8 ways to help your child use their hands

14 Mar 2019 Written by amyholgate

Does your child struggle to button up their cardigan? Do they make a meal out of cutlery? Louise Race, occupational therapist, has some tips for developing fine motor skills.

Fine motor skills are the movements made by small muscles in our hands, wrists and fingers. They help us to hold and press things, or pick things up between finger and thumb. Help your child improve their fine motor skills with these simple activities.

Make things out of playdough

Encourage your child to explore the playdough, pulling it apart, poking it and rolling it. Use utensils and cutters to make different shapes.

Draw, colour-in and paint

Not just pens and pencils – use crayons, chalk or paint to spark their senses. You don’t have to draw on paper. If you want to get messy, you could use chalks outside or use other materials like shaving foam.

Use tweezers or large kitchen tongs

Start a game where you use a pair of kitchen tongs or large tweezers to pick up some small objects like sultanas, pasta, buttons and coins. See if you can all put them into a bowl without dropping any.

Cutting with scissors

Draw shapes to cut around, and try cutting up playdough with scissors. Use scissors which are suitable for the age–group, and remember to get some left–handed scissors if needed. You can also buy spring loaded scissors which help to develop the action required for cutting.

Bathtime play

Use different-sized cups to fill and pour out. Find sponges or squeaky rubber toys to squeeze. Bath crayons and shaving foam are also good fun (and messy!).

Sand play

Like bathtime, use cups to fill and pour out. Scoop and dig with spoons. Draw pictures and build things. If you’re inside, kinetic sand is a great alternative.


Thread different sizes of pasta or beads onto strings, laces and pipe cleaners. Practise tying knots and bows in the string.

Construction toys

Play games which need lots of pushing and pulling with fingers. This might include building bricks – any toys which need small pieces connected or built.