How To Develop Fine Motor Skills In Children

play dough

This post about fine motor skills is brought to you by Dr. Kathryn Garforth. She has a passion for helping individuals with special needs reach their fullest potential! She has both the professional expertise in special education and a personal understanding, as an individual with a learning disability, to help individuals and their families succeed.  

When she isn’t working with clients or blogging, she is chasing her own three children and spending time in her garden.  If you would like to know when Dr. Garforth has a new post, follow her on Facebook at

I know this post is not related to my niche, but it’s important to me as I have a little girl with down syndrome and I am very keen to learn anything which could improve my daughter’s skill levels. I wish the same for the other parents of disabled children. Hence, once in a blue moon, I love to publish something relevant to this.

Read our story about down syndrome

Let’s Learn About Fine Motor Skills

In today’s digital world it is straightforward to sit your child in front of a screen, as a distraction to them, to give you a few moments to yourself or a chance to cross something off of that never-ending to-do list you have. Unfortunately, while this keeps them quiet and busy, it does not do much for developing their fine motor skills.

The Definition Of Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills refer to the small movements that are made using the small muscles in your hands, wrists, and fingers (Technically, they are also involved in the movement of your toes, lips, and tongue, but that is for another conversation).  

Causes Of Poor Fine Motor Skills

Poor fine motor skills can be caused by many reasons, including low muscle tone, poor hand-eye coordination (insufficient visual-motor control), poor posture, poor core strength, and dysgraphia.  

One significant factor in the overall decrease in fine motor skills among the general population is due to a change in how young children typically spend their days. 

Their development is very important for everyday tasks, like getting dressed and ready for school, plus numerous events throughout the school day.  If you want to learn more about what fine motor skills you can do with your child in the spring, I will include a link at the bottom to check out relevant posts from my blog.

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Fine Motor Skill Activities

Most kids I know don’t like to be told what to do, especially when it is something that is ‘good for them’. In order for a child to buy-in to repeatedly practicing a skill, it has to be fun and not seem like something they are forced to do.

Luckily, there are many activities that promote fine motor skills that children can do and they don’t even realize they are working on them. Some activities that young children love to do that also work on their fine motor skills, including cutting paper with scissors, stacking blocks, playing with bead mazes, coloring, and more.  In my house, one of our favorite activities is to play with Play-Doh and there are many ways you can encourage fine motor skill development while playing with it.

Fine Motor Skills And Play-Doh

One of my favorite ways to work on fine motor skills is by bringing out our box of Play-Doh and accessories to let the kids play (As the hand muscles develop, I like to so some of these activities with plasticine, because it provides more resistance). It allows them to be creative, works on their fine motor skills, it keeps them quiet, and will usually give me at least 45 minutes to get a few things done. In this post, I will share some great ways you can use Play-Doh (or plasticine) and easily accessible objects.  You may already have some of these objects in your home, and if you don’t, you can find most of them at your local dollar store.

1- Pretending You Are Running A Bakery  

Children love to play make-believe. Growing up, I can remember pretending to run a bakery with my siblings when we were playing with Play-Doh. We would make cookies, doughnuts, and pizza for our Mom to enjoy.

When running a bakery, it is very important to make sure you have all the right tools. Using tools like rolling pins, cookie cutters. and spatulas can really help the fine muscles in the hands develop. Using a rolling pin to flatten the Play-Doh helps strengthen the hands and fingers. Using cookie cutters to make the dough into shapes encourages the use of the pincer grasp (This is using your thumb and pointer finger. The name “pincer grasp” always makes me think of a crab pinching with its front claws). After making the shapes with the cookie cutters, peeling away the excess dough also encourages the pincer grasp. Finally, use a spatula to display the cookies nicely as if they are in a display case. The spatula helps with hand strength and improves wrist motion.

Kids love this little toy!

2- Beading Practice With Play-Doh

I have seen this activity done using several different materials based on what you have on hand and what level your child is at.  It is straightforward, you stick something into the Play-Doh that will stand up on its own and then thread beads onto it.

What I really like about this activity is that it is easier for children to do than lacing beads onto a string.  Since the ‘thread’ is standing up on its own, the child does not have to worry about holding it still while trying to thread the ‘bead’ onto it. In the picture below my daughter was using spaghetti noodles to thread penne pasta onto.  You could also use pipe cleaners, toothpicks, shish kabob skewers, and straws as the thread. Beads, cereal, pasta, candy, rolled up balls of play-dough and cut up straws can be used for beads.

If you want to challenge your child a little more, you can ask them to create a pattern with the different colors.

3- Pushing beads and gems into play dough.  

If you go into the craft section of your local dollar store, you should have no problem finding beads, jewels, stones and gems to add to your Play-Doh accessories collection. Having your children add these items into Play-Doh with either their thumbs or one of their fingers helps build up the small muscles in their fingers and hands.  

