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You can’t help but help your baby develop- it’s what parents do intuitively (with all that talking, singing, cuddling, and of course, all those games of “bee-ka-boo” and “clap hands”). In child development, fine motor skills, or small motor skills, play a major role in your child’s life as they learn how to put on socks, tie shoelaces, write, paint, and so on.
My son has always been developmentally delayed because of his prematurity and prolonged NICU stay. I made sure that he is provided the best tools, or toys I should say, to strengthen all areas of his development including fine motor skills. Below, you’ll find 32 tried-and-true toys that’ll bring lots of fun and your little one won’t even know that they’re learning!
What is Fine Motor Skills
Fine motor skills refer to the coordination between small muscles, like those of the hands and fingers, with the eyes. The hand-eye coordination skills are what allow us to do day-to-day activities like writing, turning pages, buttoning a shirt, tie shoelaces, and using the chopstick. What seems to be obvious to adults like us, these intricate skills required a massive amount of learning when we were babies.
Why Is Fine Motor Skills Important
Your child’s fingertips is a world of essential skills necessary for school activities as well as in life in general. Here are some daily life activities that require fine motor dexterity.
- Self-care skills – Clothing fastenings, grooming, brushing teeth, showering, and using the toilet.
- Feeding skills – using utensils, opening and closing food containers.
- School activities – writing, drawing, cutting, musical instruments, using a keyboard.
- Other life skills– turning the doorknob, needlework, knitting, video gaming.
Fine Motor Milestones in Babies and Toddlers
In the early years of your child’s fine motor development, reaching for, grasping, and manipulating objects is no small task. Referring to the developmental milestones can be a way to identify “red flags” in your child’s development.
According to Healthychildren.org, here are some fine motor developmental milestones to look out for.
0 – 3 months
- Opens and shuts hands
- Brings hand to mouth
- Grasps and shakes toys
4 – 7 months
- Reaches with one hand
- Transfers object from hand to hand
- Uses raking grasp
8 – 12 months
- Uses pincer grasp
- Bangs two cubes together
- Puts objects into a container
- Takes objects out of the container
- Lets objects go voluntarily
- Pokes with the index finger
- Tries to imitate scribbling
Toddlers (1 – 3 years old)
- Scribbles spontaneously
- Turns over the container to pour out contents
- Builds a tower of four blocks or more
- Might use one hand more frequently than the other
Best Toys for Fine Motor Development in Babies and Toddlers
In the early years of your child’s fine motor development, reaching for, grasping, and manipulating objects is no small task. Coordinating those early movements between eyes and hand isn’t easy for babies. Here are the best 32 toys to help with hand-eye coordination and strengthening small muscles of the hands.
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Baby’s first set of rattles! Perfect for newborns to practice on grasping and shaking their little hands. Added bonus – brightly colored fabric pompoms and colorful beads provide extra sensory and fun.
This simple toy was my son’s favorite when he was tiny. The large holes are easy to grip with small hands. Babies can practice transferring the ball from one hand to the other around 4 months old. This Oball is a stable in our diaper bag because it’s so lightweight. When it gets dirty, we just pop it in the dishwasher. Clean and done!
Babies love pulling apart and linking together these cute farm animals. These play sets are amazing for growing motor skills and finger strengths. Best of all, these pop blocs are great introductory toys for puzzles as babies learn about spatial reasoning and hand-eye coordination.
This award-winning teether and rattle will instantly capture and hold baby’s attention. The mesmerizing loop design and lightweight construction make it very easy for little hands to grab, hold and rattle. The soft, pliable teething loops are perfect for teething or gumming babies. The center cube features a quiet rattle so baby can explore sound and cause and effect.
This innovative toy is made of wooden beads strung together with elastic. It creates a perfect tactile toy that twists and turns easily in little hands to promote gross motor skills. Babies will develop fine motors skills by reaching for, grabbing, pulling, twisting, and rattling these beads.
This bumpy ball is not only great for fine motor skills but also perfect for developing tactile sensitivity. Equipped with brightly colored and multiple textured bumps, this bumpy ball is a true delight for babies. The bumpy ball makes noise when rattled and the bumps make it super easy for small hands to grab and transfer from one hand to the other.
