Fine Motor Skills and Your Preschooler
You have heard the term “fine motor skills.” You know that your kiddo needs to have good “fine motor skills.” But what in the world are fine motor skills and how can you help your child develop them? No worries, mama. This post will cover all that and include some fun, cheap, and simple fine motor activities for preschoolers.
What are Fine Motor Skills?
Fine motor skills are any small movements or actions that require the use of fingers, hands and wrists.
As a baby develops, he or she should naturally be meeting specific fine motor milestones, such as grabbing, putting things in their mouth, holding objects with two fingers, scribbling, putting a spoon in their mouth, stringing beads, rolling play dough, cutting paper, writing, buttoning, drawing, etc.
Kid Sense has an excellent fine motor development chart, if you want to see the progression of what kids should be able to do by age.
All children develop at different speeds, so if your baby, toddler, or preschooler is not meeting some of these, don’t panic. However, if you are noticing that your child is not meeting these on a pretty consistent basis, they may need some help from an occupational therapist.
This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure for details.
Why are Fine Motor Skills Important?
Fine motor skills are important because they help children accomplish tasks independently. Being able to button buttons, or zip up zippers, put on and tie shoes all give the children confidence and the independence that they both want and need!
Providing children plenty of fun opportunities for fine motor practice allows them to enjoy developing those skills, so that they do not get discouraged and give up in frustration.
Fine Motor Skills VS Gross Motor Skills
You have probably also heard of gross motor skills. So, what’s the difference between fine motor and gross motor skills?
Like we said, fine motor skills require small movements with fingers, hands and wrists.
Gross motor skills are the large movements that require the use of large muscles in arms, legs, torso, etc. So, sitting up, rolling over, running, and catching a ball are all examples of gross motor skills.
Don’t be alarmed if your child takes longer to develop fine motor skills than gross motor skills. Fine motor development is much more delicate and takes a lot of practice.
Children must build up the muscle strength of the small muscles of their hands to work on fine motor activities for a long time. Those muscles take longer to develop than the large muscle groups.
Parents.com has a great article on developing motor skills, if you want some extra information on this topic.
What Are Some Examples of Fine and Gross Motor Skills?
Here’s a helpful little chart for you to see more examples of fine motor and gross motor skills.
What Are Some Fine Motor Skills for Preschoolers?
So, we have talked about fine motor skills in general, but what are some specific fine motor skills that your preschooler should have?
Here’s a list of some of the tasks that your preschooler should working on perfecting:
- dress themselves with little assistance
- button and unbutton
- work a zipper
- draw circles and Xs
- string beads
- manipulate play dough into snakes, balls and pancakes.
- glue things onto paper
- build a tower of 9-10 small blocks
- use pencils and crayons to color inside the lines
- complete 5 piece puzzles
- cut across a paper and along a line
Right or Left Handed? Does it Matter?
You can usually see a very distinct hand preference by the time that your child is four.
Let your child use whichever hand they prefer. Their handedness is mostly affected by genetics, so there’s no need to mess with that.
Trying to change what hand your child uses will likely cause poor coordination and emotional frustration.
Fine Motor Activities For Preschoolers
If you read my sensory bin post, you know that some of the bins include sensory play and also fine motor activities.
But here, I want to focus specifically on fun and simple fine motor activities for preschoolers. Some of these can be used with younger kiddos and also with older kiddos.
So if you have any littles in your home, these activities will be perfect for the whole brood.
Wrapping Paper Fine Motor Bin
I threw this fine motor activity together at Christmas time. You know, you need to wrap a bajillion gifts and you have eager “helpers.” This bin is the PERFECT solution.
Take a bin that is at least the size of a shoe box. Inside, put some wrapping paper, a glue stick, ribbon, scissors, and tape.
That’s it. Give it to your kiddo and watch them wrap “presents” for everyone.
My 5 year old daughter made something for everyone in the family and put it under the tree. My 3 year old son made ornaments to hang on the tree. They loved this activity so much that I had to add extra wrapping paper for them.
Make sure you have enough tape for you to wrap presents with because the tape that you give to your kiddos will likely disappear quickly.
Fine Motor Development in the Kitchen
Do your kids love helping in the kitchen?
My kids always want to hang out with me in the kitchen and even though it can feel overwhelming at times, it is so worth it to let them!
So, what are some ways they can help in the kitchen and develop fine motor skills at the same time?
Here are some suggestions:
- Peeling corn husks (You may want to send them outside for this task if you don’t want to be finding little corn hairs all over your house… Don’t ask me how I know.)
- Using a butter knife to cut soft foods.
- Rolling cookie dough
- Putting ingredients on a pizza
- Spreading ingredients out with a spoon or spatula
- Peeling cabbage leaves off the cabbage head
- Tearing lettuce into small pieces for a salad
Sewing Bin for Fine Motor Development
This fine motor activity is suitable for a child who is four years old or older.
Take some burlap, buttons, thick string, lace, and a child’s needle and put them in a small bin. That’s it. Let them free play.
You might need to help them string the needle and show them how to make sure that the string does not slide out from it.
Also, make sure that the buttons that you buy have openings that are big enough for the child’s needle to slide through. I did not, and had to yank the needle through the buttons, so the activity turned out to be more “hands on” for me than I initially planned.
I use burlap because it has visible holes for the needle to go through. The child’s needle will not poke through regular fabric.
Fine Motor Growth With Containers
When I was pregnant with my first, someone gave me this gadget. I had no idea what it was and thought it was a snack cup… until today, when I tried to find it on Amazon to show you guys.
Turns out, it’s a formula dispenser…
Oops. You learn something new every day.
Anyway, a few years back when I was getting ready to fly solo with my toddler and preschooler, I knew that I needed activities to keep them occupied.
As I was looking around the house for things to bring, I found the snack cup… aka formula dispenser.
My not even two year old loved putting things into containers, which gave me the idea to have him put little poms into the small opening of the formula dispenser.
He loved this activity. It was a hit and kept him occupied for a long time. Which we all know is a huge feat when it comes to small children and attention spans.
A few months down the road the activity became too easy for him, which was a bummer, UNTIL… I was over at my bestie’s house and saw her variation of this activity that was just perfect for his developmental stage.
Using a travel cup and some straws, she made a simple fine motor activity for a toddler. You can read more about that here.
Well, once again, he outgrew that toy and I found a solution that he still enjoys at 3 years old. I took an empty spice jar and cut some pipe cleaners so that they would fit in the container.
He loves poking the pipe cleaners through the holes. The bendy quality of the pipe cleaners adds an extra level of difficulty that is perfect for preschoolers.
It’s such an an easy fine motor DIY and is a great toy to take to doctor’s appointments or on long car rides.
For this activity, you can put a bunch of buttons, shoe laces and pipe cleaners in a container. The kiddos will enjoy stringing the buttons and making bracelets, necklaces, and “decorations.”
An added bonus is that you can use buttons to teach colors, shapes and patterns!
Toys For Developing Fine Motor Skills
If you are pressed for time (and who isn’t?!) these are some great toy options that will help your kids strengthen their fine motor mobility without having to spend time putting things together.
Final Thoughts on Fine Motor Development
I hope you and your preschooler enjoy these simple fine motor activities! Let me know what some of your favorite fine motor activities are! We are always looking for some fresh ideas!