How to Use an Ice Cube Tray for Fine Motor Development

Here at Mama OT I like to feature household items that can be used to promote your child’s development, and today I am excited to share how an ice cube tray can be used to help develop fine motor skills!

How to use an ice cube tray for fine motor development. So creative!

This post is just one in a series of 26 creative posts by other kid bloggers featuring Everyday Fine Motor Materials from A to Z, hosted by Still Playing School! In this series, one post is published to correspond with a fine motor household item for each letter of the alphabet, and today I am sharing the letter “I” with you, so… “I” is for Ice Cube Tray! This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click over and wind up making a purchase, Mama OT will receive a small commission to help keep this blog running, at no extra cost to you (thank you!). Read my full disclosure here.

So how can you use an ice cube tray to help develop fine motor skills? 

Excavate tiny toy animals from ice cubes!

How to use an ice cube tray for fine motor development. So creative!

Simply place mini animal toys (found online here) in an ice cube tray, fill the tray with water, and place it in the freezer for several hours or overnight. Once the water has become solid, each animal will be frozen in its own individual ice cube!

Show your little one how to pinch the tops of the animals using the thumb and pointer finger, pull them out of the tray, and place them into the “melting bucket” where they can work on setting them all free! We did this in a plastic bin in our kitchen, but you could easily do this activity outside on the ground or in a water sensory table (we love this water table).

How to use an ice cube tray for fine motor development. So creative! How to use an ice cube tray for fine motor development. So creative!

Then bring out all the random water squeezing devices you have around the house and let your kiddo use their fine motor skills to set the animals free! We were able to find an old infant medicine syringe (you know, because I’m an OT and I save that kind of stuff for future fine motor activities like this!), a turkey baster, a generic condiment bottle, and a squirt bottle.

You can use an old (clean) infant medicine syringe to practice bilateral coordination, pincer grasp (pinching with thumb and index finger), 3-jaw grasp (pinching with thumb, index, and middle finger), motor planning, and hand-eye coordination. If you don’t have a mini syringe, you could use an eye dropper instead to practice pincer grasp, hand-eye coordination, and separation of the two sides of the hand (what’s that?).

How to use an ice cube tray for fine motor development. So creative!

A turkey baster is great for challenging bilateral coordination, hand strength, and hand-eye coordination.

How to use an ice cube tray for fine motor development. So creative!

You can use a condiment bottle to work on bilateral coordination, hand strength, and hand-eye coordination. Just use an old ketchup or mustard bottle (after it’s been rinsed out, of course)!

How to use an ice cube tray for fine motor development. So creative!

Squeezing a squirt bottle provides opportunities for developing hand strength, hand-eye coordination and, if you have a small squirt bottle, separation of the two sides of the hand by squeezing the trigger using only the index and middle fingers.

How to use an ice cube tray for fine motor development. So creative!

Keep on squeezing and squirting until all the ice has melted away and the animals are freed. We started out with cold water and then transitioned to warm water in order to really start to make the ice melt away. Talk about a real life science lesson happening right before your child’s eyes. It’s amazing how simple activities like this one can capture a child’s interest and attention for such a long period of time!

I love that we were truly able to use household items to make this fine motor activity work!

So what are some other fine motor activities you can do with an ice cube tray? 

There are so many fun fine motor activities you can do with everyday household items. Be sure to check out the other creative posts in the Everyday Fine Motor Materials from A to Z series to learn more clever ways to support your child’s fine motor development while playing, creating, exploring, and learning along the way!

How to use an ice cube tray for fine motor development. So creative!

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Linking up at Rainy Day MumThe Sunday Showcase, No Time for Flashcards

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3 thoughts on “How to Use an Ice Cube Tray for Fine Motor Development

    • Thanks, Devaney. This has been a popular activity in my house this week! We have already done this ice cube tray activity twice in the last 2 days and are re-freezing more animals to do again tonight. We added blue food coloring the 2nd time around and it was a nice touch. My preschooler even continued to play with the water after all the animals were freed, transferring the water from container to container using the turkey baster for at least another 20 minutes afterward. It’s a fun one!

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