$4 Fine Motor Activity for Toddlers

I frequent the local Dollar Tree looking for items that I can use to create activities for X. I have pretty great luck, honestly. In fact there have been many times where I find items that I purchased somewhere else for much more then a dollar. I go in with an open mind and maybe a few items I’m particularly looking for. It takes me a while. It’s a weekend activity for when my husband is home with X and I have an hour to wonder around and try create activities with what they currently have available. I really enjoy it. It allows me to use my creativity and imagination and I always go home with at least a few activities for X.

This is one of X’s all time favorite fine motor activities.


All you need is:

  • Sugar shaker (mine is glass with a metal top, pretty nice for the dollar store! But plastic would work just fine),
  • Small food pics (here is where you can be creative. Matchsticks with the end cut off, q-tips, straws… anything that will fit through the holes of the shaker)
  • A small container to put the pics in
  • Plastic tray

That’s it. I found all of these items at Dollar Tree. In fact the container for the pics was a 2 pack and the other now holds his crayons.

X carries the tray from the shelf to the table. Removes all the items from the tray. Opens the container filled with pics and proceeds to place each pic through the holes of the sugar shaker. For now I open the shaker and take the pics out so he can start again, but eventually that will be an added challenge to the activity. when he’s done he puts everything back on the tray and places it back on the shelf. He goes to this multiple times a day. It really is one of his favorites.


Using Tongs: Fine Motor and Transferring Skills

I am continuously amazed at X’s fine motor capabilities. I try to come up with new activities to challenge him and he masters them quickly. That being said, he loves them. Even a mastered skill will hold his attention for quite a while. So  I keep making them, and he keeps loving them. This one was a little different for him. This not only involved hand control, but arm and wrist control. Montessori presents a variety of transferring activities, and this is modeled after those. In typical Montessori fashion I present this activity on a tray. Aside from the the actual challenge of the activity, this created a new challenge for X. He’s learning to carry a tray with multiple items on it, breakable items at that! He’s very careful when moving this tray on and off of the the shelf. When he returns it to the shelf if the bowls have tipped over or aren’t correctly placed he fixes them. I love the new sense of order he’s developing. 

2271  To put together this activity I grabbed two small rice bowls (I used Asian rice bowls because they’re a nice size and colorful), five bouncy balls, child sized tongs and a wooden tray. The goal is to transfer the bouncy balls from the left bowl the the right bowl with the tongs. Activities moving from left to right helps establish skills for reading in the future. I started off by placing one bouncy ball in the bowl at a time. This was a little easier to pick up. Once he became more comfortable with the activity I put all of the balls in at once, creating a little bit more of a challenge. Using bouncy balls also creates a challenge in and of itself. If they drop the ball into the bowl, it will bounce out. If your little one doesn’t need the extra challenge you could use pom poms. Changing the style of tongs can also be an added challenge. X has two different kinds of tongs so far that we use. I’m always keeping an eye out for different tongs to try with this activity.


X loves this activity. It has been on his shelves for quite a while and he still uses it daily. 2270


Fine Motor and Large Motor Activity: Large Object Stacking

X loves building. He loves his Mega Bloks, wooden blocks, etc. Building is one of the activities that holds his attention the longest. My husband also loves building, so it’s an activity they often do together happily. Building is great for fine motor development, hand eye coordination, balance… The list goes on. I wanted to build on that list though! Couldn’t we find a way to work in some gross motor development too?? Of course!
I’ve been collecting empty containers and boxes and such to use in different activities and crafts. Today we pulled them out and did some large scale building! Not only did he work on all the great skills above, but he need to stand up and down to stack the items higher and higher! Then he got to play Godzilla and run through knocking them all down!

We had a blast, worked in some important skills and it didn’t cost a penny!





Quiet Time- Fine Motor, Sensory Bags

I think as parents we are always looking for a few extra minutes. A few minutes to start dinner, throw in a load of laundry, vacuum the floor…drink a cup of coffee. I love playing with and teaching X- but occasionally I need a few minutes.
Not only does this project buy you a few minutes (more like 20 minutes if they love it as much as X does) but it explores fine motor and sensory play, and doesn’t make a mess!! Too good to be true you say? Well here it is!

