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Toys that help with gross motor skills and fine motor skills in toddlers

Toddlers are developing their skills through play all the time, but we can help guide them to improve their gross motor skills and fine motor skills with particular toys. Through repetition they will develop muscle memory, and this will make all these new physical motions automatic.

What are gross motor and fine motor skills?

Gross motor skills involve coordination in the large muscles, and include control of the head, arms, legs and trunk. So that includes physical activities such as walking, running, jumping, hopping and skipping.
Fine motor skills involve using the small muscles in the hands, fingers, feet and toes. The hand-eye coordination learned through these play activities will help your child prepare for learning to write and includes more controlled activities such as painting, model building and sports.

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Your child will need to develop both gross and fine motor skills gradually, and their first attempts at some activities may end in a little mess. Whether you need to learn how to remove stains from clothes after a colourful crafting experience or are faced with mud and grass stains following boisterous outdoor activities, the important thing is to encourage your children to keep trying. Mess can always be cleared up, and you should do what you can to help your kids develop these vital skills.

What toys help with gross motor skills?

There are lots of toys your child can use to help develop these skills. Some are great for outside play, like bikes and ride-on toys, but you can also do plenty inside too with tunnels and pull-along toys.

• Balance bikes: by pushing along the ground with their feet, toddlers develop their bilateral coordination and weight shifting abilities, in preparation for riding a pedal bike
• Ride-on toys: these toys come shaped like all sorts of fun things including cars they can climb into. They help with balance, reciprocal leg movements and motor planning
• Pull-along toys: any toys that involve pushing and pulling, like pull-along animals, help develop gross motor skills in the arms and legs and coordination between the two
• Mini trampoline: most kids just love to bounce, and a mini trampoline that you keep indoors will help their coordination, spatial awareness, coordination and balance
• Brooms: toddlers often want to get involved in the cleaning, so by giving them their own broom or brush they can help out at home while also developing their push and pull skills
• Tunnels: play tunnels are great for your child to develop their four-point crawling, and will also aid their balance, weight shifting and bilateral coordination

What toys help with fine motor skills?

There are plenty of creative activities that help with these skills, like colouring and painting – just make sure you know how to remove paint stains from clothes before you start!

• Play dough or clay: using their hands and fingers to shape the dough will help them develop their fine motor skills, as will using plastic scissors and cookie cutters on the dough too
• Blocks: building a tower with blocks helps children develop their fine motor skills through the grasping, releasing and hand-eye coordination that is required in this kind of play
• Colouring pens and pencils: holding pens and pencils will help with their pincer grip, which is essential for writing, and colouring between the lines will help with hand-eye coordination
• Paints: as well as using a paintbrush, children can use hands and feet to paint too! As this can get messy, you’ll probably want some tips on how to remove paint stains from clothes
• Puzzles: puzzles with tiny knobs to hold onto are perfect for toddler’s hands, as they practice their pincer grip as they pull them out and then place them in using hand-eye coordination

There are so many fun activities for toddlers to enjoy that they’ll never even realise these toys are actively helping them to develop their gross and fine motor skills!

Photo credit: Jason Mrachina

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