11 Fine Motor Skills Toys for Babies, Toddlers & Pre-Schoolers
Fine motor skills are responsible for controlling small muscles in our bodies. They help us use our fingers, hands, lips, eyes, or tongues, among many other parts of our bodies, accurately.
However, these skills are not separate from the whole body's physicality. They develop alongside our core strength, coordination, and gross motor skills, as we almost always use them together.
Babies start developing fine motor skills as soon as they start waving their arms and fingers, trying to grab your fingers or their favorite toys. This development of their fine motor control lasts throughout our lives.
It starts with fine motor skills toys and continues with learning how to use utensils, writing, using a phone, playing an instrument, working with tools, and more. Humans employ fine motor skills all the time, be it at school, work, or home.
The earlier a child starts to practice fine motor skills, the more independent and confident they will become. Knowing how to tie their shoes, make their beds, and prepare and pack their lunches are skills every child is proud of. All of these depend on proper fine motor skills practice and control.
Moreover, teaching children to become independent and building up their confidence is one of the core principles of the Montessori method and education that we closely follow.
What Are 5 Examples of Motor Skills?
Once you’re an adult, you don’t even think about these things - they are mundane. Yet, for children, they present huge milestones in growing up.
So, here are five activities that strongly rely on fine motor skills that your child will be able to complete as they age and become more skillful with their hands and fingers.
One of the great time-savers is having your kid know how to dress themselves from their heads to their toes. The sooner they are able to do so, the better. You can start when they are really young by letting them put on their shirts and jackets.
Later on, as they get more control over their fingers, you can encourage them to start tying their shoelaces on their own, zipping their coats, or buckling their belts. Motivating them to do these things independently as much as possible is important.
During the first few years, dinner time can look really messy. Toying with food, throwing it on the floor, or saying it’s “yucky” is part of many babies’ and toddlers’ meals. However, once they start using utensils, their lunchtime begins to look like a grown person’s one.
Begin by handing them plastic or silicone spoons so that they can’t hurt themselves. You can do this as soon as you think your toddler is able to hold a spoon and use it somewhat efficiently.
Encourage them to try to pick up food and feed themselves without spilling. As they get older, you’ll even trust them with opening tin cans.
Brushing teeth and flossing
Cavities are the number one children’s chronic disease in the United States. Insufficient personal hygiene, sodas, and sweets (basically anything with sugar) can cause tooth decay.
That’s why it’s important to create a teeth-brushing and flossing routine when your child is still young. Get a soft toothbrush and let your child brush their teeth on their own. Show them a correct technique and ask them to practice at least twice daily.
Writing and drawing
This child’s journey starts with scribbling, then it moves to coloring books, and finally to drawing simple shapes and writing a few less complex letters. Some children start writing at the age of four or five, and some later.
This whole process, from scribbling to actual writing, depends on the development of fine motor skills. As children gain more control over their fingers and their movement becomes more precise, their drawing and handwriting become more consistent.
We are witnessing an incredible rise in technology development. Every device we have these days is smart - from phones, intercoms, ovens, coolers, fridges, etc. And we all swipe, touch, press, click, and use our hands and fingers in a way we have never used them before.
Even though we oppose using phone screens as children’s entertainment, we can’t ignore them. Whether we like it or not, using a phone screen employs fine motor skills.
How Do Toys Help with Motor Skills
Toys can do wonders for fine motor development. They can help with fine motor skills by challenging children to actively engage and use their hands and fingers in new and different ways - pinching, pulling, twisting, grasping, throwing, and more.
Children enjoy toys, and playthings are one of the few things that can keep their attention for extended periods. These periods of increased focus are an excellent opportunity to introduce them to fine motor toys, or rather “tools,” that can help them develop essential skills, like fine motor ones.
By overcoming the challenges that fine motor skills toys present, younger kids train their motor skills, hand control, hand-eye coordination, and small muscles in their bodies.
However, when choosing toddler toys, there are a few things to consider. For example, a toy must be absolutely safe because young children like to put things in their mouths. On top of that, they must be age-appropriate so that a child finds it challenging enough but manageable.
So, here are some toys that are fun and engaging but also focus heavily on fine motor skills development:
Best Montessori Toys to Build Fine Motor Skills for Infants (0 to 5 Months)
When it comes to choosing the best fine motor skills toys, you can’t go wrong with classics - rattles, stacking rings, stuffed soft toys, crinkle toys, and others that your baby can hold.
Your newborn will strengthen their hands and fingers and experience different textures. One of our favorite Montessori toys for babies is:
First and foremost, this is a great bonding toy. You can fit your hand inside it and use it as a puppet to entertain your newborn. On top of that, it also consists of pages with various parts your baby can pull or grasp - making the first steps toward gaining fine motor control.
