Tag Archives: Motor Skills

Mix and Match Patterns with Plastic Eggs

Here’s an activity where I’m guessing you won’t have to spend one dime, just use what you already have!  Plastic eggs, crayons, and paper.  This was a great activity I found online that I prepared and stored away for after the baby was born.  I first gathered the plastic eggs from the basement so that I knew which colors I had to work with.  I then colored some mix and match eggs on cardstock. 

I gave J both the cards and the plastic eggs and told him his job was to create eggs to match the cards. 

This activity offered practice with color recognition, size recognition and fine motor skills.

For younger toddlers/preschoolers:  They might need help clicking the egg pieces together, but they can find the correct colors themselves.  Some might not yet be able to recognize the size difference in the top/bottom of the egg.

For older toddlers/preschoolers:  They can practice placing the eggs together themselves.  To add a level of difficulty, be sure to make it clear in your drawing which part of the egg is on top and which is on bottom.  This way they not only have to match the correct colors but also the correct part of the egg. 

Age attempted: 3 years

Toddler Made Puzzles

Every now and then I’ll print out a scissor worksheet for J (just do searches on google and you’ll find lots of options).  It’s really good practice.  Using scissors requires lots of fine motor skills!  Honestly most of the worksheets are too hard for him at this point, but he enjoys them.  We really should practice this more often!

So J came up with this activity on his own.  One day he was having tons of fun cutting up one of the worksheets and went way beyond just cutting along the dotted lines.  He then announced that he had made a puzzle and I looked up to see him refitted all the pieces together! 

This has become one more activity he wants to do after scissor practice.  We mix up the pieces and he fits them back together like a puzzle. 

Age attempted: 34 months

Nesting Dolls

Last Christmas when I brought out our decorations, I found a set of Russian nesting dolls (don’t ask me why they were mixed in our Christmas decor).  J loved them (age 20 months).  That same year his grandma got him a cute set of nesting animals in his stocking that he’s played with all that year. 

To me, nesting dolls are a step up from the nesting cups all pretoddlers love to play with.  Nesting dolls are a little more advanced since they have to open and close each one.  They provide great practice with size recognition, help you work on size comparison like smallest/largest, smaller/larger, large, medium, small,… 

At 33 months they are still within his developmental level and keep his attention well.  Maybe this is a “toy” you have around your home and have overlooked it just like I did.

Color Mixing with Ice

When I was pulling up the old activities using ice, I realized that I never posted this last summer (I took a LONG break back then!).  These photos are from this past summer.   This is a great outdoor activity but a few simple adaptations can  easily bring this activity inside during the winter months and actually works well with a winter theme. 

(I honestly just copied this post from the one I wrote for our private family blog last summer.  I made very few adjustments – in italics – which is why it sounds like I’m writing from the perspective of summer…. I was!)

J’s homemade water “table” is still one of his favorite activities of the summer.  A few days ago we made yellow and blue ice cubes together.  This is an activity all in itself and a great way to teach the process of freezing. Let them fill the tray using a scooper or a medicine dropper to include some fine motor skill practice!  He’s been patiently waiting to play with them since. 

He first separated the ice cubes into bowls by color and chose to make blue water first.  I filled the tray with a small amount of water (just make sure the tray is white/clear so you can easily see the water change colors as the ice melts). He really enjoys scooping and stirring the ice cubes, letting them melt in his hands,… **Use this step to utilize motor skill practice with tongs or different size (and length) scoopers or spoons.**  I’m surprised at how long a little ice can entertain!  When he moved onto the yellow ice cubes I asked him which color the water (currently blue) would become and he of course guessed yellow.  I told him it was going to be a surprise that he’d have to wait and see.  He wasn’t convinced the water was actually green until the very end when there was no denying it.  He was sure it should be either blue or yellow! 

(Sorry, I kinda cut off his face!)


We then filled the ice cube trays with green water to play with in the future.  This activity is free, entertains a good while and recycles itself too!

