Fine Motor Activities for Preschoolers at Home

Preschooler working on a play dough project at home
Fine motor skills are the skills required to make movements using the muscles in our arms, wrists, hands, and fingers.  As adults we use fine motor skills all the time. We all rely on them to accomplish countless tasks in school, at home, at work, and in our everyday lives, such as each time we get dressed, hold a utensil to eat, write or type, brush our teeth, etc.

Fine motor coordination is part of whole-body development for young children. Children begin to use, develop, and strengthen their fine motor skills as early as infancy, from the first moments of grasping a caregiver’s finger in their hand, to picking up smaller objects with their thumb and finger.  As a child is mastering their physical development, there are opportunities across each age and stage for caregivers to support the development of fine motor skills. 

Supporting the growth of fine motor skills in the preschool years boosts future success.  Fine motor skills are particularly associated with emergent literacy and numeracy skills and many of the everyday skills mentioned above.  In addition, children who are supported in this area of development will feel more competent and confident.

While this article focuses on fine motor activities for preschoolers, many of these are helpful beyond the preschool years.

Preschool Activities: How to Support Fine Motor Skills

  • Playdough: Playdough is a great sensory option that not only eases tension, but also allows children to strengthen the small muscles in their fingers and hands as they work, roll, stretch, pound, pat, flatten, and poke the dough.
  • Pipe cleaner threading: Use what you have! A colander and yarn/ribbon/pipe cleaners. Model for your child some ways to use these items, such as poking/pushing the pipe cleaner/yarn/ribbon through the holes on the colander.This promotes not only fine motor skill development but also hand-eye coordination as your child finds and places the object in and through the hole.
  • Tape rescue: Find some of your child’s favorite toys and tape them down to a table, the floor, or counter with masking/painters tape. Have your child work to “rescue” each item from the tape.Using their fingers and hands to pick and peel the tape is great work on fine motor skills.
  • Stirring/mixing/pouring: Allow your child to help you in the kitchen, or mix up a batch of homemade playdough for a fine motor skill two-for-one!Stirring, mixing and pouring strengthens hand-eye coordination, grip and dexterity.
  • Sorting smaller objects (muffin tin): Using fingers or kitchen tongs/toy tweezers practice sorting easy-to-grab items of assorted colors (such as pom poms or crumbled paper) in a muffin tin. Give your child the mission of sorting objects by color only using the tweezers/tongs to move each piece.
  • Scissors: Provide child-safe scissors and a variety of paper for your child to practice cutting.Save scrap paper, as this is perfect for a “cutting bin”.For extra fun, you can use the scissors that cut with different types of lines (squiggly, jagged, etc.)

It’s important to remember that development is not linear. There will be children who advance beyond or take a little more time to meet certain objectives than others of a similar age. Opportunities to develop these skills is critical so children can become confident to explore the world around them!

Preschooler working on a play dough project at home