One of the most essential skills for small children to develop is the dexterity of their hands. This transfers over into writing and into more finely detailed art technique and handcrafts as they grow older.
This post focuses on ideas for handcrafts for the early years, so a great deal of these suggestions work on fine motor skills. Therefore, their appropriateness will be based on the needs of your particular child-where he/she is in the timeline of these developing fine motor skills. Some children have finely tuned skills at a young age and some children just need more time. Please let them develop at their own pace.
Also, feel free to adapt any of these as needed. Sometimes children who still need more time for some of these activities can do them but on a large scale. You might consider using larger sheets of paper and focusing on larger hand movements as their hand and arm muscles develop. These activities can be scaled down when the child is ready. Having reasonable expectations will go a long way into keeping these activities enjoyable for everyone.
I've included a number of ideas that need regular adult supervision, but I've tried to include a large number that could be worked on independently by children. This way they could be used during "Quiet Time", when the teacher is occupied with reading and other activities.
I cannot personally vouch for any suggested purchased items or specific activities beyond some of these. I am only offering them as suggested ideas, so please purchase and use any of these items after you have considered them carefully.
1. Lacing cards and lacing beads
2. Finger Knitting
3. Cross stitching for young children -Melissa and Doug, the educational toy company, has a Stich by Color that might be helpful.
4. Tying of all types-tying shoelaces (ALEX toys makes something for this, but, of course, your children can simply practice on their own shoes.), tying hat and jacket strings, tying a basic knot, etc.) You can also extend this into buttoning and zipping coats and jackets and other practical dressing skills.)
5. Painting pre-made wooden figures, boxes, etc.
6. Painting rocks
7. Loom for making potholders (HearthSong has one that might work.)
8. Origami-choose just the easy folds
9. Easy sewing projects-sachets, etc. Or work on non-sewing projects.
10. Braiding of all types-braid hair, doll's hair, yarn, ribbons, etc. Or create a braid board by attaching three heavy pieces of yarn or shoelace to a thick piece of cardboard. Once your student is proficient at braiding, consider braiding yarn pieces and then use these to make bracelets.
11. Make gifts and ornaments-Your students can make gifts by making Clay Leaf Prints for Ornaments and Pendants or can make holiday/seasonal ornaments. There are many ideas online for the latter suggestion. I'll include some links at the end of this post where ideas for making ornaments can be found.
12. Make a paper chain.
13. Let your students make their own puzzles.
14. Make wrapping paper-use stamps of all types and print designs on brown, white or colored paper to be used for wrapping paper. Stamps can be made from potatoes, apples, corks, seashells and strings wrapped in various ways around wood blocks. Purchased stamps can also be used.
15. Weaving activities-see below for ideas
16. Scissor crafts and skills-see below for ideas
17. Make cards to celebrate seasons, holidays and birthdays as well as to thank or express sympathy.
18. Use purchased shape templates or create your own by gathering small plastic lids for circles, small jewelry box lids for squares or rectangles, etc. and have your students trace around these objects with different colored pencils. They can create any design they like. Coloring in the design would complete the project and could be framed and given as a gift.
19. Allow your students to make bracelets as gifts by stringing beads onto cord or string.
1. Loom weaving-consider the loom from Melissa and Doug or use cookie cooling racks (grid patterns) to act as a loom. Dish rack mats can also be used as long as they have the open grid pattern (small squares cut out). Use ribbon, yarn, shoestrings, and other items for creating the weave. Teach your students to move these items over and under, in a weaving motion, on a grid.
2. Paper Weaving-weave placemats (to be used as gifts) or bookmarks (also good for gifts) by weaving strips of paper.
3. Weave nature items into a grid or loom. Use pine needles, long grass pieces, flowers, leaves, etc. into a loom made from sticks glued together for a frame and heavy string/thick yarn for the grid pattern or use a foam disposable tray/plate with a grid pattern cut into it.