Fine motor skills are incredibly important. They help children develop the tiny muscles in their fingers and hands that are needed for tasks such as writing, dressing yourself etc. (For more information on What Fine Motor Skills are- read our article here)
But what activities can you do at home with your child or set up in your school/nursery to help develop fine motor skills? And what fun resources are available to support fine motor skill development?
We’ve compiled a list of our favourite activities and resources here.
(*Please, as with all activities on this site, risk assess activities yourself based on the children you are working with. For example, the objects used for sorting can pose a choking hazard. We accept no responsibility for the safety of activities on this site)
Lots of children love sorting activities and they can be a fantastic opportunity to get children practising those fine motor skills. They can sort pretty much anything, which is great as you can link it to other objectives you have (such as teaching them colours by encouraging them to sort objects into colours etc). Objects* we like to use are Pom Poms, Marbles, beads (anything small and fiddly to pick up)
Children can use their hands to pick up and sort objects (using their pincer grip) but to make it even more exciting we enjoy using the following resources:
- Children’s chopsticks – This added challenge, can add an element of fun for children during sorting activities. We love that there are lots of bright coloured ‘children’s’ chopsticks available too.
- Learning Resources Squeezy Tweezers – These are fantastic for developing hand strength as children have to squeeze and release the middle to open and close them , their bright colours and fun ‘scoops’ also make them exciting for children.
- Spoons and Spatulas– It’s surprising how much young children enjoy using every day kitchen implements in play. Why not give them a range to try and use to sort objects, such a ladel, teaspoon, spatula etc.
I love threading as a fine motor skill activity for children. Not only is it brilliant for developing those little muscles in the hands, carefully positioning the string through the hole and pulling it through, but it can also be an incredibly therapeutic and calming activity.
Simple ways of doing threading with things from home include threading beads onto elastic, pasta onto string or pushing Cheerios onto Spaghetti!Yellow Door Stringing Pebbles– The box comes with two strings and 18 pebbles with holes in the centre to thread. Theres a range of different coloured, textured and shaped pebbles making for a lovely sensory experience for children. They are also the perfect size for small hands to hold and manipulate the string through. The children have literally spent hours patiently threading the pebbles onto the string and then admiring their ‘necklaces’ before starting again. Great also for introducing patterns and reinforcing shapes.
Squeezing, kneading, squishing and shaping are great actions for developing hand strength. The following are some of the resources we regularly use to develop fine motor skills:
- Playdough Children love Playdough and its ideal for practising this skill. You can buy Play-Doh relatively cheaply but you can also make it from scratch and its surprisingly easy to do. Heres our method of making home made Playdough.
- Kinetic sand – If you’ve not come across Kinetic Sand yet, please read our review of Kinetic Sand here. It feels and acts like wet sand, but you can also squish it into shapes like play dough (it’s also a lot less messy than sand!)
- Salt dough– Making and playing with Salt Dough is a favourite activity here. It’s incredibly simple to make and the children get a great opportunity to develop fine motor skills through play, as well as developing their creativity.
- Baking biscuits– All the benefits listed above for Salt Dough, but the added one…you get to eat the end result!! Sure to tempt most children!
- Dough Disco– Invented by Shonette Bason-Wood, Dough Disco is a craze that has swept across primary and special needs schools…and for good reason, it’s an engaging, lively and entertaining way of developing fine motor skills by squishing, rolling and moving play-dough to music! Her videos are on YouTube, have a look at this one for a great introduction to the basics of Dough Disco. Or buy her book from her website here (p.s. whilst you’re there, have a read about her Spread The Happiness initiative- it’s wonderful)
Construction activities are brilliant for fine motor skills and there’s some exciting resources available. These are some of our favourites
- Strictly bricks – We discovered these plastic building blocks last year and were very excited to find that they are great value and compatible with other brands.
- Lego– The small pieces enable children’s fine motor skills to really be tested. Lego is also so much fun and provides hours of creative play.
