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15 Simple Fine Motor Activities (for Home or School)

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

These simple ideas make use of waste materials and resources found in our homes or at school.

They are also all excellent for building hand-eye coordination.

I’ve started with some ideas for making necklaces. Small kids love making them and there are several ways to do them. 

1. Macaroni Necklace

Necklace making is good for practising the pincer grasp. 

Which kid doesn’t love threading macaroni onto a string? Make the necklace attractive by painting the macaroni in different colours.

Holding the paintbrush and controlling each piece as it is painted is good practice for controlling small items. 

2. Beaded Necklace

Have some extra beads lying around?

Threading requires some serious small muscle control. Use a piece of string, wool or a shoelace and thread beads onto it to make a necklace.

Child making a beaded necklace

The younger your child, the bigger the beads and the thicker the string should be. Tiny beads can be a choking hazard and are too difficult for little fingers until they have better control.

3. Button Necklace

Do you have a stash of these somewhere?

Jar with buttons

They’re also perfect for making a necklace. Thread the string or wool through at least 2 holes in each button and you will have a very cool necklace.

This is more suitable for older preschoolers.

There are lots of activities you can do with buttons.

4. Cereal or Sweet Necklace

This may not be the healthiest option but can be loads of fun and great practice for an occasional treat. Your child will have to concentrate and work hard for that treat!

Use cereal in the shape of small loops or sweets that have a hole in the centre and thread them onto a string. See how long your child is able to keep the necklace on before eating it all up.

5. Paper Plate Lacing

Punch holes around a paper plate and lace a string or piece of wool around the sides.

This takes a lot of coordination and you may want to start with just a few large holes at first.

You could decorate the paper plate with oil pastels or paint before lacing around it. Brushes, crayons and other art materials are great fine motor tools and are one of the best ways to build fine motor control.

Remember to display your child’s art by hanging it somewhere or using a special pinboard for art.

15 fine motor activities pinterest image

6. Shapes Lacing

Teach the shapes while building fine motor skills.

Cut out the basic shapes out of thick coloured cardboard and punch holes around the sides.

Lace a piece of wool or string the same way as in the paper plate activity.

7. Shoelace Cut-Outs

You could just practice with real shoes, but your child probably won’t find that as fun as making a shoe.

Cut out the shape of a shoe from strong cardboard and pierce holes in the middle to resemble the holes in a shoe where the laces go.

Ask your child to colour in the shoe and decorate it with some glitter or material.

Use real, old shoelaces and start the pattern at the top of the shoe. Teach your child to lace the shoelaces all the way to the bottom and then tie them.

8. Make a Puzzle

There are so many benefits of puzzles and they develop multiple skills – visual perception, shape recognition, cognitive skills, problem-solving abilities, and also fine motor coordination.

If you have puzzles, great, but you can also make one to involve some scissor skills at the same time.

Ask your child to choose a picture from a magazine, cut it out and paste it onto softer cardboard. Cut around the picture so the cardboard takes the shape of the picture.

Then, cut the picture into pieces. The number of pieces depends on your child’s age and ability. It could be as little as 2 pieces for a toddler or as many as your child can do comfortably.

The puzzle is then ready to build. Store it in a small plastic container and make your own collection of puzzles.

Even better, get your kids to cut out and build these gorgeous printable puzzles.

9. Clothing Peg Practice

Clothing pegs are ideal as they require a lot of finger strength to hold and press open.

Box of pegs

Either ask your child to help you peg clothes as you hang them or use a paper plate and clip the pegs all the way around the edges.

10. Tweezers and Ice-Trays

Send your child on a walk around the garden with a pair of tweezers and an ice-cube tray and ask him to collect the smallest items he can find and store them in the tray.

He has to pick them up with the tweezers though so challenge him to see how many tiny things he can pick up.

He may find small stones, dead bugs, little flowers, specks of plants or pollen, etc. As the items are picked, place them into different sections of the ice-cube tray to categorize them – all bugs in one section, all stones in another, etc.

11. Make a Hedgehog

You’ll need a box of toothpicks for this activity.

Mould a hedgehog with a ball of playdough or even moulding clay that can be left to harden and set. Carve a face onto the hedgehog with a toothpick and use a marker to outline the features in colour.

Then, create all the spines of the hedgehog by sticking toothpicks all around the body. This takes a lot of control as each toothpick must be carefully placed and spaced, taking care to secure them all in, at a similar length.

This will make a cute paperweight.

Another great idea is to use a potato for the body, but I wouldn’t keep it for too long!

Pototo hedgehog

12. Pick Up Sticks

This is a favourite game that has been around a long time.

Pick up sticks

Improvize with some twigs from the garden. Go for a walk together and choose the straightest and smoothest twigs you can find.

Here is how you play the game:

  • Hold all the sticks upright together in a closed fist and then let go
  • Let the sticks fall naturally wherever they land
  • Taking turns, pick up one stick at a time. You are only allowed to touch and take one stick and the stick is not allowed to move any of the other sticks or you forfeit your turn
  • The winner is the person with the most sticks at the end

As you can imagine, this would be a challenging but fun game for your child.

13. Paper Airplanes

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

Why not have heaps of fun with nothing but paper and some flying skill?

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 your child can come up with some of her own ways of folding the plane before you’re tempted to explain step-by-step.

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

Child flying a paper airplane

If you’d like, give your planes unique names or name them after the major airlines.

14. Marshmallow Constructions

To make these constructions, all you need are toothpicks and some Marshmallows, Jelly Tots, or other sweets that will hold together with toothpicks. You could also use polystyrene balls or Prestick/Blu Tack.

Ask your child to build a house, a 3D shape, or other structure, using only the toothpicks and soft sweets. You can also use matches instead of toothpicks.

This activity will also build multiple skills and require much concentration and finger coordination.

15. Playdough Fun

Playdough is so great, your kids should be playing with it every day. It builds so many skills and is wonderful for fine motor control.

Make a batch of playdough at home and let your child play with it as often as she likes.

Provide a sensory, fine motor 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.

And there you have it. Your home is filled with materials you can use to build your kids’ fine motor skills. and also many to develop gross motor skills!

It is not necessary to buy all the latest gadgets as they do pretty much the same thing as the improvised items. There are a few educational toys I would highly recommend though.

Would you like a year of done-for-you, ten-minute activities to teach your 3-5-year-old through play? Get your copy of the Learning Through Play Activity Pack for only $27.

Activity Pack for preschoolers

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