Updated: May 3
Fine motor skills are a vital building block in a child's writing development. For a child to begin writing, and we mean writing in a way people can ACTUALLY read (we're looking at you doctors), they must first build not only their skills but also their muscles!
Below we have compiled a list of things you most likely already have at home that are great for your preschooler's fine motor development. Naturally each individual child is different so you must determine for yourself if the below activities are safe and appropriate for your child.
1. Play Dough
We're willing to bet that you have play dough somewhere in your house. If you don't you can purchase some here or find a recipe online to make your own.
But back to it - play dough is a great tool in building fine motor muscles, as your child squeezes it, rolls it, smushes it and so on it helps to strengthen those
all-important little muscles in their hands that they need to be able to do things like properly grip a pencil and apply pressure when they write!
2. Empty Containers
Yes, even the simple empty container of milk (or juice or water or...whatever) you just rinsed out can help with fine motor development! First things first...we recommend plastic recyclable containers because when they inevitably fall on the ground it won't make a mess.
So how can a container help? The act of screwing and unscrewing lids on containers is the key! This motion helps build up those little muscles!
Warning: if they haven't already figured it out-this will help your child develop the skills they need to turn door knobs too!
Bonus! These types of "real-world" containers can encourage your child to engage in some great pretend play!
3. Bubble Wrap
Ah Bubble Wrap-that wonderful invention for keeping things safe in the mail...and providing kids (and let's be honest adults) with popping fun.
How can this seemingly basic packaging item help? Easy-just give it to your child and we bet they will naturally start popping those tiny little bubbles. They can pop them individually, twist the wrap and pop a bunch at a time-heck even color on the individual bubbles. All of these little pinching motions help build that pincer grasp, not-to-mention hand-eye-coordination!
Bonus: Maybe they can get some excess energy out by jumping or dancing around on it to pop even more bubbles at once!
4. Scraps Box
What is a "scraps box?" you might ask...it is just what it sounds like a box full of scraps of different types. The one above has: scrap paper, feathers, bubble wrap(again!), some old jeans, pipe cleaners, toilet paper roll... truly you can add anything (safe) to a scraps box. We love this box to promote scissor skills because it allows your child to use their scissors in a fun way-they can cut up whatever they like in the box. Instead of focusing on cutting on a specific line-type (though this is also important) they practice the physical act of cutting.
Bonus use: they can use any of these materials for creative art time!
Yes, we know the "technical term" is hook and loop fasteners but let's be honest this is one of those things where we just call it by the brand name...
Velcro is a fantastic tool for fine motor development-especially when it is still super strong (think fresh new pair of shoes). Having to grab a small piece of material and pull hard to get it to open...you guessed it that's building those fine motor muscles!
Now if you don't want your child constantly opening and closing the Velcro (and probably wearing it out in the process) maybe suggest that they try putting their own shoes on...and taking them off which also helps build their independence.
(You can always buy some Velcro too for pretty cheap if you prefer...another great addition to the scraps box).
Stickers...you love them or hate them or a little bit of both? Regardless they are fantastic for fine motor skills! Personally we love the reusable type (click the image if you want to see) because less garbage going into our landfills is always a good thing but any stickers at all will help with fine motor.
The reusable type (yay earth!) are great because they usually come with a surface to stick onto so less get lost and hooray they aren't getting stuck on every surface of your house!
If you are using the classic one-time use sticker we suggest a "sticker book" a.k.a. blank sheets of paper that are specifically for your child to put their stickers.
Anyway how do they help? First there is the motion of peeling the sticker-grabbing the tiny little edge and applying enough pressure to pull it off the sheet without ripping it in half...definitely tiny little muscles at play there, along with pressure (think using a pencil and pushing hard enough but not so hard that you break it). Then there is the act of sticking it onto the sheet without accidentally curving the sides and putting it exactly where you want it to go...hand-eye-coordination.
There you have it...stickers are FANTASTIC!
This one might seem obvious but drawing with: markers, crayons, colored pencils, chalk (we could keep going) whatever you have at home is absolutely fantastic.
At first your child might color you a beautiful picture of scribbles on a page-even that is a step in pre-writing! It's truly their first go at creating something using lines!
Maybe then they work their way into coloring pages-sometimes inside the lines, sometimes out. Both work towards fine motor-if they focus on staying in the lines great but if not they are still figuring out how to properly hold a writing tool and how to apply enough pressure to make it do something on the paper!
And we mean tracing any number of things! Maybe they trace their hand or use stencils or just trace some old lids (another use for empty containers!) regardless tracing does great things for fine motor development! It helps your child to practice holding their writing utensil and their coordination which they will need later on to write words!
Do you have empty boxes laying around your house like we do? Keep them-there you can pretend that you weren't just too lazy to take them to the recycling bin (cough cough like us...)
Boxes can be used a number of ways and in all shapes and sizes- they can be a new way for your child to build- yes a huge fort is easily made with some big boxes and works on coordination skills!
They can be ripped, some cardboard is truly hard to rip, even just ripping the tape off builds those little muscles!
Bonus: Again get some gross motor time in by letting your child jump on the boxes (as long as they can do it safely of course)!
10. Beads and Yarn
To start beads of course depend on the age of your child- if your child is still putting everything in their mouth you don't want small beads!
Beads work great though when your child pushes yarn or pipe cleaners (just be careful of the pokey part) through them! It helps build hand-eye coordination and makes them practice that same grasp they need when they hold a writing utensil!
If you want to use something other than beads you can try noodles, poke some holes in leaves (dry ones don't work great for this because they crumble), or if your child is just starting out napkin rings work great because they are so big!
If you want to purchase some beads and string that are safe for smaller children too click here.
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