Fine Motor Activities

Play to Learn - It’s through playing that children discover how things interact in their environment and develop their mental and physical skills. Most of the activities can be done with common toys and items you already have in the house.

The skills on this page are mastered between the ages of 1.5 to 6 years old. However, it is best to find the level where your child is and progress from there.

Tip: Fine motor activities, especially new ones, can be challenging and engaging. It’s important to let them explore what their hands can do before quickly jumping in to correct them or finish the task for them. Part of the learning process is making mistakes - have patience!

Water activities

  • Transfer water from one container to another using a sponge, have the child let the sponge soak the water and squeeze it out
  • Water toys
    • Squeeze animals that squirt water
    • Reuse squeezeable containers – ketchup, mustard, glue
    • Use to water plants

Picking up small items

  • Have the child use different tools – clothespins, kitchen tongs, chopsticks - to pick up items (poms, small balls, pieces of food) and transfer it into another container
  • Have child use tongs to serve dinner food including salad, pasta, bread

Opening household containers

  • Hide puzzle pieces in different containers and have the child open the containers to retrieve the pieces to put the puzzle together
  • Zip lock bag with slide zip
  • Snap zip lock bag
  • Resuse food containers
    • yogurt, cream cheese, nut containers
  • Low resistance tupperwear (thin plastic)
  • High resistance tupperwear (large, thick)
  • Twist top jars such as old spice jars
  • Backpacks
  • Suitcases
  • Purses


  • Brushing hair
    • Practice on dolls, siblings, parents
  • Opening toothpaste cap, squeezing out toothpaste
  • Bathtub playtime
    • Using squeeze toys
    • Bathtub paints
  • Shaving cream play


  • Practice with putting on and taking off clothes
  • Begin with outerwear
  • Practice with zips, ties, snaps
  • Practice with clothes that are not worn
  • Practice with a dressing doll
  • Practice with a shoe lacing board for shoe tying

TheraPutty or Play Dough

  • Manipulate Theraputty or Play Doh into various shapes or letters by rolling, twisting, pinching, pressing, using both hands when possible
  • Spell out names or make simple pictures with shapes
  • Hide coins in the putty and have child knead the putty to find them
  • Cut
  • Roll flat (with a rolling pin)
  • Smash
  • Roll into balls
  • Stamping to reveal pictures in dough

Paper and pencil

  • Connect the dots
  • Tracing
  • Coloring
  • Maze
  • Do-a-dot markers can be motivating
    • Have kids attempt to open and close twist top caps
  • Use shortened, thickened, writing utensils to promote mature grasp
    • Broken crayons
    • Shortened pencils
    • Thick pencils
    • Pencil grips
    • Cotton balls or q-tips for painting/coloring

Cutting activities

  • Start with straight lines, progress to gentle curves, progress to wide angles, progress to 90 degree angles, progress to < 90 degree angles, progress to zig zags
  • Start with a thicker line, about ½ inch, progress to thinner lines
  • Use construction paper to increase stability
  • Use thicker paper/cardboard for hand strength
  • Use different mediums for hand strength and tactile (touch) awareness
    • Play Dough
    • Putty
    • Construction paper
    • Fruits, vegetables, meats
  • Use a visual cue (sticker) to prompt which side of scissor faces up when cutting


  • Pop tubes
  • Interlocking blocks (Legos, Lincoln Logs, etc.)
  • Stackable blocks
  • Rubix cube


  • Lacing beads
  • Start with pipecleaner
  • Progress to shoelace
  • Lacing shoes
  • Lacing board
  • FiloBoard
  • Kids Needlepoint


Cooking helps promote tactile (touch) tolerance and awareness, builds hand strength, develops the ability to grade pressure and precision of movements

  • Spooning items into containers
    • cupcake batter, peanut butter on to celery, transferring leftovers into tupperware
  • Kneading
    • Bread, muffins, cookie mix
  • Cutting soft foods with safe knife and supervision
    • Fruits, Sandwiches, Pancakes
  • Measuring ingredients
    • Flours, Liquids, Semi-soft items like ice-cream, yogurt, jams
  • Opening closing food containers
    • Tupperwear, Twist-off liquid containers, pop-tops
  • Peeling fruits
    • Banana, Orange
  • Spreading butters, jams

Tongs and tweezers

  • Sorting - beads, poms, small toys
    • Sort by color, size, shape
  • Use a variety of tongs - anything that can open and close
    • Animal tongs, tweezers, tea sifter, scissor tongs
  • Use kitchen tongs to serve food
    • Salads, pastas, cut up meat

Board Games

  • Uno - have them shuffle, deal and collect cards
  • Jenga - finger isolation and grading pressure
  • Pictionary - holding a pencil for writing, turning pages
  • Operation - grading force and precise fine motor movements
  • Hungry Hungry Hippos - Hand strength and endurance, forearm stabilization, develops palmar arches


Fine Motor Milestones (Grasping and Hand Skills)
Cutting Progression