10 Important Fine Motor Skill Activities For Toddlers

We all want our kids to develop at a steady pace and have fun discovering precisely what they are capable of.

Toddlers can surprise you as much as themselves with complex activities and games.

The best fine motor skill activities for toddlers can make a big difference…

How Can I Help My Toddler With Fine Motor Skills?

Fine motor skills are best developed when parents create activities and tasks that encourage kids further.

Some parents may be reluctant to push their child into something too difficult or that they feel isn’t age-appropriate.

Yet, effective fine motor skill training can set kids up for greater success when they socialize and go off to school.

Regular activities with problem solving and creative elements can teach kids to use their hands and hand-eye coordination on a new level.

The more they practice, the better they get.

Recommended read: 28 Simple and Creative Toddler Painting Ideas

What Are Fine Motor Skills?

Motor skills in infants and toddlers refer to how kids move, use their bodies, and develop coordination.

Fine motor skills take this down to a more precise level.

Hand-eye coordination is still a big part of the process.

But, there is also a greater emphasis on the use of fingers and greater dexterity.

Here are some examples:

  • 1) The development of muscles and movements in the hands to work on different skills.
  • 2) Greater precision and delicacy in the way they use their hands when interacting with different objects
  • 3) Improvements in the use of tools
  • 4) Ongoing developments in dexterity that create a more dominant hand.

At the moment, your child may be pretty clumsy with their hands, and that’s fine!

But, sooner or later, they need to learn how to carry out tasks with one hand.

This includes the use of tools like these, such as the best way to hold a crayon that isn’t more of a curled fist.

Regular practice allows for a strengthening of muscles and ligaments but also greater muscle memory.

Before long, kids will even start to figure out if they are left-handed, right-handed, or even ambidextrous.

What Are Some Fine Motor Activities For Toddlers?

In order to help toddlers improve their fine motor skills, you need the best possible activities. I have compiled a series of options across various skills and themes.

Some are pretty standard activities that you may already do to some extent. Others I found through some fantastic bloggers and parenting sites.

Essentially, the best fine motor skills activities for toddlers are those that encourage kids to use their hands and hand-eye coordination.

They tend to allow for more intricate movements and puzzle-solving and may also encourage the use of tools. A lot of activities relate to arts and crafts but there are also fun sensory games.

10 Fine Motor Skill Activities For Toddlers

1) Drawing Pictures

This first one is simple and something they probably do to keep them occupied already.

But, the effect of regular drawing sessions shouldn’t be understated. As mentioned above, kids need to learn how to hold pencils and crayons for the best results.

They may have creative ideas in mind but some frustration over getting them on paper. Regular practice with different tools – like crayons, pencils, markers, and more – build on a child’s abilities.

Eventually, they will start to mimic how you hold the crayon more effectively, which will help them when it comes to basic writing skills at school.

Make sure not to pressure them into using a particular hand. Make sure it comes naturally.

2) Painting projects

Painting with toddlers can be a lot of fun with enough craft paper, simple pots of paint, and some brushes. Many parents will stick with finger painting and handprints because it is fun for the child.

While expressive, this doesn’t help with fine motor skills. Kids that have some form of proficiency with a pencil or crayon can learn to hold a paintbrush.

Start with a thicker toddler-friendly brush that they can hold comfortably and see how they develop their technique with time.

This specific paint brush is the best choice and what I use with my toddlers as a preschool teacher.

Another option is to use a pipette like this one as a tool for holding and dispensing paint. Kids can learn cause and effect as they suck up the colors and transfer them onto paper.

This post from Laughing Kids Learn shows how well this works with kitchen towels.

3) Cutting Shapes With Scissors For A Collage

Another great activity to improve a toddler’s fine motor skills is to cut out shapes with scissors. This may sound like an advanced option for really young kids.

However, they will be given safety scissors in kindergarten, so it helps if they get some practice in now.

These specific scissors are perfect for toddlers!

You can start by drawing out basic shapes in card and letting them follow the lines.

You will get some abstract results at first, but that’s fine. You can then turn the pieces into artwork by arranging them into pretty patterns.

Another trick I have is to get one of those plastic pools you find outside of Home Depot or Walmart during the summer months and put paper in it, sit your toddler in the pool and have them go at it with the safety scissors! It contains the mess and gives them an open ended fine motor skill activity that will keep them busy for a good while!

Over time, they will get more confident and competent at controlling the scissors and can move on to more complex shapes.

4) Gluing And Sticking

If you want to take the cutting projects further then you could introduce gluing and sticking to the activity and let kids help with the final creation.

Again, you have to be careful with age-appropriate glues and complete supervision. But, this is a great lesson.

