Profile photo of Dr. Josh Thompson (he/him)

Dr. Josh Thompson (he/him)

Professor Early Childhood Education

Department of Curriculum & Instruction

Office Location: EdSouth 204

Office Hours: By appointment

Phone: 903-886-5537


Professional Vita

Hand Work in Early Childhood

"The hands are the instruments of man's intelligence" M. Montessori  "The hand is the tool of the mind."

Start with song and rhythm, playing with sounds and patterns, and using hands to amplify the play. Try various songs and activities like these: which are intended to be shared with families to promote interaction and literacy.


Renate Hiller "On Hand Work" 

A short film of Renate Hiller talking about the importance of handwork (knitting, etc.) in the modern world. Renate is the co-director of the Fiber Craft Studio at the Threefold Educational Center in Chestnut Ridge, NY.


Haptic perception (Greek: haptόs "palpable", haptikόs "suitable for touch") means literally the ability "to grasp something". Perception in this case is achieved through the active exploration of surfaces and objects by a moving subject, as opposed to passive contact by a static subject during tactile perception.

Between 3 and 4 months, the child can study his own hands, put them in his mouth, and hold a toy or rattle intentionally. At around 7 months, his hand movements take on purpose. He can grasp and pick up something he has selected and can pass it from one hand to another. He can also pick up small objects using a pincer grasp and put them in his mouth. Here, the hand begins moving towards purposeful work. Babies develop the ability to independently feed themselves. They also use their hands to help pull themselves up to a standing position. Once walking, children continue to use their hands to help climb as well as for lifting and carrying objects.

As movement becomes more coordinated, children need purposeful work to continue to grow and move toward independence.

Young children can help fold laundry, set the table, dust, wash dishes, and pick up their toys. They develop strength and confidence in their new skills. They imitate the adults around them in an effort to participate in the world that surrounds them. As their guides, adults must allow for these experiences and provide an environment in which children are free to develop.

What is Happening to Fine Motor Development?

This article from Dr. Marcy Guddemi is a call to action for educators and parents to return to the time-tested play materials of childhood to best prepare our children for school. Read more.
Fine Motor

Rae Pica: 3 Things That Have Changed

“Early childhood educators tell me lots of stories when I keynote or train,” writes national consultant Rae Pica. “Since I’ve been speaking and training for almost four decades, you can imagine how many stories I’ve heard. But lately I keep hearing the same three stories from teachers, repeatedly. It’s disturbing—and it needs to be addressed.”

If you’re in the early childhood field you can probably guess what these three issues are. Read Rae’s take here:

This same article is here available as a Pica 3 things: Midline, Play, and Fine-Motor. PDF


Building Blocks of Hand-Eye-Brain Nexus

What all is going in when young children move in space to accomplish a task?

The vestibular system helps her maintain balance and coordinate her head and eye movements so she can focus.

Visual tracking allows her to scan the environment.

Visual discrimination allows her to pay attention to detail so she can identify objects among others (figure/ground).

Proprioception provides an awareness of how to move her body parts, and the correct amount of force she’ll need to grasp and hold an object.

Gross motor skills allow her to use the large muscles of her arm and shoulder to reach.

Fine motor skills allow her to use the small muscles of her wrists and fingers to grasp.

Motor planning has taught her (starting in infancy when she grabbed a dangling toy for the first time) how to reach and grasp things automatically without having to remember the steps involved.

Whew, so hand-eye coordination is no small feat!


Exercises for integrating the hand reflexes


Palmar grasp

Monkey bars

Squeegee balls


Wringing wet rags till they are dry

Clay, putty, play-do


Pincer Grasp

Drawing in sand

Sensitizing activities




Baric (weight)


Object recognition (mystery bags)



Cotton swab

Tracing sticks



Paint brushes and sponges




Fill – multiple contiguous lines

Letter formation


Review the D'Neilian lessons on handwriting in manuscript and cursive

Stooksberry, K.L. (n.d.) The development of fine motor and handwriting skills. Richardson, TX: Region 10. Available online at

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