Easy Fine Motor Precision Activities

Precision activities

Helping kids develop and strengthen fine motor skills is essential for functional tasks, and this resource on fine motor precision activities supports that development. Here, we are addressing what fine motor precision means and specific activities to do with kids to help with grasp manipulation, dexterity, and graded movements like managing a zipper, buttons, and adjusting a pencil within the fingers to write and erase. These are just a few examples of how grasp and release activities support fine motor skill development. Let’s break this down…

Fine Motor Precision Activities

Before we get to the fun stuff…the actual fine motor activities that support graded grasp and release, manipulation of objects within the hand, and various amounts of pressure and precision needed to perform functional tasks, let’s cover exactly what precision skills look like, what the term means, and why this area of development is so important.

At the bottom of this post, you’ll find specific strategies to support precision development so that kids can complete these tasks and not fumble with objects in the hands.

A good place to start is with our resource listing games with paper clips as a tool to support precision and refined dexterity.

This post is part of my 31 Days of Occupational Therapy series where you can find 30 more ideas like this one with easy treatment materials.

Easy precision in grasp, release, and rotation in fine motor skills for kids.  Precision is so important in dexterity in many skills like handwriting, cutting with scissors, and everything done with the hands!

What is Fine Motor Precision?

Fine Motor Precision refers to the ultra-fine motor skills in the hand, broken down into areas: grasp and release, fine motor rotation, in-hand manipulation, and proprioception. Together, these precision skills enable us to pick up an object with the right amount of pressure and motor dexterity so you can grasp the object accurately taking eye-hand coordination skills into consideration. After grasping the object without overshooting or missing the item, it is necessary to position or rotate the object within the hand

Let’s cover each of those areas in greater detail below.

But first, it’s important to note that a child’s ultra fine motor dexterity is dependent on bigger things.  And by that, I mean that in order for a child to use their hands super fine motor tasks, they first must demonstrate strength and control of their core, shoulder, and arm.  If any of these areas are not fully developed in stability or control, then the child will show compensatory strategies as they try to use their hands in handwriting or cutting with scissors. Gross motor coordination is a great place to start if precision skills seem to be “off” or delayed. Related to that is the key input of body awareness and the impact of heavy work on more distal motor coordination skills.

One way to remember this is this:

Proximal stability allows for distal mobility.”

Colleen Beck, OTR/L

Before a child can manipulate and move an object with dexterity and refined motor skills, there needs to be a base of support in stability in the core and upper extremity, mobility and coordination in the proximal joints (shoulder before elbow…elbow before wrist…and wrist before hand).

Breaking it down further, arch development and strengthening of the intrinsic muscles in the hands are both areas that are essential for precision in the fingertips.

The following resources will be a great way to break these areas of development down:

Fine Motor Precision

Kids and fine motor skills go hand-in-hand. (That is my funny-OT attempt at a fine motor skills joke!) But really, fine motor skills are a staple of a child’s development and are essential to function.

Precision occurs with development of grasp when child to use the pads of the index finger, middle finger, and thumb to manipulate objects with opposition.  I talked a little about strengthening these types of grasp patterns.  

Today, I’m sharing ways to work on the controlled use of these fine motor patterns in controlled dexterity tasks.  The precision of grasp and release is essential for very small motor movements in activities like picking up beads and releasing items like blocks with precision. This is broken down into areas of dexterity that all work together:

  • Grasp and release (we’ll break these two areas down even further)
  • Fine motor rotation
  • In-hand manipulation
  • Muscular force, or the amount of force applied through the muscles in small motor use, also referring to proprioceptive input through the hands and fingers.

What is precision of grasp and release?

Precision in grasp, manipulation, and release of small objects makes the difference between fumbling with zippers and buttons and efficiently grading movements in very small dexterity patterns like threading a string through a needle (kid-friendly, of course!) 

Precision in grasp is related to the picking up of items.  A graded lateral grasp is needed to cut with scissors and only squeeze the scissors halfway shut for accurate cutting lines in some situations.  Around 3-4 years, a preschool aged child typically develops a greater variety of grasping patterns, including precision.  They begin to grade their scissor strokes so that they can cut a line or shape without opening and closing the scissors completely.  Grasps in babies typically begin with a raking motion and work towards a pincer grasp.  Precision in this skill occurs when the child is able to pick up very small items like beads with accuracy and graded movements.  

Precision release is needed for stacking blocks without toppling them over, placing cards on a pile, opening scissors just a small amount, or placing small beads into a bowl.  Precision is needed for a child to let go of an item in a controlled manner.  If they are not exercising precision in release, you might see them rolling or tossing an object as they let go.  They will knock over a stack of blocks, or over open the scissors when cutting lines, making their accuracy very choppy.   

