Fine Motor Alphabet Play Dough

Sometimes, you need play dough in your day.  Other times, you need to turn up the play dough fun notch just a bit.  (That’s a thing, right?  The play dough fun scale?  I think so.) This Fine Motor Play Dough Alphabet activity combined a couple of our favorite things: Creative Play Dough ideas and Fine Motor Skills.  We used a handful of foam alphabet stickers that we had in the house and store bought play dough to make letters that we used in spelling words, letter identification, and alphabetical ordering.  And our play dough fun rating was 26 letters long!
Try this fine motor activity with letters to practice so many hands-on learning activities with kids of all ages: spelling words, sight words, and letter identification while working on fine motor skills like intrinsic muscle strength.
Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.
 
So, we received these foam letter stickers from www.craftprojectideas.com and have been using them in a bunch of fun ways. Today, we used them with plain old fashioned Play-Doh.  
 

Fine Motor Skills and Play Dough

Every Occupational Therapist knows the benefits of play dough is so huge that they recommend it as a top-rated tool for fine motor development.  We’ve shared a ton of fine motor activities using play dough and I absolutely love to play with play dough with my kids for it’s use in fine motor skill development and hand strengthening.  
Play dough is perfect for refining skills like intrinsic muscles strength, finger isolation, tripod grasp development, thumb opposition, opening up the web space, bilateral hand coordination, and more.  With this activity, we specifically hit developing the intrinsic muscle strength of the hands.
 
Try this fine motor activity with letters to practice so many hands-on learning activities with kids of all ages: spelling words, sight words, and letter identification while working on fine motor skills like intrinsic muscle strength.

Intrinsic muscle strength and play dough

So, what is intrinsic muscle strength?   There are seventeen muscles in the hand that are responsible for fine motor skills and precision grasp, among other things like moving the thumb and fingers.  There are different groups of intrinsic muscles and they allow us to grasp items in a functional way.  The muscles of the hands work in conjunction with the muscles that originate in the forearm.  These extrinsic muscles end in your hand.  
 
For this activity, we used different colors of play dough and created small round balls of dough.  I asked my kids (and nephew who was over for the day) to roll small, dime-sized balls using just their thumb and fingers.  Rolling small balls of this size uses the intrinsic muscles that are responsible for moving the thumb (thenar muscles) and the muscles that bend the fingers at the knuckle (lumbricals).  Also needed for a task like this are the palmer interossi muscles that work to move the fingers in a flexed position toward the thumb.  
 
So, when a child is rolling a small ball of dough, with their thumb and fingers, they are working on strengthening the muscles that a child uses to write and color with a pencil or crayon.

Weakness in Writing and Coloring

Sometimes kids complain of their hand hurting when coloring or you might see them switch crayons very often when coloring.  These are signs of a weakness of hand strength.  Other signs of intrinsic muscle weakness are a weak grasp on the pencil or writing very lightly with a pencil.  
Try this fine motor activity with letters to practice so many hands-on learning activities with kids of all ages: spelling words, sight words, and letter identification while working on fine motor skills like intrinsic muscle strength.
Try this fine motor activity with letters to practice so many hands-on learning activities with kids of all ages: spelling words, sight words, and letter identification while working on fine motor skills like intrinsic muscle strength.
 
After we rolled all of the play dough balls, we used our foam letter stickers to press letters into the Play-Doh.  Pressing the letters with an extended finger (like in the picture) is a great way to work on finger isolation.  It is important to note that using the finger in an extended “pointer” uses the extrinsic muscles that originate in the forearm.  I shared more about finger isolation here.
Try this fine motor activity with letters to practice so many hands-on learning activities with kids of all ages: spelling words, sight words, and letter identification while working on fine motor skills like intrinsic muscle strength.
We used these letters to practice spelling words with my second grader, identify sight words for my Kindergartner, practice letter identification and letter order with my preschooler, and practice not eating play dough with my toddler 😉
 
It was a fun day had by all!
 
How will you use these letters to learn and play?  
Try this fine motor activity with letters to practice so many hands-on learning activities with kids of all ages: spelling words, sight words, and letter identification while working on fine motor skills like intrinsic muscle strength.


