Finessing Fine Motor Skills in Your Little Dynamo

When it comes to using gross motor skills — things like walking, jumping, and running — your little dynamo probably doesn’t need much encouragement. But it’s equally important that kids work on their fine motor skills — small, precise thumb, finger, hand, and wrist movements — because they support a host of other vital physical and mental skills.

Titus is currently 16 months old and is an eager little learner.  He is slowly emerging as his own person with a huge personality but also loves being his brother’s little copycat.  He enjoys doing similar activities that Micah does when we are busy homeschooling.  So I started letting him try his hands at simple tasks!

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Here are five activities that he has been doing.  These simple activities will build on a child’s fine motor skills and encourage new ones.

1.  Drop the Pompoms!

a.  Paint Holder

I purchased this container from a craft store a couple of months ago for a painting activity.  But I reused it for this activity because the hole was a perfect fit for the pompoms.  The hole in the middle was where Titus dropped the little pompoms.  In the beginning, he had difficulty opening the holder and keeping it in place while dropping the pompoms.  But as he got more comfortable, he was slowly able to figure it out.  It was hard for me not to step up and help him right away but by allowing him to figure it out on his own, he also developed problem solving skills in the process.   Part of teaching a child independence is exercising self-control as a parent and allowing them to problem-solve and build on their own experience.

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b.  Formula Bottle

My good friend had left her empty formula bottles at our house.  When I saw how perfectly shaped they were able to fit into Titus’ little hands, I washed and saved them for future activities – such as this!  He loved that he could open and close the bottle independently.  I started with just one pompom for him to drop in and take out.  I eventually gave him a couple more pompoms to drop so he could continue to practice this motor skill. This activity entertained him for a good 20-30 minutes!  This allowed me to work on a few things with Micah while Titus kept himself occupied.  Although they worked on their own activities individually, in the end, they came together cheered each other on!

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2.  Coffee Creamer and Cars!

Here’s an empty coffee creamer bottle and a bunch of tiny cars that raced in and out of the tiny opening multiple times and brought this little boy a lot of fun!  I think even his big brother wanted dibs after he saw how long this activity kept his little brother busy!  Shaking the cars around to make them all fit eventually became part of the fun and challenge.  Of course dumping them out was as much fun as putting them in!

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3.  A Yogurt Cup, A Slit in the Lid and A Bunch of Poker Chips!

I am so glad this was a hit again the second time around!  I did this activity for Micah when he was Titus’ age and he had a great time with it.  I made a small slit on the lid of an empty yogurt cup and gathered a few of poker chips and had the boys put the chips into the slit one at a time.  Titus tried to take the easy way out and “dump” the chips out through the slit instead of opening the lid but eventually learned that the latter was a more efficient solution to his problem.

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4. Scrub-A-Dubdub

What kid does not like to play with a bowl, a scrubber, a squirt of water and some soap to make bubbles?!  The size of this scrubber fit perfectly for his tiny hands. The circular movement of the wrist is a great muscular exercise that not only strengthens his hand muscles but develops great hand-eye coordination as well.  Seeing your child create bubbles is a great point of interest for both of you.  As you can see, there is enough strength being exerted to create those tiny bubbles.

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5.  Let’s get Sewin’!

A yarn, a big needle, an index card and a whole lot of fun is all you need to make this activity come together! Prepare the paper with pre-punched holes and the yarn threaded through the needle ahead of time.  Show your little one how to put the need through the first hole and go in and out.  He struggled with pulling it out after he put in into the hole and needed a lot of help in the beginning.  I had to show him how to flip the paper around to pull the yarn out.  I took out the yarn and had him repeat. We practiced this over and over before he finally completed this 4-holed activity independently.  There was definitely a lot of joy after he did this himself!

This first set of pictures shows the progression of the needle going through the first hole.

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This next set shows the process of pushing the needle in, pulling it out and then continuing to the next one.

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I loved the smile on his face as he finished the work himself!  I loved that his brother cheered him on as he accomplished this huge task with his tiny fingers!

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I hope your little one will enjoy these simple activities as much as mine did.   As any parent who’s ever heard the words “I do it!” (from their little one) knows, toddlers don’t need much prodding to try new things. Of course, your child won’t be able to do everything right away. But with encouragement, support, and lots of time, he might surprise you.  Hope you guys have a blast too!



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