Looking for the best toys for fine motor skills practice? Whether you have a new baby or an active preschooler, I’ve pulled together some of the best fine motor toys for toddlers, babies, and preschoolers.
When we talk about fine motor skills, we’re referring to the little motions and movements our kids make with their bodies (not just their hands).
Children develop and practice their fine motor skills from the day they’re born, and keep working at it through childhood.
According to child development experts, “during the first two years of life motor and cognitive development are closely related. During infancy motor activity is the basis for much cognitive development and vice versa.”
Indeed, fine motor skills are a key skill from the first day and onwards. Appropriately developed skills are critical to school success overall, as well as specific school skills such as learning to write.
If you’re keen to help your little one improve fine motor skills through lots and lots of practice, these toys are just the ticket!
I’ve broken the list down into different age groups to keep it organized.
Fine Motor Skills for Infants (0 to 5 Months)
Motor skills development in babies tend to focus on eyesight and eye movement, hand and arm movements, head control, as well as encouraging them to develop the strength and cognition they’ll need to hit toddler milestones.
Many “classic” baby toys are great examples. Colorful and irresistible rattles and balls so many babies love to grasp and bring to their mouth; rattles; stacking ring toys that require eye-hand coordination and manual dexterity; baby play gyms; high contrast mobiles that help with eyesight development; and tummy time toys and mats all fit the bill.
Lovevery’s play kits are great for kids from newborn to their 4th birthday, but their first three play kits (designed for newborns to 6-month-olds) have plenty of well-designed, good quality toys that can help improve fine motor skills.
We’ve owned all three of these boxes, and can attest to them being full of fun!
Lovevery’s first three play kits cover months 0 through to 6:
- Looker Play Kit (Weeks 0-12): Lovevery’s first play kit has plenty of high contrast black and white included to encourage eyesight development, as well as sensory links and a silicone rattle to grab at. The black and white teething mittens are genius way to encourage your little one to discover their hands.
- Charmer Play Kit (Months 3-4): The Charmer comes with more black and white toys, as well as their “hand to hand discs” toy to promote transferring between hands. Shaking the wooden rattle is good for fine motor control at this age.
- Senser Play Kit (Months 5-6): The Senser comes with a few fine motor skills toys your baby is sure to love! The Spinning Rainbow is a great one to build fine motor skills and keep younger kids busy. The Wobbler is another awesome one – especially well suited to tummy time. And the rattle socks are great for developing motor control over their legs and feet. This is also the kit with the Lovevery Tissue Box, which is a guaranteed good time as your little one pulls the “tissues” from the box over and over (and over and over). Read my full review of this box here!
Based on our personal experience, the Lovevery kits are a good investment and something we can personally recommend.
Touch is “the most developed sensory modality at birth, and it contributes to cognitive, brain, and socioemotional development throughout infancy and childhood.” (From “Touch Communicates Distinct Emotion” as referenced in Better Kid Care from Penn State).
In other words? Babies can learn a lot through touch. And that includes (but isn’t limited to) fine motor control by moving their hand to the textured page and activating the small muscles in their hands to stroke and pat the textures.
Every family seems to have their own favorite touch and feel board book . As you can see from the photo below, however, we failed at this in our first book collection, so I’m not the best person to recommend a specific book based on our personal experiences.
Baby mobiles help with eyesight development and tracking – an important pre-reading skill. Based on personal experience, I think the Montikids play gym, which comes with a selection of mobiles and toys, is a great option.
The Montikids montessori baby gym is a super engaging toy that comes with high contrast hanging mobiles to encourage eyesight development and tracking, as well as colorful mobiles made up of interesting, different shapes to engage your little one.
(Eye tracking is a fine motor skill! It’s super important for reading skills down the road)
It also has detachable toys for your little one to master grabbing and kicking, which helps to strengthen their muscles and their motor skills!
Fine Motor Skills for Babies (5 Months to 10 Months)
Babies go through a lot of changes during this period, from sitting to being able to pull themselves to standing, and – for many babies – some form of crawling may begin around 9 or 10 months. At this age, kids can do a lot more, and are better at grasping small objects (that aren’t small enough to be a choking hazard).
Itzy Ritzy Stackers
Stacking toys are great for this age group (and beyond). Around 5 to 6 months is when most babies start reaching for and grabbing things, making a lightweight stacker a fun toy to introduce at this stage.
