Keys to Kindergarten: Small motor control

Help give your child the motor control necessary for kindergarten.

Learning Stages

By Becca Ross

Kindergarten & First Grade Teacher

Becca is a schoolteacher and blogs at She loves to cook, bake, garden, sew, quilt, teach and simply spend time with her family. She strives to find art in everyday things.

For some children, small motor skills are challenging to develop. Building those small muscles needed to write, draw and cut doesn’t need to happen by simply practicing those skills over and over. There are some really fun ways to help your child practice these skills.

  • Start by scribbling! It sounds simple, but adults often forget that scribbling is one of the first steps we take as writers. Scribbling doesn’t need to happen with a paper and pencil either. Playing in the sand box and making swirls with fingers, scribbling in shaving cream on the shower wall during a bath, and finger painting are all fabulous ways to get your child scribbling. They are using their fingers and often their whole arm in creating these glorious scribbles. Scribbling and swirly marks may make way for shapes and lines, and then gradually work into writing letters. Of course, markers, crayons and pencils are fun to scribble with too, but if you try the shaving cream approach your shower walls will be cleaned in the process!
  • Use toys and art supplies. Have your child play with lacing beads, spray water on plants with a small water bottle, or use tongs or clothes pins to move objects from one place to another. Clay and play dough are also fabulous and fun ways to build muscle strength in our hands. Play with scissors (in a safe way, of course)! Have your child cut paper into small pieces, cut coupons from the Sunday paper, or practice cutting on simple lines.
  • Exercise large muscles. We often don’t think about the larger muscles we need when we are writing. Core strength and shoulder strength are essential when building stamina as a writer. Sitting up in a chair for extended period of time can be hard for kids. Writing can also be hard on our shoulders. Show your child how they should sit in a chair. Play games that involve their large muscles. Crawl on the floor, through tunnels and under tables to build core and shoulder strength. Parachute play, even if the parachute is an old sheet, is a fabulous way to build strength in shoulders and hands. Writing and drawing while standing up will also help develop those muscles. Have your child color while propped up on their tummy on the floor. Invite them to paint or write on an easel. On a dry day, “painting” with water on an outside wall is always fun for kids. It’s a no-mess activity that builds shoulder muscles!

There’s a lot to think about when helping your child prepare for kindergarten! As your child’s first and best teacher, there are many things you are already doing in your day in the area of kindergarten readiness. Awareness of our 4 Keys to Kindergarten Readiness will help parents and caregivers take their day to day activities to the next level. These skills practiced in boring ways. Have fun, play hard, and keep learning!