Great educators, therapists and parents know it takes a foundation of varied sensory activities to build strong fine motor skills. Here are a few of our favorite suggestions:
Encourage Crawling Activities!
Crawling activities help build strong proximal control (through head neck and shoulders) to provide stability as a base of support. Building stability in the trunk and shoulder girdle area allows for good mobility in the hands, wrist and fingers which in turn equals strong fine motor skills including handwriting. Try the Fun Tube Tunnel and have kids take turns pushing a weighted ball through the tube for extra heavy work input.
Add Visual Tracking Activities:
Students spend so much time these days on technology devices from smart phones and tablets to e-readers and portable gaming devices. These require complex integration of a number of vision skills including visual acuity and fixation, binocular fusion and convergence. For some children this type of visual sensory processing is challenging especially if there is not a strong foundation of eye coordination. Games like I Spy, flashlight activities, keeping a balloon or beach ball up in the air, tracking and popping bubbles are not new, but still provide a good workout to build up eye coordination skills which likewise help support fine motor skill development. These Fingerlight Balls have good “hang” time to allow easier/slower visual tracking than standard beach balls or balloons.
Build Strong Hand/Finger Muscles:
Although standard early childhood modeling clay is a good staple, consider using theraputty to really give hands a workout. Hide coins or chips in the putty and have children fish them out using pinch and push skills which help build intrinsic hand muscles needed for fine motor skills like using scissors and squeezing a glue bottle. With the Theraputty Sample Pack you get all six grades of resistance from extra soft to extra firm.
Vary the Use of Media:
Crayons, pencils, pens and dry erase markers are all good basic tools, but add some variety to increase sensory input. Add dry gelatin to finger-paint so that when the paint dries on the paper your budding artists have a masterpiece that also has a scratch n sniff olfactory component. Or try Ice cube painting to add a chilly sensation to standard painting. For those reluctant pencil or crayon holders, try using a Squiggle Wiggle pen as a warm up tool as the gentle vibration may help with deep touch pressure input to the writing muscles of the hand.
Allow Movement Activities First!
Our vestibular or movement sense helps give input to certain parts of the brain that help regulate posture, balance, coordination as well as attention and maintaining focus. Consider switching up routines to allow recess, after school play, or quick classroom movement breaks first before moving on to fine motor activities like writing, homework, STEAM labs and/or center time. Set a timer if transitions are a problem. Play first then work!