When your preschooler was an infant, you likely played with and tickled his wiggly little fingers and toes. As a preschooler, you can help him use those little digits as learning tools. Certain activities also strengthen the muscles in his hands and feet, which aid in the development of his fine motor skills.
1. Arts and Crafts
Your preschooler probably won't need much encouragement to dip his fingers and toes in paint, so use this activity to help him discover more about them. Have him print his hands and feet onto paper. Then, the two of you can count the fingers and toes together. Show him how to turn his prints into different pictures. For example, a hand print could become a flower by adding a stem. Have him place each hand and foot on a piece of paper and draw around them --making sure it tickles. Help him cut out his prints. You might then suggest, "Do you want to draw around mommy's hand?" You might also want to use a washable marker pen or paint to create your preschooler's fingerprint. Look at the patterns together and then compare it to yours, talking about how all fingerprints are different.
2. Songs and Nursery Rhymes
Use nursery rhymes and songs with actions to help your preschooler learn. Sing the popular song "Where is Thumbkin" with her, encouraging her to do the thumb actions as you sing. Then provide her with crayons and paper and ask her to draw two talking thumbs. Have your preschooler take off her socks and read her "This Little Piggy" -- and ask her to grab her toes as you read. Provide her with some paper cutouts of little pigs glued on paper and ask her to draw a scene around each little pig that represents a line from the nursery rhyme. For example, she might draw a grocery scene around a pig for the first line of the rhyme, "This little piggy went to market." You can also sing counting songs together, such as "One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Once I Caught a Fish Alive," or make up your own, and use your little one's fingers and toes to demonstrate the counting.
3. Finger and Toe Challenges
Talk to your preschooler about the different things he can do with his fingers -- apart from just picking his nose! Have him try to pick up some grains of uncooked rice or pieces of chopped-up jelly with them. Then see what items he can pick up using just his toes -- cotton balls and drinking straws work well for this game. Then challenge him by asking him what he can pick up using just his hands and feet without the use of his fingers and toes. Other fine motor challenges you might provide include a race to see who can button a shirt fastest or thread a set number of beads onto a string. Of course, if you're challenging him, you might want to let him win a round or two.
Help your preschooler use her fingers and toes to see how different objects feel. Talk about things being hot and cold, smooth or spiky, soft and hard. Find lots of items for her to touch with her hands and feet and ask her to tell you what they feel like. You might want to use ice cubes in a bowl and a warm cloth to illustrate the difference between hot and cold. You could ask her, "Do these things feel the same with your fingers and toes?" Try the same items with her eyes closed and see if she can guess what they are. She will probably enjoy getting you to guess items that she finds as well.
- Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images