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Fine Motor Skills Developmental Milestones: Early Childhood Activities

By — Beal Early Childhood Center
Updated on Apr 30, 2014

Activities with Fine Motor Manipulatives

Pre-kindergarteners benefit from experiences that support the development of fine motor skills in the hands and fingers. Children should have strength and dexterity in their hands and fingers before being asked to manipulate a pencil on paper. Working on dexterity and strength first can eliminate the development of an inappropriate pencil grasp, which is becoming more commonplace as young children are engaged in writing experiences before their hands are ready. The following activities involve the use of manipulatives which will support young children's fine motor development, and will help to build the strength and dexterity necessary to hold a pencil appropriately.

Fine Motor Activities

  • Molding and rolling play dough into balls - using the palms of the hands facing each other and with fingers curled slightly towards the palm.
  • Rolling play dough into tiny balls (peas) using only the finger tips.
  • Using pegs or toothpicks to make designs in play dough.
  • Cutting play dough with a plastic knife or with a pizza wheel by holding the implement in a diagonal volar grasp. (see attached diagram)
  • Tearing newspaper into strips and then crumpling them into balls. Use to stuff scarecrow or other art creation.
  • Scrunching up 1 sheet of newspaper in one hand. This is a super strength builder.
  • Using a plant sprayer to spray plants, (indoors, outdoors) to spray snow (mix food coloring with water so that the snow can be painted), or melt "monsters". (Draw monster pictures with markers and the colors will run when sprayed.)
  • Picking up objects using large tweezers such as those found in the "Bedbugs" game. This can be adapted by picking up Cheerios, small cubes, small marshmallows, pennies, etc., in counting games.
  • Shaking dice by cupping the hands together, forming an empty air space between the palms.
  • Using small-sized screwdrivers like those found in an erector set.
  • Lacing and sewing activities such as stringing beads, Cheerios, macaroni, etc.
  • Using eye droppers to "pick up" colored water for color mixing or to make artistic designs on paper.
  • Rolling small balls out of tissue paper, then gluing the balls onto construction paper to form pictures or designs.
  • Turning over cards, coins, checkers, or buttons, without bringing them to the edge of the table.
  • Making pictures using stickers or self-sticking paper reinforcements.
  • Playing games with the "puppet fingers" -the thumb, index, and middle fingers. At circle time have each child's puppet fingers tell about what happened over the weekend, or use them in songs and finger plays.
Scissor Activities

When scissors are held correctly, and when they fit a child's hand well, cutting activities will exercise the very same muscles which are needed to manipulate a pencil in a mature tripod grasp. The correct scissor position is with the thumb and middle finger in the handles of the scissors, the index finger on the outside of the handle to stabilize, with fingers four and five curled into the palm.

  • Cutting junk mail, particularly the kind of paper used in magazine subscription cards.
  • Making fringe on the edge of a piece of construction paper.
  • Cutting play dough with scissors.
  • Cutting straws or shredded paper.
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