Nursery class finger gyms, catalogue cutting, mixing, mark making with every possible tool and every possible material all focus towards developing fine motor skills in preparation to formal writing and letter shaping in Foundation.
Fine motor skills can also be developed through pipette use and in my first year as a nursery class Scientist in Residence we revisited variations on this activity several times.
Activity 1 Colour mixing: Starting in the first weeks of the pre-school year and fitting with the learning of colour words, children learnt to use the pipettes through mixing coloured water in paint palettes. Provided with red, yellow and blue water, they transferred water into spare pots and experimented with combinations of different colours. Usually this also resulted in them “discovering” that they could blow bubbles in the water using the pipettes and that if they turned to pipettes upside down they could fill the plastic bulbs and then it would flow back down, but not out. The children ranged in understanding of what they needed to do AND the capability to squeeze or release at the right moments.
Activity 2 Autumn leaves: 2 weeks later we revisited the technique to “paint” autumn leaves using red, green, yellow and orange coloured water. This time we started by looking at autumn leaves collected from the nursery garden and talking about the colours (building on the learning of the previous weeks). Then children were provided with kitchen roll templates in leaf shapes and invited to use pipettes to drop water on to the leaf. Most children remembered the technique, a few need reminding by demonstration. Some children chose just to mix colours in the palettes as before rather than paint the leaves. Others discussed how the water spreads out when it touches the paper.
Activity 3 Fizzy painting: Later in the term, when most children had mastered control of the pipettes, we progressed to using coloured white vinegar instead of water, and dropping this into trays of bicarbonate of soda. At Christmas we used Christmas shaped cookie cutters to make shapes in the bicarb and coloured with red and green vinegar.
Activity 4 Shaving foam clouds: In the summer term we took the pipettes outdoors to make shaving foam clouds in jam jars and drip coloured water into them until they “rained” into the jam jars. By this time the children were totally comfortable with pipettes (though still finding it interesting to use them to blow bubbles and to tip them up and down).