Building Gross and Fine Motor Skills in Children

by  Donna Tavalieri, PT and Gina Schmakel, OTR/L

As pediatric physical and occupational therapists we are often asked "What types of activities are best to prepare my child for kindergarten?"  We believe that by building a good foundation of gross and fine motor skills, children will be better prepared for the expectations of kindergarten and beyond.  

Good gross motor skills provide strength, balance and coordination in the body, arms and legs that is needed to support fine motor control e.g. sitting at a desk to color or write.

Ideas to promote gross motor development:

  1. Painting or coloring with chalk on a large easel, drawing/coloring with sidewalk chalk on cement and/or using soap crayons in the bathtub (these activities use more whole arm movement)
  2. Digging in the dirt or sand
  3. Jumping, galloping, skipping
  4. Climbing, hanging, swinging, etc. on playground equipment

Fine motor coordination skills continue to become more refined as children progress through kindergarten.  

Ideas to promote fine motor development:

1. Hand/finger strengthening activities

  • Molding and cutting Play Dough to make different imaginative things
  • Building with resistive type blocks e.g. Legos
  • Squeezing a squirt bottle to erase the chalk drawings from the sidewalk or easel
  • Playing with resistive type toys e.g. Velcro toy fruits and vegetables, legos
  • Crumple paper and throw into trash (use trash can as a target for more fun!)

2. Two handed activities

  • Stringing beads of different sizes big to smaller on pipe cleaners or shoe laces
  • Hold piece of paper with one hand and use other hand to snip with child scissors.
  • Pull apart toys e.g. Legos
  • Ripping paper to be put in the trash

3.  Grasp skills

  • Coloring with small pieces of chalk or crayons (break them down from their original size)
  • Picking up small food items such as Cheerios, raisins, M&M's etc. with pointer finger and thumb
  • Pushing small objects into Play Dough and then dig them out
  • Lite Brite

Most importantly explore, be creative and have fun with your child's development!

Donna Tavalieri, PT is a licensed pediatric physical therapist and co-founder of Pediatric Potentials LLC in St Clair Shores.  She is a graduate of Wayne State University.  

Gina Schmakel OTR/L is a licensed pediatric occupational therapist and co-founder of Pediatric Potentials LLC in St Clair Shores.  She is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University.

Making a Successful Transition into Kindergarten
A special follow up to The Family Center's past fall "Kindergarten: Get Ready!!" presentation.
Tuesday, Feb. 2, 7pm
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Enriching Our Community Through Stronger Families
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