The Best Fine Motor Skill Activities for Toddlers 1-3 years old

Fine motor skills are those little muscles used in the hand to grab a spoon and bring it up to the mouth to eat, it is the muscles that allow your little learner to pickup a cheerio’s with the index finger and thumb, it is the muscle strength that will allow them to put together or pull apart a lego piece and the ability to use scissors and write.

Working on these skills is fun and there are a lot of DIY ideas you can do as well. Let’s talk about some of those activities you can integrate into your play schedule to work on starting as early as 12 months.


Color Matching

One of my favorite activities to do are color matching activities using toys I already have at home. The activity works on eye-hand coordination as well as practicing their colors. You can use color cups with toys, or even Pom-poms into an egg carton

Wax on wax off

This is controversial but hear me out… Pouring some soapy water and giving a sponge to your toddler to wash on wash off using circular motions works on the shoulders, arms, hands and finger muscles. All muscles needed for writing skills later on. It is controversial because some people get mad that you are putting your toddler to wash a table at such a young age. Toddlers love to help you, they love to feel part of the world they live in. The table doesn’t have to be dirty, but it could be a fun routine to incorporate the table washing after lunch (at least that’s what we did.,. around 15 months of age) and he loved doing it!


Posting activities are those activities that can place an item in a small hole. Like the postman.. placing a letter in a small slot in the mailbox. Our favorite to start is the feed the monster game which uses colored popsicle sticks and a large opening – the mouth-. As this activity gets mastered and easier, then reduce the hole and the object it gets placed in. Use an oatmeal box and cut a slit to place playing cards in it, or cut a small hole and place in pompoms or staws


Working on the whole hand a fun activity is to squeeze a sponge. Add water and any toddler is in happy town. Have two buckets or sensory bins, One with soapy water and one empty. Show your toddler how to transfer the water from one bucket to the other using a sponge. Squeeze in the water to soak up the water and squeeze out in the empty bin to dump the water out.


Children squeeze the clothespins and clip them to the sides of the box or wire basket.

Nuts & Bolts

Have some spare nuts and bolts around? or maybe you can do a quick trip to the hardware store and get big bolts that can be screwed in using finger movement. No time to go hunting for them? this is another option from Amazon, and for the Montessori households, I have this one too.


Lacing is a skill that I’ve seen get started around 1.5 yrs old. You can start with large pasta tubes and a hard stick and work yourself up to lacing cheerios in spaghetti as they get better. Don’t feel like using pasta? we have this set (ideal for two-year-olds and up)

Pouring & Transfering

Children pour something from one place to another. I started with pouring cereal because my son was still putting everything in his mouth. You can also do this exercise by pouring water from one container to the other, move beans from one container to an ice cube tray, and pouring color vinegar (food coloring in vinegar) into the baking soda to create fizzy volcanoes. Just provide a base, a spoon or cup and somewhere to pour the items into and you are good to go!

Transferring can be done painting using these water magic books.
Transfer skills, moving figurine animals from one bin to the next for a wash.
fizzy volcanoes using colored vinegar and baking soda

Using a Dropper

Using a dropper is a great tool to strengthen the hand. There are different types of droppers, for one and two-year-olds I like these ones, and for older toddlers that have more refine movements these are great. A super fun activity to do for this exercise is a little science experiment to mix colors. Set up two water stations, one with yellow and another with blue or red. You can do one dropper on each water station or just one for both. When your toddler squeezes the water out from one into a coffee filter or paper towel, the colors will mix and create a brand new color. It’s a two in one! fine motor skills plus cognitive development as they discover new things.


Different puzzles work on different hand muscles. Start by offering puzzles with large knobs like this one, and as those get a too easy move on to small peg puzzles like this Melissa and Dough best seller puzzle, then move to raises pieces puzzles and ultimate to flat ones and more complicated ones like this Montessori inspired puzzle.


The #1 toy for brain development cannot be forgotten. It fosters imagination and provides muscle strength as your toddler works on putting the pieces and taking them apart. There are different types of legos, you can start with a basic Lego Duplo box, a creative Duplo box, or these fun emotiblocks if your toddler is two and already working on learning about feelings and emotions.

Loose Part Play

Loose part play is open-ended play using little items found around the home. I usually have a bag of pom-poms, a box of buttons, and a bag of decorative rocks around. When I’m in need of a quick activity while I’m making dinner I take these out. WARNING- SOME ITEMS ARE SMALL AND CAN BE A CHOKING HAZAR- if your little one still puts everything in their mouth use large buttons, big lego Duplo pieces and other big items you have around the house. Provide a container with the items and other smaller containers that your toddler can transfer these items to.

So there you have it! lots of quick and easy activities you can do at home this week that require little materials but lots of learning benefits.

You might also like: 11 DIY Toys you can do using recycles materials for toddlers that work on Fine Motor Skills