An interesting alternative project involves gluing textured pom-poms onto pre-made designs. The pom-poms are fun to touch and look great in multiple colors.

Kids can stick them in place to create patterns.

Check out this fish from Inspire My Play…

5) Messing Around With Playdough

Playdough is a wonderful product for kids of all ages, but there is nothing wrong with letting kids play with supervision.

Try and avoid the contraptions that make pre-formed shapes, to begin with. Instead, have kids get their fingers deep into the material and see how it feels.

Let them stretch it, smoosh it, and build weird figures. It is a surprisingly good way to encourage creativity while exercising the fingers and improving dexterity.

6) Sensory Games

Sensory games where kids get to play around with different textures are a great idea.

They learn to handle materials and shapes that may be new to them. Age-appropriate fidget toys work well here – bonus points if you find things that all make a noise.

An added benefit here is that you can let kids control the activity with supervision.

They pick what they want to play with and can swap objects at any point.

7) Hidden Object Tray Games

Hidden object games are great for sensory play and take the activity beyond the sessions above.

By hiding the objects under a sheet, wrapping them in foil, or providing some other barrier, you add a new dimension to the game.

Kids need to use touch alone to figure out what they are interacting with. You can instruct them to retrieve something specific or simply name the items.

This works well with familiar things like toys where they can develop a sense of memory with the textures and shapes.

This Thanksgiving game from Happy Toddler Playtime should translate well to hidden object games if you simply use a box with a small hole in it.

click here to get tutorial

The idea is that kids have to retrieve all the items in a set by feeling for them by shape.

8) Sand Play

The term sand play is a little vague, but there are a lot of ways you can use sand to build motor skills. One option is to create a game, not unlike the sensory game above.

Parents can bury toys in a sandbox and let kids dig in the sand to find them.

This could be exploration by hand, which gives them a good feel for the items and the texture of the sand. Or, it could be digging with a tool like this one, which brings in greater dexterity there.

Slightly older kids may appreciate scenarios of digging up treasure or dinosaur bones.

The alternative is to get the sand wet and turn it into more of a sculpting tool.

This is easy at the beach, where kids can make sandcastles.

But, there is no reason why you can’t do the same in a sandbox.

9) Toy Rescue Games

This is one that was new to me until a came across an intriguing image that involved rubber ducks, a cupcake tray, and some elastic bands.

The basic idea here was that the parent “trapped” the ducks in the recesses in the tray, and used rubber bands to hold them in place.

The child then had to carefully pry apart the bands and handle the duck to rescue it.

It sounds simple to us, but it is a complex skill for a toddler.

The added benefit here is that kids get a reward for their work.

Credit goes to keep kids busy on Instagram for that one. You can follow their design or use it as inspiration.

10) Read Sensory Books

Finally, this is a skill easily overlooked by parents.

We see books as tools for literacy alone or for picture recognition.

Often, we turn the pages and show them to our children. However, the right book can teach dexterity as kids learn to turn the pages for themselves.

It isn’t as easy as we make it out to be!

A sensory book like this one with textured pages and traceable images makes it even easier for kids to engage and get hands-on with the story.

Make Use Of The Best Toys For Improving Fine Motor Skills

It isn’t just homemade activities and crafts that can benefit children in building their fine motor skills.

There are lots of toys for toddlers that work on the principle of improving motor skills too.

Wooden puzzles are a great start, whether jigsaw-based or fitting blocks into holes.

But, there are more advanced options.

For example, block toys with locked doors require further dexterity via keys.

Toys involving gears and chain reactions also require the skill to put everything in the right place and use the mechanisms.

Then there is the family favorite that is Duplo.

Duplo bricks are great for creative play and fine motor skills as it isn’t easy connecting the bricks in precisely the right place.

As with the playdough and plasticine, you can upgrade to LEGO when the time is right.

Diversity And Repetition Are Essential Here…

Finally, I want to point out the importance of both diversity and repetition in fine motor skill activities for toddlers.

It is important to have a broad range of activities on offer that cover different skills.

Let your toddler work with different tools and problem-solving situations and mix up some of the smaller details, like the materials used and the items in sensory play.

However, you still need to go back to the same basic premises to reinforce the lesson and allow for improvements.

If a child struggles to get the hang of something the first time, be patient. They will get there with encouragement.

Creating The Best Fine Motor Skills Activities For Toddlers

To summarize, there is a lot that you can do at home to improve your toddler’s fine motor skills.

Work at their pace with different themes and tools and watch them gain confidence in their abilities.

Your hard work will help them express themselves and also get them ready for activities with their peers in kindergarten.

Just as importantly, have fun with it!

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