Fine motor skills involve use of the small muscles in the fingers which work in coordination with the eyes and neurological processes to manipulate the fingers to make movements important for handwriting skills as well as a great number of functional daily living skills. Fine motor tasks can be challenging for many preschool-aged children, as they are still developing those skills, but they are very important as without adequate fine motor skills children will have difficulty holding a pencil correctly, turning book pages, fastening buttons, cutting, tying shoelaces, feeding themselves, and a great number of other tasks that adults take for granted. The organization MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) has uploaded a fine motor skills milestones chart which can be used as a guide when determining if your child may have a weakness in the area of fine motor skills.
There are a number of activities that parents can do at home to work with children in order to help them stay on track for preschool and/or kindergarten with regards to their fine motor skill development, whether they are having difficulty or not. Any practice manipulating the fingers and working on hand-eye coordination will be benefit, and children generally see these activities as fun, which is a bonus for everyone involved. As a general rule, children should always be supervised when working on activities that involve cutting or using items (such as glue) that could be misused or ingested accidentally.
Play dough can be used in many ways, and something as simple as having the child practice rolling the dough between the palms of their hands or making small balls with their fingers can improve fine motor skills. Another play dough activity is for the parent to hide small objects, such as pennies, inside balls of play dough and asking the child to try to find the coins. The child will be further motivated if he or she is allowed to keep the pennies once they’re found.
Cutting and pasting activities are a staple of many preschool programs because they incorporate fine motor practice, visual discrimination skills, and practice with following directions. Activities that involve holding a pencil or crayon to trace letters, shapes, and numbers are also great ways to work on those skills. TLS Books has a long list of worksheets that can be used at home to work on tracing skills and cutting skills.
When I taught in an inclusion kindergarten class, children really enjoyed learning the letters of the alphabet with a craft that involved the teacher “drawing” a letter on a sheet of construction paper in glue and having the children put small objects on the glue. When dried, the children had a three-dimensional representation of the letter in dried beans, macaroni pasta, or craft pom-poms.
These are just a few of the many ideas to help develop fine motor skills. Others include lacing and threading activities, using clothes pins to pick up small objects, or task that involves using the fingers with small, precise movements.