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Fine Motor Fun (50 Activity Ideas to do BEFORE writing)


You may have heard about fine motor skills and how important it is to develop those skills in young children. But what does that mean and why is it so important? BEFORE a child can ever start writing or coloring in the lines or buttoning their shirts, they have to strengthen and develop small muscles in their hands. If they don't spend time strengthening these small hand muscles from a young age, everyday tasks like tying their shoes, coloring in the lines, using a pencil, cutting with scissors, eating, brushing their teeth, and more will be very difficult for them. I would even say these are the most important skills to work on with small children in preparation for school.


So if it is so important how can one help? Thankfully it is very easy to encourage the development of these skills from home with very simple tools. We've put together a list of 50 activity ideas that will strengthen and develop your child's small hand muscles. Feel free to add your ideas in the comments and share!


  1. Eat with your hands: from the first time your child eats solid food, cut food in smaller pieces, place it on a plate or tray, and encourage him to pick up the food with his fingers and place it in his mouth.

  2. Bathtime play: give your baby or young child a variety of toys to play with in the bath (not all at once). Sponges, cups, spoons, squirt toys, balls, fishing toy rods, foam letters and numbers, and more!

  3. Container filling: choose a container with or without a lid. Give your child bottle caps, small objects, or other items they can put in the container (in and out).

  4. Cookie Tray Magnet Fun: Give your child a cookie tray (flat metal tray) and some fun magnets (letters, shapes, animals, etc.). Have them play with it, placing them on and taking them off with their hands.

  5. Pom Pom Whisk: place pom poms inside a whisk and let your child pull them out with their fingers.

  6. Playdough Play: even from small babies to young children already in school can enjoy playdough play and develop those small muscles. As children grow you can give them a variety of playdough tools to make it more fun. Find a taste-safe playdough and let your baby squish it between their fingers, roll it into balls or snakes, use utensils, and more! Check out our previous blog post for more playdough learning ideas.

  7. Draw with Chalk Outside: get some fun sidewalk chalk or make your own. Let your child draw and explore with chalk on the driveway or sidewalk. Take the opportunity to draw with them and enjoy making memories together.

  8. Sensory Bin: making a sensory bin is perfect for developing fine motor skills. Get a big plastic tub or a wooden tray with sides and allow your child to play with a variety of materials with their fingers, with spoons, tweezers, scoops and more! Here are some examples: rice, dry pasta, salt, ribbon or yarn, beans, oats, popcorn kernels, shredded paper, water beads, cotton balls, play sand, leaves or flowers, cooked spaghetti, and so much more! Check out our blog post about sensory play.

  9. Board Book: find some fun board books, read with your child and have them hold the book, point to words or pictures, even touch and feel if the book has different textures.

  10. Small Animal Play: we love doing this along with playdough. Create fun scenes and include small animals toys or character toys that tell a story and move around.

  11. Blowing and Popping Bubbles: even if your child can't blow bubbles yet, catching them with their fingers not only develops small muscles it helps them grow in hand-eye coordination.

  12. Tower Building: use big foam blocks, big legos, plastic cups, bigger rocks, or shaped crayons to build and knock down towers. See how high you can go!

  13. Toy Bathtime: fill a tub with water and soap and some dirty toys. Give your child a toothbrush or cloth and give the toys a "bath."

  14. Eat with Tools: give your child a variety of "utensils" to eat with like a spoon, fork, craft stick, and even tweezers. Depending on the food you can have a lot of fun and teach them important skills while doing so.

  15. Dirt Drawing: give your child sticks or rocks and have them draw in the dirt, create patterns, or trace letters or numbers you "write" first.

  16. Cutting the Grass: Give your child safety scissors and have them cut grass in your garden.

  17. Rock Play: give your child time to play with rocks, leaves, flowers, and dirt outside. Encourage them to make a pretty picture or sort the different items, or draw with them in the dirt.

  18. Toy rescue: tape some toys to a tray or inside a big tub with masking tape or painters tape. Have your child take the tape off to rescue each toy.

  19. Puzzle Play: from a young age you can encourage your child to play with different puzzles. Play with them and find the pieces together, but have your child pick them up and move them around to fit in the correct space.

  20. Confetti: Give your child scraps of paper and newspaper and some scissors in a big tub. Have them cut the paper into smaller pieces and keep it in the tub.

  21. Play dress up: Give your child fun clothes to play dress up with. Allow them to try putting on the clothes themselves (button buttons, zip zips, buckles, ties, etc.)

  22. Shaving Cream Designs: spread some shaving cream out on a big surface (or use whipped cream or yogurt for a taste-safe option). Allow your child time to have fun "drawing" different things with their fingers. Encourage them to make different types of lines, letters, numbers, etc.

