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Fine motor play

What is fine motor play?

Fine motor play involves activities that require the use of smaller muscles of the hands. For example, playing with finger paints and construction with bricks.

Why it’s important

Play is an essential part of development. It helps children to practice skills, problem-solve and consolidate information about the world around them.

Children will build confidence, independence and their sense of self through:

  • taking a role in their everyday activities
  • re-enacting scenarios in role play
  • exploring through hands-on experiences.

Below are some activity ideas to support fine motor development.

Fine motor play activity ideas and strategies

Paper balls

Encourage your child to scrunch paper to make balls. Show them how to flick the ball with their thumb and finger.

Pegs or paper clips

Hang out their doll’s or teddy’s clothes on a line. Alternatively, place them around a square of strong card or make a chain with the paper clips.

Play with finger paints

Or use shaving foam and sand to make different shapes.

Threading activities

Show your child how to thread beads and buttons onto pipe cleaners and progress onto lace. Ensuring your child steadies the pipe cleaner/lace with one hand and threads the bead/button with the other.

Posting coins or buttons

Use a Tupperware or takeaway tub with a slot cut out of the lid.  Progress on to smaller buttons and smaller slots made from cardboard.

Kneading activities

Make Play-Doh or bread to encourage kneading, squeezing and pushing into the dough. Use shape cutters, rolling pins and utensils. Alternatively, show your child how to pinch the dough between their thumbs and index fingers to make spikes.

You could also hide buttons or beads in Play-Doh or theraputty for your child to find. Encourage the pincer grasp, pulling and tearing of the putty.

Dressing skills

Practice dressing with dolls, teddies or busy boards with buttons, zips, poppers and laces.


Build with interlocking blocks to develop hand strength and dexterity.