Best Baby Toys to Improve Fine Motor Skills
Best Baby Toys to Improve Fine Motor Skills
November 30, 2020

Best Baby Toys to Improve Fine Motor Skills

Best Baby Toys to Improve Fine Motor Skills.
Photo by @wolfie.mama
Best Baby Toys to Improve Fine Motor Skills

The first time your baby grabs for an object or builds a stack of blocks (and then knocks them down, of course) is pretty fun to watch. What looks like a simple, ordinary activity for adults is a pretty big deal for babies, and mastering these types of skills requires lots and 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 little one’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. And since little ones learn best through play, toys can be a great way to encourage this type of skill-building while having some 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. (And always remember that your pediatrician is the best source of information if you ever have any questions as to if your baby is developing normally or not.) Here’s what the American Academy of Pediatrics 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

A Grasping Toy

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 these skills by offering toys that are fun to hold, shake and rattle.

These brightly colored wooden beads from Manhattan Toy Co fit the bill. They’re easy to grab and twist and make a click-pop noise when your baby manipulates them, adding to the fun. And they’re coated with a non-toxic, water-based finish so you don’t have to worry if your baby wants to chew or suck on them.

A Stacking Toy

This modern twist on the traditional stacking ring is just right for helping your baby practice fine motor skills. We love the rings’ bold colors and engaging patterns and that they’re made from a soft, plush fabric that’s safely chewable. The rings can be stacked on the pegged base or played with on their own and, in addition to brushing up on those fine motor skills, this toy also helps with other important skills like hand-eye coordination, problem-solving and visual development.

A Nesting Toy

What’s the opposite of stacking? Nesting! Nesting cups are another great way for your baby to work on fine motor skills, and these eco-friendly cups in six different sizes are a perfect example of a simple, open-ended toy that holds so many play possibilities. These also make fun sand or water toys thanks to the holes at the bottom of each cup.

A Building Toy

What’s more fun than a set of blocks? A true classic, blocks are the perfect first toy for encouraging lots of important developmental concepts, fine motor skills included. These make an ideal first set thanks to their super soft construction. They’re just right for stacking and knocking down and come in a zippered pouch for easy storage, and even squeak when they’re squeezed.

A Sensory Toy

Sensory play + fine motor skills practice come together beautifully in this fun, quirky toy that babies absolutely love. It works by “poking” the silicone bubbles from one side to another, offering your little one the chance to build hand and finger strength, work on dexterity and, best of all, stay busy. We love to keep the Dimpl in our diaper bag at all times for whenever we’re out or at a restaurant and need something to grab baby’s attention.

A Play Gym

A play gym can be used from day one both for tummy time and while baby is on their back. The hanging toys are great for visual stimulation in those early weeks and will entice your little one to start reaching and grabbing as they develop better control of their hands and arms as they grow.

This whimsical option is pricey, but it’s extremely well made and is a good choice for parents who are looking for natural materials and sustainable construction. It adjusts to different heights to grow with your baby, and the toys snap off so you can use them wherever you’d like.

A Water Toy

Take fine motor skills into the tub with these colorful boats! They’re great for stacking (a tried and true way to practice fine motor skills) but also for scooping, pouring and open-ended imaginative play. We love that the boats nest together for easy storage and don’t have any cracks or crevices where mildew can take hold.

A Puzzle

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. This wooden shapes puzzle from Melissa & Doug features extra-large, extra-thick pieces with jumbo knobs that are easy for tiny hands to grasp. It teaches five first shapes and colors and is sturdy enough to stand up to lots of playtime.

A Pounding Toy

Simple cause and effect toys are always a good choice for capturing your baby’s attention. This one will captivate your tiny explorer as they pound the ball through the hole and hear the twinkling of the xylophone keys on its way down—all while improving their fine motor skills without even realizing it. It’s great for color recognition and hand-eye coordination, too.

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