It is through many naturally occurring play activities that you can help support the developmental progression of fine motor skills for your toddler or child. On this blog, we’ve compiled a list of 35 fine motor skills activities used by our pediatric occupational therapists here at NAPA Center. These activities can be easily introduced at home or in a preschool setting to encourage fine motor development while having some fun!
Fine motor skills are the movements and coordination of the small muscles of the body, typically thought of as the movements that involve the fingers and the hands. Fine motor skills are important for supporting independence with dressing, feeding, eating and performance in school. The best way to foster fine motor efficiency and supplement your child’s occupational therapy is to build practice into your child’s everyday routine with fine motor skills activities at home. Now, let’s dive into our favorite fine motor activities!
Listed below are fine motor skills activities for parents or caretakers to try with their toddler at home to help with fine motor skills. While some of these activities may be done independently, we recommend supervising your toddler when playing with small items.
Place stickers on your child’s hands or clothing and have them peel them off. For an added challenge, take a piece of paper and draw open circles to give your child targets in which to place the stickers. The grasp required to peel a sticker works toward the pincer grasp required for manipulating a button. The visual motor coordination required for placing the sticker within a target works toward the visual motor coordination required for inserting the button within a hole.
Start by using something that holds its shape (e.g. a pipe cleaner or piece of uncooked spaghetti) and string Cheerios across. To progress this activity, use a string. The use of two hands for completing two different tasks simultaneously and the visual motor coordination required for inserting the lace through the hole are precursor skills for attaching the pin of a zipper and pulling the slider up the chain.
Create a mosaic craft by ripping paper into small pieces. This bimanual activity works on strengthening the small muscles of the hand and promotes bimanual use of a tripod grasp, similar to what is required to unsnap the snaps of a jacket.
Picking up the coins encourages use of a pincer grasp and orienting them to the slot of the bank requires visual motor coordination, similarly to buttoning. Increase the challenge by first sorting and stacking the coins, which would require a precision grasp around the edges of the coin and visual perceptual skills to identify matches based on size. This is similar to identifying and placing the top of the toothpaste tube or water bottle.
One of our favorite fine motor activities is to use a preferred board book and have your child attach clothespins or chip clips to the book to create “legs” for the characters and have the book stand up. This one is always a lot of fun!
Another similar idea is to attach the clothespins to your child’s clothing and have them try to locate and remove them. Increase the challenge by doing this without the use of a mirror, addressing body awareness that supports independent dressing.
The opening and closing of the hand as you squeeze and release the clothespins is a precursor for the motion and strength required for opening and closing a scissor. Visit this blog post for 5 activities to develop and improve scissor skills!
Bonus points if your child uses his thumb on one side of the clothespin and index and middle finger on the other side of the clothespin. With this finger placement, you’re working towards a mature pencil grasp.
Sidewalk chalk is an inexpensive tool (often available at the dollar or 99cent store) that can help your child build fine motor skills. Drawing on the sidewalk or driveway will help your child build hand and finger strength and improve coordination while stimulating creativity at the same time. The bonding, laughing and fresh air doesn’t hurt either!
Laces and beads can form the basis of an activity that encourages bilateral integration and concentration. By slowly threading laces through the beads, your child will be boosting muscle memory, which will make similar everyday tasks easier to complete. Start with larger beads and then gradually make them smaller as they become more adept. Mix up the threading challenge by threading Cheerios on pipe cleaners or Rigatoni on yarn.
Putty is an effective tool to develop hand and finger strength. You can add putty to your fine motor skill activity list whether your child is only capable of squeezing the putty in their hands to alter the shape or can use their fingertips to sculpt specific shapes and figures. Try rolling balls, making snakes, and hiding coins or beads inside to increase the fine motor strengthening challenge.
Pick up sticks is a classic game where sticks are scattered on a tabletop or other hard surface and players are required to pick them up carefully one stick at a time. Focus on improving finger isolation by encouraging your child to use the index finger and thumb for one round, middle finger and thumb for the next, and so on.
Bubbles – an ultimate child favorite – are a great and easy way to add fine motor fun to your day. Just blow some bubbles and have your child visually track them and reach out to grab them before they float away. Your child can poke them with one finger at a time, pinch them with a couple of fingers or grab them with their entire hand.
Coin and bead sorting will help develop hand and finger strength and teach your child how to identify different items and group them together. For this activity, you can place several coins and/or multi-colored beads in a container, in a box or on a table and have your child pick up and sort them based on the type of coin or bead color. Ice cube trays make great sorting containers.
The next few ideas specifically encourage fine motor precision, which is defined as the hands ability to coordinate an efficient and targeted movement of the hands with a precise goal in mind. Fine motor precision is engrained in our everyday activities, such as being able to button a shirt, put earrings on, being able to write words right on a line, being able to stab a small piece of food with a fork, etc.
Next, we share some activities for your child to do at home in order to improve fine motor strength, which is the ability to generate an appropriate amount of strength in the hand to accomplish a functional task. We need our hands to be strong in order to accomplish important tasks, such as being able to squeeze tooth paste out of a tooth brush, grasping a zipper, grasping the lid of a jar, being able to connect Legos, maintaining our grasp on a writing tool with good endurance, in addition to many more things.
You didn’t think a pediatric occupational therapist would leave out fine motor skills games from a list of awesome fine motor activities, did you? Where to begin?! Some fun fine motor games for school-age kids might include:
Check out this related blog post for a step-by-step project to help your child learn how to fasten buttons independently. It’s fun, easy, and only requires a couple simple supplies: Practice Buttoning With A Button Snake
As self-directed and hands-on play, the list above provides many ways to engage your child while improving their fine motor skills. You could even incorporate these fine motor activities for preschoolers at home. Integrating fun fine motor activities at home into your child’s everyday routine can add tremendous value to your child’s therapy program and their overall fine motor development.
At NAPA Center, we take an individualized approach to pediatric therapy because we understand that each child is unique with very specific needs. We embrace differences with an understanding that individualized programs work better. For this reason, no two therapeutic programs are alike. If your child needs our services, we will work closely with you to select the best therapies for them, creating a customized program specific to your child’s needs and your family’s goals. Let your child’s journey begin today by contacting us to learn more.