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For people with Down syndrome, family members, caregivers and professionals.

Fun Activities to Improve Fine Motor Skills

May 2022 | Monica Prindiville, OTS and Katie Frank, PhD, OTR/L - Occupational Therapy Student and Occupational Therapist

We use fine motor skills to complete any task that requires using the small muscles in our hands or wrists. This includes a wide variety of daily activities completed at home, work, and school: using utensils while eating, opening containers, putting on clothing with zippers or buttons, tying shoes, writing or drawing with a pencil/pen, typing on a computer, cutting with scissors, and many more.

For several reasons, adolescents and adults with Down syndrome may have trouble completing fine motor tasks like those listed above. Individuals with Down syndrome may have low muscle tone (causing decreased strength) and/or increased joint laxity (meaning they have very flexible joints that have an increased range of motion). These factors can cause decreased postural and truck control, hand strength, and/or dexterity, all of which can make daily fine motor activities challenging. However, fine motor skills can be improved over time through regular practice, which can make completing daily activities easier and allow for greater independence in completing them. Here is a list of fun activities that can be done with materials you may already have at home to help develop fine motor skills. 

  • Cut a slot on the lid of an empty oatmeal or raisin container. Place beads, popsicle sticks, cereal pieces, or coins on the table. Practice picking up a few at a time and dropping them into the container through the slot. You can also use tweezers or a clothespin to pick up the objects for an extra challenge. 

  • Use a tennis ball to create a "Feed the Mouth opens in new window" ball. 

Feed the Mouth Tennis Ball, Hands On As We Grow

Image from Hands On As We Grow opens in new window

  • Play Tic Tac Toe using coins or beads as the game pieces. For an extra challenge, try picking up the game pieces with tongs, tweezers, or clothespins. 

  • Roll Play-Doh, cookie dough, or putty into small balls using only your fingertips. Don't have Play-Doh at home? You can follow this easy Play-Doh recipe opens in new window to make your own. 

  • Bury beads, coins, or other small objects in a ball of Play-Doh or putty and then find and pull them out. 

  • Make bracelets or lanyards with string and beads. 

Pink and white friendship bracelet   Multi-colored pony bead bracelet

Images from Pixabay opens in new window and Michaels opens in new window

  • Tear or cut up pieces of different colored construction paper. You can use them to make a mosaic art project by gluing the pieces to another sheet of paper. 

  • Use a hole puncher to punch holes in paper. Draw a picture and punch holes along the lines to create a design.

  • Build structures with toothpicks and mini marshmallows. You can also cut up straws to connect the marshmallows instead of toothpicks. 

  • Play a game involving small game pieces. Some examples are Mancala, Sorry!, Trouble, KerPlunk, Connect 4, HiHo Cherry-O, Checkers, Ants in the Pants, Jenga, Dominoes, and any card game (Uno, Spot it!, Go Fish, etc.). 

Image from Amazon opens in new window
  • Make a paper chain to decorate for a party or count down to an event. 

  • Create a design on paper using pencil, trace over it with liquid glue, and then place poms, cotton balls, or small crumpled pieces of tissue paper over the glue design to create an art project.

  • Use cookie cutters as stencils by tracing them on paper (and then color in or paint the design). 

  • Use a spray bottle to spray water or cleaning solution when cleaning.

  • Make a lacing art project. Draw or trace a shape on cardboard or construction paper. Punch holes along the edges and thread string or yarn through the holes. 

Lacing cards shaped like animals
Image from Amazon opens in new window
  • Loop rubber bands onto a water bottle or soda can or place mini rubber bands onto a popsicle stick. You can also make rubber band bracelets using a Rainbow Loom opens in new window

  • Paint with mini sponges.

  • Play paper football or soccer. Create a goal post or line, crumple a piece of paper to make a ball, and try to flick or throw the ball through the goal/across the line. You can also make it a competition by seeing who can flick or throw the ball the farthest. 

  • Play with a spinning top or yo-yo.

  • Have fun with Perler beads opens in new window. You can use tweezers or your fingers to place the beads on the grid. 

Perler beads arranged in shape of ice cream cone
Image from Perler opens in new window
  • Use a stapler and staple remover. You can draw a design and then staple over it or tear up small pieces of construction paper and staple them onto paper to form shapes/designs. Practice removing the staples when you are done.

  • Make origami or paper airplanes/boats. 

  • Make a fleece tie blanket opens in new window

Fleece tie blanket
Image from Cutesy Crafts opens in new window
  • Cut out images from magazines (or print out images) and glue them on paper to make a collage. 

  • Make a card for a family member or friend.

  • Use an adult coloring book. 


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Please note: The information on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for a medical, psychiatric, mental health, or behavioral evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment plan by a qualified professional. We recommend you review the educational material with your health providers regarding the specifics of your health care needs.