While your preschooler probably mastered many skills without too much trouble — running, climbing and jumping to name a few — learning to write with a pencil is a whole new ballgame. Your preschooler will need to build up all the little muscles in his hands and fingers while he develops his coordination and dexterity. The good news is, he won’t have to join the gym to strengthen these muscles.
What preschooler doesn’t love molding and shaping with play dough? All that pretend play dough food he’s serving you is actually strengthening his little fingers and developing his fine motor skills that will help him to hold a pencil correctly. While you should give your preschooler plenty of time to play freely with his dough, you might guide him in a few play dough-centered challenges to maximize the benefits. Set the timer for a minute and have a contest to see who can make the most play dough “peas” using only your fingertips. Have him roll the dough flat and ask him to make a pattern or draw a picture in the dough using toothpicks.
Put the spray bottle from the dollar store to good use by having your preschooler use it to water the plants. Not only is she helping you, but all that squeezing is giving her fingers a good workout. When winter rolls in and the plants are no more, mix a few drops of food coloring in with the water. Give her several bottles of different colors to use to “paint” the snow.
Crafts and Toys
Strengthening your preschooler’s fine motor skills can be as simple as letting him play with his favorite toy. Lacing cards and interlocking blocks both encourage fine motor development along with hand-eye coordination. Create necklaces by stringing dried macaroni noodles or cheerios onto string or shoe laces. Purchase colorful tissue paper and have your little one wad it into small balls and glue it onto paper to create a design or picture. All that pinching, squeezing, rolling and stringing serves a larger purpose than just passing time on a rainy day.
When your preschooler uses scissors, she is using the same tiny muscles she’ll soon be using to one day handle a pencil. Using scissors is a tricky feat to master for little hands, though. Start by letting her practice on old magazines and junk mail. She won’t have any direction to her cutting yet, but she’ll start to get an idea of how to manipulate the scissors. As she gets more comfortable with her ability, draw large pictures of shapes for her to cut out, or have her cut out pictures from magazines and create a collage.