Every day, children learn how to use their thumbs. Preschoolers and babies who use crayons and rattles are both examples of this. These skills can be learned through play, which is as good as any lesson. 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 that will strengthen fine motor skills.
The Expert Emma HubbardShe is a certified pediatric occupational therapist, with more than 12 years of experience. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy at the University of Newcastle. She is also the founder of and CEO at Brightest BeginningThis website and YouTube channel aims to help parents. She shares her knowledge and experience on all things related to child development, sleep, toilet training, and feeding. What toys can help you improve your fine motor skills?
To start, it’s helpful to better understand what fine motor skills entail. Hubbard says that these skills are crucial in preparing children to be independent. “feed themselves, get dressed, brush their teeth and hair, open containers, draw, and write.”
Practice makes perfect, just like any new skill. Hubbard suggests that toys for children be durable and easy-to-use. “encourage a child to use small finger movements”These are the things that you need to know. “appropriate for their development”To avoid frustration, and to provide the right challenges
What to look for in 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 said that toddlers are still learning to pick up small objects with their index and thumb fingers, building upon their abilities from birth. They are also learning how to place small objects into small containers. “how to rotate their fingers and wrist for accurate placement.”
Hubbard suggests a variety of toys to help these skills be strengthened.
Hubbard says that preschoolers are willing and able to learn self-care skills. These skills include button-placing on a shirt and other skills that will prepare them for kindergarten.
She believes toys are great 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 can also benefit from 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 to entertain for hours
This colorful set of
Lacing beadsThis is a classic way for your LO to improve their pincer grasp, dexterity, and pincer grasp. The set contains 30 beads in five different colors. One shopper said, “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.”Two sturdy laces come with the kit. The set comes in a wooden storage box and is a favorite among parents, with a 4.8-star rating after 15,000 reviews on Amazon. Recommended Age3 years or older 02 This is a best-selling game that teaches fine motor skills.
This is a simple game to use
GameThis game is a favorite of preschoolers. The spinner is a great tool to improve fine motor skills. You can aim to collect one acorn for each color. “stolen”The sneaky squirreltweezer is used to grasp and refine the game. The game is quick and easy and takes only 10 minutes for two players 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 stated that parts work well and are easy to use. “The spinner is great–doesn’t get stuck like other games I have.” Recommended Age3 years or older 03 This Travel-Ready Peg Stacker Board set
Construction setChildren can build three-dimensionally with 25 colorful chunky pegs and an 8-inch crepe rubber board. The storage box is equipped with a handle for easy transport. “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 its durability, writing: “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 or longer 04 The Dino They’ll Love Building (& Taking Apart)
This tool kit is great for kids who love tools.
dinosaurOnce the brachiosaurus is fully assembled, it encourages dexterity and problem solving skills as well as imaginative play. “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 agreed. 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 want more dinos? Try the Four-pack of dinosThis is an amazing deal. Recommended Age3 years or older 05 This Garden-Themed Set That’s Dishwasher-Safe
This 44-piece garden is unique and will inspire children to love the outdoors.
Construction setGreen Toys One reviewed the set and said that it includes petunias, daisies and lilies and is beautiful. “simple but endless, creative and practical, fine motor skills and problem solving… It has it all.”Parts are made from recycled milk jugs. They are free of BPA, 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 or older 06 This Popular Blade-Free Scissors and ActivityPad Set is a great option
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 can be yours!
Melissa and Doug setAmazon has over 15,000 reviews. The 20-page book contains pre-printed activities. These activities range from simple mazes to more challenging puzzles and sequencing issues that help children improve their scissor-holding skills. Reviewers love the fact that the included scissors are all plastic and have no blade, but they still cut well. Got a lefty? No worries. Reviewers agree. “it works for left or right handed kiddos.” It’s also available in a pack with Three different activity books. Recommended Age4 years or older 07 A Egg-cellent Sorting Method for the Younger Crowd
Hide and Squeak EggsThese toys are a rare find that entertains toddlers as well as preschoolers. The eggshells can be decorated with faces that show different emotions. This allows children to practice matching colors and shapes. Children can practice hand eye coordination by replacing eggsshells with chicks. The gentle peeping sound you hear when you press down on the chicks makes a gentle 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 comes in a yellow plastic container that has a latch. It’s a great way for children to practice their fine motor skills! Recommended Age18 months of age or older 08 These Clever Building Blocks For Preschoolers & Kindergarteners
These are intended for slightly older children.
