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Child Prodigy Blog

Fine Motor Skills

09/07/2018 12:00:00

Fine Motor Skills is one of the main areas I sought to improve in my Pre-K classroom this past year (2008-09). I think fine motor is an area which is often overlooked, yet it is so important. Fine motor skills are the foundation children need before they learn handwriting, in order to have proper pencil grasp and control of a writing instrument.

My goals were to increase the fine motor materials available in our classroom environment, and to plan activities and materials that are interesting and fun so that children would be motivated to use them and would choose them during their free choice time. Most of these activities use “found materials” that can be borrowed, donated, or purchased inexpensively, rather than commercially produced and sold in an educational catalog. Below are several of the fine motor skills activities my class did this year. A few of these ideas were borrowed from Montessori (and I’ve noted those below).

Water Drops with Suction Cups

The little suction cups on the bottom of these bathtub shapes become mini bowls when turned upside down and used in this activity. (These were purchased at the Dollar Tree.) Children use a finger grasp to squeeze one drop of colored water into each little bowl on the dish. [Idea borrowed from Montessori]

Water Droppers

Beads with Suction Cups

These are the same bathtub shapes as in the above activity. Children use their thumb and forefinger to grasp each little bead and place it on a bowl on the shape. The beads are pony beads purchased from a craft store. [Idea borrowed from Montessori]

Tweezers & Beads


Children use their fine motor muscles to squeeze the clothespins to clip each piece of clothing to the clothesline. I tied a piece of thick string to the handles of a wooden tray to make the clothesline, and used mini clothespins (although the regular sized clothespins can be used as well). The clothes are Barbie doll clothes purchased at a dollar store. As an alternative, you could cut out shapes of shirts and pants from felt.


Clothespins on a Box

Children squeeze the clothespins and clip them to the sides of the box. To make the activity more interesting, I wrote letters on dot stickers and placed the dot stickers around the sides of the boxes. I wrote letters on the clothespins so the children would match the letters on the clothespins to the letters on the boxes. Other skills could be used, e.g. colors, numbers, beginning sounds. This is similar to activities where children clip clothespins to a paper plate or cardstock circle; however, in my experience, those were flimsy and awkward to use, which is why I like the box better. Any sturdy box could be used (shoe box, postal box). The boxes in this picture were stacking gift boxes that held chocolate covered nuts (a Christmas gift), and they worked out perfectly.

Clothespins on a Box

Nuts & Bolts

These larger nuts and bolts can be purchased individually at hardware stores. The cost is usually no more than $0.40 to $0.50 each. Children use their fingers, hands, and wrists, coordinating both hands while grasping and twisting the metal nuts onto the bolts.

Nuts and Bolts

Sewing/Lacing Cards

These can be purchased or made with poster board and a hole puncher. Use shoe laces or plastic lacing. Tie one end of the lace to one hole of the card. Children lace the string through each hole. These can be made to match different themes or holidays.

Lacing Cards

Plate Sewing

Tie lengths of yarn to plastic yarn needles, and knot the end. Children “sew” the yarn on a styrofoam plate by pushing the needle in and out through the plate.

Sewing a Plate

Stringing Cut Straws

Cut plastic drinking straws into small pieces, about 1-inch. (Cutting the straws is another great fine motor activity for kids.) Tie yarn to a plastic needle, or use plastic laces, and knot the end. Children string the straws onto the yarn or lace.

Stringing Straws

Stringing Beads

Children string pony beads onto pipe cleaners.

Stringing Beads

Bean Gluing

Children draw a simple picture on a piece of construction paper with a pencil. They trace the pencil lines with glue and glue the beans onto the design. Gripping the beans with their fingers is good fine motor practice.


Seeds and Tweezers

Children pick up different types of seeds with tweezers and sort them by type into the cups.

Seeds and Tweezers

Unifix Cubes or Interlock Cubes

Children push the cubes with their hands to hook them together. Unifix cubes connect on one end and can make a long “train”. Interlock Cubes connect on different sides and can make different things, for example the dogs the children were making in the photo.

Interlock Cubes


In advance, cut construction paper into 1-inch long strips. Children “snip” the strips into smaller pieces and glue them onto their paper to make a mosaic. This activity is great for children who are not yet skilled with scissors, but need cutting practice because they can snip the paper with one cut.


