Developing fine motor skills is something that many educators overlook, especially with students who have not attended kindergarten or in any grade after kindergarten. Students who struggle with printing skills actually do not need rote practice of printing letters in order to help them learn. Developing their fine motor skills is a necessity in order for them to be better able to grasp and control their pencil!
The easiest and my favorite way of supporting fine motor development is through the use of silly putty. It comes in a wide variety of densities from very pliable to very firm and hard to manipulate.
At the beginning of my teaching career I remember being curious as to how effective simple tools as putty are for students. I then had an unfortunate medical situation where I could not use my hands for a couple of months and lost most of my own fine motor muscles. I was fascinated at feeling my muscles strengthen as I played the following activities with my students. Some days it was a full workout of my hands!
Silly Putty Activities
The following activities are the routines we use in our classroom.
Hide small beads in the putty. Usually it will “fall” into the putty overnight but can be easily squeezed into the putty if needed. We typically use melting beads, as pictured above, as they are cheap and can be purchased in large quantities.
1. Pick out all the beads.
2. Roll into a ball.
3. Squish flat into a pancake. Then, add beads to make it into a chocolate chips to the pancake!
4. Roll into a “snake”
5. Squeeze the snake by squishing it with the thumb and pointer finger to find the beads. Pick them out!
6. Make a hot dog!
7. Make animals with the putty.
These activities are quite engaging for young children. They love to play with putty and ask daily to play! We rotate daily between students and as a result there are often students who are begging to play.
Once students have developed their ability to demonstrate fine motor strength we encourage printing skills. The following is an engaging activity for learning how to print numbers! It is great to use with a variety of writing tools (e.g., markers for lesser strength and pencil crayons for students with lots) or use manipulatives to engage students in a play based environment (e.g., using beads or gems).