The next time you are about to toss that empty cereal box, stop yourself and think about saving it so you can use it for a simple fine motor activity for kids!
All you need is that empty cereal box, a few straws that have been cut up in halves or thirds, and a screwdriver with a round tip.
Simply poke holes all over the box with the tip of the screwdriver (make sure little hands don’t get in the way), show your little one(s) where the bits of straw are, and watch to see what they do!
More than likely, they will begin exploring the holes and trying to push the straws in the holes all on their own.
You might notice that your toddler or preschooler uses a variety of grasps on the straws while maneuvering them into the holes. That’s totally fine! This age is all about using the hands to explore and learn through trial-and-error.
But you know what’s awesome?
This particular straw-and-cereal box fine motor activity can be used to practice and promote a wide range of fine motor skills!
You may see your child using an inferior pincer grasp as seen in this photo below — the pad of the thumb and the side of the index finger pinch the straw to push it in or pull it out. Inferior pincer grasp tends to develop between approximately 7.5-10 months.
You may also see your child use a neat pincer grasp as seen in this photo below — the thumb and index finger work together to pinch the straw. A neat pincer is typically expected to develop between about 10-12 months of age.
You will probably see your child isolating the index finger as they work to push the straws down into the holes (and maybe even all the way into the box, like my little 1-year-old dude figured out how to do). Children typically develop the ability to isolate the index finger between 9-12 months.
You may see your child using a digital pronate grasp similar to the one shown below — the fingertips (“digits”) grasp the straw while the forearm is pronated (rotated in a palm-down position). This grasp is common and expected for toddlers, particularly those ages 2-3 years.
You may notice that your older child uses a more mature grasp pattern that looks kinda like the way people hold a pencil, such as the one seen in the photo below. This is known as the tripod grasp and typically begins to emerge around 3-3.5 years.
In addition to grasp patterns, you may also see that your child is encouraged to utilize bilateral hand skills as they use both hands cooperatively in the middle of their body — one hand holds or stabilizes the box (the “helper hand”) while the other hand (the “worker hand”) aims and works. Hands are expected work work cooperatively at midline starting between approximately 16-18 months.
Did you ever think such a simple activity could promote such a variety of fine motor skills?!
Remember, sometimes the best fine motor activities can be done using household items from your cupboards and kitchen drawers, just like this one! To see more kid-friendly (and free!) fine motor activities you can do using household items, CLICK HERE.
And if you’re looking for even more fine motor activities to support the fine motor development of the kiddo(s) in your life, check out these e-books from OT Mom. They can be instantly (and legally) downloaded to your computer and printed for your own use and are packed with practical, ready-to-use activity ideas (affiliate links included for your convenience, disclosure here):
OT Mom’s Fine Motor Bundle (Discounted price on Fine Motor Activities plus Scissor Skills Activities plus FREE Bonus Cutting Template)
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