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15 Easy Ways to Build Fine Motor Skills in the Classroom

15 Ways to Build Fine Motor Skills in the Classroom

Have you noticed more and more students entering kindergarten (or preschool) without the fine motor skills they need to make everyday school activities easy to achieve? Hopefully, this list of ideas for incorporating fine motor activities into your daily routine will help you get your students where they need to be!

Why are fine motor skills important?

Fine motor skills in young children are a predictor of academic success, but many students begin school struggling in this area. It makes sense that children with dexterity and hand strength would be more successful in a classroom that requires writing and drawing, but researchers have found that the connection goes beyond that. Through a series of studies using longitudinal data that tracked students from kindergarten through eighth grade, researchers determined that strong fine motor skills in the early years of life help form connections in the brain that lead to greater academic achievement throughout the school years. Unfortunately, advances in technology have led many families away from traditional activities that promote fine motor development. The time that many children spend using computers, tablets, and smartphones is time they are not spending building, drawing, and manipulating objects in the world around them. Many children are beginning school with a deficit of motor skills, both gross and fine. It is important for schools to give children many opportunities to build those skills.


What can teachers do to foster the development of fine motor skills at school?

Most early childhood teachers try to incorporate lots of developmentally appropriate activities into their preschool or kindergarten day, but as academic demands increase, these sometimes slip through the cracks. Here's a list of simple fine motor activities you can add to your daily routines to help your students strengthen their fingers and build dexterity and balance. At the bottom of this post, you'll find a link to a PDF version of these ideas that you can keep on hand or pass on to parents and colleagues.

1. Start big!

Gross motor activities, like crawling and playing on the monkey bars, build core muscle strength required for stability and balance. Great fine motor skills require more than just strong fingers!

Start Big! boy on monkey bars

2. Play with dough.

Manipulating play dough, clay, or putty is a fun way for kids to build finger strength. Idea: hide beads or little toys in the dough for your students to excavate. Use these free playdough task cards to give your students dough ideas!

3. Take it to the floor.

Tummy time isn’t just for babies! When students lie on their stomachs to write or play, they build trunk strength. This gives them more stability and stamina for seated tasks!

Take it to the floor. two boys reading on their stomachs

4. Tear paper.

Tearing paper improves grip and strengthens hand muscles. Save scraps from other art projects to use for tearing! Children can glue torn paper to make mosaic pictures. This fine motor task box set includes a paper-tearing activity.

5. Go vertical.

Try having students write on a vertical surface such as a chalk- or whiteboard. This position encourages proper grip and builds stability. When children write on the board, they also have the opportunity to cross their midline.

6. Use tweezers.

Children can use tweezers to move small objects like pompoms or mini-erasers. This activity strengthens the hand and can be combined with counting and sorting tasks.

Use tweezers. a child's hand using tweezer with beads


7. Try chalk.

When children write with a small piece of chalk on a chalkboard, they are naturally encouraged to use a pinching grip. The resistance of the chalk on the board gives small hands more control. Children also use more pressure with chalk, building strength as they go!

8. Stickers!

Who doesn’t love stickers? Have students peel and press small stickers to help develop control and dexterity. Stickers can be used as part of a math activity (count and stick to match the number) or for art and writing (make a sticker picture, write or tell a story).

9. Start spraying!

A spray bottle full of water is a great fine motor tool. Holding the bottle upright while squeezing the trigger builds arm and hand strength. Kids can use the bottle to wash tables, water plants, or “paint” outdoor walls.

Start spraying! Hand holding spray bottle


10. Snip, snip, snip!

Cutting with scissors is a crucial fine motor activity. Start small by having children snip strips of paper into small pieces. Children can also use scissors to cut play dough.

11. String beads.

Children love playing with beads! Stringing pony beads onto laces or pipe cleaners is a fun way to build coordination and pincer grip. Stringing beads ties in nicely with patterning lessons in early childhood classrooms.

12. Let them build!

There are so many great construction toys that help children develop the muscles in their hands. Snapping blocks together, turning bolts and nuts, and fitting pegs into pegboards are all activities that naturally grow finger strength.

13. Pick a puzzle.

Give children chances to piece together jigsaw puzzles and you will be helping them build dexterity with a side of spatial awareness! Start small by using sturdy puzzles with twelve or fewer pieces to avoid frustration.

