Children learn to use their thumbs and fingers every day. This includes babies who play with rattles and preschoolers who color with crayons. Play is a great way for kids to learn these skills, as with many lessons. Your child won’t even know they have toys that are good for fine motor skills. “working.”Scary Mommy reached Emma Hubbard, Pediatric Occupational Therapist, to learn more about the essential toys to strengthen fine motor skills.
The Expert Emma HubbardShe is a pediatric occupational therapist and has over 12 years of experience. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy at the University of Newcastle. She is also the founder and CEO of Brightest BeginningA website and YouTube channel that aims to help new parents. She shares her knowledge and experiences on everything related to child development, sleep and toilet training, feeding, and other topics. What toys can help you develop fine motor skills?
To start, it’s helpful to better understand what fine motor skills entail. Hubbard states that these skills are essential in preparing children for independence. “feed themselves, get dressed, brush their teeth and hair, open containers, draw, and write.”
As with any new skill, practice makes perfect. Hubbard suggests providing toys for children that are durable and easy to use. “encourage a child to use small finger movements”These are the things you should know. “appropriate for their development”to avoid frustration and provide just-right challenges
What to look for when shopping for the best toys for fine motor skills
To help you find the right toy for where your kiddo is at developmentally, here’s what you need to know about emerging skills for the toddler and preschool age range.
Hubbard says that toddlers are continuing to develop their skills in picking up small objects with their thumbs and index fingers, building on their abilities from birth. They are also learning to place small objects in small containers. “how to rotate their fingers and wrist for accurate placement.”
Hubbard recommends a variety toy options for strengthening these skills.
Hubbard states that preschoolers are ready and willing to work on self-care skills. These skills include button placement on a shirt, and skills that will help them get ready for kindergarten.
She believes toys are good for preschoolers. “threading and lacing toys, puzzles, play dough, drawing implements, Lego and [other] blocks, dolls with dress up clothes, and imaginative play kits.”However, they also benefit by toddler-recommended toys. “further developing their hand-eye coordination, finger strength and ability to isolate their fingers to complete intricate tasks.”
Using Hubbard’s advice, we’ve rounded up the best fine motor skills toys that will entertain your kids (and exercise those little fingers), with everything from STEM-based toys to more open-ended and creative picks.
01 A set of Chunky Lacing beads that will entertain for hours
This colorful set of
lacing beadsThis is a classic way to help your LO improve their pincer grasp and dexterity. The set includes 30 rainbow-hued beads of five different shapes. One shopper stated, “Made with good quality!!! My kid plays with this for hours.” It has entertained them for hours on end.” Reviewers note the set may be used in many ways including “beading, colors, counting, shapes, sorting etc.”The kit includes two sturdy laces. The set comes in a wooden storage container and is a favorite of parents with a 4.8-star rating following 15,000 reviews on Amazon. Recommended Age3 years and older 02 A best-selling game that sneaks in fine motor skills
This is an easy-to-use game
board gamePreschoolers love this game. The spinner is a great way to practice fine motor skills and aim to collect one acorn each color. “stolen”The grasp-refining sneaky squirreltweezers are used. Parents report that the game is fast and easy, taking only 10 minutes for two people and 15 for three. “If you’re on the fence, GET this game for your kiddos,”One parent raved. “It’s perfect for teaching turn taking, understanding matching colors and they won’t realize they are really working on perfecting those fine motor skills.”Another reviewer said that the parts work well and that they are easy to use. “The spinner is great–doesn’t get stuck like other games I have.” Recommended Age3 years and older 03 This Travel-Ready Peg Stacker Board Set
construction setWith 25 colorful chunky pegs, and an 8-inch crepe rubber pegboard, kids can play and build three-dimensionally and refine their hand-eye coordination. The storage box comes with a handle so you can carry it around. “They get input from the pushing and pulling motions and there are a bunch of different ways to use this while getting educational [play],”One happy reviewer explained. Another satisfied customer raved about the durability of the set, saying: “You can stack, sort by color and count them. The board has survived our playroom with three boys and twin girls and shows no signs of the abuse it’s endured.” Recommended Age2 years and up 04 The Dino They’ll Love Building (& Taking Apart)
This tool kit is perfect for kids who are fascinated with tools.