Stringing Buttons

Iphone photo from plane trip

This is an activity J has done both at home and on airplanes.  I found a big bag of colorful buttons, in different sizes.  Set out some string and he was focused threading them for 30 minutes at least.  This is a good fine motor skill activity.  J is a very organized little boy so he typically wants to sort the buttons by color, matching each with the corresponding color string…. which meant mom had to track down string to match each button :) 

We’ve also tried stringing the buttons by size but this hasn’t been J’s favorite activity.  He’d much rather sort colors.  It’s still a great practice activity to try.  I’ll bring it out again after awhile.  If you do plan on sorting by size, I would start with a just a few buttons and as your little one excels increase the number of buttons to sort and/or decrease the difference in sizes. 

Traveling:  We started using this activity on planes when J was old enough to keep track of the buttons.  We keep them in a ziploc and he takes out one at a time.  I only bring the larger buttons with us and he strings them on  pipe cleaners instead of string.  I like multiple uses for travel toys and pipe cleaners offer lots of other uses.

Lesson learned: Using pipe cleaners to thread is much easier than using string.  This makes activities like this (or stringing beads, stringing sponges ) possible for younger ones. You can bend down the sharp ends of the pipe cleaners.

Age attempted: 27 months

Patterns for Homemade Geoboards

In lieu of Christmas soon arriving, I thought I would introduce/reintroduce some of the great homemade toys that we have around our house.  Homemade toys are perfect for little ones!  Why spend tons of money on things you can make easily?

Remember this Homemade Geoboard post?  J still enjoys it today.  I recently put one together for his older cousin and included some example patterns with the board.  I took example photos of shapes, patterns, letters, numbers and pictures on the geoboard for him to replicate.  For even older ones, you could simply include a list of things to create and leave off the pictures.  That would add a level of difficulty. 

I think this would made a great homemade Christmas gift!

A Free Matching Toy

I have a box full of different empty containers with their lids.  Each container is a different size or different color.  Some have screw-on lids and some lids pop on and off.  I set them all out in front of J and had him match the lids to the containers.  We talked about the shape of the container and looked for a similary shaped lid and then he practiced placing the lid on the container himself.  He still has trouble with screw-on lids (he keeps wanting to screw them back and forth and of course they’ll never get tight that way!).  You might have seen this post that describes one of J’s chores (that he thinks is a game!).  Whether as a chore or just for fun, this activity is an easy way to keep him busy for awhile and it’s good practice for him too!

Age attempted: 23 months, could be done much earlier though they might need more help with screw-on lids

Teachable moments: size, shape, practice with motor skills when attaching lids

20 Month Old Busy Box

I put together these activities for a friend’s little girl.  While mommy is serving in Iraq, I thought this busy box might help to keep her little one busy and hopefully even allow her dad some much needed time off from entertaining.  Most of the activities are homemade, repurposing items from around the house as is my norm. I housed them in a simple decorative box.  J’s own “busy box”  is kept in a closet and the activities are only brought out at certain times throughout the week.  This helps keep it’s novelty.  Some of the activities are repeats from the 1 year old Busy Box I made my niece awhile back, though I tried to make them a bit more difficult for the older age.  You’ll also notice that these activities are mostly ones I’ve mentioned in previous posts.  When I make a busy box, I try to pick the most successful activities from J’s experience, many of these are motor skill activities.  Some of these activities are things Ella can enjoy now and some she will grow into in the next few months.

You’ll have to excuse my poor decorating abilities.  That is certainly not my forte.  Most of the original toys that I made for J aren’t decorated at all.  J never seemed to mind, so hopefully little Ella will look past the covers and still enjoy the meat of the activities!

1.  Pushing Puff Balls – this is a fine motor activity and has always kept J entertained; see this post for more info

2. Color Sorting Pipe Cleaners – again a fine motor activity and I added practice with colors; this is probably the favorite homemade toy for J; see this post and this post for more info

3.  Color Wheel – practice with colors and fine motor skills; you can use the wheel in other ways too. See this post and this post fore more.

