Fine motor skills are the ability to make movements using small muscles in the fingers, hands, and forearms. Examples include cutting, buttoning, carrying small objects, eating, etc. Strengthening these abilities leads to the highest form of fine motor skills, which is handwriting.
In the early childhood classroom (and even sooner), it's important to provide a variety of experiences to strengthen a child's tripod grasp before putting a writing utensil in their hands. Before I knew better, I would absolutely have my students cutting out Chester (from The Kissing Hand) puppets and writing their name the first day of school. I learned through research and instruction how important it is to allow students to strengthen their fine motor skills before we ask them to do such tasks. When we know better, we do better. There is a progression to everything we teach, so fine motor-based activities (including handwriting and cutting) should be no different. They are truly essential for a child's development. Here are several of my favorite fine motor activities that you can teach throughout the school year.
Building names with pipe cleaners and beads. The process of putting beads onto a string or pipe cleaner is a great way for young children and their hand-eye coordination.
Wind Up Toys
Kids don't play with wind up toys much anymore, but they are really good for fine motor because you use your tripod fingers to wind the toy.
Use plastic tweezers to pick up small objects, such as mini erasers. The use of small muscles will play an important role in everyday activities. Building little muscles at a young age can be super useful for important tasks in the classroom too. For example, this will do wonders for developing their pencil grip. These simple activities will make for great fine motor practice.
Use tongs to pick up various objects and put them in an ice cube tray. This is a fun way to help build the pincer grasp and help build their small hand muscles. This is another great opportunity to develop the pincer grip.
Spoon beads from one container to another. This might seem like a simple activity but is a great opportunity for sensory play. They are not only hands on, moving small items to and from, but they are also seeing and listening as they move. This can also help with visual perception when they are using small movements to transfer. Building strong eye-hand coordination is incredibly useful.
Mini Hole Punch
This was always a class favorite. My kids loved this activity! Just add some plain colored paper and a few hole punches, and let them punch away.
I bought these small ice containers from IKEA. Add a few small tongs and large pom poms, and you've got the perfect fine motor activity!
I realize that you won't find fine motor activities listed in your learning objectives, but strengthening them is so very important. You can also easily add an academic spin to any of these centers. If you choose to do just these center activities, you are still teaching children to share, to take turns, to get out and restore work, cooperative learning, using a center chart, and of course, there is the most important concept of strengthening their tripod grasp, so they can be better writers in the future.
If you are looking to build your fine motor library, my team and I came up with a good system. We were a team of four and for two years, we each made two activities for the entire team. It was much more cost effective that way. I was able to get 16 activities for under $20. You will also be surprised what you already own that you can use.
If you have young kids at home, I would encourage you to start now with fine motor activities. My son Bennett is sixteen months old, and we are already doing these activities at home. He loves them, and I know that even though I usually need to clean up a big mess when we are done, he is learning and growing, and that is what is important. The best part, I know he's also having so much fun too. So, I don't think it's ever really too early when looking to build these life skills.
I hope you've found these examples of fine motor skills useful. Good news, if you're looking for more fine motor ideas, check out this post, too. Do you have a great fine motor activity that you'd like to share? I'm always open to learning about ways to improve both fine motor skills and gross motor skills for our early learners. Let me know in the comments below!
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