Providing the Curriculum Outdoors (Physical Development - Fine Motor)

Posted on 18th May 2020


Fine motor skills are used to make small intricate movements such as writing, drawing, scissor work, threading, buttoning, zipping, handling cutlery and much more. Most of these complex fine motor skills become easier for children to acquire when they have already had lots of exposure to Gross Motor activity. Learning Outdoors provides us with an opportunity to offer both in equal measures. I am going to focus on three aspects of Fine Motor Skills that require development. You will notice that children often use all three of these movements whilst engaging in one experience but it is important that you, the adult, can identify which specific element the child might require further support with.



Intended Learning


1.    Develop hand muscle strength

2.    Develop pincer grip

3.    Develop hand/eye co-ordination


Some things that children need to do in order to develop Fine Motor skills:


1.    Strengthen hand muscles - children need to do lots of grasping, gripping, shaking, squeezing, squirting, twisting, pressing, stirring, beating, mashing, grinding, whisking, cutting, wiping, hanging, reaching, throwing and stretching. (prerequisite for competent scissor use)

2.    Pincer grip - children need to do lots of poking, pointing, pinching, picking, threading, lacing and pegging (prerequisite for holding and controlling pencils, pens and drawing tools)

3.    Hand/eye co-ordination - children need to do lots of picking, grasping, transferring, lifting and pouring


Intentional Resources

(Intentional means that resources have been deliberately chosen and placed in the environemnt to promote intended learning)

Possible Experiences

(The children will often do many other things with the resources that adults had not anticipated - they uncover their own learning)

Large protein powder containers with lids




Children are naturally drawn to filling and emptying containers with water, sand and stones. Children will do lots of picking, grasping, transferring and dropping - requiring pincer grip motion and hand/eye coordination.

Twisting the lids on and off the containers requires larger hand muscle movements.

Transferring the empty or full containers to other areas throughout the outdoor environment supports the development of body awareness (proprioception)


Mud Kitchen (the best ones are home-made!)

Pots, Pans, Jugs, containers

Different types and sizes of spoons and ladles





Plants, grass and leaves for foraging and collecting

This is a space for creating potions and concoctions. Children grasp, control, lift, pour, fill, mix, stir, empty, concentrate and imagine.

Learning in the mud kitchen goes way beyond our imaginations.

Foraging and collecting requires children to carry buckets or baskets, pick items using pincer motion and hand/eye coordination




Making daisy/dandelion chains is not just for girls! This is a simple and powerful way to develop concentration, hand/eye coordination and pincer movements.

Washing line

Baby vests (real are best)

Clothes pegs


Hanging the clothes on the line is not necessarily what will keep children focused and absorbed. Children are more concerned with the pincer movement – opening and closing the pegs and simply attaching them to fabrics, card, string …

Spray bottles



Squeezing, squirting and spraying is a great way to develop strong hand muscles. Children love to squirt freely on walls and on the ground. They can cover areas, watch the water dripping and evaporating – supporting the maths and science curriculum





The very basic task of getting dressed for going outdoors is a valuable learning and development experience in itself. It is really important to make time for children to put on their own outdoor clothing. Yes, it will take time, but think about all of the hand muscle and pincer grip skills to be developed. We need to slow down and give children time to develop the skills that they so desperately need in order to attend the complex tasks expected of them in the indoor classroom.



Points to remember:

1.    Observe what the child can do and what they might need more support with – be specific about which element of FMS you are referring to – it might be all three.

2.    Plan to support this aspect of development – planning will be so much more focused and related to what children need support with.

3.    Choose materials with intentionality – provide resources and equipment that will help to address specific areas of development


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