• mud writing, Forest School
  • clay, minibeasts, Forest School
  • wooden screws, fine motor skills, toddlers

Little Hands, Big Ideas: Why Developing Fine Motor Skills is Vital in the Early Years

At Great Wood Farm Early Years Centre we pride ourselves in the rich learning environments we provide. Our ethos and setting encourages exploration, independence and facilitates children’s learning of core skills through exciting and engaging play opportunities. In this blog, I explore the importance of developing fine motor skills through play, I share the activities and resources that we provide for children daily and finally suggest ways that you can encourage this development further at home.  

Firstly, let me introduce myself. My name is Andrea and I recently had the pleasure of joining the fabulous Great Wood Farm team as Deputy Manager. I have worked as a Heritage Education Officer, Primary School Teacher and Forest School Leader and I can’t wait to put my experience to good use here. I have been so impressed with, and inspired by, the wealth of provision available for the young people who are welcomed through the doors and into the incredible outdoor spaces. One of the key areas of physical development which the environments help children to develop is their fine motor skills.

So, what are fine motor skills?

Fine motor skills involve small muscles working with the brain and nervous system to control movements in areas such as the hands, fingers, lips, tongue and eyes. Developing fine motor skills are essential for children to do many things including eating, writing, manipulating objects and getting dressed (things we as adults take for granted, having already built up the muscles to do these things ourselves with ease and without thought).  

This x-ray image shows the difference between the hand of a child with developed hands at approximately 7 years of age (right) alongside the hand of a younger child during their Early Years Foundation Stage (left). Offering children chances to use and perfect their dexterity and co-ordination ensures the best start to their future. In light of this, we plan our environments and provision carefully to ensure that while the children are having LOTS of fun, they are unknowingly building these vital skills, muscles and most importantly their confidence too.

How do we aid the development of fine motor skills at Great Wood Farm?

Alongside a variety of resources and fine motor activities, we provide:

  • ‘Dough Disco’ group times
  • Peer massage adult-led sessions
  • Small world play provision and fine motor resources such a peg boards, sorting activities and puzzles
  • ‘Squiggle While You Wiggle’ group times to develop mark making skills, co-ordination and movement control
  • Regular Forest School experiences using small tools and chances to explore the natural world through craft, mark making and imaginative play
  • Opportunities to develop independence at meals times using cutlery

What fun things can you do at home to help your child?

  • Green finger fun: Planting seeds in the coming spring months is a great way to learn about life cycles as well as develop fine motor ability. Children could sort a variety of seeds before you plant them, using tweezers and an empty egg box.
  • Cotton bud painting: Using cotton buds to paint and mark-make will help promote fine motor pinching and produces beautiful artwork.
  • Threading: Threading using string and penne pasta is a simple and effective activity which requires little to no preparation time at home. Going on a nature walk? You could thread leaves and other scavenged materials onto string to create a seasonal garland as a keepsake of your adventure.
  • Playdough: A simple and effective resource for encouraging pinching, squeezing, rolling, cutting and pinching.
  • Button patterns: Develop co-ordination and fine motor actions by asking children to place buttons along a pattern template. This can easily be done outdoors using natural materials.
  • Squirty bottles: Use a wide range of squirty bottles and containers to build up hand muscles. You could add paint to small squeezy bottles or small water pistols for squirty creativity with a fine motor twist (apologies in advance for the mess!)
  • Fun with food: Simple and easy ideas include snipping a bowl of cooked spaghetti with scissors, sorting rainbow spaghetti into its component colours (see links below for recipe), posting raw spaghetti through the holes of colanders, podding beans and peas and moving them into small pots

Need more ideas? Use these links to explore the endless possibilities…