This is the post I wish I had found before my eldest started school! Fine motor skills are so crucial to your child’s learning and self confidence. Once you know how, Fine Motor skills are easy and fun to nurture. You will no doubt be doing many of these at home with your child already.
If not, worry not . Here is a guide to 7 Low Prep steps to strengthening those tiny hands and getting Reception Ready.
Cutting builds Fine motor skills by working on separation of the two sides of the hand and hence strengthening the muscles. Co-ordination (holding paper still in one hand with scissors in the other) , sequencing, rhythm and attention are also required. No wonder your child is not getting it straight away!
Tip: Spaghetti cutting. A fun sensory experience, it is way easier to cut through spaghetti or play dough spaghetti. Make sure scissors are clean and get your toddler to cut up their own dinner. If this is too messy play dough offers a colourful alternative.
Tip: If mastering the cutting action alongside manipulating the direction of the paper is too overwhelming try taping the paper to the side of a table. This will allow your toddler to angle his/her body more easily from standing and will remove frustration of the paper slipping away.
Who doesn’t love a sticker? The action of peeling the sticker and then placing it, works both fine motor skills and hand -eye co-ordination. The feel of the stickiness provides a sensory experience and your child is invited to exercise reasoning by consciously deciding which side to place down and where.
Tip: Create a sticker track. Incorporating Zig Zags and curly lines scores bonus points as it will familiarise the basic shapes needed for writing letters.
Tip: Sticker activity Books. I can’t tell you what a revelation it was when my sister bought my son a collection of Usbourne ‘Build your own’ sticker books last Birthday. Available on a variety of topics, these books will keep your child entertained for hours, peeling and placing with laser precision to bring the pictures to life. Dinosaurs, cars and dragons were a huge hit in our house.
Bubble wrap and fidget toys
It doesn’t get more low prep than this! Put that infuriatingly unnecessary packaging to use by letting your toddler pop the bubbles. Not only does it strengthen the hand, it will keep them occupied for ages.
Tip: Do you steer clear of bubble wrap and need a sustainable alternative? Fidget Pop It toys work pretty much on the same principle. I can’t say I’m a fan of these ubiquitous plastic fads, but they do replicate the bubble wrap experience and can be used over and over. Designed to release nervous energy thus increasing focus and productivity, you might find added bonuses to this one time purchase.
Sewing, although tricky to master initially, offers huge benefits to developing fine motor skills. It requires precision of hand movements and the ability to hold and handle small objects.
Tip : Start with threading. Get a long piece of thread and allow your child to thread through some beads, cheerios or pasta tubes. For younger children (2-3yrs) you might want to substitute the thread with a pipe cleaner for extra manageability. For added FMS points why not allow your child to paint the Penne first?
Tip: Create a card ‘dot to dot’ sewing activity. A great way to introduce some key shapes too. Make the holes as big as necessary and make smaller as your child grows in confidence. Card is sturdy and easy to hold but you could try to progress to using felt.
Squishing, squidging, rolling. pulling, mashing , poking….Playdough is the ultimate tactile sensory feast. It is also a workout in disguise for tiny hands. I quite like to open the box and let the boys’ imaginations run wild, but here are some ideas for optimal stimulation:
Tip : Create a story picture such as a face. This is great for talking about parts of the body and emotions/expression. Pizzas with all the toppings or fruit bowls also allow for discussion about food, colours and healthy eating.
Tip: Get your little ones rolling and shaping numbers and letters
Tip: Have fun hiding small objects (action figures, buttons coins etc) and watch your child relish in digging for ‘buried treasure’.
The benefits of construction play are immense. They build confidence, promote problem solving, exercise the imagination and of course the hands too.
TIP: Empty out your recycling bag and let your child loose!
TIP: Invest in some Lego. If the purchase of unsustainable plastics makes you uncomfortable I can guarantee this is far from a single use buy. The Lego and Duplo are played with more than anything else in our house and this has steadily increased from age 3. BiOBUDDi also make an excellent Lego alternative with building bricks sourced from entirely recyclable bio-materials.
It’s really that simple. Whenever your child is armed with a paintbrush, chalk, felt pen, crayon or colouring pencil, they will be honing their fine motor skills. Try to create lots of opportunity for mark making by having these as well as paper and colouring books at home.
Tip: Get out in nature and try your hand at bark rubbing or head to the park with your chalks to create a pavement mural.
TIP: Dot to dot and colour by number books will add an additional layer of challenge.
Do you have anything to add to these? I would love to hear your ideas. Please leave me a comment.