So often, parents are looking for easy ways to help kids develop fine motor skills. Tearing paper is an amazing fine motor activity for kids. It’s a simple fine motor activity that requires only scrap paper and your hands. In fact, tearing paper actually helps children develop so many essential skills: hand strength, hand eye coordination, precision, refined movements, bilateral coordination…
When a child tears a piece of paper, they improve hand strength and endurance in the small muscles in the hand. These intrinsic muscles are important in so many fine motor skills, including those important to handwriting and coloring, managing buttons and zippers, manipulating pegs, and more.
When paper is torn, the hands assume a great tripod grasp which is effective and a mature grasp for writing and coloring. The non-dominant hand is assisting in the tearing and encourages appropriate assistance for tasks like holding the paper while writing, and managing paper while cutting with scissors.
Just look at the skills kids develop with a paper tearing activity:
- Hand eye coordination
- Bilateral coordination
- Pinch strength
- Intrinsic hand strength
- Separation of the sides of the hand
- Shoulder and forearm stability
- Precision and refined grasp
- Proprioceptive input
- Motor planning
Paper Tearing Activity
We use recycled artwork to create this Torn Paper texture art that would look great on any gallery (or family dining room) wall!
Torn paper art work using recycled art:
This craft is so simple, yet such a fun way to create art while working on fine motor skills.
We all have piles of kids’ artwork that is gorgeous…yet abundant. You keep the ones that mean the most, but what do you do with those piles of painted paper, scribbled sheets, and crafty pages? You sure can’t keep it all or your house will become covered in paper, paint, and glitter. We used a great blue page to make our torn paper art.
For this paper tearing activity, first tear a sheet into long strips. This will become the sky of our artwork.
Torn paper Collage
Tearing strips of paper is especially a great fine motor task.
To tear a long sheet of paper, you need to grasp the paper with an effective, yet not too strong grasp. Tear too fast, and the paper is torn diagonally and not into strips.
Tearing the paper slowly while focusing on strait torn lines really encourages a workout of those intrinsic muscles. We tore an 9×11 piece of painted printer paper into long strips, lengthwise. The thin paper isn’t too difficult to tear, but requires motor control.
This is a fantastic way to build motor planning skills.
Vary the texture of the paper and add green cardstock. The thicker paper requires a bit more strength. Tearing paper that is thicker like cardstock, index cards, or construction paper adds heavy input through the hands. This propriocpetive input can be very calming and allow kids to regulate or focus while adding the sensory input they need.
We used one of the long strips of green cardstock to create grass by making small tears. Be careful not to tear the whole way across the strip! What a workout this is for those hand muscles.
Tearing paper into the edge of the page, and stopping at a certain point requires refined motor work. It’s easy to tear right across the page, but requires precision and coordination to stop tearing at a certain point. To grade this activity easier, try marking the stopping point with a pencil mark.
Next glue the blue strips onto a background piece of paper. Tear white scrap paper into cloud shapes. They can be any shape, just like clouds in the sky!
Grab a piece of yellow cardstock and create a sun. This is another fabulous fine motor workout. Tearing a circle-ish shape and creating small tears really works those muscles in the hands.
Glue the sun onto the sky and enjoy the art.
More paper activities that build skills:
Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.