7 Crafty Activities to Help Develop Fine Motor Skills

Here are some fun activities to help you encourage these skills as your baby grows.

Even from your baby’s first day of life, their fine motor skills are already developing. Moving their eyes and head, as well as their tiny arms and feet, are all fine motor skills that you will see during their first 4-5 months. As they grow, you’ll begin to see their ability to grasp objects and move things from one hand to another. Eventually they’ll be able to hold many objects, such as a crayon. Here are some fun activities to help you encourage these skills as your baby grows.

NOTE: Remember, every child learns at his or her own pace. The age milestones mentioned here are just generalizations, and in no way determine where your child should be in their growing process. However, if you’re ever concerned about your baby’s development be sure to talk to your pediatrician.

6 Months

By now, most babies are able to pick up small objects, such as a piece of cereal. A couple months prior you might have noticed that baby could grab things, but held them tightly in his fist. As his fine motor skills develop, he’ll gain more control over his grasp and be able to release those objects as well.

To help baby practice, buckle him into a safe high chair and place a small object, (such as a single Cheerio!) on the tray in front of him. Watch as he observes, focuses and then tries to grab it.

Fine Motor Skills

Photo courtesy Amanda Formaro – Crafts by Amanda

Through his first year he will begin use the “pinch” motion, grasping small objects with his thumb and forefinger. Use your voice to encourage him and be sure to add another Cheerio should he drop the one he was reaching for. As this develops, A=adding other  baby-safe objects can be fun too!

12 months

By now baby is most likely able to sit up, is crawling around and may even be showing signs of walking soon. There are smaller skills at work as well that you might not notice, such as the ability to move their fingers independently of one another. Fun challenge: Get to baby point to objects or poke things, like a favorite toy or stuffed animal!

Fine Motor Skills

Photo courtesy Carolina Moore – 30 Minute Crafts

Sensory play is great for children at this age as they can use their fingers and hands to explore all sorts of fun things. Homemade play-dough is easy to make, and is great for poking, smashing, pushing and rolling.

Fine Motor Skills

Photo courtesy Carolina Moore – 30 Minute Crafts

Once you hand him the dough and show him a few ways to play with it, he’ll find all sorts of ways to explore and manipulate it. You can even make an edible version [find a link to a recipe – think we have one on Kix] to eliminate any concerns if he puts some in her mouth.

All of the ingredients in the dough recipe below are edible in nature. h=However, it’s not considered an edible snack. If you child tastes it, chances are he will spit it out (trust me…it won’t taste very good!)

Homemade Play Dough

2 cups water

2 cups flour

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup salt

2 1/2 tablespoons cream of tartar

10-20 drops Food coloring

Saucepan

Put all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until it looks mostly dry (you will see it go from wet to dry, and the color will deepen). Put on a cutting board or counter and knead until cool.

18 months

By now your little one is probably able to grasp objects pretty well and has gained considerable control over his arm and leg movements. Holding a crayon and coloring on paper will start out as circular movements and progress to horizontal and vertical scribbles over time. At this point your child can easily pick up small objects and place them into cups or bowls. A sorting activity can be a great way to develop these skills.

Fine Motor Skills

Photo courtesy Sara Wellensiek – Mom Endeavors

Place a few paper muffin liners on the table and pour some Multi Grain Cheerios on a paper plate. Show him how to sort the different colored cereal pieces into the muffin liners. Your child will not only be increasing his ability to control his arm and hand movements, he’ll also be exercising his brain with the visual sorting activity.

2 years

By now your little one has learned quite a bit of control over his hands and finger movements. There are several ways to encourage the continued development of these fine motor skills. Threading Cheerios onto pipe cleaners requires them to really control their movements and instills a true sense of accomplishment.

Fine Motor Skills

 Photo courtesy Courtney Sanchez – Crafts by Courtney

Use an object with holes, such as a kitchen colander, and show your child how to poke some pipe cleaners into the holes.

Fine Motor Skills

 Photo courtesy Courtney Sanchez – Crafts by Courtney

If you don’t have a colander, get creative by poking holes in the lid of a recycled oatmeal container or in a cardboard paper towel roll.

Fine Motor Skills

Photo courtesy Courtney Sanchez – Crafts by Courtney

Show him how to thread the cereal onto the pipe cleaners and then bend the pipe cleaners so they won’t fall off!

Fine Motor Skills

 Photo courtesy Morena Hockley – Morena’s Corner

Sand play is another great way to work on developing skills. While building sand castles is still a bit too advanced, scooping sand with hands or a plastic shovel helps build control.

Fine Motor Skills

Photo courtesy Morena Hockley – Morena’s Corner

Packing that sand into small sand molds is also fun, and picking up and manipulating sea shells also gives those fine motor skills a workout!

3 years

At this age, coloring is probably one of your child’s favorite activities! Their grasp begins to change from holding the crayon in their fist to holding it with their fingers.

Fine Motor Skills

Photo courtesy Niki Meiners – 365 Days of Crafts

While coloring in the lines is still a challenge, your child will soon be able to trace simple shapes and be able to look at an object (such as a circle or plus sign) and draw it.

Fine Motor Skills

 Photo courtesy Niki Meiners – 365 Days of Crafts

A fun activity for practicing their coloring skills is to create a rainbow! You can print a rainbow from the Internet or draw one for your child. Hand her crayons and let her color to her heart’s content. Coloring inside the lines is still rather challenging at this age, but these skills are beginning to develop. Have her glue pieces of cereal in place to represent the clouds and she’ll have a beautiful spring picture to hang on the fridge!

Fine Motor Skills

Photo courtesy Melodie S Kernahan

Children at this age have considerably more balance than they did just one year ago. They are able to shift their weight when reaching their arms away from their body, and their movements occur more often from the elbow now instead of from the shoulder like in their toddling days. Building a block tower is a great way to help build and maintain their balance as they reach for items and stack them on top of one another.

Varying the size and shape of the blocks causes them to evaluate the situation more, allowing them to make choices on what’s the best way to keep their structure growing and standing.

Fine Motor Skills

Photo courtesy Melodie S Kernahan

By actively playing with and encouraging your child during the first few years of life, you are helping the development of their fine motor skills. Most of the time; without even knowing you are doing it! So while you are logging those milestones such as the first time they sit up and when they begin to crawl, remember that there are smaller forces at work at the same time and you are an integral part in it.

Happy learning and growing with baby!

Amanda Formaro is a well-known kid's craft expert and author of the Mania book series, which includes “Rubber Band Mania”, “Duct Tape Mania”, "Paper Mania" and "Button Mania". She has been writing and crafting on the Internet for over fifteen years. Find out more on her blog, Crafts by Amanda, where she shares tutorials with step-by-step photos for adults and kids alike.