Fine Motor Fun for Babies and Toddlers: Pom Poms and an Empty Water Bottle

Fine Motor Play

Fine motor play is one of the most important parts of early childhood, and now that my baby boy is old enough to be interested in it, we are having fun experimenting with all sorts of fun hands-on play. He is currently obsessed (yes, obsessed!) with using his pinchy little fingers to pick up puffy poms and place them in an empty water bottle. At first he’d try and miss, and then try again and miss again, but after a minute or so of practicing his new skill, he was hooked! He seriously attended to this task for at least ten minutes straight…and the child is 12 months old! I’ve never seen a baby so focused on what seems like such a simple task – he LOVED it! And after every few poms, he’d look up at me with a huge pride-filled smile and let out a satisfied sigh. It was so cute.

Fine Motor Play

The great thing about this task is that there are lots of ways to “grade” it to make it easier or more difficult, depending on your child’s age and skill level.

Here are some ways to make it easier for beginners:

  • Use a container with a wider opening, such as a large juice bottle, cup, or bowl
  • Use larger poms (most packs include a variety of sizes)
  • Hold the container steady for baby and tilt it forward for easy access

And here are some ways to increase the challenge for older babies and toddlers:

  • Use a container with a smaller opening
  • Use smaller or thinner items such as shells, beads, coins, or smaller poms
  • Fine Motor Play Visual Scanning Spread the items out around the child so they must visually scan the floor in order to find them
  • Have the child hold the container with one hand while placing items in with the other (gotta learn how to make two hands work together!)
  • Have the child place items with their eyes closed (no peeking!)
  • Fine Motor Play Crossing Midline Place the items on the side that’s opposite their favorite hand so they will either have to cross over midline with their favorite hand in order to get it, or so they will use their less-preferred hand to pick it up and develop some skill (in this example, my child’s favorite hand is his left, so he has to reach to his right side)
  • Have the child place items while laying on their tummy (it challenges strength in their trunk and shoulders, which is important for furthering fine motor skills)
  • Encourage the child to try using kitchen tongs to place poms in container (great for pre-scissor and pre-writing hand skills)
  • Challenge the child to see if they can hold a few items in their palm at once and then “slide” one at a time to their fingertips as they place them in the container (these in-hand manipulation skills are also great for developing handwriting muscles)

If your little one is anything like mine, he requires very close supervision because he is still all about putting stuff in his mouth (and he’s lightning fast, too!) so PLEASE be sure to supervise your child during this activity and watch them light up as they discover new ways to use their ever-developing fine motor skills!

Fine Motor Play

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Mama OT In addition to being mama to two sweet little boys and wife to a crazy awesome husband, Christie is a Registered & Licensed Occupational Therapist (OTR/L). She holds a B.A. in Psychology with a Minor in Education from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA...Go Bruins!), and an M.A. in Occupational Therapy from the University of Southern California (USC OT). She has experience working as a pediatric OT in early intervention (birth to 3), clinic-based, and school-based settings. Her mission with is to encourage, educate, and empower those who care for children. Christie loves that she gets to PLAY when she goes to work, is hopelessly addicted to Kettle Corn, and is known for being able to turn virtually anything into a therapeutic tool or activity, from empty food containers to laundry and everything in between. Learn more about Christie and what inspired her to become an OT.

Occupational therapy (OT) is a holistic profession that helps people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities, also known as “occupations”. Some OTs help people diagnosed with disability, injury, or disease. Others help prevent disability, injury, or disease. Because of occupational therapy, people of all ages are able to say, "I can!" no matter what their struggle. Isn't that amazing?!

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Please provide appropriate supervision to the child in your care when completing any activities from this site. You as the grown-up will need to decide what types of products/activities on this list will be safe for your child. If you’re not sure, check with your child’s occupational therapist or pediatrician. Appropriate and reasonable caution should be used when implementing any ideas or activities from this site, particularly if there is any risk of injury (e.g., falling, crashing), choking (e.g., small parts), drowning (e.g., water play), or allergic/adverse reaction (e.g., materials/ingredients). The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any activities or ideas from this site. 
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3 thoughts on “Fine Motor Fun for Babies and Toddlers: Pom Poms and an Empty Water Bottle

    • Juli, I’ve found that it’s easiest to just cut open the bottle and start over with a new one once the first bottle has been filled.

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