Having strong fine motor skills is one of the essential life skills that we need for many everyday tasks. I'm talking about the little but mighty skills of grabbing and moving tiny objects, buttoning up our clothes, eating our meals, breezing through the pages of a storybook, and opening and closing containers such as lunchboxes. These skills also level up our game when it comes to drawing, cutting, pasting, writing, and conquering computer keyboards like a pro.
In a nutshell, fine motor skills really are the secret sauce that makes our hands the ultimate superheroes in our daily adventures. And when we phrase it like this, kids are VERY excited to get cracking on some fine motor activities. Although, they are so much fun anyway, that it doesn't take much convincing...!
Development of Fine Motor Skills
Just like gross motor skills, children reach major fine motor skill milestones at different rates. In this blog post, I outline the key fine motor milestones for each child's age, as well as a fine motor skills checklist, with all the different fine motor skills examples that young children need to grasp. This includes things like pincer grasp, bilateral coordination and other examples of fine motor skills. A child's development of new skills will firstly involve skills that require large muscles, followed by skills that require small movements and coordination of small muscles.
There are loads of fine motor skills activities that will help young kids to build their hand strength and support fine motor skill development. And the good news is that many of them are super simple to set up!
So, let's get those little hands moving!
Here's a comprehensive list of fine motor games, fine motor skills toys and and fine motor skills puzzles!
There are many fine motor benefits of puzzles and using simple puzzles for puzzle play. As a child picks up the smaller puzzle pieces and places each puzzle piece on the puzzle board, it helps the development of fine motor skills. You might like to begin with a large floor puzzle, knobbed puzzles or wooden puzzles.
As a child's ability to successfully manipulate jigsaw pieces and complete puzzles progresses, they can move to more complex puzzles. You can find loads of different puzzles in all good toy shops, or on Amazon.
Lock and Key Games
Children have so much fun manipulating different keys to open locks. I love these number locks, as they are a great way to consolidate early number skills whilst also working on fine motor skills!
Popsicle Stick Games
Popsicle sticks are so versatile. I use them for number and phonics activities, but here is one of the ways that you can also use them to build a child's fine motor skills as well.
Students will love making or extending the patterns using these popsicle stick mats, and there is the added bonus of supporting a child's cognitive development as they will need to use problem-solving skills.
Alternatively, you can provide students with popsicle sticks and some small base ten blocks, and let them simply create! Working with these small pieces requires careful finger movements
Pom Pom Games
Pom poms are another VERY versatile material to have in your classroom. There are so many ways to use these small items to create a fine motor game that will help to build fine motor control.
Pom Pom Ice Cream
These templates are a free download from Mrs Learning Bee. Kids use a pincer grip with jumbo tweezers, scoops or tongs to create the ice- creams.
Pom Pom Ice Cube Trays
In this activity, kids have to transfer pom poms into an ice cube tray using tweezers or tongs. They can also make patterns if they like.
Pom Pom Letter or Number Formation
This activity can be great for reinforcing the correct formation of letters or numbers, as well as working on fine motor skills. Kids use tongs or tweezers to transfer pom poms onto the templates, following the correct formation as they go.
More pom pom games could include:
- Pom Pom sorting- Lay out different coloured bowls and get the kids to sort into colours, using tweezers, tongs, scoops or any other utensil you have to hand. For a twist, you could get the kids to sort into egg cartons.
- Pom Pom patterns - students create patterns using pom poms. They can pick up the pom poms with their fingers, or using any tongs/tweezers that you have.
Scissor Skill Games
Learning to use scissors is one of the most important fine motor skills. Some scissor skill simple activities for practising this valuable skill with younger children include:
Scissor cutting pages:
Provide children with a range of straight, zig zag and curvy cutting pages ready to go. Gradually introduce cutting lines of increasing length or complexity, ensuring that the non-dominant hand moves along the page as the line gets longer.
Kids could also cut out letters and numbers.
Kids cut repeatedly small different shapes.
Toilet Roll Haircuts
The kids love creating faces on their toilet rolls and then cutting the top of the toilet roll to give it hair! You could also do a similar activity my making a face with a paper plate. Gluing on each googly eye will add some pasting practice too!
Chop up different materials (e.g. a piece of paper, foam, other craft supplies) in vegetable colours and place in a bowl to create a ‘scissor salad’.
Any tracing fine motor skills activity will be a great way to improve a child's hand-eye coordination and accuracy, as well as build hand and finger strength. Here are some simple ideas and activity cards to practise tracing:
Play dough Games
Playdough is one of my favourite tools for fine motor development- children of all ages love working with playdough! It is so versatile, and it strengthens all the small muscles in a child's hands as they manipulate it by squeezing, twisting, rolling and building.
