A few months ago we had our first parent conference with The Bear’s preschool teacher. Her recommendation for what we needed to work on at home surprised me. It wasn’t sharing or learning the alphabet or following directions. She said all of her three and four year old students need to focus on their pincher grip. In the past so many years, she’s noticed that learning to hold a writing utensil correctly has become increasingly difficult for her students. While she’s not sure whether to blame it on more TV and tablet time or not, it’s apparent that kids are not playing in a way that’s developing their finger muscles, control, and manipulation.
The next day, I surfed, pinned, and started planning pincher activities for us to incorporate into our play. Here are our top ten.
1. Tweezers & Clothespins
Use tweezers and an ice cube tray to “Go Fish for the letter…”
Or sort beads by color or size.
Use tweezers to retrieve small objects through a yarn “spiderweb.”
Use clothespins to practice matching colors, shapes, numbers, uppercase letters to lowercase, etc. If you don’t have a nifty clothespin activity board like the one our friend made us, label or paint loose clothespins and match them to corresponding index cards, construction paper, or labeled cardboard.
2. Skewers & Toothpicks
Drop toothpicks through the holes of an empty salt shaker. Or poke the toothpicks through saran wrap stretched over a cup or bowl. Thread skewers through basket holes or push into a block of florist foam (small pieces available at the Dollar Store).
3. Put Coins in a Piggy Bank
Or feed the alphabet monster.
4. Eye or Medicine Dropper
Use an extra eye dropper or infant medicine feeder to drop colored water onto coffee filters, into clear water in a ice cube tray, or drop colored vinegar into a pan of baking soda.
5. Yarn or String Play
These lacing cards were made with foam sheets from Walmart and a hole puncher. Wrap a piece of scotch tape around the end of the yarn so it is stiff enough to easily thread through the holes. Also, string beads or noodles onto yarn or cord to practice pinching.
Playing with stickers is one of our favorite things to do, but it was just recently that The Bear (at three and a half) could peel them off herself. Until now, I would get her started by peeling away just the corner of each sticker so she still had to work those pinchers in learning how to pull it off and transfer it.
7. Playdough or Bread Dough
Playing with dough is an awesomely fun way to work those fingers. Whenever I make focaccia or pizza dough, I always give our daughter a little chunk to play with. In between those heavenly oven smells, she loves to play with playdough.
8. Little Legos
They have so many varieties of specialty Legos nowadays, you will be sure to find ones that interest your little one. Lego Friends are perfect for The Bear who is very into imaginative role play, dolls, dress up, etc. She loves taking apart the Lego girls and rearranging their hair, heads, and bodies.
9. Squirt & Squeeze Fun
Practice pinching at bath time with squeeze toys, water guns, and even squeezing up the toothpaste in the tube. Squirt bottles are a fun excuse to get your kiddo working their fingers and cleaning the house at the same time. The Bear loves to squirt and clean the windows… I love that she wipes up her own hand/nose/mouth prints.
10. Practice Using Writing Tools
Obviously, the more your child draws or colors, the better they are developing their pincher grip. Help them learn to manipulate their pencils or crayons better by writing or drawing something in dashed lines or highlighter then having your child trace over it. This is an excellent way to teach them to write their name. Alternately, you could draw dots and have your child connect them. At the very least, making art/drawing supplies accessible to your little one is a fantastic way to encourage them to grab those pencils or crayons whenever the mood hits!