- Magformers– We’ve been big fans of Magformers for a while now. They are colourful pieces of plastic with magnets inbuilt on each side of the shape. The sides attract each other, allowing you to ‘stick’ pieces together and build and create! Read our reviews here
- Clicformers Clicformers are plastic building blocks that click to each other and enable children to make 3D creations. Like Magformers, they encourage children to follow instructions to plan and build 2D nets and fold into the 3D model. What really struck me when I was helping the children create with the Clicformers was how fantastic they are for helping children develop their hand strength and fine motor skills. In terms of hand strength, it requires a fair bit of force to click the pieces together and is therefore, in my opinion, a fun way to develop this.
- Stems are bright coloured, ‘C’ shaped, plastic construction toys that can be popped/zipped to one another to build anything a child chooses! Their unusual way of connecting with each other makes them completely unique from other construction toys we’ve seen.
- Learning Resources Gears Machines in Motion Playset– We absolutely LOVE this construction toy. There’s so much to do, from clicking together cogs, to attaching wheels, turbines and pulleys. Literally hours of fun. The creations that children can make with these are astounding, and they work- they can be turned using the handle, the cogs go round and they move and spin. The kids made windmills, tanks (… and also some very unusual vehicles that they made up!)
- Aqua Beads– Not only are Aqua Beads incredibly popular with younger and older children alike, but their fiddly nature makes them excellent for perfecting those fine motor skills. For those who are new to Aqua Beads, they are practically magical! Children create shapes and patterns using tiny beads, spray with regular water, leave for a few minutes then…ta dar…the beads stick solid together to make their creation.
Getting dressed/buttons and zips
- Learn to Dress Monkey This cute monkey by Jojo Maman Bebe comes complete with his clothes such as shoes, socks and dungarees for children to practice putting on and taking off him. There are shoe laces to tie and buttons to do-up, providing children with a fun opportunity through play to perfect skills that they can then transfer to their own clothes. We particularly love the quality of this toy, the way he can stay sat up unaided and how much the children enjoyed playing with him.
- Activity Apron A great resource for helping children learn to do zips, buttons, poppers, velcro and other fastenings in a fun way! Brilliant for preschool children and useful for some children with special educational needs who may be focusing on how to get dressed independently .
- Child’s Play Getting Ready We loved that the book included a working zip to have a go with. Zips are notoriously difficult for children to master and it’s wonderful for children to get the opportunity to practice with one. Especially one that’s not on their coat when they are being rushed to leave the house! Practising the zip in their own time makes them much more likely to successfully accomplish it.
We’ve been really impressed by Twinkl’s Fine Motor Skills Activity Cards
which provide parents and education professionals with a range of fun, engaging activities/ challenges for children to try. The cards themselves could be used as prompts with activities, next to the resources needed, to encourage children to try and attempt and complete the fine motor activity. We love the range of activities they’ve included. Have a look at this resource on Twinkl here.
What resources are available for when a child begins to start forming letters and numbers?
Once a child’s fine motor skills have developed sufficiently for them to start forming letters and numbers, there are a whole range of fun activities are resources they can try.
In terms of activities, they could practise forming the letters using Sand (find out how, here) or even use to ‘write’ in (find out how here). There’s lots of other sensory ways of form the letters of the alphabet.
- Trace and Lift ABC is brilliant for learning how to form the letters of the alphabet, both upper case and lower case. It’s interactive, has lift the flaps and has examples of words that start with each sound. Children will enjoy tracing their fingers over the letters. They can even use this book for reference when they are feeling more confident with writing, but want something to look at to help them remember some of the trickier letter shapes.
- Arty Numbers Flash Cards (Arty Mouse Write on Wipe Off Flash Cards) is a brilliant example of a top quality resource for learning to form the numbers up to 20. Not only are the flash cards colourful, fun and engaging but they are also wipe clean, enabling them to be reused over and over. They also extend learning by guiding children to write the numbers in word format too and take part in other number activities too!
*Please note some samples were sent for the purpose of this blog post.P lease also note we have received a complimentary subscription to Twinkl, however all opinions and words are our own. This post also contains some amazon affiliate links. Please see our About Me section for more details.