Fine Motor and Visual Motor Activities For Elementary Aged Kids

My kids making pizza from scratch (yes, on my kitchen floor, but my kitchen is tiny and has no table, so we are flexible! The floor was clean, I promise.) The act of kneading the dough required a ton of bilateral upper extremity strength and coordination, and the smoothing out of the sauce and the careful placement of the mozarella cubes required fine motor dexterity. Plus, they had a blast, and it tasted delicious.
My kids making pizza from scratch (yes, on my kitchen floor, but my kitchen is tiny and has no table, so we are flexible! The floor was clean, I promise.) The act of kneading the dough required a ton of bilateral upper extremity strength and coordination, and the smoothing out of the sauce and the careful placement of the mozarella cubes required fine motor dexterity. Plus, they had a blast, and it tasted delicious.

I. Fine/Visual-Motor Activities

A. Kindergarten-2nd Grade
1. Play Dough: This is a fun, easy way for your child to work on his or her finger isolation, strength, and range of motion. I would say to encourage your child to make different shapes out of the play dough-if it is difficult for him or her to come up with shapes without a model, you can draw the shape on a piece of paper, and have your child try to mold the play dough to match the shapes. To grade this activity, once your child masters this step, you can have your child try to have him or her copy upper or lower case letters that you write on a piece of paper as a model. This is a great visual-motor and visual perceptual activity that will make forming letters fun! Additionally, allow for child time for free play with the play dough, because this is also a great fine motor strengthening activity!
2. Shaving Cream: This is a similar activity to the play dough. First, draw different shapes with your finger in the shaving cream. Once your child masters the shapes, then progress to starting him/her copy letters. You can also encourage your child to make pictures in the shaving cream, such as facing, flowers, animals, etc. This is a great activity that works on fine motor skills, as well as sensory processing and integration (through touch, aka “the tactile system”).
3. Connect the Dots/Mazes: These types of activities are great visual motor and visual perceptual activities. One website where you can find them and print them online is http://www.free-coloring-pages.com. These activites force graded, small, and specific writing movements and are great exercies that work on foundational skills needed for writing, and most importantly, they are fun! For both, start with the most simple and slowly increase the level of difficulty. For example, for a connect-the-dots activity, you can have your child begin with a worksheet using only five numbered dots, and once he/she mastered it, you can have them go on to a sheet with eight dots, etc. With maze activities, start with more simple, straightforward, and linear lines, and gradually have your child work to solve mazes with more curves, smaller lines, etc.
4. Board Games: I find that games are some of the most motivating and exciting ways for children to practice fine motor coordination and visual perceptual skills, which allow for direct involvement of family members. Some great games:
– Operation
– Twister (Gross motor/body awareness/motor planning)
– Lite Brite (Fine motor/dexterity/visual motor)
– Feed the Bunny (Fine motor)
-Pop Tubes (Sensory/Fine motor)
-“Stretchy Sandwich” (Fine motor)
– Small legos (Fine motor)
– Clics (Fine motor)
– Balancing Baker (Hand stability/Visual perception)
5. Puzzles: I would recommend starting out with simple and basic puzzles with a smaller amount of pieces, such as 12-piece puzzles. Start out providing a few pieces that all match, and provide him or her with support as needed to figure out how to orient the pieces together. You can give strategies such as “turn the piece around until it fits!”, and gradually increase the amount of puzzle pieces once your child begins to internalize these strategies. I happen to really like the Melissa and Dough Fishing Puzzles for younger kids, because they force stability of the wrist and flexibility of the hand, which are important precursors for effective writing. Some other examples of great puzzles:
– Puzzle Match
– Rush Hour Jr.
– Chocolate Fix
– “Memory Skills Board Games”
B. Grades 3-5
1. Connect the Dots/Mazes: These types of activities are great visual motor and visual perceptual activities. One website where you can find them and print them online is http://www.free-coloring-pages.com. These activities force graded, small, and specific writing movements and are great exercies that work on foundational skills needed for writing, and most importantly, they are fun! For both, start with the most simple and slowly increase the level of difficulty. For example, for a connect-the-dots activity, you can have your child begin with a worksheet using twenty numbered dots, and once he/she mastered it, you can have them go on to a sheet with thirty, etc. With maze activities, start with more simple, straightforward, and linear lines, and gradually have your child work to solve mazes with more curves, smaller lines, etc.
2. Board Games: I find that games are some of the most motivating and exciting ways for children to practice fine motor coordination and visual perceptual skills, which allow for direct involvement of family members. Examples of great puzzles:
– Operation (Fine motor/Visual motor)
– Battle Ship (Visual motor/Fine motor/Cognitive perceptual)
– Villa Paletti (Fine motor/Visual perception/Hand stability)
– Pop Tubes
– Small Legos
3. Puzzles:I would recommend more complex puzzles at this age range. A good puzzle to start with would be one comprised of 40-50 jigsaw pieces. Start out providing a few pieces that all match, and provide him or her with support as needed to figure out how to orient the pieces together. You can give strategies such as “turn the piece around until it fits!”, and gradually increase the amount of puzzle pieces once your child begins to internalize these strategies. I happen to really like 3-D puzzles, since they work on spatial awareness, while providing more of a fine motor and visual-perceptual challenge. Other Puzzles:
– Perplexus Maze Ball
– Mentagy Hardwood Puzzle and Book Set
– Rush Hour
– Shape By Shape
-Cover Your Tracks

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