Fun Activities for Fabulous Finger Dexterity

Mud Kitchen - Messy Play

Creativity Counts!

Concerns have been raised regarding the decline in children’s finger dexterity and experts are worried that young people are losing their ability to skillfully complete practical hands-on tasks with competence.

The BBC have highlighted this as an urgent issue with their article ‘Surgery students losing dexterity to stitch patients‘ on 30th October by S. Coughlan.

Tristram Hunt, director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, has stated that:

“Creativity is not just for artists. Subjects like design and technology, music, art and drama are vitally important for children to develop imagination and resourcefulness, resilience, problem-solving, team-working and technical skills.”

Leading professor of surgical education at Imperial College, London, Roger Kneebone, echoes these concerns. He is worried that more and more students have spent a large amount of their life in front of screens and less and less time using their hands, so much so that they have lost the dexterity required for operating on patients.

Here at Schoolscapes, we have the development of children’s fine and gross motor skills at the heart of all our designs; we are confident that we are actively supporting children across the country to become active learners, equipping them with a foundation of skills essential to become the surgeons of the future.

We engage children in fun, creative learning that develops their hand-eye co-ordination, finger strength and manual dexterity as well as developing their determination, resilience and concentration skills. What can be better for future generations, than taking practical, physical activities outdoors into the fresh air?

Fun Activities for Fabulous Finger Dexterity:

Messy Play

Messy Play - Sand Pit


Get children’s fingers busy by collecting natural objects and mixing up a colourful, magic potion using a fun outdoors Mud Kitchen. Picking up small nuts, seeds and stones all improve children’s fine motor skills. Stirring, pouring and serving all improve the strength of hand grip as well as improving hand-eye co-ordination. Children can learn to use different tools purposefully and safely for cutting, stirring, whisking and serving etc.


Engaging children in stimulating, outdoor activities involving the manipulation of sand and water, is another fun way to develop fine motor skills. Open-ended challenges and investigations will get their brains thinking too, and also develop problem-solving and teamwork skills, key elements that are also required for becoming an effective surgeon.

A Construction Station provides the perfect solution for messy play, providing an easy to maintain area which is designed to contain a variety of messy play materials. Children can use the crane and pullies to move sand, wood chips or any other loose material. Children will enjoy learning about the different textures and properties of the materials and effectively develop their motor skills and teamwork, whilst manoeuvring the materials to complete fun challenges.

Movable water chutes, like the River Rapids and the Water Wall, allow children to plan, experiment and design waterways, both independently and by working collaboratively with friends. They will learn to revise and implement plans and develop their motor skills both by building the waterways and by pouring and collecting the water. Why not add some exciting colour and sparkle into your water play, using child-friendly food colouring and glitter?

Creative Play

Weaving Posts

Tuff Tray

Children love sorting! A versatile, durable Tuff Tray with a large sorting tray, is an invaluable outdoor resource, enabling children to get busy fingers whilst playing with collections of small objects. It also provides an easily cleaned base for creative play with art resources such as paint and glue.

Place any colourful bits of left-over card and paper in the tray, along with glue and scissors, and watch the creativity flow. Or simply fill your tray with seasonal craft items for children to explore, cut, glue or join together.

Why not fill a Tuff Tray with colourful beads or painted, dry pasta for children to pick up and thread or sort? Manipulating small objects with a multitude of differently sized tweezers provides children with the opportunity to develop their fine motor skills and finger strength. By providing open-ended, practical tasks, children have no limits on their creativity.

Sorting Table

Sorting bricks and small natural or manmade objects using a robust, quality Sorting Table or useful Sorting Trays also motivates children to sort, order and build independently during their play, strengthening and developing their manipulative skills.

Children will also naturally develop manual dexterity whilst building imaginative miniature worlds on a colourful Small World Table. The options for creative and imaginative play here are also limitless. Firm favourites are providing children with a variety of small world toys so they can use their imaginations to create a fantastic farm, a fluttery fairy garden or a dangerous dinosaur land.


Mark making outdoors develops finger dexterity and coordination. By providing quality writing opportunities outside, children will naturally choose to draw and record their thoughts and ideas. They love to make a permanent record that can be shared with friends, whether it be a story map, a drawing, a list of adjectives or forming a number sentence.

A Giant Chalk Board, Whiteboard and a Poly Paint Station, allows children to freely experiment and experience different mark making mediums. Even simply a wet paintbrush or a muddy stick are perfect ways for children to enjoy making marks outdoors.

Threading, weaving, striking

Den building encourages team building, problem-solving as well as developing strength and coordination. Children can investigate the best materials and structures for different purposes. Den Building Posts are so versatile and can also be used for weaving activities or for hanging up instruments or informative ‘washing lines’.

Outdoor Instruments enable children to develop their imagination and creativity alongside their hand-eye coordination and finger dexterity. Robust outdoor instruments are very inclusive and enable all children to access music, through listening or active participation.

Active Play

Tor Bridge - Active Play Towers


Swimming is a great way to develop whole body strength and one activity children find lots of fun, which specifically develops finger strength, is ‘Pool Crabbing’; this is when children hold onto the edge of the pool with their fingers and travel to the left or right along the poolside, with feet up against the pool wall enabling learners to travel sideways along the pool like a crab!

Outdoors Gym

An Outdoor Multi Gym is specifically designed to develop children’s body strength. Step & Dip helps children to learn how to practise triceps dips and push-ups in a safe learning environment, with guidance and instruction. The Pull Up Roll Over Gym offers children choice of activity with its pull-up bar, roll-over bar and swing hooks. The Children’s Outdoor Gym is a popular choice with children, increasing their body strength and coordination, whilst remaining a fun way for children to increase their activity levels outdoors.

Climbing Towers and Adventure Trails

Adventure through swinging, climbing, twisting and crawling over, under and through are all great ways to develop children’s coordination and motor skills as they play and explore outdoors. There are so many ways to climb, with ropes, nets and ladders and a wide variety of options to make adventure play accessible to all children.

Adventure Trails and Play Towers can also encourage children to use drama and social interaction in their play at the same time as introducing risk taking and risk management into children’s natural, active, outdoor play.

Bright Futures

So here at Schoolscapes, we feel very confident that we have a multitude of fun and exciting outdoor resources that can help all children on a pathway to achieving the levels of manual dexterity required to be a top surgeon; so we are happy the future will remain in good hands and believe that with the increasing levels of outdoor active play in the UK, there is no reason that future generations of children will not be able to reverse this worrying trend.


Surgery students ‘losing dexterity to stitch patients’

By Sean Coughlan BBC News education and family correspondent

30 October 2018

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Fun Activities for Fabulous Finger Dexterity was last modified: May 5th, 2020 by Steve Bell

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