10 fun activities to build your toddler’s fine motor skills

Toddler playing with Play-Doh

My toddler adores Play-Doh. At least three times a day he asks me if he can have his “pay dough” – and I usually happily oblige. Not only does it keep him busy for longer than five minutes (score!), I also know it’s helping him develop in lots of fantastic ways.

As well as getting his creative juices flowing, the action of moulding the dough in his pudgy little fingers is also helping to build up his fine motor skills. And fine motor skills are essential for things like brushing teeth, doing up zippers, eating with cutlery, tying shoelaces, writing and even driving a car when he’s all grown up. Oh, I can’t even!

Here are some other fun activities to do with your tot which will help to improve his fine motor skills.

1. Play the ‘stuff it’ game

You know how your toddler loves the tissue box? Well, as annoying as it is to have to keep on stuffing the tissues he’s pulled out back in the box, this grabbing and pulling action is actually teaching him to use his pincer grip. You can spare your tissues though by stuffing some scrap material or scarves into an old baby wipe container and letting him go to town.

Kitchen fun for kids without the mess!

Got a mini masterchef on your hands? Little kids adore getting busy in the kitchen, but oh boy, the mess! So we're loving that the gang at Play-Doh have come up with a clever and fun way for kids to enjoy their kitchen play, without the mess stress. Every kid will want the Play-Doh Kitchen Creations Magical Oven!

Posted by Babyology on Sunday, 29 October 2017

2. Give him a discovery tray

Put a few small items on a tray, like fluffy craft pom poms, Cheerios, pasta and some toys, as well as some plastic bowls. Next, ask your toddler to put each item in the bowl. This will get him exercising his mind and also using his thumb and forefinger to grasp the objects. Note, young toddlers will likely just put any object in the bowl but that’s OK, he’s still getting the fine motor benefits.

3. Pull out the Play-Doh

I mentioned this already, but Play-Doh really is so great for working out little hands. The squishing action is strengthening and helps to develop hand-eye coordination. Play-Doh has long been loved by little ones (and mums in need of some time out) and a quick perusal of the local toy shop will blow you away with how many different varieties of the stuff are now on the market – metallic, glitter, fluoro – you name it! A far cry from when we were kids.

4. Build block towers together

Wooden blocks are a toy box must-have, but it isn’t just because your toddler will find them ridiculously fun. Stacking is yet another fine motor skill that gets better with practise. Watch as your little one delights in building the highest tower he can and then roars with laughter as it crashes to the floor!

young boy playing with wooden blocks

5. Draw with chalk outside

If the sun is out and you want to give your tot some fresh air but don’t feel like visiting the park again, drawing with chalk on your garden path is a wonderful way to play outside. Not only will you both be getting a nice healthy dose of Vitamin D, you’ll also be encouraging his early writing by developing his pencil hold.

6. Give him his own cutlery

While he may still favour eating with his fingers or a teaspoon, a toddler-sized cutlery set that’s easy to grasp will encourage him to be a big boy at the dinner table (even if he’s sitting on a booster seat!). The action of holding a fork and then manoeuvring it in a way to stab his carrots or scoop up peas with a spoon is something that will improve the more practise he gets.

7. Make pasta jewellery

The action of threading pasta onto string is quite difficult for little ones but they so love making their own necklaces! Try doing this activity with pasta that has big holes first and then build up to smaller shapes like macaroni. You can make this even more fun by painting the pasta first and using coloured string. 

Boy making pasta necklace

8. Sing Incy Wincy Spider

Nursery rhymes with corresponding hand actions like Incy Wincy Spider and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star delight little ones but also encourage them to do small actions with their fingers. All of this is helping to work them up to being able to do up their top buttons down the track. Plus, nursery rhymes are wonderful at developing language.

9. Get him cutting with toddler scissors

This may be one for older toddlers, but guiding your little one to cut along a line with safe toddler scissors (you’ll still need to supervise this activity!) is a fantastic skill set for him to build on. He’ll be doing this anyway when he moves on to preschool, but if you feel he’s ready, you can start him now.

10. Draw with crayons together

Crayons are a little easier for toddlers to hold than pencils and safer too – no sharp pointy end! Set your tot up with his own bucket of crayons, some paper and then let him scribble away. While you may find he prefers you to do the drawing, try to encourage him to have a go as this activity will help to develop his fine motor skills.

(This post is sponsored by Play-Doh – buy in store or online at KmartTargetBig WMr Toys or Toys R Us)

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