More fun play dough ideas you will love:

Stamp Process Art Learning Worksheets

Using things you have around the home is a great way to play, create, and learn.  We made these learning charts using something that might just get thrown away: a food pouch bottle cap!   Make your own learning worksheets for improving pencil control, counting, letters, ordering, handwriting, fine motor skills,  line awareness, and so many more ideas.


Make homemade DIY worksheets using a recycled food pouch cap for creative process art and math, science, handwriting, spelling words, literacy, hand-eye coordination, pencil control worksheets for kids!

This post contains affiliate links. We are posting this idea as part of our month-long Learning with Free Materials series where we provide 31 days of learning using free or almost free materials in homeschooling or school-based extension learning like homework.  This post is part of the 31 Days of Homeschooling Tips as we blog along with other bloggers with learning at home tips and tools.

Worksheets don’t need to be boring and printed off of the computer.  Use a cap from squeezable food pouches as a stamper to make a creative and process-art based worksheet for math, literacy, science documenting, handwriting, and so many more ideas.

Make homemade DIY worksheets using a recycled food pouch cap for creative process art and math, science, handwriting, spelling words, literacy, hand-eye coordination, pencil control worksheets for kids!
Using your favorite paint (this is mine!), pour paint into a paper plate or bowl.  Use the top part of the pouch cap to stamp circles onto paper.  You can stamp in rows and columns, in a line down the page, or all over in a circle process art creation.  

We used paint that was swirled together from a different project to get a pretty, color-mixing effect.  These aren’t your average worksheets!
Make homemade DIY worksheets using a recycled food pouch cap for creative process art and math, science, handwriting, spelling words, literacy, hand-eye coordination, pencil control worksheets for kids!

Let the paint dry and then you are ready to get to work.

Make homemade DIY worksheets using a recycled food pouch cap for creative process art and math, science, handwriting, spelling words, literacy, hand-eye coordination, pencil control worksheets for kids!

Using your homemade worksheets:


There are so many ways to use these.
  • My three year old used a Paint Dauber to fill in the circles.  You could color match the circles to the paint dauber color for color identification.  Filling in the circles is a good hand-eye coordination activity for children.  Get creative with your circles and make letters, numbers, shapes and pictures for preschool-aged kids. Filling in the circles is a great fine motor activity.
  • Write the letters of the alphabet in the cap circles.  They are a small size which will encourage appropriate letter formation and line awareness without using the restraints of lined paper.
  • For hands-on math and hand-eye coordination, fill in the circles with Cheerios or other cereal.  
  • Use a pencil and make an “x” in each circle.  Be careful not to go over the paint lines!  This is a fabulous pencil control activity and great for line awareness.  We did something like this idea in our DIY Christmas worksheets post.
  • Use the pouch cap to make a column of circles going down the page.  Circles on the left side of the page will make a great check mark area for lists.  Circles down the right side can be a writing space for math questions or multiple choice questions.  Kids can fill their number or letter answer into the circle. 
  • Use the pouch caps to make fill in the blank pages for spelling or sight word practice.  Simply make the appropriate number of circles in a line and kids can fill in their spelling words.  This idea can be modified for any subject.  Science, history, math, English-language arts, and more all have terms that children need to learn and use.  Write out sentences and have the child fill in the circles with the answer.
  • Make a hundreds chart.  Fill in the circles with numbers or small items.
  • Make a tens chart for Kindergarten aged kids to practice counting small items with one-to-one correspondence.
How would you use these DIY worksheets?  There are so many possibilities!  Tell us in the comments below or on our facebook page!

Love it?  Pin it! And while you’re there, follow us on our Pinterest page for so many creative learning ideas.

Cursive Lines Fine Motor Art

The latest obsession in our house is learning cursive handwriting.  My oldest daughter asked to learn how to write in cursive and I was so very excited to show her.  Teaching kids how to write in cursive with creative techniques and unique modifications was one of my favorite things to teach as a school based Occupational Therapist.  

We’ve shared a few of the very beginnings of cursive lines, loops, and re-tracing marks that are a the foundation to to writing in cursive, and an important area to work on with older kids who might need a little more practice with pencil control and letter formation on in cursive handwriting.  



