If there’s one thing you hear a lot, it’s that using activities for fine motor skills is important. You know you should be helping your children strengthen their little hands using activities for fine motor skills.
But how exactly do we improve the fine motor skills of preschoolers?
I LOVE creating fine motor skills activities for toddlers and preschoolers alike. You’ll learn what a fine motor skills activity is, why they’re critical for development, and 50+ ways to develop fine motor skills.
RELATED: Looking for easy activities at home? Our activity cards will help simplify things!
What Are Fine Motor Skills Activities and How Do They Help Your Kids?
Fine motor skills activities use movement to develop the small hand muscles in children. It’s essential to use activities for fine motor skills in early learners to prepare their hands for fiddly things. For example, writing, zipping, shoe tying, and so much more.
RELATED: Sensory play is just as important as fine motor skills activities. See how to get started with sensory play here.
How Do You Teach Toddlers to Write Using Fine Motor Skills Activities?
I’m going to let you in on a secret – how to teach toddlers to write (spoiler alert! you don’t, you do these things instead).
Before little ones start writing, they need to practice fine motor skill activities for toddlers:
- Making lines and curves
You do these fine motor skills activities to help strengthen muscles before writing a letter or number.
Having strong hands helps ease the pressure of correctly forming a letter and allows the child time to gain the confidence they need.
After years of activities for fine motor skills, early learners will hit the ground running from the preparation you gave them.
If you take one thing away, I want you to remember that fine motor skills best develop through play rather than pencil and paper. Three, four, and five-year-olds (and myself) are urging us to slow down and allow motor skills to be developed through play rather than pencil and paper.
RELATED: Do you have a two-year-old? These 40+ activities are fantastic!
My Top 50 Activities for Fine Motor Skills Activities
Scissor Practice for Fine Motor Skills
I know it can be frightening to hand scissors to a preschooler. Yet, the more a preschooler has access and practices with scissors, the less nerve-racking it becomes. Over time, children learn how to hold their hand and position the wrist to cut a straight line. And good news! We don’t have to get there overnight.
I also have a trick that will help with hand placement. This is a classic strategy that many educators use with young children.
How to Help Children Hold Scissors
Draw a smiley face on the thumbnail. This will encourage your child to keep the thumb up and visible as he cuts. Proper hand placement doesn’t happen overnight.
Try these activities listed below to begin to allow grip to develop with practice and time.
- 25+ Cutting Activities for Preschoolers – check out over 25 fine motor skills activities using scissors to help your child’s development.
- Tape Rescue – trap some toys in a cupcake tin using tape and ask your child to free them using scissors!
- Spaghetti Cut – I love using spaghetti for fine motor skills activities. Dump some cooked spaghetti in a sensory bin and watch them chop it up with scissors. So simple!
- Cut the Lines – mark out curves and lines using colored markers on pieces of paper and invite your little one to cut along the marks.
Pencil Grip Fine Motor Skills Activities
Pencil grip is another fine motor skill that needs a little prep work.
Before we ask our children to write numbers and letters, we must first strengthen the small hand muscles. We can do this by adding these fine motor activities into our daily routine.
We can improve pencil grip with risk-free invitations to write lines and curves through activities such as these:
- Sticker Match – place stickers on one side of a piece of paper, then place matching stickers randomly on the other. Watch your child use a marker to draw across the paper and match up the stickers!
- Color by Number – draw a scary monster or animal on a piece of paper (it doesn’t have to be good, trust me!). Then split it into sections and put a number in each area. Write a code down the side of the paper using colors and numbers (e.g., 1 = orange). Your child will look at the number in each section and use the correct marker to color it in.
- Fall Leaf Painting – this is great for seasonal fine motor skills activities. Draw some leaves on craft paper and watch your little one paint them.
- Monster Dot Marker Maze – this is a great breakfast activity because it’s so simple. Draw little monster faces randomly on a piece of paper using different color makers. Ask your child to draw lines with the same color pen that matches your monster faces!
- Treasure Map Color Hunt – fine motor skills activities can be as inventive as you want. Dash a path of random curves and lines on a large piece of paper using a marker. Add pirate drawings to make it fun and some colorful stickers to help your toddler follow the path to the treasure!
