One of the most important ways we can help our children prepare for school is to practice their fine motor skills at home. Young children need to be able to hold and use scissors and pencils appropriately before using them in a classroom context. We cannot expect
children to be able to write if they haven’t yet developed the strength needed in their hands and fingers.
Fine motor skills do not come naturally to all children; They are a learned set of skills that can be strengthened over time. Children who have issues with fine motor skills have a harder time developing strong muscles in their hands, fingers and wrists. The good news? There are lots of easy and fun ways that parents can help, using simple, everyday activities and materials found around your home.
Here are eight fun ways you can help your kids strengthen their fine motor skills:
Of course it’s tons of fun for kids, but handling play-dough also develops some important skills. Squeezing and stretching it helps strengthen finger muscles, and touching it is a valuable sensory experience.
Get those fingers painting
Using finger paint can strengthen your child’s hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity. All you need is some paper, some finger paints and a space to get messy and you’ve got yourself a great fine motor activity.
Squeeze your sponges
Set up two or more bowls, some filled with water and others empty. Ask your child to squeeze the water out of a sponge into different bowls. Transferring water back and forth between the bowls can help strengthen your child’s hands and forearms. For even more fun, add some coloured dyes or bubbles to the water.
Decorate the bathtub
Show your child how to cut craft foam into different shapes, then create pictures and murals at bathtime! Wet craft foam will stick to the walls the side of the tub, and it’s a super fun way to improve cutting skills and manual dexterity.
Color with broken crayons or short markers
Difficulties with fine motor skills can make it hard to grip a pencil properly. Coloring with small, broken crayons or short markers encourage your child to hold the crayon/marker correctly: between their thumb and forefinger.
Cut out paper dolls or snowflakes
By cutting and folding paper into patterns, your child can strengthen important hand muscles, and hand-eye coordination. Start by cutting out larger dolls and snowflakes, and move to smaller pieces over time. It’s also a great way to talk about shapes and symmetry with your child.
Bring back the string
Another low-tech activity that can provide hours of fun is string games, like Cat’s Cradle. String games help improve finger strength, hand-eye coordination and memory. All you need is some yarn and a little time to teach your child the game options.
Make bead or pasta necklaces
Stringing together necklaces is a great way for your child to be creative while working on hand-eye coordination and developing the ability to manipulate objects. Start with a long piece of string and large beads/ dry pasta. Work towards smaller pieces over time.