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Unlocking Fine Motor Skills Through Play - Fine Motor Skills Toys

Updated: May 30

Fine motor skills are the intricate movements that require coordination between small muscles in the hands, fingers, and wrists. These skills are essential for everyday tasks like writing, buttoning clothes, and using utensils. As an occupational therapist, I understand the critical role that fine motor skills play in a child's development and how crucial it is to nurture them from an early age. We like to use fine motor skills toys to help encourage our little people to engage in these play activities to help build these essential skills. 

fine motor skills toys

Why Are Fine Motor Skills Important?

Fine motor skills are the building blocks for various activities that children engage in daily. From holding a pencil to tying shoelaces, these skills enable children to accomplish tasks with precision and control. Additionally, fine motor skills contribute to cognitive development, as they involve hand-eye coordination, problem-solving, and spatial awareness. They are the building blocks for all the skills that require precision and control for as we get older. 

How Might I Notice a Fine Motor Skill Issue?

Signs of fine motor skill issues may include difficulty holding utensils, struggles with handwriting, or challenges with intricate tasks like buttoning clothes. Children may also exhibit frustration or avoidance behaviours during activities that require fine motor skills. Early childhood educators in your child’s life, like a day care educator or teacher will also be able to let you know if they have noticed any concerns that should be investigated further by an occupational therapist. 

fine motor skill toys

What Can I Do to Support Fine Motor Skills Development at Home?

There are numerous ways to promote fine motor skills development through play at home. Utilising fine motor skills toys and games that encourage manipulation and coordination, such as sensory play kits with rice and themed manipulatives, can be highly effective. 

Our team at Beelieve Paediatrics have created themed sensory rice fine motor skills toys for our families to utilise to build on fine motor skills at home. You can find the full range in our sensory products shop. 

sensory kits

Additionally, incorporating activities like drawing, colouring, and crafts helps children refine their fine motor skills in an enjoyable and engaging manner. The key to your child developing these skills is to target the activities to their strengths! For example if they avoid table top activities then make it into a fun obstacle course or relay race that they need to complete an activity at one end or hold an object with their pincer grip throughout. 

Bilateral Integration:

Encourage activities that require the use of both hands simultaneously, such as playing with building blocks or moulding clay. This helps strengthen bilateral coordination and promotes symmetry in hand movements. If your child only uses one hand, over exaggerate the activity moving around and ask their helping hand to come and help so they can keep it still. 

Crossing Mid-line:

Engage in activities that involve reaching across the body's midline, such as drawing a huge rainbow with chalk on the ground from one side of their body to the other. This fosters coordination between the left and right sides of the body.

Hand and Finger Strength:These activities help build hand and finger strength. We love to ask our kids to make their hands look like crab claws and prompt for “crab fingers” throughout to practice their pincer grasp.

sensory kits australia

Hand-Eye Coordination:

Encourage games that involve

Provide fine motor skill toys and activities that require squeezing, pinching, and grasping, such as playing with playdough or using tweezers to pick up small objects in your sensory fine motor skills toys . These activities help build hand and finger strength. We love to ask our kids to make their hands look like crab claws and prompt for “crab fingers” throughout to practice their pincer grasp.

Hand-Eye Coordination:

Encourage games that involve aiming and catching, such as throwing a ball into a basket or playing with a ring toss game. These activities improve hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness.

Hand Dominance:

Encourage the consistent use of one hand for activities like writing and drawing to establish hand dominance. Provide opportunities for practice and reinforcement to strengthen the dominant hand. Once they have picked a dominant hand (you will know as it is the first to reach for items or their automatic hand to grab things) encourage them to use this each time. Often kids will start to switch after they have selected their dominant hand and it isn’t because they are ambidextrous but actually fatigue due to low hand strength. 

sensory play kits

Hand Division:

Engage in activities that require individual finger movements, such as playing the piano or stringing beads. You can even raid the cupboards and thread pasta onto straws! Nursery rhymes with actions can also be really great for this e.g. incy wincy spider, this activity is really portable and can be down when waiting in a line during your day. These activities help develop dexterity and coordination in each finger.

Object Manipulation:

Provide fine motor skills toys and activities that require manipulation of objects in different ways, such as building with blocks or assembling puzzles. These activities enhance fine motor control and problem-solving skills.

