Time to exercise those fine motor skills! Today I’m sharing a snail craft for kids that will help sharpen their pincer grasp and hand-eye coordination. In case you aren’t 100% sure on what fine motor skills are, let’s do a quick rundown!
What are fine motor skills- and why are they important?
You may have already heard a lot about motor skills. They’re a popular buzzword for educational activities! But what are they actually, and why do they matter? As your kiddos develop, they’ll work on two types of motor skills- gross and fine.
Thankfully gross does NOT mean learning how to do gross things, although they seem to learn that pretty well anyway haha. Gross motor skills are actually the ability to do big body movements, like walking and climbing. We of course encourage this development, but it usually comes about by their own curiosities and desire to move more.
Fine motor skills are a little more tricky and may need more purposeful activities to help practice. They mainly involve the smaller manipulations of the hand. These skills will help them hold pencils, button their shirts, and eventually tie their shoes “all by myself” haha.
(Pro tip: the sooner they learn fine motor skills, the easier the shoe tying, and jacket zipping, and pretty much everything you need them to do NOW to get out the door NOW, gets)
To build up these muscles, it’s helpful to do activities where they have to work them- just like any other muscle! One way to do this is by picking up a small item, such as a Cheerio. This helps strengthen their pincer grasp, which is using your thumb and pointed finger to pick something up.
Fine motor skills are also part of the puzzle to learning hand-eye coordination. You need to have enough control of your hand to do whatever task your eyes are trying to focus on completing! Yeesh, just writing that sentence made me feel dizzy. But it’s pretty cool how the different parts of our body work together, isn’t it?
Today’s snail craft is perfect for kids to work on both their fine motor skills AND hand-eye coordination. Plus it looks suuuuuper cool when it’s done. PLUS we’re using Cheerios, so you can snack as you go. #livinthelife
Here’s the easy step-by-step!
– Cheerios, about 1.5 cups
– Food coloring
– Pipe cleaners, we used 7
– Sturdy paper or a paper plate
– Colorful piece of paper
– 2 googly eyes
– Hot glue gun
1. Dye the Cheerios
So it occurred to me afterwards that we could’ve just bought colorful cereal haha! BUT dying them was still fun for the kids, and we ALWAYS have Cheerios in the house. So feel free to do this step or just buy something colorful instead!
To dye them I put 3 drops of each color into its own bowl with a splash of water. Maybe 2 teaspoons? Doesn’t have to be perfect!
Put a handful of the Cheerios in each bowl and mix them around. If the color doesn’t cover it all then add more color and water in tiny amounts. Just be sure to not add too much water and soak them, or they’ll fall apart!
Once they’re all colored you can lay them out flat in a single layer to dry. I am impatient, so we put ours in the oven at 250 °F for about 20 minutes and they were all dry.
2. Thread the Cheerios
For the next part, your kiddos will be threading the Cheerios onto pipe cleaners- this is the fine motor skills part! For each pipe cleaner, I would put the first Cheerio on and wrap the end of the pipe cleaner around to keep it in place. Then I just gave them the pipe cleaners and a bowl of colored Cheerios and they got to work!
*Bonus points* for the fact that this seriously kept my kids entertained for at least half an hour straight. No joke! Although J (my 2-year-old) was a little less helpful in reaching the end goal because he kept taking the Cheerios off the pipe cleaners haha.
When they fill a pipe cleaner up, you can wrap it around the last one like you did for the first one. OR wrap it around another pipe cleaner to have one long, continuous string of Cheerios. We chose to close each one off and keep them separate.
3. Wrap it around
Time to warm up the hot glue gun and take out that sturdy paper or paper plate! Cut a circle out that’s at least 7 inches across. Our end result was smaller but it’s easier to cut it down and be sure you have enough space for the swirl!
Using the glue gun, glue down the first end of the pipe cleaner right in the middle of the circle. Let it dry and cool off for a minute, then let your kiddo wrap it around tightly in circles.
This helps with their hand-eye coordination as well since they need to keep it wrapped close together and from bouncing back to normal. When Lu was finished wrapping, I would take it and glue down the end, as well as a couple other spots if they seemed to roll up a bit.
Then just continue the process with each pipe cleaner until you get the snail shell to the size you want! We ended up using 6 pipe cleaners and felt that was a perfect size. Any excess paper can be cut off at this point.
4. Add the snail body
Cut a snail body out of the colorful paper. We used an index card which was great for sturdiness. Glue the body to the side of the “shell”.
Then cut two even pieces of pipe cleaner about an inch and a half long and glue them to the top of the body. Stick a googly eye on each one, draw a smile, and your kids have completed their cute little snail craft!
This was one of those crafts that can really keep a little one’s attention for a while. My kids loved threading the Cheerios on (and off) of the pipe cleaners so much! It’s small enough to work their pincer grasp muscles, but not so small as to frustrate them.
Not only is this snail craft fun and helpful for kids, it looks really cool once it’s done, doesn’t it?? You could even add an extra layer of learning by having them follow a specific pattern, or switching up patterns for each pipe cleaner.
This is also a great way to focus on colors! It was so cute seeing J ask his sister to hand him different colored Cheerios. He’s really getting the hang of his colors now so this activity was even more interesting to him.