How do I Build Fine Motor Skills?

How do I Build Fine Motor Skills?

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If you want to help a child build fine motor skills, this is the post for you!

Fine motor activities help our kiddos strengthen their finger and hand muscles. (Think coloring, cutting, pinching, and tearing!) Some kids love fine motor activities – some kids avoid fine motor work, and they may need a little extra encouragement to get those muscles going.

It’s all good – and I’ve got you in supporting your learner regardless. My advice might not be what you’d expect!

Why do kids need to build fine motor skills?

First things first, why does this matter? Developing these tiny muscles is critical for later skills in school and life – think letter formation and writing, using scissors, and life skills from tying shoes to zipping a coat. As an elementary principal, I saw kindergarteners who struggled to hold a pencil – that’s a HUGE hurdle when learning to write letters. I saw third graders who were frustrated by how difficult it was to write their ideas on paper – that’s a HUGE hurdle when you’re learning how to write a persuasive essay. Fine motor strength is a prerequisite skill that our kids will need to be successful in so many areas!! We can help kids be ready for school (and beyond!) by supporting them in developing fine motor strength. This is critical for toddlers, preschoolers, and beyond!

What if my child has a fine motor delay?

Now let’s talk differences. Some kids will be super drawn to activities that facilitate fine motor development – they may love painting, coloring, and naturally work those tiny muscles often. This might be a natural interest and strength – awesome!

Other children may have fine motor differences and/or be less interested in fine motor activities. If your little buddy is more reluctant or even avoidant when it comes to fine motor tasks, please know you’re not doing anything wrong. And guess what, it’s all OK and it’s all normal – we’re going to get those muscles working in ways that are FUN and high interest!

Please hear this!!! It’s REALLY important we offer children many opportunities to develop fine motor strength without making it stressful or putting a ton of pressure on the situation! (Kids will feel that pressure and lose confidence, push back harder, and may feel even more avoidant of fine motor work.) That’s why we’re going to offer activities as invitations that are fun, high interest, and developmentally appropriate. Here are 15 ideas to make fine motor work inviting and exciting at home.

How do I build fine motor skills?

Here are 15 EASY activities to help kids build fine motor skills.

Sensory Bin Fine Motor Activities

1. Flower sensory bin – save dying flowers and offer them in a bin with scissors to encourage snipping and exploring. Kids can also use their fingers to peel and pick apart.

2. Color sort – offer mini erasers, counting bears, or pompoms to be sorted by color (use fingers or tongs depending on your child’s needs).

Love this one? 50 Pre-K Activities can be found here!

How do I build fine motor skills? - Color Sorting
How do I build fine motor skills? – Color Sorting

3. Ice painting – freeze a baking dish with water and let kiddo paint it with watercolors.

Want more water activities?! Check out this post with 25 EASY Water Activities!

How do I build fine motor skills? - Ice Painting
How do I build fine motor skills? – Ice Painting

4. Bean/rice sensory bin – fill a bin with beans or rice and offer cups, spoons, and tongs for your kiddo to dig, scoop, and pour.

Looking for more sensory bin ideas? 100 Sensory Bin Fillers are here!

How do I build fine motor skills? – Sensory Bin

Fine Motor Activities Using Household Items

5. Giant coloring table – tape butcher paper (or a cut open paper grocery bag) on the table and draw a giant scene to color. Offer a variety of supplies.

6. Thumbtack Pumpkins – press thumbtacks into pumpkins!

More easy pumpkin activities here!

7. Beads in play dough – place small beads in a ball of play dough for your child to pick out and remove.

8. String Cheerios onto a piece of string – you can use lacing string or put scotch tape around the end to make threading easier.

9. Peeling stickers – dot stickers, character stickers, whatever you have (remove the backing behind the stickers as a modification to meet your child’s needs).

10. Tearing paper – wrapping paper, tissue paper, thin cardboard – it all works!!

11. Play dough tinker tray – fill a muffin tin with play dough and small loose parts (beads, gems, rocks) for your kiddos to explore and decorate.

12. Q Tip Painting – simple and fun! This makes working those muscles fun!

13. Clipping clothespins – invite your child to clip them on the side of a tray. If this is too tricky, scaffold this activity by inviting your child to pull them off!

More activities for young toddlers here.

Art Activities to Boost Fine Motor Skills

14. Creation station – offer an art tray with many different supplies for kids to pick from and create with (tape, scissors, markers, glue sticks, crayons, and anything else).

15. Cutting tray – provide many materials to explore and cut (tissue paper, ribbon, thin cardboard, string, whatever you have!)

16. Magic Painting (crayon resist art) – draw images or letter in white crayon (press firmly!!) and then invite your child to paint with water colors to reveal the images!

17. Erase the lines – draw lines/letters on a dry erase board and have kiddo use the small dry eraser tip to erase the lines/letters.

18. Giant murals – set up large paper and collaborate as a family to create a mural. Engaging alongside your child is a low pressure way to model options for how the supplies can be used to create.

Low Prep Fine Motor Activities Kids Will LOVE

19. Muffin tin rescue – put toys in a muffin tin and cover with masking tape for kiddos to cut or peel to remove the toys! Both kids and parents love this! (Super low prep but MAJOR fun!)

20. Cookie sheet animal rescue – (close cousin of muffin tin rescue) tape animals on the back of a cookie sheet for kiddos to remove the tape and save the animals.

You might be thinking: “But Beth Ann, you forgot to mention the tracing workbooks and hand writing worksheets!!” Nah. If your toddler or preschooler likes stuff like that, cool! Truly, keep cranking if your child enjoys that!

But don’t force your child to sit and do worksheets if they aren’t interested in it – it makes school and learning seem like a chore and many of these resources are not developmentally appropriate. At the moment, there’s a lot of pressure to push kindergarten and first grade skills on younger and younger children – remember that play is most important and is the foundation for later success with academic skills (when the time comes!).

Keep learning FUN for them and low lift (easy!) for you!!

Looking for more fine motor activities?! You will LOVE these 12 low prep fine motor activities from Ashley at Forward with Fun!!

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3 thoughts on “How do I Build Fine Motor Skills?

  1. Great suggestions, Beth Ann! Thank you. I look forward to reading more of your ideas.

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