Fine motor skills refer to the small muscle movements in the fingers, hands and forearms. These skills develop over time as children interact with the world around them. As children improve their fine motor skills they will become able to perform controlled and stable movements as well as learning to do more things with their hands independently such as:
- Holding a pencil
- Tying their shoelaces
- Feeding themselves
- Cutting along straight and curved lines
- Opening lunch boxes
- Drawing circles and crosses
- Building things with blocks
- Making sculptures with materials like Playfoam®
Dr Amanda Gummer from the Good Toy Guide has grouped fine motor skills into three areas; grasping, manipulating and hand-eye coordination. While fine motor skills tend to develop naturally from birth, they won’t develop without practise and that’s where play comes in! Activities that involve lacing, stacking and squeezing all help to support this developmental area whilst children also have fun!
Activities to try at home:
1. Playfoam Sculptures
Playfoam® is a squishy-squashy sculpting material perfect for mess-free creative play! The sculpting beads are non-toxic and never dry out so designs can be shaped, squashed down and started all over again. Manipulating and sculpting with Playfoam® helps to strengthen the muscles in little hands.
“Modelling the foam has the added bonus of improving hand and finger strength and coordination, skills that are needed for holding a pencil to write.”
– Good Toy Guide
2. Magnet Fishing
Image credit: makedoandfriend.blogspot.com
Place some magnetic letters and numbers into a large bowl and create a ‘fishing rod’ by attaching a paperclip to a piece of string. Encourage your child to use the fishing rod to catch letters and numbers! Ask them to find a specific letter; this will encourage them to make focussed and controlled movements. Extend the activity into letter or number recognition by asking questions about what’s been ‘caught’, such as:
- What words do you know that begin with this letter?
- What letter comes after this one in the alphabet?
- What numbers add up to make this number?
- What is the sum of this number + 2?
3. Super Sorting
Categorise counters by colour, number or attributes with a sorting set. Use Jumbo Tweezers to pick up counters and place them into the correct section. Tweezers reinforce fine motor skills, helping to develop the pincer grip which involves using your thumb and pointer finger together to grab things. The pincer grip is needed to hold and write with a pencil.
4. Alphabet Lacing
Lacing activities help strengthen hand and wrist muscles as well as developing the pincer grip. Use lacing letters to combine lacing with literacy skills and encourage children to thread different words and phrases. This activity will also help young learners become aware of the roles of their dominant and non-dominant hands.
“The letters are easy to handle and the threading laces benefit from a nice long tip meaning that Amy was perfectly able to thread the letters on for the sake of a fine motor skills activity working alongside her big sister!”
– Colette from We’re Going on an Adventure
5. Sticker Line Up
Image credit: http://busytoddler.com
For this activity you will need a roll of paper, a marker pen and some stickers. Roll out 2-3 metres of paper, cut it out and masking tape it to a hard floor or surface. Using the marker pen, draw a long line with lots of different shapes and swirls along it. Give your child some stickers and ask them to place them along the line. This activity is great for building concentration skills while also helping them to develop hand-eye coordination and pinching techniques.
6. Peg Play
Peg play comes to life with Peg Friends™ Around the Town. Young learners develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills as they create their very own community. Children can stack and sort illustrated characters and place them at different workplaces on the board. Each peg friend consists of three pieces that can be easily pulled apart and interchanged.
“There is so much that your child can do with these Peg Friends and Lily found so many ways to play with them. The pegs are really easy to push into the holes on the board which is great for a 2 year old.”
– Cassie from Lily’s Little Learners
7. Laundry Line
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Hang out the washing and develop fine motor skills with this simple game. You will need to print out pictures of different items of clothing, cut them out and place them into a ‘laundry basket’. You will also need a small wire draining rack and some miniature sized pegs. The aim of the game is to hang out all of the laundry on the wire rack ‘to dry’. Children often learn by watching and imitating others perform an action so begin the game by both taking part. This activity is a fun way to develop hand-eye co-ordination and strengthen finger muscles!
8. Elastic Band Tin
Image Credit: http://larremoreteachertips.blogspot.co.uk
All you will need for this activity is a food tin and some elastic bands. Challenge your child to fit all of the elastic bands around the tin. Although this seems very simple, it will help to build dexterity and hand strength as your child stretches and manipulates the bands to fit around the tin.
9. Scissor Skills with Jelly
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All children love jelly and this is the perfect activity to create excitement around scissor skills! Correctly holding and using scissors to cut out shapes is a skill that guidelines suggest should be achieved by the age of six. Use jelly cubes straight from the packet and place in a bowl. Give your child some scissors and leave them to snip the jelly into different shapes! They can also use their fingers to tear the jelly, making for fun and simple sensory play.
10. Spaghetti Worm Excavation
Image credit: http://www.learning4kids.net
Combine fine motor skills with early outdoor exploration with a spaghetti worm excavation! You will need a large tray, cooked spaghetti, a jar, tweezers and some slightly damp soil. Place the damp soil into the tray and bury the worms. Give each child a pair of Jumbo Tweezers and let the digging begin! Encourage children to count the worms as they find them and place them in the jar. This activity combines sensory play, outdoor discovery and fine motor skills for a rich learning experience. Jumbo Tweezers feature ergonomic depressions to guide the correct grip which will help develop fine motor control and build handwriting skills.
*For more ideas and inspiration, browse our fine motor skills resources on our website!