Fine Motor Practice Suggestions

I think having your child practice their motor skills is one of the best things you can do for them.  In fact, I featured motor skills as #5 on my list of The Top 5 Most Important Things to Do with Your Toddler/Preschooler.

See my #5 post for some of the ways we personally have given L&L opportunities to practice their motor skills.  This is a follow-up post listing even more ways we practice fine motor skills. 

fine motor skills

Here are some fine motor practice suggestions: 
(some of these involve items which could be choking hazards or otherwise dangerous if left unsupervised, so please use your discretion)

  • Let your child practice feeding him/herself with a spoon and/or fork from about 12 months of age
    • Even if they’re just holding the utensil, it’s beneficial!
  • Kumon First Steps Workbooks
    • In general, I’m not a workbook fan, but these are awesome!  Suggested for ages 2 and up, but unless your child has fantastic motor skills, I personally find them most beneficial starting at around 2-1/2 years old.
  • Practice coloring/scribbling
    • Give your child coloring books, plain paper, or even junk mail along with crayons, markers, colored pencils, pens, or pencils.
    • If he/she has trouble with gripping, try the jumbo crayons or the newer triangular ones.  Also practice lots of other fine motor activities because they will help to strengthen the hand muscles and aid grip. 🙂
  • Putting toothpicks into the holes of a cheese shaker or toothpick container
    • Both L&L LOVED this and would sit and do it for a really long time.
Lilah doing this activity when she was 21 months old.
And more recently at 26 months.  More hair, but still no clothes! *sigh*
  • Putting pipe cleaners into the holes on a colander/strainer turned upside down
  • Pushing toothpicks or wooden skewers into Styrofoam
  • Opening and closing jars and containers
    • Probably Lilah’s favorite “toy” in our house is a box of random jars and containers with lids I washed and saved for her (spice jars, small candles with lids, soda bottles, water bottles, sauce jars, etc.).  She will get them out, practice opening them all, and practice matching the lids back up and putting them back on.  She does it pretty much every day.
    • If your child has a “kitchen” set, you could save various “real” jars and containers for them to use for play.
Lilah’s box of containers to practice opening and closing
  • Putting coins into a bank
    • This makes a neat “clink” sound, so kids typically enjoy it.
  • Using tongs or tweezers to move items from one place to another
    • Start with easier items like cotton balls or pom poms.
    • For a more advanced kid, use smaller or more slippery items like dried beans, beads, marbles, or a mix of different items of varying sizes and textures.
Here’s a recent activity we did with tweezers, star beads, and a plastic palette.  The kids had to put one bead into each indention on the palette using the tweezers.
  • Play with a marble run 
    • Kids must pick up marbles from the bottom and move them to the top.  Try to get them to do it one-by-one using their thumb and pointer finger to grasp each marble.
    • We think Frigits are fun!
  • Using chopsticks
    • You can use them for a practice activity (see the tweezers and tong activities above for ideas) or for actually eating.
    • We bought these for the kids to use: Fred Party People Chopsticks
    • You can also loosely tape regular chopsticks at the top for easier kid use or some Asian restaurants give out little plastic connectors.
Fred Party People Chopsticks
  • Pouring dry beans/rice or water from one container to another.
    • I suggest doing this activity on a tray.  Teach the child to immediately pick up any spilled beans/rice and put them back into the containers.  Have some rags nearby for wiping up any water spills.
    • This was my initial setup.  Luke was always very accurate and careful.  That’s just his personality.  Lilah is a little more carefree so we used a bigger tray with deeper sides. 😉
  • Spooning objects from one bowl to another
    • I suggest doing this activity on a tray.  Teach the child to immediately pick up any spilled materials and put them back into the containers.
  • Sorting objects like buttons, marbles, or beads by color or shape into various containers or compartments using their thumb and pointer finger to pick up the objects
    • Target or Dollar Tree often have the sectioned veggie trays for $1 which are great for these activities
    • You can also do these sorting activities using tongs, tweezers, or chopsticks to move the objects
Fred Party People Chopsticks, divided tray from Target $1 section, and marbles
  • Peeling stickers off and sticking them onto paper
    • L&L will do this activity for a LONG time!  
    • You can often get packs of themed stickers for $1/pack at places like Michael’s and A. C. Moore.
    • You will have to teach your child how to gently bend the paper to get one edge of the sticker to lift off and how to very gently pull the sticker off the page without ripping it.  Try to find stickers that lift off the paper well; some sticker packs can be very frustrating because they don’t peel easily!!!
  • Stirring
    • Let your child help you stir things while cooking.
    • Add spoons and whisks to their water table play or occasionally to the bathtub.  It’d be fun to add bubbles and let them stir up a storm! 🙂
  • Any of these commercially available toys or games
Stay tuned for more posts about fine and gross motor skills…coming soon! 🙂

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Genny Upton

A former teacher turned stay at home mom to two preschool aged children. Creator (and writer) at In Lieu of Preschool and Parent Teach Play. Currently publishing my first children's picture book!

  • Mama Mandy says:

    Great ideas! I do many of these things already, but have never heard of frigits…too cool!

  • Frigits are pretty neat! We have them on our freezer in the garage b/c our refrigerator isn’t magnetic. The kids love rearranging the pieces and testing out their creation to see if it works!

  • chelle says:

    I have tried a few of these with my lil guy and now have more to try. So far with him I’m finding he is only interested once..after he has figured it out I rarely can get him to do it again so I’m diff in need of more ways to work those skills. Lots of great ideas here, Thank you.

  • Chelle, how old is your little one? My son only repeats activities he really likes, so I know what you mean. Maybe you can get a few materials that can be used in a bunch of different ways — like toothpicks into a toothpick container, and then toothpicks into a cheese shaker, and then pipe cleaners into a cheese shaker, and then pipe cleaners into a colander, and so on. Or doing something like using tweezers to move materials into an egg container — but vary the materials. One day use cotton balls, one day pom poms, one day beads, another buttons or marbles.

    Also, you might try going through a rotation and then coming back to some repeats after time has passed. That tends to work for my guy…something familiar that he hasn’t seen in awhile usually peeks his interest! Good luck and have fun! 🙂

  • Thank you so much for this post, You described so much of how I felt as a kid, taken from one country to another,
    Coloring Pages

  • Unknown says:

    Where do you get the big red tweezer ? I would love to do that activity with my little ones

  • Genny Upton says:

    If you have a learning/teacher store nearby, they often will sell them one-by-one. If not, you can buy them on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Learning-Resources-Easy-Tweezers-LER1963/dp/B00361NV88/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335284438&sr=8-1 They were on sale for $5-6 for the tub pretty recently. I’m not sure how often that happens or if it will happen again. Alternatively, you can use kitchen tongs or chopsticks that are connected or made for kids. 🙂

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