Body Awareness (Proprioception):

Incorporate activities that promote body awareness, such as yoga or animal walks, which involve moving the body in various positions and spaces. These activities improve proprioception and spatial orientation.

tactile sensory toys

How to Get Your Kids Doing Therapy Without Them Even Knowing

Integrate therapy exercises into everyday play activities to make them fun and engaging. Use fine motor skills toys and games that target specific fine motor skills while disguising them as play. We have a range of ideas in our sensory kits range, all designed by a qualified occupational therapist to help get your child playing and building on their fine motor skills!

Benefits of Improving Fine Motor Skills

Improving fine motor skills isn't just about mastering tasks; it's about empowering kids to conquer everyday challenges with confidence and independence. Picture your child confidently buttoning their shirt, tying their shoes, or colouring within the lines. These seemingly small victories add up to big wins in their daily lives, boosting their self-assurance and sense of accomplishment.

childrens sensory toys

As kids develop better control over their hands and fingers, they also excel academically. From writing essays to solving math problems, strong fine motor skills make these tasks smoother and more efficient. Plus, imagine the joy on their face as they proudly display their neatly written name or beautifully drawn picture.

But it's not just about the here and now—improving fine motor skills lays the foundation for future success. Whether they're playing an instrument, mastering a sport, or expressing themselves through art, precise hand control is key. By nurturing these skills early on, you're giving your child the tools they need to thrive in whatever passions they pursue.

So, while it may seem like just practicing with crayons or building with blocks, every fine motor activity is a step towards a brighter, more confident future for your child.

How Fine Motor Skills Develop

Fine motor skills are like seeds planted in the fertile soil of a child's development, gradually sprouting and blossoming into delicate flowers with the right nurturing. While genetics lay the groundwork for these skills, it's the environment and practice that truly cultivate their growth.

From the moment a baby grasps their caregiver's finger, fine motor development begins. Initially, it's the simple act of exploring objects with their hands, feeling textures, and learning to coordinate their movements. As they grow, children continue to refine these skills through play and daily activities.

Each new experience—whether it's stacking blocks, scribbling with crayons, or stringing beads—offers an opportunity for fine motor development.

paediatric occupational therapists

With practice and repetition, children learn to manipulate objects with increasing precision and control. As they gain confidence, they tackle more complex tasks, like tying shoelaces or using scissors, further honing their skills.

The environment also plays a crucial role in fine motor development. Providing a variety of sensory-rich experiences, such as finger painting or playing with clay, stimulates the senses and encourages exploration. Offering age-appropriate toys and activities that challenge their hand-eye coordination and dexterity promotes further growth.

As children progress through different stages of development, their fine motor skills continue to evolve. What once seemed challenging becomes second nature with time and practice. By embracing opportunities for exploration and providing a supportive environment, parents and caregivers can nurture the natural progression of fine motor skills in children, laying the foundation for lifelong success.

Milestones for Fine Motor Skills:

  • Birth to One Year: Grasping objects, bringing hands to mouth.

  • One to Two Years: Picking up small objects with thumb and forefinger, scribbling with crayons.

  • Two to Three Years: Building towers with blocks, using spoon or fork to eat.

  • Three to Four Years: Drawing basic shapes, buttoning clothes.

  • Four to Six Years: Tying shoelaces, writing letters and numbers.

Activities to Build Fine Motor Skills - The Importance of Fine Motor Skills Toys

Fine motor skills toys and games that promote manipulation, coordination, and dexterity are excellent for building fine motor skills. Drawing and colouring activities, using pegs, as well as crafts like cutting and pasting, also provide valuable opportunities for skill development.

child toys

Problems with Fine Motor Skills

Difficulties with fine motor skills can impact daily functioning and academic performance. Children may struggle with tasks like handwriting, self-care activities, and using tools or utensils. Early identification and intervention are crucial for addressing these challenges and supporting children in reaching their full potential. If you are concerned about your child’s fine motor skills development, contact us to organise an assessment with a qualified occupational therapist. 

Fine motor skills are integral to a child's overall development and are best nurtured through play. By incorporating engaging activities and fine motor skills toys that target specific skills, parents and caregivers can support children in building strong and agile hands, setting them up for success in all areas of life.

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