It is extremely important for young children to develop strong fine motor skills. They will use these skills to comfortably manipulate pencils and crayons, use scissors effectively and handle small objects with ease. But developing these skills takes practice and more practice. The key to successfully helping a young child develop this important skill set is to make practicing fine motor skills fun.
Try some of these activities to help your child strengthen his fine motor muscles:
1. Give your child a piece of bubble wrap. You can get this at package stores if you don’t have some already at home. Direct him to use just his pointer finger and thumb to pinch and pop the bubbles. You can add to the fun by setting a timer and seeing how many bubbles he can pop in two or three minutes. Then, ask him if he can he beat his record by trying again.
2. Kids love snacks, so tap into this by giving your child small pieces of food to eat with his fingers. Remind him to use just his pointer finger and thumb to pick up one piece of food at a time. You can add to the educational value of this activity by giving your child food of different colors, such as jelly beans or colored cereal pieces. Then call out a color for your child to pick up and eat.
3. Give your child an oversized stick pin. You can find these in office supply stores. (You’ve seen the small ones on bulletin boards. This is just an oversized version.) Ask your child to choose a picture from a coloring book and use the stick pin to punch holes on the line that is the outside border of the picture. By punching holes close together, he will be cutting the picture out. To save your table, place a towel or piece of corrugated cardboard under the picture.
4. Empty your pocket change on the carpet each night and ask your child to use his pointer finger and thumb to place one coin at a time into the slot of a piggy bank. Name the coins as he works to add another component to this game. As he becomes familiar with the coins, give him verbal directions regarding which coin to pick up next.
5. Give your child practice using scissors. Make sure that he is holding them correctly. I always reminded my small children to “shake hands with the handle” so that they gripped the scissors with their thumb in the top, small hole and one or two fingers in the larger loop below the thumb. Ask your child to cut confetti out of colored construction paper by snipping off small pieces of paper. He can let the pieces fall to the floor in a pile. Then extend his learning and his fine motor practice by asking him to pick up one scrap of paper at a time, using only his pointer finger and thumb, and place the scrap in a cup or bowl with other scraps of the same color. You can use some of the School Sparks cutting worksheets for added practice.
6. Give your child a lace and some small beads. Ask him to make you a necklace. Again, learning colors can also be taught with this activity, or ask your child to count as he puts the beads on the string. To help your child control the string, secure one end to the table with tape so that the beads do not fall off and the string is anchored.
7. Give your child a sheet of stickers and allow him to put them on another piece of paper. A smaller sticker will be more challenging to manipulate, so watch your child’s skill level develop and adjust the size of the stickers to provide some fun practice.
8. Roll some modeling clay or dough into a long rope. Ask your child to guess how many little balls he can pinch from the rope. Then ask him to use just his pointer finger and thumb to pinch off bits of clay. He can then try to clean up by pinching two small bits of clay together to make a bigger piece. Once all the small pieces are pinched into bigger pieces, he can grab them up and roll them into another snake.
9. Give your child a golf pencil to help him learn the proper pencil grip. Show him the correct way to hold the pencil and watch as he tries so that you can guide him and immediately correct any error. Remind him to pinch the pencil with his pointer finger and thumb and let the pencil rest in his second finger. Ask him to trace some short lines or curves as he gets used to holding and moving the pencil. Some beginning level tracing worksheets or mazes for kids are perfect for having fun while learning the proper pencil grip.
10. Be on the lookout for small magnets that your child can place and pull off a metal pan. A large assortment can be used for making a creative structure or picture. Remind your child to use his pointer finger and thumb as he picks up each magnet. The size and strength of the magnet will determine the level of difficulty of this activity, so watch your child and give him increasingly smaller and stronger magnets as the strength in his fingers grows.
If you are looking for additional ways to help your child develop his fine motor skills, consider buying the School Sparks workbook ($28 and includes free shipping). This workbook contains 461 of School Sparks’ most popular worksheets, including 38 fine motor worksheets to help children develop the correct pencil and scissors grip.
I hope you are having a wonderful summer with your child!