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Best Baby Toys to Improve Fine Motor Skills
Updated on
October 31, 2023

Best Baby Toys to Improve Fine Motor Skills

By Babylist Team
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Best Baby Toys to Improve Fine Motor Skills.
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Best Baby Toys to Improve Fine Motor Skills

It’s pretty fun to watch your baby grab an object or build a stack of blocks (and then knocks them down, of course) for the first time. What looks like a simple, ordinary activity for adults is a pretty big deal for babies, and mastering these types of skills requires lots of practice for your little one.

Fine motor skills—movements that involve small muscle groups like the hands and wrists—are a huge part of your baby’s development. Strong fine motor skills will help your little one better explore the world around them and reach crucial developmental milestones like picking up and manipulating objects, feeding themselves and even turning the pages of a book. “When thinking about infants, the best way to support motor skills is allowing for free movement floor time,” says Katie Zelinski, an occupational therapist and founder of The Well Balanced OT. “That free movement is helping them develop a clear body map, strength and coordination.” And since little ones learn best through play, toys can be a great way to encourage this skill-building while having fun along the way.

Fine Motor Skills in Baby’s First Year

Every baby will develop at their own pace, so try not to get too caught up in what your little one “should” be doing and focus instead on meeting them where they are. “If you do have concerns about delays and they are approaching the end range of development norms, talk to your pediatrician,” says Zelinski.

Here’s what the American Academy of Pediatrics (APA) says to look for when it comes to fine motor skills over your little one’s first year.

0 to 3 months:

  • Opens and shuts hands
  • Grasps and shakes toys
  • Swipes at dangling objects with hands

4 to 7 months:

  • Reaches with one hand
  • Transfers objects from hand to hand
  • Uses raking grasp

8-12 months:

  • Uses pincer grasp
  • Bangs to objects together
  • Puts objects into a container (and takes them out again!)
  • Lets objects go voluntarily
  • Pokes with index finger
  • Tries to imitate scribbling

How to Use Toys to Boost Fine Motor Skills

The first 12 months of your baby’s life is a time filled with exploration, discovery and learning. And while your little one’s brain may be changing and growing in lots of complex ways, your playtime together can (and should) be simple, straightforward and, most of all, fun.

All of the toys below encourage fine motor skill development in lots of different ways. Use them to interact with your little one while you’re holding them on your lap, during tummy time or lying down together on a playmat. Something as simple as shaking a rattle in front of your 12-week-old and encouraging them to reach for it is a great way to start building fine motor skills. As your baby gets older and starts learning to sit up and eventually crawl and walk, you can adjust your playtime accordingly.

Babylist’s Best Toys to Improve Fine Motor Skills

Best Play Gyms for Babies

These picks are a great place to start for motor skill development. They provide your baby with a safe, comfortable place to explore their surroundings and have engaging toys attached that they can practice reaching for and eventually grabbing!

Best Grasping Toys

Clutching and grasping are some of the first fine motor skills your baby will learn. They set the stage for more intricate movements later on, so it’s important to encourage your little one to work on these skills by offering engaging toys that are fun to hold, shake and rattle.

Best Stacking Toys

The rings can be stacked on the pegged base or played with on their own. In addition to brushing up on those fine motor skills, stacking toys also build other important skills like hand-eye coordination, problem-solving and visual development.

Best Nesting Toys

What’s the opposite of stacking? Nesting! Nesting cups are another great way for your baby to work on fine motor skills, and they’re a perfect example of a simple, open-ended toy that holds so many play possibilities. An added bonus? Most nesting toys can be flipped over and stacked. They also make fun sand or water toys.

Best Sensory Toys

Sensory play is another great way to encourage fine motor skill development. From interesting textures to fun sounds, these toys offer your little one the chance to build hand and finger strength, work on dexterity and, best of all, stay busy.

Best Puzzles

Solving a puzzle makes practicing fine motor skills fun for little ones, but you’ll want to make sure the pieces are large enough to minimize any choking risks, especially for younger babies. When shopping for baby puzzles, keep in mind that the fewer pieces the better and puzzles with knobs for easy gripping are a great choice since they target the hand muscles and coordination necessary for later writing skills.

EXPERT SOURCE:

Katie Zelinski, Occupational Therapist and founder of The Well Balanced OT. Her career has focused on working in pediatrics in early intervention, schools, and outpatient clinics. She currently lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content and review products, as well as the Babylist Health Advisory Board.