Our ocean theme continued: with Montessori fine motor activities
In my previous blog post, Create a Fun Ocean Theme for Preschoolers: An In-Depth Guide With Ideas and Planning, I brainstormed 19 ocean activities and shared how I use my Montessori Planner.
During the past week, my daughter, Annie (2 years 10 months old), explored more with the ocean theme, mostly with fine-motor activities. She loves seashells, and there is no sign that she’s bored of them yet!
Based on my observations, I decided to pull together more activities with seashells, focusing on fine motor. I noticed that she could practice more with fine motor as she tends to be more physically active.
Annie enjoys working with tiny objects, pouring milk into her cereal herself in the morning, and eating with a spoon. So I thought playing with more challenging fine motor activities would be fun while still enjoying our ocean theme.
In This Post
Why are fine motor activities important?
A big reason why we want our young children to practice fine motor activities is to strengthen their fingers and hands.
More specifically, when your child practices with the three-finger grasp or pincer grasp with fine motor activities, your child is preparing the hand and fingers for writing with a pencil.
The 3-6 Montessori area of the classroom, Practical Life, offers opportunities for young children to practice fine motor skills with activities such as:
- Grasping and Sorting
- Transferring objects with a spoon, tongs, tweezer
- Squeezing a sponge
- Squeezing a dropper or baster
- Using Scissors
If you’re working with your child at home or homeschooling, you can pull together these activities (or similar) with items you have around the house.
Working on a specific theme with your child, such as an ocean theme, allows for new opportunities to change up the fine-motor activities to make them more attractive.
When you change it up, your child explores what seems like a “brand new” activity. But we know we’re offering the same beneficial activities; they’re just slightly different.
This repetition further strengthens the three-finger grasp to prepare for handwriting. The more practice with fine motor activities, the better!
7 fine motor activities with an ocean theme
1. Grasping seashells out of the sand
Annie had a lot of fun with this. This was more of an exploration and sensorial activity while still practicing fine motor. We don’t have a sandbox at home, so she had fun exploring the seashells in the sand. I hid the seashells in the bottom of the container and poured sand on top.
If you look closely at the picture, there is a metal kid’s perforated spoon. My original idea was to scoop the seashells out of the sand with the spoon (which I realized reminded me of scooping cat litter!), but Annie wasn’t interested in the spoon. She just wanted to have her hands in the sand!
2. Seashell fossil in play dough
Like the previous activity with sand, the seashell fossils in play dough were more of an exploration and sensory activity. But your child is still practicing fine motor and strengthening the hand and fingers.
I noticed that it was challenging for Annie to try and pull the seashells out of the play dough because they got stuck there. But she was determined and fascinated by the beautiful seashell imprints in the play dough!
3. Using a spoon to transfer seashells
As I mentioned above, Annie loves to pour milk into her cereal and eat with a spoon. She has a lot of practice using a spoon to eat at the table.
She was intrigued by this variation of using a spoon to transfer seashells between two bowls. With this activity, you’re using a different twisting motion to use a spoon to transfer instead of using the spoon to eat.
4. Transferring water with a baster
I had Annie try using a small medicine dropper to transfer water, but it was too complicated, and she got frustrated. So I tried a fun baster (like a giant medicine dropper), which was much easier.
This baster is still challenging, but she could figure out how to transfer water with it. It’s bigger and much easier to control for two and three-year-olds. If you have a turkey baster in your kitchen, you could also try that.
Transferring water into an ice cube tray makes it a bit more challenging because you have to pinpoint where you want to aim the water. But you could start by transferring water with a baster between two bowls as a beginning activity.
5. Transferring seashells with tongs
We used these cool tongs for this activity. They’re great because they’re like using scissors but less difficult. So it’s also an excellent squeezing activity that scissors prepare the hand.
It took a few tries for Annie to get the hang of the tongs, but once she got it, she had so much fun with them! I’d also like her to try traditional tongs without scissor handles.
6. Gluing seashells on a picture frame
I wanted to incorporate a gluing activity with the seashells. I found these tiny seashells and unfinished wooden picture frames at Michaels, my local arts and crafts store.
Annie had so much fun with this one and was so excited when she finished gluing the seashells on the whole frame. I was gluing seashells on my picture frame alongside Annie. I modeled how to do it, which helped her complete her picture frame independently.
Check out my post on how to set up a glue tray, which I used in my classroom as a Montessori teacher.
7. Scissors: cutting ocean-themed paper strips
Using scissors is a great fine motor activity that helps strengthen the hands and fingers. For young toddlers and preschoolers, cutting paper can be challenging and frustrating in the beginning. You could start with cutting play dough strings or herbs first to get the hang of using scissors.
Annie still needs practice with scissors. It takes time, patience, and repetition. I modeled how to use the scissors, cut many strips for her first, and let her try.
After you cut the strips, you can also glue the little ocean-themed pictures on paper to make a collage.
I created cutting strips printable with a summer and ocean theme. To download them, scroll down to the bottom of this page to sign up for access to my resource library. You’ll have access to all of my free printables!
Note: Scroll down to the bottom of this page to sign up and download the cutting strips.
Concluding Thoughts on Fine Motor Ocean Theme Activities
As you work your way through a curriculum (especially a Montessori curriculum), the plan will change according to your child’s interests. In my previous blog post, I planned on a few follow-up activities and extensions to help develop Annie’s fine motor skills and sensory experiences.
Those activities included using tongs to transfer seashells and hiding seashells in regular sand, which I’ve already described in this post and they were pretty successful and captured her interests. I’m thinking we may continue on with those activities for the next couple of weeks, providing she doesn’t get bored of it!
I had also planned more practice with object-picture matching, but she didn’t show much interest in the cards. She was still excited about object matching, so I gave her the room to explore it further. She has mastered matching objects, but repeatedly working on this boosts her confidence!
Based on this week’s observations, I’m planning to work with the baster further as well as workings on cutting strips. She still shows interest in those but hasn’t mastered them yet.
For sensorial, the shells in the sand were a big hit, so I’ll try to extend on that using a mystery bag. I’ll also introduce a little more language (and science) in a lesson on the life cycle of a sea turtle, her new favorite sea creature!
Sometimes it’s easy to get wrapped up in a certain section or activity, especially if your child is really into it! I encourage you to try an extend the lesson (i.e., swap out the spoon for a baster, etc.) or touch on a different section entirely. Let me know how it goes!