Creative Play,  Learning through Play

The Everything You Need To Know About Fine Motor Skills Guide

Fine Motor Skills Printable Pack

To help you on your way I have this fun free mini printables pack that your little ones will love!

There’s THREADING, COTTON BUD PAINTING, FINGER PUPPETS & VELCRO NUMBERS

To get yours just sign up below and download 🙂

I’m guessing you’ve heard the words fine motor skills before…

But what are fine motor skills?

And why are fine motor skills important for little ones?

And what activities can I be doing to help my child develop these fine motor skills?

 

In true Mum’s Creative Cupboard style, this post is packed full of everything you need to know about fine motor skills and loads of examples of fine motor skills activities that you can do at home, using what you already have – and of course they are super simple to put together!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using this link. Please see my disclosure for more details

What are fine motor skills?

A scientific fine motor skills definition is this:

“fine motor skills involve movement of the smaller muscle groups in your child’s hands, fingers, and wrists.”

Healthline – Parenthood




My fine motor skills definition goes something like this:

“using our hands and fingers in loads of different ways to have fun with small stuff and stretch all those muscles!”

Mum’s Creative Cupboard

Here are some examples of fine motor skills:

  • Mark making

  • Scissor cutting

  • Construction play

  • Turning pages of books

  • Using cutlery


Any skill which involves the use of hands to manipulate or move small objects in some way could be considered a fine motor skill.

Some skills use the whole hand, such as grasping and holding objects and other skills use a combination of the fingers and thumbs, such as pinching (which uses the thumb and index finger) and the pincer grip (which uses the thumb, index and middle finger – this is what is needed for holding a pencil)


The above list of fine motor skill examples is just a handful of ways to practice – we will cover lots more ideas in just a moment!

fine motor skills activities for preschoolers and toddlers

Why are fine motor skills important?

  • Fine motor skills development is key to helping children look after themselves independently, being able to wash and dress themselves by using buttons and zips (when we are rushing out the door I have to remember to stop and give my children time to do up their own buttons and zips instead of just doing it for them which would be a whole lot quicker!)

  • Independent self-care then gives children confidence in themselves and raises their self-esteem as they are able to do tasks for themselves and without assistance – the world suddenly opens up to them 🙂

  • It is also said that children who learn fine motor skills early on will see benefits academically, and socially, as well as personally.

  • Fine motor skills are so important for everyday life as many of our daily tasks involve using and practising these skills – from brushing our teeth to eating our tea, we are constantly using our hands in ways we don’t even realise and so the earlier we develop the better equipped our children will be

  • As well as independent self-care, for children, a big part of fine motor skill activities will help them with mark making and help them as they begin to learn to write – so helping your preschooler with this will prepare them for writing their first letters and words

How can I develop my child's fine motor skills?

There are so many ways in which you can encourage your child to develop their fine motor skills through play activities, some are super simple and require little or no set up – others may require a little more depending on how creative you are feeling – but there is something for everyone so let’s get right into it!

Fine motor activities with household items

There were so many household items to use for fine motor activities and that I have divided them to make things a little easier to search through, with some very technical subheadings…

Scissors

Scissors are a key activity for fine motor skills, which also improves hand-eye co-ordination – here are some ideas for cutting activities (always supervise when using scissors and use age-appropriate scissors)

  • Paper Plate Lion’s mane – Cut lines into the edge of a paper plate to make a lion’s mane

  • Toilet Paper Roll Troll Haircut – Cut lots of strips into a piece of paper and roll up and glue into the inside of a toilet paper roll tube to make troll hair – get your child to cut the hair

  • Cutting a line – Draw lines (or see printables below) and get your child to follow along the line to cut

  • Magazine Collage – Cut out things from magazines to make a collage (eg. you could cut out cars and put them on a road, or cut out furniture and put together a room) – Using a glue stick is also another great way to practice those fine motor skills!

  • Cutting Dough – Using playdough as an object to cut is a great way to learn the skill and is lots of fun!

Posting stuff

Inserting objects into another object (or posting stuff as I like to call it!) is another great way to practice picking up small objects and positioning them to get them through small spaces – here are some different ways of practicing this skill

  • Button Slot – Posting buttons through a jar with a slit lid – you could take the lid off and put paper over the top with a slot cut out and put an elastic band around the paper to hold in place)

  • Post Box Letters – This is a super fun one if your little one is into Postman Pat! Create a small letterbox and post envelopes through it – you could even just do this through your own letterbox on the front door or postbox!

