Did time just fly by and now you have an 18 month old toddler to keep busy? Yeah, me too. While I was looking for fine motor activities for my toddler, I decided to put something together for other moms to make the research process easier.
These toddler fine motor exercises are ideal for strengthening fine motor abilities and preparing small hands and fingers for later-developing skills like handling a pencil and finishing garment fasteners.
Every infant, toddler, and kid grows at their own speed and in their own unique style, making it difficult to assign a certain age to any of these activities. As a result, I believed that a larger age range would be beneficial.
Sensory play, fine motor activities, gross motor activities, and arts and crafts are some of the key areas we might focus on while engaging in learning activities for this age group. Things can get messy, but the learning is important for your toddler development, so let’s get to it!
What Is Sensory Play
A toddler’s best buddy is sensory play. You may achieve a lot with a sensory exercise, from just introducing your child to new experiences to boosting language and providing possibilities for pretend play.
When we hear the word “sensory play,” we often think of “messy.” This does not need to be the case!
You’ll discover a few of alternatives here that are just as entertaining without the clutter. Making a mess, on the other hand, is acceptable. Place a towel on the floor and wrap yourself in it, just make sure you’re allowing some sort of play that helps the child’s development of fine motor skills.
Why fine motor activities?
Fine motor abilities refer to the coordination of tiny muscles in our fingers and hands. The development of fine motor skills happens overtime and every child learns these skills at different rates.
A baby’s development of fine motor abilities is critical. They utilise the tiny muscles of the hands and fingers to grab and control items. They enable us to generate movement, coordination, and strength in our hands as we go about our daily activities.
These abilities and muscles are used by adults to write, type, feed themselves, turn a door knob, sew a button, give a massage, prepare dinner, and much more. These muscles must be fine-tuned in order for us to live a prosperous life.
See also: Water Table Activities For Toddlers
Fine Motor Activities for 18 Month Old
Here are some fun activities for young toddlers (and older children) to help them work on their fine motor skills.
Turning Pages: Allow your child to flip the pages and pick up the flaps of their book as you give them a goodnight tale. They are exercising this skill even when they are merely exploring and playing with books. At this age, board books with thick pages and flaps are still the finest. My kid adores Lift-the-Flap books, in which she can lift a flap to reveal a hidden picture.
Stacking: Although they may not be able to stack the cups correctly just yet, your child will enjoy playing with them in new and fun ways. They can try to stack them, stuff them with things, or roll them about the floor while chasing them. You can purchase stacking cups (or nesting cups) or use what you have on hand.
Blocks: Blocks are used to construct structures. Try placing a few blocks for them on their own, or build a tower for them and let them knock it down! Assist your child in knocking down a large tower of blocks using a ball. I was super lucky to find foam blocks at the dollar store near me, and they were not the cheap kinds either! I do also have these wooden blocks as well, but I don’t bring them out as often because they get noisy when they fall. Building blocks are important for your child’s development and they are great for keeping little fingers busy when you need a minute. My 8 year old still loves playing with plain old building blocks…so they are great for many age ranges.
Thread Beads: You can allow your child to try and thread large beads onto some string. This really helps with hand eye coordination and is a fun activity for older toddlers, and even school-aged children.
Open and Closing: The process of opening and shutting. Opening and shutting items fascinates toddlers. Try How We Montessori’s entertaining opening and closing exercise. Try a hide-and-seek puzzle or stock your shelves with books that have flaps to open and close.
In the Kitchen: Cooking with a toddler may be both enjoyable and challenging. What’s your best bet? Maintain a straightforward approach! By scooping, stirring, and kneading the ingredients together, you may involve your child in the process. You’re not in the mood for a shambles? Simply place a basin of water and some cooking utensils on the counter.
Coloring: Your toddler will love to color with these non-toxic crayons on a bit of paper, or use some chalk and let your little one color on the sidewalk. I was always a huge fan of the “no mess coloring” books for my kids and I’ll be getting some for my newest toddler as well.
Stickers: Toddlers love stickers, and it’s a great opportunity for your little one to brush up on their fine motor skills and work on the pincer grasp. Here are my favorite toddler sticker books.
Painting: Much like coloring, painting is a great activity and has a lot of great benefits of your toddler. You can let your child paint with their hands, a paint brush, a q-tip or even a potato. Honestly the painting possibilities are endless, it’s an easy activity and it’s great for hand strength and working on the palmer grasp. I use these simple finger paints for my kids.
Chores: My little lady loves to wipe the walls, sweet the floors and walk around with the vacuum cleaner while I do my daily tasks. Give your toddler a sponge and let her wash something! This isn’t to say your toddler is now doing regular chores at home and everything needs to be done perfectly…this is just a fun way to get your toddler involved in your day and help them with developing their fine motor skills.
Water Play: Letting your child play with water is another great way for those little hands to work on fine motor control. Add in an ice cube tray, plastic cups, cookie cutters, pom poms, simple utensils, shape sorters, pipe cleaners and anything else that you think is safe enough to play with in the water and will provide different textures. We use a water table in the backyard for water play and sensory processing in the summer and here are my favorite water tables you can get on Amazon. If you don’t have space for a water table, a small bowl of water and some small objects are all you need!
Shape Sorters: A ability that arises about this period is dropping or releasing objects into a container. Allow children to drop in wooden blocks, miniature shapes, and animal toys from your stash.
Magnets: Magnets on a cookie sheet can be a good activity for fine motor development. You can also use the fridge and some fun magnets like these animals ones.
Stack Rings: In my opinion, every baby should have a stacking ring toy like this. I made sure that each of my children had a stacking ring toy by 9 months of age. Even if they can’t stack yet, they are so good for teething.
What About Gross Motor Skills
Gross motor skills are the abilities to control the major muscles in our body that will be utilised for walking, running, leaping, and other activities in the future. Building these muscles is vital for obvious reasons, but as a former early childhood teacher, I’ve discovered that kids learn and retain things better when they’re up and moving, so include gross motor skills in an activity is always a plus.
Fine Motor Skills Checklist for Toddlers
Growing Hand On Kids has a great checklist for fine motor skills.
By 18 months old these are the developmental milestones your toddler should have:
- Can put rings on pegs.
- Begins to hold a crayon with finger tips and thumb.
- Removes pegs from a pegboard.
- Marks or scribbles with a crayon or pencil.
- Can build a tower 3-4 blocks high.
- Can open loosely wrapped packages or containers.
- Begins to make snips on paper with scissors (closer to 24 months old).
- Can turn pages in a book one page at a time.
Simple Fine Motor Activities for 18 Month Old Bottom Line
Many occupational therapists rave about fine motor skills and how it’s so important for baby’s to work on their palmer grasp and pincher grasp as well as their visual motor skills. Working on these fine motor skills through sensory activities is a great and easy way for young children to work on their muscle strength and help in other areas of development.
Free Resource For You
I’ve created a free pdf just for you! If you are struggling with finding a routine, a rhythm or a schedule for your toddler then this PDF will help you find one that will work for your family.
This free pdf will help you
- See sample routines for kids
- Teach your child to follow a set routine
- Help beat bedtime battles
- All you have to do is download and print