What can often be a parent’s worst nightmare? How about a long wait in a waiting room or lobby with an active toddler…or two? Does the thought of sitting a small, stifling lobby or waiting with youngsters in tow make you cringe? If you’re like me, one giant question races through the mind: How am I going to occupy my children so they aren’t consumed with boredom, which results in them running around or squabbling with each other? In my previous article I reviewed a few gross motor exercises you can do to make waiting time go by. In this article, I’ll share with you some fine motor exercises that work for me.

1. Fingers. Finger songs are great waiting games. “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, “10 Little Indians”, “Where is Thumbkin?” are all fun songs for kids. If it’s a quiet room you’re waiting in, whisper singing brings a new twist to the songs. Don’t worry – Paula and Simon won’t be judging you. You’re a parent; you can get away with it. Don’t forget about “Twinkle Little Star”, which is a natural progression to practicing one’s “ABC’s”……weird how they’re the same tune, huh? If you’re really on a roll and there are others waiting with you, earn a gold star by getting everyone to do a rousing chorus of “The Wheels On the Bus”. Party on!!

2. Toes. Yep, wiggling fingers counts as fine motor, but so does the wiggling of toes. Harkening back to the ballet lessons of my childhood, I remember learning “flex” and “point”. Of course, all ballerinas are supposed to point their toes. But it takes muscle control to make little feet point down and flex up to the sky. Have your child sit down and extend their legs in front of them. Using imagery such as lighting a candle (flex their feet), blowing out the candle (point their toes), can sometimes teach the concept to very young children.

3. Carry a scarf with you. Not only can you accessorize at a moment’s notice (fabulous, dahling!), but also you’ll be amazed how you can occupy yourself and your child. Smooth it out and teach shapes…. it’s a square…. take one corner and fold it into a triangle…. can you make a rectangle? You can be silly, too. Be a ghost by putting it over your child’s head. Turn him/her into Little Red Riding Hood. Tell the story if they’ve never heard it. (Don’t forget to use funny voices to really hold their attention.) Use your imagination, and your child’s imagination. And encourage them to manipulate the scarf to really get those fine muscle groups working.

So the next time you and your child are waiting, don’t let boredomabc kids get the best of you. Don’t worry about your child getting out of control. Use the time to develop your child’s fine motor skills, and watch how the time quickly goes by. I am often asked a question that sounds like this, “Other than fine motor and gross motor exercises, is there anything else I can do to pass the time with my child while waiting anywhere?” Do you know the answer? Hint – I Spy, children’s digital picture books. See you in Give Your Toddler a Job – Cognitive Exercises, the third part in the series.