I like using the flower beads pictured below because when a child pushes the flower in with their bent thumb, they work on their thumb’s web space (the fleshy part between the thumb and the index finger).  This is needed to hold a pencil in a tripod grasp with the thumb, index, and middle finger. Once they have pushed the beads in, they can make an ‘okay’ sign with their thumb and index finger and pinch them out.  Pinching the beads and then pulling them out gives the opportunity for the child to retract (pull back) their fingers.

4- Playing With Kitchen Utensils And Play-Doh

My children love to raid the drawers in my kitchen to find different things to use while they are playing with Play-Doh. There are so many kitchen utensils that are fun to use when playing with Play-Doh aside from the commonly used rolling pin and cookie cutters.  Some of these include a garlic press, a potato masher, a pastry cutter, a cheese grater, a strainer, a pizza cutter, a whisk, and scissors.

Using these tools can help various muscles in the hand.  You are welcome to use the tools in your kitchen, but I would suggest washing them right away afterward because it is never fun trying to get the dried Play-Doh off them. Another option would be to go out and buy a set especially for Play-Doh from a yard sale, thrift store, or a dollar store.

Image credit goes to unsplash

5-   Play-Doh Mats

The mats are lots of fun and can provide inspiration for when your child is not sure what to make. I printed off several Play-Doh mats I have found from different blogs and laminated them for extra durability.  Older children may prefer to use plasticine so they can add more details. As you can see below, my toddler loves to use jewels and gems to decorate the Play-Doh on the mat. I ask my older children to make patterns when they decorate.  We have even found Play-Doh mats that come with accessories you can cut out. I cut them out, laminate them, and then glue them onto toothpicks so they can be stuck into the Play-Doh.

Hand-Eye Coordination With Play-Doh

* As an added bonus, using Play-Doh also helps with hand-eye coordination and activities that require using both hands at one time. It can assist with bilateral coordination.

Play-Doh Recipe

  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • Food coloring

Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan on high heat and continuously stir until the substance completely wraps around spoon in a soft, malleable glob.

Plasticine Recipe

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4-5 drops food coloring
  • 1 cup of water
  • 4 tbsp cornstarch

Mix together all the ingredients in a bowl until combined.

Related Posts:

Spring Activities for fine motor skill

Winter Activities for fine motor skills

Helpful Toys To Improve Fine Motor Skills.

1- Learning Resources Spike The Fine Motor Hedgehog, Sensory Fine Motor Toy

This fun toy is very helpful to build your little one’s fine motor skills. It says for 18 months, but you can use it for up to a 3-year old child. The spikes are made of rubber and come in different colors. Your child can put them in and out of the holes in the hedgehog.

Learning resources is a great brand to with

This toy does not only help to build fine motor skills, but it also helps kids to learn about colors. An affordable toy to provide great learning skills.

toys for fine motor skills
Worth buying!

Once your child is done playing, you can store all your spikes inside of the hedgehog so, they don’t get lost.

2- Melissa & Doug Wooden Latches Board

This is one of the best toys you can buy for your child. It helps develop fine motor skills and improves so many other skills, such as gross motor skills in children. It’s ages 3 and up, but easily could be used all the way for children up to 5.

Kids enjoy it and build dexterity as they navigate latches that hook, snap, click and slide.

fine motor skills in children
Mellisa & Doug is a trusted name to go with

3- Learning Resources Super Sorting Pie, Fine Motor Toy

It comes with number and patterns to a total of 68 Pieces. Good for up to five years of age. It helps children to learn early number skills, patterning, problem-solving, visual processing, and much more. Your child will be in love with this toy from head to toe.

Fine motor skills
The smart choice for helpful learnings!

4- BleuZoo Rainbow Counting Bears + Activity eBook

Comes with 60 bears, 6 matching cups, 2 tweezers, and a container. Kids love this awesome set. They can spend hours counting, sorting, matching, and playing with it.

The bears are designed to teach color recognition, sorting, fine motor skills, math, hand-eye coordination, and numbers. They work great with early childhood STEM and Montessori programs.

fine motor skills
You will get an eBook in via email with tons of fun educational activities

5- Skoolzy Nuts and Bolts Fine Motor Skills Toddler Toys

Another great toy for kids to develop multiple skills. Comes with 24 pieces with 4 different shapes and 6 rainbow colors. Kids make their fine motor muscles strong by screwing and unscrewing the large plastic nuts and bolts.

Very affordable

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fine motor skill in kids

I Hope you like this wonderful and full of a knowledge blog post by Dr. Kathryn. Please, show her some love by leaving a comment below and visiting her site!

6 thoughts on “How To Develop Fine Motor Skills In Children”

  1. Very informative post full of great information! I loved playing with Play-Doh as a child and I still do as an adult! I think it really helps with anxiety, too. 🙂 I love the homemade recipe for it. I’ll have to try that!

  2. Looks like some fun activities. I’ll have to try the plasticine recipe. We do a lot of play dough around here but this looks like something a bit different. My kids have always enjoyed playing restaurant when they were young. My older kids have enjoyed taking that a step further with making our family dinner on occasion. Great ideas and toy suggestions!

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