I was always told that strengthening fine motor skills was super important, but it seemed every exercise I found was for improving correct grasp, not actually on strength and endurance. My son had the correct grasp he just had very little fine motor strength and no endurance. We worked on strengthening for well over a year before we even tried to push scribbling with a crayon. He was so weak he couldn’t color for more than 3 seconds until he was almost 5 years old, let alone write letters or basic preschool readiness shapes.
Recently I was asked “are there any specific activities that you used to increase fine motor strength that you would recommend?”
It was important for us to set aside actual handwriting tasks for strengthening tasks instead. It was also important to be patient. It took time to get him where we wanted him to be, but he got there.
Here is what helped the most IN ORDER:
Wheelbarrow walks when tolerated
Strengthening his core through daily exercises like this and using a scooter board while on his stomach helped tremendously. Even watching TV on his stomach where he had to push himself up to see was beneficial.
Painting on an easel and using a dry erase board to doodle
Forcing him to use more strength to do motivating activities like these helped his core strength and in turn helped his fine motor strength. I would love to say finger painting helped, but my son really wasn’t interested in doing that.
Stringing pieces of felt on string
Our OT would bring in little felt pieces that looked like parts of a cheeseburger or sandwich with a hole in the middle and would have my son put them on a string. It was difficult, but just motivating enough that he would try it. Holding the string up helped his core muscles too.
Hog Wild Unicorn Popper White Sunshine Toy
I give the full name so you can search it on Amazon. Our OT had a dog one I believe. Very motivating to get those hand muscles moving. He thought it was absolutely hilarious and I wish I would have bought one because he wanted to do it all day long.
Tennis ball with a slit in the middle
A tennis ball cut in the middle just enough to put flat toys or coins in by squeezing it open was so motivating. That ball could be a hungry frog or monster or anything he wanted. Feeding that tennis ball was a great way to motivate squeezing those core and hand muscles. Putty with things hidden inside also helped once he had a bit of confidence.
Nerf type dart guns with a pull back lever
(where you have to pull back on a lever to get them to shoot) This was so hard for my son, but eventually we were able to model and help him enough with it that he was able to do it on his own because he REALLY wanted to. That pull back motion increased core, shoulder, arm, and hand strength. It was probably our first huge success with strength. Everything we had been working on up until that point was paying off and his skills started skyrocketing after this.
Nerf type dart guns with a trigger
Seems odd that finger trigger type nerf guns would be harder than the pull back ones, but they were. Isolating the finger strength was much harder than using his whole body strength to pull back a lever. Once he mastered the pull back, he started to be able to use his finger on a nerf gun with a trigger, and his confidence started growing.
I cannot state the importance of Legos enough. He had no interest in the big ones, they were hard too, but once he saw the little people in lego sets he was so motivated to get those people put together he wouldn’t give up. The more he did it the easier it became. That became a gateway into more Lego building and very very shortly after he was able to tolerate actual coloring with a crayon, writing his name, and eventually writing words independently.
Handwriting Without Tears Little Pencils
He LOVED these. He never did well with fat writing utensils. He could physically hold a pencil correctly, but he never had the strength to use it. Once he had the strength he wanted to practice using real writing utensils, but actual pencils were still too heavy. These were PERFECT and extremely motivating to him.
Pip-Squeak Skinnies Markers
The final piece to our missing puzzle. After he gained some confidence and strength, but still didn’t want to color or write for long the only thing he would use for longer than a minute was Crayola’s Pip-Squeak Skinnies Markers. You can get a huge case of them on Amazon. He drew his very first picture at 5 and a half with these markers.
The Homeschooling SLP-September 2017 www.thehomeschoolingslp.com