A child’s play is not simply a reproduction of what he has experienced, but a creative reworking of the impressions he has acquired.

-Lev Vygotsky

Fine motor control is one of those skills we support in so many ways. We offer tasks with pincer movement, triangle crayons, and .big beading work to help children practice their grip and precision. But how do we support left to right, top to bottom skills early in our children’s learning without imposing our rules on their exploration?

Books and games!

Sand in a pan, play-dough with a stick, shaving cream on the table, anything tactile and fun in a messy way where a child can trace a line will win the day!

Creating a line across a page and giving a child a car or animal figurine, trace that line with the toy. Starting on the left, just like we read in many languages, trace the line from the left side of the page to the right side. Once we’re masters, let the child choose the next color and draw from the left upper corner of a paper to the bottom of the paper. Choose a different color to draw from the bottom left to the bottom right.

Rather than hand-over-hand writing practice early on, try BOOKS! (I can’t help it; I have early childhood library teaching in me 24/7)

Using a finger to the words we read during our read aloud time shows the children how we use books, but sometimes books give us a chance to help children develop these skills together in a fun way (where we don’t have much clean up afterward).

Press Here is a great start for making a pointer shape and deliberately touching different parts of the book. It will say to press all a certain color dot or just to press them all, depending on the page. Encourage the children to start on the left and move across the page in a purposeful fashion while they following the book’s directions.

Children LOVE this book, and the pages are high quality paper meant to stand up to little hands learning their own strength.

“Writing skills before school significantly predict academic achievement”

Dinehard & Manfra

In any picture book with abstract backgrounds and a solid or dotted line, trace the lines with your finger and your little one’s fingers. Go from left to right, top to bottom. Some books are very good for this, like  Laura Ljungkvist’s A Line Can BePeter H. Reynold’s Ish, and Richard Byrne’s This Book Just Ate My Dog

Opportunities are everywhere. We simply have to find them. These books offer a quiet venue for working together and are portable and readable right before bed.