Fine motor skills activities for preschoolers are an essential part of early learning but what are they?
Fine motor skills refer to the coordination of small muscles in the hands, wrists, and fingers.
You are using your fine motor muscles when you hold a pencil to write, bead a necklace, cut with scissors, button your shirt, etc.
To accomplish essential everyday activities, children need to build their fine motor skills, especially as they enter kindergarten and are expected to write with a pencil. Weak muscle tone in the hands would lead to very wobbly and lightly written letters, and more importantly a child who feels like they are "not good" at writing.
But there are plenty of fun and easy ways to build up little hand and finger muscles that you can do with your little one with things you already have around the house.
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When kids are 3-4 years old, fine motor skills they should be able to do include:
Once kids hit 5-6 years old, they'll be expected to reach these fine motor milestones:
Don't worry if your child doesn't reach a milestone at the exact age! Everyone is different. The more you practice fine motor skills with your child, the easier these milestones will be to reach, and it's never TOO late.
For a wider age range of fine motor skills milestones you can check out understood.org.
To help you find what you're looking for, I'm going to separate these fine motor activities into hand strengthening activities and grasp developing activities.
Hands strengthening activities work the wrist and hand while developing the skills needed for cutting with scissors, stacking blocks, squeezing glue, eating, opening containers, putting on shoes/socks, typing, and more.
Any activity where your child is using precise movements to scoop and transfer items increases coordination and strengthens the hands and wrists.
Sensory bins are great ways to explore using the senses while also using different fillers like rice, beans, cotton, chickpeas, water, and other materials perfect for scooping. I just give my kids spatulas, spoons, and other kitchen tools and bam, it's a hit.
Create a "web" of blue tape around a baking dish before placing in items such as magnetic letters to be rescued. Give your child some kitchen tongs to rescue each letter as you call it out by name or sound. (Find 13 more fun alphabet activities like this HERE.)
Kids will use their hand muscles in an opening and closing motion similar to the motion needed to operate scissors. Since the tongs release on their own, kids only need to focus on the closing motion.
Do you have a one hole punch handy? It's an extremely enticing tool to children and it works a whole other group of hand muscles that tongs and scissors don't really get to. Kids can hole-punch anything that is thin enough. My favorite is leaves!
Here's an example from the OT Toolbox on how to make fine motor lanterns with a hole punch!
Develop muscles in the whole hand with Play-Doh shaping. Making towers, letters, faces, you name it, it's all going to help build those hand muscles.
Download these free blank faces and build fine motor skills while also developing your preschooler's understanding of feelings, with Feelings Faces.
Grab those sneakers and start practicing tying loops and knots to build coordination, motor planning, and fine motor skills. Have you heard of the Cheerio Method? It takes out that tricky bunny loop and replaces it with a cute as a button Cheerio. Check it out.
Tying shoes the Cheerio way is highly recommended by OT's (occupational therapists) because it doesn't require as much double handed dexterity as more "traditional" shoe tying methods.
These activities focus more on the development of muscles in the thumb, pointer, and middle finger used to grasp items. Kids will use need to master pincer and tripod grasps for writing, buttoning, zipping, drawing, and more.
Our very clever school OT (occupational therapist) made up this favorite game for our transitional kindergarten centers. Hide beads in the dough and have kids dig for treasure.
At home I make each little play-dough ball into an egg and the kids love "cracking" each egg and digging out the beads.
By picking out the beads kids are working on their pincer grasp and manipulating the play-dough builds all the muscles in the fingers, hands, and wrist making this activity a DOUBLE fine motor skills builder and it's perfect for preschoolers!
Often the beads that come in typical jewelry making kits have frustratingly tiny holes that can lead to meltdowns, especially for preschoolers who are only beginning to develop their fine motor skills.
To avoid that frustration, I recommend using large beads that will in turn, have a larger hole like these. For kids who have a bit more precision, pony beads come in all different colors are quite simple to lace.
My second secret for teaching your child how to bead without frustration is to use pipe cleaners instead of string. The point on the end is much easier to put through the hole, leading to more success.
Don't forget to wrap one end around the bead so that the beads don't slip off while your child is creating their masterpiece.
I love grabbing whatever stickers I can find in the Target dollar section, but hiding in their office section are one of my most favorite, inexpensive stickers: dot stickers!
Dot stickers are an excellent teaching tool, but they're also a way to enhance your child's fine motor abilities. Peeling the stickers off a page requires kids to pinch and pull the sticker, using tiny finger muscles.
If this is really taxing for your child, I recommend removing the sticker backing, usually the white outline around the stickers, to make it easier to peel them.
Want another dot sticker peeling activity? In this phone number activity, kids practice number recognition while also developing fine motor skills.
This one is just like it sounds and is a great fine motor skills activity to keep your preschooler busy while you cook dinner!
Grab a ball of playdoh and stick some dry spaghetti in, then use that pincer grasp to place cheerios or even penne pasta onto the spaghetti. Precision is key!
Part of measuring accurately is through lining up items end to end. When kids are using small items, they're working that pincer grasp or two fingered grip they need for beginning writing skills.
To learn more about how to teach your child how to measure while incorporating fine motor movements check out my post on Measuring Me.
Try these fine motor skills activities for preschoolers who love nature! Draw a picture on some cardstock or cardboard and poke some holes through to have your little one decorate with any stem.
As they place the flower or leaf in the holes, preschoolers will work on placing the small stem with accuracy and that elusive pincer grip using the thumb and pointer finger. The product is always beautiful!
This great quiet time activity engages preschoolers in fine motor play with plenty of organic opportunities to learn about shapes while practicing fine motor skills.
Combine shapes with fine motor skills in quiet time activity for preschoolers
If you are looking for ways to teach your 4-5 year old from home with fun, hands-on activities that are fun for kids and easy to do, look no further than The Fun Club.
As an educator and mom, I know how little time we have to create elaborate activities and I also know that kids don't like worksheets (at least mine don't), so I crafted this program especially for kids 4-5 years old.
The progress is astounding, and the crazy part, is they only do one 20 minute activity a day. It's packed with fine motor skills, reading, writing, math, and social emotional fun that kids LOVE.
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