Thursday, March 19, 2015

Developing Fine Motor Skills Through Exploration and Play

As a junior and senior kindergarten teacher, it's very important to provide a variety of activities for young learners to strengthen their developing fine motor skills. If these activities are student-directed and encourage play and exploration, even better! Students with strong fine motor skills experience more success with cutting, printing, drawing, colouring, and manipulation tasks.

When we first began developing our junior kindergarten program in 2010, DIAL-III results indicated a real weakness in fine motor skills in our pre-school population. Our school division's occupational therapist, Rob Thiessen, was a great help in developing classroom activities that would strengthen fine motor skills of all students. Five years later, I was excited when I was asked to share these activities in Winnipeg at Leading for a Strong Start--a full day of play-based learning as we introduced our new kindergarten support document to school superintendents and principals.
So much fun spending time with some of Manitoba's leading early years teachers--pictured above are Connie Lowe and Deidre Sagert from St. James-Assiniboia School Division!
Take a look at how you can create play-based learning activities for your classroom to target fine motor skill development!

 Clipping clothes pins onto flowers strengthens pincer grasp. Matching dot patterns and numerals adds some math outcomes as well. A similar activity could involve matching letters on clothespins to pictures for beginning sounds.
 Using large clips to transfer pompoms to an ice cube tray also strengthens pincer grasp. Colour coding the ice cube trays would add another layer to this activity.
 Penny races: two friends race to see who can cover their X first with pennies. Rolling a die to see how many pennies students can use at a time would add subitizing and counting practice.
 Any kind of water play is always so much fun! Squeezing eye droppers is excellent fine motor and eye-hand coordination practice. Students fill the spaces on large lego blocks in this activity. Using clear containers and water coloured red, blue, and yellow fosters exploration of colour mixing.
 Big kids really enjoyed testing their speed and fine motor skills during playtime at the conference!
Other activities included:
Spider Silk (2nd photo): students help spiders catch insects by wrapping spider silk (yarn) around insects.
Alphabet Sort (3rd photo): students use tweezers to choose an alphabet bead and sort it into a labelled ice cube tray. The beads feature uppercase letters, so students could match to a lowercase letter in the ice cube trays.
Q Tip Printing (4th photo): students print letters and numbers using their fingers or Q Tips on Ziploc bags filled with paint. Adding bubble wrap to the bags provides sensory feedback when students print with their fingers.
Tennis Ball Monsters (5th photo): students feed bingo chips to tennis balls with a slit cut in them. Adding googly eyes makes them look more monster-like. Students can spin a spinner/roll a die and count a certain number of bingo chips. Feeding the tennis ball monster with tweezers adds another level of challenge.
Cotton Ball Race (6th photo): students use a turkey baster to squirt air at a cotton ball. The first person to move their cotton ball from one of the table to the other wins. A great activity for increasing hand strength!

In my kindergarten room, we spend the first 20-30 minutes of each day on discovery learning. Fine motor activities such as the ones above are a perfect way to begin your day as boys and girls arrive at school. Adding opportunities to explore numeracy, literacy, and science outcomes increases the level of challenge and differentiates for learners.

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