Fine Motor Activities and Games with Paper Clips

Occupational therapists love to use everyday items in therapy, so these fine motor paper clip activities and fine motor games with paper clips are the best! Be sure to check out all of our fine motor activities with everyday items. You know what I’m talking about…those craft items, things, and tools that we all have in our therapy bags or supply closets. Today we’re covering fine motor activities with paper clips. Scroll down, friends. Below, you will find easy fine motor activities and quick tips to improve fine motor skills all using the simple paper clip!

Games with paper clips

Catch up on the latest tools on The OT Toolbox. Use other everyday items in your therapy bag to with these fine motor activities with craft pom poms and fine motor activities with playing cards.

Paper clip Ideas

The paperclip. You probably have 6 of them sitting in your junk drawer right now. But have you ever stopped to think about how a simple item can be used as a fine motor powertool to ramp up the motor skills needed for tasks like a functional pencil grasp? Have you considered how a simple item like a paperclip can be used to strengthen and refine fine motor skills? It’s true!

In fact, paperclips are a really great item for improving fine motor skills in preschoolers. The preschool age range is a great time to develop and strengthen particular skills that preschoolers will need for tasks like cutting with scissors, coloring without fatigue, and holding a pencil.

These fine motor ideas are easy and quick ways to boost fine motor abilities using an item that is probably already in your craft supply bin or therapy bag.

Paper clips are a great tool for fine motor development while improving dexterity and the motor skills that preschool (and older) kids need. Read on for fun and easy ways to use paper clips in fine motor play!

Paper clips are some of the best tools for building fine motor, bilateral coordination, and eye-hand coordination skills. Why? You can use them in the typical fashion, or for educational purposes like counting, or you can think outside of the box and add other elements that can address a variety of hand skills that make activities therapeutic and engaging. This even includes creating some games for paper clips, that’s right, games!

Simply adding a die, a spinner, or even a magnetic fishing rod can turn the use of paper clips into a game that kids will enjoy for therapy fun and hand skill development.

One fun idea we use in our Fine Motor Kits is using a paper clip to make a paper clip game spinner that you can easily create for use with many games if you follow the directions in the post and print the spinner templates.

Below are some easy-to-create paper clip activities and games that can build the skills children need to further important development in therapy and beyond. You can make fine motor kits or baggies for the classroom or the home which can generate family engagement and build the skills outside of the therapeutic environment without breaking the bank. We all know that therapists (and teachers) pay for things out-of-pocket, so cheap and easy to implement makes for the perfect set-up.

Games with paper clips

Using everyday materials like paper clips can support development of skills. From using paperclips as a game spinner, or as a game piece counter, you can develop fine motor skills, coordination, and hand eye coordination using a functional item.

The school based OTs will love that playing games with paper clips is a frugal way to extend occupational therapy games and toys with a new spin on typical game play. Plus playing games with paper clips are fun activities kids will get a kick out of!

Kids need fine motor skills for school and play. The problem is when we see functional concerns that limit independence. We might see kids who really struggle with hand strength, dexterity, joint mobility, or precision. We may notice these issues in how a student grasps their pencil.

We may see kids having trouble with buttons, zippers, or snaps because of the fine motor skills they really need to develop. Simple fine motor activities can make a real impact!

Games with paper clips include:

