our everyday life

How to Develop Fine Motor Skills in Toddlers

by Lisa Walker

Trying to control those 10 tiny fingers is more difficult than it looks. Your toddler will need to practice and try out lots of different activities before she gains precise control over the movements of her hands and fingers. You can help her fine tune these fine motor skills through play, art and daily activities such as eating, so that her muscles are ready for the day she needs them to hold a pencil and write her name.

Art

Paint using either his fingers or a paintbrush to encourage your toddler to get creative. As he learns to control where his fingers or brush go on the paper, his pictures will become more recognizable.

Give your toddler crayons to draw on paper with or chalk to make marks on the ground outside. Learning to hold a crayon is an important skill that will prepare his finger muscles for learning to write later on.

Stick sequins, shapes of paper or other craft materials onto card stock with your toddler. His fingers and coordination will be tested as he tries to pick up the small items and then place them where he wants them.

Play

Squeeze, roll and mold play dough. This activity will help to strengthen the muscles in her hands and fingers. See if she can flatten it out, make a ball or make it into "worm" shapes.

Balance building bricks or stacking blocks on top of each other to teach your toddler how to control her hands and keep them steady. Encourage her to build "a really tall tower" which she can also enjoy knocking down.

Sort through a tub of small items, such as buttons, drinking straws, small crayons, cotton balls and dried pasta, together. Under close supervision, give her containers and ask her to put all the buttons in one, all the straws in another and so on.

Put your toddler in charge of turning the pages when you are looking at books together. Provide her with lots of books to "flick through" on her own. This will help her gain control of her fingertips.

Thread big wooden beads onto string or create your own version of this activity using dried pasta tubes.

Eating

Provide lots of small food items, such as peas, cubes of cheese and raisins, for your toddler to pick up, using mealtimes to get him working on his fine motor skills.

Provide a cup for your toddler to pick up himself. You can choose a cup with a lid and handles or a small open cup that he needs to grip in two hands. He may miss his mouth sometimes, but it is all good practice.

Encourage your toddler to feed himself foods like yogurt, mashed potato and mashed fruit using a spoon. He is likely to get a lot on his face and hair to begin with until he learns how to get that hand to mouth in one movement.

Items you will need
  • Crayons
  • Paints
  • Paper
  • Paintbrushes
  • Craft sequins
  • Glue
  • Play dough
  • Bricks
  • Small containers
  • Small items (straws, buttons)
  • Finger foods
  • Spoon
  • Toddler cup
  • Books
  • Toddler threading beads
  • String

Warnings

  • Never leave a toddler unattended with small items, as they may present a choking hazard.
  • Never let a toddler wear a string necklace unattended, as it may cause strangulation.

About the Author

Lisa Walker began her journalism career in local newspapers. She later joined Teletext to work on its website and analogue and digital TV services. Walker spent time as a qualified childminder whilst raising her own two children and now enjoys a career writing and editing for various websites, including parent website Surreymummy.com.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images