Your baby’s fine motor skills are an important part of their physical development. You may have seen the term fine motor skills when reading about baby development and I have used this phrase a few times in previous posts. But what does it mean? A baby developing their fine motor skills are learning to gain control over the muscles in their hands. Including the palm of their hands and fingers. Whether it be grasping objects, manipulating toys or using their thumb and forefinger in a pincer movement.
Fine motor skills are so important for everyday tasks. We use our hands more than any other part of our body so It’s important we learn how to gain control of them and strengthen them. Building on babies fine motor skills will provide them with a firm foundation for writing when they start school. Here’s a list of 24 quick and easy fine motor skill activities that you can do with your baby today.
Remember to use your own judgement and knowledge of your child when carrying out any of the suggested activities and make sure you supervise them at all times. They seem to become ninjas and can get into all sorts when our backs are turned for even a minute!
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Fine Motor Skills Baby Activities Using the Pincer movement
Wooden disks are great for babies to hold and manipulate and can be used in posting activities. All you need to do is find a cardboard box or a Pringle tube and cut a letterbox type slit in the top. If you don’t have any wooden disks, you could collect bottle tops and use them instead. Play balls are also a great resource to use for posting activities. You can make your own posting box where the ball returns. Simply cut a hole in the top of a box and then cut another one at the front (see picture).
2. Food at mealtimes
Mealtimes are a great way to help develop your baby’s fine motor skills. Most fruits can be cut into baby-safe sized pieces and put onto their highchair tray for them to explore.
3. Food for sensory play
You can also use food for sensory play. Just put one food item into a tray and let your baby explore. My little one has played with rice a few times and he loves it. I recently made rainbow rice and added it to his tuff tray. Some items you can use include dry foods such as oats, pasta, rice, and cereals like Cheerios, Wheatabix, and Cornflakes. You can also use food that has more texture such as jelly. This photo was taken a while ago – I have refrained from using food items for sensory play at the moment because of the ongoing Pandemic.
4. Shredded paper
Playing with shredded paper will help your baby to use their thumb and forefinger because the strips are small. Hiding objects beneath the paper but just so they’re poking out, will spark your baby’s curiosity and encourage them to reach in to get them.
5. Leaves and natural items in a tray
Try Incorporating nature into your baby’s play. Using objects found in nature like leaves, for example, helps to develop your baby’s fine motor skills. Adding the objects you have found to a tuff tray helps to contain the mess. You can also try adding flowers – you might find more in the garden now that it’s spring. K wasn’t keen on the feel of flowers when we tried this though, so our activity didn’t last long!
6. Water beads
Water beads are non-toxic and easy to prepare. They start off as tiny balls that you add to water. Within a few hours, the balls double to more than their original size. Your baby will have fun exploring these and it’s another great sensory activity that builds on their fine motor skills. As the water beads are still small in size and quite slippery, your baby will face a challenge when trying to pick them up. K at 9 months, was successful in using his thumb and forefinger to pick up a few every now and again when playing with them, so it’s not impossible.
Whilst water beads are non-toxic, watch your baby carefully to make sure they don’t put any in their mouth. If you don’t feel comfortable using these, you could create a sensory bag with water beads instead.
7. Peeling off stickers
Peeling off stickers is another activity that will get your child strengthening the muscles in their hands and fingers. It’s also a great high chair activity to keep your little one occupied when you’re cooking. In order to peel the stickers off, a baby must use their thumb and forefinger by using the pincer movement. You can put stickers on anything but make sure you leave a part of the sticker loose so that your baby has somewhere to start. If you want to encourage your baby to pull themselves up and/or cruise, try using stickers on your sofa. Don’t have any stickers at home? Have a look at fruits such as apples, bananas and melons. If you still can’t find stickers, you could try using masking tape. This is what I’ve used in the photo.
Activities to Encourage Babies to Develop Their Whole Hand Grasp
Balls are an open ended-toy – there are so many things you can do with them. Playing with and manipulating balls of different shapes and sizes helps your baby to become confident when grasping objects with their whole hand. Play balls are great for this because they are completely curved and the same size. However, sensory balls also work well because although they are different sizes, they are textured.
9. Sponges in Water
Sponges in water are intriguing to babies and this activity provides a bit more of a challenge, compared to playing with dry sponges. Just make sure you don’t give your baby any sponges that you have been cleaning with.