  • Pom Pom Posting – The humble pom pom makes another appearance! Try posting pom poms through tubes or through a box with different coloured holes in and match the colours up as you go

  • Money Box Deposits – Why not get your child to put some money in a piggy bank – you can use real or pretend money – this is great with coins but also try some notes to see if they can figure out how to fold them to fit

  • Posting Cards – This is a super fun one and doesn’t require any prep just a pack of snap cards or whatever you have to hand – try posting them under a door back and forth to each other (be careful of fingers with this one but it’s super fun!)

  • Planting seeds – Pushing seeds into the soil by first making a hole with a finger is a great activity for kids at home

Sticky Things

Things that are sticky, or are stuck down in some way provide a bit of friction which requires your child to use a bit more strength to pull them off – it’s also really fun to stick things onto surfaces too!

  • Plasters on Teddies – We do this when we play pretend doctors or vets with our teddies (check out that post here) – sticky plasters require quite a bit of skill to peel and then stick, older kids could have a go at this themselves, younger children might need help with the peeling

  • Masking Tape Peeling –  Masking tape is great for creative play (making roads on the carpet is fun!) but peeling it up is also a great way to play – you could even try some masking tape art by placing some tape on a sheet of card in any pattern and then painting over it – when dry peel away the tape to reveal a beautiful piece of art!

  • Craft Stickers – Stickers of any kind are great fun for decorating pictures and also for handling something quite delicate

  • Sticky back plastic – Create a frame of some sort (cardboard would work fine) and put sticky back plastic behind it – then present your child with a range of small objects to stick on the plastic (petals and leaves work really well for this especially if you do it on a window with the light shining through the clear plastic)

  • Velcro games – I absolutely love velcro, someone once gave me a roll of velcro tape that they didn’t need and I used it for SO many things – a fun way to play is to put velcro dots on the end of lollypop sticks (popsicle sticks) and then invite your child to stick and re-stick them together in lots of different combinations. There are also fun matching games to play with velcro (check out the printables down below)

Threading Activities

Inserting objects into another object (or posting stuff as I like to call it!) is another great way to practice picking up small objects and positioning them to get them through small spaces – here are some different ways of practicing this skill

  • Cheerios on Spaghetti – This is a classic threading game and is so great for fine motor skills with a bit of precision required – stick your spaghetti in some playdough or something similar and then give your child a bowl of hooped cereal and see how many they can get onto the spaghetti

  • Pasta Necklaces –  Thread pasta onto string or wool – if making actual necklaces to wear then I would recommend either using a children’s jewellery kit or a safety lanyard – do not tie string or wool on your child)

  • Pipe Cleaners and a Collander – Pipe cleaners have endless uses but I love this one – threading pipe cleaners through the holes is a great skill to learn

  • Weaving Ribbon – Weaving ribbons through cot bars or a stair gate is lots of fun for little ones

Hand-Held Utensils for Fine Motor Skills

There are so many objects found in the kitchen that can be used to help little ones practise strengthening those hand and wrist muscles – and so here is a list of ideas for what to use and how

  • Small wooden tongs or tweezers – These are great for learning to squeeze and grasp to pick up other objects – why not try using small tongs for picking up pom-poms and putting them into an egg carton – you could make this a colour sorting task very easily by adding coloured spots to the bottom of the egg box

  • Large Plastic Tongs –  For bigger tongs, you could try picking up a ball and moving it from one place to another, or having pretend fried eggs that you want to flip over

  • Clothes Pegs – Another humble object which has so many play opportunities. Squeezing a peg is quite challenging but a great skill to practice by pegging things on a washing line – you could either lower your outdoor washing line to your child’s height or try pegging socks on a mini indoor one – for older children pairing the socks is a great task to learn also!! You can also use pegs to pick small soft objects up or just to peg on a basket

  • Medicine Syringe Play – Don’t throw away those syringes you get in children’s medicine boxes because they make for great water play toys! learning to fill the syringe and then push the liquid out is great for little hands – you could use a muffin tray and move water from one section to another – or use a clear ice tray and try mixing coloured waters together

  • Sieving fish out of water – A sieve requires some control to be able to use effectively so this little fishing game is fab for that – this is a great game for the bath, use the sieve to retrieve bath toys and put them into a box

  • Fish Slice Balance – This is a slightly trickier activity as it requires your child to scoop up the object but also keep the fish slice flat so it does not fall off – you could try picking up some carboard cut out fish or some small lightweight books

  • Slotted Spoon Transfer – This is a fun one to use with water beads (be extra vigilant with water beads and if possible use baby safe ones with little ones)

  • Pouring Station – Jugs, plastic Teapots, jars, funnels, and cups, all make for a great pouring station – just have some water and a selection of toys to choose from and let your little one have fun pouring away! To make this even more fun you could set up a little cafe or teddy bears picnic so you’ve got someone to make the drinks for!

