Overview: Interested in improving fine motor skills in your kids? Use these tips to help them improve their ability, making it easier for them to learn how to write.
Are you a parent who wants to know how to improve the fine motor skills of your child? Are you concerned that your kids won’t have the finger strength to hold a pencil correctly due to their use of electronic devices? Rest assured, there are many activities you can do with your child to help them in this area.
Fine motor skills are small muscle movements of the fingers in coordination with the eyes. When teaching fine motor skills, try to be patient and understanding with your child. Fine motor skills take more time and practice to develop than we adults might think. Sometimes we forget just how many of these skills need to be learned – thinking instead that our child should automatically know how to do these tasks.
It’s definitely worth taking the time to practice these skills with our children. The more developed our children’s fine motor skills become, the easier they will be able to learn to write.
Like gross motor skills, fine motor skills develop in a consistent manner but at an uneven pace. At times, your child will pick up skills rapidly, and at other times their skill development will be delayed. Most children who struggle with mastering certain fine motor skills do not have a serious problem. If your child is significantly behind his peers in multiple aspects of fine motor development or if he regresses, losing previously acquired skills, then you should seek medical advice.
It is more fun for your child to learn while they play. Try to incorporate activities like dress-up to teach zipping and buttoning; making cards to practice writing or tracing skills; cutting and pasting to make a project other than just a writing on a plain piece of paper, etc. Be creative and have fun!
7 Fun Ideas for Improving Fine Motor Skills in Children:
1 – Cutting – Use a thick black line to guide cutting the following:
- A fringe from a piece of paper
- Cut off corners of a piece of paper
- Cut along curved lines
- Cut lines with a variety of angles
- Cut figures with curves and angles
- Cut clay with blunt scissors
2 – Placing and Pasting
- Place a variety of forms (eg. blocks, felt, paper, string, yarn, cereal, cotton) on outlines
- Match shapes, color, or pictures to a page and paste them within the outlines
3 – Tracing and Coloring
- Use a thick black line if needed
- Trace and then color shapes, increasing the size and complexity gradually
4 – Self-Care Skills
- Buttoning and unbuttoning
- Fastening Snaps
- Using a screwdriver
- Locking and unlocking a door
- Winding a clock
- Opening and closing jars
- Vacuuming a rug
- Rolling out dough or other simple cooking activities
- Washing plastic dishes
- Sweeping the floor
5 – Finger Tracing
- Many times when a child is unable to do a worksheet, it helps to trace the pattern with his finger before he tries it with a pencil.
- Have the child trace a pattern in sand, cornmeal, finger paint, etc. The textures give the child kinesthetic feedback.
6 – Pre-Writing
- Dot-to-dot drawings of pictures, objects, shapes, numbers, letters, etc.
- Typing exercises
- Tile and mosaic work
- Folding activities
- Fine coloring
- Have the child do repetitious strokes (with an increasingly smaller writing tool) similar to those found in manuscript or cursive letters. Emphasize accuracy, spacing and flow or rhythm. Sometimes doing it to music helps.
7 – Writing
- Have the child write in the air and in front of his eyes (arm outstretched) with his finger.
- To increase his tactile awareness, have him trace over letters on textured surfaces. Have him manipulate 3-dimensional letters when blindfolded.
- When a writing tool is introduced, letters which involve similar strokes should be taught first (moving simple to complex). Next, combinations of letters in short words, sentences and finally spontaneous writing. (Remember to use words your child can read).
Books Which Improve Fine Motor Skills
Did you know that you can actually give your child books to read which will help improve his or her fine motor skills? Books which require your child to use his fingers to do more than just turn the pages are an excellent way to help your child’s dexterity to improve.
Here are my suggestions:
There’s a Mouse About the House – This interactive book is so much fun: first, take the little cardboard mouse out of the pocket on the front cover. Then, as you read the story about the mouse’s adventure, follow the dotted line and move the mouse through the slot on each page. And – this book is not just fun, it’s educational, too. Holding the mouse is like holding a pencil. It teaches fine motor skills to little fingers. And following the dotted line encourages early writing skills as well.