Eyedropper Art

Children use eyedroppers to drop liquid watercolor onto a coffee filter or paper towel. (I use Colorations Liquid Watercolor from Discount School Supply.) If liquid watercolor is not available, you can color water with food color. Also see my blog post for adapting this activity for holidays or themes.

eye droppers

Paper Clips

The children in my class are always wanting to use paper clips because they see me use them, so I set up this activity in the fine motor center. I cut squares of colored construction paper and placed them on the tray along with colored paper clips. Children stack the papers (all of the same color) and clip them with the matching colored paper clip. This was challenging for some children to manipulate the paper clip, but they loved doing it, and it gave them an opportunity to use paper clips with permission.

Paper Clips

Dot to Dot

I printed out the Geoboard Dot Paper from the Math Their Way website for this activity (I used the size on the second page). I added Pip Squeak markers, which are great for young children because they are short. Children draw lines with the markers to connect the dots on the paper.

Dot to Dot

Toothpick Punch

To do this activity, cut squares of construction paper (I cut mine 6×6 inches). Draw a numeral, letter, or simple shape with a Sharpie. I placed a stack of these papers in the fine motor center, along with toothpicks and a carpet square. Children place the paper on the carpet square and use the toothpick to punch holes all along the black lines. When they are done, they can hold their paper up to the light and see the light shining through the holes. Kids enjoy it and it’s great fine motor practice!

Toothpick Punch

Pinching Sand

Sand art is a great fine motor activity because children can pinch the sand with their fingers to apply it to their art work. Provide a simple outline (or have the children draw one), a small bowl of white glue, a small bowl of colored sand, and a “glue brush”. I buy the cheap paintbrushes with stiff bristles that are sold in a package for $1 at dollar stores. These brushes are not a good enough quality for painting, but they make great glue brushes. Children paint the glue on their paper with the brush, pinch some sand with their fingers, and sprinkle it over the glue. Place a pan, tray, or paper plate on the table for children to shake off the excess sand.

Sand Art

Insect Wrapping

Children wrap the plastic insects with pieces of white yarn (“spider webs”). When they are finished wrapping all of the insects, they unwrap them and place the yarn back in the bowl. We do this activity during a study of bugs and spiders.

Insects & Yarn

Birds Eating Worms

Cut pipe cleaners into smaller pieces and shape them to make several “worms”. Place the worms on a brown carpet square (this represents the dirt). Children use a clothespin as a bird beak and catch the worms with their beak. As they catch worms, they place them in a basket until all of the worms have been collected.

pipe cleaners & clothespins

Marbles and Melon Scoops

Children scoop the marbles with melon scoops and place them in the ice cube tray. This ice cube tray was found at a kitchen discount store. Also posted at Fine Motor in the Sensory Table. See my blog post for a Halloween adaption to this activity.

Marbles and Melon Scoops


Children pour something from one bottle to another. I started out having them pour popcorn seeds. They can later try pouring sand, and then water.


Color Mixing

Children mix primary-colored water to make secondary colors. The bucket in the middle is for dumping the water when finished, or to start over. Also posted on the Sensory Tablepage.

Colored water & eye droppers

Knobbed Puzzles

Children exercise the fingers used for a pencil grasp when picking up puzzle pieces that have knobs or pegs.

Knobbed Puzzles


A bit obvious, but should not be forgotten.


Play Dough

An old stand-by. Also see my webpage for more play dough activities.

play dough

Peg Boards

Another old stand-by.

Peg boards
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15 Fun Things to Do With Your Kids Before School Starts

08/03/2018 12:00:00

It's not too late to check everything off your summer bucket list.

1. Eat ice cream for dinner.

Because it's a fun laid-back treat (and an awesome vacation tradition) you just can't justify after Labor Day. Fancy something other than a scoop? Try one of these ice cream pies.

2. Cover your driveway in sidewalk chalk.

There's more than one way to color outside (like ice chalkchalk paint, and even exploding chalk), so turn this afternoon activity into an all-day event.

3. Plan a family photo shoot.

Ask a pal to take some nice snaps of your entire crew in the summertime glow. Pose for traditional shots, but mix in a few while you play a game or read a book for some precious candid moments.

4. Take the kids on a scavenger hunt.

Thanks to Pinterest, this boredom-buster requires virtually no prep at all.



5. Host family game night.

Pass GO and collect $200 before homework takes over your evenings again.

6. Actually go get that amazing burger/hike that pretty trail/visit that sculpture garden.

Summer is meant for impromptu adventures to the restaurant, park, or site everyone's been talking about.

7. Go on a picnic.

Even if it's just in your backyard. The days on which is this is doable (and practical) are numbered.