  • Whisking Bubbles up – Who doesn’t love bubbles?! Whisking up a bubble foam mixture is great for building up strength in those little hands – just add some soap and a small bit of water to a bowl and let them whisk away!

Mark Making Activities

Mark making is a huge part of mastering fine motor skills and is a fun way to create with your little ones – here are some ideas of how you could have a go at mark making together

  • Scribbles on Paper – making marks on paper is just the start and will develop over time – it’s a great way for children to express themselves and practice gripping crayons and other objects to draw with

  • Finger Painting –  Using fingers to paint is another great way to get those muscles working and is also a great sensory activity

  • Painting with Objects – You could use a paintbrush, a potato or a leaf to experiment painting with – using lots of different objects which are all different to handle and grasp

  • Salt tray Drawing – This is a favourite in our house now and I love it because it is so simple to set up and clear up! Just fill a baking tray with salt (use a deeper one if you don’t want salt everywhere!) and encourage your child to draw in the salt with their finger (this can be done with flour, seeds, or rice too)

  • Foil Drawings – Wrap some foil around a piece of craft foam or cardboard and use a the end of a spoon or cake decorating tools if you have them to make marks in the foil – this is a great one for working out how much pressure needs to be applied to make a deep or shallow mark

  • Chalk activities – Chalk is a  great mark making activity, especially if you can go outside and let your child draw freely anywhere

  • Drawing in the sand – If you have a sandpit (or are lucky enough to live close to the beach!) then mark-making in the sand is super fun – just use a stick or shell or whether you can find

  • Tracing lines – This is a great fine motor skill for preschoolers who are beginning to hold a pencil and you want to take that a little further – present that with a sheet with lines or drawings to trace or follow (see printables below)

  • Filling in the Dots – Using a dot marker to fill in circle dots is a great way to get some hand-eye coordination in too (check out this post for a rainbow printable that works well with dot markers or stickers)

  • Cotton bud Painting – Painting with a cotton bud (q-tip) requires some precision and is great for practising holding very thin objects which require a little more grip

Busy Board & Household Items

So much of what we have in our homes can be used as part of a busy board (a board with lots of latches and flaps and things for little ones to play with) or are just a great object to use for encouraging the use of those fine motor skills – so let’s have a look at what we can use

  • Door Handles – Pulling down a door handle or turning a doorknob is quite a tricky thing to do and is a great skill to learn (although once learnt you’ll need eyes in the back of your head!!)

  • Zips –  Doing up a zip takes a while to learn, but with patience, it will come – you could either just have a go at zipping up coats and jackets – or glue the ends of a zip onto a busy board for practising the zipping motion

  • Buttons – I mentioned buttons earlier for posting but they are also great on a busy board as something to wrap around – use wool or string and wrap around the buttons

  • Knuts & Bolts – Twisting knuts onto bolts is another great way to use the hands for something intricate (always supervise whilst playing with very small objects)

  • Unscrewing Lids – It’s an everyday task for adults, but letting your little ones have a go at opening jars and milk bottle tops and anything else you can think of is a great fine motor skills activity at home

  • Velcro items – A great item for your busy board would be some velcro items that you could peel off the board – this could be themed with colours, foods, numbers – whatever you like

Fine Motor Skill Activities for Babies and Young Toddlers

These fine motor skills activities are aimed specifically and younger toddlers with little fingers and hands in mind

  • Button Pushing – Babies love to play with remote controls and anything that has a button, so why not round up some old remotes, calculators, keyboards or those little card machines you get for online banking and put them in a basket for your little one to play with

  • Pom Pom Whisk – Filling a whisk with pom poms is a great invitation for your little one to have a go at manoeuvring them out with their little fingers 

  • Tissue Box Play –  Take an empty tissue box and stuff it with your baby’s favourite mini soft toys or scraps of fabric and have them pull them out of the box and also stuff them back in

  • Ribbon Grabbing – Hanging ribbons for babies to grab is great for hand-eye coordination
     
  • Bubbles – Bubbles are great for getting babies to clap their hands as they try to ‘catch’ the bubbles – toddlers could have a go at pinching them too

  • Lift the flaps – You can create flaps using pieces of card – you could have picture or photos underneath or some touchy-feely things that your baby will love

  • ‘Guitar’ Play – Put elastic bands over a deep baking tray and let your little one have fun plucking the ‘strings’ 🙂

  • DIY Toy Rescue – This is a super fun game for little ones – either use the above tray and add some extra elastic bands going the other way and put some small toys in the trar for your little one to pick out (you could challenge older children to use tongs or pegs for this) – This also works well with a washing basket and wool with some cuddly toys to ‘rescue’ 

