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Classic Games that Promote Fine Motor Skills in Children 5 and Up

Updated on July 17, 2018
rmcrayne profile image

Rose Mary, an Occupational Therapist since 1987, is experienced with pre-term infants, early intervention, school therapy, and home health.

Board Games
Board Games | Source

These games are for children 5 years old and up. I have previously written articles on board games like Chutes and Ladders, and card and dice games like Picture Dominos, for children 3 to 8. The games in this article are geared toward coordination and hand manipulation. Also, strategy is different from that of board, card and dice games.

Many of these games were listed by the manufacturer as being for 3- to 6-year-olds. Although a 3-year old may understand the concept of the games, most would not have the motor skills necessary to play the game, and would therefore be quite frustrated. Also, given the number of adults I found in photos and videos playing these games, it would obviously be a shame to have a 6 year old cut-off.

I have included Amazon ratings for each game. Consistently, buyers complain that the game is cheaply made compared to the game of their childhood. I use a variety of toys and games in my practice as a pediatric occupational therapist. There are a few games that I had as a child, that seemed to last forever, that I would agree that new ones I have bought for therapy are definitely not as durable. While I appreciate the manufacturers trying to keep costs appealing to consumers, I for one would rather pay a little more and get a quality product. For now, that is simply just not an option on most classic games.

On some of the games, reviewers offer easy fixes to the problem. For example, putting a few coins in the bottom of the bucket for the Don’t Spill the Beans game. I recommend buyer beware. Look at customer reviews. I would almost always stay away from a game that rated less than 3 on a 1 to 5 scale. I look at the distribution of ratings, then read some of the 1- and 2-star reviews, and see why buyers didn’t like the product, and if there are work-arounds.

The motor skills Games featured in this article:

  • Barrel of Monkeys
  • Ants in the Pants
  • Please Don’t Spill the Beans
  • Bouncin’ Tigger Game
  • Don’t Break the Ice
  • Thin Ice
  • Hot Potato
  • Toss Across
  • Monkeying Around
  • Let’s Go Fishin’

Barrel of Monkeys

Young children enjoy putting the monkeys in and out of the barrel
Young children enjoy putting the monkeys in and out of the barrel | Source

Number of Players: 1 or more players

Ages: 5 and up.

Brief Overview: Link monkeys together by looping a monkey arm with the arm of the last monkey on the chain. Repeat, attempting to link 12 monkeys.

Amazon Customer Rating: 4.2 of 5 stars, from 230 raters.

Skills: Motor coordination and endurance.

Versions: Color of monkeys may vary.

Modifications: Manufacturers recommend this game for 3 and up. Three year olds could use both hands to try to link the monkeys. Most would be too short to link 12 monkeys in a strand.

Barrel of Monkeys

Ants in the Pants


Number of Players: 2 to 4 players.

Age: 5 and up.

Brief Overview: Each player has 4 ants, measuring 2.5” each. On go, players begin flipping ants. First player to get all 4 of their ants into Fido’s pants wins.

Amazon Customer Rating: 4.0 of 5 stars from 159 raters. Chief complaint was that it was too difficult and therefore frustrating for 3- and 4-year olds. As you can see, I adjusted the age, as I have for many of the games in this series.

Skills: Fine motor control and accuracy. Gauging of pressure and force to control trajectory.

Versions: SpongeBob with 4 of 5 stars from 4 raters.

Modifications: Let younger children stand closer and throw instead of flip ants. Suitable for solitary play to practice skills.

Don't Spill the Beans


Number of Players: 2 to 4 players.

Ages: 5 and up.

Brief Overview: Players take turns dropping beans one at a time onto the top surface of the bean pot while it toddlers. Eventually the pot will tip to one side spilling all of the beans. The first player to run out of beans wins.

Amazon Customer Rating: 3.1 of 5 stars from 210 raters. Chief complaints: Pot tips after about 10 beans, which one rater easily remedied by placing a few coins in the bottom of the pot for weight and stability. Other complaints of 3 year old children not enjoying the game.

Skills: Fine manipulation and control. Counting skills.

Modifications: Weight pot as above.

Bouncin' Tigger Game


Number of Players: 1 or more players.

Ages: 5 and up.

