Overview: Fine motor activities should be a top priority in Tot School, and even in preschool. Get a sneak peak at our 8 favorite fine motor activities.
Fine Motor skills are the small muscles in our hands and wrists. It’s crucial to develop these muscles for simple every day tasks such as getting dressed, putting on shoes, cooking, and writing. Hand-eye coordination is also a part of the fine motor skills. This is knowing how to use your hands and eyes together. Your hands should be able to put things where your eyes are telling you to put them.
Related: Physical Development: Milestones and Activities for Ages 1-4
To us, these sound like simple, minute skills, but for young children, fine motor skills can be one of the biggest challenges they need to overcome. With this country’s shift in focus to more academic concepts, fine motor skills are lacking in today’s children. I like to make sure we are working on fine motor skills at least 3 times a week, but it usually ends up being a lot more than that.
Fine Motor Activities
1. Playdough and Clay
Playdough is one of Sicily’s favorite things to play with. She loves pinching the dough and making small balls. We like to go on nature walks to collect signs of the season. Sicily uses the materials we collect as an added bonus to her playdough creations. Pinching small nature items such as acorns and pushing them into the playdough is hard work for those tiny hands.
Clay is a great alternative to playdough. We haven’t used clay yet because Sicily has a fear of being messy, which drives me insane. I plan on getting it out this summer for her to explore.
Playdough and clay are perfect for developing whole hand control and the pincher grasp, which is important for writing. While we play, I try to encourage Sicily to roll the dough with a flat hand, roll the dough into a ball, pinch the dough, and pull the dough to help develop a multitude of hand muscles.
2. Art Projects
Even though Sicily hates getting messy, she LOVES art projects, especially painting. I just have to make sure the wipes are close by because once she is done, she needs her hands wiped immediately or a meltdown will be in the making.
We love exploring with different ways to paint. Some times we use paint brushes, things from nature, or other household items like a potato masher. Other art explorations we do to develop fine motor skills is tearing paper and gluing. I haven’t introduced the scissors to her yet, but scissor work is another great way to build fine motor skills.
Sicily and I love getting in the kitchen to cook something together as long as she doesn’t get messy. Last week we made a pie for Pi Day. She loved cutting the butter into cubes for the crust.
Cutting, kneading dough, spreading, mixing, and stirring are all fine motor skills. Pouring and dumping ingredients are other fine motor skills as well as a little bit of gross motor skills.
4. Piggy Bank
When Sicily was about 16 months old she found some coins under her Pappy’s chair. He had an old piggy bank that he let Sicily put the coins in. Ever since then she goes on a hunt for coins under his chair each time she visits. She can sit in front of a piggy bank for 45 minutes putting coins in that tiny hole.
The piggy bank works the pincher grasp, hand eye coordination, and concentration. It’s also a great tool for practicing patients.
Stickers can be very tricky for little kids, but necessary in my opinion. Working to get the sticker off the paper works the pincher grasp, concentration, and definitely patience. Placing the sticker on the paper is great practice for hand-eye coordination.
When using stickers, I like to start with big puffy stickers. They are easier to peel off because they stick up and their is no excess paper around the sticker. Once the toddler gets good at peeling off these stickers, I’ll move to little puffy stickers. Once I move to regular stickers, I will peel off the excess paper so just the stickers are on the sheet. Eventually, I will give the child a sheet of stickers with everything still in tack. If your toddler has trouble peeling stickers, you can help by pulling up just a corner of the sticker to get them started.
6. Scarf Ball
A scarf ball use to hold Sicily’s attention for at least a half an hour. I basically pushed a bunch of scarves into an OBall and left it lay on the floor one day. Sicily was immediately intrigued and started pulling out the scarves and asking to do it over and over again.
The scarf ball works the pincher grasp which is such an important prerequisite for writing.
I think the most important skill during this activity wasn’t learned from Sicily, but by me. Sicily wanted to do this activity all the time, so I definitely had to learn patience as I kept filling the ball up at least 20 times a day.
7. Sensory Bins
Sensory bins can be tailored to practice a variety of skills. I love sensory bins because of the versatility. Just changing the tools you place in the bin can change the skills your child works on, and you can change the base to match your current theme. Scooping, spooning, pincher grasp, and hand eye coordination are just a few of the fine motor skills your little one can practice with a sensory bin.
Picking up a puzzle piece works the grasping skill, and placing it in the puzzle is wonderful for hand-eye coordination.
Fine motor activities should be at the top of your mind when planning your daily activities for toddlers and preschoolers. Fine motor skills lay the foundation to complete routine daily tasks such as buttoning your coat and writing.