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7 fun methods for kids to learn fine motor skills

Monday, 29 July 2019
7 fun methods for kids to learn fine motor skills

It’s winter. It’s cold, wet and miserable outside. The kids are getting grumpy and restless inside. They are starting to nag you to let them go on the iPad or turn on the telly. They are starting to get on each other’s nerves. They are starting to get on your nerves. You want to do something productive and fun together that develops their minds and fine motor skills, but you’re at your wits end.

We’ve put together a list of fun, awesome, easy activities that you can do indoors with young kids that will help develop their fine motor skills as well as their creativity!

Why are fine motor skills important?

7 fun methods for kids to learn fine motor skills
Fine motor skills develop when a child uses the smaller muscles in their hands, wrists, fingers, feet and toes. Developing these muscles includes actions like grasping, holding, pressing, or using a pincer grip (holding something between the fore-finger and thumb). We all need fine motor skills to do vital everyday things like brushing our teeth, doing up buttons on a top, using utensils to eat, or turning the handle of a door.

If a young child is unable to do these everyday tasks, it can affect their self-confidence, ability to develop self-care and independence skills, and also their school performance.


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7 things that you can make with your little ones with simple things found around the house

These 7 activities include methods that will help your kids to learn and develop their fine motor skills


1. Make fruit creatures

Make fruit creatures
When my daughter was in prep (or Foundation as it’s called these days), we had a morning session where parents came along to the class to do an activity together with their child. We weren’t told what we would do but were asked to bring a few things to school to make fruit creatures. I was amazed by the variety of different creatures that were made.

What you’ll need:

  • Spare fruit and veggies
  • Toothpicks
  • A small knife (help and supervise your kids with cutting the fruit and veggies)
  • Wooden BBQ skewers (optional)
  • Sewing needle and thread (optional)
  • Cloves (optional if you have some in your pantry)
  • Pen / pencil and paper (optional)


How to make your fruit creature:


1. You might like to design your creature on paper first before making it (so as not to waste as much food), or you could go freestyle.

2. Cut bits and pieces of fruit into the parts you want. Then stick the bits to each other using the toothpicks to skewer and hold the fruit pieces in place. You can shorten the toothpicks for smaller pieces of fruit or use wooden BBQ skewers for large pieces of fruit or veggies.

Make a fruit animal
3. Encourage your kids to think about what different parts of a piece of fruit or veggie can become. For example, a banana peel or mandarin peel could become hair! The end of a banana could be an elephant’s trunk. A strawberry becomes a nose…

A needle and thread could be used to thread grapes, blueberries and strawberries to create a caterpillar or snail. Cloves, half a grape or blueberries are great for eyes. The options are as endless as their imaginations. They can then eat their healthy creations later.


2. Make a scratch art

What’s scratch art? It’s where you scratch the surface of a special paper to show the hidden colors underneath. You can buy scratch art paper at an art shop. But it’s just as easy, and even more fun to make your own.

Scratch the surface of a special paper to show the hidden colours underneath

What you’ll need:

  • Thick paper or cardboard
  • Crayons (or oil pastels)
  • Black paint (we use acrylic)
  • Paint brushes
  • Tooth picks, sticks, forks, coins, spoons, paper clips or anything else that can scratch paper with


How to make your scratch art paper:

What you'll need to make scratch art

1. Get the kids to cover the whole side of the sheet of paper with crayons. They can do a drawing, patterns or even just cover the sheet with one color. It’s great for them to experiment with different drawings, patterns and colors on a few sheets to see what they will get when scratch the paper later.

2. Paint over the crayon pictures with the black paint.

3. While the paint is still wet, kids can scratch their pictures through the surface of the wet paint. They can experiment with different scratching objects like toothpicks, sticks, forks, coins, spoons to see the different line textures they’ll make.

You can also wait for the paint to dry before scratching pictures on as well.

And after the kids have created their artworks, they can turn them into greeting cards or presents for friends and family.


