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

Best Toddler Toys to Improve Fine Motor Skills

By Babylist Team
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Best Toddler Toys to Improve Fine Motor Skills

What do picking up a blueberry, turning a doorknob and building a tower of blocks have in common? They all require fine motor skills—part of your little one’s development that will really start to take off during the toddler years.

While your baby’s fine motor development involved basic things like grabbing, reaching and raking, your toddler is ready to take fine motor skills to the next level as they grow and gain more control over their hands, fingers and wrists. Toys are a great way to help boost this development and improve the fine motor skills they’ll need as they get older.

Fine Motor Skills in the Toddler Years

Your toddler’s fine motor skills will really begin to take off between their first and second year. Here are the hand and finger skill milestones the American Academy of Pediatrics advises to look out for as your little one passes their first birthday and heads toward two and beyond.

12 to 18 months:

  • Masters the pincer grasp (picking up objects between thumb and forefinger)
  • Builds a tower up to four blocks
  • Covers and uncovers boxes or containers
  • Picks up objects in motion (balls, etc.)
  • Turns knobs and pages and puts round pegs into matching holes
  • Scribbles and paints

18 months to 2 years:

  • Folds paper (when shown how)
  • Puts large square pegs into matching holes
  • Stacks five to six blocks
  • Takes toys apart and puts them back together
  • Makes shapes from clay

2+ years:

  • Easily manipulates small objects
  • Unzips a large zipper
  • Builds a tower of six blocks or higher
  • Pulls off shoes
  • Coordinate wrist and hand movements to turn doorknobs, unscrew a jar lid, etc.
  • Begins to properly grip a crayon or pencil

We’ve rounded up our favorite toddler toys to improve fine motor skills (and if you need some ideas for gross motor development, we have those too!).

A Peg Toy

We fell in love with this colorful hedgehog the moment we saw it—and our toddler did, too. Spike the Hedgehog is a modern twist on the peg toy, a classic developmental toy that helps toddlers build fine motor skills. Your little one will love practicing putting the peg-shaped “quills” into their corresponding holes on Spike’s back. (Over and over and over again.) They’ll also be learning about color recognition and counting and sorting along the way. And when they’re done playing, the quills fit neatly into the hedgehog’s body for easy storage.

A Building Toy

A set of blocks should live in every child’s playroom. Blocks have countless developmental benefits, from helping with spatial skills to encouraging open-ended play—but they’re especially great for building fine motor skills.

This colorful 50-piece set will encourage your toddler to build, imagine and stack (and knock down, of course) for hours. They’ll grow with your little one from the toddler days all the way through to the big-kid years. And they’re made from high-quality, non-toxic materials and can be stored in the included canvas bag.

A Sorting Toy

These oversized plastic bears may look simple, but they’re anything but. Perfect for counting, sorting, scooping, matching and so much more, every interaction with these colorful bears is a chance for your toddler to work on developing their fine motor skills as they manipulate the bears however they’d like.

Keep in mind: this isn’t the toy for you if your toddler is still putting things in their mouth. Each bear is about one inch tall and almost an inch wide and can be a choking hazard for young children, so you’ll always want to supervise your little one carefully when these are in play.

An Interactive Book

Can a book boost fine motor skills? You bet. Working on turning pages is a milestone that younger toddlers will relish in achieving. This one’s a board book with sturdy pages so you won’t have to worry about rips or tears. There’s also an extra layer of developmental fun built in through raised, die-cut pieces nested in mirroring cutouts that encourage tactile stimulation.

A Busy Board

You know those toys that toddlers can’t seem to get enough of? The ones that get played with on repeat for months, or even years? This latch board is one of those toys.

The ultimate hands-on toy, this play board is packed with various latches and hooks that will capture your toddler’s attention and build fine motor skills as they discover all of the ways to open and close the windows. Each latch opens and closes differently and there’s a surprise behind every wooden window.

A Stacking Toy—with a Spin

Stacking toys are great both for building and improving fine motor skills, and this one puts a new spin on the classic stacker—literally. Toddlers will love to drop each colorful disc down the threaded corkscrew pole and watch it spin to the bottom again and again. And the SpinAgain is just as entertaining for younger toddlers as it is for older ones.

A Puzzle

Traditional puzzles are great fine-motor-skill-builders, and this Montessori-inspired one takes things up a notch with a few added layers of difficulty. The unique design works by joining the four puzzle bases together and twisting the shapes onto the grooved pegged posts. There’s a lot of opportunity for fine motor skills practice here, and the various levels of difficulty makes this puzzle perfect for both older and younger toddlers.

A Sensory Toy

Sometimes a few simple tools are all you need to engage your toddler in fine motor play. Pair these four tools with a bin filled with water beads, kinetic sand, or even snow and some animal figurines and watch your little one go to town. They’ll hardly realize they’re building their skills as they play, tinker and learn.

A Basic Skills Toy

Learning how to zip, tie, button and buckle are not only fine motor skill milestones—they’re also valuable everyday life skills for toddlers to master. We love this oversized plush that lets your little one practice “getting ready” over and over again. It’s also machine washable, another big plus.

A (Clean) Art Toy

Toys aren’t the only way for toddlers to build fine motor skills. Creative activities like drawing, painting and coloring are great for helping little ones work on their pincer grasp and strengthen the hand muscles they’ll eventually need when it’s time to learn to write.

Water Wow pads are our favorite kind of art: the clean kind! The easy-to-grip, refillable pen uses water to “paint” each page and reveal the colors underneath. Everything disappears once dry and the pads can be used again and again. They’re perfect for restaurants and planes but are great to use at home, too.

A (Messy) Art Toy

Just as fun but a bit messier, finger paints are another activity that encourage your toddler’s fine motor skill development. (Finger paints are great for sensory play, too.) These classic paints are washable, non-toxic and completely safe for your toddler. Pair them with some fingerpaint paper and a giant smock and you’re set to go.

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