by Danielle Carter, MS OTR/L    bubbles

Minnesota summer is here! It’s finally time for long, sunny days, and time outside at our beautiful lakes, parks, and trails. This time of year we find ourselves naturally giving our kids gross motor and sensory opportunities as we play outside. But we sometimes overlook all the wonderful opportunities for fine motor play while we enjoy our time in nature!

Here are some ideas to engage in fine motor play outside without your kids even knowing they are working:

  • Paint the fence or playground equipment with water and a big paint brush: Just like inside, vertical surfaces really help with developing mature grasps by letting gravity assist with wrist extension.
  • Sidewalk chalk: Break the fat pieces of sidewalk chalk into 1” pieces. This shorter piece of chalk will help get your child’s hand into a more functional grasp pattern using her fingers and thumb opposition instead of using a fisted grasp.
  • Squirt bottles: Squirt bottles are great for strength and working on those intrinsic muscles of the hand needed for things like writing, opening and closing fasteners, and opening snack containers. You can have your child use a squirt bottle to water the plants, write with sidewalk chalk and then spray it with water to see how the colors change, or cool you off on a hot day!
  • Sticks: You can go on a nature hunt and find some sticks, then experiment with so many creative ways to use them! You can use them as writing tools to write in the sand and dirt, or poke them into the holes in the playground equipment. You can build with them and make a garage for cars or tiny forts for toys. You can practice bilateral skills by using two hands to break them while you build. You can find other things to string on them like beads.
  • Water Play: Water squirters that require kids to pull them apart, then push them together are great for two handed play. Scooping, pouring, digging, and dumping sand or water is also great for bilateral skills. This also helps develop refined grasps, wrist rotation, and precision. Give your child different sized tools to experiment with to develop different muscle groups. Squeezing a sponge is also a great activity for muscle strength.
  • Popping bubbles: Encourage your child to pop bubbles with one finger to isolate their index finger.

We can’t wait to see what our Kidspeak families come up with this summer for getting outside and continuing to make fine motor goals fun!