10 Super Simple Fine Motor Activities for Kids
As focus shifts more and more towards learning ABC’s and 123’s, children are losing the more basic skills needed for Kindergarten: the ones that involve fine motor control and hand strength. I even found myself falling into this same trap, due to the immense societal pressure to have my children transformed into little Einsteins by preschool age. Fine motor activities are really more important during the early years than reading readiness, which can come later.
While I understand the urge to take full advantage of the toddler’s mental plasticity, I also believe it’s important to spend more time developing the basics. So whether your child is going to be entering kindergarten this fall, or you’re looking for a way to keep your 18 month old busy for a while, these easy fine motor activities will be a great addition to your little one’s day!
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1) Foam Puzzles
I get these from the Dollar Tree, and they are perfect for manipulating those little hands. Your child has to twist the pieces and press them into the right spots, unlike wooden puzzles, so they double as a hand strengthening activity.
2) Loops on a stick
You can grab a pack of loom bands or tiny hair bands for this one – both work great. Give the bands and a “stick” of some sort to your child (spoon, Popsicle stick, paint brush, pencil), and let practice sliding all of the bands onto the stick. My boys enjoy pinching the base of the stick and shooting all of the bands off at the end!
We all know the possibilities are endless with Legos. If your child isn’t ready for the Classic style yet, they can start with Mega Bloks or Lego Duplo blocks. Not only do they have to stack them, but locking them into place helps improve fine motor skills and strengthen little hands.
My youngest is globally delayed, and he is still working on building his way up from the Mega Bloks. Don’t be discouraged if your little one isn’t ready for the Classic Legos yet. Start with something your child can do, so they will be more willing to try the next step when it’s time.
4) Sorting snacks
You don’t need to do any preparation here. Just grab a sorting tray and add a couple handfuls of different snacks. Some super easy ones are train mix, Multi-grain Cheerios and the Goldfish mixes. I usually just grab a little bit of several different snacks to encourage my kiddos to try new things while they’re at it!
Hint: I use these sorting trays because they are pretty sturdy, and they live in our home school room, but you can just use a few small bowls if you’re in a bind!
As with Legos, there’s really no way to go wrong here. Play-Doh is a versatile tool for developing fine motor skills, and also great for hand strengthening. Squeeze it, cut it, mold it, rip it – just hand it over, and they’ll know what to do!
Poster paints with brushes, or finger paints are great for this activity. I usually just grab a large piece of cardboard to put under the painting area while my boys go to town! This makes clean up super easy. If you just want to squeeze in some extra fine motor practice at the end of the day, try these fun bath paints, and let your little artist be creative in the tub!
Beads are so much fun! You don’t even have to do anything with them – let your child decide. Picking them up requires a pincer grasp, so your child is bound to build their fine motor skills without even trying. We typically use pony beads, because the holes are the perfect size for all kinds of stringing activities.
Here are a few ideas for bead play:
- string beads onto yarn (better for older kids with more control)
- string beads onto pipe cleaners
- use fingers to place beads into ice cube container
- put beads onto toothpicks stuck in Play-Doh
- drop beads into water bottle
- press beads into Play-Doh
8) Scoop and transfer rice
Give your kiddo something small to scoop with – that’s the key here. I like to use scallop shells (get them at Dollar Tree!) because they are fun for the boys and also require them to get their fingers into pincer mode, since there’s no handle to grip. A bowl of rice, a few cups to transfer it into, and some shells (or a Play-Doh lid) is all you need.
I put everything in our sensory bin, simply because we have it on hand, but a bowl will do just fine! The boys also like to use their colored rice, but that’s obviously not necessary – just added fun.
This is a classic, and it was absolutely my favorite toy growing up! It’s also a super fine motor activity. Your kids don’t have to be old enough to make intricate designs with them – my 3 year old loves using this mini off-brand version and making his own designs.
Here’s a mini travel Lite-Brite that’s perfect for road trips (or restaurants, if your kids are old enough to keep the light pegs under control!).