Older Toddlers and Preschool Fine Motor Activities

These are a little more tricky to do and so are more suited for preschool-age children but most can be adapted to any age with a few tweaks 🙂

  • Hole Punching – Using a hole punch is quite a difficult skill to learn – applying pressure to punch a hole is a great way to gain strength in little hands

  • Elastic Band Stretching – This is such an easy game to play – try getting your toddler or preschooler to wrap elastic bands around different objects ranging from big to small

  • Jigsaw Puzzles –  Jigsaw puzzles require good hand control to be able to fix the pieces together – this makes it a brilliant activity for little ones

  • Water Pistols – As well as learning how to pull the trigger and strengthen those muscles – it’s also a LOT of fun

  • Paper Clip Chains – This is a tricky one but see if your child can make a chain (show them how first) or try sliding the paperclips on to the edge of a piece of paper in a row – you could make patterns with them if you have different colours

  • Golf Tee Balance – Push some golf tees into some play dough and then see if you can balance a marble on top of the golf tee (always be vigilant when using small objects like marbles)

  • Fridge Magnets – Using magnets on the fridge is a great fine motor skills activity for preschoolers at home, and it’s a great way to keep on learning those numbers and letters you are practising

  • Pipe Cleaner Caterpillars – These are so much fun to make, but also great for the hands – twist a pipe cleaner around a pencil and slide off (and of course you need googly eyes!)

  • Bubble Wrap Play – They say that popping bubble wrap is a great stress reliever – it’s also great for toddlers too – have fun squeezing those bubbles!

  • Pestle & Mortar – Using a pestle and mortar requires some strength and is a great activity for little ones – why not try doing this with cereals – Weetabix are great for this!

  • Trying on Shoes – As we mentioned right at the beginning of this post, when children learn some key fine motor skills, they become more independent – especially in dressing themselves. One of the big things children have to learn is how to put shoes on – so why not turn this into a game? Check out this post where we made a Pretend Play Shoe Shop!

Dough Activities

Playing with pliable matter is a huge part of mastering fine motor skills and is a fun way to create with your little ones – you can have fun using play dough, salt dough, cloud dough and my personal favourite – cookie dough! Check out this post 77 Creative Playdough Ideas to Spark the Imagination for lots of ideas for how to develop those fine motor skills!

The Best Fine Motor Skill Toys

As well as all these awesome DIY ways to practice using our child’s hands there are also some great products out there to help us too!

There are so many toys out there that help with developing those fine motor skills for kids. These are just a few which I think are great and you might want to try for yourselves!

Oball Flex & Stack – Amazon





Melissa & Doug Pull-Back Vehicles


Pull-back toys bring back so many memories of childhood for me – growing up we had a set of emergency vehicles which I played with constantly! These Melissa and Doug soft toy versions are super cute and soft for babies and young toddlers 





Children’s Dominoes





Peg Board Set

Our son fell in love with a pegboard similar to this one when he was in nursery and so we got him one of his own, he loved it – it is a great toy not just for fine motor skills development but also for imaginative play – we often made car garages and tree-houses with our pegs!





Magnetic Tile Set


We only recently discovered magnetic tiles and I wish we’d found them sooner! We got this set on Amazon and we love it so much we’re contemplating getting a second set so we can expand our builds!

There are lots of other toys out there designed with fine motor skill activities in mind, but these are some of my favourite and I hope you enjoy them too!

Fine motor skill printables

Now that you’re armed with a whole host of activities to try with your little ones, I want to give you a little extra in these fun and easy to use printables. This free pack comes with 4 different activities that you can try alongside some of the household items we’ve covered in this post – they’re sup easy, and super fun, so why not give them a go!

Fine Motor Skills Printable Pack

To help you on your way I have this fun free mini printables pack that your little ones will love!

There’s THREADING, COTTON BUD PAINTING, FINGER PUPPETS & VELCRO NUMBERS

To get yours just sign up below and download 🙂

To Wrap It All Up

Well that was a whirlwind tour of fine motor skills so here’s a recap:


What are fine motor skills?
Learning how to use those small muscles in our hands and wrists effectively

Why are fine motor skills important?
They enable independent self care, which in turn raises a child’s self esteem. They also prepare children for school and future writing skills


How can I develop my child’s fine motor skills?
There are so many ways to help your child develop the necessary skills by using every day objects you can find around the home, toys that are specifically designed for this purpose, and with the help of some fun printable activity sheets


So there you have it – be sure to download you free printable pack and I hope you have lots of fun as you play and encourage your little one to flex those little muscles!

Louisa | Mum’s Creative Cupboard