the Australian psychologist and best-selling author of Raising Boys, has long advocated that boys should start school a year later than girls. In a paper entitled We Can Do Better By Boys, he wrote:
‘Many boys in kindergarten and grade one just don’t have the ability in their fingers and brains to handle fine motor tasks such as pencil-and-paper work or cutting out; they are also not ready to sit still for long periods. The reason is that their nerves and brains are still growing into these abilities.’
‘By about the age of six-and-a-half or seven, these abilities develop and they’re school-ready. Yet as we have forced formal learning earlier into the school curriculum, more boys are failing – and learning to hate school.’
Will not being able to colour between the lines or cut accurately with scissors set our sons up for failure? Well if you are consistently compared with your peers and come off inadequate, it’s demotivating, even if the reason for it is rooted in biology:
‘Boys generally learn to control their arms and legs before their fingers. In girls, this is somewhat reversed. So, girls of four can often draw tiny figures and pictures, yet may reach seven or eight before really being able to run, jump, and catch a ball.’
‘Boys can often run and jump beautifully long before they can hold a pencil or scissors. Only by age seven or eight do their nervous systems develop enough to sit still and hold their body erect while writing at a desk.’ Argues Steve.
The debate as to whether boys (or in fact all children) should start school later, as in Germany, Switzerland and Sweden, rages on. But for now, our English sons start school at four or five. So what can we do to help them prepare for the classroom?
Toys which encourage small, precise movements of finger and thumb – threading beads on a string, picking up small objects with tweezers or opening a variety of locks – all help to hone fine motor skills.
Six of the best toys for fine motor development: