Here are some great activities that we have used to strengthen hand muscles and work on fine motor skills. While you may be tempted to place a pencil in your Pre-schooler's or Kindergartner's hand and expect them to be able to hold it in the correct position, doing so too early can actually delay their writing skills.
I have noticed with my Kindergartner that writing, tracing the alphabet, coloring out of a coloring book, or any activity in which he is trying to control his writing or coloring exhausts him quickly. So, we continue to work with different manipulative's in order to strengthen his hands and encourage fine motor skills. When we do work on a "writing" lesson I am trying to incorporate it into something he considers very fun, and keep it quick for now. This is why all of us probably remember doing so much cutting, pasting and coloring in the first couple years of school. The goal is to develop hand muscles and increase fine motor skills in preparation for writing.
We have found lacing cards to be an excellent activity in addition to sorting and counting beans and any small objects. Another fun activity is to fill a mixing bowl with a few inches of water and place some different items your little ones can pick up with kitchen tongs and place on a towel next to the bowl. We did this at four years old and I think that the activity lasted about forty minutes!
My two year old likes to join in as well and name the animals, the sounds they make and swing the animal cards around by the laces in the air when he is done. I believe that is two year old speak for "I'm done!"
I found this website today that also had some great ideas, actually written by a Mom who is an Occupational Therapist. Happy learning!!!