  23. Clothes on the Line: Tie a string from one chair to another and give your child small clothing and pegs. Teach them how to place the small clothing on the line and press open the peg to pin it on the line.

  24. Sorting Cutlery: Give your child a variety of cutlery (spoons, forks, knives... careful!) and ask them to sort them by shape or size.

  25. Clean up, clean up!: Allow your child to help with clean up around the house as much as possible. Give them the dustpan and small broom to clean up piles or dirt, ask them to put toys in a box, have them put clothing away in drawers, dust counters, etc.

  26. Spray Bottle Targets: a spray bottle is lots of fun and great for strengthening small muscles. Use a spray bottle and cloth to "wash" walls inside or outside. Draw letters, numbers, or shapes on the ground or wall with sidewalk chalk and have them spray the one you say.

  27. Paint with water: give your child a big paintbrush and give them time to "paint" with a water on the sidewalk or on a wall outside.

  28. Picking Flower: go on a fun nature walk and pick flowers in the field with your child. Make a nice bouquet and put it in a vase or dry the flowers when you get home.

  29. Wipes box pulling fun: Use an empty wipes box and place several scraps of fabric inside. Your child can pull the pieces of fabric through the opening one at a time.

  30. Rubbish Bin Basketball: Give your child a small rubbish bin and small balls or even toilet tissue rolls to throw in it one at a time.

  31. Cut the playdough: an extension of playdough play can be to allow your child to use scissors to cut the playdough while playing into smaller pieces.

  32. Fill it Up: Use a big container and several smaller cups and spoons. Allow your child to play fill it up by filling the big container with water or sand or a sensory filler item using the smaller items.

  33. Follow the Road: draw roads or make roads with tape on the ground, give your child a toy car or toilet tissue rolls and have them follow the roads with it around the house or outside.

  34. Threading: give your child bigger dry pasta, beads, buttons, loop cereal, or other "threading" materials and a string or piece of yarn. Encourage them to place them on the string one by one. They can even make patterns with different shapes, sizes, or colours.

  35. Baking: baking and cooking is a great way to strengthen small muscles. Have your child help you place ingredients in the bowl, mix them together, etc. If possible choose a recipe that also allows them to use their hands to mix or knead like pizza or bread dough. Here's a fun and easy one you can try at home.

  36. Play with Legos: legos are a great way to develop small muscles. You can use big Duplos or smaller ones. Create fun things together.

  37. Sticker Art: Buy stickers that your child can use to make art. Have them take the stickers off their packaging and place them on paper.

  38. Painting with cotton: Have your child use a clothes peg to pick up a cotton ball and then dip it into paint to paint on a big piece of paper.

  39. Cotton bud push: Flip an egg carton upside down, poke small holes in each section and then give your child cotton buds to push through each hole.

  40. Ice Painting: Freeze some ice with food coloring and a craft stick handle. Once it is frozen, give your child a big piece of paper and have them "paint" using the colored ice by holding the craft stick handle.

  41. Tissue Paper Art: Give your child a variety of colored tissue paper and a picture of a tree, butterfly, flower vase, rainbow, dinosaur, etc. Spread white glue on the picture and then have your child rip the tissue paper into small pieces and stick it on the paper to "colour it in." Here is an example.

  42. Going Fishing: Use a small net, a big tub of water (or the bathtub), and fun toys that fit in the net. Have your child fish their toys out of the water using the net.

  43. Pipe Cleaner Strainer: Flip a strainer over and either have your child put pipe cleaners through each hole or have them pull the pipe cleaners out (you put them in).

  44. Button Trees: Place some pipe cleaners together to form "branches" of a tree with a stable base. Then have your child thread buttons onto the pipe cleaners like leaves on branches.

  45. Shopping List: find pictures in newspapers of items you are going to buy at the shop. Have your child cut out the pictures and glue them on to another paper. When you go shopping, your child can mark the picture like checking off his list.

  46. Bean art: use different beans or small food items to create art. Have your child "draw" shapes with white glue and then place beans, corn kernels, dry pasta, etc. on the glue to give colour to the shapes.

  47. Toilet Tube Chute: Tape a toilet tissue tube or papertowel roll to the fridge, cupboard, or wall. Then have your child place pom poms or small balls through the "chute" and watch them fall threw into a basket or tub below. Here is what it looks like.

  48. Trace My Name: have your child use stickers, cotton buds with paint, glue and beans, etc. to trace her name. (Write her name on a piece of paper using big letters.)

  49. Pop the Pom Pom: use a pop it fidget toy, have your child pop down and place a pom pom in each spot.

  50. Skewer the Treats: use skewer sticks to create a fun snack. Have your child place fruit, cooked vegetables, sweets, or cereal on kebab skewers and then enjoy eating it by taking one off at a time.

So many more fun ideas can be found online! Hope you enjoyed this! Share your ideas in the comments below!







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