In my Waldorf training, the young child's development of the fine motor skills was viewed as more important than teaching rote skills(such as recognizing the sounds of the letters). The hand can be considered as an instrument of intelligence. Philipp Martzog, a researcher, found that better fine motor skills in the early years might have a direct relationship to higher intelligence level and specifically – deductive thinking. His findings pointed to the relationship between fine motor skills and flexibility in the thinking.
Fine motor skills is how young children develop cognitive abilities in early childhood. It is why we call it “hands-on” learning.
Perhaps the development of fine motor skills is far more important than just the ability to use pencils and markers. The hand is the first tool young children have to express their thoughts and ideas. In the Waldorf schools, the development of the hand includes finger knitting in kindergarten and actually knitting in first grade. I found in my kindergarten, children found deep satisfaction with learning how to finger knit and making bracelets.
I think it is worth giving children many invitations to play that develop and expand their fine motor capacities.
Fine Motor Activity Bottles with Loose Parts
This activity is simple and can be set up with recycled materials. This is a great opportunity to use textile and fabric based loose parts.
The task is simple. To fill the plastic bottle with the various loose parts. Yarns and ribbons are the most difficult to guide into the bottle. The straws, pipe cleaners and feathers are easier. You want to set up an invitation to fill the bottle with a variety of materials that offer different levels of challenge. Provide scissors so yarns, straws and other materials can be cut before adding.
Adjust this to fit the developmental needs of your class or child.
Putting the yarn into the bottle takes both the fingers and eyes to guide.
Big fluffy pipe cleaners…
The results are beautiful and look lovely displayed in a window sill or capped and put in blocks for building!
Art making is an ever-evolving process that involves research, invention, and risk-taking. At the heart of process art is experimentation. It is important to offer art experiences that children can bring their own ideas to test and explore.
I love introducing monoprinting to children as it gives them such a powerful process of creating art. The first time I was introduced to monoprinting with young children was through Bev Boz in the mid 1990s. Bev Boz suggested trays with a variety of household tools as brushes. See my post here.
A monoprint (sometimes called monotype) is when only one print is made at a time. After the print is made – the process begins again. Monoprinting can be done on top of any surface. Pie pans and round cake pans are great because your print will be a circle.
Mark Making with Loose Parts:
The set-up of the activity is an invitation to the child to participate in the art experience. An invitation is a tableau of thoughtfully arranged materials ready for art making. For this activity I will put out a variety of loose parts for the children to explore mark making with. They can also go and gather loose parts they are interested in using as a painting tool.
I like to put tempera paint into condiment squeeze bottles for easy squeezing of the paint. This gives children complete independence in applying paint. I do not control the amount of paint they squeeze. For some children the process is all about squeezing the bottle. I like to trust the child's process and honor what is capturing their interest. If it is squeezing paint then I let them squeeze paint. Putting a tray under the tin will allow you to return the excess paint to the bottle. I use a kitchen scraper and a funnel on the condiment bottle.
Using a paint brush, foam roller or whatever the child wishes to use – cover the surface with paint. There is no right or wrong way. It is a process. It is an exploration into a medium (paint in this case) where children can explore and experiment.
Now the fun begins! The child can make marks in the paint with a variety of loose parts. I do not guide or tell the children what to use. I try to stand back and out of the way. Let them play with the materials and discover for themselves what is possible.
Bottle caps. . .
Sticks. . .
When the child is ready, they can press a piece of paper on top of the paint and press. Again, do not worry if the paper slides or the child barely presses. It is not important. So stand back and let it all unfold.
Oftentimes children will press so hard all of the marks disappear. It is all good. It is process of creating. It is the child's exploration.
The joy is in the process. And the process can continue! I love extending art making over a series of days. One day we mono print, the next day we use markers on the print and finally another day we collage on top. This can build the idea that art can be a long and sustaining process that takes days to complete.
One of the most meaningful family projects is the Hopes & Dreams Display. This is a visual piece displayed all year long in the classroom. It holds the hopes and dreams of the families for their child in your class.
There are basic 3 steps to creating a Hopes & Dreams display
Pick what kind you will use as the base of your Hopes & Dreams display.
This piece is wall art piece found at a thrift store.
This is the side of a crib. A family donated it.
A simple tree branch works beautifully.
An old bicycle wheel rim donated from cycling store.
Other Apparatus Base Ideas:
Lamp Shade Base (cloth removed)
Wire Base of an Umbrella
Metal Wire Shelf
Large Flat Baskets
2: Decide what the hopes and dreams will be written on
Clear ornaments written with sharpie
Present Tags Laminated for Durability
Window Pane written with Sharpies
3: Finally, attach each hope and dream to the display. Find a special place where everyone can see it.
Lamp shade with a ribbon tied to each hope and dream.
Nothing like a dream catcher made from embroidery hoop with feathers and string!
A stick found in nature with glass beads and ribbon for hopes and dreams
Flag Banner displayed and each clipped with a clothespin.
Make this an activity for families at Meet The Teacher or Back to School Night. Pick a time when most families will attend.