I use playdough for lots of things throughout the year. Below are just a few of the MANY ideas for how you can use play dough in the classroom!
This could be your own name, decodable words or high-frequency words.
Students can make the numbers and also roll balls into ten frames.
We use our alphabet stampers to make new words that we are learning e.g. high-frequency words and decodable words.
Beads can not only be used to develop fine motor skills, but also to work on sounds, patterns, numbers and more.
My preferred type of bead to use is pony beads - they are great for helping children to learn how to manipulate small objects and there are lots of fun activities that you can do with them including:
- Making patterns by threading onto shoelaces or pipe cleaners.
- Making your own name
- Making numbers
- Work on colour recognition by sorting beads into colours
- Threading onto spaghetti
Pipe Cleaner Games
There are SO many ways to use pipe cleaners to build small hand muscles. Here are a few ideas:
- Threading with lowercase letter beads onto pipe cleaners to make words
- Twisting pipe cleaners into letters, numbers or words
- Creating pictures or artworks
- Poking into holes or through a colander
- Threading beads to create patterns
Sensory Play Games
Sensory play materials make excellent fine motor materials which the kids will love getting their hands into. They can scoop, dig, search for treasure, pour and so much more.
I made rainbow rice by just placing some rice in a snaplock bag with some paint and making sure that the rice was completely coated. I then laid it out in baking trays and left in the sun to dry- it was that simple!
Here are some of the ways that rainbow rice is used in my classroom.
I’ve also added rainbow chickpeas and pasta to my collection as well.
I also incorporate sensory materials/fine motor skills into literacy activities, such as this Buried Treasure activity below. The kids use the tongs to collect the decodable words, and sort into real and nonsense words.
Other sensory materials that I incorporate into fine motor activities in my classroom:
- Kinetic sand or normal sand
- Water beads
- Rainbow salt
- Water play e.g. scooping out ping pong balls from a tub of water
You might like to create sensory play set ups which are based around a specific interest area to engage young learners. For example, if a child is particularly interested in zoos, you might include zoo animals in your set up. These smaller pieces will require precise movements to manipulate and move, so they have the added bonus of building fine motor skills whilst also engaging students in the learning!
Peg or Clothes Pin Games
There are SO many amazing fine motor activities that we can do with pegs or clothes pins! Here are just a few of my favourites!
Games with Eye Droppers or Pipettes
This is such a fun activity for younger kids! I add a few drops of food colouring to make the coloured water, and use Twisty Droppers. You can also buy pipettes quite cheaply online.
I place these templates into my wipe mats, and the kids try to squeeze droplets onto all the circles.
Unifix Cube Games
There are also loads of fine motor ideas involving unifix cubes! Here are a few of my favourites!
More fine motor game ideas:
Fine Motor Puzzles
Students cut out the four pieces of the puzzle, re-assemble and glue on the puzzle boards. The puzzle pieces are either rectangles or triangles.
- Finger painting - encourage children to use their index finger
- Geoboards and rubber bands are another fun way for small children to build fine motor skills
- Using a single hole punch to make their own confetti with coloured construction paper
- Activities that involve manipulating paper clips could be a great fine motor activity for older children. Or you could use jumbo paper clips to create pattern chains with younger children too.
- Using tweezers, scoopers, tongs, or other utensils to move everyday items into containers e.g. cotton balls into a muffin tin
Running fine motor games in the classroom
I run fine motor skills activities in a couple of ways- we might have a targeted lesson on a particular skill and then do some follow up activities. Or I lay out a few of the activities and rotate the kids around in small groups so that they can have a turn at them all (great for developing group work routines and social skills). Sometimes I also just lay out a variety and let the kids roam around and choose the activities that they want. I recommend doing a mix!
As you'll have seen, many of the activities that I've shared above also incorporate phonics, high-frequency words or number skills as well. This means that I can build them into my literacy groups or maths groups too.
Basically- wherever you can find an opportunity to incorporate a bit of fine motor practice throughout your classroom day, GO FOR IT! Working on these important building blocks will have a significant impact on all the pieces of the puzzle when it comes to the many different areas of a child's learning!
Want to learn more about fine motor skills development?
Download my FREE Fine Motor Handbook. With over 50 pages, it covers:
- Fine Motor Development Stages
- Fine Motor Skills
- Pencil grip tips
- Hundreds of activity ideas for the home or classroom, with detailed pictures
- Fine motor craft ideas
- Ideas for early intervention