Having had to do a shit tonne of sensory play and fine motor skill work over the years (and still doing it now), we know that the whole thing can be slightly overwhelming! We’ve also learnt that you don’t need to spend a whole heap of money on specialised things. Almost anything can be turned into something for sensory and fine motor skills building while tapping into creativity, working on those problem solving skills and building up that hand-eye coordination.
WHY IS FINE MOTOR SKILLS IMPORTANT
Fine motor skills are super important when it comes to doing a lot of things that involve the hands! Feeding yourself, zipping and buttoning things up, grasping objects as well as writing. By using things such as blocks and brick, playdough, magnetic tiles and other various things kiddos are strengthening those wee muscles in their hands and fingers as well as being creative and working on their hand-eye coordination.
WHY IS SENSORY PLAY IMPORTANT
Sensory play activities are an awesome way for kids to explore and naturally encourage the use of scientific processes while they play, investigate and create all the while exploring their senses and building new nerve connections within the developing brains neural pathways. It also helps kids to learn about different textures!
We’ve gone through our fair share of blocks, balls, bricks, play-dough and all that jazz over the years so whether you’re looking for ideas to add to your own toolbox, building one for parents with a child who has SPD or other sensory based issues or just looking for a gift idea, we’ve compiled a list of our fave things as well as things we think/know will make for a fun and awesome sensory and/or fine motor skills based gift for both younger and older kiddos!
For us we find them great for both sensory and fine motor skills work! They’re nice and bright which obviously taps into the sight side of the sensory but because they’re tactile, they can actually be nice and calming. They encourage creativity, problem solving and with the grasping and pinching of tiles to manipulate them into place, we build up those muscles in the hands and fingers! You could also science it up a wee bit and teach the basics about magnetism.
We got the 44 piece set from Kmart to begin with but we have since expanded. I do highly recommend buying the bigger pack- they’re so much fun!
(Magic Sand/Kinetic Sand/Modelling Sand)
As much as I hate it, I totally advocate playing with it! Non-Newtonian Sand is incredibly tactile and is a bit like wet sand. When you’re applying pressure or moving it about it acts as a solid and when you take that pressure away, it acts as a liquid.
It’s not only great for sensory play because it has a grainy texture to it but it’s also perfect for working on those fine motor skills. The moulding and sculpting and squishing and squeezing all help to strengthen up those wee muscles in the hands and fingers! To really get Izzy’s hands in there, I do a wee treasure hunt where I bury random objects and she has to find them. We also do a lot of moulding with it and slicing with a plastic fork.
(Push & Lock blocks/Hedgehog Blocks/Bristle Blocks)
Prickle blocks, push and lock blocks, hedgehog blocks- whatever you want to call them, they’re one we highly recommend for both sensory and fine motor skills play!
Push and Lock Blocks are something that get used everyday in this house. They’re super tactile, they require use of those hand and finger muscles and because they’re textured, they add texture under little hands.
Blocks and Bricks
(Wooden blocks/Duplo/Lego/Plastic Bricks)
Whether they’re plastic or wooden, you can never go wrong with blocks and bricks! If you’re like me and are on a block/brick/lego buying budget because a) they get lost and b) we need a fair bit of them to keep up with Izzy’s creations then Kmart and The Warehouse are the best place for them!
When kids build with blocks/bricks they’re grasping them, using their pincer grip as well as their hand-eye coordination. This makes them awesome tools to help strengthen both of these things. Building with blocks and bricks also gets them to use their imagination and be super creative! They’re also great for working on problem solving skills too! The bigger bricks are great for younger kids while the smaller ones are perfect for those who are a little bit older.
We giant tubs of both lego/bricks as well as wooden blocks and Izzy loves to spend hours building the most elaborate constructions!
If you want to buy a fair bit of bricks in one go, I totally recommend the 1100 piece box from The Warehouse. These were my go to when I was teaching Small Poppies and I needed to build a STEM construction box on the cheap!
If you want to add a little more to the gift for older kids, you can print out these Lego Challenge Cards we made a wee while ago! Each card has a different challenge and you can print out a blank one and colour it in to match the brick pieces you have!