Pick a puzzle. girl playing with a jigsaw puzzle


14. Lace it up.

A helpful precursor to shoe-tying, lacing cards help students develop eye-hand coordination, pincer grip, and motor planning skills. Warning: Untangling the laces may be your fine motor challenge for the day. 😉

15. Pop, pop, pop!

Save your bubble wrap! The irresistible practice of popping those little bubbles is a terrific and satisfying fine motor activity for children. Add some bubble wrap to your calm-down area or your indoor recess tub to give kids a chance to work their little fingers!

If you'd like these ideas in a handy PDF, you can grab that by clicking the image below.

Grab the PDF!


If you want to incorporate fine motor activities throughout the year in a more structured way, you may be interested in my fine motor skills task boxes. You can check those out on TPT by clicking the image below.

Fine Motor All Year! Image of Fine Motor Skills Task Boxes Bundle

I hope these simple fine motor ideas help you incorporate strengthening activities into your routines! Please comment below if there are some great activities you use to build fine motor skills in your preschool or kindergarten classroom--I'd love to read about them and I know others would as well!

Thanks for reading!

15 Ways to Build Fine Motor Skills in the Classroom Pin




Life Cycle Activities and Ideas for Your Classroom

Life Cycle Activities for Kindergarten and First Grade

Whether spring has sprung or is just a dream on the horizon, you may be ready to begin planning butterfly, plant, or frog life cycle units for your classroom and I have some ideas (and freebies!) to share with you!

Does Everything Grow?

I like to start a life cycle unit with the classic Raffi song, "Everything Grows." (This is also a great one to hang onto for an end of the year performance for parents!)


After listening, have a class discussion about whether or not EVERYTHING actually grows. Lead the children to the understanding that living things grow, but non-living things generally do not. Talk about what other characteristics living things share (need for nutrients/water/food, ability to reproduce...). Have students brainstorm some things that are living and some things that are not.


Finally, bring the conversation to life cycles. Looking at your list of living things, talk about how they grow. Ask the children to think about what changes these living things go through and how they begin growing. Here's a fun song to help students visualize a life cycle as a circle--something that keeps going round and round. 


Digging In

Once your students have the background knowledge about what a life cycle is, it's time for some in-depth exploration of specific living things and their life cycles. There are lots of great informational books and videos about life cycles. If you are able to, this would be a great time to bring some nature into your classroom in the form of caterpillars, tadpoles, and/or seeds and plants.

I also have some resources in my TPT store that include informational PowerPoints (along with lots of printable activities). You can see the bundle here, or looks at the individual units by clicking the pictures below.

Informational Frog Life Cycle UnitInformational Butterfly Life Cycle UnitInformational Plants Life Cycle Unit

Acting Out Life Cycles

Integrate some movement into your lesson to keep your students focused. Choose a living thing and have the children act out its life cycle. For example, have them curl themselves into tight balls to be butterfly eggs. They can then hatch into wiggly caterpillars, form very still chrysalises, and finally emerge into butterflies who stretch their wings and flutter away.

Once they understand the parts of any particular life cycle, have your students engage in this simple activity that helps with memory (and, as a bonus, has them cross their midline!). Have them raise one arm up so they are pointing above their head and say the first part of a life cycle ("Egg!"). Then have them move their arm a quarter circle, pointing to the side, and say the next part ("Caterpillar!). Pointing straight down ("Chrysalis!") and to the other side ("Butterfly") completes the life cycle. After getting the motions down, have the students complete the circular motion a little more quickly a few times in a row while saying the stages of the life cycle. This helps students understand what a cycle is and that it continues indefinitely! 

Life Cycle Activities

Hands-on activities are a great way to for students to solidify their learning and for them to demonstrate that they understand a concept (in an age appropriate way). I've put together some materials that you can grab for free to help you plan this type of activity for your class. Whichever task you choose to have your children complete, it's a good idea to have them follow it up with an oral language piece. Having students bring their finished product to a friend (or teacher, volunteer, etc.) to narrate the life cycle gives them a chance to use new vocabulary and to build public speaking skills.