Precision in rotation is another task that children develop around age 5. Rotation is a portion of in-hand manipulation and seen when turning a coin on the edges and the child rotates it in a circular motion.  Precision in rotation also occurs when holding a pencil between the fingers and the child rotates it over and over. 

Easy precision in grasp, release, and rotation in fine motor skills for kids.  Precision is so important in dexterity in many skills like handwriting, cutting with scissors, and everything done with the hands!

One way to develop these skills is through practice! One precision grasp and release activity I love is using popsicle sticks in various colors. You can stack the popsicle sticks so they build a wall without toppling over. Using the different colors allows kids to see how the sticks are aligned by offering contrasting colors. If they see a bit of yellow stick under the green stick, then they need to adjust the top stick with refined motor movements.

Grade this activity for younger kids or those developing skills:

  • Simply place a single popsicle stick down on a table surface. Then pick it up.
  • Younger kids can stack just one stick on top of another.
  • Match colors.
  • Make a wall of popsicle sticks to develop more refined precision skills.
  • Place and sort popsicle sticks into a container on the vertical position (shown below)

To practice precision in grasp and release, I showed my preschooler how to pick up and stack Popsicle sticks.  Picking up the sticks required a tip-to-tip grasp.  We used different colored Popsicle sticks for my 4 year old and my 17 month old.  

The preschooler was able to pick up the sticks accurately without pushing other sticks around.  She could grasp the specific stick she wanted by an end or middle accurately.  

The toddler grabbed the sticks with a pincer grasp, but showed much less accuracy.  

Easy precision in grasp, release, and rotation in fine motor skills for kids.  Precision is so important in dexterity in many skills like handwriting, cutting with scissors, and everything done with the hands!

To advance this popsicle stick sorting, the next step is precision in rotation. This can be addressed by asking the individual to sort popsicle sticks into containers.

Different small cups (Dixie cups would work) but we used a popsicle mold to encourage a single hand to hold the mold as the assisting hand.

We used an empty Popsicle mold to place the sticks into the cups.  What a great way to practice grasp precision!  We worked on sorting the craft sticks by color and had to hold the mold with one hand to work on bilateral hand coordination.  For the activity, we placed the mold on the floor and sorted the colored sticks without knocking the Popsicle mold over. Both the preschooler and the Toddler loved this simple activity.  

Easy precision in grasp, release, and rotation in fine motor skills for kids.  Precision is so important in dexterity in many skills like handwriting, cutting with scissors, and everything done with the hands!

 Another precision in release activity was simply stacking the craft sticks.  The four year old could do this, but used her non-dominant hand to stabilize. 

Precision in in-hand manipulation- In hand manipulation skills include different components as well. In our blog post, we cover rotation, refined movements within the hand, and how to actually move objects from the fingertips to the palm and ice versa. These are precision skills at work!

Muscular force- This refers to knowing how much force to use to pick something up. When it comes to muscular force in fine motor skills this can mean the difference between overshooting an object when picking something up, fumbling with small objects, pinching things with too much force, or dropping items because not enough force is applied.

As described above, muscular force also refers to the amount of force applied through the muscles in small motor use, also referring to proprioceptive input through the hands and fingers. Another term for this concept is force modulation, or graded force.

Muscular force is a must for picking objects up, putting them back down, manipulating them within the hand, and rotation.

We go into greater detail on the proprioceptive input in our blog post on proprioception. In summary, muscular force means the ability to inherently know how much force is needed to pick up and hold and manipulate a ladybug as opposed to a heavier rock. Too much force and the bug is squashed. Not enough force, and the rock slips through the fingers. Another example is pressing too hard when writing and holding a pencil. This experience and muscle knowledge happens through play!

As you can see, all of these concepts work together to enable precision skills in functional tasks!

Precision Activities

We’ve covered a couple of precision activities related to grasp and release and rotation, but let’s go over a few more that include all aspects of precision, including muscular force activities and how these are related to functional participation.

Easy precision in grasp, release, and rotation in fine motor skills for kids.  Precision is so important in dexterity in many skills like handwriting, cutting with scissors, and everything done with the hands!

This post contains affiliate links.

Looking for more ways to practice precision in grasp, release, and rotation with Occupational Therapy students or your kids?  Try some of these ideas.  While they are not all free (going with our series this month!), they are creative ways to practice precision.  