We love the 80 piece set you can get from Kmart because the come in a variety of 3D shapes. Cylinders, Cubes, Pyramids etc so it means that there is a variety to grasp and pinch! I bought 3 tubs of these and Iz surrounds herself in them for hours at a time!
Engineering and Construction
While we’re talking about blocks and things, this Engineering Play-set from Kmart would be great for any little kiddo who loves putting things together! With cogs, wheels and other shapes, they’ll be working on those fine motor, hand-eye co ordination and problem solving skills while adding a wee sensory aspect into the mix!
With nuts, bolts and other bits and bobs, this construction set would be awesome for any little builder! With this they’ll be building up those wee muscles in their hands, fingers and wrists, problem solving, working on their hand-eye coordination and being creative! I’ve actually got this for Iz for Christmas this year and I cant wait to see what she creates!
Balls and Sensory Shapes
While these ideas are generally catered towards younger kids (babies and toddlers), don’t underestimate the power of a light up or textured ball if you’ve got a kiddo with sensory issues! Whether you’re throwing or just rolling along the ground they’re great for fine motor and gross motor skills, but also hand-eye coordination as well!
With a variety of different textures, textured balls are awesome for wee kids who are exploring the world of different textures or for those who have sensory issues. Light up balls are great to roll around in a dark room as the lights are visually stimulating and they tent to have a wee bell or plastic balls inside them which helps create a noise when you move it about. We just grab the $4 ones from Kmart and switch off the lights!
Kmart have an awesome pack of 6 Sensory Balls with a variety of different textures!
Like textured balls, anything with a textured surface is great for kids who are exploring and kiddos with sensory issues. Whether they’re textured animals or shapes, they’re great to have on hand! Kmart have both these Sensory Animals and Sensory Shape toys that would make an awesome addition to any sensory play toolbox
We had a rather pricey threading and lacing set we got a few years back so I was stocked to see a few sets that are now available for a fraction of the cost! Threading/lacing is AMAZING for working on their kids fine motor skills. When we thread, we use our pincer grip which is the same grip we use to hold our pens and pencils. Along with working on their hand eye co-ordination, they’re also working on strengething up those wee muscles in their hands and fingers.
If you’ve got an older kiddo in mind who loves being crafty, any jewellery making kit that involves threading beads onto string is a great alternative!
Puzzles are a great tool to have in the house! We’ve recently graduated from using the puzzles with the wee pegs to pinch to doing “big kid puzzles”! YAY for working on those fine motor skills! They’re not only fun but they’re awesome for fine motor skills building but also for hand-eye coordination, cognitive development and learning a bit of patience.
Kmart has an awesome range of single puzzles so could mix and match a wide variety to build up an awesome collection of puzzles!
The Warehouse has this super Geometric Stacking Puzzle which kills three birds with one stone- learning shapes, working on fine motor skills and working on that hand-eye coordination!
If you’ve got older kids, you’ll obviously want to check out the puzzles that are aimed more towards their age group!
If you’ve followed us for a while you will know we have made SO MUCH freaking slime over the years. I can make a batch of slime with my eyes closed and it was one texture that we worked on for a good year and a half. We’ve made textured slime, fizzy slime, butter slime, slime, slime, slime.
Slime belongs in the same group as non-newtonian sand. Apply pressure and move it about, it acts as a solid. Leave it and it starts to run through your hands like a liquid.
Slime is a great sensory tool for kids of all ages! You can find it almost everywhere and it does take the hassle out of making sure you’ve got all the right stuff at home. If you do want to make your own, click HERE and it will take you to the slime page! You’ll also find recipes for a few taste safe slimes for the younger babeses.
Last but not least… the household staple.
You either love it or you hate it OR you can be like me and have a love/hate relationship with is.
Playdough taps into both sensory with it’s texture (and smell..vom!) and fine motor skills due to being able to manipulate it. The moulding, squeezing, squashing and sculpting between those little hands are great for building up those muscles! It great for creativity too!
You can find big tubs at Kmart and PlayDoh bags at The Warehouse for under $10 bucks as well as a whole bunch of accessories to go with them. If you’re in the mood, you could also whip up your own! Iz’s fave is our Hot Chocolate Playdough.
If you’ve got any faves for both sensory and fine motor skills play, be sure to share them with us!