Fine Motor Booster Program at Bettye Hyde Co-operative Nursery School

Generations ago children spent the majority of their time outdoors climbing, digging, hanging from trees, running, riding bikes, swinging along with many other body developing activities. Childhood was full of physical activity which developed muscles of the hand to prepare them for school work. Today children can spend the majority of their spare time indoors playing on computers, watching TV and videos and playing video games as early as 2 years old. As a result, it is not uncommon for children’s hand muscles to be immature upon entrance into Kindergarten.

Over the past 20 years, working in the field of education of children, I have noticed a difference in the fine motor skills of children entering the school system. Not so long ago it was expected that a child would know how to tie their shoe before starting Kindergarten. Many children begin Kindergarten having spent little time on paper/pencil or scissors tasks. By grade one they are expected to be writing for the larger part of their day and their hands are not ready for the fine motor leap. I work closely with Cindy Mitchell, Director of Bettye Hyde Cooperative Nursery School and her teaching team. She shares similar concerns regarding fine motor readiness for children entering school.

finemotorboostersMy background in education includes designing activities to encourage development of fine motor skills. Cindy and I decided to implement a Fine Motor Booster program for all of the children in the preschool but focused on those leaving for the school system in the Fall. The activities chosen were intended to target 4 categories of hand development: 1) the muscles of the fingers, 2) the web (area between thumb and index finger), 3) the wrist, and 4) bilateral coordination (both hands together). These activities were set out in the classroom for all children to practice daily for six weeks. Most of the children were very enthusiastic to work with the materials and practice their new found skills. The materials were changed weekly to ensure a continued interest from the children and to have them exercise all four categories of hand development.

Our intention with this program was to give the children a fine motor boost before entering Kindergarten. At the end of our six week program, the educators noted an increased comfort level in the children with using the various tools during the activities. We would have liked to introduce the final sequence of activities including stencils, salt/letter boxes and scissor use but were unable to because of time constraints. These activities are the next step in a developmental progression leading to writing and cutting.

We encourage other early learning and care programs and parents to incorporate the following activities into their planning through out the year:

1) Finger muscles: transfer handfuls of marbles from one bowl to another, transfer water using sponges or a turkey baster from one bowl to another, putting coins in piggy banks, clipping decorative clothes pins, manipulating elastics on geo boards

2) Web muscles: provide ice tongs, spaghetti tongs, pickle tongs, and tweezers to transfer small objects, spray bottles to mist plants etc…

3) Wrist muscles: encourage spooning, scooping and pouring activities

4) Bilateral coordination: provide magnet wands and pull tubes, practice beading activities, as well as opening and closing jars or plastic eggs

Recommendations from the Fine Motor Booster Program:
• Start the program at the beginning of the year
• Introduce fine motor activities with a formal demonstration either individually or in a small group
• Support each child the first time through the activity to ensure that he/she completes the activity properly including putting it away
• Incorporate a sticker system to encourage repetition of the completed activity
• Practice during small group times and allow practice time during free play

Written by Kathleen Rooney, M.Spec. Ed, B. Music