In most classrooms, a Fine Motor Activities Center combines manipulatives, table toys and math activities. The purpose of manipulatives will depend on the goal of the activity. However, here is where you can provide fine motor activities that encourage small muscle development, counting, one-to-one correspondence and more.
It is called many things in many classrooms from the Math Center, the Fine Motor Center, The Manipulatives Center, The Table Toy Center and many other names! The names encompass it all! One can manipulate items to count, puzzles to make and crayons to draw with. So, we leave the name unchanged!
The children learn many things while developing their small muscles when participating in fine motor activities at this interest center. They can manipulate items to count, puzzles to make and crayons to draw with.
Many classrooms combine their manipulatives or “table toy” interest center with their math center. The purpose of the manipulatives in this center will depend on the goal of the activity. However, here is where you can support fine motor development, counting, one-to-one correspondence and more.
Teachers can best prepare for this area by considering where the students are in their fine motor development so that the activities are challenging but not frustrating. When adding an item to this center, have the materials available for the children to simply explore the materials.
For example, if you will be adding lacing beads to the center, have the beads and strings available for a day or two for the children to touch, sort, count, etc. After exploration time, work in small groups to show them how to lace the beads.
Of course, some of your children will already figure it out during the exploration! The children who have no problem with this can then be challenged to lace the beads in patterns as a challenge.
You would do the same thing when introducing a board game for the first time, such as Hi Ho Cherry O. Have the game available for a day or two for the children to explore the cherries, the spinner and the baskets. Then, in small groups, begin to show them playing the game, taking turns, etc.
Our Math and Manipulative Center has many items and materials in it that work on these skills. The most common are:
Provide a large assortment of puzzles from 4 piece puzzles to 20 piece puzzles. Floor puzzles are also great to have available. Most of them can be completed on the table as well as on the floor! These puzzles can be themed as well as focused on basic concepts that you are working on (such as the alphabet, the numbers, colors, shapes).
Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, Hi Ho Cherry O and other board games not only require the use of fine motor skills, but also encourage one-to-one correspondence, counting, and taking turns!
Sorters and Counters
With these, I am referring to items such as Teddy Bear sorters/counters that typically come with a balance scale. The sorters/counters can be sorted by small, medium and large as well as by color. Farm animals can also be sorted this way as well as by type (cows, pigs, etc.).
Also consider using other items of interest for sorting and counting such as colored pom poms of different sizes; pony beads, marbles, etc.
You most likely already have a block interest center in your classroom but don’t overlook this smaller version! Small wooden blocks of different colors are very popular in our classroom! Houses and entire cities have been built at the table by our preschool architects!
While creating their own cities they are also learning to sort and build by shape and color, develop their fine motor skills to place each block and developing their language, social and problem solving skills by working with one or two other friends to build their city!
Provide lacing cards all the time! You can purchase or make them to go along with a theme or concept you are working on! These types of cards take on a life of their own! During a Fairy Tale theme, make a wolf and three pig lacing cards. Your preschoolers will not only lace them but then use them as masks to act out the story!
One of our favorite developers of fine motor skills! Provide playdough and cookie cutters for some muscle development!
Here is my FAVORITE recipe for playdough!
In one bowl, mix in 2 cups hot water, 1 package of koolaid and 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
In another bowl, mix together 2 cups of white flour and one cup of salt.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until well blended.
From there, continue to add flour until it is at the consistency that you want (it usually takes about 3-3 1/2 cups of flour total).
We usually make this WITH the children! They love making playdough! And, it is another GREAT activity to help develop those small muscles!
Some games which help develop eye hand coordination and fine motor skills that our preschoolers have loved are:
With this game, the frog’s head rotates and its mouth opens and closes while the children try to flip flies into its mouth!
Let’s Go Fishing
This is another popular game. It is fishing game that uses magnetic fishing poles.
One resource I simply could not do with out is The Creative Curriculum by Diane Trister Dodge. I believe every classroom should have one! If your program does not have a copy, check your local library or bookstore. It is a wealth of information on interest centers and could not be more developmentally appropriate!
You can find ideas for manipulative activities on this website under each theme as well! From the Themes page, simply click on the theme you want, then click on “Math and Manipulatives” and you will have some ideas you can use with your students.