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Improve Fine Motor Skill by Threading Beads

This article is the fourth in this term’s series on Fine Motor Skills. It explores the art of bead threading and the myriad of benefits children gain from this activity including the development of finger dexterity.


The three previous fine motor skills articles have explored: What Fine Motors Skills Are and Why They Are Important; Pencil Grip and Teaching Lower Case Letters and Sounds; and Games That Assist In Fine Motor Skill Development. This article looks at how grasping and threading beads can strengthen the small muscles in children’s hands. This assists in the development of accurate pincher grip to select a single desired bead and thread it. It is this pincher grip that allows children to develop the hand motion necessary to grip a pencil to colour in or write.

Although various hand movements are required to create a bead chain the most commonly used is the pincher grip. This is the action of picking up an item between the thumb and forefinger. Children will also need to reach for a bead, pick it up and then rotate it to be able to thread it onto the thread, plastic or metal being used.

Interestingly, it is not just the size of the bead and its hole but the material onto which the bead is threaded which determines the complexity of this task. It is much easier for children to thread beads onto a rigid item such as a skewer or a straw than it is to thread onto a plastic thread like Scoobie or gimp. It is also easier to thread onto plastic thread than it is to thread beads onto thin cotton.

Selecting the most appropriate threading medium and bead size will allow children to develop finger dexterity and hand eye coordination from a position of success rather than struggling through failure and eventually giving up. Threading beads will also develop a range of other skills too. The first of these is the ability to visually discriminate beads from each other so that they can be picked up successfully. This is further enhanced if children are trying to create a coloured pattern with their beads or create a specific design such as the beaded bracelet in our Butterflies and Bees Box where a butterfly bead is threaded in the middle of the 10 colourful beads.

Both patterning and the 5 bead, 1 butterfly, 5 bead pattern allow the incorporation of mathematics instruction and counting into craft and fine motor skill development. To achieve the correct bead pattern children must count the 10 flower beads provided and split these into 2 sets of 5. They then thread the first 5 beads before adding the butterfly bead followed by the remaining 5 beads. It is suggested that parents tie the cord using a slip knot and instructions are provided to assist with this so children can put on and remove the bracelet easily without fear of the beads falling off.

While threading each bead children are practicing their visual motor skill and spatial awareness as they must accurately line up the hole in the bead with the thread before accurately passing the thread through the hole in the bead. They are also improving their hand-eye coordination skills and each child’s level of dexterity will determine the correct size of thread and bead to use.

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