  • Precision engineering activities that use play dough and blocks to work on force modulation in the hands as well as eye-hand coordination.
  • Small motor pegboards like this precision pegboard activity combining crafts with fine motor skills
  • Perler beads- Try manipulating Perler Fuse Beads with Pegboards (affiliate link) for precision in grasp and release. These pegboards are very small and work on very fine dexterity with precision. 
  • Stamp sets (affiliate link)- Playing with stamps is a good way to practice graded grasp and release. Use these stamp blocks to accurately stamp within a specific area on a page. Draw squares or circles and the child needs to stamp in those areas. 
  • Tweezer games and activities like this Bed Bugs Game (affiliate link) encourage a precise and graded grasp and release of the small game pieces using tweezers. This game is on my must-buy list for Christmas this year! 
  • This Avalanche Fruit Stand (affiliate link) for another fun way to practice precision with a pair of tweezers. Stack the fruit with precision of grasp and release in a fun and colorful way! 
  • The Perfection Game (affiliate link) is another game that is great for precise grasp and release. Encourage kids to rotate the pieces by twirling the peg of the game pieces to work on precision in rotation as well. 
  • Jenga (affiliate link) is a precision work out in grasp and release of the blocks. My kids love this game!
  • Stacking blocks is a precision pattern activity that is perfect for working on graded grasp and release. 
  • This Tobbles stacking toy (affiliate link) is a version of that, with bright and bold colors. Try stacking and taking these balls down without knocking them over! 
  • Sometimes, simple is best! These Wooden Color Cubes (affiliate link) are perfect for simple block building and stacking while working on precision of grasp and release. 
  • Kids need precision of the thumb, too. These Slide Puzzles (affiliate link) are not only fun, they work on small motor skills needed for graded movements in cutting and pencil control.
Easy precision in grasp, release, and rotation in fine motor skills for kids.  Precision is so important in dexterity in many skills like handwriting, cutting with scissors, and everything done with the hands!

It’s my hope that this post and ideas were helpful and a resource for you!  Looking for more fine motor activities for functional grasp?  Try these: 

Working on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, or scissor skills? Our Fine Motor Kits cover all of these areas and more.

Check out the seasonal Fine Motor Kits that kids love:

Or, grab one of our themed Fine Motor Kits to target skills with fun themes:

Want access to all of these kits…and more being added each month? Join The OT Toolbox Member’s Club!

Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

Valentines Fine Motor Worksheet

Valentines Day Fine Motor Worksheets

Here is another fun Valentines Fine Motor Worksheet with a sweet treats theme. Add this resource to your Valentine’s Day occupational therapy activities for themed activities that build fine motor skills. This printable bundle is designed to work on in-hand manipulation.  What the heck is that?

Valentines Day Fine Motor Worksheets for developing precision and in-hand manipulation skills

Valentines Fine Motor Worksheet

In the Valentine fine motor activity using the worksheet below, you can promote fine motor skill development, specifically regarding in-hand manipulation skills.

In-hand manipulation is an essential skill for hand function.  Strengthening the muscles of the palm, or intrinsic muscles helps with basic functions such as picking up and releasing small objects such as coins one at a time. 

This is how you are able to give something to someone without opening up your whole hand and dumping the contents.  We use these intrinsic muscles during finger isolation, pointing, cutting with scissors, writing, or touching each finger tip to tip to name a few. 

Motivation, or lack of it, has been addressed several times in previous posts. Some learners are intrinsically motivated, doing their best work because it is important to them. Most people though are externally motivated.  They need some sort of reward, praise, or incentive in order to work (especially at a non preferred task).  While handing out rewards for each task completed is not sustainable, adding incentives is. 

Worksheets found on the OT Toolbox add themes and pictures to incentivize your learners to complete the task more willingly. Our Valentine theme is no exception.

Activities in our popular Valentine Fine Motor Kit include fine motor strips that can be used to develop skills in a fun and motivating way.

Below, you can grab a set of Valentine Fine Motor Strips, whether it be for preschoolers, grade school, or any other entry level learner, are a great bundle of printable worksheets. 

While this can have a Valentine theme, it can also be a stand alone activity or fit nicely into your in-hand manipulation treatment plan.

How to use these Valentines fine motor printables:

The classic method of using these Valentines Treats Printables is to have your learner pick up a designated number of small objects one at a time, transferring from the fingertips to the palm of the hand.  Then your learner will place the objects down on the diagram one at a time, reversing the process of transferring the objects from the palm to the fingertips before placing them on the page.