little building piecesInstructions for making a rainbow are included. The 240 BPA and phthalate-free plastic pieces measure 0.75 x 0.5 inches so they can be combined to make mosaics.
The tube is lightweight so it can be carried in a bag. One shopper said, “[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. To make your collection even more fun, add an accessory.
pink glitter, neonOr pastelYou can challenge them or set them up with an exhilarating challenge Puzzle by number set. Recommended Age5 years and older 09 Lacing boards made with friends and family 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 made to last. Toddlers become preschoolers who love weaving and become skilled weaver. 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.”The laces are color-coordinated to make it easier to match colors. Recommended Age3 years or older 10 The Ultimate Lab Set for Budding Scientists
Calling all budding scientists! This 12-piece, colorful piece is available for purchase
Science setIt’s fun and great for fine motor skills. The test tubes’ caps can be removed and put back on. To improve pincer grasp, the eye dropper can be removed and the tweezers used. Children love to pour from one test tube to another, which aids with hand-eye coordination. One reviewer said 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 activity cards are designed to guide your child in science experiments. Recommended Age3 years or older 11 A Mesmerizing Gears Board For Younger Tots
This chart shows the cause-and-effect relationship for babies who turn one (or older).
moving gears toyMany reviewers agree that the product is suitable for toddlers. The 11 interchangeable gears spin, play music, and make sounds — and they also light up. Little ones can stack the gears, move them around and spin them with their fingers. One parent said, “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 or more 12 A challenging and fun board for pattern-matching
Problem-solving toyEncourages children to use their pattern-matching skills and spatial skills by matching the challenge card using colored rubber band. You can also create your own patterns. This is where elastic rubber bands come in handy. “build great dexterity for [kids’] hands and fine motor skills,”One review said so. The set includes a wooden board, metal pegs, and 35 pattern cards. Five of these cards are blank for DIY. There is also a variety rubber bands. There are no sharp edges. One parent stated, “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 or older 13 The best way to practice self-care skills. 14 A collection of themed play-doh and tons of fun accessories
This set is a great way to make the dentist easier to understand and encourage little hands from getting moldy.
Play-DohTeeth that need to repaired. The drill has a button that children can press. The set includes a toothbrush, a toothbrush, braces roller, toothbrush, pick, and flosser. Hubbard recommends play dough for children with small muscles. This set will keep them busy for a long time. The set contains 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 or 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
Version new and improvedIt comes with six templates, 200 colored pins and LED bulbs. These are battery-powered and can be carried around. The patterns are simple and children will love creating their own masterpieces. “write”You can send them a simple message, or their name.
One reviewer said that professionals love this toy. “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 or older 16 The Sweetest Pineapple Set That Hones Emotional Skills
Children love to explore emotions and play with them
Pineapple Feelings Big. 26 adorable face pieces must be grasped and manipulated, which gives little hands a great workout. One reviewer shared this: “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 has two sides, so children can make both faces at once. Recommended Age3 years or older 17 A sensory tool for fine motor skills
This is a great addition any sensory table.
tool setThis set is great to develop fine motor skills such as writing and cutting. Reviewers say that the set can be used to transfer small objects like pom-poms or count bears. It can also be used to play with food items such as beans, rice and oats. The set includes scoopers and tweezers as well as droppers. They are made to be used with pre-scissors, without worrying about sharp edges. Recommendation Age3 years or older Expert: Emma Hubbard Founder of Brightest Beginning HeyAre you ready to find out more? Subscribe to Scary Mommy’s daily email newsletter to receive more stories from the trenches