With the Rio Olympics fast approaching, everyone is getting into the spirit for a summer of competitive sport and this provides a perfect underlying theme to get children developing their fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are essential for performing everyday skills like self-care tasks (e.g. managing clothing fastenings, opening lunch boxes, cleaning teeth), construction skills, using scissors correctly and developing handwriting skills. Fine motor skills involve using the smaller muscles in the hands to work together appropriately to manipulate objects or perform tasks. Without the ability to complete these everyday tasks, a child’s self-esteem can suffer and their academic performance can compromised so it’s important to get children strengthening and practice using the muscles in their hands in their early development.
Using the Olympics as a theme, we have put together a list of five fun tasks that children can try to get them using their hands and to develop these independent life skills. All tasks can easily be completed within a classroom space and feature a list of resources at the bottom.
Olympic Racing Activity
This is simple activity that involves creating different race courses on paper for children to follow to ‘race’ their friends. Using their favourite sport toy figure or other sport related objects like mini bikes or skateboards children have a head to head race to see who could get to the finish line first against their friends. Alongside allowing the children to work and communicate with others for this challenge, it also provides the perfect opportunity to develop their fine motor skills as they have to navigate their object through the different areas of the course, adjusting their grip, changing direction while also maintaining speed.
Different tracks could determine the level of the challenge- some routes could be shorter or with less movement, and the others longer with sharp changes of direction.
Making the Olympic Rings
The Olympic Rings are an iconic symbol of the Olympic Games as at least one colour from every worldwide flag features within the six colours of the rings. Creating their own Olympic Rings is a fun way for the children to get into the spirit of the games while experimenting with a mix of materials. Creating the six rings with a wide range of media like soft-dough, paper chains, coloured pipe cleaners, beads on a string and paint all get the muscles in the children’s fingers moving and contributing to their fine motor skills. Our children loved experimenting with the play dough and moulding it into different shapes.
Another key fine motor skill children need to develop is being able to use scissors efficiently. For this task, our children were given multiple flags to cut out with children’s scissors on white paper to help improve the strength and coordination required to squeeze and release the scissors. After these were cut out, they were hung up on a long piece of string with wooden pegs to create international themed bunting that could easily be hung around a classroom as a form of decoration.
If children found this too easy they could then try to cut out flags in different forms and shapes instead of just a square format. Alongside the obvious development of their fine motor skills, this task also provides the children with recognition about flags and countries.
Resources: Scrap paper, foil
Finger football is a great way for children to start thinking about sport alongside having fun in pairs. On a large piece of paper draw out the rough details of a pitch football (for example, half way line, goals etc) and using only their fingers, children are to move and flick the ball to try and score a goal in the opposition’s goal.
While tennis balls are a great size to use, we encouraged our children to scrunch up a piece of foil to make the football- gripping it tightly and releasing their hands engages different muscles in their hands. (Other examples could include a scrunched up piece of paper that is then made stronger by wrapping sellotape around it to make it more secure.) By using their fingers as mini footballer’s legs and feet it makes their fingers practice extending and straightening as well as teaching other techniques like flicking. Scores can be noted at the side and the best out of 3/5/10 games wins.
Cotton Wool Painted Flags
Children are given an A4 piece of paper with a flag outline printed out. Using a peg/tweezers the children pick up a cotton wool ball, secure it in place and apply it in the correct coloured paint. Using the flag outline to help them, they then apply the paint covered cotton ball on the paper to fill out the relevant colours on the flag. This helps to strengthen the muscles in their fingers by squeezing the peg and holding it while they paint. This task could be made harder by trying to colour different flags, for example we used a simpler German flag but the children could try more complex flags, for example like the British and Greek flag. These further cement flag recognition or relate to country themed activities or topics.
For more fun activities ideas visit our physical development page or follow us on pinterest.