(Disclosure: I received this toy for free from Itzy Ritzy).
I like this stacker because it’s made of silicone, meaning it does double duty for babies who: 1) want to play and explore, and 2) are teething and want to put everything in their mouth.
The Itzy Ritzy stacker has textured sides (which feels good on sore gums) and is teething safe, meaning you won’t have to worry when they work on getting the rings from their hands into their mouths – over and over and over again.
I also like that these stackers have numbers on them. It means your kiddo will likely like to use them for a few years, once they start to learn their numbers.
We also have these two Lovevery play kits, so can speak to these with personal experience (although some of the toys in the box we own are different, as Lovevery occasionally updates the offering)
- Inspector Play Kit (Months 7-8): This box includes a few great motor toys, including one that isn’t actually a toy: the stainless steel first drinking cup! It’s small enough for babies to grasp (and doesn’t hold too much liquid to make spills problematic). It also includes a first “puzzle” that requires a fair amount of coordination and pincer control; felt balls perfect size to grasp, transfer, roll and throw; and a ball drop box requires a lot of planning, thought and coordination.
- Explorer Play Kit (Months 9-10): The Explorer kit has the very popular jingle keys, which are great for grabbing and shaking. As your kid gets older, they’ll likely want to use these for pretend play, putting the “keys” into a “lock” which requires finer motor movements. This box also includes the tip and turn, which uses bilateral coordination; stacking rings; the wooden egg cup; and a few first blocks.
The Oball was one of our baby’s favorite toys around 6 months and up. Made of a simple web of plastic along with some rattling balls, the ball is extremely lightweight and easy to grasp, with plenty of places for them to stick their fingers in and grab hold. The version with the rattle adds some cause and effect satisfaction, and it’s fun to chew on, shake, roll and throw.
Fine Motor Skills for Babies (11 Months to 18 Months)
As this stage, your little one has moved from a little lump who can’t do much on their own to a non-stop zoomer, crawling and then walking everywhere, and exploring everything.
Realistically, a lot of what toddlers do at this stage is weighted towards gross motor skills (so much running and climbing). While fine motor seems to take a back seat during this stage, they are still developing in the background, although it’s less obvious.
Toys need to be engaging enough at this stage that your little will want to stick around and play with it, or work with their desire to always be moving and exploring.
Simple puzzles (putting shapes into their spot) are a good bet at this age, as are cause and effect toys that require fine motor control to create a bit reaction (sound, movement, etc).
Of these three kits, we’ve personally tested out The Thinker, the play kit for 11 and 12 month olds (pictured below).
All of the kits have toys that specifically help with fine motor skills, and you’ll notice the Babbler and Adventurer kits really start to hone in and require more refined movements with their toy selection.
- Thinker Play Kit (Months 11-12): The Peg Drop, Sliding Top Box, Sensory Pouch, and Pincer Puzzle are good examples of the fine motor movement toys in this play kit.
- Babbler Play Kit (Months 13-15): This play kit marks a transition to toys that require finer and more challenging fine motor skills, including the flexible wooden stacker, coin bank with coins, carrot toy, bunnies in burrow, puzzle, and ball run. A ton to practice in this one!
- Adventurer Play Kit (Months 16-18): Another play kit that is packed full of toys for motor skills practice, the race and chase ramp, threadable bead kit, community garden puzzle, stacking pegboard, and bug shrub are require fine movements and motor control.
Your kiddo will develop fine-motor skills like grasping and twisting, along with hand-eye coordination, when they build this adorable and colorful inchworm by connecting the soft, squeezable blocks into a row. Toys like the inchworm are great motor skills toys for 1 year old and older, as they can be used in different ways for different levels of challenge.
Fun and easy to grasp, these little figures come in three different, brightly-colored shapes with suction cups that stick to both each other and flat surfaces. Your little one will love the popping sound as they unstick them, and they will practice grasping and hand-eye coordination.
This stacking toy takes learning to the next level with three different pegs where three different groups of colorful stacking shapes can be piled up in order. Your little one will have fun while building up their coordination, problem-solving and grasping skills.
Motor Skills Toys for Toddlers (18 months to 3 Years Old)
Once your kiddo hits 18 months, they’ll probably be ready for a different type of toy for fine motor skills practice.