- Mystery Shape Build – this is an incredible one for learning math skills. Lightly draw out shapes using a pencil and stick colored dots on the edges (make sure you space them out). Then invite your child to follow the pencil lines to each dot.
- Things I Like – these types of fine motor skills activities spark such great conversation at breakfast. Gather your random leftover stickers and put them on a large piece of paper. Ask them to cross out the ones they don’t like and draw around the ones they do.
- Find Your Name – who doesn’t like finding their name?! Write out random names using colored markers and see if your child can circle their name.
- Apple Connect – if you’re after a fall activity, this is it. Draw apples spaced out on paper and watch your child connect them. These simple ideas make great fine motor skills activities for toddlers.
- Highlighter Trace – a fine motor skill activity for all ages. Draw out an image using a sharpie, then get your little ones to trace over it using highlighters. Sip your coffee while they enjoy some morning fun!
- Paint the Sticks – Pour some paint into a paint palette and give your child different-sized brushes so they can paint the stick. You can join in too! It’s a bit of a messy one that provides hours of fun.
- Alphabet Dot to Dot – if you want to boost your child’s literacy skills, this is the one for you. Create the outline of letters and see if your child can join the dots to write out the letter.
Squeezing Fine Motor Skills Activities
Squeezing can build up small hand muscles for writing as well! These easy activities will invite your child to play and practice squeezing.
- Shape Dig – using playdough is excellent for fine motor skills activities. Bury some building blocks in playdough, then ask your little one to use squeezy plastic tongs to dig them out. They can pick them up using the squeezer and place them in a tray once they’ve unburied the block!
- Poke the Alphabet – another great one for literacy. It’s the same as shape dig but using letters instead.
- Bear Boat Rescue – put some plastic bear toys on a sheet of blue paper and get your child to rescue them using squeezy plastic tongs.
- Crack and Sort – I adore using Easter eggs for fine motor skills activities. Scribble down some colored squares on paper, then hide colored pompoms inside plastic Easter eggs. Watch as they open them and match the pompom to the marker color. You can sit back and enjoy some easter chocolate while you watch!
- Egg Drop – Grab a cupboard box and cut a hole in it. Place a bowl of plastic eggs nearby and get your toddler to pick an egg up and drop it into the hole with squeezy kitchen tongs.
- Wash the Socks – the same as the Easter activity, just with socks! Draw a washing machine on a box (the door and some fake buttons will do), then cut a slot in the top. Ask your little one to pick up socks using tongs and drop them in.
- “Ketchup and Mustard” Color Mix Up – Paint is always a win for fine motor skills activities. Fill one squeezy bottle with yellow paint and another with red. See if your child can squirt the paint into a sensory bin and mix the colors!
- Crack a Name – can you tell I love Easter? Write random names on pieces of paper and fold them up inside plastic Easter eggs. Write the same names on a separate piece of paper so the kids can crack the eggs and match the names.
- Rethink Your Playdough – get your playdough and gather loose parts from around the house (like pasta, old corks, and pebbles). Your child will get creative, picking them up and squashing them into the play dough.
- Hot Lava Volcano Rescue – remember, fine motor skills activities should be fun! Draw a volcano with hot lava spilling out. Place plastic toys inside your masterpiece, and get your toddler to rescue the bears with squeezy tongs!
- Squirt the Ice – fill up some squeezy bottles with paint and get your tiny one to squirt it all over some ice.
- Clothespin Squeeze – cardboard and pegs make cheap fine motor skills activities. Gather some old cardboard tubes, then attach clothes pegs to the end. Your toddler will have loads of fun figuring out how to squeeze and open the pegs with their tiny hands.
More Squeezing Fine Motor Activities
- Save the Pumpkins – this is an excellent fine motor skills activity for Halloween. Grab some mini plastic pumpkins, then ask your child to pick up the pumpkins with tongs and place them in a pot.
- Neon Squirt – this one’s a total winner for me. Put some neon paint in squeezy bottles and get your little ones to squirt them into a sensory bin.
- Squirt the Alphabet – draw letters from the alphabet on pieces of card, then stick them on a wall outside. Fill up a spray or squeezy bottle with water, then call out a letter so your child can squirt the right one!
