There’s just seriously not enough time in the day to get it all in . . . so what do we do with those kids that need extra fine motor practice? I’m not a huge fan of homework in kindergarten so I don’t like to send things home with my kinders when I would prefer they are outside playing or spending time with their families. But really, sometimes 10 minutes of fine motor exercise at home can mean the difference in finding success in kindergarten with writing and months and months of struggle and frustration.
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So what can we do to ‘get’ those 10 -15 minutes of additional exercise? Well, there are a couple of things you can do actually. Initially, I think it’s always helpful to educate all your kinder parents with what ‘fine motor’ skills are and why they are important. So I send home a simple little brochure at the beginning of the year just to give parents a heads up. It’s often surprising for a parent of a really bright child to hear that their child is struggling, because they can’t hold a pencil. This little brochure gives them an understanding of fine motor skills and why it’s an important thing to master in kindergarten.
I find that most of the time, parents want to help their child be successful. It’s just sometimes they really need someone to point out ideas and activities that will work at home. They generally appreciate having a few tips to help them get started and this little brochure can do that.
TAKE HOME KIT
The second thing I like to do is to have a couple of Fine Motor Home Kits made up. These are simple, little inexpensive kits that students take home for two weeks and then bring back to me.
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Before sending the kit home with a child, I always have a phone conversation or grab their parents as they are dropping off or picking up their child just to let them know that I think perhaps their child could benefit from a bit of additional practice at home. I make sure they are ‘on board’ with the plan and understand that their child should pick only one activity each night and work at it for no more than 10-15 minutes.
When they get the kit home, it will have a myriad of activities from which their child can choose one. I say one each night so that all the items aren’t pulled out and lost or mixed up. Parents are generally really good about this, and I haven’t had any problems with lost pieces.
There is also a ringed set of task cards included in the kit as well. These show parents and students exactly what items are used for which activity and it explains how to use them.
All the activities fit inside my little Steralite Carry Tote, safe and snug. It’s small enough for little ones to carry on their own or pop in their backpacks, but big enough to hold everything I need.
I like to include popper beads in my kit because they are engaging, colorful and, most of all, boys and girls alike enjoy using them so I know it will be an activity they want to do.
To add a bit of a challenge to the activity, I suggest that students use the color or shapes to make different patterns.
You can sometimes find popper beads at craft stores, and they are also available on Amazon as well. I used a small bag of 17o beads from Amazon to make three different kits. Also, get this, one reader told me there are Alphabet Pop Beads.
They’re already in my Amazon cart!
PUNCH A LETTER SOUND
Paper hole punches are the ‘great silencer.’ No kidding! If you want a room full of quiet kinders, hand them each a paper hold punch. (I actually have a class set.) Just punching holes in a piece of paper is somehow mesmerizing to them and, at the same time, such a great tool for building those grasping muscles.
I’ve included the added challenge of ‘punching out letter sounds’ as part of the kit’s hole punch activity. Students look at the pictures on the strip of paper, identify the beginning letter sound, and ‘punch out’ any letters that are not the beginning letter sound.
Paper hole punches are pretty easy to come by. You can pick them up at any department store or office supply store. I ordered a class set from Amazon a couple of years ago just so I’d have the opportunity to capitalize on those ‘great silencer’ moments.
BULB SYRINGE RACES
Bulb syringes can be found in the baby section of your local department or dollar store. They are super cheap and a ton of fun. If you’d like, you can change a syringe for a turkey baster, and it has the same effect.
Having your students pinch the bulb repeatedly while pointed at a puff ball makes for a fun and engaging race. The motion needed to push the air out of the bulb helps work those pincher muscles, and it’s just plain fun.
TENNIS BALL MUNCHY MOUTHS
Until recently, I always made these munchy mouth tennis monsters with your run of the mill, everyday yellow-green tennis balls. But then a friend told me about these oh-so-cute animal print tennis balls that are actually for dogs, and I knew my kinders would go crazy for them.
You’ll have to use a knife (It seems to work best if I use a serrated knife . . . just be careful, ok!) to cut the mouth and then simply hot glue google eyes to the front. It is surprisingly challenging for students to get that mouth open. They want to push it against their body and against the table, but I remind them that they have to ‘pinch’ the mouth open for the monster to get a good bite.
