Fine motor skills involve the use of hands, fingers, wrist, feet and toes.

Fine motor skills also include daily tasks of zipping up zippers, tying shoes or pulling Velcro and buttoning buttons. Preschool aged children should be exposed to the use of pencils, crayons, markers, glue, paint brushes and scissors.

Giving your preschooler the opportunity to handle these challenges on their own is key to fine motor growth and independence. It is important to offer support along the way, but let them do as much as they are able to independently.

Although markers are fun to use and give a nice bright color when working on projects, it is also important to have preschoolers practice writing with other writing tools. Crayons and pencils are important for teaching a tighter grasp. This will encourage the child to use a bit more hand pressure to leave a mark on the page and help them build up hand strength.

Scissors are also a great tool to teach fine motor strength by building up hand muscles when opening and closing while cutting. Scissors also help develop eye-hand coordination, teach how to cross the midline of the body and build attention skills. Children need to focus on where they are cutting while completing a cutting project.

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Some ideas of things you could try at home to enhance your child’s fine motor skills:

Snipping paper

If your child is new to using scissors, you can offer them scraps of paper to practice making small straight cuts. At preschool, we often play pretend with a shoe box covered with a picture of a fish (or other seasonal characters).

We cut a hole in the box where the mouth would be. The children love snipping at the scrap paper to cut little pieces of “fish food” to feed the fish.

Pipe cleaners and beads

Let your child lace the beads onto the pipe cleaner to make bracelets, necklaces or their own creations.

Folding paper

Have children make a paper person by adding fun arms and legs to them. Folding accordion style paper (back and forth folds) can teach patterning while also building their fine motor skills through flipping and pressing paper.

Water bottle spraying

Give your child a shallow bucket of water and a plastic boat to float in it. Let them spray the water towards the boat to get it to move around the bucket. For added fun, you could have two boats floating and two people spraying them. Make it a boat race across the bucket.

In winter, add some food coloring to the water in the spray bottles and let kids spray pictures onto the snow. Kids can spray their name or some random shapes in the snow. Make sure to monitor this play though, as the food coloring will stain clothing.

Using liquid glue

If you are nervous to let your young one squirt the glue themselves, don’t be. This is a great skill to learn. It not only teaches them to learn their limits on the amount of glue needed, but it also helps to increase hand strength.

Gather a bunch of small random craft items (beads, buttons, pom pom balls, small cut up straws, etc.) and allow your child to glue them down onto a plain piece of construction or printer paper.

Painting a masterpiece

Let your child have fun with washable paint, a paint brush and a large piece of paper. Let them design their own masterpiece. Painting is a great way to strengthen their wrist muscles, while moving up and down and back and forth with the brush. You may look at random painting as just that, random. However, there is a lot of strength developing while that masterpiece is being created.

Finally… Demonstrate! Demonstrate! Demonstrate!

Children learn best by watching you do the activity, too. As they are doing all this writing, cutting, folding, gluing, spraying and painting, you can get involved and have some fun with your children.

"Community Education Corner," published weekly in the Pine Journal, features news from Community Education programs in Carlton County.