“Fine motor” refers to the movements we make with the small muscles of our hands. Children start to use their hands right at birth to explore their own bodies and the world around them. Their fine motor skills develop as their whole body starts to move and become more stable. They also learn to do more things with their hands as their cognitive and social/emotional skills improve. Children should have strength and dexterity in their hands and fingers before being asked to manipulate a pencil on paper. The following activities involve the use of manipulatives which will support young children’s fine motor development and will help to build the strength and dexterity necessary to hold a pencil appropriately.
Fine Motor Activities
- Molding and rolling play dough into balls – using the palms of the hands facing each other and with fingers curled slightly towards the palm.
- Tearing newspaper into strips and then crumpling them into balls. Scrunching up 1 sheet of newspaper in one hand. This is a super strength builder.
- Using a plant sprayer to spray plants, (indoors, outdoors) to spray snow (mix food coloring with water so that the snow can be painted), or melt “monsters”. (Draw monster pictures with markers and the colors will run when sprayed.)
- Lacing and sewing activities such as stringing beads, Cheerios, macaroni, etc.
- Using eye droppers to “pick up” colored water for color mixing or to make artistic designs on paper.
When scissors are held correctly, and when they fit a child’s hand well, cutting activities will exercise the very same muscles which are needed to manipulate a pencil in a mature tripod grasp. The correct scissor position is with the thumb and middle finger in the handles of the scissors, the index finger on the outside of the handle to stabilize, with fingers four and five curled into the palm.
- Cutting junk mail, particularly the kind of paper used in magazine subscription cards.
- Making fringe on the edge of a piece of construction paper.
- Cutting play dough with scissors.
- Cutting straws or shredded paper.
These activities ought to be done frequently to strengthen the child’s awareness of his/her hands.
- Wheelbarrow walking, crab walking
- Clapping games (loud/quiet, on knees together, etc.)
- Catching (clapping) bubbles between hands
- Pulling off pieces of thera-putty with individual fingers and thumb
Activities To Develop Handwriting Skills
There are significant prerequisites for printing skills that begin in infancy and continue to emerge through the preschool years.
The following activities support and promote fine motor and visual motor development:
Fine Motor Skills
Children will develop fine motor skills best when they work on a VERTICAL or near vertical surface as much as possible. In particular, the wrist must be in extension. (Bent back in the direction of the hand)
- Attach a large piece of drawing paper to the wall. Have the child use a large marker and try the following exercises to develop visual motor skills: Make an outline of a one at a time. Have the child trace over your line from left to right, or from top to bottom. Trace each figure at least 10 times. Then have the child draw the figure next to your model several times.
- Plays connect the dots. Again make sure the child’s strokes connect dots from left to right, and from top to bottom.
- Trace around stencils – the non-dominant hand should hold the stencil flat and stable against the paper, while the dominant hand pushes the pencil firmly against the edge of the stencil. The stencil must be held firmly.
- Attach a large piece of felt to the wall, or use a felt board. The child can use felt shapes to make pictures. Magnetic boards can be used the same way.
- Have the child work on a chalkboard, using chalk instead of a marker. Do the same kinds of tracing and modeling activities as suggested above.
- Paint at an easel. Some of the modeling activities as suggested above can be done at the easel.
- Magna Doodle- turn it upside down so that the erasing lever is on the top. Experiment making vertical, horizontal, and parallel lines.
This involves accuracy in placement, direction, and spatial awareness.
- Throw bean bags/koosh balls into a hula hoop placed flat on the floor. Gradually increase the distance.
- Play throw and catch with a ball . Start with a large ball and work toward a smaller ball. (Koosh balls are easier to catch than a tennis ball.)
- Practice hitting bowling pins with a ball. (You can purchase these games or make your own with soda bottles and a small ball.)
- Play “Hit the Balloon” with a medium-sized balloon.