Finger Exercises For Kids

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These finger exercises for kids are designed to increase the dexterity and skill of the tripod fingers, with the hope of ultimately improving your child's pencil control and handwriting.

These fine motor activities are designed to be easily incorporated into your home routine or classroom activities, using readily available resources.

The activity suggestions on this page are designed to promote your child's normal development. If you are at all concerned about your child's development, please consult an occupational therapist. This website is NOT a substitute for occupational therapy evaluation and treatment!

Which Fingers Are These Exercises For?

As you can see from the picture alongside, three fingers: the thumb, index and middle fingers, work together to control the pencil.

This grasp is known as a dynamic tripod pencil grasp, and I refer to these 3 fingers that hold the pencil as the tripod fingers.

Dynamic Tripod Pencil GraspDynamic Tripod Pencil Grasp

Once your child has the hang of getting the tripod fingers to work together, the fingers should be able to move freely and easily in order to control a pencil for flowing handwriting.

Some children have a pencil grip that looks a little different from this - you can take a look at some different functional pencil grasps on this page.

But no matter which grasp your child uses, the fingers need to work together well in order to control the pencil properly, and these finger exercises are designed to help your child improve these skills.

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Isolating The Tripod Fingers

In all these finger exercises, your child needs to be able to use the tripod fingers without having the ring and little finger moving. This is called isolating the tripod fingers.

But Why Is This Important?

I need to use some jargon here!

Keeping the ring and little fingers tucked away develops what is called the Distal Transverse Metacarpal Arch (DTM Arch).This is basically the arch formed across the hand by the knuckles - you can see it when you make a fist.

This arch is important as it gives stability to the joints and muscles of the hands while the tripod fingers are moving and thus reduces fatigue during handwriting.

Try writing with your ring and little fingers sticking out a bit, and you can immediately feel the strain on your hand!

The kids whose hands are pictured below have not yet developed this stable arch, and all of them tire easily during handwriting tasks!

writing with no DTM archNo DTM Arch
writing without developing a distal transverse metacarpal arch is tiringWriting is tiring
little finger sticking out while cutting with scissorsLittle finger sticking out

Helping Your child Isolate The Tripod Fingers

When fine motor skills are weak, it may take a child a while to get the hang of moving the tripod fingers on their own.

If your child struggles to keep the ring and little fingers down on a piece of paper, have your child hold down the fingers as shown alongside.

developing the DTM arch - fine motor skillsIdea to develop the DTM arch

I usually ask the child to hold a small piece of paper under the ring and little fingers to keep them out of the way.

developing the distal transverse metacarpal archHold paper under the ring and middle fingers
an activity to develop the distal transverse metacarpal (DTM) arch in kidsAn activity while the fingers are held out of the way

Ok, now onto the fun finger exercises!

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1 - Finger Ball Walk

Introduce your child to this activity without using the tripod fingers, until they get the hang of walking the ball up and down their legs. (Or up one leg, across the tummy, and down the other leg!)

Look out for kids making grabbing movements with their hands instead of getting a WALKING movement with their fingers.

walking a plastic ball as a fine motor exerciseWalking the ball

Once they have got the hang of walking the ball with their fingers, then isolate the tripod fingers as explained above and try again.

walking a tennis ball as a fine motor exerciseUsing tripod fingers to walk the ball up and down the body
use fingers to walk a small plastic ballUse just the thumb and index finger for more of a thumb workout

You can also vary the size and type of ball used.

Walking DOWN the leg takes more control than walking up!

If your child has a "lazy thumb", try using just the thumb and index fingers to walk the ball!

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2 - Playdough Finger Exercises

playdough activity to strengthen fingersUse the tripod fingers to make a playdough ball
fine motor activity with playdoughUse the tripod fingers for a playdough sausage
a fun playdough activity for fine motor skillsA playdough nest with little eggs

Use the tripod fingers to roll out small balls with a rolling movement of the fingers and small sausages with a back and forth movement of the fingers. Sausages can be easier than balls at first.

These can be used in many different ways in playdough creations- see my Playdough Activities page for ideas!

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3 - Mini Paper Crumpling

This is one of my favorite fine motor finger activities as it is so easy to have a box of different color papers on hand to add a 3D aspect to any picture.

Cut small squares of crepe or tissue paper ahead of time (crepe paper holds its shape better) .

box full of crepe paper squares for a fine motor activityA box of little paper bits ready for action!

Give your child one piece of paper at a time to squish a bit as shown, using the tripod fingers of both hands.

Then ask your child to use just the tripod fingers of the dominant hand to one-handedly ROLL the crumpled paper into a smaller, tighter ball.

a fine motor activity - making little paper ballsCrumpling mini paper balls

You can use the balls of crumpled paper to decorate a picture - they make great stars, leaves, or just interesting detail on a regular coloring picture!

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More Challenging Finger Activities

If your child enjoyed these fine motor finger activities, you can try my pencil control exercises and activities to promote finger movements for more of a challenge. These activities can help your child with finger isolation, and to develop more refined finger movements, better in-hand manipulation and better pencil control.

Have fun!

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Helping A Child Who Struggles

Please do seek a professional opinion if your child is struggling more than his/her peers.

hand strengthening exercises for kidsHand Strength Ideas
  • My OT Mom Fine Motor E-Books are packed full of easy activities like these finger exercises, as well as lots of additional helpful information to help develop your child's fine motor skills.
    There are more than 24 pages of fine motor activities designed to be done at home or in the classroom.
  • Learning Resources#Ad have created some lovely, appealing toys and games to build fine motor skills. These fun resources may appeal to kids who otherwise avoid fine motor tasks.

Thank you for visiting my site! I trust you were helped and inspired by how easy it is to help your child develop the fine motor skills that he/she needs for school!

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