The foundation for a strong pencil grip is developed well before a child may pick up a pencil for the first time. Developing strength in the hand muscles, or fine motor skills, is the first step in going onto successfully maneuver a writing utensil. There are over 30 muscles in each hand and giving children opportunities to exercise and strengthen those muscles every day is an integral part of pre-writing readiness in early childhood. Children also need practice in visually tracking their hand movements. This means they need experiences that challenge them to create a strong connection between the visual target and the intention of their hand movements.
When choosing materials to offer in the classroom environment, it is important to keep the development of these fine motor skills in mind. Open ended materials and loose parts offer endless opportunities for children to practice skills they will need to grip and navigate a pencil in the future. Of course, it is important to make various art materials available such as colored pencils, markers, and paint brushes. Over time, the use of these materials will support children as they grow comfortable holding a writing or drawing utensil.
Also, offer other materials that activate the small muscles of the hand and wrist. Here are some great examples that keep this important skill development fun and engaging:
- Weaving – Weaving string or natural materials through a loom requires small and precise hand movements to push and pull the materials through.
- Beading with Threading Pebbles – This is a great opportunity for children to exercise their visual motor skills by placing the string or ribbon through the hole of the Threading Pebbles.
- Sculpting and exploring Kinetic Sand – Pinching, squeezing, and using tools such as a garlic press or spoon to work with the sand activates those small hand muscles.
- Manipulating Bendy Builders – These flexible sticks require children to bend and twist them into shapes and designs, making them a fun and interactive way to work those fine motor muscles. Incorporate them into your building area and offer children opportunity to create their own animals or people to interact with their structures!
- Working with Clay – Making coils, rolling balls, and kneading clay all require a great deal of muscle movement in the hands. Add some wire for poking and bending to make it even better for fine motor work!
- Using Wire and Wire Cutters – Offering wire of various thicknesses and wire cutters is a wonderful way to encourage strong hand movements to cut and bend.
- Sorting materials with tweezers or tongs – Create a sorting tray with various materials that are able to be picked up with tongs or tweezers. This pinching motion is a great way to build hand strength!
Developing fine motor skills is important work in early childhood. Making it enjoyable and engaging will ensure children keep coming back to these activities and continue strengthening those hand muscles. Visit Kodo for unique tools and accessories perfect for promoting pre-writing skills.