Tuesday, October 19, 2010
One of Matthew's least favorite activities is stringing or lacing beads. Thankfully, he cooperates when I get them out of his toy box, probably just to humor me and get it over with.
Why string beads? It's one of the many activities we do to encourage him to use his hands in a more refined and manipulative manner. It's a fine motor skill that will help him develop the hand strength and motor coordination to do other functional tasks such as dressing and undressing and writing.
We have the Melissa & Doug Primary Lacing Beads, which includes 30 wooden beads and 2 laces. It is marketed for kids ages 3+ to "help teach sequencing, sorting, color and shape recognition and encourage fine motor skills" and comes with a short list of suggested activities. So far, we've used it for improving Matthew's hand/finger grasp and manipulative skills (fine motor), color recognition and sorting.
This toy requires basic fine motor skills, lots of patience and concentration. We started with stringing/ lacing just 1 bead hand over hand and ended the activity on a successful note. As Matthew's confidence level and patience for this toy increased, we added another bead. It was highly critical that he had success with stringing each bead otherwise frustration set in and he'd be "ah dan" (all done).
Substituting Lace with Tubing
We started this lacing/ stringing beads activity with Matthew when he was 24 months old. His fine motor skills weren't refined enough to hold on to the bead and steadily guide the lace through it.
Wanting to give him success with this activity and prevent him from giving up on it altogether, his developmental therapist (special instruction therapist) substituted the lace with 1/4-inch diameter aquarium air tube, which was easier to hold. It was also more rigid than lace and that made it easier for Matthew to string the beads. We also used other objects without the hole depth that the wooden beads had.
We started with one, hand over hand, and ended on a successful note each time. Breaking down the activity into smaller, more manageable steps helped tremendously:
1. hold bead with one hand
2. put string through hole using the other hand
3. transfer bead from one hand to the other hand to hold
4. pull string on the other side with hand originally holding the bead (in step 1)
Here's a video of him stringing beads. The first 3 minutes were filmed in January 2010. He was using the plastic tubing. The latter 3 minutes were filmed today. He laced 5 beads without any help and with great ease and success.
Make Your Own
Using shoelace and similar wooden beads from a craft store would be a simple homemade alternative. I haven't tried it though.
Other Similar Toys
Searching for "lacing beads" on amazon.com will generate a long list of lacing bead toys. I think, generally, the thinner the string, the less rigid it is and therefore, the level of difficulty is higher. The thicker the string, the more rigid it is and easier to hold on to so therefore, the level of difficulty is lower. Also, if the objects to lace are thinner, the activity is generally easier.