There are lots of easy, simple, and free fine motor skills activities
you can do at home, but sometimes you want something that’s already ready already. Am I right??? So here are some of our favorite commercially available toys and games for fine motor practice
The following toys and games are ones we have purchased and use a lot in our own home either now or in the past. Luke is currently 3 years, 10 months and Lilah is 2 years, 4 months.
Update: Luke is now 9-1/2 years old, Lilah is 8, and I have two new littles who are 2 and 1. I am adding notes to the toys and games for fine motor practice–especially ones we’re still using –and updating the product links and photos for your convenience.
– This game has kids using tweezers to pick up wet marbles to place on a tissue, aka the ice. You don’t want to be holding the tweezers when the marbles finally break through the “thin ice!” No reading required to play.
Pop-Up Pirate Game
– Children take turns pushing the colorful swords into the slots on the barrel. You’re out if the pirate pops up on your turn! No reading required. We kept this game in a basket the kids could get out to play with on their own. They enjoyed playing this game independently as much as they did with a partner. It’s kind of a modern version of a jack-in-the-box.
Lace and Trace cards
– Weave the shoelaces in and out through the holes on the cards. There are different themed sets to choose from, so pick whatever interests your child. My children never loved this activity, but they would do it on occasion.
Beginner Pattern Blocks
– These were always a favorite! The puzzle boards are two-sided and the pieces are triangles, ovals, circles, rectangles, and squares. It’s a nice wooden set in a nice storage case. We got it used originally and it’s now on kids 3 and 4 from our own family. Definitely recommended.
Magnetic Bug Catching Game
– This is a wooden puzzle game with 10 bugs, and a net that has a magnet dangling from it. Each bug puzzle piece has a magnet built into it, so kids can practice moving the net around to catch the bugs. This puzzle is now on kids #3 and #4.
Wooden Bear Family Dress-Up Puzzle
– Wooden puzzle in a wooden storage box. Dress the bear family in mix-and-match clothing. My oldest daughter especially loved this set when she was young.
– There are lots of different themed stamp sets from which to choose. We enjoyed the Melissa & Doug sets the most because they come with a storage box and their own ink pads. Also, since the sets were themed, the kids would use them to create elaborate art scenes on large sheets of paper as they got older.
– This was a fun yard sale find for us! We used it during “school time” to work on math concepts like biggest to smallest and sorting by shapes if we mixed all the parts together at once, but putting the individual pieces onto the rods definitely requires LOTS of fine motor practice!! If your child becomes easily frustrated, be sure to start by only doing one tower at a time!!
Stack and Sort Board
– Here’s another stacker we used a lot. We used this one during “school time” for sorting by color and shape, and for counting practice. This is a simpler stacker than the one pictured above.
– These are always one of the first things I start working on with my toddlers, and there are so many puzzles to choose from. I love the chunky pieces because they are great for little hands to grasp, and yet they fit very nicely into the puzzles when you get them placed correctly. They can also use them for play since the pieces will stand up on their own.
Wooden Cutting Fruit Crate
– All of my children have LOVED play kitchens and play food. This set is so fun because it does actually seem like you are cutting the food. We have the pictured set as well as this cutting food
– After my kids have mastered chunky puzzles, we move on to peg puzzles which require a little more advanced fine motor skills. These puzzles have a little wooden stem, or peg, on each puzzle piece which makes it easy to manipulate them. Again, we own a ton of these. We have the 3 pictured below, as well as shapes
, fish colors
, and zoo animals
(with sound). We store these in our puzzle storage rack
On a whim, I picked up some cheaper peg puzzles once. The quality was terrible — the pieces wouldn’t sit in the puzzle flat, the plastic pegs were loose and would spin around, and there was no (or low quality) printing on the puzzle board underneath the puzzle pieces. I highly recommend going with the Melissa & Doug puzzles. We used all our M&D puzzles heavily with our first two children, sent them to my sister who used them with her two boys, and now we have them back again, and are using them with our 2 youngest children. They all still look brand new.
Tall Stacker Pegs and Pegboard Set
– This is a smaller version of the next set I have listed. It’s a high quality foam board with thick plastic pegs that press into the holes on the foam board. The pegs can also stack on each other.
Tall Stacker Pegs Building Set
– This is a larger version of the set listed above, and the version we own. I have to say I nearly did not buy this set because I questioned it’s long term use. That was unfounded worry, because we have used it a lot! My oldest two will even still play with it sometimes.
My youngest son likes to build what we call “trees” which are stacks of pegs with the smaller foam boards interspersed amongst them like in the photo below, and then let his toy dinosaurs walk around munching on the trees.
Lego Building Kits
– This Disney Cars Lightning McQueen was the first Lego kit my oldest child ever built. He was between 3.5 and 4 years old when he built it. At the time, I was hesitant to buy any Lego kits because I didn’t see the real point of them, but boy am I glad I did. This was the just the start of his journey into Lego and there have been a multitude of sets since this one. I cannot tell you enough how amazing these kits are for fine motor skills, sorting and organizing parts, learning to follow step by step instructions, seeing firsthand how parts make up a whole, learning about design, building confidence, and rewarding hard work and dedication to a task. His favorite sets now that he’s older tend to be Star Wars, and my oldest daughter enjoys all the Lego Friends sets
Ants in the Pants
– This is a game our whole family will gather around a table to play, and it’s usually a laugh-filled time. The game is quick to set up and playing it only takes a few minutes, though you will want to spend some time practicing first. The gist is you use your finger to press down on a tab on the back of the plastic ants and then when you slide your finger off, the ant pops up into the air. The idea is to get all the ants of your color into the dog’s pants before anyone else can.
Notice that with a lot of these toys and games you can work on learning about colors, shapes, patterns, or counting while also getting in lots of great fine motor practice! These toys and games are great for doing preschool at home, but would work well for classroom use also. The general age range is toddler through kindergarten, though some have play potential even beyond.
Originally published Jan 6, 2012