Following are exercises to aid in the development of the smaller muscles in a child's hand.
1. Colouring and drawing with crayons is a great way to develop these muscles. The resistance that a crayon gives, strengthens the fingers and provides tactile (feeling) feedback to the brain in a way that textas and pencils will not. Colouring with crayons on construction paper will provide even more resistance.
Construction paper is a stiff, heavy, inexpensive matte or eggshell finish paper. Made from ground wood pulp, it is available in a variety of colors, and its primary application is children's arts and crafts and school projects. It can also be called sugar paper and is typically available in large sheets and sometimes rolls. The texture is slightly rough, and the surface is unfinished. Due to the nature of the source material from which the paper is manufactured, small particles are visible on the paper’s surface.
To save money on crayons and make the exercise more interesting, let the student peel the paper from the crayon stubs or broken crayons, that can't be used any more (great fine motor control exercise). Place them in foil made into different shapes and melt them into new rainbow coloured crayons.
2. Squeezing and rolling clay, plasticine or play dough is also good for strengthening tiny hands. Children love to roll it into a ball and then pushing holes in it with their thumbs or rolling out long sausage-like sections and making shapes with them. If you're working with play dough or plasticine children can cut the lengths with their craft scissors. For clay a ruler separates the pieces quite well, as long as the clay is soft enough.
3. Make stamps from potatoes or other vegetables. A spoon can be used for this and if the vegetable is too hard, just stick a fork in it a couple of times to help out. Doing the carving and then learning how much pressure to apply, to actually use the stamp is a terrific exercise for tiny hands. Tip: use paint and not ink for this.
4. Make old fashioned tin can lanterns with a hammer and nail. Take an ordinary tin can and remove the paper from the outside. With supervision let your child put holes all over it with a nail and small hammer. Then put a candle inside the can and the light will shine through the holes. The student can paint the outside of the can if he likes, but make sure that he doesn't use anything that will melt.
5. Draw with chalk on a board or on the concrete pathways, steps, terrace, patio, outside brick wall - it will wash off with water. You can get packets of sidewalk chalk that's very thick so that your child won't scrape his knuckles on the concrete when he tries to draw.
6. Playing Jacks. Click here for a great explanation on how the game is played and there are other old fashioned games on this site that you might want to use with your child as well. Sometimes I think that the saying 'everything old becomes new again' is very true. For Jacks you can use flattish stones, you can still buy Knuckles or Jacks games from some games shops, or you can do it the way it was done fifty years ago by actually getting five sheep's knuckles from the butcher and leaving them on an ant's nest until they're nice and clean and dry and ready to be used - great natural science lesson. You can paint the bones different colours later or just leave them as they are.