20 Fine Motor Preschool Activities

Through play, help your little one strengthen these important skills

Concentrated coloring
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You may not be consciously aware of it, but you utilize your fine motor skills every day, multiple times a day. From writing with a pen or pencil, to lacing and tying shoes, fine motor skills work the small muscles in your body, the ones found in your hands, fingers, feet, toes, lips, and tongue.

As your preschooler gets older and acquires more tasks that he can do, he will draw on these skills frequently.

Helping your little one develop fine motor skills is not only important, but it is actually quite easy and something you can do without too much advance planning or fuss. These fine motor preschool activities don't just boost your preschoolers fine motor skills, but they let her have fun in the process.

  1. Using mini marshmallows and toothpicks, let your preschooler build buildings and other geometric wonders. Hint: do this one after a mealtime!
  2. String colored o-shaped cereal, dry pasta, or large buttons (make sure the holes are big enough) onto a string to make necklaces or bracelets. At my son's preschool, they use dry spaghetti that is anchored into a cup lined with clay or play dough. Offer a variety of shapes and sizes so your preschooler can not only be creative, but has to manipulate the materials differently.
  3. Gather together some bowls and containers in varying sizes, as well as a sponge. Fill one of the containers with water and then show your preschooler how to fill the sponge and transfer the water from one container to another.
  1. Get a set of chopsticks for kids (compare prices) and let your preschooler pick things up with them -- food or otherwise. Soft pom poms (compare prices) work great for this activity.
  2. When your child colors with crayons, instead of having her use full-sized ones, break them into one- or two-inch nubs. The smaller size makes your child work on her pincer grasp.
  1. If you are clipping coupons, let your preschooler help with a pair of safety scissors.
  2. Buy a box of ABC or 123 pasta. Pour it (dry) into a bowl. Ask your preschooler to find specific letters or numbers. Great for literacy skills too!
  3. Tape one end of a piece of colored yarn onto a colander. Have your child lace it through the holes. Use more than one color.
  4. If it is seasonally appropriate, let your preschooler help you plant seeds.
  5. At lunchtime, toast bread and coat with peanut butter, cream cheese, or some other type of spread. Set out raisins or dried cranberries and have your preschooler make letters and shapes on the edible canvas.
  6. Take pieces of leftover PVC pipe (make sure it is clean!) and let your preschooler use it as a tunnel, placing in small items such as pom poms, buttons, or beads.
  7. If you don't mind a mess, set out paper, finger paints and a variety of "artist's tools" to work with, such as cotton swabs, pipe cleaners, pom poms, buttons, sponges, marbles, corks, and empty paper towel or toilet paper rolls. Be sure to use washable paint (pudding paint is a lot of tasty fun!), and dress your little one in old clothing that you don't mind if it gets stained or a smock (or both if your little one is particularly messy!).
  1. Fill two plastic jars or cups with straws or pipe cleaners. Have your child transfer the straws from one jar to another. The same can be done with crayons, buttons, dry pasta, or anything that requires your child to grasp her fingers.
  2. Clean out a gallon-sized milk or juice container. Head outside and ask your child to fill it with rocks and pebbles, or anything he thinks might fit in the top.
  3. If your child likes to play with water, give her a couple of buckets or bowls and some straws. Show her how to pinch the top of the straw so the water stays inside. Let her work on transferring the water from one bucket to the other.
  4. Buy packs of stickers (you can usually find them cheap at a dollar store) and have your preschooler peel the sticker off the back and put it on to paper. At first she make get frustrated if the stickers rip, but as she learns to be careful, she will master it!
  5. Fill squeeze bottles with colored water (empty and cleaned condiment bottles work great) and let your preschooler decorate the walkway or driveway.
  6. Buy a container of trail mix and have your preschooler sort out all the elements into muffin tins.
  7. Don't throw out a used shaker cheese or spice container. Make sure the holes are big enough, clean it out, and then have your preschooler put toothpicks into the holes. If you have a lot of spare change, you can also have him put it into the slot of a piggy bank.
  8. Another one for after a meal. Pour out some M&Ms or mini M&Ms (or other small candy) and have your preschooler sort them out by color. This exercise also works on your child's math skills, as you can subtract and add candies.

For more, read 10 Toys for Working Fine Motor Skills.

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