Toddler fine motor toys encourage further pincer development (using their thumb and pointer finger together to pick up small things), use of their pointer finger (pointing at pictures in their favorite books, or trucks on the street, for example), transferring and scooping, holding things, and using both hands at the same time during play (among other things!).
Some popular toddler activities – like sensory bins and playing with playdough – are perfect for practicing these motor skills. However, many toddler toys can help them develop this skill, so if your little one has a particular interest (like, pirates, for example), by all means go with it!
Some of our favorite fine motor skill toys for toddlers are listed below.
Complete with six brightly-colored bolts and six matching nuts, this set will help your little one develop fine motor skills like grasping, twisting and hand-eye coordination. They are made out of BPA-free, phthalate-free and lead-free materials for peace of mind.
Based on a soft, plush pillow, this colorful toy with a friendly face features three different types of buckles to help your little one practice fine motor skills like the pincer grasp. They will also have fun lifting the number flaps to reveal sweet little hidden animals.
The perfect introduction to building Legos, this set is made of larger bricks for smaller hands and is a great way to promote fine motor skills, creativity and visual-spatial awareness. The endless creative possibilities make this set one that will last through many developmental stages.
This large foam pegboard acts as a base for 30 plastic pegs in six different colors. They can be pegged into the board and then stacked onto each other to build grasping, hand-eye coordination and pattern recognition skills. It’s a great example of hand eye coordination toys for toddlers, requiring quite a bit of thought and practice!
This fun and innovative toy features six eggs that are the perfect size for small hands. Each egg opens to reveal two colorful halves, one with a 3D shape and the other with a matching inverted shape. Your kiddo will learn problem-solving through self-correction as they attempt to match the egg halves by shape.
Toys to Help Fine Motor Skills in Preschoolers (3 & 4 Years)
Once your little one reaches the preschool stage, toys to develop fine motor skills will require smaller and more precise movements (such as using tweezers) and start to prepare your little one for school, with tracing and cutting activities.
They’ll also be ready to tackle more complicated items like buttons, having likely already gotten good at locks and keys toys and latches later in the toddler stage.
This cute wooden beehive comes with cheerful and colorful little bees that need to be placed in their color-coordinated spots. Your child will build up their grip strength and coordination, along with color recognition, when they use the over-sized tweezers to place the bees back in their spots. Our daughter now uses the bees for pretend play, so expect to get a lot of use out of this one!
Full of bright and intriguing images to trace, color and draw, this workbook comes with a dry-erase marker so that your kiddo can practice holding and controlling the marker on each object as many times as they need to. Our kiddo went through a “workbook” phase playing school, and we loved the wipe clean books the best!
Four different locks and latches are set on a board with accompanying images, just waiting for your little one to open them up. They include a classic lock toy with a tethered key, two combination locks and a latching lock. This set is perfect for hand-eye coordination and problem-solving.
This clever set comes with a pair of safety scissors that promote proper handling and an assortment of different templates for creative learning. They include mazes, puzzles and building activities to keep your child engaged while they practice. Once our daughter hit 3, she wanted to do “cutting” all the time and these were a hit.
Simple and entertaining, this “tablet” has a lot of tiny metallic beads laid in a plastic board. The magnetic stylus pen pulls the little beads into various shapes, creating drawings. Your kiddo will practice how to properly hold a pen and will build coordination and creativity. We have the Magnatab with capital letters practice, too, which is quite satisfying to work on!
Perler Tray ‘n Cards (Use with Biggie Beads)
Your child will develop their pincer grasp, attention and focus as they lay the beads on this board to mimic the images on the cards. There are 32 different images to choose from making this economical toy last through many crafting sessions. Beads sold separately, and definitely use the “biggie” (larger) bead system for this age group.
This smart toy promotes a multitude of skills for productive learning. Your little one can grab the butterflies with the tweezers and count, sort and match them into trays. They will build fine-motor skills, color recognition and organizational skills. They’re also a great tool for learning math, and as an accompaniment to the best numbers books for pre-K kids.
Should You Invest in Toys to Help with Fine Motor Skills?
In a word, yes!
In our opinion, the key word here is “toys.” At this stage, your little one will learn by playing and having fun, so the key is to provide lots of different ways to play, and follow your little one’s lead as they use the materials you provide them to hone their fine motor skills on their own timetable.
Of course, if you have any concerns about whether your child is meeting their milestones, talk to their paediatrician or your family GP.