The first step to help strengthen those fine motor muscles used for writing is to strengthen those larger, core muscles. More running, more climbing, more swinging, more lifting, more throwing and catching. Believe it or not, the upper arm muscles need to be strong in order for a child to stabilize their hand on a flat surface and manipulate a crayon, marker, or pencil.  (Fledglings students perform these movements every single day at school!)

This alone will not refine those writing movements so it is also important to incorporate activities which will strengthen those small finger muscles without asking a young child to write, write, write. When a child has difficulty doing a certain task, the solution is NOT to ask them to do it more. A very young should not be the least bit interested in writing nor be asked to do so.  They should simply be exposed to it to spark an interest.

When we see a child who is older and one who “should” be more interested in writing activities but is not, it is often because they find it to be a difficult task motor-wise. Their hands get tired. They can’t form letters or numbers or shapes like their friends can. They get discouraged and just refuse.  When they try to write, often what you see on the paper is very light and thin and hard to see. This is because they do not have strong control of the writing utensil.

Here are some very simple (and fun!) activities to build fine motor skills:

  •  MEMORY CARD GAMES: Picture cards or a regular deck of playing cards face down, take turns flipping them over to find a match. Yes….flipping cards over is the muscle motor skill that does the trick!
  •  WORKING WITH CLAY: Playdough is acceptable but harder, Potter’s clay will strengthen those hand muscles more readily.
  •  PLAY DOUGH WITH A TWIST: You can use clay instead of play dough (probably better). Hide marbles or rocks, or small “treasures” in the clay (embed them into a ball of dough). You can hide 5-10 marbles in the ball of clay and ask your child, how many can you find in here? Can you get them out?  Or make two balls of clay with the same number of objects in them and have it be a race between the two of you.
  • SPEAKING OF RACES…: Get two dishtowels (towels that size) one for each “competitor.” Lay each one flat on the table with the edge of the towel lined up on the edge of the table. At the word “go”…. each player will use only their fingers to scrunch up the towel into a long roll in front of them, gathering it as you go – your fingers pulling it toward you like a crawling spider.
  • HEADS OR TAILS?: Show your child there is a head and tail to a coin. After you examine and have fun seeing what else in on the coin, sprinkle the coins from your piggy bank out on the table or floor. Then see if the child can flip all the coins to heads before the timer goes off. Extension #1:  Flip them all back to tails before the timer goes off.  Extension #2:  Spilt the group of coins into two groups. At “go”… two people flip them all to heads (or tails) and who ever finishes first is the winner.
  • PICK ‘EM UP: Pick up small objects on the table or floor. Pennies are great but you can use beans or small beads also. Have a competition – how many can you pick up using one hand?  Storing the ones already picked up in the same hand? Grown-ups do this task with ease, but children require great strength to pick up and hold and pick up more and hold.
  • CLOTHESPIN ACTIVITIES: Using the clothespins with springs in them, have your child hang out clothes, or clip clothespins on the edge of a paper plate or onto the edge of a towel hanging in the bathroom. This pinching action is great for fine motor refinement and it just might help with chores!
  • STRINGING BEADS AND LACING: Any time a child has to carefully string a thread through a small hole, it takes great dexterity, small muscle movements, and patience. The finished product might be a necklace or a laced up shoe!
  • SPINNING TOPS: This is a very favorite fun activity to do which your child will only see as fun. Get some small tops that can be spun with one hand. The twisting motion between the thumb and forefinger is a great strengthening activity.
  •  ETCH-A-SKETCH: These are absolutely the best! Fun. Satisfying. Intriguing. Creative. And huge for fine motor practice!
  •  SPINNERS: Find a game that has a spinner. The action of the hand and fingers to successfully make a spinner spin around for a game is another awesome fine motor practice activity.
  • ANYTHING WITH RESISTANCE AND PINCHING…. Tweezers, clothespins, eyedroppers….
  • EXTRA FUN ONE FOR LETTER RECOGNITION TOO! Bath time? Soap up your child’s back and write a letter or a number on it. Can they tell you what letter/number it was? You can do this without the bathtub and without soap of course, but it’s so much more fun that way! Great because they have to visualize and feel what is being drawn on their back!