10) Pom pom transfer
What kid doesn’t love pom poms? They can use their little fingers, or a pair of tongs or other “grabbers”, for this activity. Give them a pile of pom poms, and let them transfer them into ice cube trays. Of course a bowl will work just as well, but the ice cube trays make it more fun and help with one to one correspondence.
11) Bead Maze
I know, I said 10 – but here’s a bonus! Bead mazes are simply the best, and there are plenty of size and price options. We have a tiny one like this, and a large one like the pinned image at the top. The boys still play with both of them.
Strengthen those hands
There you have it – 10 (okay, 11) great ways to improve your kiddo’s fine motor skills without any preparation involved. I give you permission to ignore the pressure to have your offspring reading and writing before they turn 3; just make sure they have the primitive skills necessary to hold a pencil instead! Happy summer, and happy hand strengthening!
The special education teacher in me loves this. It’s so hard for me to sit back and watch the Kinders in our school focus so heavily on writing and reading and following the rules when sometimes they just need to PLAY. Because, yes, these fine and gross motor skills are oh-so important. Thank you for sharing this. <3 Going to share with a few of the parents I work with!
Thanks, Divya! Totally agreed – it’s like nails on a chalk board! It sounds like you get to see the effects first hand. Thank you so much for what you do – special ed teachers hold a place in my heart! 💙
I LOVE THESE! Omgosh, as a physical therapist and mom, these are great ideas to get those little hands and minds working and being creative! Thanks for sharing!
Absolutely! You’ve got the double-whammy there too…no doubt you e got an arsenal of awesome activities yourself!
Oh, I love this! Some of these bring back some nostalgic memories – I totally remember doing the pom pom transfer when I was younger. So many of these are PERFECT for my daughter! Thank you for sharing 🙂
You bet! Yes, Pom pom transfers definitely bring back memories! It’s so fun watching our kids do activities that we did growing up!
I seriously needed this in my life!! I have a two-year-old and I’ve been thinking about activities to do with her. Thank you.
You bet, Melissa! These activities are perfect for 2 year olds!
These are awesome activities! I can’t wait to do these with my little girl. Thanks so much for sharing these!
No problem! I hope you two enjoy them!
Lite Brite! Love it. These are great ideas. I’m pinning for when my baby is old enough 🙂 thanks!
Great idea! Nothing wrong with planning ahead. And LiteBrite is so nostalgic!
What a great list of fun activities for kids! I have a toddler and you bet I’ll be trying some of your ideas with her! 🙂 I especially like the foam mat idea! I’ll check out my dollar store to see what they have.
Great! Usually the Dollar Tree has letters and numbers, and sometimes you can find vehicles and animals too – I’ve found a whole slew of foam puzzles there over the last couple of years!
What a great list of awesome and fun activities for kids! I really like the foam mat idea and can’t wait to try it out with my daughter! 🙂
Love this! My son goes for OT for fine motor issues due to paralysis from a stroke he had when he underwent brain surgery. Thanks for the ideas!
Oh my! That must be a daily struggle. I’m sorry, mama! I hope your sweet boy recovers, and that his motor skills get up to speed! Hugs!
As the mum to a toddler, this was such an informative post! Lots of ideas to get his little hands moving!
I’m so glad you found it helpful! Lots of variety keeps the little hands moving and interested!
These are all great ideas! Many I wouldn’t have thought of! I love the “scoop and transfer rice” idea! And I always love painting!
Yes! The scoop and transfer is a favorite around here!
love these ideas!
What a great list of motor skills for the little ones! Mine is all grown up now but I wish I had this list back in the day, some 10 years ago! These activities are also great for spending quality time with the little ones! Pinning!
Yes, absolutely! It’s a fun way to learn hands-on with your littles!
Great ideas here! I love the snack sorter, though I can see my kids eating the food rather than sorting it. We have done the pom pom transfer and it was a hit. Now we have to try the others! Thanks for this!
Haha, that’s part of the fun! My boys actually end up eating some sacks they haven’t tried before, which is nice!
What fun activities for little ones!
For sure! They love them!