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The 17 Best Fine Motor Activities for Kids

Looking for some simple ideas for fine motor activities for your little ones?

While you can find many interesting, creative or theme-based activity ideas online, this is a list of the most basic and essential types of fine motor skills activities.

They are the kinds of activities that all kids should be doing in early childhood in order to improve their fine motor skills.

What is An Example of a Fine Motor Activity?

Any activity that engages the small muscles of the body – such as the fingers and eyes – is a fine motor activity.

An example is drawing a picture or pushing pegs through a pegboard.

What are Some Fine Motor Skills Examples?

These are a few examples of tasks that require fine motor skills:

  • Closing a jacket zipper
  • Brushing teeth
  • Folding a piece of paper
  • Decorating a cupcake

Why are Fine Motor Skills Important?

Children need to develop their fine motor skills in order to accomplish all kinds of self-care tasks, play and participate in activities and learn to write, among other things.

As they grow and develop, they progress through the fine motor milestones – such as learning to feed themselves, dress or build a 24-piece puzzle.

It is vital to their independence and their ability to cope academically during their years of schooling.

17 of the Best Fine Motor Activities for Kids

Here are 17 simple fine motor activities for preschoolers and toddlers. 

Many of the same activities can be done with toddlers, 3, 4 and 5-year-olds. Just change the expectation to suit your child’s age and maturity.

For example, a 2-year-old may only scribble with a crayon, whereas a 5-year-old will start experimenting with writing their name; a 3-year-old may love pasting buttons with liquid glue onto paper, and an older child can categorize the buttons by size.

Although kids should have access to some fine motor skills toys, many activities can be done with waste materials or everyday items in your home or classroom.

1. Playdough

Playdough has so many benefits your kids should be playing with it often. It’s wonderful for fine motor control.

Provide a sensory, fine motor playdough experience by using different materials and tools – cookie cutters, plastic knives, twigs, a rolling pin, etc.

You can also press items like beads or buttons into the playdough.

Here’s a recipe for easy DIY playdough.

There are variations of this substance that are also suitable, such as clay, plasticine, etc.

2. Drawing

Drawing is one of the most important fine motor activities and one that kids should have the opportunity to do daily.

Drawing is the most important pre-writing activity. As kids progress through the stages of drawing, they eventually start developing the control to form letters and write.

Offer lots of different types of paper and writing tools – pencils, pens, oil pastels, markers, chalk, etc.

3. Painting

Painting is another activity that has so many variations and should be done often.

It can be easy to avoid because of the mess factor but the benefits of painting far outweigh the hassle of washing up.

Kids painting on the ground with their hands and brushes

Painting activities don’t need to be complicated and kids should be allowed to paint freely without much guidance.

Here are a few types of painting activities to try:

  • Finger painting  
  • Painting with brushes of different thicknesses
  • Stamp painting – with wooden stamps, potato shapes, orange halves, etc.
  • Sponge painting
  • Spray painting
  • Painting with balls
  • Roller painting
  • Splatter painting
  • Mud painting
  • Feather painting
  • Bubble painting
  • Leaf printing

…and there are lots more!

4. Finger Plays

Teach your kids some fun finger rhymes like Tommy Thumb and Two Little Dickie Birds.

These are great for exercising little fingers and getting them to control and coordinate them.

Fingerplays also improve language, concentration and listening skills.

Here are some fun fingerplays for children.

5. Threading

Threading takes a lot of coordination and concentration and can take time to master. It is excellent for building eye-hand coordination and developing the pincer grasp.

There are many ways to teach kids to thread:

  • Give toddlers chunky wooden threading shapes and string.
  • Make a macaroni necklace.
  • Make a necklace or bracelet with cereals or sweets (shaped like loops).
  • Thread beads onto a string.

The older children get, the better control they will have threading beads of smaller sizes onto a string.

Child making a beaded necklace

6. Lacing

Similar to threading, lacing is the action of moving a string/thread in and out of holes – like when lacing up shoes.

Apart from practising tying shoelaces – which is quite an advanced skill – offer activities like lacing cards or lacing around a paper plate or shape cut-out.

7. Paper Tearing

Did you know that tearing paper is a skill children should learn?

Like any other skill, it needs practice to be mastered.

Give children different kinds of papers to tear. Add some glue and they can create a collage out of it.

While you’re at it – teach kids to crumple paper as well. This will strengthen the hand muscles.

Crumple papers and aim and throw them into a laundry basket to make a game out of it.

8. Paper Folding

When I taught in the grades, I was forever moaning at the kids for turning their worksheets into paper planes and flying them around the class during the lesson!