These paper plate life cycle puzzles are something you can do with any life cycle! They are also easy to differentiate (have students draw, draw and label, or cut and glue pre-printed pictures depending on their levels/needs). I have included simple life cycle pictures for butterflies, plants, and frogs if you want students to cut and glue. If you want students to draw, all you need are paper plates (the cheaper the better), scissors, and crayons or colored pencils. First have students fold their plate like a taco shell and then crease. While it is still folded, have them fold it in half again, matching the corners. When they unfold the plate, the creases will show them where to draw the life cycle stages (and arrows) before cutting. Students can store their completed puzzle pieces in a zip-top baggie. Having students assemble and explain their life cycle puzzle is a great way to do a quick one-on-one assessment.

Paper Plate Life Cycle Puzzle

Another way for students to manipulate life cycle stages to put them in order is with  this life cycle chains fine motor activity. With a just a little prep-work by the teacher, this activity can be added to your rotation of fine motor skills activities. In the free life cycles printable file, I have included a label and instruction card in case you want to add this activity to your Fine Motor Skills Task Boxes collection.

Life Cycle Chains Fine Motor Activity

One last activity is this template for students to make a fingerprint butterfly life cycle. Have students lightly color the leaf and the branches and then use washable paint to have them add fingerprints. This activity can be done in small groups with a volunteer (and plenty of baby wipes!). The free life cycles printable file includes the full-page template (pictured below) as well as a template with writing lines for students to do some informational writing after the paint dries.

Fingerprint Butterfly Life Cycle Template

Life Cycles: Digital Edition

Finally, if you want to incorporate some technology into your life cycle lessons, here are some ideas.

Interactive Life Cycle Models

These interactive life cycles from ecosystemsforkids.com are a simple way to explore a lot of different life cycles. They don't have a lot of detail, but they are easy to manipulate and can be a springboard for inquiry. If you have an interactive board in your classroom, these would work nicely as quick fillers when you have a few extra minutes.

Time Lapse Videos

There are lots of really neat time lapse videos of life cycles on Youtube and other video sharing sites. I love this series that shows the entire life cycle of a dandelion.



Digital Activities for Home or School

If you want your students to have independent practice with life cycles through your learning management system, check out these activities in my TPT store.

Butterflies Ebook and activities for Seesaw and Google Slides

Plants e-Book and digital activities

Frogs Digital Activities for Seesaw, Google, and Boom


Thanks so much for reading! I hope these activities help you out as you plan your life cycles activities!

 

Twenty-Two TWOSDAY Activities for Your Primary Classroom

22 ways to celebrate Twos-day twosday 2's Day Two's Day

Who doesn't love the opportunity for a fun theme day?! This year, February 22nd falls on a Tuesday, making the date 2-22-22, otherwise known as TWOS-day! This day presents an opportunity to fill the day with fun, educational, two-themed activities. Here I have compiled a list of 22 ideas for incorporating the number two into your day. (This post contains Amazon affiliate links.)

1. Make a list of things that come in twos.

Eye, ears, feet, and shoes--these are things that come in twos! Have your students brainstorm a list of things that come in pairs. This can be a shared writing anchor chart activity that targets whichever phonics skills you're working on (or reviewing) or can simply be a quick mental warm-up! Singing "Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" to start this activity will get the wiggles out and the mental juices flowing.

2. Practice counting by twos.

If you haven't introduced counting by twos to your students, now's a good time. If they already have experience with this skill, you can practice skip counting further! There are many counting by twos songs on Youtube that range from catchy to calming. Here are a couple of my favorites.

     

You can find several counting by twos pages in my Twos-Day Activities pack on TPT.

3. Practice AABB patterns.

This skill ties in nicely with counting by twos. After making an AABB pattern with manipulatives or drawings, students can count the objects or pictures by twos. Grab these completely free pattern templates for students to practice coloring AABB patterns! (If you do these on Monday 2-21-22, you could make them into a quick banner to decorate your classroom for Twos-day. Kids love to see their work on display!)
Twos-day number two AABB pattern templates

4. Make bead bracelets or necklaces.

Add some fine motor work by having students string pony beads on laces to make AABB patterns. Students can count their beads by 2s when they finish! You can find pony beads here.

