Dexteria, by Binary Labs, is a wonderful app to help all kids focus, improve, and perfect their fine motor skills. Dexteria is a set of therapeutic hand exercises (not games) that improves fine motor skills and handwriting readiness in children and adults. This app was developed by a group of occupational therapists and as teachers, we are really impressed with the thought that went into it and it's execution. There are three distinct activities to improve fine motor skills and handwriting readiness, each one is very different from the others. Dexteria’s hand and finger exercises take full advantage of the iPad’s multi-touch interface to help build strength, control, and dexterity. These exercises are designed to be used again and again. They are not only engaging, students think they're really FUN! We have been witnessing students having a blast, as they make progress.
The first activity is called Tap It, and there is an exact tap technique to follow. This tapping exercise encourages finger isolation practice and motor timing. You have to keep your thumb on the anchor and touch the other dots as they appear. It has several levels that gradually get more difficult. The dots start out large and get smaller as the activity progresses. The student needs to touch the dots as quickly as they can, as the activity is timed. This can be quite challenging for the children to follow, as it gets faster, especially when the levels progress and multiple dots appear and need to be tapped.
The second exercise is Pinch It, The kids that we worked with LOVED the pinching and had no idea what a great exercise this is for strengthening fine motor skills. According to the developers, the goal of Pinch It is to encourage fine motor manipulation and control. The crabs appear on the screen and you have to "pinch" them using the thumb and index finger to make them disappear. In the first level the crabs are not moving on the screen and as the levels progress the number of crabs increases and they move, then they move faster and there are more of them. This is when the going gets tough. Any activity that involves pinching or gripping against a resistive force will increase strength.
Lastly, Write it, is a wonderful letter tracer. First and foremost this letter trace is teaching the children the correct way to form letters, step by step. Most all letters begin on the top and this concept is very important when a child begins to form letters. Once they start forming the letters from the bottom up it is a very hard habit to break. What we liked about the alphabet trace is the arrows show exactly where to start and teaches that many letters can be made without every taking your finger off the screen. With letters that need you to stop and pick up your finger, the arrows are very clear. This activity will not accept anything out of the lines and helps students learn to slow down and take their time to get it right by staying in the lines. Our only suggestion is that we would like to see the letter tracer have levels. It does start out rather line specific and is not very forgiving. If it was possible for Dexteria to widen the letter path giving children a more forgiving track for level one, proceeding to a medium letter path, and then to what exists now, we think it could improve the activity ten-fold. This would be an awesome tool to put in the hands of any elementary school teacher, from preK on up!
There is an added bonus of a data collection feature which makes reports easy for parents, teachers and occupational therapists to monitor progress. Progress reports can be emailed right from the app. Read The New York Times article about how parents are realizing the importance of the occupational therapy to help their children succeed early in school. Finally, remember as with any exercise a regular routine of practice can do a lot for improving targeted skills over time.
"Like many kids, my kindergarten-aged daughter was having challenges with her fine motor skills," says Frank Jensen the developer. "The key to improvement was a consistent regime of hand and finger exercises. I wanted to be sure she was ready for kindergarten, and fine motor skills are often overlooked as an important factor in school-readiness. Dexteria helps kids get ready for school." We'll second that!