Finger Exercises For Kids

finger exercises to help kids with handwriting

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.

As you can see from the picture alongside, three fingers: the thumb, index and middle fingers, work together to control the pencil in what is called a dynamic tripod pencil grasp.

I refer to these 3 fingers as the tripod fingers.

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 with all of these grasps, 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. They can also be used as exercises to improve pencil control and handwriting.

The Tripod Fingers

In all these finger exercises, your child needs to have the tripod fingers isolated.

I usually ask the child to hold a small piece of paper under the ring and little 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!

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.

Ok, now onto the fun finger exercises!

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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.

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

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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Playdough Finger Exercises

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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Mini Paper Crumpling

This is one of my favorite 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) .

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.

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!

Here's a quick tutorial on cutting those little squares quickly and easily...

1) Crepe paper usually comes folded up. Cut a strip about 3cm wide, right across the folds.
2) Cut the strip in half, and then snip the ends off so the folds are removed.
3) After both ends are snipped off, fan out the layers of crepe paper to separate them.

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More Challenging Finger Activities

If your child enjoyed these fine motor finger activities, why not try the exercises on these pages for an additional challenge?

These activities can help your child develop more refined finger movements, better in-hand manipulation and better pencil control.

Have fun!

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Helping A Child Who Struggles

If your child is struggling to do these exercises for fingers, then these pages contain further activities that may help to strengthen the hand muscles and to work on hand dexterity.

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

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Resources To Help You

My OT Mom Fine Motor E-Books are packed full of easy activities like these finger exercises, as well as helpful information to help develop your child's fine motor skills.

All Of My Fine Motor Activities In One Place!

Do you want practical activities to help develop your child's fine motor skills with everyday resources?

Are you tired of lists of suggestions that don't show you HOW to do the activities?

My Fine Motor Activities E-Book contains lots of helpful information as well as more than 24 pages of photographed activities to help support your child's fine motor skills!

View my Fine Motor Activities E-Book now!

Fine Motor Resources from PFOT

Pocket Full of Therapy have a great range of resources that you can use to work on fine motor skills. They kindly let me compile my favorites on a couple pages of their site - so pop on over and check them out - great for home or classroom use!

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