In the area of gross motor development, we know that oftentimes, rolling leads to crawling, and crawling leads to walking.
We start with foundational skills and work through a developmental progression.
But what is the progression for fine motor development?
Moreover, what fine motor activities may enhance your toddler’s development?
Fine Motor Skills
We often think about fine motor skills as the skills required to manipulate a pencil for legible handwriting or to manage clothing
Considering that handwriting and independent dressing skills are not yet developmentally appropriate for your toddler, it is through many naturally occurring play activities that you can help support the developmental progression of fine motor skills.
Later, these will be required for independence in many school-based and self-help tasks.
Behold our list of 5 engaging fine motor activities for toddlers!
1. Peeling and Placing Stickers
Place stickers on your child’s hands or clothing and have them peel them off.
For an added challenge, take a piece of paper and draw open circles to give your child targets in which to place the stickers.
The grasp required to peel a sticker works toward the pincer grasp required for manipulating a button.
The visual-motor coordination required for placing the sticker within a target works toward the visual-motor coordination required for
inserting the button within a hole.
2. Stringing Cheerios
Start by using something that holds its shape (e.g. a pipe cleaner or piece of uncooked spaghetti) and string Cheerios across.
To progress this activity, use a string.
The use of two hands for completing two different tasks simultaneously and the visual-motor coordination required for inserting the lace through the hole are precursor skills for attaching the pin of a zipper and pulling the slider up the chain.
3. Ripping or Crumpling Paper
Create a mosaic craft by ripping paper into small pieces.
This bimanual activity works on strengthening the small muscles of the hand and promotes bimanual use of a tripod grasp, similar to what is required to unsnap the snaps of a jacket.
4. Place Coins In A Piggy Bank
Picking up the coins encourages the use of a pincer grasp and orienting them to the slot of the piggy bank requires visual-motor coordination, similarly to buttoning.
Increase the challenge by first sorting and stacking the coins, which would require a precision grasp around the edges of the coin and visual perceptual skills to identify matches based on size.
This is similar to identifying and placing the top of the toothpaste tube or water bottle.
5. Squeeze Clothespins Or Chip Clips
Another idea is to attach the clothespins to your child’s clothing and have them try to locate and remove them.
Increase the challenge by doing this without the use of a mirror, addressing body awareness that supports independent dressing.
The opening and closing of the hand as you squeeze and release the clothespins is a precursor for the motion and strength required for opening and closing a scissor.
Bonus points if your child uses his thumb on one side of the clothespin and index and middle finger on the other side of the clothespin.
With this finger placement, you’re working towards a mature pencil grasp.
For a more in-depth description of fine motor skills, please check out Fine Motor Skills Defined by an Occupational Therapist | NAPA Center.
About the Author
Samantha Cooper is a pediatric occupational therapist at NAPA Center, Los Angeles.
When not engaging her clients through play, Samantha can be found balancing her love for ice cream with spin or barre classes or trying to cuddle her dog, Cassidy, who would much rather have her personal space.
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