Monday, August 17, 2015

Developing Fine Motor Skills

Taking the time to build fine motor skills is just as important as teaching your Littles letter names and sounds, numbers, counting, etc. etc. Unfortunately, this is a skill that is so often overlooked. Having strong hand muscles and fine motor skills is the foundation that our students need to grasp a pencil, control their writing instruments, use scissors, and ultimately have good handwriting.

It takes time to build strength in their little hands. Someone who has never exercised wouldn't go out and run a 5K, now would they?! Same thing with our little guys. They need exercise and practice to build strong muscles and develop their fine motor skills. It's so important to plan activities that help students work and strengthen these muscles.

There's a number of activities that you can incorporate into your classroom to help promote fine motor development.
  • Cut pieces of construction paper in squares of approximately 6" by 6". Have students take small stacks of paper and put paperclips on the stack.
  • Use snap cubes. It takes hand muscles to snap the cubes together and unsnap them. Same goes for Legos.
  • Cut straws into 1" pieces. Have students string them on pipe cleaners, shoe laces, or use a plastic needle and yarn.
  • String small pony beads on pipe cleaners.
  • Use tweezers to put pom-poms into empty ice cube trays or egg cartons.
  • Use lacing cards or turn a paper plate into a lacing activity by punching multiple holes in the plate and adding some yarn or shoelaces.
Along with the activities listed above, here are some of the other things we do to work on hand muscles, fine motor, and pre-writing skills. 

For this activity, students use a dry erase marker to draw lines around the stickers. Students will begin at the star and draw a line around the stickers to get from one end of the paper to the other.

To make these, use a paper cutter to cut construction paper or card stock in strips about 4" wide. Place fun stickers randomly along the strip of paper. I also put a star on the edge where I want my students to begin when they draw their line. Laminate, cut out, and add some dry erase markers.

Let's face it, your name is the most important word to you. It's a word that you use every. single. day. You can never get away from it. It follows you your whole life! (Although, I hear the word "mom" quite a bit too.) But for five year olds, their name is the most awesome, amazing word. EVER. So because names are so fantastic, I like to do a lot of name activities in the beginning of the year.

For this one, cut a 9x12 piece of construction paper in half length-wise. Use a Sharpie to write each student's name and be sure to space the letters out a little bit so there's room for stickers! I put out an assortment of small stickers and let the kids pick the ones they want to use. They take the sticker off the page and put it on the paper to make their name. Taking the sticker off of the page and putting on the paper is a great fine motor exercise.

Another activity to help build hand muscles and develop fine motor skills is playing with play dough. The rolling, squeezing, pinching, pressing that students do is great for those little hands. My kids love rolling the play dough and making snakes. We put an educational twist on our play dough fun by using these play dough mats to form our letters and numbers. I love these play dough mats because the letter and number pictures show the students how to form the letters and numbers using the play dough snakes they are already making.

In my last post I talked about my love of using bingo dabbers in the classroom. I love using them for so many reasons. For one, they are less intimidating than a pencil, especially at the beginning of the year. Be sure to check out that post because it's got some great ideas for introducing bingo dabbers to your students. The dabbers are great for fine motor practice. I use them whenever I can. 

Here we are using them to practice number formation. This is a non-intimidating way to introduce numbers and number writing. There is no pencil involved. All they do is dab. These are also great for eye-hand coordination because students have to dab within the lines to form the numbers. 

While we are working on building hand muscles and fine motor skills, we also practice and prepare to use scissors. We begin by learning to tear paper. I look at tearing paper as sort of a prerequisite for learning to use scissors. Some kiddos need to be taught how to tear paper. The concept of having their hands move in two different directions is a challenge. 

We practice tearing construction paper. I cut the construction in quarters to make the size more manageable for little hands. We make a name activity from the paper that we tear. I use a Sharpie to write the first letter of  the child's name at the top of the paper. Be sure to write the letter large! The bottom of the paper says "is for ..." (write the child's name). Students tear the paper and then glue it on to form the letter.

Once students have practiced tearing, we move to cutting. We begin by snipping or making small cuts on a piece of paper. Using the paper cutter, I cut strips of paper (about 2" wide, by 6-8" long). Large, long strips of paper are hard for beginning cutters to manage so keep them short. I used stickers to show the kids where to cut, you could also use stamps, bingo dabbers, draw lines or make dots with a marker. Students use their scissors to snip up to the sticker.  This helps students learn how to hold the paper when they cut and how to open and close the scissors. It also helps them learn to control their scissors and to understand that they need to put the scissors where they want to cut.

 I put a sticker on the top of their scissors to remind them which way is up. I've also used pom-poms, wiggly eyes, and duck tape. Stickers or duck tape works the best.

Once we've learned to snip with our scissors, we move to making larger, more deliberate cuts. I cut more strips of paper but this time I make the strips a little wider (about 4" wide).  Again, I used stickers to fancy up the strips, but you could use stamps, bingo dabbers, etc. Whatever you use, it's important to have a visual cue that shows the students where to hold the paper as they cut. (These are great projects while you're watching TV at night!) This time I draw lines for students to cut on. The wider paper means students have to open and close their scissors to move across the line as they cut.

Here's one more activity I use to practice cutting. Coupon cutting! This is such an easy, low-prep activity.  Parents are great about donating old coupons at the beginning of the year. Kids LOVE this activity because they have seen mom or dad cut coupons at home!

Tip: Be sure to preview the coupons before putting them out for your students. Make sure they are all appropriate for the classroom. Pull out and discard any coupons that may not be appropriate for the eyes of young viewers. Okay, moving on...

I set this activity up in a center with a tidy tub. Students throw their scraps away in the tidy tub. At clean up time, one student dumps the tidy tub in the big trash can. This cuts down on constant trips to the trash can and messes on the floor.

So that's fine motor development in our classroom. What do you do to teach fine motor to your class?

Thanks for reading along!


  1. This is a great post! Thank you :)

  2. Hi, I have purchased your products from TPT, but this is the first time I've visited your blog! It's wonderful! Thank you for sharing your teaching passion. I teach first grade, but many of your ideas work for my firsties, because they are special needs. Thank you again!!

    1. Thank you for stopping by Trish! So glad you found me and hope you've picked up a few new ideas! :)

  3. Great ideas... and no xeroxing! I love it!

    1. Thank you Rhoda. Hope you found a few new ideas! :)

  4. I teach kinder and the development of these skills is extremely important. The activities that you presented are simple YET meaningful! This was a great post. Thanks for sharing

    1. Thank you Mizz Kay! My kids love cutting out coupons the best. They feel like little adults and have so much fun. The tidy tub does help BIG TIME! Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to drop me a line! :)

  5. So many great ideas! I got some fresh tips for my 4-year-old; thank you!

  6. Deborah FillerJune 25, 2016

    I loved reading your post. As a new preschool teacher I am always looking for ways to teach my kids fine motor skills. They are so important to writing well. I look forward to getting your news letter.