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The Importance of Fine Motor Activities in the Early Childhood Years

This was a recent article I wrote for Humpty Dumpty Parent that was published in January 2013 that I thought you would enjoy!

“The Importance of Fine Motor Activities in the Early Childhood Years”

By Jo-Anne DeGiacomo-Petrie, M.Ed

January 2013


Today’s world is filled with a myriad of electronic games that include bells and whistles guaranteed to get the attention of most humans.  These games dance, sing, and capture a child’s responsiveness with the tap of a finger.  Kids of all ages are drawn to the colorful pictures and portable interactive games that adorn the screens of their computers, ipads, tablets or cellular devices.  What happened to the good ol’ fun like games from the past such as Lite Brite, Operation, and Trouble?

Those wonderful “toys” foster social interaction and family fun while increasing problem solving, linguistic, and math, skills, eye hand coordination, fine motor strength and aid in the reinforcement of a pincer grasp.  When did we forget about necessary skills for Handwriting?  .

Do you remember the game Lite-Brite?, Envision the way you had to hold your thumb and pointer finger to pick up each and every  translucent colored peg before placing it into a hole.  How many times did that same action need to be repeated before reaching the end result-a beautifully lighted picture/design?  Do you recall how you placed your thumb and pointer finger on the tweezers with great control to slowly and carefully “pluck” the plastic bone from the crevasse while playing Operation?  How about the strength it took to press the Pop-O-Matic successfully to change the number on the die in the game Trouble?  Did you even stop to think that you needed to pinch your playing piece before you could pick it up and move it around the board?  Back in the day, children used their hands more frequently to dig in the dirt, attempt to tie their own shoes, and sharpen a pencil the old fashioned way.  We must not forget about the importance of these skills and ways to resurrect them.


By “training” your youngster how to grasp objects and write using a pincer grasp (shown above) you are instilling a very important pre-requisite to handwriting.  The majority of children I see for handwriting support and in my own practice are students who fail to grasp a pencil or writing implement properly. Unfortunately, this population tends to write using their wrist, holds their pencil in their fist, or squeezes all of their fingers on the pencil causing their fingers to fatigue quickly.  As a result these children have a lack of control when coloring, drawing, forming letters or writing. This deficiency is frustrating which can result in children developing poor self-esteem, anxiety and stress centered on writing. If unattended, there is a greater likelihood that the child’s written school work will be marked “incorrect” because of its illegibility- ugh!


So, what can you do?

  • Encourage your child/student to use a pincer grasp and gently correct them by saying “grip” or call their name and model a pincer grasp.
  • Affix a picture of what a pincer grasp looks like on his/her desk or placemat.  You can find many images on google by plugging in “pincer grasp” into the search bar of google images.
  • Play games with your child like Operation, Lite-Brite, and Trouble that reinforce a pincer grasp.
  • Hide beads or other objects in putty and have your child/student pick the “dough” apart using a pincer grasp.
  • “Chopsticks for Dummies” make picking up and releasing objects fun while building strength for writing – they are also fun to eat with!
  • Have your child use short thin writing implements. Golf pencils, broken pieces of chalk, and short, thin paint brushes to paint with work best. 
  • Allow your children to use markers sparingly.  When your children/students use markers, stick to Crayola Pip Squeaks; they are short and encourage a proper grasp.
  • Invite your child to cook with you and if time allows, have your class cook.  If age appropriate, have your child/student cut vegetables using a plastic knife.  The cutting process also encourages the use of bi-lateral skills (using two hands in unison while doing a task).  Kneading dough and rolling/cutting out cookies are also a great strength building and sensory activity.


Most Importantly, Have Fun!!

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