Fine Motor Coordination Ideas for Children in OT for the Summer

This is like a 3 page word document but I don't know how to link it as a document, so alas, you have to deal with it in copy/pasted form. I shared a version of this a few months ago, but now it's been updated. So far the teachers I have presented this to (with all the activities in front of them to try) have loved this. I recommend sharing a version of this next fall with your K, 1, and 2 teachers….at the very least, to build awareness.

Occupational Therapy: Ideas for Fine Motor Centers and More!    < -- start here for tons of fine motor craft ideas I have found that are great for young children and easy to implement

The following are things to work on to help children improve their fine motor coordination and strength, which can help their handwriting, and please note many of these activities could fall under MANY categories.

·      Precision (carefully manipulating tiny objects)

o   Cut up straws, then bead onto pipe cleaners

o   Beading onto pipe cleaners or tiny strings, or through colanders

o   Placing marbles on top of golf tees that the child has stuck into Styrofoam

o   Place beads/items on skewers placed in Styrofoam in various directions

o   Stack very small blocks

o   Match a bead pattern on a skewer to another skewer (on Styrofoam)

o   “Tight rope” – have them place small items on thick taut band that has been wrapped around a box, and/or have them hold a popsicle stick in the air in one hand, and place tiny objects

o   Folding paper, ie very basic origami

·      Tripod grasp (holding items with 3 fingers, not all five)

o   Clothespins [wolves] and cotton balls [sheep] game

o   Any type of tweezers or tongs, picking up objects and transferring them [I use ice cube trays]. Ensure only using 3 fingers by giving them something to hold curled up in their last two fingers if necessary.

o   Push pins and corkboard – with supervision

·      Open web space  (“OK” sign) – look at thumb to index finger

o   Making the OK sign, pulling the OK sign apart, finger exercises

o   Picking up tiny objects using small eraser ends (those little rubber erasers you can put on the end of pencils – using those as tiny tongs!)

·      Strengthening of hands, upper arms/extremities  (strong core/arms helps with fine motor coordination)

o   Arms: Do a lot of “crawling” or “animal walks”, weight-bearing into arms, while moving from center to center or during physical education

o   Arms: Wheelbarrow walks

o   Squeeze stress balls

o   Use play-doh to roll out logs, circles, squish thin on table, etc. Also remember they love “adult” tools – cheap 50 cent putty “knives” [make sure they aren’t sharp!] at hardware store, etc

o   Stamping – make it harder by having them repeat a pattern of some sort, and or stamping into a small area for precision

o   Turkey basters/eye droppers for water to “wash” things or to melt colors etc on coffee filters

o   Tear out of a piece of an old phone book, crumble up the paper in ONE HAND with the hand in the air, then throw to “hungry shark” aka recycle bin

o   Rip paper into wading pool or tray

o   Use “tennis ball heads” (tennis balls that you put a “mouth” aka a gash on – (be REALLY careful when cutting it! I use a clamp!) Then squeeze their sides to open their mouth to feed them, then – the popular part – make them throw up. Small sizes from pet stores best for smaller hands.

o   Wrap rubber bands, or hair bands, around boxes or containers

o   Geoforms – pegboards where you stretch rubber bands to make shapes or letters

o   Place golf tees into left-over Styrofoam

·      Manipulating a pencil   (Twirling it in dominant hand, “walking” fingers from tip to eraser and back, and turning it over to erase using only one hand.)

o   Practice ERASING. Kids struggle with the act of turning over the pencil with one hand to erase (they either put it down and pick it back up, or use their chest, or other hand, etc) – Practice this move but also practice the act of erasure itself. IE draw a line, flip over pencil, erase. TEACH how to erase. A lot of kids don’t do it very well and need guidance.

·      Shifting items within hands  (picking up tiny items, placing into hand, then picking up the next item, etc, with 1 hand only) – I call it “squirreling”, ie storing nuts in a cheek – storing items in part of the palm)

o   Coins for piggy bank or tiny items into ice cube trays

·      Isolating fingers on command (ie show me your index finger, show me your ring finger, etc)

o   Make each finger “bow” or place fingers flat on desk, lift one at a time

o   Put a smiley face or drawing in a laundry detergent cap or on a tennis ball, then have the child use just the fingers of one hand to rotate the “face” around.

·      Directionality (up, down above, beside, etc) and lefts/rights

o   Incorporate “I Spy” and scanning games where child has to look for items by directions, ie “Look below the X”

o   Consider placing a small L and R on the children’s desks or on their hands each day with water-soluble nontoxic markers.

o   When walking places around campus, stop at turns and ask them which way to turn.

o   Great game called Left, Center, Right, for about 7 dollars you can buy at many toy stores or Target/Wal-Mart etc

·      Visual motor (using their eyes with their hands more so than in some other tasks)

o   Bendaroos/WikiStix – they can work on copying a design or writing own name or spelling words

o   Stacking up cubes of different colors/sizes then have child copy design

o   Marble/cup game, rolling across a table

o   Lacing & buttoning – big buttons are easier. Big laces too.

o   Sign language alphabet

o   Sort cards by suite

o   Balloon tapping – blow a few up, have the children keep in the air without touching ground as long as possible

·      Proprioception/tactile – knowing what their hands are doing/feeling without looking

o   Hiding objects in a bag or box game, figuring out what it is/manipulating it without looking. Start with easy discrimination such as long skinny cylinder versus fat round ball, then make more difficult as child has success

o   Moving or isolating their fingers with eyes closed

·      Cutting

o   Consider different types of scissors for struggling kids (scissors requiring less fine motor skills – ask an OT)

o   Start with snipping, cutting straws, and business cards and manila envelopes

·      Notes for older kids, ie 2nd grade:

o   Make sure – don’t assume – they can manipulate their pencil accurately and erase accurately as well. Watch them.

o   Shoe tying: If they still haven’t gotten this down – try having their laces in a single shoe be two different colors, ie neon blue on left side of one shoe, yellow on other side, so that when tying they can clearly see distinction between the two laces, ie “put the blue lace over the yellow”, etc.

o   Desk Organization: TEACH this skill,
ie “hard” books on one side, “soft” books on the other, small items in a basket, etc. No assumptions they know how to organize.

o   Office Supplies: Expose them to rubber bands, paper clips, hole punching, staples, tape, placing numbered or categorized papers into certain folders (ie papers with MATH on top go in Math folder – make sure they know how to actually put the piece of paper in properly).

o   Fidgets: A pipe cleaner on their pencil, a piece of yarn or two, can make a good fidget for a child who needs to play with their hands while listening.

Some pieces of advice?

1.     LOTS of gross motor time – play outside, dig for worms, run around screaming, swing, go to the playground, whatever.

2.     Limit screen time and pull out lots of crafts. I guarantee you they will ultimately benefit more from interaction in the 3-D world than ANY educational screen time. See pinterest account up top for tons of fun ideas. Maybe let the kid pick from the pictures!

3.     Don’t assume a child knows how to do anything (most especially when working with children with special needs). TEACH the skill – erasures, pencil manipulation, desk organization, folder organization, cutting tricks, etc.

4.     Oh yeah. Safety comes first. Don’t let kids swallow stuff, or stab themselves or each other, blah blah blah – supervise your children and ensure the activities are safe for their age and/or developmental level.

Contact me at or karen.dobyns *** at ***  with questions. Thanks!

Final note: Yes, many of these activities would be great for people working on their fine motor skills for ANY reason, including adults after a stroke!






Jun 10, 2012 | Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: none