3. Make a sock puppet

You probably have a pile of odd socks or ones that are wearing thin at the heel. Instead of throwing them out, you could turn them into sock puppets!

Use your old socks to make sock puppets

What you’ll need:

  • Old / spare socks
  • Buttons (or pom poms, or felt)
  • Felt
  • Sewing needle and thread
  • Wool, string, ribbons, pipe cleaners and spare fabric (optional)
  • Craft glue
  • Scissors (supervise your kids)
  • Permanent marker


How to make your sock puppet:

Use buttons, wool, fabric and other odds and ends.

1. First put your hand and arm in to the sock, with your four fingers at the toe end and thumb at the heel end and pinch your thumb and fingers together. You’ll get a feel for what your puppet will look like when it’s talking, and it may inspire the puppet character you’ll make.

2. Cut ears out of felt or other spare socks or spare fabric.

3. Cut eyes out of felt or use buttons or pom poms.

4. Cut out a tongue out of felt, spare fabric or ribbon.

5. Glue the ears, eyes and tongue to the sock. (Buttons can be sewn on if you prefer).

6. You can also add hair or whiskers by gluing (or sewing) some wool to the sock.

7. Use the permanent marker to draw eyebrows, freckles or any other features you wish.

8. Let the glue dry on your puppet before handling too much.


4. Make a box robot

You can easily find things from your recycling bin to make a box robot.

Make a box robot

What you’ll need:

  • Boxes, plastic lids, plastic bottles, bottle tops and cardboard from your recycling bin
  • Scissors (supervise your kids)
  • Sticky tape
  • Craft glue
  • Textas or permanent markers
  • Spare things you might have like icy pole sticks, pipe cleaners and buttons and also come in handy
  • Tin foil (optional if you want to make a metal looking robot)
  • Paint and paint brushes (optional if you want to paint your robot)


How to make your box robot

Glue or sticky tape boxes together to make your box robot

1. Choose a few boxes and lay them out in the shape of a robot figure. Then glue or sticky tape the boxes together.

2. You can also paint your boxes or cover them in foil before putting on your final touches.

3. Then add your robot’s faces and special features. Bottle tops make excellent eyes, knobs, cogs and wheels. Icy pole sticks and pipe cleaners can be transformed into antennas or you could cut a strip of cardboard. Cut our bar codes are great for mouths. Or simply draw the faces and features on.

4. The options are endless! And you can make more than a robot too! Like box cars, animals, doll houses, or a stage for a sock puppet show.

Make other things out of boxes like a robot car.
For more ideas on how to improve your child's fine motor skills click here.

5. Sow some veggie seeds

Kids get so excited watching the seeds they plant grow. My kids make a competition out of it to see whose seed grows the tallest. The great thing about using egg cartons is that when the seedlings are big enough to plant in your garden, you can just cut off one of the egg carton cups and plant it directly into the ground.

Grow seeds in an egg carton

What you’ll need:

  • An egg carton
  • A plate or shallow plastic container
  • Soil or potting mix
  • A spoon or small trowel
  • Seeds (Good veggie seeds to sow in winter include carrot, cauliflower, broccoli, beetroot, chives, and kale. In the summer months, I sometimes just use pumpkin or melon seeds from the pumpkins and melons we eat.)
  • Water


Sowing the veggie seeds:

How to sow your seeds

1. Use the trowel or spoon to put some soil or potting mix into the egg carton cups.

2. Using a fore finger, press a hole into each carton cup.

3. Fill each hole with a few seeds, then cover with some soil or potting mix.

4. Put your egg carton onto a plate or plastic container – the plate/container will prevent water draining from the bottom of your egg carton from staining any surfaces.

5. Water the seeds with a little water (a couple of spoonfuls per egg carton cup is a good guide). Put it somewhere indoors with good sunlight, like the kitchen window sill.

