Thursday, April 4, 2013

Building Fine Motor Skills

As a special education teacher and a mommy, I feel as though sometimes my life revolves around developing and strengthening fine motor skills. Fortunately for me, I have had the immense priveledge of working with a huge variety of teachers and occupational therapists who have helped equip me with some quick and inexpensive activities to enable little ones to build essential, fine motor skills and have a little fun along the way!

 You know the paint samples strips you can take from Home Depot, Lowe's, and even Wal-Mart??? Yeah, you're going to need to stock up on those bad boys for some of these activities. Children can strengthen skills by clipping clothespins (above) and paper clips (below) to them. In addition, children beginning to cut benefit from the thickness of the paint sample's cardstock and clearly defined lines.

And speaking of cutting, I found these adorable little frog favors for $1at my local dollar store, which would be awesome for kids just learning to hold and use scissors. The little froggy moves up and down with each "Snip!"


It would also be beneficial to buy pipe cleaners in bulk, as they also lend themselves to some great fine motor activities! Pipe cleaners can be twisted, shaped, made into sculptures, and a plethora of other things, all the while helping children develop a pincer grasp for future writing activities. In addition, for those kiddos who have not yet mastered the ability to string beads onto string, a pipe cleaner serves as an excellent "starter string" like the one featured below.

When the ability to string large beads onto a pipe cleaner is mastered, move on to smaller beads, followed by larger beads on a string and finally, small beads on the string. I often play activities like this as "making mommy a necklace" or "let's put on this new bracelet you made" to keep the kiddos motivated    

For the child who has difficulty "closing" a circle or tends to go around and around and around without stopping, placing a sticker to indicate a visual start and stop point can be a huge help! I personally prefer animal stickers, so they can be encouraged to "Start at the head and stop at the tail." On a side note, if worksheets are laminated or placed inside plastic sheets, dry erase markers can be used and the sheets can be reused over and over again!

Never underestimate the power of stickers...not only as a reward but as a valuable opportunity to practice fine motor skills. Children can peel off and place stickers onto the dashes of typical tracing worsheets. Since these particular tracing strips are laminated, the stickers can be removed and the activity can be practiced repeatedly.

Mini-golf, anyone??? Make sure that the next time you go, you snag a few extra tiny pencils. The beauty of these tiny little guys is that children are less likely to grab the pencil in a fisted grasp and are sort of forced to use a more appropriate three-finger (aka "tripod") grasp when writing. Holding a bead or small item in the ring and pinky fingers will also help in encouraging the use of the tripod grasp.

Ice cube trays are another item to add to your list of supplies to purchase, although chances are really good you have spare ones lying around your house. Either way, ice cube trays are PERFECT for little ones to practice picking up small items and sorting them. In the pictures below, an ice cube tray was used to sort these small items by color. As an added level of difficulty, children could use tweezers to pick up small items like the ones below and place them into the tray.

Tongs and tweezer in all shapes and sizes are also excellent fine motor-strengthening tools to use to pick up items. I have often found success having children use them to pick up soft items, such as craft pom poms or cotton balls and gradually fading to smaller, firmer items for a greater challenge.

Everyone has plastic containers they can transform into quick and simple, piggy-bank types of fine motor activities. The idea is to cut a slit in the container lid just large enough for the items to fit through. Buttons are just one example of objects that can be used and are easily accessible.

Additional Fine Motor activities:

-Use thicker paper or cardstock to practice beginning cutting activities
-Highlight cutting and tracing lines to visually support little learners
-Make pasta necklaces
-Purchase, print, or make your own lacing cards using string, a hole punch and a favorite picture or character
-Hide beads inside of Play Doh or putty and encourage children to remove the beads
-Put money into a piggy bank or help mommy and daddy sort coins
-Use a hole punch to practice "making confetti" in a variety of types of paper and cardstock
-Practice writing and tracing with a variety of mediums (pencil, marker, pen, chalk, crayon, dry erase marker, you name it)
-Paint using watercolors


  1. Good to know!!! I'll definitely reference this.
    I tried to take a video of Royce taking the straw out of an EMPTY capri sun packet and putting it back in! I wanted to send it to you and say "working on our fine motor skills".
    He actually did very well with fitting it back in that little hole! But the second I hit record he threw it down and ran off! Haha!

  2. I love these ideas! I can't wait to try them with my little ones :)

  3. Way to go, Royce! That's actually really impressive for an eighteen month old. Angie, let me know how it goes, and if you come up with any other ideas, keep me posted!

  4. Visiting from the Sunday Showcase. I'd love for you to share your family-friendly crafts and ideas at Monday Kid Corner at See you at the party!



I love hearing your feedback and getting your ideas, so bring 'em on!!!