Brief Overview: Players help Tigger get ready to go on a picnic by piling his picnic supplies on him. Items have loops and hooks. Be the one to pile on too much and Tigger springs and drops everything.

Amazon Customer Rating: 3 of 5 stars by 2 raters, one who bought it for her 3 year old, and thought Tigger was supposed to continually bounce, and rated the game a one. (There is a bouncing Tigger that is not a game, and bounce &/or wiggle.) The other rater gave the game a 5, and stated her child had the game over a year and had held up well.

Skills: Fine motor coordination and control.

Don't Break the Ice

Don't Break the Ice Game
Don't Break the Ice Game | Source

Number of Players: 2 players.

Ages: 5 and up.

Brief Overview: Players take turns tapping out ice blocks with a rubber mallet. Try not to be the one that topples the polar bear.

Amazon Customer Rating: 4.3 of 5 stars from 517 raters.

Skills: Coordination and control; strategy.

Versions: Don’t Break the Ice Mini Cootie Assortment game, Disney Frozen.

Modifications: Suitable for 1 player to play and practice skills.

Thin Ice


Number of Players: 2 or more players.

Age: 5 and up.

Brief Overview: A tissue forms the play surface. Players take turns using tongs to retrieve marbles one at a time from the water trough and place on the surface. Quickly pass tongs because whoever is holding the tongs when the surface breaks, collects a letter, starting with “I”. Loser is the first to spell ICE.

Amazon Customer Rating: Rating of 3.9 of 5 stars from 62 raters. Early complaints were that the tissue tore too easily. I presume the manufacturer attempted to rectify the situation, but now buyers are complaining the tissue is too thick and doesn’t tear easily enough. Several noted they use regular tissue, which works well.

Skills: Fine motor control, grading and tool use.

Modifications: Consider placing 2 layers of tissue. Suitable for 1 player to practice skills.

Hot Potato


Number of Players: 2 to 6 players.

Ages: 5 and up.

Brief Overview: Similar to Musical Chairs. Squeeze the potato to start the music. Pass the potato among players. If you have possession of the potato when the music stops, you must collect a potato chip. Collect 3 chips and you are out of the game. Squeeze again to reactive the music and continue play. Last person standing wins.

Amazon Customer Rating: 4.3 of 5 stars from 1325 raters for musical electronic hot potato shown.

Skills: Arm coordination for throwing.

Versions: Soft and hard shell and musical potatoes available.

Modifications: Younger children can stand closer for throwing.

Hot Potato

Toss Across


Number of Players: 2 players or teams.

Ages: 5 and up.

Brief Overview: Players take turns throwing bean bags to play Tic Tac Toe.

Amazon Customer Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars from 179 raters (version shown at right.

Skills: Coordination for throwing and aim.

Versions: Hello Kitty, Simpsons, Pirates of the Caribbean, NY Jets, NY Giants, Yankees/Red Sox, NBA East/West, Travel Game.

Modifications: More than 2 players or teams could take turns at play.

Toss Across

Monkeying Around

Monkeying Around game
Monkeying Around game | Source

Number of Players: 2 to 4 players.

Ages: 5 and up.

Brief Overview: There are 32 hanging monkeys, 8 each of 4 colors. Players take turns spinning to see how many monkeys they must remove from the tree without upsetting the treetop.

Amazon Customer Rating: 4.1 of 5 stars from 146 raters.

Skills: Coordination and control to remove monkeys.

Modifications: Suitable for solitary play to practice skills.

Let's Go Fishin'


Number of Players: 1 to 4 players.

Ages: 5 and up.

Brief Overview: Players take turns trying to catch a total of 21 fish with their fishing poles. Fish are circling in the pond, moving up and down, and their mouths are opening and closing.

Amazon Customer Rater: 3.9 of 5 stars from 2063 raters.

Skills: Coordination and timing.

Versions: Toy Story, Hello Kitty, Dory, travel game.

Let's Go Fishin Game

© 2009 rmcrayne


Submit a Comment
  • rmcrayne profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from San Antonio Texas

    Thanks Christy. Remember playing Don't Spill the Beans together?

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    Wow, reading this sure brought back memories. I played many of these games. Who knew I was working on learning skills that one day may make or lose me money!!! Keep writing RM


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