  • Use paper clips as a game spinner- Place the paperclip on a paper. Point the tip of a pencil down into one of of the paper clip loops. Hold the pencil straight up and down. Use your other hand to spin the paperclip around the pencil. This is a great exercise in bilateral coordination, eye-hand coordination skills, and crossing midline.
  • Play games with paper clip counters- Many games can be played using paper clips as game counters. Ask the students to pick up and hold several paper clips in their hand. They can place the paper clips on the game board or use them in various games.
  • Play checkers with paper clips- Use a Checkers board and use two different colors of paper clips. Move the clips to play Checkers.
  • Play Tic Tac Toe with paper clips- Select two different colors of paper clips. Use the clips as game pieces to play tick tack toe.
  • Use magnets and paper clips in game play- Move paper clips using a magnet wand to incorporate bilateral coordination and eye-hand coordination.
  • Flip the paper clip game- Just like paper football, you can flip a paper clip to work on fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, and proprioception. Don’t flip too hard or too fast by using the “just right” amount of force..
  • Make fun game markers with paper clips- Cut out and glue shapes, images, or icons onto the end of a paper clip. Then use the paper clip game marker in play dough, on games on the edge of a piece of paper, or to keep score along the edge of a piece of paper. We’ve made several paperclip game markers in our Fine Motor Therapy Kits.
  • Hanging Paper Clip Game- Attach string to a table, wall, or between two chairs. Set a timer for one minute. Ask students to clip up as many post its, or pieces of paper as they can in one minute. This is a great activity for upper body strengthening in the upper extremities and working on a vertical plane to develop strength and stability in the core.
  • Find paper clips game- Hide paper clips in a lump of play dough, slime, or thera-putty. Ask students to find the paper clips as quickly as they can.
  • Play a paper fish game with paper clips- Cut out a fish shape from paper. Fold it in half and glue it over a paper clip. Then use a magnet tied to the end of a string in a paper fish fishing game.
  • Creativity Games- Use paper clips to make bracelets, necklaces, and bookmarks. Then, use them as creative prizes in games!
  • Guess the size- Connect several paper clips together and use a ruler to measure how long the string of paper clips is. Then, guesstimate how many paper clips tall things are such as a shoe, a door, or a building! 
  • Timed Clipping- Set a stop watch and clip as many paper clips to the edge of a piece of paper as possible. This is a great activity to support fine motor skills, bilateral coordination, and using a functional task.
  • Paper Clip Threading- Pour a bunch of paper clips on a table. Set a timer for one minute and ask students to pick up and thread as many paper clips as they can onto a pipe cleaner, straw, or piece of thread. This is a great activity to develop refined precision skills needed for dexterity.
  • Build a Tower- Use paper clips and a deck of cards to build a tower as high as you can. This is a powerful fine motor STEM activity.
  • Alphabet Paper Clip Necklace: This is an activity that links paper clips into a chain similar to a necklace by either simply identifying the letters and linking or by linking in alphabetical order. 
  • Magnetic Letters and Numbers Fishing – Place all magnetic letters and numbers into a bowl and then play a fishing game using a paper clip and fishing rod where children ‘go fish’ for letters or numbers and then when caught, they can work on letter identification and formation. 
  • Play number Games with paper clips- Number Game with Paper Clips is a YouTube video explaining how to play. This is a fun activity for kids to create and then do with adult support. It involves a craft-like activity that later allows for the child to use paper clips and number counting as the game.
  • Paper Clip Fishing Game– Use paper fish and draw onto the bodies different shapes or even letters, then attach a paper clip to each fish.  Use a magnet pole to have children fish for different shapes or letters. This one can be tailored to meet the needs of the child making it very versatile. 
  • Paper Clip Fishing Putty – Therapists grab your therapy putty and insert some paper clips vertically for children to use a paper clip and ‘go fish’ for colored paper clips. How do you create?  Place any size paper clips into putty, tie a piece of yarn onto a pencil along with a paperclip, and well, go fish! This makes for an awesome upper extremity activity – grasp, finger strength, upper arm stability, strength, control, and eye-hand coordination! Here is an example of this paper clip game.
  • Play Paper Clip Math Games- Paper Clip Math is an idea makes for a great busy bag or calm-down time activity.  It’s perfect for indoor playtime and hands-on learning.  Not only that, but it is a great way to work on fine motor skills like thumb opposition. 
  • Paper Clip Pattern Hair – This one is cheap and easy and well, fun to create! Cut a piece from a paper towel tube, draw a simple face onto the paper towel tube piece, and then use paper clips along the top to create fun hair. This is part of the back-to-school fine motor kit that can be found here at The OT Toolbox.
  • Also, check out my Crazy Hair Buddies which are created similarly with a variety of tools that can be used such as paper clips, binder clips, and large and small clothespins. 
  • Paper Clip Patterns – All you need for this one is simply just the paper clips! This is an easy visual perceptual activity for older kiddos where you simply use colored paperclips in various orientations and sizes that will help address visual discrimination skills in children. It’s an easy activity to set-up, but highly effective for therapy.
  • Paper Clip Pick-Up – This one is all about paper clips and picking them up one by one.  This is the perfect game to work on fingertip to palm and palm to fingertip translation skills.  First, roll a die and count the dots. Then pick up that number of paper clips using one hand using fingertips to palm translation skills. End with walking them out of the palm one by one using palm to fingertip translation skills and inserting them into a coin bank or other container.
Kids can develop and strengthen fine motor skills using these fine motor activities with paper clips!

paper clip fine motor activities

Adding more fine motor activities into a child’s day can be a struggle. So having an easy list ready to go makes recommending fine motor activities a no-brainer. Use these activity ideas in fine motor home programs or in the classroom for fine motor centers.

Adding them to math centers would be easy…craft pom poms are fun to sort, count, and manipulate!

Why Use Paper clips in FIne Motor Activities?

Paper clips are a tool you need in your therapy bag! They can be a small item that can be used in big ways. Here are just some of the ways that paper clips can address fine motor needs:

Separation of the sides of the hand– Paperclips are the perfect small item to hold in the palm of the hand, engaging the ulnar side of the hand, while encouraging movement and precision with the pointer finger, middle finger, and thumb. This skill is so important for fine motor precision in tasks like pencil grasp and managing clothing fasteners or tying shoe laces.

Pincer grasp– Paper clips are a powerful means of promoting the precision grasp between the thumb and pointer finger. This motor skill is essential for tasks that require strength and dexterity to manage small items like coins or turning pages in isolation.

In-hand manipulation– Paperclips can be used as a manipulative item for transferring from the palm to the fingertips or vice versa. This is an essential skill needed in pencil grasp and other functional tasks.

Finger isolation– Paperclips can be used in various ways to promote finger isolation needed for fine motor dexterity and functional tasks.

