As a Kindergarten teacher, I often have friends and family wanting to know how to best help their kids prepare for school. Identifying letters, counting, and knowing shapes and colors are all wonderful and important, but one critical skill set that is often overlooked is fine motor. It is so important to help your little ones develop those fine motor muscles so they can grow independently in Kindergarten and beyond. Fine motor skills will not only help them with the amazing writing, cutting, and coloring projects that will adorn your refrigerator, but also zipping up jackets and tying shoes (and trust me, as a teacher of littles it’s HUGE when children can do these skills on their own!). There are countless fun fine motor activities you can do easily at home, so I’ve complied a few to get you started!
Grab & Count
Materials: Muffin cups, cotton balls, tongs
Write numbers in the bottom of the muffin cups and have your child use tongs to put that amount of cotton balls inside. This is excellent for number recognition, counting, and those fine motor muscles needed to squeeze!
Modifications: Child not ready for reading numbers yet? Color the bottom of the muffin cup and have your kiddo use the tongs to sort colored cotton balls by color. Number identification already mastered? Try drawing circles similar to the patterns you see on dice or dominoes and have your child put that number of cotton balls in the muffin cups. The ability to recognize patterns of objects without having to count them out is called subitizing, and it’s a great way to develop number sense!
Materials: Paper, marker, small stickers
Write a letter, number, or name on a sheet of paper. Have your child use chart stickers to cover up the lines. This will work the pincer grasp, which will help your child pick up small objects with ease and ultimately help them with fine motor skills for learning. TEACHER TIP: Encourage your child to follow the lines in the correct letter/number formation! Kids learning letter and number formation sometimes pick up bad habits as they are learning to print, which are very difficult to fix later on. By starting the process of correct letter formation with activities like this, they will have a much easier time writing in school! (And if you’re not sure if you have the correct habits down, check out YouTube for a quick video tutorial!)
Modification: If tiny chart stickers are a little too tough at first, use slightly larger stickers like the ones you’d use for garage sale items. If your child is zipping through single letters or numbers, try having them use stickers to practice their name or even basic words.
Materials: Paper, marker, scissors
I know, I know. It’s nerve-wracking to give your young child scissors, but the truth is using scissors helps develop those fine motor muscles and it’s a skill they need to feel comfortable with going into Kindergarten. A fun way to practice basic scissor skills is to draw a face and hair lines on the paper. Have your child snip on the line, learning how to “chomp” the scissors and also move the scissors for multiple snips as they follow the line.
Modifications: If your child is getting frustrated doing multiple “chomps” on a single line, try making short lines at first so she gets the hang of a single snip. If your child is the budding hairstylist, try creating wavy lines for her to follow with the scissors!
Just Bead It
Materials: Pipe cleaners, beads
Working on that pincer grasp again, have your child string beads on a pipe cleaner (string works too, but the pipe cleaner helps the beads from falling off the end too easily). This simple activity is also beneficial in using the right brain and left brain at the same time, since children have to hold the pipe cleaner in one hand and string with the other. They will work strengthen their fine motor muscles while also gaining coordination in both hands!
Modifications: If your child has a difficult time holding the pipe cleaner in the air and stringing the bead, have her lay the pipe cleaner on the table (as shown) but make sure she is still using both hands as she puts the bead on. To spice up this activity, try working on different patterns for the beads to go in.
Have fun with fine motor!