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BrightStars, Rhode Island’s Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement system, assists families in finding care and recognizes and supports quality in early care and education programs.

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The Importance of Fine Motor Activities in the Early Childhood Years

Fine motor skills is the coordination of small muscle movements – usually involving small, precise thumb, finger, hand, and wrist movements. Fine motor activity in the early year’s help children refine their pincer grasp (grasping an object with their thumb and pointer finger using their preferred hand) and are a precursor to handwriting. By practicing picking up, manipulating, and exercising the small muscles in the palm of the hand you are actually enabling children to gain control and strength while coloring, drawing, cutting, and forming letters or writing when age appropriate. 

Many children who do not have strong small motor skills become more easily frustrated while doing tasks that require writing which can lead to poor self-esteem, anxiety and stress.  If left unattended, there is a greater likelihood that the child’s written school work will be marked “incorrect” due to its illegibility- ugh!

So, what can you do?

  • Play games with children like Operation, Lite-Brite, and Trouble (if age appropriate) that reinforce a pincer grasp.
  • Hide beads or other objects in putty or play dough and have the child pick the “dough” apart using a pincer grasp.    
  • “Chopsticks for Dummies” make picking up and releasing objects fun while building strength for writing – they are also fun to eat with!  Try having many fun bits and pieces children can gather (pom-poms, cotton balls, quarter sized rocks, bottle caps, chalk, and pieces of broken crayons).
  • Have children use short thin writing implements. Golf pencils, broken pieces of chalk, and short, thin short paint brushes to paint with work best because those materials reinforce a pincer grasp.
  • Allow children to use markers such as Crayola Pip Squeaks; they are short and encourage a proper grasp.
  • Invite children to help with meal preparations and/or serving. If age appropriate, have children cut vegetables using a plastic knife. The cutting process also encourages the use of bi-lateral skills (using two hands in unison while doing a task).
  • Kneading dough and rolling/cutting out cookies are also a great strength building and sensory activity.

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