5 Ways Playing with Tape Can Improve Fine Motor Skills!
Updated: May 27
Strong Fine Motor Skills Lead to Strong Handwriting Skills
As an early childhood educator, I’m often approached by parents asking me for ideas on how to help their children with school readiness skills at home. When they ask me how to improve their children’s handwriting skills, many are surprised that my response doesn’t include writing at all! The best way for children to develop strong handwriting skills is to strengthen their finger muscles through play! Most of us remember “handwriting practice” as copying the same letters and words over and over, ad nauseum. Not only is this just boring busy work, but it isn’t the best way to strengthen all of the muscles in a child’s fingers.
Variety, the Spice of Your Child’s Life!
Think about when you go to the gym… if you want to build strength in your arms, there are a variety of machines and exercises you can use to work your various muscles. Your child’s finger muscles need the same thing: variety! Here’s a quick, fun and low-prep way to encourage your child to exercise her fine motor muscles!
The following activities can be done with any type of tape. I had blue painter's tape on hand, but you can use masking tape (plain from an office supply store or colorful masking tape from a craft or school supply store) or washi tape. I don’t recommend using scotch tape for because it is too difficult to tear.
If you think about it, the act of tearing tape takes a lot of different skills! The child has to use the pincer grasp with both hands. The child has to use an equal amount of strength with both hands, while simultaneously rotating one hand forward and the other back. This is an excellent exercise for those little fingers! 2. Placing
Tape is only sticky on one side. A child needs to turn and manipulate the piece in order to get it to stick. Then, they need to plan the right amount of pressure while simultaneously pulling their fingers away from the tape to get it to stick to the paper. This can be very frustrating for a young toddler, but a preschooler will be able to do it with minimal effort. If your child gets tangled up in the tape and frustrated, this is a good time to work on social-emotional skills, as well. Discuss ideas such as communication (i.e. “How can you ask for help?”), persistence (i.e. “Let’s try again!”), and emotional regulation (i.e. “You seem frustrated! What can you do to help yourself calm down? Maybe try taking a deep breath.”) 3. Pulling
My daughter’s favorite thing to do with a roll of tape is to pull and pull and pull! She screeches with laughter while she pulls the tape. Part of the allure of pulling the tape, I think, is that it feels kind of forbidden. It’s so wasteful that I don’t let her do it often, so when I do, it feels like a treat. A child’s muscles and joints send messages to the brain about the world around him. They teach him how much force to use in different situations such as hugging or when writing with different utensils. This is called proprioceptive input or simply, body awareness. Pulling tape off the roll is a fun way to practice pulling work, which internalizes in your child’s little body and leads to better body awareness! You can make this into a game by changing the strength with which you hold the tape roll while the child pulls, which will allow the child to practice adjusting his force to complete the task. 4. Cutting
Over the years, I’ve seen many of my Pre-K students struggle with scissor skills. Manipulating scissors is very difficult and takes a lot of practice to master. Some of my 4 year-old students are being given the opportunity to work with scissors for the very first time. Since scissor skills need to be taught and practiced, I recommend investing in some blunt, child-sized scissors and giving your child many opportunities to experiment with scissors (under adult supervision, of course). Eventually, your child will become a master at holding the scissors correctly, opening and closing their fingers to manipulate the scissors and holding the paper (or tape!) in the guiding hand. 5. Scrunching and Squeezing
Remember those stress balls and hand-exercises that were so popular a few decades back? Well, they were useful to kids and adults alike because the act of squeezing and scrunching an item is great fine motor exercise! Kids tend to incorporate their fingers, hands, arms and even their core muscles when squishing tape together to make a ball. This exercise is useful for the muscle strength, but also for stress relief/emotional regulation! Child-Led = The Key to Success This activity was completely child-led. My daughter thought of the different movements/activities and I simply scaffolded her learning and documented it for you in this guide. Now that you know some new ways to exercise fine motor muscles, you can simply give your child a roll of tape and watch him exercise his muscles on his own! Let me know all of the great things your child can do with tape in the comments below!