700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Building Fine Motor and Play Skills with Household Materials

Mar 27, 2020
Household items

Families are spending more time at home and less time going out to their favorite places. But you don’t need to go to the store to come up with fun new ways to keep everyone in the family engaged!  During this time, it is important to keep kids learning and working on their play, and fine motor skills.There are many ways to use the supplies and toys you have in new ways to encourage the development of imagination, turn taking, finger control and strength, problem solving, and handwriting. Doing meaningful, new activities can be helpful for the whole family. Try to complete just one to two new activities per day (or week) and build a routine that works for your family. Adjust the suggestions for your child’s developmental level, interests, and your family’s priorities at this time.

Container Play

  • Wash out old food containers (parmesan cheese, coffee creamer, baby wipes, coffee canisters, yogurt tubs) to use in new ways. 
  • Place small items such as cotton swabs or straws into the small openings of a parmesan cheese or creamer container, practice opening and closing the top. Children can also use kitchen tongs or scoops to place the items inside. You can even decorate the top to make it look like a mouth to “eat” the items. 
  • Use the containers to practice sorting small toys by item type, color, or size. 
  • Carefully cut holes into the tops of yogurt containers and place small items inside based on size and shape (small slits for buttons, larger holes for cotton balls). 
  • For older children, encourage them to brainstorm new ways to use containers for themselves. For example, they could use a creamer container as the base for a princess or penguin craft, or use a coffee canister to make a treasure box.  

Tissue Boxes

  • Make your own charades by tearing up pieces of paper and writing different actions or things to act out then place in an empty tissue box to take turns picking out a paper and acting out whatever is written on the paper.
  • Use paints, markers, or crayons to decorate the old tissue box then write down ideas of activities for each day. Activities can include: going on a walk, coloring a picture, doing a dance, playing a game, or reading a book. 
    • You can also write down conversation topics such as, “What is your favorite memory?” “What superpower do you wish you had?” “What do you want to be when you grow up?” or “What would you do with a million dollars?” Kids can talk about their answers or draw a picture of their answers. 
  • Work on placing toys/items in a tissue box such as old bottle caps, dry pasta, dry beans, or coins. Be mindful of choking hazards in children under 3 years old.
  • Make a doll house by cutting off the top of box and decorating with items found around the house.
  • Make a “Worry Monster” by removing plastic parts in the cut out hole of the box. Create teeth from white paper to glue or tape around hole of the box, decorate with google eye pieces or drawing eyes, using pipe cleaners, or crayons/markers. Kids can write down or draw a picture of any of their worries or fears and put them in the box for the worry monster to eat away. Visit www.everymomentcounts.org for more information.

Toilet Paper/Paper Towel Rolls

  • Cut rolls into various lengths then cut two slits onto one end of the roll, so that you are able stack pieces onto one another for a building set. 
  • Tape, glue, or staple two rolls together to make pretend binoculars. 
  • Decorate rolls to create animals, LEGO characters, monsters, or bugs.  
  • Use a hole punch to make holes all around the roll then stick straws or other objects from one side through the other; you can cut the top of the roll to look like grass or hair and then cut it. 
  • Use the ends of the rolls as paint stampers for making circles. 
  • Cut and decorate “cuff” bracelets. 
  • Use the rolls to create a “track” for small balls and marbles using masking tape on the side of a counter or the wall. 
  • String rolls on to a jump rope to make a giant necklace.

Featured Expert

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Margaret Bassi, OTR/L
Occupational Therapy

Margaret Bassi, OTR/L works with children with a variety of disabilities, including fine motor, sensory and rehabilitation. She is passionate about helping children build independence and reach their full potential.

Megan Dominik
Megan Dominik, OTR/L
Occupational Therapy
Stefanie Hirota, OTR/L
Occupational Therapy

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.