Inside: Over 70 ideas for helping your child build fine motor skills
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We know that fine motor skills are important for our children’s development and precursors to writing and other hand-related tasks. (And as homeschooling mommas, we don’t want to grade super sloppy papers because of a lack of fine motor coordination!)
So here are some great ideas for helping our kids build and improve their fine motor skills.
70+ Fine Motor Activities for Your Child
Let’s break them down into categories, starting with more simple tasks and building up to the more complex skills.
NOTE: Everything is more fun with a playful story to go along with WHY they’re doing the activity. Be silly/creative where you can, and make it a game!
Pinching is one of the very first fine motor skills that young children can learn (and it’s a precursor to several other categories of fine motor skills). It involves grasping something between the thumb and index finger.
A good way to introduce pinching includes sorting small objects by picking them up and placing them into containers. (If you don’t have your child put it into a container, it’s likely they may just slide them into groups instead of actually picking them up.) Sorting makes up a big chunk of activities on this list, but there are other beneficial ways to practice pinching as well.
- Sort gel beads (like Orbeez) based on color
- Sort glass gems by color
- Stick skewers into a Styrofoam block then have your child sort beads by color onto the different skewers
- Pluck pom-pom balls out of a wire whisk
- Pull objects out of slime and sort them by shape or color
- Pop bubble wrap
- Stretch small rubber hair bands onto popsicle sticks
- Stretch small rubber hair bands onto a spiky ball
- Stick paperclips onto toilet paper rolls
- Sort buttons by color into cups with slots
- Sort assorted index cards by color into a box with colored slots
- Hammer pegs or golf tees into a Play-Doh mound or styrofoam block (while pinching peg between fingers)
- Put Cheerios (or other small object) into a water bottle
- Play the peg board game
- Drop toothpicks into an empty seasoning shaker
Threading involves both pinching and some hand-eye cooridnation to get the string/rope/etc. through the hole.
- Thread pool noodle pieces (Parents: chop up some pool noodles, get shoe string or rope, and have your child string the short noodles onto the rope. Depending on age, you could also have them make patterns with different colors.)
- Letter/number ordering with pool noodles (Parents: write letters/numbers onto pool noodle pieces with a Sharpie and do the same as above, having your child thread them in order)
- String beads on twine to make a necklace
- String penne or macaroni on twine to make a necklace
- Do this rainbow pasta threading activity from Hello Wonderful
- Or this super popular Cheerio activity from Messy Little Monster
- String beads onto pipe cleaners to make bracelets
- Or use Froot Loops instead of beads, and form the pipe cleaners into fun shapes
- Do lacing cards with shoestrings
- Thread colored beads onto matching silly straws
- Or string the beads onto feathers like this activity from Mother Natured
- Thread straws through hole-punched toilet paper rolls
- Or thread pipe cleaners through the holes of a pasta strainer
- Do the number weave by Toddler at Play
- Try leaf threading by Kids Craft Room
- Or 2D shape threading by Planning Playtime
- Stitch a yarn picture like this activity from Toddler at Play
Peeling is another pinch-related activity. But involves a level-up on coordination.
- Use sticker dots to trace name
- Use sticker dots to make picture on the wall (covered by a paper) like this activity from Happy Toddler Playtime
- Peel painter’s tape off of a surface
- Play animal rescue from Busy Toddler
- Make a picture in a sticker book
- Peel paper off crayons
- Peel a clementine like a Halo or Cutie (a parent may need to pre-start depending on age/ability)
- Take the shells off cracked hard-boiled eggs
- Dismantle a tape & saran-wrap ball (Parents: you can also put objects inside that your child can “rescue” as they peel the ball back more and more)
What I’m terming “squeezing” is similar to pinching but can involve more fingers (even all of them). These activities help build grip strength.
- Use hand-held hole punch to make holes in strips of paper (save as confetti for art projects)
- Use tongs to sort pom-pom balls by color
- You can even sort them into the bottom slots of MegaBlocks like this activity from Happy Toddler Playtime
- Use punch out stamps to make designs on paper strips
- Sort painted clothespins by color by attaching them to paper of the same color
- Cap Twist-Off Board from Happy Toddler Playtime
- Measure cooked spaghetti into bowls using tongs
- Feed beads or other small objects to a tennis ball creature like this activity from My Life With Littles
- Spray house plants with a spray bottle
- Recycled squeeze bottle play (from the OT Toolbox)
- Do poke pictures (at parent’s discretion) like these from Your Therapy Source
- Use a pipette to pinch water droplets onto a painting palette or bottle caps
Cutting involves grip strength as well as proper hand placement (which takes awareness). It also requires a certain level of coordination. Let your child practice on as many mediums as possible.
- Cut Play-Doh to make fun shapes
- Make Play-Doh grass or hair; then give it a trim
- Create toilet-paper-roll people; then give them hair cuts
- Cut lines, zig-zags & squiggles on paper strips
- Cut fringe all around a paper plate (make a fun craft like a sun, lion, porcupine, or dandelion)
- Go outside and cut things you find in nature (grass, leaves, flowers, stems, dirt clods, etc.)
- Cut rubber bands of different thicknesses
- Cut strings and measure their lengths to see which are longest & shortest
- Cut apple slices into cubes
- Cut silly putty
- Cut gelatin
- Cut cheese sticks
- Cut different types of cloth and compare how they each feel
When you feel your child is ready and they can properly hold a pencil, it’s time to let them trace! But it doesn’t just have to be pencil and paper. Since kids learn best through play, let them toy with as many different ways of “tracing” as they can.
- Use a Qtip & paint to dot-trace letters
- Shape Play-Doh into letters on letter mats
- Use fettuccine noodles to trace straight patterns, letters & numbers
- Use dry-erase markers to trace patterns, letters & numbers on sheets in slip-covers
- Use fat highlighters to trace lines
Until next time,