- Paint the Shredded Paper – squeezy bottles have no limits. Fill some with paint (I like using primary colors), then watch your preschoolers color a tub of shredded paper with paint. Easy!
- Squirt the Numbers – These types of fine motor skills activities are super adaptable. It’s the same as squirt the alphabet, just with numbers!
- Simple Clay Activity – ask your child to draw out shapes on a brown paper bag, then squeeze the clay to make it match and fit in the outline. If your kid wants to make something more creative, then let them go for it!
- Fingerprint Lights – draw out a string of fairy lights using a marker, then get your child to press their fingers into the paint and then onto the paper to create the lights! I love this one for Christmas, and it makes a great decoration for the home.
Fine Motor Skills Activities for Grasping
- Drive and Park – mark out parking spaces using painter’s tape, then add colored squares to each one. Watch your child drive the same colored car into the same colored parking space!
- DIY Coin Bank – this is such a cheap fine motor skills activity that also helps with math. Cut slots into a milk carton and label each slot with the numbers of different coins. See if your child can find the correct coin for each space.
- Toddler Roads – create roads using painter’s tape, then watch your little one follow the road using toy cars. It’s so simple to set up that you can enjoy your coffee before it gets cold – win, win!
- Simple Weaving Activity – get a piece of cardboard and cut slits in it, so you slide in and wrap around pieces of string. See if your child can push bits of colored card under and around the string.
- Block Build – draw some crosses on a piece of paper and see if your kids can stack things in the center of the cross. Have a chat with them and encourage them as they try it out.
- Snowman Home – this one is great for winter and provides so much fun. Make a snowman out of white marshmallows, then ask your kid to build it a home using white lego. My boys get so creative. It’s amazing to watch!
- Bears on a Ladder – draw a tree with ladders going up it (basically just lines!), then get your toddler to place bears on the ‘steps’ of the ladder. What could be easier?
- Monster Eyes – make a few monsters’ outlines (hit up Google if you’re not so hot on drawing!). Then write a number at the top of each monster. Your kid sticks the same number of googly eyes on each one.
- Pick a Color – cut some slits in a large box, then color the end of some jumbo craft sticks. See if they can slot the sticks in, pull them out, and name the color.
- Measurement Play – this activity is easy to set up and packed with a punch of foundational math skills like nonstandard measurement, number recognition, and estimation.
- Bring the Bears Home – practice some essential prewriting skills moving across the curved lines.
- Button Push – a super simple activity that works on coordination, prediction, movement and more.
Sticker Play Motor Skills Activities to Strengthen Hands
- Spider Dots – draw a spider’s web and add some color dots with the spider’s legs. See if your child can peel the same color sticker and add it to the dots on the web!
- Elmer the Elephant – Elmer’s been around as long as I can remember, so why not use him in play? Draw the outline of an elephant and give your children free reign over different color stickers.
- Sticker Shirts – a fun Halloween activity and breakfast invitation.
- Sticker Snack Bags – a less then five minute set-up which only calls for seasonal stickers and a snack bag.
- Dot the Lights – kind of like Christmas lights fingerprints, but using stickers instead. Draw out a string of lights and ask your child to add the ‘lights’ using stickers.
- Sticker Match Up – fun for your preschooler and introduces a key math skill: finding matching pairs.
- Holiday Sticker Cups – all you need for this one is some plastic cups and Christmas stickers. Get your kid to decorate the cups for Christmas. It’s a no-brainer!
- Sticker Pumpkin – draw a pumpkin on special sticky paper, tear up tissue paper in fall colors and watch those chubby hands pick up the paper and stick it on.
- Sticker Sort by Size – create a small circle and a big circle on a piece of paper, then ask your child to put all the little stickers in the small circle and the large ones in the big circle. Enjoy some ‘you’ time while they sticker away.
Practicing Fine Motor Skills Activity Through Play is Critical for Development
These fine motor skills activities will give your child a huge advantage in writing when they are ready. It will prep the small hand muscles for proper pencil grip and letter formation. Give these fine motor skills activities for toddlers a go and watch them have fun!
Next, read about why boredom is essential for children. Planting these little learning through play seeds will engage creativity and develop confidence during downtime.