Early Years – World of play

Pre-braille activities

Your child may potentially be a braille user in later life. The foundation of that skill begins in the early years and is focused around fine motor skills. There are several ‘tasks’ you can help your child to master which inherently tie into pre-braille skills.

Your child may potentially be a braille user in later life. The foundation of that skill begins in the early years and is focused around fine motor skills. There are several ‘tasks’ you can help your child to master which inherently tie into pre-braille skills.

Types of activities to try

  • Squeezing toys
  • Stringing beads
  • Drawing
  • Twisting lids on and off
  • Buttoning up clothes
  • Picking up small items
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Mixing food in a bowl
  • Turning doorknobs

You will find toy suggestions that incorporate these skills in our toy guide >

paths to literacy

Get started with Paths to Literacy – pathstoliteracy.org

Paths to Literacy have a site packed with information around the topic of pre-braille skills. They have kindly given us permission to share their resources and if you would like to learn more you will find the link to each resource at the beginning of the article.




Strong hands make good readers

This is an abridged version of a resource shared from Paths to Literacy. For the full article and further information, visit: pathstoliteracy.org/strong-hands-make-good-readers

These ideas are designed to address developing hand skills for the young braille reader who is ready to start braille instruction and who has received preschool instruction on concept development. Your child might not be at the developmental point but you can still start engaging in some of the activities at home to help develop their fine motor skills.

Written by: Cheryl Brown

Fine motor activities and ideas to strengthen hands and fingers, while developing tactile discrimination skills with young pre-braille readers.

Planning activities

When planning activities for young children, try to include music, movement and games. These help children to develop many skills, in addition to making learning fun.

Tactile sensitivity

  • Explore hairbrush, toothbrush, sponges and towels
  • Play with finger paints, puddings, shaving cream
  • Add textures such as sand, glitter, small craft/toy objects
  • Differentiate temperatures, e.g. with ice, hot pads
  • Water play: scooping, pouring, cupping in palms
  • Sensory box: rice, macaroni, beans, sand; hide coins and other objects
  • Textures: sandpaper, aluminium foil, fabrics
    • Matching games: finding the same and different objects. Encourages exploration and discrimination
    • Spinners with board games
    • Card games
    • Make texture books
  • Differentiate: hard/soft, sharp/dull, wet/dry, sticky/slimy, bumpy/smooth
  • Explore toys and the environment

Hand strength

  • Pull string toys
  • Play with hammer toys, clay/play dough
  • Play with push lever toys
  • Play with push button toys
  • Push down on spinner toys
  • Wind up music boxes or Jack-in-the-Box toy
  • Cooking tasks:
    • Stir cookie dough batter
    • Use garlic press, potato masher, juicer, hand mixer, sifter
    • Open jars, remove lids from containers – find what is inside
  • Squeeze water out of sponge, squeeze bulb or medicine dropper
  • Fill an empty washing up bottle with water and squeeze out liquid into sink
  • Tear paper (increasing thicknesses)
  • Use scissors on different textures
  • Punch holes with paper-hole puncher
  • Staple papers together
  • Squeeze paper holders/clips
  • Crumple paper into balls and glue to make shapes and pictures
  • Squirt water from squirt bottle or squirt gun
  • Hang things with clothes pegs
  • Play modified tug of war games with yarns or shortened jump ropes
  • Shovel sand in sand boxes
  • Draw in wet sand with a stick
  • Push down on pump bottle dispensers (containers filled with water)
  • Lift/carry ‘heavy’ objects
  • Practice separating strong magnets

Wrist strength

  • Practice knocking on doors
  • Practice different kinds of waves
    • Finger, wrist, arm, twisting left to right)
  • Make circles with your wrist
  • Be a waitress/waiter
    • hold something with your palm facing upward
  • Practice fanning yourself with your hands
  • Do crab walks and wheelbarrow walks
  • Do weight bearing tasks such as yoga positions
  • Wring out wet hand towels or sponges
  • Practice twirling a skipping rope
  • Open jars
  • Twist screws into pre-drilled holes

Hand dexterity

  • Put pegs in holes
  • Play with puzzles with recessed holes
  • Dial old fashioned phones
  • Twist knobs on radios or toys
  • Pull up a zipper
  • Button
  • Put small items in slots (coins, buttons, paper clips)
  • String beads
  • Play musical instruments
  • Use scissors
  • Learn correct hold of a pencil/crayon
  • Colour shapes/pictures (use screen board/sand paper)
  • Play games with small pieces
  • Use tweezers or tongs to pick up objects
  • Spray plants with water bottle
  • Move marbles around in your hand (use different size marbles)
  • Hand skills: Cat’s claw
    • Bend fingers at the second joint
    • Pair with ‘Meow’, slink like a cat
  • Making fist and stretching out fingers to the beat of music or to count

Finger isolation

  • ‘Where is Thumbkin…?’
  • Finger games
    • Make finger circles
    • Touch finger to palm
    • Touch thumb to fingers
    • Pinch nose
    • Touch pointer to pointer from opposite hands
  • Finger isolation songs
The pointer says hello
The pointer says hello
Watch the pointer wave hello
The pointer says hello
The Middle man says hello…
(waving fingers one at a time)
With finger puppets, use name of puppet
Thumbs make spaces
Thumbs make spaces
Between all the words
Between all the words
After every word
After every word
We use our thumb
We use our thumb
  • Finger puppets
  • Making donuts with clay
  • Play with push button toys
  • Play a piano
  • Practice pointing to objects on pages with different fingers
  • Use different fingers to pump hand sanitizer container
  • Use individual fingers push down score card from APH
  • Use different fingers to point to objects

Finger strength

  • Daily living skills – e.g. buttoning, zipping…
  • Scribbling/writing letters on brailler
  • Popping bubble wrap with thumb and one finger
  • Pressing and activating talking toys
  • With putty/clay:
    • Squeeze between two fingers (pointer and middle finger, middle finger and ring finger)
    • Hold in fist and push thumb into center
    • Squish putty with thumb and individual finger
    • Pinch off putty into small pieces from larger piece
  • The Jumping Frog helps to work on finger pressure. Students can practice making the frog take short and long jumps

Tactual discrimination

  • APH’s Tactual Discrimination Worksheets (geometric forms, angular figures, line sheets, braille code character sheets)
  • APH’s “On the Way to Literacy” storybooks and “Moving Ahead” storybooks, such as “Splish the Fish” and “The Boy and the Wolf
  • Teaching Touch from APH
  • Flip-Over Concept Books from APH
  • Mangold Program, Patterns activities
  • Squid Tactile Activities Magazine from APH
  • Touch and Tell from APH
  • Magnet game
  • Mystery bag/box games
  • Play sorting games with real objects (silverware, socks)
  • Sort objects such as different beads, macaroni, beans or buttons into baskets or jars
  • Use homemade books with known objects
  • Create a pocket book of textures – put smaller textured squares into pockets
  • Play “I spy” with objects – have your child find named object from objects on tray
  • Follow mazes and lines with two hands
  • Sort/Sequence by temperature, thickness, texture, size, shape and function
  • Puzzles and formboards
  • Use crafts to encourage exploration, discrimination, matching and finding the same and different

More to explore on the Paths to Literacy website

Motor activities checklist to encourage the development of pre-braille skills

There is much more information and ideas to be found on the Paths to Literacy website. This article is a checklist looking at the fine motor and tactile discrimination skills of children who are blind or visually impaired to help to determine their readiness for braille. Although your early years child won’t be ready to start reading braille yet, it is a great indicator of the skills you can start building with them to get them braille-ready!

Read the article on the Paths to Literacy website >

Keep exploring…