I was thinking about children who need a little extra reinforcement and that reminded me of those kids who really struggle with fine motor strength and control. I have had some students who knew letters and sounds, and were ready to write, but just did not have the coordination to make meaningful marks on paper yet!
I really believe that children learn so much through play, and I encouraged parents to find games their children enjoy that would strengthen hands and fingers – like Legos, dressing Barbie dolls, Lite Brite, lacing activities, poking push pins through paper (on top of a carpet square).
I loved including activities like hole punching and tearing paper in projects we did at school because they really require the children to use those muscles! I think sign language also encourages children to stretch their fingers and control their movements.
I also made a list of activities parents might do at home to help children who are having trouble holding pencils, writing, cutting, etc. One of these lists was compiled by an occupational therapist.
Owen is at a great age to start some of these activities – he turned 2 in October! Of course he isn’t ready for a lot of them yet but one of his favorites is his foam container. I bought a set of brightly colored foam pieces at a dollar store.
Then I took a cottage cheese container and cut an X in the lid.
Owen pushed one foam piece at a time through the X. He used a great pincer grasp to pick up each foam piece, and really had to push to squish it through the slit in the lid. If you have grandchildren or work with younger kids – Owen did this over and over, he loved dumping them out again!
At school I sometimes made a slit in empty water bottles and gave the children dry beans to poke through. Owen has a great pencil grip already – and he draws a mean scribble – it used to be very wispy!
Most of you already know that giving children a short pencil really helps with their pencil grasp – you can pick up one or two for free at Ikea – or buy a boxful from an office supply store!
Of course, being 2, Owen started stacking the foam pieces in a tower – hey – more great fine motor practice!
Owen is really into sorting by colors right now – today he put all the yellow pieces in first, then red, then green, then blue. In the classroom you could give children who need practice 4 containers and ask them to sort – they will self check when they open the lid of the containers!
He also found miniscule stickers on the bottoms of a few of the foam pieces and pulled those off – he used them to decorate my sweater. That makes me wonder – when do children start to care what picture is on their stickers? Owen adores stickers but he doesn’t care what they look like – Chiquita banana stickers, size labels from clothes, price tags that pull off – he loves anything that sticks – and often decorates his sisters!