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Hand strength is a big deal. Kids need to be able to have enough hand strength for handwriting and many times they go to school lacking in this area. It’s important to work on this skill when running a home daycare.
I teach kids in my in home daycare and usually, when my kid’s parents go to their first parent-teacher conference, the teacher says, where were they before this? My parents tell them Little Sprouts and they say, man, they did a great job preparing them for school. I hear this a lot.
One of the things I always hear preschool and kindergarten teachers say, and yes, I do ask them what they wish kids knew when they come, is hand strength. Kids cannot learn to write without grip strength. They won’t have nice handwriting without hand strength. They also can’t hold scissors and cut without it.
But we don’t need flashcards and worksheets to build strength for handwriting. We can still do developmentally appropriate activities with kids and build the hand strength they need.
During the years before school, we can set kids up for school success in so many ways. Hand strength is one way that is super important. There are simple activities you can do with your kids that build muscles in the hands and develop fine motor skills.
How to increase hand strength
Letting kids hold a crayon and draw and write regularly is very important for developing fine motor skills. Letting them use a pencil is great too. I like to start with crayons because they aren’t as sharp. Even my 1-year-olds get a pencil to draw with at least once a week, but we use crayons regularly here.
Building with blocks is great for building fine motor skills. Doing playdough is one of the best simple activities. Making collages is great for hand strengthening. Anything that uses the pincher grasp so kids have to control those muscles to pinpoint what they want to do.
Hand strengthening exercises
There are a bunch of fun tools you can give them. You can take some simple pom poms, jingle bells, or beans and put them in a tray. Then give them some tweezers, tongs, or chopsticks and have them move them from one tray to another. Kids will do this for a long time and enjoy it. It doesn’t have to be a miserable forced activity.
Playing board games is great for building strength for hand writing. Letting them cut with scissors and paste what they cut onto another paper. Think about how much hand control it takes to peel a sticker off a sheet and place it on paper. That’s another great fine motor activity.
A wonderful idea to build fine motor skills for kids is to do lots of fingerplays. Itsy bitsy spider, the wheels on the bus, etc. I like to make up finger movements to every song we sing.
So, for twinkle twinkle, we move our fingers all sparkly around for the twinkle part, and then we make a diamond shape with our fingers for the like a diamond in the sky part. We swing it back and forth to cross the midline for an extra brain boosting effect.
You can make hand strengthening exercises out of just about anything you do with kids. Just think about it and put some creativity into it. You’ll start seeing it too.
Be aware that having kids do tracing sheets and other handwriting activities is not developmentally appropriate until they are ready for that. For most kids, age 2 and 3 is too early. Developmentally appropriate practice is the most important part of our jobs. If you don’t know much about that, check out Reggio Emilia method right away.
It will be a life-changer for you, I promise. You’ll learn that we don’t need to shove learning down kid’s throats. They are natural learners and the best way to teach them anything is through play. They explore their own surroundings and learn a ton of information in the process.
The more creative you let kids be, the more they get out of it. To teach the most, set up a safe environment and get out of the way!
Fine motor strengthening activities
Any activity with small pieces, such as these perler bead activities or these bead and button activities are great for building fine motor skills and strengthening hands. There are also a ton of fun things to do with rubber bands.
Using a spray bottle for activities like this ice cube surprise science experiment is a fun way to making muscle building fun. Also pincher grasp fun like building on these spaghetti towers or using tongs to pick up small objects and move them like in this construction themed math game. These pipette activities are great for pincher grasp building too.
Lots of art mediums are great for building hand strength. Try some different ways to use them such as painting rainbow toast or making homemade playdough. This extra soft playdough recipe is a great place to start.
Letting kids paint with yarn or marbles is another way to build hand strength. Painting rocks is as well. This toothbrush painting activity is another good one. You can also use other alternative painting methods like this painting on foil idea. What about putting paint in a water pistol?
I hope you’ll try some of these!