Developing fine motor skills – otherwise referred to as dexterity – is an essential part of growing up. It is arguably one of the most essential skills that any little human needs to master.
Pretty much every daily task you could think of wouldn’t be possible to perform without fine motor skills. Making and eating breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth, or combing hair – these skills are essential for almost every aspect of life.
It’s important to remember that kids pick up and develop motor skills at different rates like all aspects of child development. That said, you don’t want you’re little one falling behind, which is why it’s so important as parents to do what you can to help your little one to develop these skills, encouraging them to engage in activities that work to develop these most.
What are fine motor skills, and why are they so important?
In layman’s terms, fine motor skills involve the use of small muscles in the fingers, wrists, hands, feet, and toes. They start to develop from 4-6 months, with your baby being able to roll onto their tummy and pull themselves forward with their arms and they should be fully developed by ages 5-6.
Developing these skills is all about developing the muscles involved, which is done through repeated actions like holding, pressing, grasping, or using a pincer grip. This makes a wide range of different activities helpful in developing them, as these actions are required to do pretty much everything needed to navigate the world.
It’s crucial as parents to do what we can to help move these along, giving children self-confidence, a sense of independence, and the ability to care for themselves – all things vital for success when they graduate from preschool to big school.
10 easy ways to help your little one develop their fine motor skills
Helping your child to develop fine motor skills doesn’t have to be complicated – in fact, quite the opposite – there are an infinite number of simple, fun activities that can be incorporated into daily routines and regular play, with little to no effort.
This takes us to the point of this point – here are our picks for ten super-easy, effortless ways to help your little one develop their fine motor skills.
1. Play-doh, putty, slime, and modeling clay
These toys are a lot of fun, and kids love them! All the colors, textures, and near-infinite possibilities for creative, imaginative play, make these some of the best dinosaur toys around.
Your child will pinch, roll, stretch, and squeeze through these toys, and when combined with plenty of tools – like those found in a dinosaur play-doh set or clay dinosaur kit – these simple, fun activities are as great for creative play as they are for developing fine motor skills.
While these activities can be nightmarish for parents – I’m sure we’ve all battled with tough to remove dinosaur slime related carpet stains – these toys are not only great fun and affordable, they also offer plenty of developmental benefits.
2. Board games and puzzles
Spending quality time with your children playing board games or completing puzzles will help them strengthen and better synchronize their little muscles, improving their fine motor skills.
Completing puzzles can also be great for building self-esteem, giving your little one a real sense of accomplishment, helping to build up their confidence. Not only this but if you’re into puzzles yourselves, getting your little one involved can be lots of fun.
This type of activity is also great for family bonding. Pick a dinosaur board game with enough players for everyone to get involved and make a habit of it, setting a weekly family game night to help develop strong, close family ties and bonds with your children.
3. Drawing, painting, and coloring in
Kids everywhere love to paint, draw, and color in their favorite dinosaur coloring book, or even free printable dinosaur coloring pages found online. It’s an activity that all parents should do their best to encourage, as it’s not only great for developing fine motor skills but also second to none when it comes to creativity and imagination.
There can also be other educational benefits to this activity. Let’s say you get your little one completing a paint by numbers activity – this can help basic number recognition, maths and increase their understanding of colors.
Remember to mix things up, trying all sorts of painting styles and mediums, from crayons and chalk to finger paints, brush painting, and even charcoal – each of which has distinct benefits and work to help improve your little one’s hand-eye coordination in their own way.
4. Cutting with scissors
Getting your child to use scissors can be a great way to strengthen and improve fine motor skills, along with other vital skills, like concentration, hand strength, and hand-eye coordination.
You can also combine this activity with loads of others. Draw shapes to cut out, fold, and make paper snowflakes, or cut through slime and play-doh. There are plenty of options and ways to work this activity into regular play and creative activities.
The obvious thing to note here is to pick up a pair of safe, age-appropriate scissors, to prevent any unfortunate mishaps or injuries. You might also want to invest in some craft paper, as this is both easier to cut through, available in all sorts of bright colors, and won’t present any risk of paper cuts as the regular printer paper most of us have at home might.
5. Bath time and water play
Bath time and water play can help build strength in your child’s wrist and finger muscles and help develop and fine-tune their motor skills.
