Thursday, January 7, 2010


The cubbies are stuffed full of pieces of construction paper riddled with tiny holes, and I must say that I feel as if I have re-discovered punching.

"Punching," or "perforating" is a classic Montessori activity in which children trace a form (often a continent or plane geometric figure from the metal insets or the geometric cabinet) and use a punch to make very precise perforations along the outline. The resulting figure can be hung as a decoration (somewhat reminiscent of a colonial tin punch) or detached from the paper.

We encourage children to engage in this activity because it is a fabulous way for children to develop their pincer grasp, improve fine motor coordination, and strengthen their fingers for handwriting.

In the past, I have used this activity with older children who were having difficulty with handwriting (the thought process being that it would isolate problems with the pincer grasp from issues of letter formation and allow the child to get additional handwriting practice under the guise of being a fun art activity and without it feeling repetitive or anxiety inducing) with mixed success (often, those children seemed to tire of it quickly and were reluctant to repeat the activity at length). This week, I experimented with presenting this activity to children who were significantly younger and it proved to be an enormous success. The younger children were absolutely enamored with the idea of actually being allowed to poke holes in something (at pickup time, I overheard one little girl tell her mother that she spent the day "poking," and excitedly pointing her index fingers at her mother for emphasis) and showed both surprising stamina and precision.

Punching has become one of the most popular lessons in the classroom and a calming way to pass these frigid winter afternoons.

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