Does this sound familiar? You’re anxious to help your child improve their fine motor skills so you scour Pinterest for a long list of bright and shiny activities to engage their little minds and develop their fine motor skills to a ‘T.’ As you spend hours during naps and after bedtime crafting and assembling, you imagine the future artist or talented surgeon you are raising. You present your elaborate new activity to your preschooler only to watch him or her spend less than five minutes before abandoning it for a toy, or worse, tablet.
We know that one of the best ways you can support your preschooler on the road to Kindergarten is helping them to develop their fine motor skills. If you search for fine motor activities online, you will come across some crazy activities on Pinterest that require a lot of effort on your part to make toys or set things up. If you’re anything like me, you don’t have time to design and craft new activities over and over for your child. Between work, your kids’ extra-curricular activities and housework, you want to spend your free time WITH your children, not making elaborate activities.
There IS an easier way to help your children develop their fine motor skills. You do NOT need to make yourself crazy preparing elaborate activities that your child spends little to no time on.
I’ve listed five activities that are fun, effective and most of all, EASY to set up for your children. Nothing complicated for you to set up and everything is engaging and open ended. These are the kind of activities that your child will re-visit over and over (not the kind of activity that you spend more time setting up than they spend playing with). Each activity has minimal set up and all are CHEAP (either materials you already have in your house, or items that are under $10) ways to help your child improve their fine motor skills.
1. Magnadoodle Boards
Remember these babies from back in our not-so technology driven youth? They are still great fun for kids. At two, Hannah mostly enjoys scribbling on hers, but sometimes attempts to draw pictures of our family.
Pro tip: get two small ones so you can doodle side-by-side, or take turns and model some things to draw. Hannah loves it when I draw our family for her and is more apt to copy me. It doesn’t really matter what they draw, as long as they are practicing moving with deliberation.
2. Let Them Have Scissors!
Kids love to destroy things, right? Letting them make a mess with scissors. They will be improving hand strength and dexterity, all while having fun destroying something! Tip: using cardstock or sturdier paper will make manipulating the scissors easier. Below is my favorite pair of scissors to use in kindergarten.
Making bead necklaces is a great way to improve hand eye coordination and dexterity. You can buy chunky wooden beads with shoelace type strings for toddlers, working up to stringing smaller craft store beads on a pipe cleaner (the stability of the pipe cleaner helps little ones starting out with smaller beads) and then flimsier string.
These are Hannah’s favorite beads by Melissa and Doug. I especially love that there is a numeracy link with the beads with numerals AND appropriate number of dots.
Paint is such an easy and inviting way to involve your child in fine motor activities. You may already have paint in your house, and if not, it is readily available. Hannah loves painting books, especially with her favorite characters, the Paw Patrol (insert groan here if you are as sick of them as I am!). Paint can be a motivational tool for a child who is hesitant to use pencils or crayons. Every kid likes to make a mess, right? Let them go at it (outside if you want to keep your house unscathed). Little paint brushes are better to use once children get used to the idea of painting. Allow opportunities for children to paint on a flat surface, or vertically (i.e. paper taped to a wall or on an easel).
This is an easy one, right? Any use of pencils, crayons or pens will help develop fine motor skills. Some children eat this up and could colour and draw pictures everyday. Other children need to be tied to a chair to colour or draw. Often these children struggle with fine motor abilities because they simply are not interested and therefore, haven’t practiced.
Here is my big tip for children like these: switch it up! Instead of giving them plain sheets of paper, try a colouring book with their favorite characters (or vice versa). Instead of crayons, let you child use some extra special materials like sparkly pens, scented markers, or highlighters (get the good kind that are really bright. I’ve never met a kid who was not fascinated with a good highlighter). Tape big sheets of paper to the wall instead of just sitting at the table. The novelty will keep your child engaged and eager to try.
One final note: remember the more enthusiasm you show, the more likely your child will enjoy and actually WANT to practice fine motor skills. If you are right beside them cutting and painting, of course they are going to want to participate. However, if you’re sitting across the table on your phone, they are not going to be as interested or spend as much time on the activity. Be their cheerleader and partner and they will have success!
Good luck! Drop me a line and tell me, what are your child’s favorite fine motor activities?
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