dinosaurIt encourages dexterity, problem solving skills, and imaginative play once the brachiosaurus has been fully assembled. “The mouth, neck, legs, and tail move, which makes it even better. A screwdriver comes in the set and makes a clicking sound to let you know it’s tight, which I love,”One reviewer said so. The plastic parts are smooth so they can’t hurt little fingers as your builder constructs (and deconstructs) their dino again and again with the easy-to-use screwdriver. Do you have more dinos? Try the four-pack of dinosThis is an amazing deal. Recommended Age3 years and older 05 This Garden-Themed Set That’s Dishwasher-Safe
This adorable and unique 44-piece garden will help children develop a love for nature.
construction setGreen Toys One review noted that the set includes daisies, petunias and lilies, and is beautiful. “simple but endless, creative and practical, fine motor skills and problem solving… It has it all.”The parts are made of recycled milk jugs. They are free from BPA and phthalates, PVC and paint that could crack. Everything is easy to clean (they can go in the dishwasher) and reviewers say they’re super durable: “The pieces are well made and sturdy. They’ve held up for years now.” Recommended Age3 years and older 06 This Popular Blade-Free Scissors and Activity Pad Set is a great choice
Scissor skills are key in preschool/kindergarten and they help children work on their hand-eye coordination. Plus, what child doesn’t love cutting paper? This highly rated product is yours!
Melissa and Doug setAmazon has more than 15,000 reviews. The 20-page booklet contains pre-printed activities. They range from simple mazes to more difficult puzzles and sequencing problems that help children improve their scissor holding skills. The included scissors have been praised by reviewers for being all plastic and blade-free, but they still cut very well. Got a lefty? No worries. Reviewers say “it works for left or right handed kiddos.” It’s also available in a pack with three different activity books. Recommended Age4 years of age and older 07 An Egg-cellent Sorting System for the Younger Crowd
Hide & Squeak EggsThese toys are a rare toy that entertains both preschoolers and toddlers. The eggshells are decorated with faces that express different emotions. This gives children the chance to practice matching colors or shapes. Children can practice hand-eye coordination by replacing eggsshells and chicks. The gentle peeping sound that is made when you press on the chicks creates a gentle peeping sound. One happy mama said, “Overall, this is a great product, super sturdy and has many uses that can grow with your child. We even added a balance game by trying to stack the empty shells. […] The eggs are large enough to not be a choking hazard.”The set is packaged in a yellow plastic container with a latch. It’s a great way for children to practice their fine motor skills! Recommended Age18 months or older 08 These Clever Building Blocks For Preschoolers & Kindergarteners
These are for slightly older children.
little building piecesInclude instructions for how to make a beautiful rainbow. The 240 BPA-free and phthalate free plastic pieces are small (0.75 x 0.5 inches) so they can be combined to create mosaics.
The tube is lightweight and slim so it can be carried easily in a bag. One shopper stated, “[I] bought these as a recommendation from my son’s teacher in helping with fine motor [skills]. He loves these and is entertained for a good solid hour.” To up the feel-good factor: they’re made in Denmark using 100% wind energy. Add a accessory to your collection for more fun
pink glitter, neonOr pastelSet them or challenge them with an exhilarating puzzle by number set. Recommended Age5 years or older 09 Lacing boards with friendly animal friends that last for years
Sometimes the simplest activities keep kids’ attention the longest. These five farm-themed activities will keep your kids’ attention for a long time.
lacing boardsMelissa & Doug products are built to last as toddlers grow into preschoolers who love weaving and become skilled weavers. They’ll work on dexterity and hand-eye coordination with this fun challenge. One parent said that she’s using them to get ahead of the next school year. “I bought this for my four year old who is in Pre-K to help with motor skills and to build those hand muscles that are needed for kindergarten activities. […] Super fun learning activity for younger ones.”To make it more difficult to match colors, the laces are color-coordinated. Recommended Age3 years and older 10 The Ultimate Lab Set for Budding Scientists
Calling all budding scientists: This 12-piece, colorful piece
science setIt is fun, and the various parts are great for practicing fine motor skills. The test tubes’ caps can be removed and put back on. The eye dropper and tweezers can also be used to improve pincer grasp. Children love to pour from one test tube into another, which helps with hand-eye coordination. One reviewer stated that they were very good. “like[d] how chunky these are for little children. Easy for them to use and my 3 year old son loves squeezing the liquid up with the squeezer and then letting it out in a separate container.”The included activity cards will guide your child through their science experiments. Recommended Age3 years and older 11 A Mesmerizing Gears Board For Younger Tots
This cause-and effect chart is for babies who turn 1 (or older).
