Enjoyable activities that develop hand-eye coordination pay off later when young children learn to write. For children already writing, they can help improve the control necessary for neat handwriting.
- Encourage children to practice using buckles, snaps, hooks, and zippers as well as teaching them to tie.
- Provide opportunities for pouring-while helping with a recipe or just playing in sand. Vary the size of the opening into which the liquid or sand is poured, decreasing it gradually.
- Many toy stores carry large, wooden beads with lace-like string that provide excellent practice for the very young. Since they usually contain cards with color patterns to be copied, they encourage the development of left-right sequence as well as visual-motor skills. As children are able, they can string dried pasta to make their own jewelry. You can provide a visual pattern by making a model using a variety of noodles. For example, 4 macaroni, 3 ziti, 1 rigatoni, and repeat. Since one end of the string acts as the needle, be sure to stiffen it with a few wraps of cellophane tape, or by dipping it into white glue and letting it harden.
- Have students copy a pattern (a model or a picture) using parquetry pieces or colored pegs and a peg board.
- Provide opportunities for children to trace simple shapes (i.e., circle, square, triangle, star) or drawings (i.e., sun, outline of a house as a square with a triangle roof, circle inside a square) Give them large markers or pencils for easier control. Eventually have them try to copy simple designs. Patterns to be traced should have heavy black lines at first, then thinner lines, dotted lines, and finally, only the points where the child should begin and end. Then try copying instead of tracing.
- Have children trace around a block or a shape made out of cardboard or poster board.
- Provide opportunities for children to paint with large brushes. Toddlers can “paint” a fence using a bucket of water as paint. Teach them to use vertical strokes–top to bottom.
- Offer art activities that allow children to cut, paste, and use chalk, markers, and crayons.
Most, if not all, of these activities are probably not new to you. However, now that you are aware that they can be used to develop necessary skills, my hope is that you will incorporate them into your planning, recognizing that children can learn a great deal while they play.