There are so many fancy and pricy fine motor skills toys on the market, it can be hard to figure out what you should buy your kids, and what’s actually unnecessary.
The truth is that your kids just need to play with the basics to fully develop their fine motor skills.
So, what are fine motor skills, and what is the importance of fine motor development?
Fine motor development is a child’s ability to control the small muscles of the body such as the eyes, fingers, toes and tongue.
Here are a few fine motor skills examples:
- Buttoning up a dress
- Painting a picture
It is important for things like playing, drawing, performing self-care tasks and other daily activities, participating in activities, forming letters and writing.
Here are 10 of the best and simplest fine motor toys that every child should have at home or at school.
Some of them are not really toys, but household items and materials you probably already have. Buy a few good-quality items and improvise as much as you can with the rest.
You don’t need to buy new toys for every age as children will interact with the same toy differently as they grow and mature.
Introduce your toddlers to these fine motor resources but allow them to experiment without pressure as they are only beginning to develop finger control.
Your 3-year-old will be able to play with all of these, 4 and 5-year-olds should show greater control and cognitive understanding, and they are still educational for 6 and 7-year-olds.
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1. Threading Beads
Threading beads onto a string is a great way to develop fine motor skills in young children. It takes a lot of concentration and determination too.
Often also referred to as lacing beads, there are many types and sizes available online.
The older the child, the smaller the beads can be.
2. Lacing Cards
Lacing cards are a wonderful tool for developing eye-hand coordination and fine motor control.
They require a lot of control so are suitable for ages 3 and up.
Lacing requires moving a string or shoelace in and out of holes on a board or other object. It is the same skill used when lacing up shoes.
3. Wooden Blocks
Block play is one of the best fine motor activities and is suitable for all ages – from 12 months to beyond the preschool years.
While babies can play with foam, plastic or light wooden blocks, it is best to invest in a good set of large wooden blocks that your toddler will play with for years to come.
It should be of good quality, with lots of pieces in different shapes and sizes to fully encourage creativity and construction play.
Lego is another building toy that will improve fine motor skills and develop many other skills too.
Children enjoy how the pieces fit together and they often get lost in their constructions, building their attention span at the same time.
From around the age of 18 months to 2 years, children can start playing with Duplo, which are large Lego blocks that are easier for small fingers to handle.
This is a great set, pictured below.
Older children can move onto a set of regular Lego blocks.
While there are many fun, themed Lego sets available, it’s better to purchase only one classic set that will last years.
Building with regular pieces builds creativity as children use their imaginations, rather than relying on a model to follow.
Any construction play toy is a good investment (here are some great sets). These are items that link, fit snuggly, click together, are magnetic, etc.
If you have to choose, however, always start with wooden blocks and Lego.
5. Peg Boards
Peg Boards were always a must in my classroom and are one of my favourite fine motor toys.
Excellent for building hand-eye coordination, they come in all types and styles.
The best peg boards for toddlers have large, chunky pieces that are easier to handle.
This set below also doubles as threading beads!
There are many options for preschoolers but the best is a simple, traditional peg board like this one.
6. Playdough and Tools
Playdough is a fantastic tool for strengthening finger muscles.
While it is easy to make homemade playdough, it’s a great idea to purchase a set of playdough cutters and tools that include rolling pins, moulds, cutters and stamps.
This will take the fine motor practice to a new level.
You can also improvise with cookie cutters, a kitchen rolling pin, plastic knives, cups, etc.
Learning to control scissors and cut is an important fine motor milestone.
Choose safety scissors with a blunt-nosed tip and let kids cut freely as often as possible.
Another one of my personal favourites, puzzles are excellent for toddlers’ development, for older kids and there are even benefits for adults.
There are so many types available. To choose the right puzzles, follow these guidelines:
- The younger the child, the bigger the pieces should be, although there are large puzzles with many pieces that are suitable for older children.
- Start with fewer pieces and move onto more pieces.
- If a puzzle is challenging but doable, it’s the right size for your child.
- Choose wooden, sturdy puzzles that will last.
- Toddlers can start with shape sorters, chunky puzzles (like these) and knob puzzles (like these).
It’s hard to beat the wooden Melissa and Doug Puzzles that have a board to build on.
9. Drawing and Painting Tools
One of the best ways to build fine motor skills is to give children lots of opportunities to draw, paint and hold various types of tools.
This may not be a toy, but it’s absolutely essential if you want your kids to build fine motor control.
They should use wax crayons, oil pastels, coloured pencils and pens, paintbrushes, paint rollers, markers and anything else you can find.
As they pass through the stages of drawing, they also improve their ability to hold these tools, which eventually helps them learn to write.
10. Woodwork Set
You can use a woodwork set, complete with tools to get into some pretend play, or even a simple board with wooden pieces to nail into.
These 10 fine motor toys are great for all ages and will keep kids busy and learning all through their early childhood years.
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