Sensory Play Meets Fine Motor Play

Written by Michelle Brown

Sensory Play Meets Fine Motor Play

Can’t get your child off screens?  Can’t get your child to engage in fine motor activities, especially when your child has fine motor delays?  Add sensory processing differences into the mix and well, you’ve got a real challenge!

So what do you do?  First, you say, “Challenge Accepted!” and then get started with these ideas that roll fine motor play and sensory play into one!

What does your child like?

TV? Netflicks? YouTube?  If so, look for games and toys that are of your child’s favourite characters.  Instead of fighting the very strong pull of screens, bring your child’s beloved characters to life!  Offer stickers, Lego, puzzles, colouring pages, painting pages, dot to dots, mazes and cutting sheets of those very special characters.  This will make fine motor play WAY more interesting for your child.  To bridge these activities to sensory play, offer pastels, chalk, scented markers and crayons and differently textured stickers into mix.

What about food?  

Does your child like food?  Getting your child involved with meal prep, food art, baking, pretend food toys, etc. develops fine motor skills combined with providing sensory experiences.  

Arts and Crafts

Arts and crafts of any kind blend fine motor skills with sensory play.  Cut and paste with as many different textures as you can find.  Felts, fabrics, yarn, sequins, cotton balls, tissue paper, foam sheets, stickers, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, toothpicks, pom poms, straws, elastic bands, buttons… are just a few.  Head to your local craft or dollar store and load up with a variety of items.  Then grab large sheets of paper and loads of glue and let your child create something magical!

Tactile Play

Do finger painting or feet painting on large sheets on the floor or on a wall. in glitter, granulated sugar or sprinkles to add texture.  Wrap some bubble wrap around the end of a toilet paper roll and you have an instant stamp.  Shaving cream play on a tray, mirror, bathtub wall or window is super fun and sensory at the same time. Encourage silly drawings to work on basic pre-printing shapes such as vertical, horizontal and angled lines, circles, crosses and squares.  Make play dough and/or slime with textures such as glitter or tiny beads with your child and then play with it after.  Add larger beads, buttons and other small objects for your child to search for.  The squeezing, pulling and pinching incorporates fine motor hand skills with sensory sensations.

Sensory bags and bins can also be fun and unite sensory play with fine motor.  Simply hide items for your child to search for within the sensory bag or bin. To work more intensely on pinch and grasp, offer various sized tweezers to locate items.

You can also squeeze paint into a baggie and squish away mixing paint colours together to make a new colour.  Again, you can add sprinkles or cookie crumbs to the paint to create different textures.  You can also draw pictures on the outside of the baggie when depressing the paint.

Construction Toys

Any construction games like Lego, Duplo, Kinetics, connecting toys, magnet toys, etc. are great for fine motor as they help develop finger strength and coordination when manipulating and pushing pieces together and pulling them apart.  The various textures of these toys also offer a variety of sensations to little fingers.  

If all else fails…

As a last resort, or as a bridge to reshape screen time, there are tons of fine motor apps available BUT require your child to use a stylus when playing the game so at least s/he is practicing pencil grasp!  This connects a preferred activity (the screen) with a less preferred activity (fine motor) but at least incorporates fine motor development for pencil grasp. Win-Win! 

When you hear, I’m bored…

Make an activity jar!  You and your child brainstorm as many activities as possible and write each one down on popsicle stick.  Then when you hear those two words… “I’m bored,” have your child go to the activity jar and select an activity. If you can have many of the activities prepped and ready to go, then it will be easier to engage your child in the activity right away.  Create craft bins, have recipes and ingredients ready for making play dough or slime and make construction toy containers.


Good Luck and have fun!  And as always, be the hero you are meant to be!

Author: Michelle Brown
Michelle Brown is an occupational therapist and has been helping people since 1996.

You can find out more about Michelle Brown here:
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