5. For more fine motor work, make patterned paper chains!

Pre-cut two colors of construction paper in strips. Let students work on making AABB patterns (a great center!) and then connect all the chains together to decorate the classroom. You can find a center directions sheet for paper chains in my Twos-Day Activities pack on TPT.

Twosday Paper Chain Activity

6. Read a book about Tuesday.


7. Make a Twos-day crown.

Have students create their own crown or use the template in my Twos-Day Activities pack on TPT. 


22 Ways to Celebrate Twosday

8. Explore ways to show the number two.

Have students brainstorm places they see the numeral two and ways they can show two using math tools (their fingers, ten frames, dominoes, dice, links, etc.). If you have a document camera, that can be a good way to display the representations students come up with. You can also make a big 2 on an anchor chart and write/draw ways to show two there. (If your students need some inspiration in their brainstorming, Jack Hartmann has them covered!)



9. Take a look at the number 22 as well!

Exploring ways to represent 22 is a great chance to dig into place value. If your students are ready for bigger numbers, you can work with showing twenty-two as two groups of ten and two ones. Use base ten blocks, ten frames, chain links, or connecting cubes to give hand on practice. My Twos-Day Activities pack also includes resources for exploring the numbers two and 22.

10. Take a movement break by playing elbow tag!

This fun game brings Twos-day out to recess! Elbow tag, also called partner tag, has students link elbows in pairs. Learn how to play here.

11. Make a drawing out of the numeral two.

Write the numeral 2 with a black marker in the middle of a sheet of paper (not too big) and have the students draw to turn the number into something else. My Twos-Day Activities pack includes a PowerPoint/Google Slides e-book to offer inspiration to students. You can turn the final drawings into a book to add to the classroom library!
Twosday Class Book

12. Practice reading two-letter words.

Project or display a list of two-letter words. Depending on the level of your students you might simply practice reading the words, look for patterns within the list, or practice reading the list within a certain time frame (e.g. How many words can you read in 22 seconds?) This website has several fun timers to project for timing challenges!

13. Write a list of two-syllable words.

Practice counting syllables in words. Have students contribute words (including names) that have two syllables to add to a chart.

14. Add doubles.

If your students have already been introduced to the concept of addition, Twos-day is a great time to introduce or practice adding doubles! If you can get your hands on it, the book Two of Everything by Lily Toy Hong is a wonderful tie-in to adding doubles. My Twos-Day Activities pack also includes doubles dot flash cards and a few doubles worksheets for practice.

15. Watch one of these fun videos about the number two.

   

16. Teach about the differences between two, to, and too.

Because these three spellings and meanings are each fairly common, to, two, and too present a nice opportunity to introduce homophones to students.  Here's a free little poster you can use!

To Too Two Homophone Graphic

17. Teach some common idioms that include the word two.

Several idioms include the word two. Teach one or more of these and have the students make connections to life experiences. Here are some you might want to use:
-One step forward, two steps back
-Two wrongs don't make a right
-Two heads are better than one
-My two cents
-In two shakes of a lambs tail
-Like two peas in a pod

(My Twos-Day Activities pack includes a writing template for "two peas in a pod.")

18. Do brain break exercises in sets of 22.

Get some energy out by doing jumping jacks, arm circles, stretches, and other simple exercises in sets of 22.

19. Make up funny tongue twisters.

Brainstorm a list of words beginning with T and have students use those words to create their own "Two" tongue twisters. They can challenge their friends to say their twister "two times fast!" 
Two tricky toucans taught tracy to tiptoe.

20. Read books about pairs and the number two.

Here are some books to look for:
The Missing Pairs by Yvonne Ivinson
A Pair of Socks by Stuart J. Murphy
One is Not a Pair by Britta Teckentrup
Two by Kathryn Otoshi

21. Parade around the classroom marching two by two.

If the children have had the chance to make patterned bracelets or necklaces and crowns, they can dress up for a little Twos-day parade. Have them count by twos as they march!

22. Make Twos-day structures using 22 cups.

Divide students into groups or pair. Give each group 22 plastic cups and challenge them to create an interesting structure.

I hope these TWOS-day ideas will make your planning a little easier! Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments to share with everyone. Happy teaching!

TWOS-DAY Activities for 2-22-22