Have you found yourself asking any of the following questions:
- “How do I help my child improve his or her fine motor skills?”
- “How do I help my child tolerate touching things that are slimy?”
- “How do I help my child improve his or her self-feeding?”
- “How do I help my child tolerate touching things that have different textures?”
If you have ever asked any of these questions, here are 10 fun and easy sensory and fine motor skills activities that you can do with your child at home:
1. Make and play with different types of play dough. A quick Internet search or search on Pinterest, and you will find several different recipes for different types of dough. The process of making the dough gives a child practice with utensils. Measuring, dumping, stirring, and mixing all of the ingredients are a good way to develop fine motor strength and coordination, and gives good practice for utensil use. After making the dough, then play with it. Depending on the recipe, the dough will be sticky or can have different textures, different smells, etc. This then addresses the child with sensory or tactile sensitivities. Allow the child to first use utensils when playing with the new dough and then progress to trying to touch the dough, as they are ready.
2. Make noodle necklaces. You can make necklaces, bracelets, belts, or anything that the child imagines with some string and different shaped noodles. When doing this, use different sized noodles to increase the difficulty of the task or to make it easier if a child finds small noodles are too hard. All you need is string (yarn, butchers twine, thread) and tube shaped noodles of any shape and size (elbows, rigatoni, o’s, wagon wheels). This is a great activity for building fine motor skills, precision, and the ability to coordinate both hands together.
3. Make a sensory bin and play hide and seek with toys in the bin. To make a sensory bin all you need is a storage container (can be as small or as big as you would like) and material to fill the bin. You can use any of he following: sand, oatmeal, rice, dried beans, dried split peas, lentils or any combination of these. You can then take small toys like: little people, farm animals, matchbox cars, pompom balls, etc. and hide them in the bin. To find the items you have hidden your child can use tools like spoons, shovels, trowels, or forks to find the toys. This allows a child to experience different textures with their hands and to develop skills with utensils to help with developing self-feeding skills.
4. Practice scribbling, drawing lines, or letters on a sensory tray. Instead of using storage containers like you would when making a sensory bin you can use a cookie tray for this activity. You can use moon sand, play sand, breadcrumbs, flour, shaving cream or foam soap for this activity. Spread a thin layer of the material on the cookie tray and use a paintbrush, make up brush or sponge, fingers, or any small utensil to then draw lines, shapes, or begin to practice writing the letters of the alphabet.
5. Pompom drop with tweezers. This activity is super easy and you can make so many different games out of it. Take containers (bowls, clean bottles, or plates), a pair of tweezers, and a bag of pompoms (the small craft pompoms) and use the tweezers to pick up the pompoms and sort them into the containers. You can sort them by color or by size. Or, for a pre-school aged child this is a good way to start learning about patterns and place the pompoms into different patterns.
6. Drawing with sidewalk chalk. This activity is weather dependent, but such a good activity. It gives a child the opportunity to touch and feel the chalk (a sensory activity in itself) but also gives the child the opportunity to practice drawing lines, shapes, letters or just coloring. But because of the size of the sidewalk and the position the child is playing in, they are also building shoulder and overall arm strength.
7. Finger painting. This is such a good activity for developing fine motor strength, finger isolation, fine motor coordination, and for helping a child who is sensitive to messy textures. For the child who is sensitive to having his or her hands messy, offer a paper towel or rag to allow the child to wipe his or her hands as much as they need to. Finger painting does not have to be limited to just using paint; you could use pudding, applesauce, peanut butter, foaming soap, shaving cream or any substance that is easily spread with fingers.
8. Torn paper collage. To do this activity have your child tear different colored paper (construction paper or tissue paper) into small pieces and then help him or her glue the paper onto a piece of cardboard or another piece of paper to make a picture. This activity works on fine motor strength and precision and exposes the child to gluing and the stickiness that comes with using glue or a glue stick.
9. Play hide and seek in a ball of play dough. Take a ball of play dough and hide coins, beads, or small toys into the play dough for the child to find. The child has to push, pull, tear, roll, and manipulate the dough until all pieces are found. Then have the child hide all of the pieces for you to find. These activities help to address overall tactile sensitivity as the child has to touch and interact with the dough, but also addresses fine motor strength and coordination.
10. Build with plastic or paper cups. Use any of the plastic or paper cups that you have in the house and use those to build with instead of blocks. You can make towers, pyramids, or get as creative as you and your child want to. The lighter weight material of the cups makes balancing a little more difficult so this helps to address fine motor precision.
There are so many things that you can do to build fine motor and sensory skills though play. These are just 10 easy activities that you can do with materials that you might already have in the house or that you can easily find at the store. Have fun and let your imagination run wild!
By: Shelley Coleman Casto, MS, OTR/L