Fine motor development in preschoolers cannot be rushed, yet like disequilibrium when being challenged at the right level children can interact with their learning environment in several different ways that support a kind of challenge that is just right to help move along their fine motor skill development. You may think I mean worksheets or having the teacher sit the child down and trace either letters or numbers, but that is not what I am referring to.
By using my school classroom as a “third teacher”, I am able to incorporate many different sized materials that are appropriate for young children’s growth and development of their fine motor muscles. Setting up provocations to see if they have an interest in drawing is one example. A common provocation, activity, lesson, whichever you prefer to call it when paper and crayons are present children will usually gravitate to that table because of all the joy they find while exploring colors and expressing themselves artistically. However, they do not always want to draw a picture. Sometimes they are writing as they explore colors. Scribble form is the beginning of writing and is a developmental process all children go through and every child experiences this step. Children will go back and forth between scribble and symbolic as they gain new information and interests while their skills become more advanced.
Revisiting the word “provocation”. When I set up crayons and paper it is not an activity or lesson, it is an invitation to create. The provocation is open-ended meaning the child can do whatever they want and while they are exploring, experimenting and creating I am observing the entire process and admiring the process. This child loves to arrange the colors in rows, counts them, sorts them by color and on occasion experiments with patterning. When other objects are included by the child, such as cars, a narrative emerges and soon the scribble form is accompanied by the child verbalizing a story while “writing”. As I scribe the words the child is saying aloud, I also inquire as to whether I am writing the words they want me to. This is a great way to support a child’s writing development and keep the child engaged in the learning process by tapping into their internal interest they are showing at that moment.
By providing young children with choices for drawing/art tools they are able to challenge their fine muscles to move along those skills of development, just as when disequilibrium occurs to challenge children at their level cognitively. A continued example is of oil pastels and how they are a bit thicker than regular crayons and pencils, so more of a whole hand grip is needed for drawing, while the other tools I mention can be held differently to adjust to the size, shape, and weight of the writing tool.
In addition to writing/drawing tools, there are of course real tools! Above is an example of both plastic tools, and real tools such as screws and nuts of three different sizes. The real tools are part of the “Loose Parts and Intelligent Play Things” theory that I’ve incorporated in different parts of the classroom and am still collecting. We see that once again fine motor skills are in use in different ways and each challenges the child. Holding onto a screwdriver with a thicker handle and figuring out which way to turn it and how tight or loose of grip to have can cause some children disequilibrium until they have mastered the tool and move on to something more challenging. Trying out real tool parts such as screws and nuts is also a chance for children to be in disequilibrium because they are getting the hang of aligning the screw and nut so twisting will cause the nut to move up or down the screw. Getting things aligned can be a challenge and just the right kind because with a little persistence and a little support the child will have this skill down pat in no time. All while continuing to develop their fine motor muscles.
The Marigold School of Early Learning is a Reggio Emilia Inspired Preschool for children ages 3-5. 🙂 Support your child’s natural curiosities and development by encouraging your child to play and observe closely to see what your child is really interested in. You may be very surprised with the process your child demonstrates. Children are intelligent people and all they need is us adults to support them on their journey of natural curiosity which leads to an ability of unlimited learning.
Heidi Scott, BA & MIT 🙂