Fine motor skills activities are important for preschoolers. They lay the foundation for important skills like writing, and for self-care activities like toothbrushing and getting dressed.
Your preschooler has been constantly developing these skills since he first discovered his hands when he was a baby. Everything is still part of this huge learning experience.
Even so, it’s important to provide specific activities to help your preschooler develop his fine motor skills.
There’s a lot to be said for the kinds of activities that are just part of life. Let your child help you cook and clean, let him see you writing and drawing, and encourage him to join in.
It’s also good to include some more structured activities that are designed to develop specific skills.
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What Are Fine Motor Skills Activities?
Firstly, what are we talking about when we say ‘fine motor skills’?
Fine motor skills are small movements of the hands and wrists (as opposed to gross motor skills, big, whole-body movements).
- Drawing, or copying shapes and letters.
- Using scissors.
- Picking up small items between thumb and forefinger.
- Using cutlery.
- Using zips and buttons.
The good news is, lots of the activities that preschoolers love doing, are brilliant for helping them refine those fine motor skills.
Here are some of my favourite fine motor skills activities for preschoolers.
Fine Motor Skills Activities.
A cutting station is a great way to encourage children to practice their technique with scissors.
There’s also a downloadable cutting printable with this cutting station activity from Playdough to Plato.
Another brilliant scissor skills activity. This one, from Itty Bitty Sunshine, is perfect for even the tiniest of beginning scissor users.
I love how simple this is to set up, and how easy it would be to adapt it to whatever toy your little one is most interested in.
This is something all my children have enjoyed doing.
It gets extra bonus points from me because it requires absolutely no preparation.
Assuming you have a colander anyway, or some other thing with holes in, and some pipe cleaners, then you’re all set.
I like extending this activity for slightly older children, by adding chunky beads, or tube pasta. This adds the challenge of threading things onto the pipe cleaners.
You’ve probably got most of what you need for this at home already, and if not, it’s easy to pick up.
Buttons are just fun to play with anyway, and preschoolers typically love sorting them, and just running their hands through piles of them. If you don’t already have a button jar, I’d definitely recommend you start a collection. (You’d be surprised how quickly they mount up if you start snipping them off clothing before it’s discarded).
I think the finished button ‘sculptures’ look beautiful as well, and I’d be tempted to make a more permanent version using air-drying clay instead of the playdough.
There are a few simple games on this page involving bottle tops.
They require a little bit of set-up ahead of time, but I definitely think it’s worthwhile.
I’ve found that anytime I can include a special tool in the play, it becomes even more interesting to little ones. That’s why I love the use of the tongs or chopsticks in these games.
We love activities that use pipettes.
There’s just something about them that seems to encourage intense concentration in preschoolers.
Maybe it’s just that they feel so much like ‘real scientists’ when they’re wielding a pipette? I don’t know, but any activity involving pipettes is almost guaranteed to be successful in this house.
Another super-simple but effective activity that will encourage concentration as well as fine motor skills.
Mixing up the kinds of ‘brushes’ you use for art projects will help your preschooler learn about the different effects they can get from different tools.
This simple Q-tip art activity is great for developing the thumb and forefinger pincer grip.
This one is brilliant for helping preschoolers work on their letter formation, or for just making simple shapes and lines.
There are some awesome tips in this post for how to make a simple salt tray a little bit more exciting by appealing to the different senses.
Salt trays always make me think of those little Japanese-style gardens that people used to have on their desks.
Just making simple patterns in the sand with hands can be a great fine motor skills activity, even without the added literacy element.
There are lots of brilliant construction-themed ideas on this post, so it’s well worth taking a look if you’ve got little ones who are obsessed with construction.
I love the nuts and bolts activity pictured above. I’m a real fan of letting children use real tools in their play. Using actual metal nuts and bolts is so much more engaging and interesting than the plastic equivalents that you usually find in children’s play tool kits.
The post is full of other suggestions that make great fine motor practice for little ones. Make sure you give the golf tees activity a go too.
Fine Motor Skills Activities In Everyday Life.
Setting up specific fine motor skills activities is an important way to make sure that your children develop the skills they’ll need in later life.
It’s also a great idea to actively look at your everyday life and see where you can make space for that fine motor skills practice.
Those are great toys. They’re fun to play with, and your child is learning important skills in the process.
But … your preschooler wears clothes every day that also help to develop those fine motor skills.
I’d encourage you to consider whether allowing five minutes longer for getting dressed each morning would be a useful way of letting your child develop his fine motor skills in a real-world context.
Yes, sometimes we’re all in such a hurry that bundling our kids into their coats and shoes and whisking them out the door is the only way to make things happen. That shouldn’t be the norm, though. We need to make space for our children to develop the skills needed for independence.
Making time for your children to help you with things is another way to provide that kind of real-world experience.
Cooking, cleaning, gardening, assembling furniture, replacing batteries in things, unscrewing the toothpaste lid or shampoo bottle, locking the front door, spreading their own sandwiches. There are so many tiny things that happen in the course of your day that could be reframed as learning opportunities for your preschooler.
Make A Fine Motor Skills Activities Plan.
You’ve read this far (thank you!), so you’re clearly interested in providing fine motor skills activities for your preschooler.
You’ve read the post and have a few ideas now, but you need to find a way to actually take action if you want to try these activities out for yourself.
That doesn’t need to be complicated or time-consuming.
Simply pick one or two activities to try in the next seven days.
Start small and simple, perhaps with the colander and pipe cleaners.
Gather your supplies. Maybe you’ve got them already, maybe you’ll need to hit up Amazon to sort you out.
Then all that’s left is to pick a day to try it out.
Don’t make this one of those things where you buy the supplies but don’t get around to the activity.
I’d also recommend picking one everyday task to focus on for this week.
Pick something that happens at a time when you’re not usually in a rush. The idea is to give your preschooler as much time as he needs to carry out the task for himself.
So, maybe choose to make an afternoon snack rather than packing lunch each morning ready for preschool.