I used:
-a plastic zip top bag (I would suggest the thick, heavy duty kind. If not, then no promises on the no mess part lol)
-vegetable oil
-tempera or craft paint (in the bag pictured I watered down the paint. In a second bag I used straight craft paint. Both work and provide different results)
-beads, foam pieces, glitter, cut up straws, etc (anything small you’ve got hanging around. This is a great opportunity to use up odds and ends from other projects).
-a thin piece of scrap cardboard (pizza box, the back piece of a notebook or sketchbook, etc)
-duct tape

So, all you do is put in the oil, add paint and beads, etc. and zip it up.
I got as much air out as possible before zipping it closed. If there were additional air bubbles I laid the bag down flat, unzipped a small portion of the bag while holding the edge up (so it doesn’t spill) and worked the bubble towards the opening (it’s a lot easier then it sounds, I promise!). I was worried the trapped air would make it more likely to pop.
Then I tapped down all of the sides to the cardboard. The edges are the weak points in the bag, so by taping it down you’re reinforcing it. I used the cardboard because it gave it stability and makes it less likely to break. You could also tape it to your table top. Then I let X have a blast! And he did! It squishes, the paint moved away from the oil, the beads and such move as you poke it and are fun to try and grab…


I hope your littles love this project as much as X did. And promise me, use a few of those minutes it buys you to relax! Me time is important too! This provides guilt free me time because your little one is still learning and having fun! This is also great to take to restaurants! Or the doctors office, anywhere that requires waiting quietly.


Fruit Matching

Today we’re going to try a matching activity. X is beginning to recognize similarities in items. He’s been working on (and improving at) his shape sorting and shapes puzzles. So today I thought we might try a little matching. I’m using some small fruit cards that I bought on at JoAnn’s. I originally purchased these (and a set of vegetable cards as well) to hang near X’s snack table. They give him something to look at while he’s eating and have proven to be a great language tool as well. He points to each and wants us to say the name of the fruit or vegetable. He also immediately identified the ones he was already familiar with (carrots, apples and bananas). I hung one of each on the wall by his table, but the sets came with 4 of each. I packed them away, knowing someday I would come up with another use for them.

Today is that day! We’re going to start with just 2 items. I chose two fruits that X is most familiar with (apple and banana). Hopefully his prior familiarity and knowledge of the cards will help him understand the matching. As with most of our activities I will be presenting it on a tray, Montessori style. Also sticking with Montessori concepts I will be demonstrating the process of matching for him and then letting him take a try. Hopefully where he is already familiar with the cards, he will be able to focus on the activity as opposed to exploring the material. Once he’s mastered matching two types of cards I’ll add in additional cards to increase the difficulty.

I’ll be posting back with how it went and some pictures 🙂

So! We tried it out. X immediately ran and tried to stick them to the wall next to his snack table… That’s matching, right?!? Lol he didn’t quiet understand the matching part. But we got some nice language review in. I’ll leave them on his shelf in case he shows interest. New concepts can often take multiple introductions to understand. That’s what learning is about!

Also lately we’ve been having a blast with our water table that we brought inside to house our sensory play. We live in the South, so it’s far too hot most days to use our water table outside. Please stay tuned for a fun post about indoor water table activities!



Sensory Play: Edible Slime

We love some good and messy sensory play around here! But unfortunately we live in an apartment where all of the rooms (except for the very small kitchen and bathrooms) have carpet. Also we live in the South, and it’s summer… So we can’t take our messy play outside most days (our beloved water table has been very lonely this last month!). Most of the time I suck it up for the sake (and love!) of learning- we messy play anyways (well proven by the dried playdough in my carpet and various beans or rice that escaped my clean-up attempts)!
I was excited by the Meta-mucil based slime I saw floating around Pinterest. But alas, my first attempts at slime were too messy, even for me. It stuck (and left a film) on everything! Not only was X covered, but so was I AND my husband, as well as X’s chair seat and all surrounding carpet. It was in my hair… my husband was still finding little blobs on his person hours later. Not a great intro for my husband, who happened to be home. He generally misses out on the sensory play around here and I think now he’s thankful of that!
There had to be a better way! I had to be able to accomplish the cool, squishy goo, WITHOUT the stick. Also, X still occasionally taste tests our play, so the borax or starch filled recipes (though seemingly super awesome!) wouldn’t work for us. All of the Meta-mucil based recipes I found were vague and used the microwave. We don’t use a microwave around here.
So I experimented! And I succeeded!

Here is my final recipe:
3 Tbsps Generic Fiber Supplement
2 cups Water
-Stir to combine.
-Heat on high, stirring constantly, until boiling
-Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly
-Let cool completely

A few notes:
*I used the Target brand generic Meta-mucil. I think any will work as long as the primary ingredient is Psyllium Husks.
*I used an old non-stick pot. I’m trying to transition out the non-stick cookware in our house, as budget will allow, but I save them for making playdough or slime! It didn’t have any negative effect on the pot though and it’s edible, so you don’t necessarily need an old one.
*The only fiber supplement I could find with psyllium husks as the main ingredient was orange flavored. It made the slime orange and it smelled nice. If you want to color your slime, take the time to find the clear, unflavored kind. I wasn’t willing to visit another store just so I could make it green instead of orange. I rather like orange, honestly!
*Cook it longer then seems necessary. I really think this is what reduced the stickiness.


We used our dough toys to play with the slime. I also took the precaution of setting it up on an old cookie sheet. This helped link it in with our Montessori trays and also kept it somewhat contained.
If you try this or any of my recipes, I’d love to hear your results!