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Did you know that kids in elementary school spend around 37.1 – 60.2% of a school day carrying out fine motor activities, including handwriting?
A study published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy has revealed. Now that’s a big reason why along with identifying and developing gross motor skills in children, schools pay equal weightage to fine motor development.
Now that you know the extent to which fine motor skills are necessary for school and everyday life, you can imagine how hard a school day will be for any kid who struggles with these skills. If you’re an educator with a class full of young learners or a parent who wants their kid to develop these essential skills, stay with us until the end of this post, as we will be sharing some great manipulatives that can do wonders in improving a child’s fine motor skills.
Interesting manipulatives supporting fine motor development
1. Panda Brothers Montessori Screwdriver Board Set
Help your kid develop fine motor skills using this Montessori-inspired screwdriver board set. It is excellent manipulative for home and school. As kids love to learn through play, this set can keep them engaged while allowing them to work on their fine motor skills. This child-safe set includes a wooden board, multiple screw inserts, and tools like a screwdriver, wrench, and hex key.
This manipulative soon becomes children’s favorite as it gives kids the opportunity to use tools just like adults. While fixing and twisting the screws into the board using different tools, kids don’t even realize they are working on their fine motor skills, one of the most critical skills required to maneuver daily activities in life.
2. Counting Dinosaurs
Take children to the world of dinosaurs with this fun Counting Dinosaurs kit. Enticing kids with six different types of dinosaur species, this manipulative helps boost fine motor skills and teaches other concepts like color matching, sorting, counting, and logical reasoning.
To make this possible, the kit comprises 72 dinosaurs, 15 activity cards, bowls for sorting, a tweezer, and more! Tell kids to sort dinosaurs based on their color or type and see how they work on their motor skills. Activities like holding the tweezer, picking up the dinosaur, and putting it in the respective bowl put the small hand muscles at work, thereby improving their strength and ability to use them effectively.
3. Building Discs Set
Based on a similar concept of building blocks, the building disc set is a fun way to promote fine motor dexterity. Though they are just a tad bit more challenging than big-sized blocks. When kids play with these interlocking discs, they employ their finger and palm muscles to manipulate and create different structures, which ultimately helps in improving their fine motor skills.
Besides encouraging motor movements, the 120 discs you get in this set promote hand-eye coordination and creativity and can also help little kids learn various color names. They will love spending time on this colorful manipulative as they can create anything that comes to their minds, like a flower, a star, a fish, and so on. What’s more! They will learn cleanup, too, by keeping the discs back in the drawstring bag provided for easy storage.
4. Fine Motor Peacock Pals
Peacock pals can serve as a simple and durable manipulative to strengthen little hands and improve fine motor skills and coordination. Though the set does not have many pieces, just five peacock bodies and twenty-five feathers, they are sufficient to provide ample practice to a small group of students in a classroom.
The feathers come in different textures, offering varied sensory input when kids touch and feel them. Then when they pick and push the feathers in the holes provided on the peacock’s body, they use all the necessary skills that promote motor development. This set can be a wise choice for preschool and kindergarten-going kids as it has no little parts and is sturdy and practical, giving hours of productive fun.
5. Silly Science Fine Motor Sorting Set
Introduce little kids to the world of science using this STEM-inspired sorting set. Before allowing kids to try their hands on this manipulative, talk to them about germs, how they affect our bodies, and what must be done to keep pesky germs at bay. Then let them segregate germs in test tubes based on their shapes or colors.
As kids pretend to be doctors and scientists, trying to identify patterns, sort, and count the germs, they will intrinsically build their hand strength and develop precision while using the two types of tweezers. Overall, this 55-piece manipulative is a valuable educational tool and a perfect fit for kids aged 2-4 years.
6. Rainbow Beads
Here is a fine motor manipulative that helps kids build these essential skills in three ways. Kids learn to use the clip, spoon, and chopsticks to pick tiny spherical beads and place them in matching cups. While doing so, they polish the use of fingers and try multiple intricate hand movements to get the task done.
In addition to sorting cups, you also get a board with distinct holes where kids can practice placing the beads at the right spots and creating a variety of designs and structures. So, you see how this manipulative can also be used as a board game for fine motor skills so families can spend some quality time together while working on essential life skills.
7. Magnetic Color and Number Maze
Another interesting manipulative for preschool and beyond is the magnetic color and number maze. It is a neatly crafted tool in which small colorful beads are placed on a wooden board with a maze and are covered with a glass-type top so beads don’t fall out. Kids can use the magnetic wand to pick beads from the bottom of the board and drag them to paint cans before dropping them.
The use of a slim magnetic wand requires kids to hold it like a pencil and therefore helps in strengthening hand muscles and promotes fine motor development by encouraging kids to practice the right way of using a writing tool. It also promotes hand-eye coordination, cognitive and problem-solving skills in young children. It is, therefore, a nice tool to have for young children.
8. Lowercase Lacing Letters
Lacing is one of the finest ways to promote fine motor skills in children. It may look challenging initially, but with regular practice, kids get the hang of it. The lacing letters set we’re talking about is a 275-piece set, including 260 lowercase letters and 15 colorful laces. If you buy one set, you will have sufficient pieces for your students. You may even purchase separate laces available in stores to go with it.
Besides supporting motor skills, you can also use this manipulative as a learning resource for your literacy class. Kids can learn letter recognition, spelling, word matching, and more! So, use it as you like and see kids blending learning and fun.
At-home items that can serve as a fine motor manipulative
The manipulatives mentioned in the above section are all wonderful tools that help a child in getting better at fine motor activities. If you are a parent or a teacher who plans on getting one of those a little later, it’s okay! Until then, you can grab some commonly found household items and use them for activities to boost fine motor skills. Here’s a quick list:
1. Items you can use as manipulatives:
Cotton balls, broken crayons, beads, marbles, buttons, uncooked pasta, pom poms, q-tips, small balls, playdough, etc.
2. Additional items to work with manipulatives:
Spoons, tongs, clothespins, tweezers, chopsticks, egg cartons, muffin trays, ice cube trays, colorful bowls, etc.
Combine any of these items to create an engaging setup for kids to play with and keep them busy for a while. Along with providing different sensory inputs, these simple household items will teach kids how to use their hands and fingers efficiently.
Having strong fine motor skills is a necessity for everyone. Without them, simple everyday tasks like buttoning a shirt, unzipping a jacket, or tying a shoelace become difficult. Kids lacking these skills have a hard time in school and going about their daily activities.
They seem frustrated and uninterested in trying out activities. Therefore, we must provide kids the right opportunities to learn and practice these skills while they’re at home and also when at school. And the best way to do so is to offer them different kinds of manipulatives using which they will soon master the art of fine motor coordination and ensure success in the classroom and daily life.
- Sierra Caramia, Amanpreet Gill, Alisha Ohl, David Schelly; Fine Motor Activities in Elementary School Children: A Replication Study. Am J Occup Ther March/April 2020, Vol. 74(2), 7402345010p1–7402345010p7. doi: https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2020.035014
I am Priyanka Sonkushre, a writer and blogger. I am the person behind “One Loving Mama,” a mom blog. Equipped with a Bachelor’s degree along with an MBA, my healthcare background helps me deeply understand learning difficulties. I know how challenging it can be for parents to find the right resources to help their children excel in life. So, here I am to blend my healthcare expertise with my parenting experience to create valuable and helpful resources for parents and teachers supporting children with learning differences. If you wish, you can follow me on Facebook and LinkedIn.