10. Small World Toys
If you have older children that have small world toys, give them to your baby to play with. Make sure they aren’t so small that they’re a choking hazard and check they don’t have any loose parts. I use peg dolls with K because I find they are just the right size for him to hold.
Collect some of your recycling and have your baby play with it. There’s something about boxes that babies seem to love! Handling different sized objects will help to develop your baby’s fine motor skills. Always ensure that lids are screwed on tight and glue down any loose parts if necessary.
12. Building blocks
Wooden building blocks are another open-ended toy that babies have to use the whole of their hand, in order to play with them. Building towers and encouraging your baby to knock them down is one of the most obvious ways to use these. But there are many more!
Fine Motor Skills Baby Activities that Combine the Whole Hand and Pincer Movements
13. Stickers on balls
For an added challenge when using stickers, try adding them to plastic play balls. Once again, you can use masking tape instead. But just make sure that there’s some hanging off for your baby to get to. Your baby will have to hold the ball in one hand and use their fingers on the other hand, which also helps to develop their hand-eye co-ordination. If you’re using tape, try sticking balls to a surface and encourage your baby to get them. This not only helps their fine motor skills, but also helps them to work on larger movements (gross motor skills) and helps their stability.
14. Pulling cardboard off of hangers
K often watches me put the washing away and loves to get involved by playing with a hanger. He is fascinated by them for some reason! Try adding shapes cut out from a cereal box onto the hook to develop their fine motor skills even further. You can vary the difficulty by making the hole in the shapes bigger (they will be easier to get off) or smaller (they will be harder to get off).
15. Wooden puzzles
Wooden puzzles have small pieces that help baby’s to develop their fine motor skills. If you don’t have any wooden puzzles, try making your own using cardboard. Grab the cardboard and draw some shapes. Cut them out using a craft knife and save them for later. Then stick a piece of cardboard to the back of the first piece you cut the shapes out of and there’s your puzzle board.
16. Fridge magnets
Putting your fridge magnets down low and having your baby try and take them off, will strengthen the important muscles in the hands. It will help to build their balance and strengthen their legs too. You could also add your magnets to a baking tray and have your baby play with them.
17. Board books
Encouraging your baby to turn the pages of a book helps to strengthen the muscles in their hands. You can also prop board books up on the floor or lay them open and let your baby play with them – they will naturally want to turn the pages themselves. Books with holes in are also beneficial for babies to explore. There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly and The Very Hungry Caterpillar are some of K’s favourites that I’d recommend buying.
As well as hangers, pegs are another random item that K likes to explore. When he gets tired of holding onto them, I add them on to different things to see if he can get them off. If you’re thinking of doing this, try adding them on to a cardboard box or different things around the house. Just make sure whatever you are using is sturdy and if it’s not, hold it down because your baby is probably stronger than you think!
19. Cotton Buds in a colander
A colander has small enough holes to add cotton buds into and they stay in. Once they are in place, have your baby try and pull them out. I would recommend only adding a few at a time at first because your baby might not be interested in this activity. The last thing you want to do is spend 10 minutes pushing the cotton buds in only having to take them back out again 2 minutes later! Be sure to watch your baby closely with this activity because the cotton buds are small. Pipe cleaners in the holes of a colander would also work for this activity too but they can be sharp at the ends so you may want to tape them.
20. Tissue paper/wrapping paper
Giving your baby wrapping paper to play with will provide them with lots of entertainment. They will have so much fun ripping it to pieces and it will develop their fine motor skills at the same time.
21. Stacking cups
Using stacking cups to Build towers, encouraging them to knock them over or just letting your baby explore them for themselves are good activities that help your baby to build up their hand muscles. There are so many ways you can use stacking cups.
22. Loose Parts
Any loose part toy or object will mean your baby is using every part of their hand and practising the pincer grip too. K has wooden rings and wooden disks which he takes around the house all the time. We also use these for lots of other activities.
23. & 24. Other Ideas
Adding elastic bands to a bread tin and trapping toys or putting pom-poms into a whisk, will also help your baby to strengthen the muscles in their hands. See my 22 Activity Ideas for 9 to 12-Month-Old Babies post for more information about these two activities.
So that’s my list of 24 activities to develop your baby’s fine motor skills. I hope they have given you some ideas on how you can aid your baby’s development. Looking for more easy activity ideas? Subscribe to my emails and receive a free A-Z guide of baby play ideas.
Let me know in the comments section what you thought of these activities and if there are any you are going to try!
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