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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ok, now onto the fun finger exercises!
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 the ball with 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!
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!
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) .
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!
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.
Please do seek a professional opinion if your child is struggling more than his/her peers.
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