Written by Sindhuja Prabhu
Have you noticed how your baby cannot hold anything for long? If it is a broad or a big and light item, their tiny hands can hold it for a while, but smaller items will be difficult. As they grow into toddlers, they start bending and flexing their fingers, thus learning to pick or grip things. Fine motor activities for toddlers will help them improve their small muscles.
When we use the smaller muscles in our hands and wrists, we are using fine motor skills. Without sufficient fine motor skills, one cannot write, draw, or even pick things off a surface. Developing fine motor skills is very important for toddlers. Fine motor activities are a great way to help your toddler improve their fine motor skills.
In This Article
Fine motor activities help toddlers develop hand-eye coordination and improve their finger strength. Once your toddler’s gross motor skills start improving, they will start developing their fine motor skills. Fine motor activities are very important for toddlers, enabling them to use their limbs efficiently and play or do their work independently. It helps them hold, play, and get ready for writing in school or outside. It also helps them do their day-to-day tasks without much help.
Toddlers are very active when they are not put in front of screens, and they naturally use all groups of muscles by indulging in different activities. Some toddlers may take more time than others to develop their fine motor skills.
In such cases, instead of giving them repeated activities that can bore them, you can choose from the following top fine motor activities. These are very entertaining activities that help toddlers improve their fine motor skills and cross milestones without much delay.
Drawing is a wonderful way to improve a child’s fine motor skills. It is a very simple activity that requires nothing more than a few sheets of paper and some crayons.
Toddlers can’t hold a pencil until they are two years or so. They will find it difficult to bend their fingers enough to hold something so thin. Opt for thick crayons in the beginning and slowly reduce the size. You can move to a regular pencil and thin crayons or colored pencils when your toddler’s fingers get strong enough to grip a pencil for a longer time.
Let your toddler do anything they want. You can draw some simple figures or shapes to show how to draw. Let them copy your drawing or recreate it in their own way. You can teach them more complicated shapes and designs as they improve or show interest. Until then, let them just explore and express themselves through their drawings.
Drawing helps improve your toddler’s grip, understand colors, and get creative. Let your toddler just draw anything and ask them what it is. Their drawing may not be anything like what they claim it to be. This will give you an insight into your child’s mind and what they observe around them.
The act of threading requires immense focus and concentration. It can be frustrating at first but a toddler will slowly start liking it when they understand how to do it.
You can find threading activity toys in the market. Choose animals, birds, or any image depending on what your toddler likes. Sit with them and thread a picture next to them. Let them watch you and try to mimic you. Just teaching may not suffice for this activity. Your toddler needs to see someone thread, to understand how to push and pull the thread through the holes.
Holding the thread and pushing it through the hole will improve your toddler’s pincer grip and focus. Threading in and out of the holes will also improve their hand-eye coordination. Better coordination and concentration are very important for school and other learnings as they grow.
When you are out or your toddler feels bored at home, you can keep them occupied with just a single sheet of paper. Bonus? This activity can improve their fine motor skills.
You need not get into origami to do paper folding with a toddler. Just folding a sheet of paper into halves or multiple times will suffice in the beginning. You can slowly teach your toddler to make paper boats or paper planes. Only older toddlers can remember the steps and make paper boats or planes.
You can ask your toddler to fold up the paper evenly, multiple times. Let them match the edges, fold the paper, and press down to form the crease. It can be very challenging and frustrating for them at first. Let them make mistakes. Just give them time to improve.
Holding the edge of a paper and folding it evenly will help improve your toddler’s finger grips and wrist movement. It also develops their focus as they need to match the edges to make even folds.
Little toddlers as young as 1 or 2 years old cannot cut yet. Yes, even with baby-safe scissors, their fingers are not strong enough to use scissors. So you may have to help them. For older toddlers, you can provide scissors with plastic ends to avoid any accidents. Let them just randomly cut a piece of paper into bits.
Once they learn to use scissors, you can ask them to cut out shapes or pictures. Next, give them a glue stick and ask them to spread it all over the plain sheet of paper. Let them stick the cut bits in any order first. Once they understand how to stick, you can draw images and ask them to stick inside them.
