How To: Develop Fine Motor Skills for Preschoolers

As children ages 3-5 enter preschool, their interest in drawing and coloring begins. In order to promote the effective and efficient development of fine motor skills, parents should encourage children to participate in upright tasks with their arms and hands positioned to work against gravity. Gravity will increase the stability and strength of the torso, shoulder, arm and wrist, which ultimately promotes the precision and refinement of hand and finger movements. Here are some tips:

  • Wall-mounted chalkboard or dry erase board
  • Standing or table-top easel
  • Adjustable, commercial slant board
  • Slanted desk
  • Paper taped to window/wall
  • Playing in the sand on all four limbs
  • Paper towel with window cleaner to make designs on mirror or window

Manipulative activities foster the development and strength of the fine motor muscles of the hand that are needed for precision in handwriting and cutting skills. It also encourages use of both hands for the development of hand-eye and bilateral coordination. Some of these activities include:

  • Stickers
  • Putty, clay, Play Doh
  • Felt boards
  • Spray bottles, squirt toys
  • Stamping activities
  • Lacing cards
  • Stringing beads
  • Squeezing bubble wrap
  • Measuring/pouring ingredients
  • Tearing lettuce

Grasping patterns are important for proper manipulation of writing tools. These items force children to utilize only their index and middle fingers to correctly grasp, support and manipulate the writing tool:

  • Broken (thick and short) crayons
  • Thick paint brushes
  • Broken pieces of sidewalk chalk
  • Short and thick markers

When a child expresses an interest in writing letters, first encourage them to draw vertical and horizontal lines, circles, shapes, and people. This will help them learn to orient the things they draw from top to bottom and left to right. As they begin to understand the concepts of directionality, they will be on their way to learning how to correctly form letters.  Have your child use their index finger to practice writing in/on:

  • The air (large movements)
  • Sand or dirt
  • Finger paint
  • Play doh
  • Shaving cream in the tub/shower
  • Chalk boards

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