Fine Motor...Little Fingers

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Locks and Keys 

Fine Motor and spatial awareness builders can be found in lots of places.  Hide kids around your classroom, playground or home. Hand out keys.  Not all keys open every lock, so it becomes a great game of hide and seek.


When Will She Hold A Pencil?

“When is she ever going to write her name with a pencil?”  

A favorite question from parents.

"She will."

"But where are all the pencils?" 

"Don't need 'em." 

Pause, head tilts like a labrador's. 

Yes, strong fine motor skills are important to good handwriting, but put that pencil down.   In fact, don’t worry at all about those pencils.  Forcing a pencil in a child’s hand before it is ready in order to force “writing” can lead to biomechanical stress on joints, fatigue, and compromised writing speed. 

"What do those things have to do with writing in kindergarten?"

"Oh, I'm not getting them ready for Kindergarten, remember?"


Pause, head tilts like a labrador's.  

"We are getting ready for life."

Ask a high schooler how much they write.  Constantly. For hours.  Skip some steps in development, and here I mean fine motor development, those problems will arise. So let's do this right. Those little fingers are going to touch everything in sight. Let’s put some fun activities within reach that will give them a sense of accomplishment and a sense of connection.

And before you scream "What no pencils?!"  My room is full of a variety of writing materials. Check the writing center - crayons, pencils, markers. Check the science center - clip boards with pencils. Check the easel, beside the paint and brushes. See the markers, chalk and pencils. 

Remember to make a connection. Dad golfs. How about plopping some golf tees, marbles and styrofoam on the table.   Baking is a favorite at home. Put out some spoons, egg cartons and rocks.  Fine motor activities are everywhere. And usually away from the pencils.


Halloween Spiders

I saw this as I was running around school one day and I knew it was a hit with the 2 year olds.  Fill that sensory bin with cotton balls, spiders and tweezer.  (Thanks to Courtney Owens) 


Apple Washing Station

Gripping a wet apple is ideal for building up strength and dexterity in the hand muscles.



Tea Bags and Spray Bottles

As also, kids are attracted to water. We use spray bottles frequently, but I stumbled upon something new one day when I added tea bags.  Of course, everyone clambered for their favorite colors, which lead to an exploration of which colors produced the most color when wet (red usual!). Can't wait to try other teas. 



Grasping a tong is a new skill for most preschoolers.  Hesitate before you jump in to show them how it works.  Lessons are better retained when a child goes through problem solving on the way.  Along with the fine motor muscle development, the use of tongs requires motor planning and spatial awareness.  Use it as a color sort or block building. Kids love to transfer items from one place to another.




What is it about spoons?  Whenever I drop spoons on the table kids are all over it.  If I just put one or two, self-regulation is either self taught or the lesson is given by a classmate (Grab..."Oh no you don't." Or even better "Can I have it when you're done?" ...That phrase is the endgame we are working towards). It goes to show the real world connection can be made in the smallest of things.  

Try a spoon and some simple smooth rocks to be transferred into an ice cube. 

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Plop water in any container on a table and kids will flock to it.  Moving water from one container to another is addictive to a 3 year old.  Add eye droppers and those muscles are working. 

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Nuts and Bolts


Talk about working out little fingers with something usually in Dad's toolbox.  Take a walk down an aisle at Home Depot.  Beats the teacher supply store every time.




Picking up small objects with a pincer grip is great for building up muscles.  Sprinkle glitter, colored sand, sugar. 

Pretend tinted shaving cream is a cake and sprinkle with colored rice. 




Magic Dough

Mix equal amounts of flour and baby oil. 

After combining thoroughly, add liquid water color, one color at a time. 

The colors will stay separate.   Little fingers will try to pick out the colors or bind them together.

Bonus: Your hands will feel so soft afterwards. 



Squirt bottles

Those little hands will work so hard when working a squirt bottle.  

Tape stripes of crepe paper on your easel. 

Squirt with water. 

The wet paper will stain the paper.  

Fun indoors or on the playground. 




Why does it have to be paper? 

To give a sense of accomplishment, try cutting straws or play dough. 

Straws will be flying everywhere. I love the giggles. 


Turkey Basters

If eye droppers are good, turkey basters are awesome.   

Try freezing blocks of ice for the sensory bin. 

See if they can melt the ice with drops of water. 

Time to talk about science, eh? 

Your Mother's Clothes Pins


Use them to transfer pompoms or cotton balls to a container. 

Hang a string within reach and clip dozens of clothes pins on it.  

Little fingers will be reaching for these muscle builders all day. 


Note: You might have noticed those little hands are covered in a mixture of shaving cream and water...That's how we roll in my class. 



Golf Tees

Does Dad hang out at the golf course?  Well, here is an opportunity to make a connection.  Place Golf Tees in styrofoam.  Let those little fingers try placing marbles there.  The movement mimics a dynamic tripod grasp with nary a pencil in sight.


    Bean Counting



    You don't have to spend a lot of money on fancy fine motor activities.  An egg carton, gripper, and dried beans are all you need.  Kids can work to put one bean in each cup or write numbers on the inside and turn it into a math excerise