With Christmas just around the corner, I’m sure you’re looking for some brilliant gift ideas for your preschooler. You want things that will be educational as well as fun. There are lots of awesome fine motor skills toys available. Here’s a list of some of my favourites, to help you on your way.
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Most preschoolers are ready to move onto ‘real’ Lego rather than the chunkier Duplo bricks.
We are unashamedly a Lego family. We’ve spent a LOT of money on it over the years, both new and secondhand.
If you’re limited on space or money, it’s better to get a lot of one kind of construction toy, rather than smaller amounts of several.
We decided early on to stick with Lego, so we’ve always looked there first for Birthday and Christmas gifts. We built up a pretty sizeable collection, and it’s been so much fun for all my children over the years.
If this is your first foray into the world of Lego, I’d suggest buying something like this, rather than one of the themed sets.
All Lego fits with all other Lego, so themed sets can be added to the general collection after a while. I just think that a big box of bricks is a better starting point for creativity.
Manipulating Lego requires dexterity. It helps children learn how to vary the amount of pressure they use to complete a task. When children are playing with toys like Lego, they’re developing their pincer grip as they pick up the smaller bricks. They’re learning how to line things up so that they snap together.
There are lots of toys available to help children learn how to fasten buckles, zippers, Velcro, shoelaces etc. for themselves.
I’m a big fan of trying to teach these things using actual shoes, clothes, and bags where possible. Even so, there’s definitely a place for toys that help support that learning.
Fine motor skills toys like these can help build up the kind of repetition that’s needed for true mastery of buttons, for example.
I really like this Curious George Learn To Dress toy too.
Generally, any kind of stuffed toys or dolls with clothing with real fastenings make great fine motor skills toys for preschoolers. They’ll soon figure out all those fastenings as they look after their cuddly toys.
All kinds of playdough, whether bought or homemade, are amazing for developing fine motor skills.
Playing with playdough helps with:
- Hand strength.
- Pincer grip.
- Bilateral hand coordination (using both hands at once).
- (And all kinds of other skills.)
I frequently make homemade playdough, and we’ve amassed quite a collection of tools to use with it.
We also enjoy the bought stuff as well, especially some of the weird and wonderful tools that come along with the bigger sets.
I love the Play-Doh barbershop. It’s such fun to watch the hair grow and chop it all off.
(Playdough is great for developing scissor skills because it’s so soft and easy to cut. You don’t need a special set, just ordinary kid scissors and the homemade dough will do just as nicely).
We also love the Play-Doh Ice Cream Castle for making delicious-looking creations and encouraging speech as you play ice cream shops with your child.
An open-ended toy that’s not only one of my favourite fine motor skills toys, it’s also brilliant for all kinds of pretend play.
Our set is like these ones, and it’s definitely stood the test of time.
For smaller children, it’s all about the stacking up and knocking down, over, and over, and over again.
As they get older, though, the bricks become part of bigger play worlds.
Maybe you need cages for your zoo or fences for farm animals? Perhaps your Little People want to go to the park?
Yes, you can buy playsets for all of those things, but a big box of wooden bricks can be anything you want it to be.
All the time they’re playing with the bricks they’re solving problems, as they figure out how to make their creation match the image in their head. They’re also learning how to control their hand and arm movements to carefully balance something right at the top of a wibbly-wobbly tower, or to place a bridge across a river without it falling in.
Whether you go for a simple bead-stringing set, or something like this cute String A Farm toy, lacing and threading toys are great for fine motor skills development.
You can make your own lacing cards really easily too, just with simple outline pictures and a hole punch. If you’d prefer to buy something ready-made, then I really like the look of these chunky wooden lacing toys.
When I was little, my favourite toy at my grandparents was a plastic board with rows of holes in it and plastic laces. We would go to my grandparents’ house every Sunday afternoon, and I’d spend most of the afternoon ‘making a shirt’ for my Grandad. Week after week, over and over.
We bought our first set of these about ten years ago, and they’ve never fallen out of favour.
Chunky colourful pieces that are easy to fit together, and really satisfying to play with.
Children love toys where they can make stuff happen. This toy is the perfect way to tap into that. It’s so easy to clip a couple of gears into place and set them spinning against one another.
A brilliant STEM building toy for preschoolers, Magna Tiles will be just as fascinating for the adults in your family as for the kids.
The geometric tiles are magnetised along the edges, so they snap together easily. You can make flat patterns and shapes with them, or use them to build three-dimensional creations.
They’re a great way to introduce preschoolers to magnets, and let them explore how they work. They’re also every bit as good for fine motor skills practice as any of the other toys I’ve shared in this post.
You don’t just have to stick to buying fine motor skills toys that are specifically designed for that purpose.
There are lots of other things you can consider for providing fine motor skills practice for your preschooler.
I’ve already talked about the importance of allowing time for fine motor skills activities in everyday life. Now I’d like to offer up a few suggestions for fine motor skills toys that aren’t actually toys in the traditional sense.
Fine Motor Skills Toys That Aren’t Really Toys.
Use them at bathtime for water play, or outside in the mud kitchen.
Set them out alongside some playdough, or sand, or water beads, and see what happens. (Ever tried scooping up water beads and transferring them from one container to another? The bounciness makes the fine motor challenge even greater!)
Or, you know, use them for actual baking.
Real ones, in different shapes and sizes, from the hardware store (or Amazon if you’re feeling lazy).
Children love playing with things that are real – after all, they see you doing it all the time. (It’s why your baby is so fascinated by your mobile phone).
Nuts and bolts are fun to play with on their own. You could also add some pieces of wood with pre-drilled holes to thread the bolts through.
There are lots of sewing kits around that are aimed at older preschoolers.
My experience with them is that they’re often not very well made, and they’re a recipe for frustration when your child realises how hard it is to make something that looks like the picture on the packet.
That’s why I would always choose real sewing supplies over a pre-made kit.
Apart from that, the main point of ‘sewing’ for most preschoolers is just to mimic what they’ve seen other people doing, and to enjoy the process of threading yarn through fabric.
It’s a form of process art, really.
Adult sewing supplies work better. Blunt metal tapestry needles are easier to use because they don’t bend like the plastic ones do.
Yarn comes in all kinds of colours and varieties, and it’s far cheaper to buy a big ball of something fabulous than to worry about not ‘wasting’ the tiny amount provided in a kit.
Plastic canvas with decent-sized holes is easy for little fingers to manage, and you always have the option of undoing their work and starting over if you like. (But do keep some and display it as well).
Fine Motor Skills Toys.
So, those are some of my favourite fine motor skills toys for preschoolers.
With Christmas just around the corner, I know that a few of these will be making their way onto my buying list, as they do every year.
Now you’ve got a great set of options for things to buy for your favourite preschooler this Christmas, or just to add to your playroom at any time.
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