Fine motor skills are SO important in preschool and kindergarten! Those little muscles in your kiddos’ hands are going to help them do all kinds of different things: button, tie, zip, grab, write, color, eat, cut, floss… This list is never-ending! In preschool, one of our jobs is to give our kiddos lots and lots of time to develop those muscles in their little hands! There are so many different ways to do that, but I’m going to show you four different ways to do this with some fun mittens fine motor activities! (and, of course, there are lots of math and literacy skills mixed in with these too!)
What Are Fine Motor Skills?
You may hear this term all the time and not fully understand what it’s talking about. But, if you break it down, it’s pretty simple to understand. The word “fine” in this term means small. (The counterpart of fine motor skills is gross motor skills. “Gross” in this context means large.) The word “motor” means motion. And “skills” refers to our ability to perform a specific task. So, if you put all of that together, fine motor skills are our ability to control the small movements of certain muscles, specifically the ones in our hands (although there are other muscle groups this can refer to. But, in our context, we’re talking about the hands.)
Just think about everything you do with your hands and fingers during the course of a day. If I asked you make a list from the time you woke up to the time you went to bed, you would have thousands of things on that list in just a single day! Just since I’ve been writing this, I’ve used my fine motor skills to type, use the mouse, pick up my coffee cup, answer a text message, scratch my nose, and straighten my blanket. And that’s all been in about ten minutes!
Do I Need To Teach Fine Motor Skills?
Yes, yes, and YES!!! The preschool years are when our kiddos are developing those little muscles, and they need as much time as possible to engage in activities that allow them to use those muscles. (And I’m not talking about endless stack of coloring sheets and worksheets! Just put those back on the shelf!) In fact, I would challenge you to look at every single activity in your classroom to see if it already involves fine motor skills or how you can tweak it so that it does!
How Do I Teach Fine Motor Skills?
You’ll want to start by stocking all of your centers with things that will require your kiddos to use their fine motor muscles. If you have a pretty good stock of manipulatives and materials, this process should be easy! All of those little things that most people see as nothing more than toys are some of the most important tools your kiddos will use during their time with you! Here’s a list to get you started:
There a lot more, but those are the basics. Once you have the right materials in place, give your kiddos lots of time to just explore those materials. Here’s what I’ve found… I can have the best activity on the planet in one of my centers. But, if it uses materials that my kiddos have never used before, that activity will get pushed right to the side because they’ll just want to play with the materials. There is nothing wrong with that!! They need to be able to explore and get familiar with the materials before you ask them to use those materials for a specific purpose!
So, once they’ve had the opportunity to play with and explore all of these amazing things you’ve assembled for them, add in some structured activities and get them working on some math and literacy skills too! Here are four ideas for how to do just that!
Mittens Cutting Strips
OK… I know I said this before, but I feel like I need to say it again. Make sure your kiddos have had LOTS of opportunities to cut paper that has no lines on it whatsoever before you ever give them anything like this with lines to follow! If this is the first thing you give them, they’ll get frustrated and give up on it. This particular resource is great because there are so many different varieties of lines to choose from. You can also make these yourself by drawing the lines on strips of paper, but that’s WAY more work than I would ever want to do!
Here’s a hint with using these: Encouraging your kiddos to stop cutting when they get to the mitten increases the amount of control they’re exerting over those fine motor muscles, but it also leaves the paper strip intact. So, they have something they can take home to show their families and be proud of! Once the strips are cut into two separate pieces, it looks more like trash than work and can easily be discarded by an unknowing parent!
Mittens Paper Punching
How fun is this???? One thing I know about preschoolers is they LOVE to use hole punches or paper punches! And these little are FANTASTIC for fine motor skill development! You’ll definitely want to let your kiddos punch plain paper a LOT first. But then you can move them into this fun letter recognition activity so that they’ve got some literacy going on too!
Here’s your hint for this one: Give them trays to work on so that all of the little shapes they punch out are collected. This really cuts down on the mess and their clean up time, AND you can use all those little shapes in a different center later for more fine motor work when they use them to create fun art projects!
Mittens Play Dough
These fun mittens counting cards will get you kiddos working on their fine motor skills and their counting skills! If you add some play dough to this busy box, they’ll have several ways to develop those little hand muscles!
First, they’ll use those muscles when they take the play dough out of the can. (We all know how hard that can be sometimes!) After that, they’ll use their fine motor muscles to pinch off some of the play dough to use. They’ll use them in a different way to roll out snakes to make the numbers. They’ll use them in another different way to roll the balls to put on the ten frames. And, they’ll use them in even a different way to pick up those little balls and place them onto the ten frames. They’ll be working those muscles like crazy, and they won’t even realize it!
Mittens Writing Practice
OK… So, I know it looks like the main point of this activity is writing the letters. And, from a literacy perspective, it is. But, that’s not the main point from a fine motor perspective! My favorite part of these little tracing cards is the erasing! It doesn’t seem like that’s a big deal, but it actually is! no matter what your kiddos use to erase their work, they have to use their fine motor skills to do it. If they don’t, the marker won’t get erased completely. But, I like to really take advantage of this little opportunity by giving them pom poms to use as erasers! I know, I know, it sound strange! But think about it… They have to hold the pom pom with their pinching fingers (fine motor skills). They have to move the pom pom back and forth to erase (fine motor skills). And, they have to squeeze the pom pom while they’re erasing (more fine motor skills!). If you don’t believe me, just give it a try and see what I mean!
Mittens Busy Boxes
If you want to give all of these fun mittens activities a try, you can get them all in a giant bundle in my TPT store! (It’s a set of 10 busy boxes, so there are a lot more than what I shared with you here!) Just click on the product cover to go buy your own set!
And, I really value your feedback! If you try these out and love them, leave me some feedback to let me know! If you have any problems with these resources AT ALL, please contact me so I can make it right! I’m not happy until you’re happy!
I’ve got a few more fun mittens ideas for your centers too! (And there just may be a few more little fine motor skill ideas mixed in as well! Go check out this post to see for yourself!