While there are loads of excellent dinosaur bath toys – there are also plenty of items you have just lying around the house that are both great for play and for developing essential skills.
Grab a few cups or containers to fill and pour out or drop in a sponge for them to squeeze – it really doesn’t take much effort to harness the full developmental benefits of this daily routine essential.
6. Building castles and other sand play
Like bath time and water play, sand can be manipulated in many of the same ways, being easily poured in and out of cups and other containers. Sand is most fun when using tools and dinosaur molds to build and draw things.
If you live near the beach, this activity is a no brainer. Invest in a bucket and spade set, and head down to the seafront, when the weather permits. And it’s not just sand – there are plenty of other fun activities that can be just as useful when you’re at the beach, like finding shells, crabs, or clamming – all of which can help build dexterity.
One thing to remember about sand is it can be messy. If you’re playing indoors, it’s best to look at things like magic or kinetic sand, as these are designed to prevent mess, making post-play clean up far easier than with regular old sand.
7. Building blocks and other construction toys
Building blocks and construction toys are great! In fact, one of the best things about kids for us dads is having a good excuse to wander into the LEGO store and leave with a bunch of massive sets that we can claim we bought for our little ones.
But stacking, connecting, and building unique masterpieces out of blocks isn’t just fun; it’s also great to develop fine motor skills, helping kids develop these essential skills through play. And it doesn’t stop there; these toys offer a host of other benefits, including persistence, problem-solving, and self-esteem, through a real sense of accomplishment.
And it’s not just LEGO and their awesome LEGO dinosaur sets – there are plenty of good, lesser-known construction toy brands to explore, many of which offer some real bargains if you can find them. You also don’t have to wait for them to be a little older – there are loads of options for young toddlers, using larger pieces that reduce any choking risk.
8. Baking, cooking, and helping out in the kitchen
The kitchen can be a lot of fun. Whether baking, cooking, or just basic food prep – kids love getting involved, and there are plenty of mini activities that can help them develop essential skills. Baking cookies? Put them on dinosaur cookie cutter duty. Cooking the family meal? Get them to help wash the vegetables. The possibilities for fun, mini-tasks that build real skills are near-endless.
And it doesn’t necessarily have to be the cooking itself. Getting them involved could be as simple as having them lay the table, measure ingredients, or pour out a glass of milk – each of these tasks is great for strengthening little muscles.
Getting your little ones involved in the kitchen is not only great for their early development, but it can also help instill in them the importance of making the right food choices, setting them down a path of healthy eating that will last a lifetime.
9. Helping with the gardening
If you’re a parent with a green thumb, what could be a better way of helping to improve your kid’s essential skills than by getting them to get their hands dirty with you in the garden?
Digging, planting, watering – there are plenty of mini-activities here to help build hand strength, hand-eye coordination, and smaller muscle control. It may even make your life easier, saving you a job once you’ve managed to train them up enough.
Obviously, be careful with this one – outdoor activities can present more hazards than those at home. Whether it’s the tools or just the somewhat unpredictable nature of, well, nature – there can be plenty of pitfalls that you won’t always be prepared for, so just make sure to supervise your little one properly, and you’ll be fine.
10. Brushing their teeth
While this one might not be as obvious as some of the others on this list, brushing teeth is not just a good oral hygiene practice, it’s also useful in helping with motor skills development.
Gripping the brush, moving it back and forth, along with all the other actions performed when brushing, all help with essential skills, increasing hand strength, coordination, and of course, good hygiene habits. It can also be rewarding, with the help of a star chart or simple rewards, like bedtime stories, helping to build better self-esteem.
This one can be difficult at first – especially with young children – who can be pretty reluctant to brush. However, with a little perseverance – and maybe the help of a dinosaur toothbrush – you can soon turn brushing into a fun game that your little one will be eager to engage in daily.
So there you have it – our pick of 10 easy-to-do activities that can help kick start the development of fine motor skills for your little one.
As we’ve stated, fine motor skills are incredibly important – being virtually essential to every activity you could think of.
Whether using a computer or playing an instrument, right through to simple, everyday tasks, like brushing teeth or combing hair – none of these tasks and activities can be completed without these skills.
We hope that this post has given you and your family some ideas on how to best help your little one build up their skills and that you have a load of fun in the process!