Sunday, 5 January 2014

Fine Motor Skills

Essential for Pre-Writing

Please see my previous post on Fine Motor Skills.

There are many different stages to developing writing skills.

fine motor

Each of these steps are vital in developing children’s fine motor skills. It is not usually possible to skip any of the steps. As good Early Years practitioners, we need to provide opportunities for the children to take part in activities which are at the right level for them, to move on to the next steps.

Grasping Objects

By the time children enter your setting, they will usually be reaching for and grasping objects that are near them. If they are not, you can try surrounding the child with interesting toys. Lamaze do a fantastic range of developmental toys (I’m a bit of a fan) that are brightly coloured, noisy and enticing to the little ones.


These are the Lamaze toys I have for my little boy. He’s still too young to really engage with them but I’m sure he will love them when he’s older! (Images from the Lamaze website.)

Pinching Movements

Of course, we tell children not to pinch! Except when they are doing their fine motor activities!

Sorting-Colours-with-Cardboard-Rolls-1 I absolutely love this idea from!! The only thing I would do differently is instead of using pompoms (which are ideal for little little ones) I would use coloured beads or buttons.

Easy to set up in your classroom in a fine motor area! I will be using this idea when I return to work after maternity!

The best part about it is… The children can help make it!!
Play dough is amazing for fine motor skills. You can buy the commercial stuff or it is very cheap to make your own with a variety of different recipes on the internet.
- Normal play dough
- Smelly play dough
- Sparkly play dough

The children love play dough but be careful of it falling on the carpet as it can get trodden in.

And! They can help make the play dough if you have cooking resources in your setting!
beads in playdough This is a really lovely activity where the children pinch out a small object like a bead or a piece of rice and push it into play dough.

They could easily drop the bead into a pot for a sorting activity or threading.

Holding a Writing Implement

This is where your writing corner comes into it’s own. Providing children with a variety of different materials for writing is vital.

writing area

This an image from another primary school, but you can see in the photo the different coloured paper and the different types of writing implements including a highlighter! I can’t include a photo from my classroom as I am on maternity leave at the moment, but I will update when I get back!

A good writing area should be accessible to all attainment levels. It should consist of writing frames and blank paper, note books and different sizes of paper and card. The writing implements should be varied.


I bought a pack of these pencils from a shop called Evolution for not very much money at all! The children love them and they also enhance the outside area!

I also go to the PoundShop and buy a variety of different pens and pencils, different thickness of pencils and pens, even the silly giant pens and pencils to give children utterly different writing experiences.

Draws Shapes

It’s difficult to sometimes ask children to draw specific shapes but if we all sit down to draw our family and our house in a circle time activity, you will be able to get circles for faces and the sun, squares and triangles for houses, straight lines for arms and legs and sun rays, you may even be able to get a few stars in the sky!

child drawing 1 child drawing 2 child drawing 3
Img from Caldrons and Cupcakes Img from Img from

And in Numeracy lessons you could make shape pictures! I usually use paint and different shaped objects for this, but the children could have a go at drawing shape pictures too!

Using One Handed Tools

It is vital, absolutely vital that young children are given the opportunity to use scissors! I cannot stress this enough! Give them scissors!! Blunt, child safety scissors and under supervision until you know the children have learnt the Scissor Safety Rules, but please, please give them scissors.

child with scissors

Using scissors requires concentration and a combination of different skills, such as holding the paper steady, being able to picture in your mind what shape you want to cut out, coordinating your fingers to move in the right way.

Once the children are trained to only cut what is on the cutting table, I leave a cutting table out for independent use (Learning Through Play manager keeping a watchful eye).

Children can cut a variety of different objects, not just plain paper.

  • news paper (also tearing news paper is good for fine motor skills)
  • tissue paper
  • play dough
  • thin cardboard
  • thin cardboard boxes, such as cereal boxes

Tweezerstweezers childcarelandblog

Or even chopsticks! Children really enjoy tweezer activities and can often sit sorting beads or picking up a variety of different objects for an entire Busy Bee Time!

There are a number of shops where Tweezers are available, including Amazon.

I would also suggest letting the children use children’s chopsticks. I leave both children’s and adults chopsticks out for the children to use. They do often struggle but with the opportunity provided to them, they are at least exploring the possibility of using chopsticks.


There’s also using paint brushes, tooth brushes, glue sticks, chalk and stencil tools.

Tripod Grip and Name Letters

tripod grip

This diagram shows how a child’s pencil grip develops with age.

When asking a child to try the tripod grip, there is a simple three step method. 

how to grip

  1. Ask the child to place the pencil on the table facing them
  2. Pinch the pencil near the bottom
  3. Flip the pencil back so that it rests on the fleshy bit between the thumb and forefinger and you are ready to write!

This method often takes a few demonstrations before the children really understand how to do it but it is effective once mastered.

Learning to write the letters in their name will take practice. Reiterate letter formation, teach little rhymes to help the children remember how to write a letter. I tell the children, ‘Always start from the top! (Except when you’re writing capital letters, ‘e’ and ‘d’.)’ tracing letters

It is very controversial but you could put out the old fashioned letter formation worksheets. I made some brightly coloured laminated sheets for the children to use as mazes to learn about letter formation. These aren’t quite as old fashioned as the traditional letter formation worksheet but I hope that they are just as effective, if not more so.

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