Dexterity, a good grip, and eye-hand coordination are abilities that all young students need in order to print legibly. These require fine motor skills, which means using smaller muscle groups in the hands, and fingers. Yet before fine motor skills can evolve, kids must develop gross motor skills. These involve the larger muscle groups found in the arms, legs, feet, and torso. Play is a wonderful way to develop gross motor skills in young children. Here are two games to strengthen gross motor skills and eye-hand coordination with fun outdoor play. You will need a Hula-Hoop, three small bean bags, and a soft tennis or small Nerf ball.
Activity 1: Target Toss, for one or more players
- Lay the Hula-Hoop on the grass in the yard, a park, or in beach sand (or rather than carry the hoop to the beach, you can draw the large circle, with a stick, in the sand)
- Have your child stand about 2 feet away from the hoop and toss the bean bags, one at a time, aiming for inside the hoop. Gather the beanbags so the next child or adult can have a turn.
- As soon as he can easily get the bags inside the hoop from the shorter distance, challenge him to increase the difficulty.
- Have him step back about 12 inches and try again. Play often, until he can easily get the bean bags in the hoop from 4 to 5 feet away.
- Keep count of correct tosses. Player who lands the most bags inside the Hula-Hoop wins.
Activity 2: Squeeze and Toss, for one or more players
- An adult or older child holds the Hula-Hoop vertically to create a target “circle” in the air.
- Younger child takes the tennis or Nerf ball in their hand and steps about 12 inches back from the circle.
- She “squeezes” the ball three times, counting 1, 2, and 3 for each squeeze before trying to toss the ball through the hoop. The squeezes are an important step in strengthening the hands and fingers.
- Next person takes a turn, squeezes the ball, and then tosses it. After each round, players step back 12 inches.
- Keep count. Player with the most successful tosses wins.
The great thing about this kind of play is that it's easy and fun while fine-tuning skills needed for printing and writing success.