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Toddlers are sensualists above all else – they love to smell, taste, and touch. If you give your child plenty of fun-to-feel materials to keep her little hands busy, she'll have a great time developing their strength and agility.
Nontoxic modeling clay invites hand and finger movement as your child rolls, shapes, punches, and molds the material to her liking. A few simple tools, such as a lightweight rolling pin and some plastic cookie cutters, stretch this activity out longer. If your toddler seems reluctant, try a few different products – she may not like the smell of one or the feel of another.
The softer the dough, the easier it is for small hands to shape. Real edible dough is, of course, the ultimate treat, so when you bake, give her some leftover dough to shape into her own "pie" and cook it with yours. (If baking isn't something you have much chance to do, check out the frozen dough in the freezer section of your grocery store.)
Don't forget "gak," the gooey preschool favorite made from equal parts white glue and water (often colored with food coloring), which kids just love to squish and squeeze.
Outside (or in the basement, if you have a big one), a mud pie kitchen or a sandcastle construction zone creates opportunities to use those same manipulative skills. As your toddler molds a tower and carefully tops it with a feather, she won't even realize she's honing her fine motor skills – but you will!
Get more ideas for helping your toddler develop fine motor skills.