Creative Ways to Build Fine Motor Skills

fine motor skills

Fine motor skills are the ability to make movements using the small muscles in our hands and wrists. These skills are important for all ages and are developed from birth.

Infancy-12 months
Placing toys within reach (or for younger infants in their hands) helps to build the small muscles that are used for grasping. Bonus if the toy is colorful. Babies’ sight is not fully developed at birth so bright colors are easier to see.
*Younger babies may not be able to hold onto a toy for more than a few seconds – That’s OK! They are working up to it and practice is important, so keep trying.

12 months – 24 months
Try Finger Foods! By this age range many children are eating solid foods. Place your baby in a high chair and cut up foods like kiwi, bananas, blueberries and soft crackers and watch them build the ability to use their index finger and thumb to feed themselves. Practicing the pincer grip is important at this age. Make sure you are using foods that are not choking hazards. Here is a good website that talks about making sure finger foods are safe:

24 months to 36 months
Play dough for the win! Whether store bought or homemade, play dough is the perfect way to to help your child build fine motor skills.
Create a “play dough safe” spot at a table (cover with newspaper if needed)
Set out cookie cutters, small plastic animals or easily washable toys
Let them create – just be ready for the colors to be mixed!

36 month-48 months
Building an artist! This is the time when children are often able to control the use of a colored pencil or a small paint brush.
Create a space with plenty of scrap paper and colored pencils. If the weather cooperates, a picnic table outside with watercolor paints and thick paper will build fine motor skills that helps your child be school ready.

48 months-60 months
Beads! Beads! And more beads! Now this may not be for all kiddos this age (especially if they are still putting EVERYTHING in their mouth!)
Beads and pipe cleaner or plastic cords are wonderful ways to strengthen hand muscles and dexterity.
Another alternative is working with dried pasta. We suggest you use pasta like “wagon wheel” pasta. Penne and ziti can work too, but sometimes they are too long for a child to get the string all the way through.

Looking for more ideas for fine motor skill activities? Contact our Family Help Line for a free parent coaching session! 800-932-HOPE (4673)