As an Occupational Therapist, I LOVE using clay with my kids in fine motor work. Clay uses a resistance that works the small muscles of the hands and builds arch development on the hands, increasing endurance for activities like coloring and writing for longer periods of time. Kids will often times complain of their hands being tired when they color. They will press very lightly or switch colors overly-often, allowing themselves to sneak in breaks from coloring. A strengthening activity like using clay is a great way to build the strength of the intrinsic muscles.
There are many ways to work on hand strength with clay:
Hand Strengthening Exercises with Clay
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- Pinch small pieces from a large piece of Clay .
- Pinch the clay between the thumb and pointer finger.
- Roll the clay into a long snake.
- Use a Plastic Clay Tool to carve in the clay, pressing and drawing with the tools.
- Poke the clay with the pointer finger to work on finger isolation.
- Press small items like beads or rocks into the Clay like we did with play dough.
- Press alphabet stamps into clay like we did here.
- Add water to make the clay softer or allow the clay to dry out for a more resistive texture.
READ MORE about Fine Motor Skills HERE.
Work on Scissor Skills with clay:
- Roll a long "snake". Use scissors to cut the clay into chunks.
- Roll a long "snake" of Clay . Use a pencil to mark lines. Cut on the lines.
- Roll a long "snake" of clay. Use the side of a plastic knife to mark lines in the clay. Cut on the lines.
- Smash the clay into flat disk. Use scissors to cut across the clay. Then, mark lines with a pencil and plastic knife to cut along the lines.
READ MORE about Scissor Skills HERE.
Use Clay to work on Pencil Manipulation:
- Create a flat disk with the clay. Use a pencil to write in the clay. Practice letter formation.
- Roll the Clay into a "snake". Poke a pencil into the clay, encouraging a tripod grasp on the pencil.
- Roll small balls of clay between the thumb and pointer finger and ring finger.
- Create a thick "stick" with the clay. Show your child how to rotate the clay and twirl it between the thumb and fingers.
- Use Clay Cleaning Tool Set for utensil use while providing verbal cues for appropriate grasp. NOTE: Using utensils like these may not encourage tripod grasp due to the nature of the tools. They will improve intrinsic strength and open web space.
- Press a pencil eraser into the clay.
- Create a flat disk from the clay. Place a piece of paper on top of the paper. Practice writing on the paper, encouraging your child to write lightly enough to not poke the pencil point through the paper. This is an exercise in proprioception for the hands.