What to watch for while using this valentines printable:

  • Is your learner using a raking or pincer grasp to pick up the objects?
  • Do not let your learner slide the objects off of the table
  • Items should be picked up with only ONE hand
  • Items should be dropped one at a time by transferring the objects to the fingertips, not just opening a finger or two to release the objects
  • While the above are considered “cheating”, they are more likely coping strategies for a learner who does not understand, or is unable to do the task correctly.  Modify the task as needed for success.
  • Count how many items your learner can hold without dropping any. Try and aim for ten items.
  • How many times do you need to repeat the directions so your student can follow them?
  • How many reminders does your student need while doing this activity?
  • What is your student’s frustration tolerance when they have to start over?
  • What compensation strategies is your learner using?
  • What is their behavior, social function, and executive skills  during this task? 

What items can I use for the valentines day treats printable worksheet?

The small objects for this Valentines Day Fine Motor Worksheet can be anything really. You can make the task easier or more difficult depending on the number and size of the objects. Keep a watchful eye on your learners while they are handling small objects. It is important that they learn to work with small objects, but be vigilant about items going into the mouth.  Here are some suggestions of items to use:

  • Coins
  • Buttons of different sizes
  • Pompoms of different sizes
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Small Legos
  • Cheerios or other small food items (this may help incentivize your learner even more!)
  • Bingo chips
  • Dice
  • Paperclips
  • Erasers
  • Any combination of items you have in your junk drawer

What else can I do with this Valentines fine motor strips printable pack?

  • Use different size/number/type of objects to change the challenge
  • Use crayons/colored pencils/markers to color the paths or make marks along the way
  • Dot markers can be used to mark the items along the paths
  • Pages can be colored and cut out, glued onto larger sheets and decorated
  • Enlarge or shrink this page to change the level of difficulty
  • Change the type, color, or weight of paper.  Heavier weight is easier to handle, Colored paper might be more motivating, or provide better contrast
  • Make a lesson plan around in-hand manipulation, tasty treats, or  fine motor skills for the day/week
  • Laminate the page for reusability.  This activity can then be done with manipulatives or markers and wipes. 
  • An alternative to lamination is page protector sheets.  These are much more affordable and reusable depending on your current lesson plan. Create a themed binder of worksheets to use with all of your learners.

Whether your lesson plan is preschool Valentine’s printables, worksheets for fine motor skills, coloring activities, Valentines Sensory Bins, printable Valentines hearts, in-hand manipulation, or a combination of all of these, have fun with them! Use the resources at the OT Toolbox to make a challenging task fun. 

What if you had themed, NO-PREP activities designed to collect data and can help kids build essential fine motor skills?

Take back your time and start the year off with a bang with these done-for-you fine motor plans to help kids form stronger hands with our Winter Fine Motor Kit. This print-and-go winter fine motor kit includes no-prep fine motor activities to help kids develop functional grasp, dexterity, strength, and endurance. Use fun, winter-themed, fine motor activities so you can help children develop strong fine motor skills in a digital world. 

The Winter Fine Motor Kit includes reproducible activity pages include: pencil control strips, scissor skills strips, simple and complex cutting shapes, lacing cards, toothpick precision art, crumble hand strengthening crafts, memory cards, coloring activities, and so much more.

If you regularly use the printables and activities like the Valentines Fine Motor Printables or Treat Worksheet bundle offered at the OT Toolbox, you might want to consider becoming a Member of the OT Toolbox.  Membership is a more efficient way to get all of your information and resources than entering your email address each time. Save hours of time with an organized collection of high quality, easy-prep occupational therapy resources right at your fingertips!

In addition to free downloads like this Valentines Day Fine Motor Worksheet, the OT Toolbox also offers themed activities/posts to make treatment planning a breeze. One of them is this the Valentine’s Day Occupational Therapy Activity Post full of activities, crafts, sensory strategies, Valentines Play Dough, resources and products. Included in the OT Toolbox resources is a a great Valentines Day Fine Motor Kit, on special now!

If you are a new therapist/parent/teacher, you could definitely use some resources!  If you are a seasoned therapist you could definitely use some NEW resources!!

In preparation for this activity set, I will be scouring my junk drawers looking for miscellaneous objects to put this task to good use.  Does anyone even have coins anymore?

Free Valentine Fine Motor Worksheet

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FREE Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Worksheet

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    Victoria Wood, OTR/L

    Victoria Wood, OTR/L is a contributor to The OT Toolbox and has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.

    *The term, “learner” is used throughout this post for readability, however this information is relevant for students, patients, clients, children of all ages and stages or whomever could benefit from these resources. The term “they” is used instead of he/she to be inclusive.