Fine Motor Activity with Q-Tips

Ever have a toddler at your feet when you are trying to cook a meal? That was the case when I first pulled out this q-tip fine motor activity. One morning during our Letter Q week I was trying to make breakfast before the boys arrived, and Tinker needed my attention or needed something to do.  I saw the q-tips we were using for our painting activities and remembered reading about practicing fine motor skills by placing q-tips in a small container.

Q-Tip Fine Motor Activity

I also read about doing this activity with a grated cheese container, but I didn’t have an empty one handy. What I did have was a steamer insert that came with one of our pots, and I thought that could work. If you don’t have a steamer insert, take a look around your kitchen. There may be lots of objects with holes that would work. Just be sure it is something safe for kids to interact with.

Tinker was instantly intrigued, and soon Lovey joined her. They both played with the activity until the boys arrived.

Fine Motor Activity

It was an activity all of the kids have revisited often since then, but Tinker loves it most. We have the cheapest q-tips I could find. They tend to be a little thinner than others, so they fit perfectly in our steamer pot holes. Sometimes the cotton pulls a little and makes the ends a bit bigger, so she has learned to push the q-tip all the way through with her fingers or pull off the extra cotton. She loves to peak down the holes to see her q-tip collection inside.

Fine Motor Activity for Toddlers

I also love to see the activity extending to other areas of learning. Without any encouragement, Lovey naturally lifted the insert and started organizing and counting all of the q-tips she had pushed through the holes. We have been working on counting larger sets of objects, and this was a very authentic way for her to practice counting and one-to-one correspondence.

Counting Q-Tips Fine Motor Activity

Another unexpected benefit of this task was the possibility of working as a team. The steamer insert was large enough for the kids to work together. They would race to see how quickly they could use up the q-tips. Then if someone was having difficulty they would stop to help each other.  I also liked hearing them talk about how they could each work in different areas so they weren’t reaching across each other. This kind of problem solving and teamwork wouldn’t have been an option if I had chosen a smaller container for only one child to use at a time.

Fine Motor Activity for Preschoolers

You can find more fine motor activities on my fine motor and sensory play Pinterest board.

What ways do you practice fine motor skills? Any great activities for keeping kids entertained while you are trying to cook?

This post has been shared at some of these fantastic link parties.


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  1. Great tip. It’s amazing how much kids enjoy this type of “work”! My boys love to poke things in places. I’m sure this would keep them entertained!

  2. Super cute idea! And we have those just laying around our house =-)

    Thanks for linking up to TGIF! Have a GREAT day =-)

  3. What a super easy and fun activity! Next time I need a quick game for the kids so I can make dinner, I am going to use this! Thanks for sharing at Mom’s Library.

  4. Varya @ littleartists says:

    What a great activity!!! Who would think that q-tips and grated cheese container could be so entertaining! Thank you for sharing!

    • Thanks! We used a steamer pot instead of the grated cheese container this time, but the kids love it. Sometimes it’s the simple things!

  5. Going to share this one on Facebook. I love simple activities that can be set up quickly!
    I have a very similar group shot to your last pic above, except the kids are doing the classic pipe cleaners through a colander activity. Always great to see little ones sharing the same space and doing so happily!!

    • Thanks for sharing! I love that this was so easy and quick, too. Right now I am just keeping the container of Q-tips with the pot in the cabinet, and the girls are pulling it out whenever they feel like playing. Loving that!

  6. What a great idea. I love that it uses things you have on hand!

  7. Such a great idea to use a strainer. My son would have fun poking the q-tips through!

  8. I really like this idea for fine motor skills Shauna. My son has a tough time with his dexterity and I always look for new ideas to have him practice and I’ll definitely be trying this one out! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • I really hope your son enjoys this. Sometimes finding just the right activity can get kids really engaged, and then they won’t feel so much like its “work” to practice those fine motor skills.

  9. MomMom Hill ( says:

    Love this, Shaunna! Love how you think! 🙂

  10. This is a great reminder that activities don’t need to be elaborate or time consuming to prepare in order to promote development across different ages and stages! Great post!

    • Thanks, Stephanie! I love the simplicity of this task, too. And I always find that my girls are more intrigued by everyday materials than the most elaborate activities and toys.

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