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.

In order to control a pencil and develop good handwriting skills, a child’s hand muscles need to work well together.

In particular, as you can see from the picture above, 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.

Please note:

These OT finger exercises are designed for kids who have already had practice with using just their tripod fingers.

They can be used as exercises to improve handwriting.

Then head back for these finger exercises and activities to help 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 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 below.

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.

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!

I have also used Modarri cars to get the tripod fingers moving on a screwdriver - check out my description of how to use these cars for finger movements.

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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 holds its shape better) .
  • Give your child one piece of paper at a time to squish a bit as shown above, 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.
  • Use the balls to decorate a 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.
4) I like to keep a container of various colors of paper on hand, ready to use!

These finger exercises, and just about all my fine motor information and activities, plus some extras, are all available in downloadable format in my OT Mom Fine Motor E-books.

Check them out by clicking on the links below!

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