8. Make guacamole.

Hello! Summertime staple!



9. Have a water fight.

These DIY water toys have soaking power, but will minimize bumps and bruises.

10. Start and finish a puzzle.

Let a challenging thousand-piecer take over your dining table for a few days. It's a great ongoing activity for rainy afternoons (or any other "I'm bored!" moments).

11. Help out your favorite cause.



12. Make s'mores.

If you're uncomfortable with an open flame, there's no shame in making the microwave version of this fan-favorite dessert.

13. Seek out live outdoor music.

Many towns offer free shows in parks during the summer months — find the schedule you sorta remember glancing at in June so you don't miss the last performance.

14. Tie-dye T-shirts.

This is an outdoor-only activity for sure, so quench your kids' thirst for hand-dyed clothing now.

Bonus: Hire a babysitter.

The school year means extra stress for you, too, so don't forget to plan your own summer me-time (even if that's just a Netflix marathon at a friend's house) before September hits.

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Age-Appropriate Chores: How to Help Kids Be Responsible

07/02/2018 12:00:00

Dirty dishes. Messy bedrooms. Toys on the living room floor. Some days, there just isn't a good way to avoid the chore wars. But there is always tomorrow, and you can be proactive. Ask yourself, What chores are important for my children to learn, and what are they capable of doing?

Before finding the answer, recognize the difference between a chore (an ongoing task that benefits the household) and a life skill (an activity that children should know how to do before living on their own, such as managing a checking account). The following list is not a life-skills checklist. It is a list of age-appropriate chores.

As you view it, remember that every child matures at a different pace. Adjust this chart to what you know about your children's skills and talents, and realize that no child should do all of the chores listed below every day. (And if you want to set the scene for your kids, have them listen to Signed, Sealed and Committed, an Adventures in Odyssey album in which some kids threaten to go on a chore strike. Or have them read about some of the chores that kids did in Jericho within the story "Trapped!" in Bible Kidventures: Stories of Danger and Courage.)

The following list is only meant as a guide and reflects the types of chores that many children in specific age ranges are capable of completing. And we've included some links from some of these chores that offer hands-on, practical ways to train your children to do them. Hopefully, these general guidelines may help your children succeed in personal and family responsibility: 

Ages 2 and 3

Personal chores

Family chores

Ages 4 and 5

Note: This age can be trained to use a family chore chart. 

Personal chores

Family chores

Ages 6 and 7

Note: This age can be supervised to use a family chore chart.

Personal chores

  • Make their bed every day
  • Brush teeth
  • Comb hair
  • Choose the day's outfit and get dressed
  • Write thank you notes with supervision

Family chores

Ages 8 to 11

Note: This age benefits from using a family chore chart.

Personal chores

Family chores

  • Wash dishes
  • Wash the family car with supervision
  • Prepare a few easy meals on their own
  • Clean the bathroom with supervision
  • Rake leaves
  • Learn to use the washer and dryer
  • Put all laundry away with supervision
  • Take the trash can to the curb for pick up
  • Test smoke alarms once a month with supervision
  • Screen phone calls using caller ID and answer when appropriate

Ages 12 and 13

Personal chores

  • Take care of personal hygiene, belongings and homework
  • Write invitations and thank you notes
  • Set their alarm clock
  • Maintain personal items, such as recharging batteries
  • Change bed sheets
  • Keep their rooms tidy and do a biannual deep cleaning

Family chores

  • Change light bulbs
  • Change the vacuum bag
  • Dust, vacuum, clean bathrooms and do dishes
  • Clean mirrors
  • Mow the lawn with supervision
  • Baby sit (in most states)
  • Prepare an occasional family meal

Ages 14 and 15

Personal chores

  • Responsible for all personal chores for ages 12 and 13
  • Responsible for library card and books

Family chores

  • Do assigned housework without prompting
  • Do yard work as needed
  • Baby sit
  • Prepare food — from making a grocery list and buying the items (with supervision) to serving a meal — occasionally
  • Wash windows with supervision

Ages 16 to 18

Personal chores

  • Responsible for all personal chores for ages 14 and 15
  • Responsible to earn spending money
  • Responsible for purchasing their own clothes
  • Responsible for maintaining any car they drive (e.g., gas, oil changes, tire pressure, etc.)

Family chores

  • Do housework as needed
  • Do yard work as needed
  • Prepare family meals — from grocery list to serving it — as needed
  • Deep cleaning of household appliances, such as defrosting the freezer, as needed

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