Issues involving movement

8 Fun Ways to Build Fine Motor Skills

By Erica Patino

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Children who have issues with fine motor skills have a hard time developing strong muscles in their hands and wrists. Here are ideas for activities that can help them build the muscles needed for fine motor skills. 

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Preschool girl making shapes from play dough
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Stock up on play-dough.

Play-dough has been a childhood favorite for decades. Not only is it downright fun, but handling play-dough also develops some important skills. Squeezing and stretching it helps strengthen finger muscles, and touching it is a valuable sensory experience.

young boy finger painting at home with paint on hands and face
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Do some finger painting.

Using finger paint can strengthen your child’s hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity. All you need is an easel or a thick piece of paper, some finger paints and a space—like the yard or garage—where your child can get messy.

Preschool girl playing with bowls and water
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Squeeze out a sponge

Set up two separate bowls, one filled with water and the other empty. Give your child a sponge and have her soak it in one bowl. Then have her squeeze the water out of the sponge into the other bowl. She can transfer water back and forth between bowls, too. This simple game can strengthen hands and forearms. It’s especially fun if you throw in some bubbles or some food dye.

Preschool girl playing with foam shapes in the tub
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Make bathroom murals.

Show your child how to safely cut thin pieces of craft foam into whatever shapes she wants. Then she can use them to create murals during her bath. Simply wet them so they stick to the wall or to the side of the tub. It’s a fun way to improve cutting skills and manual dexterity.

Close-up of young girl wearing pajamas coloring on her bed
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Color with broken crayons.

Difficulties with fine motor skills can make it tough to grip a pencil. Coloring with small, broken crayons encourages your child to hold the crayon correctly—between her thumb and forefinger. Small pieces of chalk and the pencils used on mini-golf courses work well, too. No matter what you use, this activity a fun way to challenge your child.

Preschool girl cutting paper dolls with help from her dad
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Make paper dolls.

Paper dolls have been around for generations, and kids still love them. By cutting and folding tabs, your child can strengthen important hand muscles. Start by cutting out larger dolls and outfits, and move to smaller pieces over time. Paper dolls can appeal to boys as well as girls—just look for characters that interest your child.

2 girls playing a string game
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Play string games.

Another low-tech activity that can provide hours of fun is string games, like Cat’s Cradle. String games help improve finger strength and hand-eye coordination. All you need is some yarn and a little time to teach your child.

Young boy proudly holding up a macaroni shell necklace he has made
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Make macaroni necklaces.

Stringing together necklaces is a great way for your child to be creative while working on her hand-eye coordination and developing her ability to manipulate objects. To start, give her thick string and big beads or large pieces of dry pasta. Over time, she can work on more complex designs using smaller pieces.

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About the Author

Portrait of Erica Patino

Erica Patino

Erica Patino is an online writer and editor who specializes in health and wellness content.

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Reviewed by Ginny Osewalt Dec 03, 2013 Dec 03, 2013

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