Valentine’s Day is less than a month away and many classrooms have already traded in winter themes for heart-shaped crafts and activities. Here’s a simple heart-centered fine motor activity I have done with some students recently to target their goal areas while also giving them a chance to make something they can bring home to their parents. I’ve also included suggestions for adaptations in case you want to work on additional skills or change things up a bit.
♥ Red and pink construction paper (one sheet of each)
♥ Marker for adult to draw lines and dots
♥ Kid-friendly scissors
♥ Glue stick
♥ Short red crayon
♥ Bottle of squeeze glue
♥ Red tissue paper
Appropriate age level:
♥ Preschool and above
♥ Cutting, coloring, pasting, gluing, crumpling
♥ Fine motor strength and dexterity
♥ Bilateral coordination (coordinating the use of two hands)
♥ Visual motor skills (hand-eye coordination)
♥ Visual perceptual skills (scanning, tracking)
♥ Overall attention
♥ Sequencing steps
♥ Sensory processing (grading pressure, touching glue)
♥ Crayon/pencil grasp
Give child a piece of red construction paper folded in half and prepped with half a heart for them to cut out. The thicker the paper, the more strength required to cut it, and the more sensory feedback provided to the child’s hand and arm while cutting.
Have child cut out the half a heart. They can either cut on the line or, if that’s too hard for them, you can draw a “road” for them to cut on so they just have to try and stay in the general vicinity of the line. The road visual seems to really help kiddos who either have poor visual attention to regular lines or who are highly perfectionistic and tend to meltdown if they don’t cut absolutely perfectly on the line. If the road isn’t enough of a visual prompt to guide their cutting, try using play dough or Wiki Stix as a physical boundary for their road.
Have the child open up the heart, paste the back of it with a glue stick, and mount it on the sheet of pink construction paper. Be sure they are extending that index finger to pinch and control the glue stick (rather than tucking it in and using their knuckle to hold it). Encourage them to hold the glue stick like a pencil as much as possible (pinching between thumb and index finger while resting it on the middle finger) rather than grabbing it with their fist or somehow holding it with all their fingers.
Have the child color the heart with a short red crayon. The short crayon encourages them to pinch it with a tripod grasp as pictured below, with thumb and index finger controlling the crayon while the “web space” (that fleshy part between those two finger joints) remains open in an “O” shape. If they have a hard time coloring only on the heart, you can again try using play dough or Wiki Stix as a physical boundary to help them color inside the lines. And if you have a child who could use a little extra sensory input while coloring the large heart, you can always place a sheet of sandpaper (found at most home improvement stores) or plastic embroidery canvas (found at most craft stores) under the paper to provide some additional resistance and vibration to the hand and fingers. It should make a pretty cool pattern as well!
Draw dots all over the heart to indicate where the child will dot their glue. You can either draw all the dots at once and cover the entire heart, or you can only give them a few to do at a time. It all depends on the child’s attention and visual processing skills. The more dots you give them to do at once, the greater the challenge as they must visually scan and attend to all the dots until they finish them. Or instead of randomly placing dots on the heart, you can intentionally draw them so the student must glue top to bottom, left to right, just like we want them to do when they are learning to form their capital letters! When I work one-on-one with students, I like to give them 3 or 5 or 10 dots at a time and then see how they respond. It’s a nice challenge not only for their visual perceptual and hand-eye coordination skills, but also for their fine motor skills as they must twist open the glue bottle and then “grade” their pressure so they squeeze it just enough to get the glue out but not so much that they drown the poor dot.
Time to crumple some tissue paper! Give the student squares of red tissue paper that are about one- to two-inch squares so they are just large enough to crumple into tiny balls and press onto the glue. Up the challenge by having students tear the tissue paper themselves. Show them how to crumple the tissue paper using both hands together or, if they’re really good, ask them if they can crumple it using only one hand (pictured below)! Depending on how they do it, this challenges their bilateral hand skills as well as their fine motor dexterity and the strength of those tiny muscles in the fingers and hands.The more paper to crumple, the more practice those little hands get! And, much like when they had to search for the dots during the gluing phase, the student must continue to visually scan across the heart to find every last dot of glue.
While some children may only be able to realistically cover their heart with ten or so pieces of tissue paper, others may want or be able to cover virtually the entire heart. Feel free to challenge your kiddos as much as you think they can handle with this Valentine’s Day craft. You don’t want to bore them with a totally easy project, but you also don’t want to push them so hard that they just shut down because the challenge is too great. Some may need a visual model of a completed project in order to really get a sense of what they’re working on. Adapt and modify as necessary so they can be successful. Happy Valentine’s Day!