10 Fine Motor Activities I Made Using $10 Worth of Items from the Dollar Store

Last week I was so excited when we received the catalog for the local teacher store. I was happily going through it and circling things I could get for Ryan to play with/learn from this summer (once a teacher, always a teacher). That is until I started adding up how much all of it would cost and it was beyond crazy (think—over $100)! So I decided that I would make my own activities for him instead.

For those of you who don’t read momfaming regularly (and you really should!) Ryan is a 20 month old with Down syndrome. I only tell you that second part so that you understand he is not working on things that a typically developing 20 month old usually is (all of these activities can be made more challenging, though, if your kiddo is ready for it!) Our big goal for the summer is WALKING. Besides that, though, I really wanted to work on his fine-motor development. This is where the dollar store comes in! I was able to come up with 10 different activities using $10 worth of items from the dollar store (as well as a few things I had laying around the house). Check them out below!

$1 Store Items: 1. Tweezers, 2. Pipe Cleaners, 3. Straws, 4. Mixing Spoons, 5. Pompoms,
6. Cheerios, 7. Play Dough, 8. Playing Cards, 9. Watercolor Brushes, 10. Pool Noodle

  • Pompoms & Water Bottle – Have your child pick up an individual pompom and then put it into the water bottle. This will really help them practice their pincer grasp as well as the direction “put in”.
  • Straws & Water Bottle – Same concept as above but with straws instead of pompoms. I bought the straws with a spoon scoop so that they were a little bit thicker than regular straws. Once your child gets really good at it, you can move on to thinner straws for more of a “pincer grasp” challenge.
  • Pompom Scoop – Put a bag of pompoms in a bowl and have your child use a spoon to scoop them up and put them in another bowl. This will help their wrist movement and also prepare them for self-help skills like feeding and stirring!
  • Noodle Pieces & Spoon – Cut the pool noodle into 1 inch thick slices. Then have your child put the slices onto the long spoon. I had to hold the spoon for Ryan but my hope is that he will eventually be able to hold the spoon in one hand and use the other hand to put the noodle pieces on.
  • Tweezer Practice – This concept is a little advanced for Ryan but it is the perfect fine motor practice for those who are ready! You can have your child use the tweezers to pick up pompoms, straws, cheerios or any other small objects you have laying around the house.
  • Card Slot – I used an empty oatmeal tub but any container with a lid will work. You need to first cut a slit in the lid (big enough for a playing card to go through—-I made the opening a little thicker to start and then I will make another one that is thinner once Ryan’s ready for it). Then have your child pick up a playing card and put it into the slot. Once he/she gets the hang of putting it in horizontally, turn the tub so that the card has to be put it in vertically instead.
  • Water Painting – Have your child use a watercolor paintbrush, dip it in water, and “paint” with it on a piece of colored construction paper. Once he/she has practiced a lot and has good control of the paint brush (and you’re ready for some messiness!) let him/her use some paint instead of the water!
  • Play dough & Straws – Put a piece of play dough in front of your child and give them a handful of straws that you have already cut in half. Instruct them to put the straws into the play dough and then ask them to take them back out. Again, this works on the pincer grasp as well as following directions. It also helps to get the child used to the movement involved in using a fork or spoon and bringing food to their mouth.
  • Play dough & Pipe Cleaners – Same idea as above this time using pipe cleaners (also cut in half) instead of straws. To add another element to this give your child a handful of cheerios and see if he/she can put the cheerios on the pipe cleaners. Once he/she gets the hang of that, just use the pipe cleaners and cheerios without the play dough for lacing practice.
  • Play dough Practice – Kiddos can work on a lot with just a hunk of play dough sitting in front of them. As they manipulate the dough they are working the muscles in their hands which are needed for fine motor control. They will also stimulate their creativity by making the play dough look like whatever they want it to!

Easy enough, right!? Now run—don’t walk— to your local dollar store and get started! It’s going to be a long summer if your kiddos don’t have anything to do!

Have you figured out any fun, easy, and cheap activities to make to keep your kids busy (and learning) throughout the summer? Let me know in the comments!