The earliest period of fine motor skills development usually starts with pointing and pinching, and that’s what this soft puppet book was designed for.
Best Montessori Toys to Improve Fine Motor Skills for Babies (11 Months to 18 Months)
Now that your baby is almost a toddler, new opportunities present themselves. You can now invest in fine motor skills toys that are a bit more complex.
Your child can now walk on their own and are pretty dexterous with their hands. So, here are some suggestions for fine motor toys that can help your kid focus and build fine motor skills as well as hand and finger muscles:
Your child can use this fun toy to explore new textures and discover different sensations. With this shape sorter, they will learn about shapes, sizes, elastic materials, and so much more.
It’s also a great bathtime toy to keep children entertained while you bathe them. Placing blocks inside a box or pulling them out is a fantastic exercise for finger control and focus.
This fun toy will help your child develop grasping ability, arm strength, focus, and hand precision. However, this toy is about more than just fine motor skills.
It also teaches children about the concept of things existing even though we can’t see them. Your baby will learn that once they put a ball into one end, it will come up the other.
This vividly colorful toy is a perfect stacking toy for practicing balancing things. Your toddler will need to be careful and precise while putting each stone on top of the other.
They will train their hand-eye coordination and grasping ability. Also, the stones are wooden, non-toxic, and light, so you can let your toddler enjoy them carefree.
This one is the most complex of the four toys for toddlers. Building blocks such as these are an excellent challenge for young hands and brains. Your child will sort the wooden blocks by shape and color and practice their fine motor skills at the same time.
On top of that, they will develop their problem-solving skills allowing them to move on to more difficult tasks.
Best Montessori Motor Skills Toys for Toddlers (18 months to 3 Years Old)
Now that your toddler is bursting with energy and has much more control over their movement and hand control, they are ready to move on to toys that require more precise finger movement and focus. Here are some of the best toys for toddlers and our top picks:
This toy requires a little more finger strength to enjoy, and that’s why it’s a good fine-motor skills development tool. Kids need to sort egg halves by shape and color and then put them all back in their boxes.
Your toddler will learn some basics of geometry, practice pronouncing colors and shapes, and have fun in the meantime.
There are 16 different interactive stories in this one. Your toddler can touch, pull, twist, and turn each and every one of them. There are so many little details and various shapes that require total focus. That is why this toy for toddlers is great for increasing children’s attention span.
Pages are soft and safe for toddlers. All bits and pieces that you can find in the book are designed to improve children’s fine motor skills.
This is one of the best examples of how the Montessori method can be applied to toy design. A busy board can contain numerous gadgets, such as zippers, belts, knobs, buckles, switches, and so many more.
This toy aims to familiarize children with tools and widgets they will use for the rest of their lives. The best thing is they can learn and explore safely.
This one focuses more on early childhood stuff, such as getting dressed, tying shoes, and packing a backpack for kindergarten. However, it all starts with building hand-eye coordination, pincer grasp, and other fine motor skills.
What Is a Preschool Appropriate Toy That Promotes Fine Motor Development?
At this point, your child is ready to learn some letters and numbers. Ideally, you want to combine that kind of learning with activities that help develop their fine motor practice and skills, among other things. Here are some suggestions that tick both those boxes:
The board comes with carved-in spots for every single piece. Your kid can spend hours sorting everything out. They’ll learn some shapes and numbers and basic calculus.
On top of that, there’s a fishing game included in the box that requires serious concentration and hand control. Learning math and developing fine motor skills is what you get with this one.
This is a great alternative for playing games on the phone. Instead of just tapping, your child will move pieces around, trying to fit them as they fall through the sides of the game.
It’s wooden and colorful. Your little one can also use Tetris pieces to build different shapes, such as cubes. There are a few gameplay suggestions you can check by visiting the product page.
With this toy, little ones will learn how to spell by placing letters in their designated places. This game comes with cards with pictures and dotted letters that spell out that picture.
Your child’s task is to find the required letters and place them in the correct position. That way, they will learn the name of the object in the picture and how it’s spelled and practice their fine motor skills simultaneously.
You have many options when choosing toys to help your little one develop fine motor skills. However, always keep in mind that those toys need to be safe.
Another thing to keep in mind is that toys that focus on fine motor skills development usually have small parts, which can be a choking hazard. Therefore, you should watch closely as your child plays with them if they’re still in their mouthing phase.
Every new toy that can help develop fine motor skills is a great investment. Every fine motor skill developed this way creates new neural connections in your kid's brain and helps them grow. For the fine motor skill toys to work, you must consider kids' ages - only because the best toys are the most engaging.
Be it wooden blocks, a building toy, or a shape sorter - it should be challenging but not too hard. We have sorted our Montessori toys by age, so you can find the best toys for toddlers, babies, and preschoolers in just a few clicks.
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