DIY twist-top boards: fine motor & fun learning for little ones (using trash you have at home!)

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An easy fine motor activity for toddlers you can make at home in minutes!

Little kids love to fiddle and faddle with things. Their little hands want to explore everywhere and everything. All the time. Not only is your toddler finding out how things work, but fine motor practice is also going on.

Toddlers both need and love to practice fine motor skills on a daily basis. They need plenty of fine motor activities.

Luckily even without our help they will manage just fine finding their own ways. Aka touch all the things.  Open all the things. Poke, prod, squeeze and twist….All. The. Things!

Hence this DIY twist top activity board for toddlers.

And come the age of 3 and 4, I’ve found a few ways to incorporate some more specific learning elements turning this into an easy preschooler letter or number recognition activity.

It’s made with things you have at home already (if you’re a hoarder like me) or can quickly collect in a week or two of saving everyday household items.

The importance of fine motor activities for toddlers

Fine motor skills involve the use and coordination of the small hand muscles. Anything that requires any kind of precision and strength by the hands is working on those fine motor skills.

Practicing these skills is a precursor to writing skills; young children need to be able to hold a pencil and move it with small and precise movements.

Learn all about pencil grip development here.

But way before writing, well-developed fine motor skills can open a whole world of new possibilities for your toddler – when it comes to independence.

In other words, they’re able to do things without the help of mother dearest. (Yeah!)

As much as I’ve loved helping my toddlers with ALL the things, life can get a little more fun for all of us when they can start to do little things themselves.

I was so chuffed the first time my two managed to change from their jammies into clothes for the day, fold and put away those jammies… they were proud, I was proud, it was a great start to the day!

There are loads of other things that your toddler will be doing or can start to do daily to practice and refine their fine motor skills:

  • eating – finger food and with cutlery
  • opening and closing lunch boxes
  • scribbling
  • playing with blocks
  • playing with playdough
  • dressing dolls
  • brushing their hair and teeth (their own and their dolls!)
  • cutting with scissors
  • zipping and unzipping clothes

More on the importance of practicing fine motor skills here.

At 3 years old, my son could easily take the lid off the milk bottle, pour milk into his cup and screw the lid back on the bottle.

Much to his little sisters’ frustration!  She was 2.

Hence this twist-top fine motor activity – the perfect fine motor activity for practicing screwing bottle tops on and off. On and off. On and off.   (Toddlers love repetition too, right?)

It specifically works on the first 3 fingers – the exact fingers used in the tripod grip for holding a pencil.

She actually still loves it at the age of 3.  What’s more, I put it together one Sunday afternoon in about 15 minutes and it’s still standing today.

Instructions for this easy DIY fine motor activity board

1. Gather supplies

  • a variety of empty plastic bottles, complete with lid – I used 2 different milk bottles – fresh milk plastic bottles and UHT milk cartons.
  • a variety of empty squeeze pouches – I used baby food puree pouches and tomato past pouches
  • an old wooden chopping board, small piece of wood or strong cardboard
  • hot glue gun
  • kitchen scissors

 

to create this fine motor activity at home you need plastic twist tops and bottles

2. Wash the bottles and lids thoroughly

You don’t want your twist-top board stinking of off milk after a few days.

 3. Cut the base of the lid off

Decent kitchen scissors will do the job just fine – better than a craft knife in my experience.

For plastic milk bottles, you want to cut along the crease to ensure a good contact to glue to your board.

Squeeze pouches are the hardest to get right; you need to cut the bit that’s normally hidden inside the pouch off (check the photo to see what I’m talking about) and get a nice flat finish otherwise they don’t stand straight or can easily be broken off.

twist top board instructions

4. Position the bases on the board

By ‘base’ I mean the top of the bottle you’ve cut off, that the lid screws on to.

position the cut tops of bottles and plastic pouches on a breadboard

 

5. Glue & leave to dry

Keep hot glue out of reach of toddler hands.

Glued and finished DIY fine motor toddler toy for

DIY fine motor toy with lids on

6. And play!

DIY fine motor toy being played with my toddler

 

playing with DIY twist top board

Other skills practiced during this twist-top activity & an update for preschool learning

I chose to use a variety of bottles when making this twist-top toy.  By default, they were different shapes and different colors.  So even before your toddler screws the top on, first she needs to match it to the correct base.  Matching is a very basic math skill.

But there are a few other learning elements you can easily add.

I recently made another twist-top board but this time all with milk bottle bases and lids since these are the biggest lid I have a lot of and these lids are brilliant for all sorts of learning activities for preschoolers, because you write letters and numbers on them.

So for number recognition, I wrote a number inside the base (on the board) and put the corresponding dots on the lids.  Then my two preschoolers (now 3 years old and 4) practiced matching them up.  For example, the lid with the 3 dots gets screwed onto the base with the number 3 written inside.

Pictures to follow!

Wrapping up

Hopefully, this DIY twist-top board will be an easy addition to your bag of entertaining-a-busy-toddler tricks!  It can never be big enough, right?

 

For more activities to do at home with your toddler or preschooler check out these posts:

39 simple & sanity-saving activities for toddlers & preschoolers to do at home (minimal prep, minimal mess)

Marble rolling: easy art activity for toddlers & preschoolers (that you’ll actually want to keep)

STUPIDLY EASY pipe cleaner spider craft for toddlers (no prep & no mess!)

Useful stuff? Want to save it for later?  Want to share with other sleep-deprived mommas? Click above or pin this image:

twist-top board fine motor activity

Got any comments or questions?

I’d love to here from you.  (Your email address will not be published.)

Want to dig a little deeper? Check out these other related posts:

A little about me

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Hi, I'm Sarah

Mum of two outrageously gorgeous and ridiculously energetic toddlers – A.K.A. not so little, Littllees.  I’m determined to give them the best without losing my mind.  I reckon it’s possible.  Most days.  

I love a challenge and have to find out they ‘why’, ‘what’ or ‘how to’  –  there are rather a lot of these when it comes to kids… 

I also love, love, love things to be neat and tidy and just so.   The Littlees normally have other ideas!  

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