Developing Children’s Fine Motor Skills: An Activity Roundup

Developing children's Fine Motor Skills - A Back-to-School Activity Roundup from Melissa & Doug

Today, we’re sharing a compilation of easy and engaging toy, game, and activity ideas to support and enhance children’s fine motor development. Whereas gross motor skills involve large-scale bodily movements (like running and jumping), fine motor skills are what help infants, toddlers, and school-age children control and use the tiny muscles in their hands and fingers to do everyday life skills like picking up a Cheerio with their thumb and forefinger (called the “pincer grasp”), zipping a zipper, cutting with scissors, and properly holding a pencil (known as the “tripod grasp”).

Play-based activities are one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to encourage the development of your child’s fine motor abilities. Many of the ideas in this roundup are tried-and-tested favorites of occupational therapists and teachers, so we know they’ll be a hit with your kids, too.


Crossing Midline – Developing Important Skills

Example Activity of Crossing Midline

Occupational Therapist Cindy Utzinger explains how “crossing the midline” (allowing one side of the body to cross over the “midline” of your body to perform a task on the other side of the body’s space) is an important skill for 3- or 4-year-old children to master. Children must learn to use their dominant “worker” hand and their non-dominant “helper” hand in a coordinated way (think of the old “rubbing your tummy with one hand and patting your head with the other” trick, but also doing it on opposite sides of the body). This is called “bilateral coordination,” and it gets the right and left sides of your brain talking to each other. Dr. Utzinger offers 7 step-by-step activities for helping children enhance their ability to cross midline for successful fine motor development in her post “Crossing Midline — Developing Important Skills.”

Sight-Word Stamping

Stamping Sight Words to support Fine Motor Development (and Literacy!)

Guest blogger Dayna (from Lemon Lime Adventures) shares her printable kid-friendly sight-word lists (those high-frequency and often “unrule-y” words that children simply must learn to recognize on sight as a whole as they often can’t be “sounded out”). In this post, children use alphabet stamps and farm animals to make a farm-themed sight-word book of their own. She also shows how to have children stamp sight words into a batch of homemade “slime.” Kids really enjoy the stamping activity and build important literacy and fine motor skills as they play. Learn more in the full post “Sight-Word Stamping.”

Fine Motor Activities to Encourage Good Pencil Grip

Melissa & Doug Pencil Pick-Up (Step 3)

With the back-to-school season upon us, it’s the perfect time of year to remind parents about easy fine motor activities that can encourage proper pencil grip in your child. Pediatric Occupational Therapist Cindy Utzinger gives a free OT session in this post chock-full of tips for how to work with children at home on their pencil grip and other fine motor abilities. Her activities remind parents to also pay attention to the non-dominant “helper” hand (the one that holds the paper steady as your child writes or draws). You’re sure to learn a thing or two in this practical, hands-on post: “Fine Motor Activities to Encourage Good Pencil Grip.”

Learning Fine Motor Skills with Wooden Beads & Letters

Learning Fine Motor Skills with Wooden Beads and Letters

Everyone knows the many benefits of using lacing beads for hand-eye coordination, dexterity, and fine motor skill development. This post by Kim Vij (of the Educators’ Spin on It) shows you how to add literacy and phonological awareness to the list of abilities that wooden beads and letters can enhance and promote in children. Check out Kim’s clever “make-your-own Alphabet Beads Game” in her full post, “Learning Fine Motor Skills with Wooden Beads & Letters.”

Fine Motor Fun

Fine Motor Fun - Everyday activities from Melissa & Doug

Special needs consultant Dr. Melissa Liguori, EdD, reminds parents how everyday activities such as playing with Play-Dough, finger painting, sorting coins, or even using a spray bottle to water plants are easy ways to work in some “finger fun” time around the house. Check out Dr. Liguori’s full post for engaging art projects and easy homemade games to strengthen children’s fine motor skills.

Fine Motor Development and Your Infant

Fine Motor Development and Your Infant

This post by the editors of the online parenting magazine Simply Real Moms offers a breakdown of common fine motor activities for infants by age bracket: Newborn to 3 months, 4-8 months, and 9-12 months. Whether you use mirrors, blocks, food, or toys, this post proves you don’t have to break the bank to guide your child’s fine motor development throughout infancy. Read their full post about infant fine motor development here.

Painting with Kids: Still Life, Landscapes, and Portraits

Painting with Kids to Support Fine Motor Development

Guest editor Carrie Anne (from shares her hints for teaching children to paint still life, landscapes, and portraits. Using and holding paintbrushes of varying thicknesses to create different line widths is a great, artistic way to sneak in some fine motor practice, and you have a lovely hand-made painting (maybe even a gift to frame?) when you’re done! Read more in the full post: “Painting with Kids: Still Life, Landscapes, and Portraits.”

At Melissa & Doug, we have a special Fine Motor Skills section of our website devoted to products that support children’s fine motor development. Here are a few of our favorites, in case you’re interested:

Suspend Family Game

Suspend Family Game from Melissa & Doug

This AWARD-WINNING balance game is an exciting test of steady nerves and steady hands as metal rods teeter, wobble, and sway until the structure created finally topples. A kid favorite!

Lacing Sneaker

Lacing Sneaker from Melissa & Doug

This wooden high-top sneaker will make practicing fine motor skills enjoyable and help your child reach the developmental milestone of learning to tie their shoes all on their own.


High quality puzzles from Melissa & Doug

We have dozens of puzzles for kids and parents to enjoy from simple jumbo knob puzzles to complex 500-piece jigsaw puzzles — and everything in between. Explore wooden puzzles with interesting textures, entertaining sounds, and even built-in magnetic activities, or check out our cardboard jigsaw puzzles for every age. We have tons of exciting puzzle themes to keep kids engaged as they build fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and problem-solving skills.

Latches Board

Latches Board from Melissa & Doug

This is a nice toy to give your kiddo when you want them to have some self-directed play time. Build fine motor skills as your child figures out how to open the doors and latches — while also learning colors, numbers, animals, and more!

Jumbo Triangular Crayons

Jumbo (Non-Roll) Triangular Crayons from Melissa & Doug

The bright colors of these crayons will encourage your child’s creativity, and the unique triangular shape will help develop the fine motor pinching and preferred grip needed for later hand-writing skills. They’re made of plastic, not wax, for additional durability. And their easy-to-grasp design won’t allow them to roll away! {Genius, right?}

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Well, there you have it… a roundup of Fine (and dandy!) Motor Ideas for children of every age. For even more ideas, check out our robust collection of Fine Motor Activities on Pinterest. What an easy way to incorporate Creative Play – Every Day!

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(Pinnable) Developing Children's FINE MOTOR SKILLS - A Back-to-School Activity Roundup from Melissa & Doug