Six Simple Fine Motor Activities

fine motor activities
Fine motor skills are what we early childhood educators talk about when we mean all the small muscle, refined movements of the hands. It also relates to thinks like eye-hand-coordination and is an essential pre-writing skill to develop and practice.

While fine motor skills are important, they are also really easy to practice and develop, and there are loads of simple, fun fine motor activities to help young children, develop and refine those skills.

Noah loves doing little fiddly things, so his fine motor skills have been getting a work out for a long time now. It also helps that he has older siblings and got over the ‘putting things in his mouth’ phase really early, so has been building with little Lego and had access to pencils and markers since a young age. But Noah still loves and needs some simpler fine motor activities that are aimed right at his skill level, so here are six simple fine motor activities that Noah and I love to do.

fine motor activities - threading


Threading is a classic fine motor activity and there are so many items you can thread I am sure you have at least some of them in your home right now! Noah is threading small wooden off-cuts with holes drilled in them, but if you don’t happen to have a grandfather who is a wood turner you can thread with cut up straws, pasta, large beads, big buttons, patty pans paper streamers or cardboard shapes with holes punched in them, leaves with holes punched in them, and just about anything else that either has a hole, or that you can make a hole in!

fine motor activity - feathers into a foam block

Feathers Into Foam

We have about 18 chickens at the moment, and numerous cocatoos who like to destroy our sunflowers, so we are never short of a few feathers. And with various new appliances for our renovations we are never short of some packing foam either! Combining the two is a simple and fun activity that helps to work out those finger muscles, develop and refine a pincer grasp (the kind they need to develop for writing) and practice eye hand coordination.
You could also use tooth picks, or pipe cleaners to poke into the foam if you don’t have quite as many feathers as we do!

fine motor activity water play

Scooping, Pouring and Squirting.

It’s hot here, really hot (about 100F today), and it’s been hot here nonstop for more than a week, which is unusual for this part of Australia, especially at this time of the year. So of course we have been playing with water a lot! It’s not as messy as it sounds and with some some small scoops, cups, funnels and syringes or droppers it is a really good small muscle work out!

We use a small trough (it’s actually one of the drawers from our Ikea Trofast set) on a towel on the table and I only put in about 3cms of water. Only putting in a little bit of water means most of the water stays in the trough and even if they tip the whole lot on the floor it is only a small puddle, not a ginormous one!

Noah (and the big kids!) has spent the last few days scooping, pouring and squirting. He’s finally mastered the art of using a syringe and he thinks that is rather cool too! We shared more simple water play ideas here too.

Fine motor activities tongs and water beads


We were given these little red tongs recently and they are absolutely Noah’s favourite things to play with. We use them with the water beads (pictured), with scrunched up bits of paper, with play food, small wooden blocks and really any smallish toy or object. Transferring items from one container or area to another with the tongs is working out the finger and hand muscles and also the forearm muscles which are needed for writing.

fine motor activities loose parts

Little Loose parts

Kate from An Every Day Story wrote a fabulous post about the theory of loose parts and why they are am awesome learning resource. ‘Loose Parts’ are just exactly what they sound like – collections of interesting bits and pieces present so your child can explore and experiment with them. Offering a selection of small objects is a wonderfully open ended way for children to practice fine motor skills while creating, exploring and playing freely.

‘Loose Parts’ can be anything, but keep in mind the size of the object if your child still puts things in their mouth. We collected river rocks on our recent holiday and Noah loves to use them to make lines and patterns, today combining them with little glass pebbles. We also use buttons, pom poms, rocks, shells, gum nuts, acorns, wooden blocks, corks, scraps of material, sticks… The possibilities are endless. We’ve been playing with ‘tiny treasures’ for a long long time, this post is from a few years ago.

fine motor activities drawing


And of course I can’t talk about fine motor activities without mentioning drawing. Drawing has got to be the simplest of fine motor activities. It is quick to set up and clean up, it is portable and there are so many ways you can do it!

For the youngest hands large, fat crayons/chalk/markers are the best to start with, and as their grasp begins to develop and refine you can move on to lots of other options. Noah is drawing with the vibrant fluorescent oil pastels from Micador which we love because they are soft and glide easily over the paper, leaving strong colorful marks. We also love to drawing with pencils, crayons, markers and chalks!

Little hands need BIG surfaces to draw on, a large sheet of paper taped to the table or at an easel or how about a big chalk board or expanse of concrete. As they grow up you can offer so many different drawing activities, I posted about ten of our favourite drawing activities recently.

What is your favourite fine motor activity?

{disclosure: We were given a selection of Micador art supplies, including fluro pastels to use and enjoy. No other compensation was offered or received. Opinions expressed in this post are purely my own.}

You might also like our five fun family games ! bounce-off-banner

Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:

  1. Alice says

    Hi Kate
    Just to say I love your blog. Love the really simple, cheap toddler activities. Your blog has even passed above my other favourite ‘planning with kids’!

    • katef says

      Water beads are these odd little squishy, slippery bouncy ball things that are loads of fun to play with.
      We found ours in the flower/vase section of our local $2 shop, and while they are not as large as the ones I’ve seen online on other blog, and there are not that great a quality, they were on $2.50 which bought us a whole lot of fun!

    • katef says

      We got ours from our local $2 shop. Look in the flowers/vases section as they are used to support cut flowers in a vase. Only $2.50 a tub, and while they are smaller than some I’ve seen and not the best quality they are still lots of fun!

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