Try the following practices with infants and toddlers1 and preschool-aged children.2 Find out how home visitors can put these practices to work with families.
Infants and Toddlers
- Provide a variety of toys and materials that support fine motor development, such as:
- Rattles and shakers
- Stacking cups and rings
- Clutch balls
- Shape sorters
- Playdough and molds for shaping
- Simple puzzles with knobs
- Large peg boards/pegs
- Large beads and string
- Wind-up toys
- Books (for turning pages, pointing to pictures)
- Writing tools
- Paper for tearing
- Include everyday objects and materials such as boxes with lids that can be opened and closed; large empty water bottles that can be filled with clothespins or other small objects; tongs; and squirt bottles.
- Place toys and materials where children can easily reach them and offer many chances for children to explore them.
- Describe how children use their hands when reaching for, touching, grasping, and playing with toys and materials.
- Place objects (e.g., unbreakable mirror, musical shakers, large plastic beads to pull apart, soft dolls to mouth, feel, and squeeze) within a nonmobile infant's reach when he or she is sitting or lying down. Encourage the child to reach for the objects through verbal and physical support (e.g., placing object next to child's hand, gently moving child's hand toward the object).
- Demonstrate how to move objects closer using tools, such as a stick or pull-string.
- Use daily routines as opportunities to support children's fine motor skills development. For example:
- Provide finger foods that allow infants to use and practice their pincer grasp.
- Offer spoons and forks to toddlers to practice eye-hand coordination.
- Encourage toddlers to pull the zipper up on their jackets to perfect their pincer grasp.
- Describe how children are using and moving their hands, fingers, and wrists during handwashing.
- Offer "just enough" help to toddlers who may show signs of frustration as they are mastering small motor skills (e.g., move the mouth of a container closer to a toddler's hand to help him put a bead into a jar). Encourage a child's efforts; for example, "You are working hard to pick that puzzle piece up and make it fit in the puzzle."
- Sing songs that have different hand motions, such as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "The Wheels on the Bus." Start slowly with younger children to give them time to try to control and coordinate movements.
- Provide chances to explore art and writing media on vertical surfaces, such as an easel, writing board, or paper taped on the wall. Pegboards and lacing boards can also be placed vertically.
- Working on a vertical surface develops strength and endurance in children's shoulder and trunk muscles, which is necessary to support fine motor and small muscle development.
- Provide play activities that require precise placement of small objects, such as lacing small beads or playing with puzzles.
- Provide purposeful and meaningful activities involving tools, such as squeezing spray bottles to water plants, using tweezers and magnifying glasses to explore nature specimens (e.g., leaves, acorns, pebbles) collected on a nature walk, and manipulating eye droppers filled with colored water to make pictures.
- Provide different types of fine motor tools, materials, and activities that represent children's diverse backgrounds (e.g., using rolling pins when making tortillas, crushing dough with a Roti press, including clothing and accessories from various cultures to explore during pretend play).
- Help children use blunt-tip scissors for cutting. For example, make sure there are scissors that fit a range of hand sizes and show children how to hold the scissors properly. Provide a variety of materials for children to cut. If children are new to cutting with scissors, have them practice snipping straws, rolls of play dough, or strips of paper, where one cutting movement results in a successful cut. Children might also snip plastic straws into short segments and then thread the straw segments on string or yarn to make a necklace.
- Use daily routines as opportunities for children to practice fine motor skills (e.g., using utensils for serving and eating, pouring water or milk into cups, putting toothpaste on a toothbrush, taking shoes off and putting them on).
Home visitors can support parents in identifying, adapting, and trying the practices listed above during home visits and group socializations.3,4
- Work with parents to identify songs, chants, finger plays, and games that could help their child use his or her small muscles.
- Brainstorm with parents ways their child can engage in fine motor activities at home. For example:
- An infant might hold a rattle while getting diapered.
- A toddler might sort blueberries and strawberries during meal preparation.
- A preschooler might match and roll socks into a ball and toss the sock balls from a distance into a laundry basket.
- Talk with parents about their values and expectations for allowing their child to perform self-care activities that promote fine motor development, such as using utensils when eating, toothbrushing, and dressing independently. Work with them to identify aspects of self-care activities their child could do (e.g., twisting toothpaste caps off and on, moving zippers up and down, and buttoning and unbuttoning) that would fit within the parents' values and expectations.
1California Department of Education, California Infant/Toddler Curriculum Framework (Sacramento, CA: author, 2012), 130–135, Perceptual and Motor Development, http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework.pdf.
2California Department of Education, California Preschool Curriculum Framework Volume 2 (Sacramento, CA: author, 2011), 163–170, Physical Development, http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2.pdf.
3California Department of Education, California Infant/Toddler Curriculum Framework (Sacramento, CA: author, 2012), 139, Perceptual and Motor Development, http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework.pdf.
4California Department of Education, California Preschool Curriculum Framework Volume 2 (Sacramento, CA: author, 2011), 173–174, Physical Development, http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2.pdf.
National Centers:Early Childhood Development, Teaching and Learning
Last Updated: July 23, 2021