You can see all of our cursive writing ideas by searching “cursive” or clicking here.  This cursive lines fine motor art is a powerhouse of fine motor work and cursive handwriting practice.  We connected cursive lines, loops, and re-tracing to form the beginning letters (Read more about which cursive letters to start with.) and worked on connecting lines as well…all with a fine motor twist that resulted in gorgeous artwork!  

We worked on our cursive handwriting, however this activity would be done with any printed letter formation and number formation, too.
Work on cursive handwriting with this paper towel art with a fine motor twist.  Teach kids how to learn cursive lines and connecting lines with this fun activity.


This post contains affiliate links, however we used items that we had around the house as part of our  month-long Learning with Free Materials series where we are sharing learning ideas for homeschoolers and school-extension activities using items that are free or mostly free (i.e. CHEAP or you already have in the home), and is part of the 31 Days of Homeschooling Tips as we blog along with other bloggers with learning at home tips and tools.

Work on cursive handwriting with this paper towel art with a fine motor twist.  Teach kids how to learn cursive lines and connecting lines with this fun activity.


Cursive Handwriting Activity:

This activity is really so simple and makes such pretty art with a fine motor twist.  Start by using fine tip washable markers to write cursive letters, swirls, loops, and lines on a few sheets of paper towels.  Practice cursive connecting lines by making a long line of cursive letter “e”s or “l”s connected together.  Make a long line of “m”s connected to work on the re-trace needed for the bumps of the letters.  You’ll want to practice the re-trace of the letter “c” because that part of the letter is used in so many other cursive letters (a, d, g, and q).  Practice connecting them together for the up-swoop and smooth lines needed with writing cursive words.

Work on cursive handwriting with this paper towel art with a fine motor twist.  Teach kids how to learn cursive lines and connecting lines with this fun activity.

Next, re-trace the loops, swirls, and lines with other colored washable markers for more practice.  It’s starting to look colorful and arty already!
Work on cursive handwriting with this paper towel art with a fine motor twist.  Teach kids how to learn cursive lines and connecting lines with this fun activity.

Fine motor handwriting with an eye-dropper:

Pull out a dish of water and your favorite dropper to slowly add droplets of water.  Pinching the bulb of the dropper is a great fine motor workout for little hands.  Squeezing an eye dropper to grab water and then release droplets requires an open web-space and strengthens the hand muscles.  Dropping water slowly and by the droplet requires a precision and dexterity that works on motor control and further strengthens the intrinsic muscles of the hand.

Work on cursive handwriting with this paper towel art with a fine motor twist.  Teach kids how to learn cursive lines and connecting lines with this fun activity.
Try to use the water dropper as a writing utensil to follow along the lines of the cursive letters.  This will further strengthen fine motor skills as well as line awareness which is so important in handwriting.  Cursive letters will be practiced again and again with repetition by tracing with the dropper and further work on cursive letter formation.

My kids loved that they could add water slowly and make some parts very mixed and other parts more bold by adding less water.  Once you’ve added water to your cursive letter lines, let the paper towels dry.  The best method we’ve found for drying this art works is by hanging the wet paper towels over a cookie drying rack
which can be placed over a cookie sheet
to catch any drips.
More cursive handwriting activities you will Love: 

Love it?  Pin it!
Looking for more ideas to help with cursive? You’ll love our 31 day series on How to teach cursive writing.

Christmas Pencil Control Activities for Kids DIY Workdsheets

 
We did a few Christmas Themed Pencil Control Activities with DIY worksheets this week. 
 
This is so good for Little Guy (age 4) who needs a little practice with controlling the pencil when he’s writing letters.  He’s only just begun writing his name, so this is the perfect age to improve pencil control as a preparation for more letter formation and line awareness as he starts to write on lines in coming months and years.  New handwriters and kids who are not yet writing can do these easy (and fun) pencil control activities as a prep activity.  And better yet, these pencil control activities are beginning homemade worksheets with a fun Christmas Theme!
 


 

Pencil Control Activities with a Christmas Theme

Little Guy loved this candy cane activity.  I drew a quick candy cane on white paper with thin spaces on a diagonal.  I had Little guy use a red marker to draw lines inside the thin stripes.  We made a few of these candy canes because Little Guy wanted to keep going and make more! 
 
