Fine motor skills activities for 5-6 year olds are important as kids enter kindergarten. Encourage hand dexterity—even with an active child—with these fun activities!
If you’re like most parents, how your child holds a pencil may not be top of mind. But once she enters kindergarten, you suddenly notice how well the other kids hold theirs in comparison. You also realize that she can’t write her name well, much less cut with scissors (and forget about pulling a zipper).
Come to think of it, you don’t even know what her dominant hand is yet.
Or perhaps it’s the opposite. You’re well aware of how important it is to practice fine motor skills activities, but find it impossible to get your active child to even sit down. You may have even tried a few activities in the past, but the difficulty only made her even more unwilling to participate or keep trying. This seems excusable for toddlers and preschoolers, but now that she’s older, you’re growing concerned.
So, now you’re looking for activities that are fun, engaging, and geared for busy kids, all without the added pressure of “doing it right.” But you also don’t want to get a ton of new or strange supplies, especially if you find she’s not interested or refuses to use them.
Fine motor skills activities for 5-6 year olds
Regardless of whether you’re realizing it only now or have been aware of the problem for a while, you’re still anxious. Because as wonderful as it is that your child is active and knows her colors and shapes, you worry when she shows no interest in fine motor activities.
Practicing hand dexterity is important in kindergarten, where kids learn to be more independent and learn to write. And no parent wants her child to start the year off with a bad experience or feeling behind. Perhaps you even worry that the delay in fine motor skills might continue to affect her through the year.
Rest assured, she can learn to develop fine motor skills, no matter how active or indifferent she may be right now. Let’s take a look at fun ways that can keep her interested and engaged. Below is a checklist of great fine motor activities that are fun and helpful for kids to practice using their hands:
1. Hole punching
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Most kids don’t get to use hole punchers these days (I don’t even think most adults do, either!). The novelty of a hole-punching activity can catch your child’s attention enough to be curious and give it a try.
Get a hole puncher with a rubber grip and a standard quarter-inch circle. Then, use paper that’s thick enough for her to hold, but not too thick that she has a difficult time punching through it. Regular card stock or construction paper works great.
Next, cut the paper into quarters so she isn’t holding a huge letter-sized paper, but one that’s a quarter of that size. And finally, encourage her to “open” the hole puncher to release the bits of circles she cut.
You can also save the circles for another day when she can practice sprinkling and gluing them onto a larger piece of paper like a collage.
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Clothespins allow your child to practice pinching them open and close, exercising his small muscles. Keep it fun by having him make a long line of clothespins by pinning one to the other. Or he can use one clothespin to clip cotton balls from one bowl to another.
Another option is to use tweezers, especially when picking up puff balls or pom poms.
3. Play dough
Playdough is one of the best open-ended toys and crafts since your child can use her imagination to create just about anything. It’s also a great way to practice fine motor skills, as it encourages a variety of ways to use her hand strength.
But sometimes plopping a cup of play dough in front of her isn’t enough to keep her interested. Instead, guide her through simple activities with the play dough, then let her imagination take over. You can…
- Give a child-friendly knife to “cut” the play dough into smaller pieces
- Help turn one play dough into smaller balls
- Show how to roll the play dough into “snakes”
- Mix different-colored play dough to form new colors
Using scissors is a fantastic way to develop fine motor skills. Many kids can take to the task, especially if they weren’t allowed to use scissors before now. Start with a good pair of child-friendly scissors—not only are they safer, but they’re also built for their smaller hands.
And like hole punching, use smaller pieces of card stock or construction paper to make for easier holding and cutting. You can also re-purpose the smaller pieces he had cut into making a new collage.
Painting allows your child to use paintbrushes to develop fine motor skills. Experiment with different-sized paintbrushes, as well as a variety of things to paint on. One day she might paint on a large cardboard box, and another on finger paint paper.
Stick to washable paint that comes off easily, like this one , and use finger paint paper that can hold up to the textures of paint. Show her how to paint simple dots and lines. And encourage brush painting (instead of finger painting) so she can practice holding a brush with her thumb and forefinger.
Have your child practice peeling off and applying stickers, perfect for developing fine motor skills. To get him especially interested, buy stickers with characters or themes he loves. For instance, if he can’t get enough of trucks, get sticker sheets with everything trucks.
If needed, peel a corner of a sticker first, then allow him to peel the rest on his own.
7. Building blocks and tiles
I’m a fan of Lego toys, since they’re open-ended and can be made into just about anything. To start, give your child the larger Lego blocks to practice building and getting used to locking and unlocking the pieces together.
