Developing fine motor skills through play

Fine motor night activities

When a student starts kindergarten and has a hard time holding a pencil or printing his/her name, many of my parents are very keen and willing to help out at home in any way they know how.  They usually offer to do things like printing practice or buy workbooks and are open to any other suggestions I may have to help their child.  I often find myself repeating to parent after parent that, ironically, printing practice is often one of the least effective ways to help kindergarten students who are struggling, improve their printing.  In order to print (or draw, paint, cut, etc.) effectively, students need to have developed hand dominance as well as good muscle strength and control in their shoulders, hands and fingers.  There are many simple things parents can be do with their children to help develop these muscles.

This year in order to help our parents best help their children at home, we decided to try something new.  We held a parent and student evening workshop, by invitation only, targeting our students who were most in need of extra support and practice.  We had an amazingly positive response.

We started the evening in one classroom with the parents while their children played next door.  Parents were all given this “Developing Fine Motor Skills” handout and we discussed some of the simple things they could do at home with their children to develop hand dominance, shoulder stabilization, hand and finger strength and finally, better fine motor control.  After our short presentation, children were given a passport and were asked to complete at least 5 of the 12 stations with their parents.  Parents had the job of identifying how each of the activities they completed helped develop fine motor skills (they could refer to their handout if needed!).

Once done, students could turn in their passport for a goodie bag that was full of fine motor activities to do at home.  The pictures below show the goodie bags we created for each student.

OT Night - goodie bag      OT Night - Goodie bag 2b

At the end of the evening, students left excited by the chance they had to play with their parents at school and parents left with a better understanding of simple things they could do at home to help their child.

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Teaching kinders a proper pencil grasp in five simple steps

At the beginning of every kindergarten year, I have at least one child who fists their pencil.  Here is my favourite way, in 5 simple steps, to teach most children how to hold their pencil with a proper tripod grasp.

1.  Make an elastic pencil holder (as you can see, I made this one out of a black and a blue hair elastic, a big star bead and a small zip tie).

2.  Have the child slide their dominant hand through the black elastic.

3.  Have the child hold the bead with their middle, ring and pinky fingers.  This gives these fingers something to do and gets them out of the way.

4.  The thumb and pointer finger become “pinchers” to hold the pencil.  I find using a Start Right pencil grip, makes “pinching” easier at first and stops the thumb and pointer from wrapping too far around the pencil.

5.  For most pencil fisters (or students who use too many fingers to stabilize their pencil), the pencil will often lean forward when they try using only their thumb and pointer to hold it.  To fix this, simply thread the un-sharpened end of the pencil through the small loop you created in the black elastic.  The pencil will be tilted back and held in the web space between the thumb and pointer.

Do you have a different tried, tested and true way of teaching your students proper pencil grasp?  If so, I’d love to hear about it.