One of my happiest childhood memories is swinging from the rope swing in the hayloft. My dad had a dairy farm and my grandpa had pigs and chickens. So many weekends growing up involved following behind the two of them as they did chores, took animals to market, and worked in the fields. And of course, the Iowa State Fair! In case you didn’t know, it is one of the best State Fairs in the country. It was so much fun to go along with my family as they ‘showed pigs’ in the fair.
While you might not be able to pack up your class and visit a farm or a fair, a farm unit is a great alternative! Preschoolers love to learn about farm animals and life on the farm. These free farm animal printable pattern block templates are a fantastic way to bring fine motor skills into your farm theme activities for preschoolers.
Importance of Fine Motor Skills in Early Childhood
As children develop, some milestones are easy to spot. Doctors ask specific questions at each checkup. They even have checklists for parents to fill out to determine if their child is keeping up with the ‘norm.’
I didn’t realize how important those checklists were until I had my fourth daughter. At her 3-year checkup, I noticed that she had only obtained a few of the gross motor skills and fine motor skills that were on the 12-month checklist.
Those skills were obvious. They let us know that our child was developmentally delayed and we needed to seek help.
But that checklist opened my eyes to fine motor skill development and visual discrimination skills that are not so obvious.
Fine motor skills are important to every child’s development not only because they are used for writing in school, but they also include important life skills like using a button, snapping jeans, and opening a jar. Most people accomplish these every day without even noticing.
It is important to start working on small muscles at a young age because if they do not develop properly, it can cause frustration which can lead to learning delays because kids begin to avoid those difficult tasks.
How do I know my child needs help with fine motor skills?
One of a baby’s first reflexes is the Palmar grasp. The simple explanation is that when something touches a baby’s palm, they will automatically close it.
That is the most basic of fine motor skills.
But what about an older preschool-aged child?
Your child may need additional help and occupational therapy for fine motor skills if he struggles to hold or open and close scissors, hold a thick crayon, or if she has a hard time with large buttons.
None of these things mean that there is something “wrong” with a child. It just means that they need additional help developing their fine motor skills.
An assessment by an occupational therapist is a great idea, but there are also things that we can do as parents and teachers.
Just because a child struggles with fine motor skills, doesn’t mean that we should not work to develop them more.
Some kids, like my youngest, will have a diagnosis that means they probably won’t use their hands to the same level as their peers. However, they should still be given every opportunity to grow.
No one expected my daughter to be able to use her hands. Rett Syndrome robs girls of that ability every day. But Shiloh, with our help and the help of her teachers and therapists, is in the beginning stages of writing! She loves to color, make crafts, and do other hands-on learning activities like these preschool farm animal pattern block mats.
Build Fine Motor Skills with Pattern Block Printable Animals
Kids will love the free farm theme for preschool printable pattern block patterns! They are so fun, they won’t even realize they are strengthening creativity, following directions, finding differences, and of course improving fine motor movement!
These free pattern block templates are a great farm activity for children to strengthen all of these skills AND have fun at the same time!
We used these Learning Resources Pattern Blocks along with Crayola Dry Erase markers that create an additional tripod grasp challenge due to their thin size.
However, there are many pattern block options available. Most of them are sized the same, so they should be interchangeable for the pattern block animals as well as a number of pattern block activities.
The pattern block designs are easy to understand and each page is set up the same, so you don’t have to waste time reviewing instructions for each page. Instead, you can focus more on fine motor and visual discrimination skills.
I like to incorporate vocabulary skills with every activity, including pattern blocks in math!
Engaging multiple skill sets at the same time makes it easier to keep kids’ attention.
This is a perfect opportunity to talk about animal attributes. Ask children to describe “why” one picture doesn’t match the others. Is it bigger, smaller, backward, a different color, or missing a piece?
You can also work on counting by asking students to count the number of each block pattern for preschoolers used to create the picture.
Some kids are ready to compare quantities of pieces or describe if one pattern block shape is larger than another.
- Add a challenge to the fine motor work by asking children to lay on their stomach, propped up on their elbows. Have them alternate which hand they use to place the pattern blocks.
- Differentiate into a simpler activity by laying out only the pattern block pieces required for each picture.
- Hide the whole set of pattern blocks in a farm sensory bin for children to dig into to find the pieces they need.
- Encourage dramatic play by practicing animal sounds or acting out animal movements after they make each pattern block picture.
- More farm animal activities for preschoolers might include farm animal finger puppets or farm animal nesting dolls.
This fine motor farm activity for preschoolers also pairs well with some of my favorite sensory and lift-the-flap farm books.
- Children can spot the animals from the mats on the pages of the books for more visual discrimination work.
- Give opportunities to practice turning the pages of the book and hold the book properly to continue to work on fine motor skills.
- Incorporate counting skills by counting animals in the book.
- Add another fine motor challenge when you use a lift-the-flap book!
Find even more engaging activities in the Life Over C’s shop!