You can also try making a collage. Let your toddler cut or tear a colored paper into tiny bits and stick it within the outlines of an image. For example – red-colored paper bits inside an apple image, orange-colored paper bits into an orange image, etc. Instead of coloring the image, they can stick the paper bits.
Cutting improves their finger mobility and strength. Sticking bits of paper will help develop their pincer grip and precision in placing things within lines.
Play dough is nothing but artificial clay that is child friendly. They come in multiple colors and kids just love exploring them. It makes them work their fingers and strengthens them in the process.
Let your toddler just explore the play dough texture. You can teach them to roll the dough into small balls, then flatten them out by pressing it down with their fingers. As they show more interest and spend more time playing with this play dough, you can get them cutters and molds to shape the dough.
Many toddlers love to pretend to play and play dough manufacturers offer just this. You can find a variety of play dough sets from different brands with molds suitable for a particular role-play or pretend play. For example – flowers, food, baking, etc. You can get your toddler one of these sets if you prefer and let them get creative with their minds and fingers.
Playing with dough and shaping them will strengthen your toddler’s fingers, and help them bend it well. It also improves creativity as they get into imaginary play with the dough.
Cards are thin, light, and can easily slip off from your hands. A toddler’s fingers don’t close quite yet to hold a card or something light, without crushing it into their fists. Holding a card requires your toddler to have a good grip on their fingers.
There are many card games suitable for toddlers. You can opt for flash cards which are educational too. You can teach your toddler to hold it up, flip it over or simply shuffle and spread them on the floor.
Whatever the game may be, they will be using their fine motor skills to handle the cards. It not only improves their fine motor skills but develops hand-eye coordination and observational skills too. If you are using educational flashcards, they will playfully learn those facts and information as well.
Your toddler is bound to see you work in the kitchen and all toddlers crave attention, thus disturbing the parents or caregivers. If you are cooking in front of your toddler, they will grow up to understand cooking is an essential task of the household.
You can involve them in cooking activities like using a dinner knife to cut bread pieces or fruits, mixing ingredients, measuring, and pouring. A toddler about the age of 3 can do all this easily and will love to explore further.
If you are worried about the kid working in the kitchen, an alternative can be getting them their own chef set toys. It has everything from knives to vegetables, to chopping boards and utensils and even a stove! They can watch and copy your actions on their own play set. And it’s totally safe too.
Cooking activities help them learn to hold utensils and cutlery. They learn to exert the right amount of pressure to cut. Mixing helps them learn to move their arms or hands in different ways and also develop control over these muscles.
All you need is a nice soft sponge your toddler can squeeze well with their tiny hands and two big bowls. Fill one bowl with water, give the sponge to your toddler, and ask them to transfer all the water from one bowl to the other, without spilling. Show them how to squeeze and transfer the water.
Squeezing a sponge requires your toddler to use both their hands. Squeezing activity will strengthen your toddler’s finger and grip. The squeezing motion will help develop the involved muscles too.
Have you ever tried stacking buttons? For a toddler, such activities can be very useful. They need to bring their fingers together, pick the small button, and hold it steady until they stack it on the pile.
Give your toddler a pack of large wooden buttons. These are easy to hold with little fingers and arrange. As your toddler’s grip improves, you can scale down the size of the buttons. You can ask them to stack the buttons in some random order. It can be fun and easy.
Stacking requires concentration and patience. Buttons will keep falling down, leading to a lot of frustration. Help and guide your toddler or create your own stack next to theirs. This activity can encourage them to not give up easily and improve their fine motor skills.
Developing fine motor skills is very crucial for the development of a toddler. It helps them meet their important milestones without any delay. When you help them improve these essential skills through activities and games, it can have a tremendous impact on their development.
Fine motor skills enable toddlers to perform important tasks like feeding themselves, writing, holding, or picking objects by themselves. It makes them independent, thus improving their self-confidence and ability to do things.
Through play, toddlers develop both gross motor and fine motor skills which get better with time and exposure. The more they use their muscles, the better their skills will be. Activities and games help improve these motor skills effectively.
Sindhuja, a mother of two, is an obsessive mom with a keen interest in psychology, especially child psychology. Her quest for knowledge and way with words led her to become a passionate content writer. She transformed her love for writing into a full-fledged career which incidentally also turned up being the perfect stress buster for the last 5 years.Read more.
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