One of the most simple things we can do to help prepare our children for school is to give them plenty of opportunities to develop their fine motor skills! A child who has poor fine motor skills or weak muscles in their fingers and hands will really struggle when it comes time to learn how to write.
On the blog this week, I’m sharing 8 really simple fine motor activities you can prepare for your toddler or preschooler. These activities have a strong focus on strengthening the little muscles in their fingers and hands!
What are fine motor skills?
When we’re using fine motor skills, we’re using the small muscles in our hands and fingers. These fine motor skills enable us to use scissors effectively, hold a pencil correctly and manipulate things like buttons and zips, open lunch boxes and build with things like magnetic tiles, LEGO and even do things like puzzles or eat small finger foods like peas and sultanas.
There are so many ways to strengthen this finger and hand muscles in our everyday experiences, but today I’d like to share some simple invitations you can prepare to develop these skills playfully!
A simple household item can be used for lots of fine motor activities! Cut some straws into shorter lengths and invite your little learner to thread them onto an old shoelace.
An older child could create simple AB patterns using different coloured straws and practise counting as they slide the straw beads onto the shoelace.
Marbles on Golf Tees
Grab some golf tees from the dollar shop and a bag of marbles! We used a ball of play dough for the base and then Lilly (aged 3 years) carefully placed the tees into the dough and then balanced the marbles on top!
This proved to be quite tricky at first. Once she realised that the tees needed to be placed into the dough nice and straight, she was able to manipulate the marbles to balance on top without falling off.
Play Dough Creatures
We love using play dough for fine motor work! It’s amazing on its own but we love to add some loose parts or props to extend on the invitation. Grab my no-cook play dough recipe right here.
These little dough creature parts can be found on Amazon*, Kmart and Officeworks and are such a wonderful addition to our play dough play! Not only do they encourage our little learners to manipulate the play dough and parts to make little creatures, they’re also a lot of fun for imaginative play! Grabbing some tools like these rolling pins* or dough stampers will give them lots of different ways to get those little fingers working!
Colour Mixing with Pipettes
We love to use pipettes* to develop our fine motor skills! By adding a few bowls or cups of coloured water (just dyed with some food colouring), our little learners can also begin exploring colour mixing! You could also get a larger one for little fingers like this twisty dropper* that has a larger bulb for them to squeeze.
It takes a bit of practise to successfully draw water up into the pipette* and then release it into another container so this is one of my favourite ways to encourage fine motor skill development in preschoolers.
Scooping and Transferring
By adding a small scoop to a sensory tray, you can encourage your little learner to develop their fine motor skills as they scoop and transfer! For the tray below, we added a few different dry pantry staples (rice bubbles, rice and corn kernels) and invited Lilly to scoop them into an ice cube tray.
She loved carefully scooping and eventually realised she could also pour the smaller containers into the ice cube tray! This enabled her to develop her hand-eye coordination as she played too!
Play Dough Threading
Add a ball of play dough to a tray and insert some skewers into the play dough – be sure to remove the sharp ends of the skewer first! Next, cut up some straws and place them in a bowl.
Invite your little learner to carefully thread the straws onto the skewers! This is a great way to develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. You could extend this activity by cutting the straws even shorter for an older child!
Transferring with Tweezers
Tweezers are a fantastic tool for fine motor skill development. We love these jumbo tweezers from The Creative Toy Shop* and use them for all kinds of fine motor activities. The trays pictured below feature some little plastic insect figurines from the dollar shop and Kmart which we invited Lilly to ‘catch’ with the tweezers! You could also use the scoops from this fine motor skills set* to pick them up as well!
Pegs on a Bucket
Pegs are an excellent tool for strengthening the muscles in our fingers and hands! I invited Lilly to peg them onto the lip of a bucket and then take them all off again. She found this quite challenging at 2 years of age but she was so determined!
Using stickers is a great way to get those little fingers working too! Add a sheet of dot stickers* to add to your craft box – there are sooo many activities you can set up with these! Here I’ve set up a simple car colour matching activity – just draw a few different coloured cars on a sheet of paper, then get your little learner to add some wheels! For older learners, you could also write letters / words on the stickers and get them to match those as well.
If you’re looking for a way to get started with a ready-made pack of fine motor skill materials and activities, be sure to check out Play Like Coco and their fine motor packs! Paula, the founder, is a parent and educator much like me and she has very thoughtfully curated two incredible fine motor packs to help support the development of your little learner – check out this blog to learn more about them and to grab an exclusive coupon code!!
As you can see, it’s so easy to create a simple invitation with the goal of developing fine motor skills in mind! There are so many items in our homes that we can use for fine motor skill development. What invitation are you going to try with your little learners? Let me know in the comments below!
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