Paper folding is a fine motor skill kids need to develop before starting formal school and this is a great way to teach it.

See if kids can come up with some of their own ways of folding the plane before you’re tempted to explain step-by-step.

Child flying a paper airplane

If the plane is not well folded it will not fly well and this becomes a great opportunity for some problem-solving practice.

Try folding hats and boats too.

9. Puzzles

Puzzles are my favourite fine motor skill activity because they are so good for a child’s cognitive development, visual perception and focus.

It takes children a lot of practice and fine motor control to learn to hold a piece steady as they try to join it to another piece, as can be seen when you watch a toddler trying to push a piece in with brute force.

Puzzles are for every age, from simple peg puzzles for toddlers to 48-piece puzzles for older children.

These are the best puzzles for toddlers and puzzles for preschoolers.

Little girl doing a shape peg puzzle

10. Self-Care Tasks

One of the best ways to develop children’s small muscle skills is to encourage independence and let them learn self-care tasks.

Activities like feeding oneself, getting dressed (buttoning clothes, tying shoelaces, closing zips) putting toothpaste on a brush or opening a tap to wash hands will all develop this skill.

It also gives kids a great sense of achievement.

11. Blocks

Playing with wooden blocks is amazing for fine and gross motor development, problem solving, science, early number concepts, spatial development and more.

Children progress through the seven stages of block play as their cognitive understanding improves so this is one of those activities where you can see the growth and maturity.

12. Construction Play

Apart from block play, there are many other forms of construction play, which help improve fine motor skills.

Lego is a wonderful alternative, as well as any other construction toys that link, snap together, fit into each other, or stack.

You can even make constructions out of toothpicks or matches – like a toothpick house or shape.

Hold the ends together with Prestick/Blu Tack, jelly sweets or marshmallows.

13. Cutting and Pasting

Cutting and pasting are great for hand-eye coordination and fine motor control.

This is one of the most “monitored’ activities for kids and one that should be done freely and with few restrictions.

Children and teacher cutting paper with scissors

Do a search online and you will find countless step-by-step crafts to follow.

While there’s a place for this – like when making a Mother’s Day card that actually looks like one – generally, cutting and pasting activities should be creative.

This means the focus should be on the process, not the product.

Give kids lots of freedom to cut and paste things into their own collages and let their imaginations run wild. They will be learning a lot more this way.

14. Playing with Loose Parts

Loose parts play is a simple way to make use of anything you have on hand at home or in class and turn it into an educational activity.

Loose parts can include beads, buttons, coins, shells, matches, pieces of wood, corks, ice cream sticks, lids and containers, pegs and anything else you can think of.

Glass jar filled with buttons

Kids can group and match these items, make art with them, engage in pretend play, pick them up with tweezers and sort them into egg trays and more.

Here are 17 things you can do with buttons.

15. Woodwork

Kids love hammering nails into wood. As long as this is done with child-safe equipment, it’s a good exercise in hand-eye coordination.

Use a toy hammer, some soft wood offcuts and a soft backing board.

16. Cooking Activities

Getting children involved in the kitchen is a good life skill and involves a lot of small muscle movements.

Baking or cooking activities will have kids cutting, chopping, slicing, spreading, stirring, mixing, piercing, squeezing and more.

17. Cards and Games

Playing with cards and games is not just good for intellectual development, but also requires the use of a child’s hand muscles.

While children are playing with cards, memory games, sequencing cards, board games and other similar games, they are using their fingers to lift, sort, turn over, stack and handle the cards and playing pieces.

(Get your own set of printable memory card games and sequencing cards here!)

Need more ideas? Try these fine motor games too.

The importance of fine motor skills for preschoolers and toddlers cannot be overstated. It’s necessary to expose kids to all the types of activities in this article but remember to focus on the process, not the product.

Close up of child's hand holding a pair of scissors to do art. Text reads "17 fine motor activities for your children".

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Kediemetse

Tuesday 12th of September 2023

I love this it will help me in the classroom

Sahar

Saturday 19th of August 2023

Dear Mcilroy

Hello. Thanks a million for this valuable article. It was very useful and I could get some great ideas to work with my students.

Tanja Mcilroy

Tuesday 22nd of August 2023

Thanks, Sahar! I'm glad you found this useful.

Bhagyalakshmi Bharade

Thursday 9th of March 2023

Good article

Marilyn I. Pivotte

Wednesday 13th of September 2023

@Tanja Mcilroy, Thanks Tanja for this very informative article. Good use will be made with them - all for the benefit of children.

Tanja Mcilroy

Friday 10th of March 2023

Thank you!

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