7 Fun Toddler Activities that Develop Fine Motor Skills

Writing, tying shoes and using scissors; these are all skills that require fine motor skills — movements that make use of small muscles in the body, like those in the fingers, thumbs and wrists.  Children already exercise these muscles in their every day activities but you can give them some extra practice with these fun and simple activities.

Here are some hands on ways for your toddler or pre-schooler to develop fine motor skills:

1. Playing with Play Dough

Whether you make your own, or purchase it from the store, play dough is probably one of the most engaging activities for toddlers to build up strength in their tiny hand muscles.  Rolling the dough into a ball, poking into the the dough, patting it like a pancake, twisting it and squishing it are all muscle and tendon strengthening activities.

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2. Peeling Fruit
We love clementines, particularly the popular brand Cuties, because they are so small and easy to peel for little hands.  After your little one has peeled all the skin off they can separate all the wedges and enjoy a healthy seedless snack.

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3. Clothespins and Cotton Balls
Clothespins are great tools to develop finger muscles because of the resistance they provide.  Have your child try to pick up cotton balls with the clothespins and then have him or her place them in a bowl or box.  If you want to add a challenge you can time them and/or have them count as they pick up the cotton.  You can also use tongs instead of clothespins for a similar effect.

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4. Pasta in Colander
I was surprised my little girl was so engaged with this activity.  It’s very simple, just have your child place pasta noodles into the holes of a colander.  The holes are small so the movement and placement need to be precise.  For a younger child you can use an empty Parmesan cheese container, since it has larger holes.

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5. Pom Pom Water Bottle
Filling up a small water bottle is another great way for small toddlers to use the pincer grasp.  You can add another challenge by having your child sort the different color pom poms in various  bottles or label the bottles with numbers and have them place 3 pom poms in one bottle and 5 pom poms in another.   This activity can also be done with beans, cereal or uncooked popcorn as long as your toddler is past the stage of putting things in his or her mouth.

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6. Stickers
I have not yet met a child who does not love stickers!  The simple motion of pinching and peeling off a sticker is a great way to enhance fine motor development.  Have your child decorate a book cover or a card with lots cute stickers.  Pay close attention to the way they bed and peel the paper in order to get the stickers off.  Help them to take their time if they tear the stickers in the process.

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7. Painting
Both finger painting and painting with a brush are excellent fine motor activities that require the use of hand-eye coordination.   When using a brush your child will practice the pincer grip, also the act of dipping the brush in the paint and water is great exercise.  Finger painting is also good exercise and requires that the child use his or her hand, wrist and fingers to create a beautiful image on the paper or canvas.   Also try painting with non- traditional materials like Q-tips, cotton balls or sponges.  Your child will love using everyday object to spark his or her creativity.

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There are just a few of the activities that can help toddlers develop fine motor skills. Always remember to have your child help clean up any mess, because it can further strengthen fine motor skills and reinforce attention to detail.

Moms, what activities would you add to this list? Share in the comments below ?

Angele is a wife to a wonderful creative husband, mother to two beautiful intelligent daughters and a lover of art, education and laughter.  She is the creator and author of ABC remix.