Eye-hand coordination– This skill is an essential fine motor precision skill needed for so many functional tasks such as managing small items, copying letters, and other visual motor skills. Paperclips can be a powerful way to work on this skill area.

Use these fine motor activities using paperclips to improve fine motor skills in tasks like pencil grasp.

Paper clip Activities

Here is a big list of activity ideas for using craft pom poms to work on fine motor skills. What would you add to this list? To start, here are more fine motor activities that use craft pom poms. Using this craft item in fine motor development requires easy set-up with activities like the ones listed below. You’ll see using a water bottle to work on fine motor skills in the list. Here’s a better description of how to make that craft pom pom fine motor activity work.

fine motor paper clip activities

Paperclip FIne mOTOr Activities

So, what can you do with a paperclip to support fine motor skills?

Here they are…loads of fun and easy ways to work on fine motor skills using paper clips! Use these ideas in centers, therapy activities, home programs, and play! Use these ideas in part of an occupational therapy fine motor toolkit!

  • Link the clips together to form a chain. Use those paper clip chains for math!
  • Create shapes with linked paper clips
  • Create letters with linked paper clips
  • Write a number on a piece of papers add that same number of paper clips onto the paper
  • Use the paper clips as a stand for small paper puppets
  • Use four paper clips as legs in animal crafts 
  • Sort paper clips by color
  • Press paper clips onto play dough. Use them to make paper clip flowers!
  • Slide onto color coded paper strips
  • Freeze into ice cubes to paint with water on chalkboard
  • Tie to string and use to thread around chairs
  • Poke holes in a plastic lid. Push paper clips through the holes
  • Slide onto edge of a paper plate
  • Use paper clips to make a DIY fidget tool
  • Pick up with a magnet tied to a string
  • Use to draw in sand
  • Chain together to make number strips
  • Connect pieces of paper to create sculptures
  • Place pencil tip in one end and spin
  • Tape label with number to one end. Slide onto edge of toilet paper tubes
  • Paper Clip Playing Cards – Simply use playing cards and paper clips to draw a card and place that number of paper clips onto the cards. Works on number identification and counting along with fine motor skills. 
  • Paper Clip People – This is a fun activity where you draw a picture of a person and cut it out. Then, you simply place paper clips onto the edge of the paper to create “legs” and “arms” the people. This is a fun way to work on fine motor skills, bilateral skills, and the separation of the two sides of the hand. 
  • Paper Clip Pick-Up – This one is all about paper clips and picking them up one by one.  This is the perfect game to work on fingertip to palm and palm to fingertip translation skills.  First, roll a die and count the dots. Then pick up that number of paper clips using one hand using fingertips to palm translation skills. End with walking them out of the palm one by one using palm to fingertip translation skills and inserting them into a coin bank or other container.
  • Paper Clip Porcupine: This is a fun activity that makes the playdough porcupine a paper clip porcupine! This activity is all about paperclips by creating a playdough porcupine, inserting small paperclips, and using a larger paperclip to pluck out the paperclips. A fun activity for fine motor and eye-hand coordination!
  • Paper Clip Rolls – This is also a cheap and easy activity that allows for color matching and number counting. Great for fine motor, bilateral hand skills, and eye-hand coordination, plus a little visual perception as you have to figure out exactly how to put that clip on.
  1. You can keep it simple by just writing a number on the roll and adding that number of paper clips. 
  2. Use a colored dot sticker, write a number on it, and then match colored paper clips by adding that number.
  3. Use a colored dot sticker, write a number on it, and then use colored paper clips to match the dot while also counting that number of paper clips. 
  4. Simply forget numbers and colors altogether and just clip away.
  • Paper Clip Sculptures and Linked ShapesUse several paper clips together to create a variety of sculptures or even link them together to create shapes and images. Be creative and try some linked-together paper clips for letter formation too!
  • Match play dough and paper clips- We shared this idea in our Play Dough Paper Clip Color Match. This is a simple activity that includes colored play dough and paper clips and facilitates a tripod grasp and allows for strengthening of the hand, especially the arches by pressing the paper clips into the dough in a vertical fashion. This activity is a great warm-up activity for kids before coloring, drawing, or writing. 
  • Simple Paper Clip Chain:  With the use of just paper clips, a child can create a paper clip chain and build important developmental fine motor skills. Use colored clips, large and small clips, and plain clips to create a variety of chains.  This activity works on fine motor skills, but also visual perception as the child works on correctly orienting the paper clips for insertion and rotation of each clip as the chain is being built.
  • Add visual perceptual work to fine motor activities with fine motor color sorting activities for improved eye-hand coordination.

Now, that you have the inspiration and ideas, go gather some paper clips and a few other cheap materials and make some fun games and activities that will motivate children to build important hand skills and other areas of development. Why not have them help you create the kits too? They’d love it and it would be a huge help to you! Grab some baggies, pencil bags, or boxes, or even toss all of the goodies into a plastic storage container and you’ve got a paper clip toolkit! 

Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to

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games with paper clips

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