I’ve been a Nanny for a young boy with Autism for 7 years, but due to COVID-19 I ended up becoming part of a home school team. We have made it a point to incorporate fine motor activities for Autism into his daily routine.
Some days we’re very successful and get lots done. Other days we do nothing but make it through the day. That’s Autism.
I’m not an Autism expert. I personally don’t think anyone is because people with Autism are all so different. What I am is a dedicated Nanny who’s up for trying anything to make my little buddy’s life a little better. Here are a bunch of activities I do with him to help develop his fine motor skills. I hope some of them will help the person you love with Autism.
Fine Motor Activities for Autism
DIY Lacing Activities
Lacing activities are great for fine motor skills and as the child progresses can be made into problem solving puzzles. But for now, let’s start small.
I tried this out for the first time the other day and Noah loved it! While there are plenty of lacing activity kits out there my little buddy gets focused on the things that he loves, as many children with Autism do. Currently, he’s really into baby chicks.
What I did is create him his very own baby chick lacing activity. I found an image online printed it and cut it out. Then I took our laminator and hole punch, and 15 minutes later it was done. Grab some yarn and put scotch tape at each end to make it easier to lace and you’re good to go.
The might be difficult for your child to do at first. Noah had difficulty pulling the string all the way through and then running out with more holes to go. I made a bunch of others too in the shape of Cookie Monster and some with the planets. The more he practices the better he’ll get, then we can start working towards tying shoes!
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Play Dough and Play Dough Toys
I have never met a child, no matter their ability, that doesn’t love play dough. Whether you make homemade play dough or get it at the store it can be hours of fun, creative learning. play dough is just hard enough to help strengthen hands, but soft enough to mold and create with.
My little buddy loves playing with play dough! I think we play with it at least once a week. What takes this development of fine motor skills to the next level is us tools to mold and shape the play dough. Cutting tools and rollers allow for strengthening and bilateral motion. I’m a big fan of using extruders to build up the muscles in the hands.
I usually just take out some play dough and a bunch of tools and let Noah go to town. Over the years he’s created some pretty amazing things!
Read More: Ice Sensory Play
Fine Motor Activities for Autism: Using Scissors
When it comes to scissors and Autism there can be lots of frustration. I’ve seen it first hand and can understand the frustration. Scissors can be difficult to hold and when things don’t come out the way your child thought they would it can be a huge letdown. So let’s start by starting over.
Several months back my Nanny Mom and I tossed the old hard to hold and use “kid scissors” out the door and got a pair of loop scissors. No more holes to put fingers in and there is no right side up. I can’t fully express how much of a game-changer these scissors were!
We went from refusing to use scissors to wanting to use scissors on a regular basis. And while he doesn’t want to use them all the time, it’s a step in the right direction. We’ll take it!
As for using the scissors just to build motor skills, we have a hard time with that. He likes to use them to accomplish the projects we work on. Noah especially gets excited when a new Little Passports activity comes in the mail. Using the scissors for that is never an issue because he gets so excited!
If you have a child that is willing to do activities to practice cutting check out these awesome cutting activities from Hands on as we Grow. She has some great first steps to using and practicing with scissors.
Tennis Ball Pac Man
Of all the fine motors activities for Autism in this post, the tennis ball Pac Man is my favorite!
Ever since I starting working with Noah over 7 years ago he’s loved Pac Man. So about a week ago I took a tennis ball and cut a line in it to look like a mouth and glued on some googly eyes. Then I grabbed some pom poms and put them in a line on the floor, just like in the Pac Man game, and handed Noah the ball.
To open Pac Man’s mouth you have been to squeeze the ball. From there you can get Pac Man to eat all the pom-poms. Once his mouth is full you need to squeeze the ball with one hand and fish out the pom-poms with the other hand. This activity can help your child develop strength and bilateral motion.
Playing with Legos
Legos are my favorite toy of all time! I loves them as a kid and love playing with them to this day. As Noah’s siblings outgrew Legos (which I still think is crazy, but then again I’m just a big kid.), I thought my Lego days were over. For Christmas, he received a few small lego sets and was excited to do them.
When he was younger we had the big legos and that definitely helped me with some of his motor skills. Now that he’s getting older the tiny legos are more appealing to him.
No matter the size of the legos, building with them is such a great way to build up those fine motors skills. If your child likes building the kits go with that as it’s a great way to teach how to follow steps. If they just want to play and build get one of the classic creator kits with lots of different colored blocks.
Read More: How to Dye Pasta for Sensory Play
Fine Motor Activities for Autism: Stickers
Before recently I didn’t think of stickers as a learning tool as I’m not super into reward charts. But having been doing lots of learning about fine motor skills, hand strength, and bilateral motion I’ve changed my thinking.
Now I try to use stickers as much as possible! The simple movements of peeling a sticker and putting on a paper or other surface are so helpful.
My little buddy doesn’t like doing things for the sake of doing them, so the stickers have to have a purpose. Luckily, he started getting the Little Passports USA Edition in the mail. Each month we get an activity book about 2 new states and each comes with stickers for the state flag, state bird, and other things pertaining to that destination. It’s educational and we’re building up his fine motor skills, WIN-WIN!
For more sticker activities check out School Time Snippets.
Raise your hand if you played with Tangrams in elementary school. I know I sure did, and as an adult I understand why, they’re great for building fine motor skills and problem solving.
Tangrams are small usually colorful shapes that you can make into art. The builder can follow a pattern or get creative.
There is lots of picking up small pieces and referring to a pattern card. This could also be made into a math lesson to count the tiles and how many colors of each tile there are.