A Squirrel’s Tale – Like the previous book, children pass the cardboard squirrel through the slot on each page to improve their dexterity.
Peek Inside series (Ages 3 and up) – A very simple non-fiction, lift-the-flap book for small children, packed with holes to peek through, flaps to peek beneath and snippets of factual information about what happens when night falls. Part of a bestselling series where children get to peek inside burrows, inside barns, under leaves, and even inside the zoo, to learn many fun facts about our world.
Wind-up Books (Ages 3 and up) – Winding is a fun way for little ones to build the muscles in their fingers. With these interactive books, children can play and tell stories. Have your child wind up the tractor and watch it whizz around the tracks.
Look Inside series (Ages 5 and up) – The Look Inside series is for slightly older kids. This non-fiction lift-the-flap book series features bold illustrations, simple explanations to complex questions and over 60 flaps to lift. Look Inside Our World is an introduction to geology and geography for young children. It asks and answers many questions about what the earth is made of and what goes on beneath the surface.
Under the Sea Jigsaw Book (Ages 5 and up) – Puzzles are excellent ways for kids to improve their dexterity. This unique book contains six different 15-piece jigsaw puzzles that show some of the amazing animals that live beneath the waves.
Fold and Fly series (Ages 6 and up) – If you have a more active child who doesn’t want to sit still long enough to work on his fine motor skills, consider checking out one of these Fly and Fold books. The reward for spending time folding the airplanes, bugs, pterosaurs, or spaceships is that he can then run around throwing his creation in the air. It’s super fun to set up contests where you compete with your child to see whose object will fly the farthest. And the whole time the folding is happening, fine motor skills are being developed. So much fun!
See Inside series (Ages 7 and up) – Packed with lively illustrations and fascinating flaps, these books are bursting to reveal amazing secrets. See Inside How Things Work is one of my favorites! Have you ever wondered just what happens when you flush a toilet, or what goes on inside a light bulb? Do you want to know how a digger scoops up soil, why boats float, and what keeps planes up in the air? Lift the flaps to see inside how things work–from everyday inventions to massive machines.
Advanced Lift the Flap series (Ages 7 and up) – Engineering helps shape the world around us, from the houses and cities we live in, to the way we travel, and even the sound of the music we listen to. Lift the flaps in this fascinating book to discover how engineering works, the many things engineers do, and how engineers are building a better world. This book also includes links to websites with more engineering feats as well as and activities and projects to try at home. The Advanced Lift the Flap series is ideal for improving general knowledge and guaranteed to keep fact-loving, question-asking children entertained for hours. This series is ideal for older children who still need help developing their fine motor skills.
Origami (Ages 7 and up) – Want to teach some fine-motor skills while you’re on the go? Whether you’re in a car, train, boat, or plane, long journeys will pass by in a flash with these fun-packed pads. Kids will learn how to fold eight amazing origami shapes with this pack. Includes an instruction book with easy-to-follow, illustrated step-by-step instructions, and 75 beautiful and uniquely designed origami sheets to fold into dinosaurs.
Embroidery (Ages 7 and up) – These clever kits contain everything you need to embroider, frame, and hang various designs. The 16-page Usborne book included gives you simple, step-by-step instructions showing you exactly what to do at every step of the way. Choose from a fairy, flamingo, llama, mermaid, owl, or unicorn.
Sticker Books (All ages) – Sticker books are excellent ways for kids to develop their fine motor skills and they’re also so much fun! Usborne has a vast array of sticker books for kids of all ages. Fun options. Educational options. They’re sure to have a sticker book about whatever your child is currently interested in!
Book & Jigsaw Puzzle Combo (all ages) – Usborne has book and puzzle combos that range from 30 pieces up to 300 pieces. They are excellent ways for kids to develop their fine motor skills while learning something at the same time. Check them out!
Now that you know how to improve fine motor skills in your child, go ahead and get started. Incorporating a few of these activities into your child’s day will go a long way in building their strength, improving their skills, and increasing their confidence.
Question: Do you have any other suggestions for improving fine motor skills in children? Please leave a comment below.