Then, as she gets better playing with those, offer the standard Lego pieces, small enough to truly hone in on her fine motor skills.
Trainer or child-friendly chopsticks are a fantastic way to practice fine motor skills activities for 5-6 year olds. The pinching motion models the right way to hold a pencil.
As you did with clothespins, have your child pick things up with the chopsticks. Stick to light, easy-to-carry items like cotton balls, toy figurines, or even small socks.
Don’t have chopsticks on hand? Tongs can work, too. Practice with small tongs, and use them to transfer small items from one bowl to another.
Once your child is more dexterous with his hands, practice more complex fine motor activities like beading. You can use simple items like threading dried pasta or cut up straws into a shoelace or yarn, or get toys specifically for beading.
Offer lacing activities not to show your child how to tie her shoelaces but to practice looping a lace up and down a sequence of holes.
I’m a fan of this Melissa & Doug lacing toy. Even if my boys didn’t lace it completely around the edges, they were still able to practice lacing cards and concentrating on the activity for a long time!
11. Paper clips
Paper clips can make for a great activity for fine motor skill development. Grab a handful of paper clips and encourage your child to attach them to sheets of paper. Similarly, have her organize paper clips by color into an ice cube tray.
You can use both types of paper clips—the kind to slip over paper, and the binder ones to clasp onto a thicker stack.
12. Pipe cleaners
Nurture your child’s hand-eye coordination with simple pipe cleaners!
Create fun shapes with pipe cleaners, from simple circles and squares to creating the letters of his name. Have him poke the ends of each pipe cleaner through the holes of a colander. Or stick to simple tie twists to close bags of food, like bread and snacks.
Not only do puzzles exercise your child’s mind, they also allow her to pick tiny pieces up from a surface and place them carefully in place. Don’t worry if she doesn’t finish a puzzle in a day—leave it in place to finish the next day.
14. Glue small pieces
Create a collage by gluing small pieces of paper or other found objects onto a sturdy surface, like a thick poster or canvas. Your child can either squeeze glue onto the tiny pieces, or dip the pieces into a bowl of glue. Have him attach it to the poster paper to create his own unique art.
15. Writing supplies
Have plenty of writing materials around the house, from crayons to colored pencils to washable markers. Make it more about creating art as opposed to handwriting your child’s name or learning the alphabet. This can encourage him to pick up a writing tool and practice this fine motor development.
16. Crumple papers
Have extra junk mail? Ask your child to help you crumple pieces of paper to toss into the recycle bin. This can help exercise her hand muscles.
17. Play board games
Many board games lend themselves to helping your child develop fine motor skills. He might have to pick up a peg to move across the board, or a coin to drop into a slot. Perhaps he’ll use play dough to sculpt as part of the game, or distribute playing cards to others.
When the game is done, ask him to help you put the tiny pieces back into bags or containers.
Go through your child’s clothes and have her zip them up, from pants to jackets. This exercise can help her learn not only the important skill of zipping but to practice her fine motor skills.
19. Rubber bands
Make a game of placing rubber bands on particular items. For instance, your child can put rubber bands around his stuffed animals, or he can help you close a bag of snacks. Perhaps he can stretch several rubber bands around a small ball.
Tips to develop fine motor skills
How can you help your child with fine motor skills? It certainly isn’t through rigorous “practice,” and not through pressure. Instead, follow these three pointers:
- Keep the activities fun and engaging. If he shows no interest, try again another day, or try another activity.
- Keep the activities short. I recommend a few minutes a day, and unless he’s interested, no more than one activity per day. Don’t cram all 10 activities in one day, or even in one week.
- Don’t pressure your child. Pressure and anxiety can make him see these activities in a negative light. Instead, include them as a fun part of your day.
- Practice with everyday tasks. Snap buttons on a shirt or pull small weeds from a garden. Chores like these can help build his hand muscles and pincer grasp.
For many parents, realizing that their kids could improve their fine motor skills can send them panicking. Kindergarten especially is a glaring opportunity to compare developmental milestones to other kids.
Rest assured, you can help your child develop hand dexterity, especially with the activities I shared above. With enough practice and interest, he can master his fine motor skills. He’ll hold a pencil, cut with scissors, and yes, even pull up a zipper.
Get more tips:
- How to Encourage Fine Motor Skills for 6 Year Olds
- Children’s Books about Perseverance
- 6 Ingenious Strategies for Teaching Sight Words
- 7 Useful Ways to Teach the Alphabet, Montessori-Style
- 4 Easy Ideas to Nurture Your Child’s Creativity
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