Have you noticed more and more students entering kindergarten (or preschool) without the fine motor skills they need to make everyday school activities easy to achieve? Hopefully, this list of ideas for incorporating fine motor activities into your daily routine will help you get your students where they need to be!
Why are fine motor skills important?
Fine motor skills in young children are a predictor of academic success, but many students begin school struggling in this area. It makes sense that children with dexterity and hand strength would be more successful in a classroom that requires writing and drawing, but researchers have found that the connection goes beyond that.
Through a series of studies using longitudinal data that tracked students from kindergarten through eighth grade, researchers determined that strong fine motor skills in the early years of life help form connections in the brain that lead to greater academic achievement throughout the school years.
Unfortunately, advances in technology have led many families away from traditional activities that promote the development of fine motor skills. The time that many children spend using computers, tablets, and smartphones is time they are not spending building, drawing, and manipulating objects in the world around them.
Many children are beginning school with a deficit of motor skills, both gross and fine. It is important for schools to give children many opportunities to build those skills.
What can teachers do to foster the development of fine motor skills at school?
Most early childhood teachers try to incorporate lots of developmentally appropriate activities into their preschool or kindergarten day, but as academic demands increase, these sometimes slip through the cracks. Here’s a list of simple fine motor activities you can add to your daily routines to help your students strengthen their fingers and build dexterity and balance.
At the bottom of this post, you’ll find a link to a PDF version of these ideas for building fine motor skills that you can keep on hand or pass on to parents and colleagues.
1. Start big!
Gross motor activities, like crawling and playing on the monkey bars, build core muscle strength required for stability and balance. Great fine motor skills require more than just strong fingers!
2. Play with dough.
Manipulating play dough, clay, or putty is a fun way for kids to build finger strength. Idea: hide beads or little toys in the dough for your students to excavate. Use these free playdough task cards to give your students dough ideas!
3. Take it to the floor.
Tummy time isn’t just for babies! When students lie on their stomachs to write or play, they build trunk strength. This gives them more stability and stamina for seated tasks!
4. Tear paper.
Tearing paper improves grip and strengthens hand muscles. Save scraps from other art projects to use for tearing! Children can glue torn paper to make mosaic pictures. This fine motor skills task box set includes a paper-tearing activity and you can find more templates for paper-tearing art here.
5. Go vertical.
Try having students write on a vertical surface such as a chalk- or whiteboard. This position encourages proper grip and builds stability. When children write on the board, they also have the opportunity to cross their midline.
6. Use tweezers.
Children can use tweezers to move small objects like pompoms or mini-erasers. This activity strengthens the hand and can be combined with counting and sorting tasks.
7. Try chalk.
When children write with a small piece of chalk on a chalkboard, they are naturally encouraged to use a pinching grip. The resistance of the chalk on the board gives small hands more control. Children also use more pressure with chalk, building strength as they go!
Who doesn’t love stickers? Have students peel and press small stickers to help develop control and dexterity. Stickers can be used as part of a math activity (count and stick to match the number) or for art and writing (make a sticker picture, write or tell a story).
9. Start spraying!
A spray bottle full of water is a great fine motor tool. Holding the bottle upright while squeezing the trigger builds arm and hand strength. Kids can use the bottle to wash tables, water plants, or “paint” outdoor walls.
10. Snip, snip, snip!
Cutting with scissors is a crucial fine motor activity. Start small by having children snip strips of paper into small pieces. Children can also use scissors to cut play dough.
11. String beads.
Children love playing with beads! Stringing pony beads onto laces or pipe cleaners is a fun way to build coordination and pincer grip. Stringing beads ties in nicely with patterning lessons in early childhood classrooms.
12. Let them build!
There are so many great construction toys that help children develop the muscles in their hands. Snapping blocks together, turning bolts and nuts, and fitting pegs into pegboards are all activities that naturally grow finger strength and build fine motor skills.
13. Pick a puzzle.
Give children chances to piece together jigsaw puzzles and you will be helping them build dexterity with a side of spatial awareness! Start small by using sturdy puzzles with twelve or fewer pieces to avoid frustration.
14. Lace it up.
A helpful precursor to shoe-tying, lacing cards help students develop eye-hand coordination, pincer grip, and motor planning skills. Warning: Untangling the laces may be your fine motor challenge for the day. 😉
15. Pop, pop, pop!
Save your bubble wrap! The irresistible practice of popping those little bubbles is a terrific and satisfying fine motor activity for children. Add some bubble wrap to your calm-down area or your indoor recess tub to give kids a chance to work their little fingers!
If you’d like these ideas in a handy PDF, you can grab that by clicking the image below.
If you want to incorporate fine motor activities throughout the year in a more structured way, you may be interested in my fine motor skills task boxes. You can check those out on TPT by clicking the image below.
I hope these simple fine motor ideas help you incorporate strengthening activities into your routines! Please comment below if there are some great activities you use to build fine motor skills in your preschool or kindergarten classroom–I’d love to read about them and I know others would as well!
Thanks for reading!