Why Fine Motor Skills Matter

When you pick up a pencil, grasp a door handle, or snap a button, your brain and body are working in tandem. For your preschooler, these precise movements—also known as fine motor skills—develop day by day. They need coordination, focus, patience, and, most of all, practice, to improve their fine motor skills and enjoy greater dexterity and independence. 1 , 2 Luckily, preschoolers are in the “golden age” for fine motor skill development. 1 Working on motor skills development also correlates to higher academic achievement later on, including literacy and math. 1,3 Here are five ways for your little one to reap all these benefits while having some fun.

Five Activities to Improve Fine Motor Skills

Here’s your grab-and-go-guide to teach your little one to, well, grab and perform other fine motor activities.

  1. Get Slimy. For a full-on sensory—if messy—experience, you can let your child indulge in a little slime time. Whether you buy ready-made slime or make it from a few household items, mixing and manipulating this unusual material can delight your preschooler while motivating them to work those fine motor skills by getting deeply hands on. 2 For an increased challenge, ask them to divide slime evenly into three cups and then pour it all into one.

  1. Soak & Squeeze. To engage all the muscles of the hand, let your child play with a soaked sponge. 4 It can be as simple as asking them to move water from one bowl to another by soaking it up and squeezing it into a new bowl. 4 To add another element of discovery, try three bowls with coloured water in primary colors, and encourage them to mix colours to create something new.

  1. Pick Up Sticks…or Something Else. Your child can practice both clasping and releasing items when you get them gathering, well, anything into a bucket, bag, or bowl. 2 You might take them for a nature walk and invite them to gather small sticks, rocks, or feathers to bring home. From there, they can make a collage or build something, which strengthens fine motor skills, too. Or stay inside and let them dump cotton balls or pom poms. Make a game of putting them back into a bowl or bucket or circling them around their favorite stuffed animal.

  1. Follow That Line. You can see fine motor development in action as you watch your child’s abilities build from tracing a line on a page or the edge of a couch, to then drawing that same line holding a crayon, and then cutting along it with scissors. 3 Find shapes that intrigue your preschooler. If she loves horses, encourage her to trace the line of the mane with her finger, or a crayon, or by cutting the whole shape out of paper.

  1. String Something Along. Whether it’s beads, elbow macaroni, or anything else with a hole at its center, stringing small items takes—and builds—more skill than it might seem. 4 Shoot for string-ables that pose a small challenge, but not enough to be overwhelming. As a bonus, try counting and creating patterns, making this activity do even more to support cognitive development.

These are a just few of the many, many possible activities to improve fine motor skills for preschoolers. As you engage them with ways to use their hands, you can find fun ways to help your little one know and do more and also support their developing brains nutritionally .

1. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01044/ful

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8625902/

3. https://nwcommons.nwciowa.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1406&context=education_masters

4. https://openlab.bmcc.cuny.edu/ece-110-lecture/wp-content/uploads/sites/98/2019/11/Huffman-Fortenberry-2011.pdf