Getting Ready for Starting School 2 - Pick, Post, Peel!

Did you see Made in Britain on BBC2 last night?  It was all about the straw hat industry in Luton at the beginning of the 19th century when children as young as 3 were enrolled in “plaiting schools” where they had to plait straw which was then used to make hats.  It was fascinating and as I watched it occurred to me that those children must have had impressive fine motor skills!  Now, I’m not suggesting for a moment that our pre-school children should be enlisted into any kind of cottage industry (!) but helping them to develop those small muscles in their hands and fingers and encouraging good hand/eye co-ordination is definitely worth doing.  Before children can start learning to write they need to be able to hold a pencil, crayon or pen and control it to make marks on paper.  This needs a certain level of strength in their fingers and hands - it might surprise you just how tiring writing can be for young children.   Good fine motor skills are also important for using scissors and for managing buttons and zips.  You have no idea how happy it will make your child’s P1/Reception teacher if your little person is able to fasten his or her coat all by themselves!

I wrote last time about gross motor skills – the big body movements – and how these lay the foundation for fine motor skills but that doesn’t mean that children master one before they move on to the other. There are lots of fun activities which you can do at home which will help strengthen little hands and fingers .  Here are a few of my favourites but a quick Google or Pinterest search will find you hundreds more!

  • Rolling, squeezing and shaping playdough is great and providing “extras” like pasta shapes, buttons, birthday candles or shells adds to the fun. Let your child remove these items when it’s time to tidy up as they’ll need to use their thumb and index finger in a “pincer” movement which is really helpful too.

  • Any kind of threading activity – beads onto pipe cleaners, breakfast cereal loops onto spaghetti stuck in a ball of playdough, macaroni onto string.

  • Sort pebbles, buttons, beads or any other small items into egg cartons or “post” them into empty water bottles.

  • Peel coloured sticky labels off the backing sheet and stick them on paper to make pictures and patterns.

Elaine Kent