Looking for fine motor skills activities at home for your child? Check out this list of fun ideas, using household items for everyday play!
Your toddler’s fine motor skills are making you feeling anxious.
He still can’t hold a crayon using the pincer grasp, much less copy a line or a circle. He doesn’t use scissors, tongs, or tweezers, and isn’t interested in using playdough tools. You’re getting discouraged, worried he won’t even be able to write his own name.
It doesn’t help when his preschool teacher or pediatrician have raised the alarm that his fine motor development and handwriting could improve.
Fine motor skills activities at home
Any time my kids hit a delay in milestones, I felt compelled to find activities to do at home. Part of it was to ease my anxiety, but I also knew that practicing these skills was the way to help them finally reach those goals.
At the same time, I didn’t want to pressure them or make them feel like they fell short. So, I wanted to focus on activities that were fun—so much that they’d never know I was focusing on their fine motor skills.
Take a look at some of our favorite fine motor skills activities at home, followed by tips and best practices to make them effective:
1. Offer finger food snacks
Do you spoon-feed your toddler’s food? Encourage self-sufficiency and fine motor skills by offering finger food he can pick up with his hands. If this is new for him, start with bigger or chunkier pieces, working your way to smaller ones. A few ideas include:
- Torn pieces of bread
- Diced carrots
- Sectioned oranges
- Quartered grapes
- Puff snacks
- Shredded meat
- Diced pancakes
- Cut up chewy granola bars
Free printables: Help your child trace and recognize the letters and numbers with these sample worksheets from my digital workbook, Letters and Numbers! Join my newsletter and grab them below—at no cost to you:
2. Play with a water squirter
Strengthen your child’s little muscles by playing with a water squirter! Fill these toys with water and let him squirt to his delight.
3. Pop bubble wrap
If you receive bubble wrap in your packages, show your toddler how to pop them with his hands. Experiment with both big and small bubble wrap, giving him a chance to squeeze each one until they pop. This is also a fantastic way to give single-use plastic a second life!
4. Play with putty, slime, or play dough
Introduce your toddler to different textures to play with. Putty, slime, and play dough make for different textures good for exploring with his hands. Let him stretch, pinch, and roll these textures. Don’t worry about trying to “create” a sculpture so much as focusing on strengthening his small muscles.
5. Snap building blocks together
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links, which means I will earn a commission—at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase.
Whether snapping blocks or magnetic tiles, encourage your child to build and tinker with connecting blocks. If using Lego, start with jumbo ones if you feel like the standard ones are too small.
6. Paint and color
Use a variety of art supplies to paint and color all sorts of textures. Finger paint, paint brushes, crayons, color pencils, markers, and chalk are some examples of mediums to use. Cardboard, large sheets of paper, paper bags, and old junk mail can be used to apply color on.
7. Tear and glue
Combine two activities that promote fine motor skills! First, have your child tear old pieces of paper, from construction paper, packaging material, junk mail, old gift wrap, paper bags, and newspapers. Once he’s torn them into big pieces, encourage him to tear them even more into tinier bits.
Then, glue them onto another surface like card stock or old cardboard. Use a glue stick he can grip with his hands, or pour liquid glue onto a plate that he can “dip” the torn pieces onto. Either method helps with his fine motor skills.
And lastly, encourage him to place these bits onto the large surface for a fun collage! Tip: Another option is to decorate the poster with stickers, another way to practice fine motor skills.
8. Play games with tweezers
Encourage the pincer grab by playing with tweezers! Give your child large tweezers, and practice picking up items from one bowl and placing it into another one. Start with large and soft items like pom poms or cotton balls, working your way to heavier or smoother items like beads and rocks.
You can also look for several toys that use tweezers as part of the game. Here are a few examples:
9. Sew and thread
Have your child practice sewing and threading string! A simple one to create from home is threading a shoestring, ribbon, or yarn through large dried pasta (like rigatoni or penne).
One item my kids liked was this lacing toy. They laced the string all over the place, and that’s okay—the idea is to practice using their hands for small projects.
10. Play with puzzles
Get a couple of puzzles your little one can play with! Simple wooden ones are perfect to start with. You can also get ones specifically for fine motor skills, like this Montessori board:
My kids also loved this board filled with doors and locks to open and close:
11. Use an eyedropper
One of the activities my kids did every morning at preschool was fine motor play with eye droppers. Show your child how to suck liquid from one bowl of water into another empty one. Or fill a few bowls with water and add food coloring to each one, turning it into a fun color-mixing game.
12. Cut with scissors
Cutting with scissors—especially along lines and to make shapes—isn’t expected until kindergarten. Still, now is a good time to practice holding and cutting with child-friendly scissors, without hard expectations.
An easy way to start is by cutting play dough. The scissors don’t have to be sharp, and the cuts are easy to make. Use different materials to cut, like old paper, newspaper, empty cereal or cracker boxes, or old birthday and holiday cards.
Even making a little snip along the edge is a good start!
13. Use a hole puncher
Let your child use a hole puncher! He can make “confetti” to use in a future craft, or simply punch holes along the sides of a paper. This is a great way to strengthen his hand muscles since he’ll need to clench his hand to make anything happen.
14. Stretch rubber bands
Make a game of seeing how far he can stretch a rubber band with his thumb and index finger. Use different sizes and thickness of rubber bands (and even different colors) to “test” which ones can stretch the most.
Best practices for fine motor skills activities at home
Now that you have ideas on what to try at home, what are a few best practices to make them effective?
1. Don’t do everything for your child
Think about your day and what you do for him. Then, see where you can step back a little and have him do on his own.
For instance, can he open snack bags on his own (even if you get it started for him)? Are there meals you can dice so he can pick them up on his own? Can he snap a few buttons himself?
By allowing him to do more, you’re exposing him to more opportunities to practice his fine motor skills.
2. Don’t over-correct
It’s tempting to stop your child midway to correct his hand grip or the way he’s holding a pair of tweezers. As much as possible, limit your corrections to those that matter most (for instance, he has to hold the scissors a certain way for it to actually cut).
When you do, say it casually: “I hold my pencil like this,” or “It might be easier if you hold it like this.” That way, it feels like a simple observation rather than an attack.
And lastly, should he go back to doing it the wrong way—even after you’ve corrected him—let it go. It can feel discouraging to hear critique after critique, even if you have his best interest in mind. He might not want to do the fine motor activity after a while.
Instead, correct him once and let him enjoy the activity from then on.
3. Model the activities
Rather than teaching him how to manipulate these items and activities, play right alongside him. You might cut paper yourself, or roll a ball of play dough. And do so while having fun, not to show him how you do it.
By simply watching you, he could pick up the very same behaviors.
4. Get an evaluation done at school
Many parents have found luck by seeking help from school and signing up for occupational therapy. This can be especially useful if your child refuses to do activities with you at home, but could be more willing to do so with others.
And of course, you’ll ease your worries and make sure he’s on track with his fine motor skills.
Get more tips:
- Fine Motor Skills Activities for 5-6 Year Olds
- No-Fuss Montessori Fine Motor Activities
- How to Encourage Fine Motor Skills for 6 Year Olds
- Unique Preschool Toys Your Child Will Love
- Top Educational Activities for 3 Year Olds
Don’t forget: Join my newsletter and grab these sample worksheets below—at no cost to you: