Fine Motor Toys

Awesome fine motor toys for kids

Working on fine motor skills through play is natural. Here, you’ll find the very best fine motor toys designed to promote and support a variety of therapy skills. These occupational therapy toys support the development of precision, dexterity, hand strength, and coordination, through play. Let’s talk Fine Motor Toys!

Fine Motor Toy Ideas

Today is going to be FUN! I am beyond excited to share the very best fine motor toys that support development of hand strength, dexterity, precision. We’ll also cover why these occupational therapy toys support fine motor development, and cover a little about an occupational therapist’s perspective on what makes them such amazing tools for building hand strength, dexterity, motor control, and fine motor coordination.

Here’s why: I love to share my OT perspective on helping kids develop skills, using fun and engaging therapy toys that kids are excited about.

Check out the items below, and add one of these fine motor toys to your therapy toolbox!

These fine motor toys are therapy toys that help kids build motor skills like hand strength, coordination, and more.

Fine Motor Toys

So often, therapists and teachers purchase items to use in their work using their own money. This giveaway offers a chance for you to win an item that will be useful in helping kids thrive.

And, given that kids are on screens more than ever before with all of the virtual learning and hybrid learning models being incorporated all over the world, therapists are seeing more need for active, physical play.

Because of that, I’m excited to share with these fine motor toys that help kids develop the motor skills they need!

Fine Motor Skills Toys

Here on The OT Toolbox, I’ve shared a lot of different toy suggestions, that are perfectly suited to meet specific needs, like fine motor strength, grasp, pincer grip, and dexterity. Some of these specifics can be found here:

Today, I wanted to go through some specific toys that develop fine motor skills. AND…as part of the Therapy Tools and Toys Giveaway, you can enter to win these items!

Therapy Toys for Fine Motor Skills

These are fine motor toys that you will find in therapy clinics. There is a reason why…because they are fine motor powerhouses! So, if you are looking for toy recommendations that build motor skills, this is it!

Amazon affiliate links are included below. You can read more about these items by checking out the links.

Learning Resources Avalanche Fruit Stand– This toy is one of my FAVORITE ways to develop fine motor skills in kids. Kids use tweezers to manipulate fruit pieces and can work on colors, counting, matching, and other learning skills. The fine motor components are impressive! Address skills such as:

  • Pincer and Tripod grasp development
  • Hand strength
  • Arch development
  • Separation of the sides of the hand
  • Wrist stability
  • Wrist extension
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Motor control
Build fine motor skills with this Avalanche Fruit Stand game that helps with fine motor skills.

Pop Tubes– There are so many ways that these fine motor tools build skills in kids. You can read about using Pop Tubes for bilateral coordination skills in this previous blog post, but beyond bilateral coordination, these bendable tubes can be used to help kids develop body awareness through tactile stimulation, fine motor skills auditory feedback, AND fine motor skills such as:

  • Grasp
  • Arch development and hand strength
  • Separation of the sides of the hand
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Bilateral coordination
  • Proprioception to the hands (use them as a fidget tool)
Pop Tubes are a fine motor toy that helps kids build hand strength.

Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog– Have you seen this cute hedgehog toy? It’s a great way to help kids develop fine motor skills in a fun way. The bright colors are a nice way to work on matching, sorting, math skills, and color recognition, too. The chunky pegs make this fine motor tool a great toy for toddlers, but the hedgehog’s cute factor makes it a great fine motor activity for older children as well. These fine motor skills are addressed with this toy:

  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Pincer grasp
  • Grasp development
  • Hand strength
  • Motor planning
The fine motor hedgehog toy helps kids with fine motor skills.

Bucket of Perler Fuse Beads– This bucket of beads is the perfect way to build so many fine motor skills. I love working with perler beads with children because you can target many skills, and it’s a great fine motor activity for older children that may benefit from fine motor work. This bucket of perler beads makes my recommendation list for it’s fine motor benefits:

  • Pincer grasp
  • In-hand manipulation
  • Separation of the sides of the hand
  • Open thumb web-space
  • Dexterity
  • Precision
  • Wrist stability
  • Eye-hand coordination
Perler beads are a great fine motor toy for kids.

Jenga Game– This classic game is a fine motor powerhouse that kids love. As a therapist, I love to use this game to build fine motor skills, because it’s such an open-ended activity. You can play the Jenga game, but you can use the blocks in building activities and pretend play activities, too. Consider the fine motor benefits of this game:

  • Precision
  • Dexterity
  • Separation of the sides of the hand
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Motor planning
  • Motor control
Use Jenga to help kids develop fine motor skills and coordination

Coogam Wooden Mosaic Puzzle– This pixel puzzle comes with a wooden board, a puzzle booklet, and 370 small block pieces in 8 different colors. Children can use this fine motor toy to develop so many fine motor and visual motor skills. Use it to copy and build letters and numbers, shapes, and pictures. This toy is great for math concepts, too. This is a powerful toy!

  • Precision
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Visual motor skills
  • Pincer grasp
  • In-hand manipulation
  • Open thumb web-space
Use this shapes puzzle to help kids develop fine motor skills, coordination, and motor control.

3D Building Block Gear Shapes– This building toy is a fine motor goldmine. Kids can construct 3D shapes or they can copy figures and work on visual motor skills. Use this fine motor toy to work on skills such as:

  • Hand strength
  • Arch development
  • Separation of the sides of the hand
  • Bilateral coordination
  • Pinch and grip strength
  • Wrist stability
Use these gear building toys to help kids develop fine motor skills like hand strength.

Coogam Wooden Blocks Puzzle Brain Teasers Toy Tangram– This puzzle toy is a fantastic addition to have in your therapy bag, classroom, or home. Kids can complete the fine motor puzzles and use it as a brain break to learning. Plus, there are so many visual motor benefits to this toy:

  • Visual motor integration
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Precision
  • Wrist stability
  • Wrist extension
  • Separation of the sides of the hand
  • In-hand manipulation
  • Open thumb web-space
Children can develop precision and dexterity with this tangram activity.

Mini Squigz– Squigz are such a great fine motor toy for kids. Use them to build on one another or to stick to a wall or protective plexiglass surface. The sticking suction cap toys provide resistive feedback that not only strengthens little hands, but offers a proprioceptive sensory feedback, too. Here are more fine motor benefits to this toy:

  • Hand strength
  • Arch development
  • Separation of the sides of the hand
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • In-hand manipulation
  • Precision and dexterity
Use squigz to help kids build hand strength.

Straw Constructor STEM Building Toy– Using STEM toys to support fine motor skills is a powerful strategy. Read more about STEM fine motor activities.

This fine motor toy is such a fun way to help kids develop and strengthen motor skills. Even better, is that this building toy can become a gross motor toy, too. Containing 300 pieces of plastic straws and connecting pieces, this construction toy helps kids develop so many areas:

  • Bilateral coordination
  • Visual motor skills
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Pincer grasp
  • Tripod grasp
  • Hand strength
  • Arch development
  • Separation of the sides of the hand
  • In-hand manipulation
A straw construction toy is great for fine motor skill development.

Pincer Grasp Toys

Toys to improve pincer grasp include:

Hand Strength Toys

Fine Motor Games

More Therapy Toys

Check out the therapy toy ideas listed in the blog posts below. Each article covers a different area of child development.

  1. Fine Motor Toys 
  2. Gross Motor Toys
  3. Pencil Grasp Toys
  4. Toys for Reluctant Writers
  5. Toys for Spatial Awareness
  6. Toys for Visual Tracking
  7. Toys for Sensory Play
  8. Bilateral Coordination Toys
  9. Games for Executive Functioning Skills 
  10. Toys and Tools to Improve Visual Perception 
  11. Toys to Help with Scissors Skills 
  12. Toys for Attention and Focus 

PRINTABLE LIST OF TOYS FOR Fine Motor Skills

Want a printable copy of our therapist-recommended toys to support fine motor skills?

As therapy professionals, we LOVE to recommend therapy toys that build skills! This toy list is done for you so you don’t need to recreate the wheel.

Your therapy caseload will love these FINE MOTOR toy recommendations. (There’s space on this handout for you to write in your own toy suggestions, to meet the client’s individual needs, too!)

Enter your email address into the form below. The OT Toolbox Member’s Club Members can access this handout inside the dashboard, under Educational Handouts. Just be sure to log into your account, first!

Therapist-Recommended
FINE MOTOR TOYS HANDOUT

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    Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20+ years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

    Therapy for Picky Eaters

    food therapy for extremely picky eaters

    In this blog post, we are covering therapy for picky eaters. Occupational therapists and speech therapy practitioners often cover extremely picky eating in therapy sessions, but how do they know where to begin with food therapy? Let’s cover specifically how to help extremely picky eaters, food for picky eaters, and therapy suggestions for extremely picky picky eating disorder.

    Therapy for Picky Eaters

    Fifty years ago, feeding therapy this would not have been a popular topic. Children ate what was provided, like it or not.  Sometimes parents would spare the child and leave the offending objects off of the plate. More often than not, children over the age of four were expected to eat what everyone else was eating.

    Fast forward to 2022. There has been a huge rise in allergies, picky eaters, and problem feeders. How to help extremely picky eaters  has become the forefront of many occupational therapy sessions and referrals.

    There has been a marked rise in food sensitivity (gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance) or allergies to certain foods.  This goes hand in hand with the rise of anxiety, illness, ADHD, autism, and poor immune response. 

    Picky Eater List

    There is a difference between oral motor skills that impact feeding abilities and a child’s picky eating. Foods that make the “picky eater’s list” might include certain food texture issues, food mixtures, food sensory issues like crunchy foods, and even foods that require utensils. 

    A short list of some foods that are not on the plate of extremely picky eaters might include:

    • Sandwiches
    • Rice
    • Chicken breast or other meats
    • Carrots
    • Cheese
    • Sauces
    • Vegetables
    • Fruits

    Obviously this is a short list and any number of foods, food types can be on a picky eater list. Any other number of foods or food combinations

    Looking at this list, you can see the limitations in nutrients, vitamins, proteins, and brain-building foods that are missing from the plate of an extremely picky eater.

    It is not productive to get stuck in the “why is my child a picky eater”, but move forward to “what can I do about picky eating”.  I am not just an experienced feeding therapist, I too had two picky eaters who survived on 3-4 different foods in their second and third year of development.  

    In order to help my daughters, I had to remove my thoughts impacting how I approached tackling that picky eater list for each child. That includes putting aside parenting/worry/anxiety/they’re starving persona, and put on my therapist hat.  I am happy to report they are thriving adults who eat a huge variety of foods!

     NOTE*The term, “learner” is used throughout this post for readability and inclusion. Not all picky eaters are children. This information is relevant for students, patients, clients, preschoolers, kids/children of all ages and stages or whomever could benefit from these resources. The term “they” is used instead of he/she to be inclusive.

     How to help extremely picky eaters 

    To learn how to help extremely picky eaters, it is important to define it first.  

    Picky eating is different from problem feeding.  Often, but not always, extremely picky eating is actually a problem feeding disorder. This has recently been renamed Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder ARFID.  ARFID is not classified with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, as persons with ARFID or problem feeding do not restrict their intake due to body image.

    The term picky eating includes:

    • Selective eating habits
    • Eats 10-20 different foods (preferred foods)
    • Will often eat more if hungry
    • Not missing entire food groups
    • Can often be bribed or rewarded for good eating
    • Can be distracted into eating
    • Adds new foods to their diet

    Problem feeding (extremely picky eating) refers to:

    • Refusal to eat
    • Rigid eating habits (no food touching, specific brand, same plate, cut a certain way)
    • Eats less than 10 different foods
    • Will starve before they eat unwanted foods
    • Missing entire food groups 
    • Behavioral reactions: gagging, vomiting, crying, anxiety, refusal to sit at the table
    • Increased sensitivity to the taste and/or texture of foods
    • No amount of rewards, bribing, punishing will magically make this go away
    • Does not recognize hunger
    • Food jags, will lose foods once eaten regularly

    What is the difference between picky eating and problem feeding?                

    The picky eater will survive.  They are likely to consume at least one meat, fruit, and vegetable and a bunch of carbs.  

    Continue to put out expected foods on the plate and encourage tasting of new foods.  The problem feeder on the other hand, is not consuming enough calories, or getting the right nutrition.  

    A person surviving on four foods often gets tired of one of them, eating only three foods now.  This is more of a dire situation and the treatment is complicated.

    If you have a problem feeder, seek treatment from a therapist who is certified or has attended classes in feeding therapy.  There is a lot that can go wrong working with problem feeders.

    The Sequential Oral Sensory course, Beckman Oral Motor Therapy, and Mealtime Miseries are popular courses. Having this information can help in identifying whether extremely picky eating is related to sensory or oral motor difficulties.

    Therapy for Extremely Picky Eating

    After viewing the list, if you feel the learner is more of a picky eater, there are several strategies that can help.

    Following a feeding evaluation, feeding therapy can begin. Start a structured feeding problem including the following:

    1. Feeding Therapy Interview

    Interview the caregiver to determine the following:       

    • What foods the learner eats – a specific list will determine texture, variety, color, or patterns. Are all the foods crunchy? Are they all brown?
    • How many foods the learner eats – less than 10 is a problem, 10-15 is picky, and above 20 is average. Count two different cookies as two items, two cereals as two items.
    • Medical history – Is there a history of reflux, G-tube, or NG-tube, swallowing issues?
    • Time frame for eating – A typical meal should last 20-30 minutes for a child.
    • Where the learner eats – Does the learner eat at the table or in front of the television? Do they run around the room catching a bite here and there?
    • Behavioral reactions during meal times – Does the child flee the table? Turn their whole body away from the food, vomit, cry, refuse to open their mouth, gag, spit out food?

    Record information from caregivers and look for clues to feeding issues, other than the exhibited behavior. The person may have a history of reflux that makes eating very uncomfortable.  They may have been verbally abused and shamed during mealtime, making eating an unpleasant experience. Perhaps the child has never had structure or routine during meal time, thus not making eating a priority. 

    2. Planning for Feeding therapy

    Start treatment planning                

    Begin with the provided list of preferred foods to determine what foods to try first.  A Food Inventory Questionnaire can be used for this step.

    If the learner eats: crackers, pancakes, waffles, bread, and dry cereal, they may have a preference for white/brown foods that are dry. Some are crunchy foods and some are soft foods, but all are dry. 

    The next in order would be another dry brown food such as toast, bagel, cookie, or different type of cracker. 

    Once the child tolerates more brown dry foods the next texture in the same color family would be a banana or plain macaroni. 

    For the learner who eats only purees or smooth foods like pudding, yogurt, and baby food, the next step would be to try different flavors of yogurt or pudding. For a learner who only eats smooth foods, it is important not to vary the texture yet. After the child tolerates this texture, then a trial of applesauce may work.

    Adding flavor choices and additional nutrients can be found in sauces or dips. While this can be a source of refusal for some kids, others prefer dips such as ketchup or ranch dressing.

    Take a look at what the individual is gaining from these dips. Both can be high in sodium and that salt intake is preferred. Can you offer other foods to dip into the preferred choices?

    Think about other similar options that may offer a similar sensory input through texture or taste:

    • butter for pasta rather than sauces
    • pizza sauce in place of ketchup

    3. Feeding Therapy Treatment session              

    Ask the learner or their caregiver to provide two favored foods and 2-3 non favored foods. Having preferred foods decreases anxiety as  the child is not presented with a plate of non favored foods.  

    It is important for the learner/caregiver to provide the food.  Possible allergic reactions are diminished, as the caregiver is more aware of the learner’s diet. There may be cultural or dietary foods that the family prefers.

    It doesn’t do any good for the therapist to work for weeks on waffles and applesauce, if the family does not offer these foods.

    Food presentation – Present all foods on the plate in small portions, or a choice of two options with small bites of each. Avoid huge piles of non-preferred food, as it increases anxiety or aversion.

    Divided plates help ease anxiety, as do small portions. It can help to present the food as snacks, using a snack plate or small tea plate.

    Food exploration- Start to encourage eating, or at least food exploration.  Have the learner look at the food, touch the food, touch it to their face, give a kiss, give a lick, take a bite, chew, and swallow. This resource on sensory touch can offer more information and strategies to support tactile exploration.

    There are 27 steps to eating from being in the same room as the food, to chewing and swallowing it.  This makes learning to eat new foods challenging. 

    Offer food options- Allow the child to touch foods or use their fingertips to pick up and eat or taste the foods. In some cases, muscles and coordination are not appropriate for utensil use, limiting options.

    Read about suggestions to improve how to hold a spoon and fork.

    Offer various food temperatures. Consider the sensory input offered by cooked carrots vs. raw carrots. 

    Offer various food cuts. Consider the amount of force needed to bite baby carrots vs. shredded carrots.

    Food Therapy Progression

    Food therapy interventions are about progressing through with small incremental changes to food offerings with observation and food challenges. Some food therapy goal banks are included below.

    Learner is able to:

    1. Be in the same room as the food, then in the same area as the food.
    2. Sit near the food, then in front of the food without turning away.
    3. Look at food, touch the non preferred item, smell the food.
    4. Touch  the food to face, then lips, then give it a kiss.
    5. Lick the food, take a bite and spit it out, chew the food with the option to take it out.

    While presenting and working on the feeding portion, observe for signs of oral motor issues that might indicate oral motor development considerations.

    • Does the learner chew from side to side or munch up and down?
    • Do they have good lip closure?
    • Do they have an intense gag reflex?
    • Can they move the food around effectively?
    • Can they bite into the food?

    4. Carryover of Therapy for Picky Eaters

    The ultimate goal is to carryover skills achieved in therapy sessions into a functional environment. Discuss techniques with caregivers and encourage them to try the same foods later in the day.

    Remind them to be calm and not emotional during feeding time. The goal is to have fun with food and find mealtime enjoyable.

    For more information on how to help extremely picky eaters, I have also published a helpful resource book (Amazon affiliate link) Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes for to understand different environments that may be impacting the eating habits of your child/clients, including the cafeteria, kitchen, restaurants, and more.  

    Feeding and toileting are two of the most frustrating, anxiety producing stages of childhood. Children start to exert their free will at this stage and can no longer be forced to do certain things.

    Encourage parents, educate yourself on this topic, and spread the word, so problem feeding does not continue to rise along with other scary diagnoses. 

    This post is part of a series on feeding disorders/picky eating. Other resources you will find helpful include:

    Victoria Wood

    Victoria Wood, OTR/L has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.