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Activities to Develop Fine Motor Skills in Preschoolers

Fine motor skills are required to help your child perform everyday movements and tasks with ease. Among the many uses for fine motor skills, at a young age, kids use fine motor skills to pick up and hold objects, feed themselves, and eventually using their fingertips to button and zipper up clothing. That’s why it’s so important to encourage the development of these fundamental skills at an early age.

To give you an idea of the types of fine motor skills your kids should learn, let’s take a look at the various milestones kids should achieve at certain ages, along with activities to help fine motor skills development.

What Are Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills are the movements we make with the small muscles in our hands. Babies start using their hands at birth to explore tactile senses. They develop their fine motor skills as their bodies start to move and stabilize, and as their cognitive, social, and emotional skills develop.

Young children use fine motor skills to become increasingly independent, such as for:

  • Feeding themselves;
  • Washing their hands;
  • Brushing their teeth;
  • Opening doors;
  • Zipping zippers and buttoning buttons; and,
  • Getting dressed.


There are typical developmental milestones for fine motor skills in children along with red flags. If your child hasn’t met the development milestones for their age, you may want to discuss this with your family doctor.

Here’s a list of fine motor skills for each age and the corresponding red flags.

12 to 18 Months

Between the ages of 12 and 18 months, your child should be able to:

  • Point with their index (pointing) finger
  • Point to pictures in books
  • Scribble with a crayon
  • Build a tower with two blocks
  • Hold a toy with both hands at the middle of their body
  • Hold a cup to drink, usually with some spilling
  • Use a spoon to eat, usually with some spilling
  • Put on a hat
  • Remove their socks

Red Flags for 18 months

  • Shaky or stiff movements
  • Does not point to things using their index (pointer) finger
  • Cannot pick up small objects using the pincer grasp (thumb and pointer finger)
  • Cannot put objects into containers
  • Is unable to use both hands during play

18 Months to 2 Years

By the ages of 18 months to two years old, children should be able to:

  • Turn pages of a book, often two or three pages at a time
  • Build a tower with four to six blocks
  • Place large pegs in a pegboard
  • Place large shapes in a shape sorter
  • Place four rings on a stick
  • Throw small balls
  • Turn knobs
  • Scribble
  • Start to hold a crayon with their fingers, often with their hand at the top of the crayon
  • Imitate you drawing a circle or a straight line, although often not accurate
  • Paint using their whole arm to move the paint brush
  • Start to string beads
  • Pull up a large zipper
  • Use a fork or spoon to eat

Red Flags for 2 Years

  • Cannot feed themselves with a spoon
  • Cannot imitate you drawing a circle or vertical line
  • Cannot put simple shapes into a shape sorter
  • Cannot stack two or three blocks
  • Cannot place a large, simple puzzle piece into a wooden puzzle
  • Is still putting lots of toys in their mouth

2 to 3 Years

Between the ages of 2 and 3, your child should be able to:

  • Imitate you drawing a cross
  • Draw circles and straight lines
  • Hold crayons with their thumb and fingers
  • Fold sheets of paper in half
  • Snip the edges of paper with scissors by 30 months
  • Cut across a piece of paper by 3 years
  • Turn single pages of a book
  • Build a tower with up to nine large blocks
  • Put together large linking blocks
  • Sting ½ inch-sized beads
  • Manage large buttons
  • Put on some clothing with supervision
  • Use a fork to eat

Red Flags for 3 Years

  • Shaky or stiff movement
  • Arms or hands seem weak
  • Unable to hold scissors and snip paper
  • Unable to draw circles and straight lines
  • Is still holding a crayon with a full fist
  • Cannot stack several blocks

To learn more about fine motor skills for 4-year-olds, speak with your doctor or daycare.

Activities to Develop Fine Motor Skills in Preschoolers

To encourage your child’s fine motor skills development early on, consider these fun fine motor skills activities:

Pincer Grasp

The pincer grasp is necessary for kids to pick up small items, like Cheerios, using the thumb and forefinger.

To teach your baby the pincer grasp, let them play with toys that have dials, knobs, and switches. Also, place scarves in an empty baby wipes container and let your child try to pull out the scarves.

Stacking, Filling, and Dumping

To teach your child hand and wrist stability to stack blocks with control, let them play with large wooden blocks to start. Move on to smaller blocks and interlocking blocks once they are more developed (at least age 2 for interlocking blocks).

Also, let your child fill a bin with toys and dump it on the ground to fill up again. This activity uses muscle movements, cognitive reasoning, and concentration.


The pliable texture of play-dough and DIY slime lets kids work on these materials in a variety of ways that help hone their fine motor skills. They can roll, flatten, and stretch play-dough into different shapes, tear it apart, and mold it back together.

Painting & Drawing

Bring out your child’s inner artist while helping them learn to hold paint brushes and big crayons, develop dexterity, and improve hand-eye coordination.

You can start with finger painting then move up to using a paint brush. Also, show your child how to trace their hand with a crayon.

Blowing Bubbles

Bubbles are fun to blow at any age, but for young children, blowing bubbles actually helps with fine motor skills. So show your child how to clinch the bubble wand with their hand, dip the wand into the soapy solution, and blow out bubbles for a super fun time.


Crafting with pipe cleaners, popsicles sticks, and other supplies is a creative way to learn hand movements. For example, have your child tie pipe cleaners together, glue them to paper, or thread them through holes in colanders to create patterns across the bowl.


Learning origami or how to cut out snowflakes are other creative activities that require concentration and dexterity.


Give your child a fork or spoon to use at every meal. And as with all things, be patient, even when your child is making a mess. Instead of swooping in to feed your child, let them learn on their own—it’s the only way they will develop their fine motor skills.

There are many fun activities to develop fine motor skills in preschoolers. And these skills are necessary for your child to learn day-to-day activities that will help make their lives easier now and throughout their lives.