4. Puzzles -These foam puzzles were one of the best buys for J. They were just $1 at our local grocery store and I picked them up on the fly one time.  When I saw them there months later, I bought a few more as gifts. I bring the color puzzle on plane trips sometimes since there are few pieces and it’s very light. 

5. Family Bag – this is similar to J’s family magnet pics.  I added each family member’s name to Ella’s pics, laminated them (with contact paper) and gave her a little purse to carry them in.  J has loved his family pics since before he was one.  I thought adding the names could encourage name recognition.

6. Seed Family Worship CD – I had previously sent one of their CDs to my friend while she’s in Iraq, but thought her daughter might like one too.  These cd’s are really great and not just for kids IMO.  They are an excellent way to help us write God’s Word on our hearts.  See this post for more.

7. Fish Counting and Matching file folder game – J has a similar matching game, I just made this one a bit more durable by adding it to a file folder for safe keeping.  The envelope holds the laminated fish cards to match as well as the fish to place on the counting page.  I found the counting template here from Tot school and have used it many times with J.

8. Sponge Jewelry – a fine motor activity and again a favorite of J’s, simply thread the sponges onto the pipe cleaners.  I found a greater variety of sponges for Ella’s jewelry.  A girl needs to match!  See this post for more info.

Color Wheel for toddlers

I’ve seen this activity on tons of blogs since I first started looking and finally thought J was old enough to manage it.  The first time I brought it out he was excited but soon just wanted to point out where each clothespin belonged and have me do the physical labor.  Pinching the clothespin was difficult for him.  I felt ridiculous that I couldn’t figure out a good way to teach him to use the clothespin.  A week later we tried again.  We practiced opening and closing the clothespins together and I realized he could manage them on his own if he used both hands.  So for now I hold the color wheel for him while he squeezes the clothespin open.  Hopefully he will soon develop the hand muscles needed to have more control.  Since he knows his colors, the fine motor skills is really the purpose of this activity. 

(I don’t have a pic of J in action because I don’t have a free hand to snap the photo)

Age attempted: 24 months

Increased difficulty to pipe cleaner toy

I finally made a harder version of the pipe cleaner toy that J loves.  It was one of the first activities I found when websurfing but of course I didn’t save the link so I have no idea where the idea came from.  ETA: I found the link

This particular one is actually a gift for a friend’s little girl, but I let J give it a trial run.  I should’ve made this for him when he was younger.  It would’ve been a great challege for colors; now it’s just good practice.   The original pipe cleaner toy  is SUCH a huge hit and has been for a full year now.  It is probably the top homemade toy in our house (or at least in the top three).  As he got older of course it got easier.  Adding the color matching to the toy makes gives him one more challenge to the task. 

This particular toy is an empty oatmeal container.  I used a knife to cut holes into the lid and added some reinforcements that I colored to match the pipe cleaners.  Done! 

UPDATED: A reader just asked me a great question that might help others out too! 

How do you avoid the sharp end of the pipe cleaner?

I’ve always folded and twists the ends over to keep from that sharp exposed wire. When J was really young, I twisted them in half since that length was enough of a challenge for his fine motor skills.  As he got older I could lengthen the pipe cleaners and just fold down the edge. This doesn’t remedy the problem completely, but it keeps their fingers from getting poked.  It’s still something you want to watch since eyes can get poked. Oh and I’ve found the cheaper pipe cleaners have less fluff around them which means the ends poke more. You could also use colorful straws instead of the pipe cleaners. That might be a great option for some.  I preferred pipe cleaners since we used this activity on planes most often and I liked that the pipe cleaners could be used for lots of other activities on the trip as well.
Age attempted: with colors, 24 months but could be done much much earlier; without colors, around 12 months