Fine Motor Development with Building Blocks

Share on facebook
Share on pinterest
Share on twitter

As an Occupational Therapist, I’ve used wooden building blocks in fine motor development many, many, (MANY) times.  Wooden blocks are a tool that are used for development of goal progression in treatment activities and in assessment of fine motor developmental level.  They are used in visual perceptual skills, and are the perfect open-ended play item. 

As a Mom and OT, I’ve made sure my kids have a lot of wooden blocks (and a couple of varieties of foam and plastic blocks, too!)

Today, I’m sharing how to use wooden blocks in fine motor skill development with kids…all while they play and don’t even realize their fine motor skills are being assessed or worked on! This is a great way to address skills for children and adults…anyone who needs to work on fine motor skill development.

                                Work on fine motor skills with wooden blocks

Fine Motor Development with Wooden Blocks

Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

My favorite wooded blocks are these Melissa and Doug Wood Blocks Set.  The set is huge and comes with a variety of bright colors in solid wooden blocks.  For today’s activity, we pulled out the one inch square blocks from the set and we used classic Alphabet blocks.  (This set has been chewed on and played with by all four of my kids so they look well loved aka have chew marks!) 

Developmental Progression of Grasp with Wooden Blocks:

First up in developing fine motor skills with wooden blocks is the grasp.  The developmental ages of this progression are as follows:
Grasps a block with whole fist, lifting it off a table surface without dropping: 5 months
Grasps a block with all fingers: 6 months
Drops one block when given another: 6 months
Brings hands together when holding a block: 6 months
Grasps a block between the thumb, pointer finger, and middle finger (radial-palmer grasp): 7 months
Transfers a block from one hand to the other: 7 months
Bangs to wooden blocks together with both hands: 9 months
Grasps a block between the thumb, and the pads of the pointer and middle fingers with space between the block and the palm (radial-digital grasp): 11 months
Places wooden blocks into a container: 11 months
Builds a tower of three wooden blocks given a visual example: 15-16 months
Copies and builds a tower of 5 blocks: 19-20 months
Copies and builds a tower of 6 blocks: 21-22 months
Builds a tower of 8 blocks: 25-26 months
Copies a four block “train”: 29-30 months
Builds a 10 block tower: 29-30 months
Copies a three block pyramid or “bridge”: 31-32 months
Copies a four block “wall”: 35-36 months
Builds “steps” using six blocks: 51-52 months
Builds a six block pyramid: 53-54 months

Developmental progression of fine motor skills with wooden blocks

Radial Palmer Grasp of wooden block
With my toddler, we used the blocks to build small towers.  So, how can you make this a fun activity?  Usually, just playing with your kiddo and showing them how to build  a tower and knock down a tower makes building with blocks fun at this age. 
What will your toddler learn by picking up Wood Blocks Set
, placing them into a container, and stacking towers? (Among other skills):

  • Cause and effect
  • Problem solving
  • Coordination and Fine Motor Skills
  • Spatial awareness
  • Literacy 
  • Manipulation
  • Depth Perception
Developmental progression of fine motor skills with wooden blocks

Digital Palmer Grasp of a Wooden Block
Progressing in development is the digital palmer grasp of holding a block.  This is where development speeds up fast.  By holding a block with the pads of the thumb and pointer and middle fingers, kids are working on the in-hand manipulation skills they will need for manipulating a pencil.  Make it fun while working on this area: Spin the block around with the tips of the fingers.  These Alphabet blocks are great for working on rotation of the fingers.  Have your child look for specific shapes and letters on the sides of the blocks.
How does rotation in the hand help with functional skills?  You need simple and complex rotation to complete these tasks:

  • Rotating a pencil when re-positioning wile writing
  • Opening a toothpaste lid
  • Turning a paper clip
  • Turning knobs
  • Rotating the dial of a combination lock

Building and Copying block shapes to work on Fine Motor Skills

Development of fine motor skills using wooden blocks
From top right and going clock-wise: 3 block pyramid or bridge, wall, pyramid, steps, and train.
Copying specific shapes works on the eye-hand coordination, grasp, precision, and visual perceptual skills needed for functional tasks like handwriting, cutting with scissors, manipulating small items, managing clothing fasteners, and tying shoes, among so many other tasks.  
To make copying shapes fun, try these ideas:
  • Add small toys like animal figures.  Have the animals walk up and down the block steps. 
  • Add play dough.  Have the child create “mortar” using the play dough between each block.
  • Create a train track and push coins around a masking tape track.
  • Build a wall to divide animal figures.  
  • Build a small bridge for small doll or animal figures.
  • Build a pyramid and place a coin on each level.
  • Let your child use their imagination!  The best thing about blocks are the open ended-ness that happens when playing.  You can create houses, roads, animals, and any imaginative scene possible with just a set of blocks!
Looking for more blocks ideas?  See what the Learning with Manipulatives Team have come up with:
Fractions with KORXX Blocks from Still Playing School
Building Block Maze Activity from Mom Inspired Life
Word Family BINGO! from School Time Snippets
Building Block Addition Towers from The Kindergarten Connection
Sight Word ABCs with Blocks from Simple Fun for Kids
Letter Sound Scavenger Hunt from Raising Little Superheroes
Symmetry with Building Blocks from In The Playroom
Making Patterns with Building Blocks from Play & Learn Everyday
Hands on learning with building blocks

Fine motor skills with blocks
Our favorite block ideas: 
How do you like to play with blocks?  Have you tried working on fine motor skills using wooden blocks?  Let us know!