by Katie Brazerol
Educators know how important fine motor skills are—fine motor strength provides a foundation for cutting and writing skills. However, it can sometimes be challenging to offer fresh, new activities that keep children engaged. Designate an area of the room as your “Hand Exercise” spot. Provide items for games that strengthen fine motor muscles, such as these ideas listed below. Encourage children to visit the area in between activities or during free play. Switch out the materials often to reignite interest.
Caution: Many of these activities include small parts. Supervise closely to make sure materials are used as intended.
Clip It: Challenge children to stack papers and clip them together with chip clips or paper clips. How many papers can they clip at once? An alternative is to string a length of yarn from one item to another. Offer spring-type clothespins to attach to the string of yarn.
Seek and Find: Mix small items such as marbles, beads, or coins into balls of playdough. Challenge children to pick out a specific item such as a red bead or a blue marble.
Heavyweight Champ: Offer 1 lb. hand or wrist weights, and demonstrate how to curl hands toward the inner portion of your arms while holding the weights.
Etch-a-Sketch: Encourage children to twist both hands left and right as they create lines on the screen of this vintage game. Don’t forget to shake to erase!
Classic Gamer: Provide a few of classic handheld water games and challenge children to push the buttons to launch items through the tiny water course.
Spongy Fun: Cut sponges into small pieces and use as erasers for a white board. Or, offer small chalkboards and cups of water. Have children dip the sponges into the water and use them to draw on the chalkboards.
Connect-ables: Offer manipulatives that connect together, such as Legos, Pop Beads, Snap Cubes, and interlocking disc sets. Invite children to connect the items independently or with a friend.
Stressed Out: Fill a rubber dish glove with playdough, and tie the end securely. Encourage children to squish and squeeze the fingers and hand portion.
Tong Pick-Up: Offer small manipulatives such as poms or cotton balls, and challenge children to collect the items from one bowl with a pair of tongs and release them in another.
Squeeze and Release: Use a utility knife (adult only!) to cut a slit approximately 2″ to 2.5″ long in the seam of a tennis ball. When squeezed, the slit will open. Place small manipulatives inside the opening, and challenge children to squeeze and shake the ball until all the items fall out. (For added fun: If you draw eyes above the slit with permanent marker, a green tennis ball will look like a frog!)
A-Maze: Do an image search for “preschool mazes” online. Print the mazes and offer them for children to follow with a crayon or pencil.
Poke and Bend: Provide a colander and turn it upside-down on a tabletop. Provide chenille stems, and invite children to poke them through the holes in the colander. The children can bend and twist the chenille stems as they wish.
All Dressed Up: Provide paper doll sets, and encourage children to complete each doll’s outfit.
Music to My Ears: Offer a mini piano or keyboard, and encourage children to use both hands to create a musical masterpiece!