Kindergarten is a year of endless learning. In addition to basic phonics, beginning math, and writing skills, our kiddos are also growing in fine motor development. As a primary teacher, I’m always looking for new ways to support fine motor skills among my students. If you are too, you’ll love these activities all about targeting fine motor skills with playdough!
Why are Fine Motor Skills Important?
Fine motor skills focus on strengthening the hand and finger muscles while learning to carefully control them. This practice uses the muscles in our hands in conjunction with control from our brains. Preschool-aged children are just beginning to work on fine motor skills through play-based learning activities in their classrooms. As they graduate to kindergarten and come to me, they may have already begun to grow in these abilities, but they usually need some extra practice.
Fine motor skills lay the foundation for success with so many things!
Children with strong fine motor skills will be able to develop their writing and drawing abilities as well as simple self-care, such as getting dressed, easily. This means the stronger their fine motor skills are, the better they will do with holding pencils, forming letters, and tying their shoes too!
In turn, this helps to develop self-confidence in many of the areas that we’ll be working on throughout the year. After all, if a child struggles to hold a writing tool or even their own shoelaces, this can cause major frustration. Help your kiddos out by encouraging practice and growth of fine motor skills daily!
Strength Fine Motor Skills with Playdough
One of my absolute favorite ways to target fine motor skills is with playdough activities. The primary reason for this is that it takes absolutely no coaxing whatsoever to get my kiddos excited about these lessons! If you teach littles, you already know how valuable this is! If your students are excited about the activity, you can expect much higher levels of engagement.
When it comes to high engagement in kindergarten, there are few things more exciting to my students than playdough. Playdough is a versatile tool for developing crucial fine motor skills in a fun way. In my classroom, I like to switch out the color dough we use to align with seasons or themes to make our activities feel fresh and new every month.
When to Use Playdough Activities
Another great reason to use playdough activities is because they’re so versatile. You can use fine motor activities with playdough during small groups, centers, as an independent workstation, and even whole group activities.
At the beginning of the year, make sure to take some time to talk about expectations with playdough. Some of the things I always make sure to cover include:
- keeping playdough on our tray or table
- checking the floor for spills after use
- avoiding smashing it into the carpet
- not eating the playdough (yes, really!)
While these probably sound super simple and a bit silly, trust me – they are key for not losing your mind with playdough activities! We’re talking about kindergarteners, after all. Be explicit in explaining your expectations for the best results!
Once you’ve gone over the rules, I always start with playdough activities in my small groups. I work with my kiddos on how to manipulate and roll out the dough to form letters, shapes, numbers, and more. Modeling how to use it for my kiddos is essential in training them to be independent with playdough.
After some work in small groups with my students, they’re ready to independently use playdough during center time! Just be sure to give kiddos a tray of some kind to keep all of their dough in one spot if they will be expected to move around the room with it.
Fine Motor Skills Playdough Mats
In my classroom, I’m a huge fan of using laminated playdough mats for our fine motor skills practice. I love that I can prep these once and then my kiddos can use them all year long! The great thing about using playdough to target fine motor skills is that you can choose from a variety of topics to work on. This allows you to focus on fine motor skills while also helping children learn their shapes, letters, and numbers, or practice sight words.
Working on Letters and Numbers
When it comes to targeting letters and numbers, playdough mats are so much fun! The number mats I use focus on numbers 0-10, so they’re perfect for the beginning of the year. Children will build the number first with playdough, then practice writing it on the line below.
Next, they move on to finding the number in a group, rainbow-writing it, and building it in a tens frame. This activity uses playdough to target fine motor skills, but it also asks students to exercise their fine motor skills through writing, tracing, and using manipulatives as well. My students love this activity and I love that it can be pulled out at any time for some engaging practice with fine motor skills and numbers.
Similarly, the alphabet mats we use have children focus on building the letter with dough, writing the letter, finding the letter, tracing the letter, and rainbow-writing the letter. Each page has both uppercase and lowercase letters, so students will practice both.
I love using these playdough letter mats during phonics small groups, phonics centers, in our morning bins, as well as for STEM activities.
Fine Motor Skills and Sight Words
Beyond letters and numbers, there are so many other skills you can work on alongside fine motor skills. In kindergarten, we spend a ton of time working on sight words. Mastering sight words is key to growing confidence as new readers. What better way to work on sight words and fine motor skills than with playdough?
We use sight word playdough mats that are very similar to our letter and number mats. Each page focuses on one of 60 different pre-primer sight words that we’re aiming to master before the end of the year. Kiddos will work on building the word with playdough, finding the word, tracing the word, boxing the word, and writing the word.
Since I laminate the pages, these are great for center time when my kiddos will be working their way through each station. Children can use playdough and dry-erase writing tools along with these pages and then erase them when they are finished. Then, the next student can easily complete the pages themselves as well.
Seasonal Playdough Mats
Do you love seasonal and holiday themes as much as I do? As someone who works with littles, seasonal themes are a MUST when it comes to keeping things fresh and exciting in the classroom. We spend a lot of our time using repetitive practice to master the many skills and concepts we’re focusing on. This can get a little boring if you’re not switching things up.
That’s where seasonal-themed activities come in for the win! In my classroom, I swap out our writing center materials every month to reflect the current season or theme we’re focusing on. This helps to keep my students interested in what we’re learning by tying it to a fun new theme each month.
One of my favorite activities in my writing center resource is the seasonal playdough mats. In my classroom, we call these “Build and Write”. Each page has a fun playdough shape that relates to the theme. They build the shape with playdough, then trace the vocabulary word and practice writing it on their own.
For example, during back-to-school time, our playdough shapes include a variety of school supplies like crayons, paint, paper, and pencils. This is a great way to work those fine motor skills with playdough and writing, while also learning some new vocabulary words too! Check out all of my seasonal writing center resources here!
Getting Started with Playdough for Fine Motor Skills
So, what do you think friends? Does this sound like a fun way to target fine motor skills with your students? I hope you found something valuable to try in your room to help facilitate these activities. If you’re just getting started with playdough in your classroom, my best tip is to make sure to spend some time going over your expectations for it. Littles can get pretty excited about it, so you’ll want to make sure you don’t skip this step to step them up for success!
And if you’re interested in taking a peek at any of the resources mentioned in this post, be sure to swing by my TpT Shop. You’ll find easy-to-use resources for numbers, letters, sight words, and more! Have fun targeting those fine motor skills with playdough in your room!
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