6. Water the seeds each day and watch the soil surface for signs of seedlings!

7. When your seedlings are about 10 cm's tall, plant them in your garden.


6. Make a grass head

This one is better for the warmer weather, but when it’s also great indoors. Make grass heads and let your kids be the hair dresser!

Make a grass head and let your child be the hair dresser!

What you’ll need:

  • Old stockings (thin socks will work too, but stockings are best)
  • Scissors
  • Buttons, felt, or googly craft eyes
  • Craft glue
  • Plain paper
  • Favourite stickers (optional)
  • Potting mix
  • Packet of grass seeds
  • Pipe cleaners
  • A small empty yoghurt container or plastic container of similar size


How to make your grass head

Making grass heads helps build fine motor skills

1. The yoghurt tub will be the body for your grass head. Draw the grass head’s body on the yoghurt tub, eg. a shirt, dress. You could also draw the clothes on the paper first, cut them and glue them on to the tub. Kids can decorate it with stickers, or even make arms for it out of strips of paper.

2. Cut the feet out of a pair of old stockings just above the ankle, so you get two socks.

3. Sprinkle some grass seeds into the sock, making sure the seeds are at the toe end.

4. Fill the sock with potting mix until it is about the size of a tennis ball.

5. Twist the stocking to form to form a tight tennis ball and tie a knot at the base of the tennis ball. You should have about 10cm of stocking hanging from the knot.

6. Glue the buttons on for eyes and a nose. You can also cut out the eyes and nose from felt or use googly craft eyes.

7. Cut a small piece of pipe cleaner and curve it to shape a smiling mouth. Glue it on the grass head. Other bits of pipe cleaner can be used to make a moustache or eye brows too.

8. Fill the yoghurt container half way with water.

9. Dip the grass head in some water or spray it with water.

10. Place the head on top of the yoghurt container with the stocking tail hanging in to the water. This will form a wick to draw up water and keep the potting mix and grass seeds damp. Put your grass head on a window sill where it will get lots of sunlight.

11. Check the grass head each day to make sure it is damp. Top up the yoghurt container with water if needed, and spray the grass head with water if it gets dry.

12. The grass should grow out of the top of the sock about a week, and the kids can give their grass heads a hair cut!

Tip: You can make funny animal heads out the grass heads too. Just cut out different ears, noses etc. Add a tail onto the yoghurt tub. Cut feet out of paper and stick them to the base of the yoghurt tub.


7. Make and fly some paper aeroplanes

My kids love having a paper aeroplane competition to see whose plane flies the furthest or does the best ‘trick’.

Make and fly some paper aeroplanes

What you’ll need:

  • Paper – A4 size sheets of printing/photocopying paper is ideal
  • Pens, pencils, textas or anything else your kids like to draw with
  • Ruler
  • Scissors (if you want to be precise. I sometimes just fold and tear down the fold)


How to make your paper aeroplane:

There are heaps of different paper aeroplane designs that you can get online.

1. Choose your aeroplane design and fold your aeroplane.
This one is one that my kids and I use. It’s an oldie, but a goodie, and quite easy too.

Paper aeroplane helps improve fine motor skills

Here’s another one that’s a bit fancier, but still easy enough for little fingers.

Paper plane for fine motor skill development

2. Draw pictures / designs on your aeroplane.
Sometimes my kids like to give their planes names and write them on there. Sometimes they draw on the piece of paper before they fold it to see what will happen once it’s folded into a plane.

3. Fly your planes and judge which flew the furthest; highest; had longest air time etc.


Need more ideas on how to improve your child's fine motor skills?

For some more ideas on how to improve your child's fine motor skills click here.


What to do if you’re worried about your child’s development


Did you know that Inspiro has children’s occupational therapy and speech therapy services available for pre-school kids? Our occupational therapists support pre-school kids to develop fine and gross motor skills, along with self-regulation, play and self-care skills, to ensure they are ready for school. We also have speech therapists who support pre-school kids with their speech production and language skills.


Call 9028 0153 to make an appointment.


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