Saturday, September 6, 2014

Motor Skill Activities for Children

Hi! I'm Carolyn Kisloski from Kindergarten: Holding Hands and Sticking Together.  For many people, this is the beginning of a new school year.  I thought it would be a good time to share some of my favorite motor skill activities for children.

Pre-writing exercises not only help children warm up their fine motor muscles, but also help them to focus on using them the best they can. Here are some fun warm up activities that don't take long, but help children transition into an activity using fine motor skills, like Writer's Workshop.

1.  Windshield Wipers- Children hold their hands above their head and cross straight arms 10 times.  Then, they place the bottom hand over the top hand, and repeat.
2.  Door Knob Turns-  Children pretend to turn door knobs with arms straight out in front of them and rotate toward the midline for 10 repetitions.

3.  Rainbows-  Have children hold their elbows with opposite hands.  They lift their elbows overhead in a single motion and return to their waist. Repeat 10 times.
4.  Mickey Mouse Ears-  Children put their fists by their ears, open hands, and close tightly.  Repeat 10 times.

5.  Desk Push-Ups- Children put hands flat on desks, with thumb and index fingers forming a triangle. They bend their elbows, put their nose into the triangle, then straighten their arms.  Repeat 10 times.

Coloring and writing use fine motor muscles, but aren't best for developing these muscles and making them strong.  Young children need lots of opportunities to develop these muscles so they don't get tired or frustrated completing activities that use these little muscles. It's just like any muscle that you need to strengthen so you can use it confidently and with best control. Children want to do their best work, enjoy it, and  feel proud of it. They don't want to feel clumsy and do sloppy work. Lots of opportunities to develop fine motor skills, both at home and at school,  are important for young children.

I made a paper that I send home to parents with some ideas that they can use at home to work on developing fine motor skills.  Lots of times parents want to help, but aren't sure what activities would be best.  Click HERE if you would like a copy.

We had a very informative class  with our OT, discussing the book Teaching the Moving Child by Sybil M. Berkey.

She shared some great ideas for fine and gross motor activities for children.

1. Use golf pencils or broken crayons to help children use correct finger grip.
Broken crayons kind of make me cringe.  I could have named my blog "Sharp Pencils and Brand New Crayons,"  because those are two things I LOVE.  OK- even more honestly, it could have been named "Sharp Ticonderoga Pencils and Brand New Crayola Crayons." But that would never fit on a button.

However, cringing aside,  I do see the benefit of using these smaller writing tools for children who need help or reminders using the correct grip.  If a crayon or pencil is small, children can't get all of their fingers around it, and therefore are "forced" to use a correct grip.  This is an especially good tip to remember at the beginning of the year.

I didn't have too many golf pencils, but that wasn't a problem by the end of summer- because this is my husband and son on a typical weekend!

2.  Have children write in a prone position (lying on the floor with a clipboard) or standing and writing on a wall space to put their wrists in proper position.

I tried this one and you can see it does position the child's arm and wrist correctly.  I did have a couple children who have "floppy wrists" or who bent their wrists around when they wrote.  Lying on the floor made them rest on their forearm and keep their wrist in the right position.  This isn't practical all the time, but I could definitely have them do this more during center times or certain writing times.  I didn't like the wall writing as much probably because I don't have much wall space and the paper has to be at the perfect height for them so they aren't reaching up  or stooping down, which defeats the purpose.

3. Have over-active children do "chair push-ups" or push against a wall to remain calm and more focused.

We do like a good "Chair Push-Up" break now and then!  My whole class does this together. I always have a couple children who benefit from this the most, but it is fun and helpful for everyone- as well as a challenge! They love to see who can stay up for a long time. 

We have a ball with the Wall Push.   I don't have much wall space, but we all line up quietly and walk around the corner in our hall, where there are no classrooms.  We try to push the wall as hard as we can.  I tell them we are trying to make Miss Quick's classroom smaller by pushing in the wall!   They really think we have moved that concrete wall over.  Sorry, Miss Quick, for your shrinking room!

These activities are also great for developing some shoulder strength.

Again,  this is a great brain break for everyone in the class!  Who doesn't feel like pushing a wall every now and then? One good thing about doing this in the hall is that I tell them we have push really hard, but be quiet, so they aren't screaming- but putting the effort into the physical exertion.
Mean Soup is a fun book to read before you practice some gross motor exercises- and if your class is ever in a sort of picky mood.

The story is about a boy who had a very frustrating day. His mother suggests that they make soup together, which he does not want to do at first.  She boils water on the stove, adds a little salt,  and screams into the water.  Then, she has him do it. They both scream louder into the "soup" until they feel better.  After that, the mother decides they should stick their tongues out twenty times into the soup- which, we, of course, did as well. (I actually made tally marks each time we stuck out our tongues-  MATH!)  What a fun idea to get out some frustration! We also took out our frustrations on the wall.  Again, sorry, Miss Quick- we are SURE your room is at least a foot smaller by now. 
It's such a fun way to teach children a safe, productive way to relieve stress.
Other good suggestions for an overly-active child were to have him/her do more physical jobs for you in the classroom, like wipe down tables, push in chairs, or carry heavy objects (like a small stack of books) for you in the hallway.  Kids love to be helpers, and this is a way for a child to be a helper and have some physical stimulation. 

(ok... maybe just a small stack!)

Go Noodle is FULL of great brain breaks and activities for getting children moving.  It has everything from Zumba to Yoga.  If you haven't used it yet, you and your kids will love it. It's free! Go check it out! I posted about it HERE.

I hope you found some new activities to use in your classroom! Thank you for stopping by! I'd love you to visit me at my blog, Kindergarten: Holding Hands and Sticking Together. 
Have a wonderful school year!



  1. Oh how I love this post, Carolyn! Finding ways to incorporate movement into every classroom benefits EVERY child- the over-active ones AND those who tolerate sitting better. Though I do movement through music, I will definitely use your exercises in music classes. Wondafull, wondafull!

    1. Oh, thank you so much Carole! I'm so glad you could find some ideas. You made my day!


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