Fine motor skills activities are critical in every early childhood classroom as they set the foundation for future literacy skills. Children need fine motor skills to be able to write and draw. Additionally, fine motor skills are needed for cutting with scissors, zipping, buttoning, and tying – all important skills in life! So how do we help our students build fine motor skills? I have 5 fine motor skills activities that are easy to implement in any classroom!
Building Fine Motor Muscles Through Play and Fun
The best way to build fine motor skills is to embed fine motor activities into play! Most kinds of play naturally support fine motor development. My favorite is playdough, legos, and other small building materials. Simply add in tweezers and hole punchers to different play or creation materials and your students will definitely be building their fine motor skills! I love having students sort different materials but only after picking up the materials with tweezers. You can use any kind of tweezers, but the ones I use are linked in my Amazon storefront.
Having children play and explore with bubble wrap is also a fun way for them to build their fine motor skills. Same with baking projects. All that opening and closing of materials and stirring and pouring, all of it involves fine motor skills!
Children that struggle with fine motor skills often struggle with cutting with scissors too. Practicing cutting also helps develop fine motor skills, so it’s a win-win! I love to do Cutting Academy with my whole class at the beginning of the year. I also do it again with students that need more support in small intervention groups. Cutting academy teaches students to put their thumb on top of the scissors and to hold the paper with their other hand. This may come naturally to some students, but to other students, they need to be taught this. Cutting academy starts by cutting lines, then shapes, and then cutting out full pictures. It’s a great way to build their fine motor skills. This is found in my Fine Motor Activities product.
Holding a Pencil
One of the most important lessons for students to learn is how to properly hold a pencil. The child’s grip is a critical skill for handwriting and writing stamina. If not addressed quickly, an incorrect pencil grip will make it harder for the child to write at the same volume and speed as other children.
I teach children how to hold their pencils by singing a song that goes like this:
Thumb is bent
Pointer points to the tip
Middle finger uses its side.
I tuck my last two fingers in
And take them for a ride.
If a student is really struggling with their pencil grip, use small pencils, like golf pencils. This will help them hold toward the bottom of the tip, because that’s the only available spot to hold the pencil! You can also give them a pencil grip, like these ones in my Amazon storefront. Additionally, giving them something to hold with their ring and pinky finger will help those fingers stay tucked and off of the pencil. You can use fuzz balls, cotton balls, or this fun dolphin grip from Amazon.
Additionally, if a child is struggling with their grip, you can encourage them to write on a vertical surface, like an easel or wall. You can also give them binder writers. This is just a big 3-ring binder that the students write on. It helps students who struggle with fine motor to write on an angled surface.
Drawing Lines and Shapes
When working with students on fine motor activities, it’s important to start with drawing different types of lines and shapes before moving on to drawings. I start with different line segments and types of lines so that students get used to the lines they will be making in writing letters and drawings. Then, we move on to mastering shapes. All drawings are made up of shapes, so having students be able to draw shapes is critical. Once they get better at drawing simple shapes, we start to put the shapes together to make a simple picture.
Students that struggle with fine motor skills often struggle with writing their name legibly. Their name is a great place to start working on handwriting, because it’s a word they probably know very well at this point. Have students build their name with different materials, like wikki stix and playdough. Then, have them trace their name in sand or shaving cream. After, students can practice writing their name with different writing and coloring tools. Repeated practice is key, and make sure they have the correct pencil grip when writing.
Planning fine motor activities is easy and simple when you embed them into play and what you are already doing. Teaching fine motor skills should also follow this progression from cutting skills, to pencil grip, to drawing lines and shapes, and writing their name. Once those skills are solid, students can move on to more technical drawing and handwriting skills.
You can grab all of these activities in my Fine Motor Skills product!
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