{Note: This post contains affiliate links.  In other words, this blog will receive monetary compensation when any purchases are made through the links in this post.  Our opinions and ideas are in no way affected.  As always, we thank you for your support and community here at Sugar Aunts.}
 
 
For a new pencil user, encourage your child to draw the lines from right to left (**not like in this picture, oops!**) and the child should rest their arm on the table surface.  Little Guy needs verbal and a physical cue to rest his hands on the table surface for better control.  This will improve pencil control when the child is attempting to draw a line in a certain area.
 
 

He kept his lines within the stripes very nicely, and did not often go over the edges of the candy cane.  This is a great activity for a new writer!

Our next activity was encouraging tripod grasp to manipulate pony beads.  I had Little Guy pick up the beads and place them onto the bulbs of a Christmas Tree.  You may have seen this picture on our Instagram feed or Facebook page.

Little Guy had to keep the beads on the circles and really concentrate on the lines.  To manage the beads and place them gently on the circles, encouraged a tripod grasp with extended wrist for improved pencil control.

 

This Christmas tree was another easy DIY pencil control worksheet to throw together.  Baby Girl (age 2) really liked this activity too.

I didn’t capture a picture of the next step, but I had Little Guy connect the bulbs with a  pencil.  I asked him to keep the pencil from going in the bulb, because it might break the light!  Connecting the dots and concentrating on the lines of the circles was a great way to work on pencil control.

 

More DIY Christmas Pencil Control Worksheets for Kids

Our last pencil control activity was a present themed one.  We started by making presents with some paper tubes shaped into a square.  We used our Spill Proof Paint Cups
to hold the paint and stamped some squares.

 

We waited until the next day when our present squares were dry.

 
Baby Girl kind of took over this activity before Little Guy got a chance to practice his pencil control

I showed Little Guy how to make crosses on the presents (over Baby Girl’s added decorations!) so he could practice simple copying.  He was to make the lines top to bottom and left to right to encourage improved pencil control in letter formation.  He did pretty well!

 
 

Pencil Control Worksheets (You can make at home)

These are some easy handwriting exercises that can be done at home.  Does your school-aged child have difficulty with line awareness, pencil control, or letter formation?  Is your preschooler just learning to control the pencil while making strait lines or shapes? 
It is easy to make fun worksheets that apply to your child’s needs/age-appropriate level/skills…and interests!

Pencil Control:

Use a highlighter to make strait, angled, and curvy lines…or add different twists and turns for your older child to trace along.  For a new hand writer, thick lines are appropriate, and the school-aged child can work on very thin lines.
Ask the child to keep the pencil lines inside of the yellow guide.  Fun stickers at the end of the lines always help 🙂

 Graded Pencil Control Activity

This handwriting activity can be “graded” (adjusted to start out very easy for the child and then changed just slightly to make it more and more challenging).  Grading an activity is helpful for the learner because it allows the child to feel success and gain confidence during a task, but also builds success with more difficult  levels.
((I love Little Guy’s knight costume sleeve in this picture.  He rocks the knight costume at lease once a day  haha!))
Draw shapes with the highlighter with progressively thinner lines.  This is a great pencil control exercise for shape formation and showing the child how to make sharp corners and curved lines.  This is excellent pencil control work.


Pencil Control with Line Awareness

Start with a shape like, our square.  Draw a square around it, taking turns with your child, making larger and larger shapes.  It’s a lot like doodling you did in your notebooks or while talking on the phone, right?
Taking turns with your little handwriting student helps them to see an accurate shape right next to the lines that they are drawing…with sharp edges and strait lines.

 


Copying and Spatial Awareness

Big Sister LOVED doing this one.  She filled out the whole sheet and had so much fun!  She would roll the dice, count the dots, and draw the dots (in the correct arrangement) in the squares on the page.
Counting, Copying, and Drawing with accurate spacing all work on her visual perceptual skills and spatial awareness.  These skills are essential for forming letters on lines, placing letters close enough to others in a word, and when copying lists of words.
Make early handwriting fun and your preschooler will have success…and love it!