moving gears toyMany reviewers agree that it is also suitable for growing toddlers. The 11 interchangeable gears spin, play music, and make sounds — and they also light up. Little ones can stack, move the gears around or spin them with their hands. One parent stated, “It’s a very simple toy, but my toddler likes it a lot. He enjoys putting the gears on their slots and then playing the music as a reward. […] This helps in fine motor [skills] and in their problem solving skills, too.” There’s also a convenient carrying handle at the top of the board. Recommendation Age12 months and older 12 A fun and challenging pattern-matching board
problem-solving toyEncourages children to use their spatial skills and pattern-matching skills by matching the challenge cards using colored rubber band. You can also make your own patterns. The elastic rubber bands are great for this. “build great dexterity for [kids’] hands and fine motor skills,”According to one review. The set includes a wooden board with metal pegs and 35 pattern cards (five of which are blank for DIY), as well as a variety of latex rubber bands. There are no sharp edges to worry about. One parent said, “I like that the nails / pegs have rounded tops so [they] are not sharp to the touch and while they hold the bands on the board securely, they don’t snag when [you’re] wanting to remove the bands either.” Recommended Age3 years and older 13 The most cuddly way to practice self-care skills 14 A set of themed play-doh with tons of fun accessories
This set is a unique way to make the dentist more understandable and encourage little hands to get moldy.
Play-DohTeeth that need to be repaired. The drill features a small button for children to press. There are many dental tools in the set, including a toothbrush, a braces roller and toothbrush, a syringe expulder, pick, and flosser. Hubbard recommends play dough as a great option for small muscles and this set will keep children busy for a long period of time. The set includes eight containers of Play-Doh. One parent enthused: “Such an excellent idea and they executed it perfectly by creating this engaging toy. Great quality and easy cleanup. 5 stars!” Recommended Age3 years and older 15 A Childhood Classic — Now Improved For Your Kiddo
This classic toy from your childhood honed your own fine motor skills even though you didn’t realize it. The
new and improved versionIt includes six templates, 200 colored pins, and LED bulbs. These are battery-powered so you can carry it around. The patterns are easy to follow and kids will enjoy creating their own masterpieces. “write”You can simply send them a simple message or their name.
This toy is loved by professionals, according to one reviewer. “I’m a therapist and this is a game that’s always in my treatment bag for all age levels. Great for fine motor skills. My younger students have fun by just inserting them in or I’ll ask them to follow a 2 color pattern. My older students have a blast trying to imitate the pictures/designs presented to them.”
Recommended Age4 years of age and older 16 The Sweetest Pineapple set That Hones Emotional Skills
Kids love exploring emotions and playing with them
Big Feelings Pineapple. 26 adorable face pieces need to be grasped and handled, which gives little fingers a good workout. One reviewer shared the following: “I am a pediatric [Occupational Therapist] and love using this pineapple as a tool for introducing emotions. Also doubles as a great fine motor toy.”The pineapple comes with two sides so that children can build both faces simultaneously. Recommended Age3 years and older 17 A Sensory Tool for Fine Motor Skills
This is a great addition to any sensory table.
tool setThis set is great for developing fine motor skills like writing, cutting, and more. The set can be used to transfer small objects, such as pom-poms, count bears, or even to play with food items, such as beans, rice, oats and oatmeal, according to reviewers. The set includes scoopers, tweezers and droppers that are designed to help with pre-scissors without worrying about sharp edges. Recommendation Age3 years and older Expert: Emma Hubbard Founder of Brightest Beginning HeyAre you ready to learn more? Subscribe to Scary Mommy’s daily email newsletter to receive more stories from the trenches
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