Developing and improving upon fine motor skills in toddlers is crucial to the development of other more practical skills later on. They need to practice using their hands and fingers, developing dexterity and the muscles needed so later they can zip their jacket, tie their shoes and manipulate a spoon in a bowl of cereal.
The good news is working with your little one to develop these skills is easy and can be lots of fun too. Here are some ways to develop fine motor skills using ordinary household items along with links to blogs and websites that give you more ideas about each activity:
- Cotton swabs into straws – It’s just as simple as it sounds. Cut up some plastic straws, give your little one some cotton swabs and let them figure out how to push the swab through the straw. If you’re able to prep in advance, get colored straws and use a marker to color the swabs to allow for an added bonus of color matching.
- Pasta and Cheerios – Take a thin, uncooked pasta noodle (angel hair or spaghetti), stick it into something like Play-Doh or a cup of Jello for support, then encourage your toddler to stack the Cheerios onto the pasta one by one using their pincer grasp.
- Tongs and a muffin tin – Give your toddler some tongs, a pile of different colored M&Ms and ask them to fill each muffin cup with M&Ms using only the tongs. I like to reward their effort and my own with congratulatory M&Ms.
- Cutting Play-Doh – Make a long Play-Doh snake and cut tiny indents sporadically throughout. Give your toddler a plastic knife and ask them to cut along the indents. This is a good one to build muscles in their hands.
These fun activities take almost no preparation, very minimal clean up and serve as good practice for hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. If you’re finding your toddler isn’t immediately interested in these activities, you can jazz it up by having fun music playing in the background and doing silly dances when they try to accomplish each task. Maintain a positive attitude and I think you’ll find that you’ll both have fun. Good luck!