These shape shorter on wheels is my son’s go-to for independent play. I think he became so good at doing puzzles because of this specific toy! There are 15 different shapes and 5 faces to sort and match the wooden shapes into. The car box can be opened for easy cleanup. And, there’s a rope attached for pulling when your little one is ready for a walk!
Rock, shake, rattle and create some serious music fun with these 4 little instruments. Each instrument creates different sounds while babies learn about cause and effect when they rattle. These toys are extremely versatile. We carry it in our diaper bag, hook in on the stroller, and attach it on baby Chunbao’s safety gate to encourage standing and reaching.
This multi-functional play triangle is packed with lots of fun activities to help develop your baby’s fine motor skills! Each side has a different hands-on activity to keep babies entertained. While kids are entertained with the numerous activities in this triangle, they’re also developing hand-eye coordination. Baby Chunbao loved flipping the little flaps and watch them turn. Also, there is a side with a mirror where baby Chunbao used to adore looking at himself.
2018 Family Choice winner. Kinetic sand is not only great in sensory bins, but these beach themed playset also comes with mini sand raking tools and molds. Everything is included in this box for your baby to build the castle of their dream! The magic kinetic sand is a nice no-mess alternative to dirty sand that sticks to everything it touches.
Babies discover colorful critters by manipulating the switches in different ways. A lever, beeper, key, and switches are easy for little hands to activate. As your child presses, turns and twists, she’ll be building fine motor skills and having fun as the colorful animals pop up to the corresponding action.
Stacking toys are one of the best toys to strengthen hand-eye coordination. Babies reach for, grip and stack these lightweight rings on the post. This stacking set is made with high contrast fabric and has many different textures to stimulate your baby’s tactile senses.
This amazing set comes with 112 soft bristle blocks that easily attach and pull apart. Your child will immerse himself in hours of imaginary play while strengthening his hand-eye coordination. Although marked for ages 2 years and up, young infants can practice pulling apart the blocks with your assistance. It is truly a toy that grows with the baby!
This cute song singing dinosaur was baby Chunbao’s favorite at 1 year old. He loved pressing the shapes and feeding the dino every time. The dino recognizes the eight brightly colored food pieces as your baby feeds; provides fun responses as the dino eats each piece. Press the red bottom on his head to guess what he wants to eat, rotate the wheels on his back to listen to different songs, and learn how to count and name foods as your baby feeds him. Not only does this dino looks super cute, but he has the voice of a young boy that your baby will love as well!
These brightly colored puzzle pieces are chunky enough for little hands to grasp. The farm animal pieces can stand up to use as manipulatives or play pieces. It also encourages the development of hand-eye coordination and imaginative play. This puzzle is easy to manipulate and provides frustration-free play for babies and toddlers.
Award-winning toy specifically designed to strengthen fine motor skills in kids. The peg-shaped pieces are easy to grasp and kids will have lots of fun putting them on the back of this friendly hedgehog. Kids can learn color sorting and counting and hand-eye coordination skills all at the same time! This simple yet fun toy will captivate your child to play for hours to come!
Kids love manipulating these chunky pegs into the foam pegboard. This set comes with 12 shapes and 12 colors that will entertain your child for hours. Best of all, everything fits into the drawstring backpack for easy storage and carry.
This is not a typical toy you’ll find at a toy store, but it is a must-have for improving pincer grasp and hand strength. This no-mess putty was recommended by baby Chunbao’s Occupational Therapist. We added shiny gems and buttons in the putty and have baby Chumbao practice pinching the shiny objects out. The CanDo TheraPutty comes in many “strengths” that are color coded. For toddlers, make sure you get the soft red ones so that it’s not too hard for your toddler to manipulate.
5 colorful backgrounds scenes ( pirate, medieval, space, deep sea, and wild west), and 245+ cling-style, repositionable stickers promote fine motor skills and imaginary play. These reusable stickers are easy to peel off for small fingers and they don’t stick to anything other than the matching sticker pads!
