Every time you hold a pencil, use a pen, or put a LEGO set together you are using fine motor skills—or skills that require the small muscles in your hands. While these skills come easily to many children, some have a little more difficulty than others. The good news is that there are plenty of fantastic activities parents can do at home with children in order to promote fine motor skill development.
Here are 13 toys and games that can help develop fine motor skills—and that are fun, too.
The classic game of Operation is not just for budding doctors. For those not familiar with the game, players use tweezers to remove the patient’s aliments. If they are not precise, a buzzer goes off and their turn is over. Using the tweezers requires very good fine motor control and kids will be motivated to hold the tweezers just so in order to cure the patient.
Another variation for kids who may not be ready to hold the tweezers just yet is Operation Pet Scan. In this version of the game, players use a magnetic scope to move various objects that a naughty pet pup has eaten through its digestive track. The scope should be held a lot like a pencil, so it gives kids a chance to practice their fine motor skills while they play in more fun way than writing. Both games can be played alone or with a friend.
Play-Doh is one of the toys most often recommended to build hand strength and develop fine motor skills. Rolling, pinching, shaping, and pushing Play-Doh all work the muscles that are needed to perform tasks like holding pencils and cutting. Play-Doh alone works fine, but sets like the Play-Doh Kitchen Creations Candy Delight Playset keep kids working on their fine motor skills longer by encouraging them to perform tasks like making gummy bears and chocolate bars. This set also comes with a crank that promotes additional fine motor development.
3. Rubik’s Cube
This throw-back toy requires lots of twisting and turning, and that means that solving a Rubik’s cube is a great fine motor workout. Anyone who has ever tried a Rubik’s Cube knows that this puzzle is hard to solve and can be played over and over again with infinite possibilities. That makes this little cube a fine motor activity that never needs to end.
Beyblades are a modern version of spinning tops. Getting them to spin requires threading a zipline through the Beyblade, then pulling it to get it to spin. Once they are off, Beyblades battle in a stadium until one gets knocked down. Inserting the zipline and pulling it out require fine motor control, and since the battles are relatively short, kids get a significant fine motor workout.
5. Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog
Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog is a favorite of occupational therapists to get younger kids to practice their grasp. This toy encourages kids to work on their grasp while also encouraging hand-eye coordination as kids try to replace Spike’s missing quills.
6. Artist sets
Crayons, markers and paint brushes all work the small hand muscles needed to develop fine motor skills. Having a variety available to children will encourage kids to create while giving their hands a much-needed workout. The Faber-Castell Young Artists Essentials Gift Set comes packed with 64 different options for drawing including pastels, markers, colored pencils and more. The Crayola Imagination Art Set has 115 pieces including crayons, markers, paper and rubbing plates. Both sets come in carrying cases for the ability to take fine-motor skill development on the go.
You probably already know Uno as a fun family card game, but you may not realize that Uno is also a great way for children to work on fine motor skills while also engaging in some friendly competition. Picking up cards requires good fine motor control and games of Uno usually require picking up and flipping over a lot of cards, making it an ideal choice for kids who need help with this skill. Uno can also be a great way to help teach matching, colors and numbers if you child needs help with those skills as well.
8. Sticker kits
Stickers require a lot of fine motor control and kids are usually highly motivated to get them off their backing and stuck to their shirt. Give them even more motivation by presenting them with a sticker kit that will allow them to create a work of art. Creativity for Kids Big Gem Diamond Painting Kit comes with tons of gems that kids can use to decorate anything from woodland animals to snowmen to diamonds. Kids can peel the stickers or use the included stylus—which is equally good for developing fine motor skills—to place them. Once kids create their masterpiece, their creations can be used to decorate anything from notebooks to headbands.
9. Target practice
Forcing the finger to work over and over again combined with activities that promote hand/eye coordination are good choices for developing fine motor skills. The Astroshot Gyro Rotating Target Shooting Game comes with blasters that kids must fire over and over again to try to knock down the rotating targets. This game is also compatible with Nerf darts, for extra fun.
Another fun option that serves the same purpose is kid-friendly archery. A completely kid-friendly pro or toy Bow and Arrow Trainer from Bullseye Bow will have kids using the small muscles in their hands repeatedly to pull back the toy arrow and try to hit their target.
Clay is harder to work with than softer substances like Play-Doh so it forces the hands to work harder, which makes it a great choice to develop fine motor skills. Try a kit like Coloring with Clay by Faber-Castell that comes with several different colors of clay, a blending tool, and an easel for kids to use to display their work.
LEGOs are an excellent choice to develop fine motor skills because they require careful control to pick and place bricks. Even better, LEGOs have sets that appeal to literally everyone from very young children—who can use larger Duplo bricks—to Star Wars to Super Mario to portraits of the Beatles. One of the best things about LEGOs is that once kids are done building their set they can take it apart to build whatever they like, or preserve their creation forever.
12. Spin and Spiral Art
An art kit that gives the choice of either squeezing ink bottles or holding markers to create a unique work of art is a great choice for kids who need to work their hands. The Crayola Spin & Spiral Art kit is a two-in-one kit so kids can refine fine motor skills by either using the included markers and spiro-gears for spiral art or by squeezing the ink bottles to make spin art.
Sometimes for a good hand workout, all they need to do is squish. Playfoam can be pulled, rolled, shaped and more. Since Playfoam never dries out kids can continue to play with it for as long as they like.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.