In early childhood circles, one often hears talk about activities that develop fine motor skills. This is because one of the many tasks of early childhood is to strengthen the muscles in the fingers and hand so that children will be able to use those muscles to carry out tasks such as feeding themselves, buttoning buttons, tying shoes, using scissors, and writing words.
Fortunately, there are so many wonderful toys that develop fine motor skills in young children. Below I have complied a list of 18 of the best toys for supporting the development of fine motor skills. On this list are toys for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and grade schoolers.
Note: For more great gift ideas for kids of all ages and interests, see my gift guides page.
For babies, toddlers, and young children, stacking toys are great for promoting fine motor development.
Tobbles Neo: This toy is colorful and appealing to hold. This is a great stacking toy for babies, but its fun shape will appeal to toddlers and preschoolers as well. It can be stacked with the pieces right side up or upside down, with each side providing a different level of challenge. This toy is also the winner of several awards for its great design.
Melissa & Doug Stacking Train: Little kids love trains, and little kids will also enjoy stacking blocks in various shapes onto this adorable train set from Melissa & Doug.
Melissa & Doug Deluxe 10-Piece Alphabet Nesting and Stacking Blocks: This is a great stacking set for preschoolers. Not only do they get the fine motor challenge of stacking all 10 pieces on top of each other, but they get to work on size discrimination as well as their alphabet knowledge at the same time.
Every child should have the opportunity to play with blocks, which support fine motor development (in addition to numerous other skills) as children build towers and other structures.
Melissa & Doug 60-Piece Standard Unit Blocks: Playing with blocks builds fine motor skills, an understanding of spatial relationship, and creativity, among other skills. With this 60 piece set of large size wooden blocks from Melissa & Doug, kids can spend hours building towers, towns, and other structures.
PlanToys 50 Construction Set: For younger kids with less developed fine motor skills, I recommend the Melissa & Doug wooden blocks mentioned above due to their larger size. But if your kids are ready for a greater fine motor challenge, this set of smaller size wooden blocks in a combination of beautiful colors and natural wood might be a good investment.
Imaginarium Foam Building Blocks – 100-Piece: Compared to wooden blocks, foam blocks require additional fine motor control to build towers and such, because their lighter weight means the tower will come crashing down easier if children bump or move too much while building.
Fine Motor Toys
These toys were designed specifically with young children’s fine motor skills in mind.
Learning Resources Helping Hands Fine Motor Tool Set: This is a perfect fine motor starter set from Learning Resources. It includes a pair of Gator Grabber Tweezers, a pair of Scissor Scoops, a Twisty Dropper, and a Squeezy Tweezer. Pair these tools with a sensory bin or some water play and kids will enjoy these tools for hours! Recommended for ages 3+.
Melissa & Doug Scissor Skills Activity Pad: This activity pad comes with 20 activity pages and a set of kid-friendly safety scissors that will encourage your little ones to practice their fine motor skills with mazes, puzzles, art, sequencing activities and more.
Lauri Toys Stringing Pegs and Pegboard Set: This set includes pegs for sticking into a base. It also includes laces for lacing both the pegs and the included lacing cards. This combination of pegs and lacing cards means there are lots of possible ways to enjoy the activities in this set, and lots of ways for kids to build their fine motor skills.
Toys for Tinkerers
Many kids are attracted to tinkering toys and tool sets. Fortunately, these kinds of toys are a great way for kids to practice their fine motor skills as they twist, turn, pull, and insert pieces into holes.
Guidecraft Screw Block Activity Set: Many young kids go through a stage of enjoying inserting things into holes and then taking them out again. This screw block activity set from Guidecraft will give your little tinkerer an opportunity to practice gripping and twisting the little screws as he or she works to get them into the correct holes.
Hape Master Builder Set: If you have a miniature handyman or handywoman ages 3+, this tool set from Hape might be the perfect gift. With multiple shapes, colors, and sizes, plus a variety of screws and fasteners, kids can create all manner of items with this set.
Educational Insights Design and Drill Socket to Me: This is a great tinkering set for kids ages 4 and up. It comes with a working socket wrench and lots of bolts, allowing kids to create four different pre-set projects (boat, robot, race car, and rocket) or any number of open-ended projects of their choosing.
Doughs and Clays
Playing with doughs and clays is a great way to strengthen the muscles in the fingers, and thereby improve children’s fine motor skills.
Play-Doh Case of Colors: Play-Doh is the classic kids’ playing dough. It comes in multiple colors and will entertain kids for hours. As they squish it, squeeze it, roll snakes, and make balls, kids will be strengthening their fine motor skills.
Melissa & Doug Shape, Model and Mold: If your kids love play dough, they will love these awesome tools for shaping, modeling, and molding their play dough into all sorts of fun creations. Plus, the experience of rolling, cutting, and stamping the dough with these toys provides another great way to develop fine motor control.
Magic Mud Non-Toxic Modeling Clay Project Kit: Kids who are adept at using play dough may be ready to move on to playing with clay, which is more difficult to manipluate (and therefore great for developing finger strength). I love Magic Mud because it is non-toxic, will air dry, and can be painted.
Art projects provide wonderful opportunities to practice fine motor skills such as drawing, writing, cutting, glueing, and more.
Crayola 8-Pack Crayons – Jumbo: Kids love to color. Fortunately, while they color and draw they are also developing the correct grasp they will need for writing. Young kids benefit from using jumbo crayons that are easier for their developing fingers to grasp.
Crayola Blunt Tip Scissors: Ideally, kids should begin to use scissors in preschool. It may take children a while to master the use of scissors, as they require a great deal of fine motor coordination. Start your child off with a kid-friendly pair of blunt tip scissors so he or she can practice cutting things safely.
The Wikki Stix Book of Wiggles, Squiggles & Curlicues: Wikki Stix are awesome. They are made from yarn coated in a colorful, non-toxic wax that can be easily molded into a variety of shapes. They are reusable, they never dry out, and there is no mess to clean up. This Wikki Stix book combo will inspire your child to create all sorts of wonderful images with their Wikki Stix, and in the process your child will give the small muscles of their fingers a workout.
Looking for more great gift ideas? Check out my other gift guides:
- Best gifts for kids who love science
- Best gifts for kids who love to build
- Best gifts for active kids
- Best gifts for kids who love arts & crafts
- Best gifts for encouraging sensory play
- Best gifts for developing math concepts
- Best gifts for teaching letters
- Best gifts for teaching shapes
- Best gifts for kids who love LEGO