Have a mini fishing competition with this fishing toy set! Count how many fish you and your child catch in a minute. Teach your child how to reel in the fish with both hands. These vibrant fish float in water and provide lots of fun during bathtime as well!
Cutting things in half is a unique skill that requires specific muscle groups and coordination. This play set comes with 32 food, fruit, and vegetable items. The 2 pretend knives and cutting boards provide a safe way to cut into the food items. Pretend food cutting toys are a great way to encourage imaginary play while developing flexibility and fine motor skills.
The four different tools (Gator Grabber Tweezers, Handy Scoopers, Twisty Droppers, and Squeezy Tweezers) offer hands-on ways for kids to develop the many small muscles of the hands needed for successful writing. Perfect for tactile learners!
Head start your child’s alphabet recognition with this alphabet wooden puzzle. These puzzle pieces are quite thin but still big enough for toddlers to play with. I love it that each alphabet has a matching beautifully detailed picture!
Toddlers learn how to use their small motor muscles to screw and unscrew these large plastic nuts and bolts! Benefits of playing with these simple pieces are plenty – improves manual dexterity, hand-eye coordination, color recognition and pairing, shape sorting, and much more. Put all pieces into the drawstring backpack to keep everything neat and tidy!
This 30 piece connecting blocks toy will help your toddler improve fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and even social skills as they learn to play and interact with other children. This set includes 4 types of interlocking tubes plus wheels. Watch your child entertain themselves and spend countless hours playing with this construction toy!
Teach your toddler basic dressing skills with this Melissa & Doug Basic Skills Board! If your toddler love buckling the belts on the car seat, high chair, and stroller, then you must get this basic skills board! Each shaped puzzle piece features a different hands-on skill — a snap, a button, a zipper, a belt buckle, a plastic press-and-release buckle, and a lace. Each piece can be removed and toddler can place the pieces to complete the puzzle!
Unleash your toddler’s inner artist with this no-mess magnetic drawing board! Extra large canvas provides enough space for toddlers to fully play with their imagination and creativity. There are 4 vivid colors (Red, Yellow, Blue, Green) in 8 color zones within the board. Erase and re-create a drawing with one swipe of the sliding eraser.
Prepare your child for some serious lacing with this set of lacing cards. Your toddler will be lacing around the creatures featured in the classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar storybook. Printed on thick, sturdy board, these lacing cards are durable and reusable, and perfect for small hands to hold.
This wooden math shape sorter has lots to offer. It’s amazing for developing early sorting skills, teaching colors and numbers, promoting hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, problem-solving skills and encouraging creativity.
Kids will immerse themselves in hours of creative play with these brain flakes. Each box contains 500 colorful discs that can be easily interlinked. This smart toy is not only great for fine motor skills but it teaches spatial thinking. A must have STEM toy!
Kids will have a sense of accomplishment putting together and taking apart these toy cars. Think Gizmos Take Apart Toys contains detailed pieces like engine battery, seats, bumpers, screws. 30 parts all in all! When the engine is turned on, the take apart toy car gives off realistic sounds and lights.
Sky’s the limit when you give your child a bucket full of perler beads and peg boards. This bucket contains 6000 perler beads and 5 perler pegboards. Your child can create unlimited designs and develop fine motors skills at the same time!
Can A Child With Fine Motor Delay Catch Up?
For a healthy child who is otherwise delayed in fine motor skills, catching up is just a matter of time. Of course, it depends on the severity of the delay, but providing lots of toys that encourage fine motor play can greatly improve the child’s dexterity.
Baby Chunbao was delayed in all areas (fine motor, gross motor, and speech) when he had his first assessment at 4 months. With all the therapies we are having and my persistence in helping him develop, he is all caught up at 1 year old. In fact, his fine motor skills now are way advanced than his peers!
Developing good fine motor skills take time and practice. The right toys can encourage those skills to develop and provide lots of fun for babies and toddlers. Which ones are your kid’s favorite toy?
Running out of ideas on how to keep your toddler busy?
Here is a mega list of 100 fun activities you can do with your toddler.