To make it more challenging and engaging, I play a game where two students get the same amount of little mini erasers (I like to use ones from Oriental Trading. They last forever and I can make quite a few sets.) Each player takes turns rolling the dice and reading the number. That is the number of themed erasers (I used fish in the picture above.) that they feed their monster. The first person to feed all of their fish (or erasers) to their monster, wins.
PLASTIC LINKS AND NUMBERS
Without anything added, plastic links make a great fine motor activity. Students love to see how long they can get their chains and often make a challenge for themselves by including intricate color patterns. But if you add a few number cards with hole punches, it takes this activity to another level.
PLAY-DOH EXTRUDERS AND LETTERS
If you have an arsenal of play-doh extruders like the one below, you know how much your students love working that plunger with their fingers to push that dough through the different shapes. Although parents often poo-poo play-doh as being too messy, it’s one of the best tools for working those little hand muscles. Add a pair of scissors to snip of the extruded play-doh and it adds a nice resistance tot he activity. If you parents grimace when you give them activity, remind them of the importance of those finger muscles when their child starts writing and suggest they have them work on a small cookie sheet to control the excess play-doh pieces.
If you’d like to add a bit more challenge to this tool, copy off some mini ABC play-doh mats on Astrobrights card stock. I like to include only a few letters at a time–usually whatever letters that student has been focusing on in school.
RICE BOWL SEARCH
Mini erasers are tiny and tough to grab hold of which makes them a perfect addition to my fine motor kit. Here I use a small disposable container to house some colorful dyed rice and in the rice bowl is hidden some more of those fun mini erasers you can find at Oriental Trading. (One order goes a long way, but I tend to by lots of different thematic ones.)
Add a small tweezer or other small tong type instrument and send your students searching. I always count how many erasers are included in each bowl so students know when they have found them all. Set a timer to see how long it takes them and if they can better their time each try. Just make sure they use only the tweezers to secure their ‘catch.’
THERAPY PUTTY SEARCH AND SPELL
While you can use other putty for this activity, I’m always partial to therapy putty just because . . . well . . . it really is the best. It has the right amount of resistance and it’s super stiff which you really want. I especially like it, because it lasts forever. Sure you can use something like Silly Putty in its place, but I find that I would have to purchase 3 or 4 containers of Silly Putty to equal what I can get from one container of therapy putty. For this kit activity, I like to hide beads, colored pony beads or even letter beads if you have them, inside the putty. Students can search the putty, naming the letters as they find them, or you can see if they can use the letters to make words or spell their name.
NUTS AND BOLTS
Hands down one of the most favorite activities of all fine motor kits that I can offer a student. There is just something about nuts and bolts. You can use the plastic, toy kind of nuts and bolts if you prefer. It still will engage your students hands in grasping and turning, but I tend to prefer a variety of shapes and sizes of the ‘real thing.’
For this activity, I have students time themselves to see just how long it takes them to find all the nuts that match the bolts in the kit. They need to twist the nuts all the way on the bolt for it to count. Then I time them to see how long it takes them to get them off. They enjoy seeing if they can better their time with each try.
Button type paper punches are also a good way to build up fine motor strength while engaging your students. Just punching the paper is really a challenge. But if you’d like to add a spin to it, label several different sheets of colored Astrobrights paper (colored paper makes everything more fun) with a number and have students ‘punch’ that many times.
You’ll find thematic button punches like these at craft stores, but I generally can pick them up from garage sales here and there as well.
While I would LOVE to send anyone who wanted one of the kits one of their own, the least I can do is get you the printable task cards, brochure, number link cards and mini ABC play-doh mats. Just click below and enter your email. (If you’re looking for the ABC punch cards, you can find them on my side bar — right there on the right hand side of my blog — for free!) I sure hope this gives you some ideas and help in getting your kinders finger ready for fall. Enjoy!
If you’d like so see a whole series of monthly fine motor morning work station ideas and free printables, please check out my other fine motor blog posts, starting with Fine Motor Morning Work Stations! You can get there by clicking the picture below or by going HERE.