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Games to Develop Fine Motor Skills for 3- and 4-Year Olds

Updated on November 22, 2014
rmcrayne profile image

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

These games are for children 3 years old, 4 years old, and up. I previously reviewed board games like Candyland and card and dice games like Uno for this age group. The games in this hub are more centered on dexterity and coordination and a different kind of strategy compared to board games. Games featured:


Lucky Ducks

Bean Bag Toss

Honey Bee Tree

Hungry Hungry Hippos

What’s in Ned’s Head

Poppa’s Pizza Pile-Up

Squiggly Worms

Mr. Potato Head

Fishin Fun

History and Evolution of Cootie Game


Number of Players: For 2 to 4 players. Would also work well for individual play.

Age: 3 to 6

Brief Overview: Classic game, almost 50 years old. Build yourself a bug. Players select Cootie parts according to a roll of the dice. First player to complete their Cootie wins. Cooties will vary each player or game. Small parts require supervision of young children, who may also need help in placing the smallest features on their Cootie.

Amazon Customer Rating: 3.4 of 5 stars from 148 reviews. Comments include: Updated Cootie parts are not as interesting as previous versions. Small facial parts are too difficult for 3 year olds. Many favorable comments.

Skills: Understanding of relationship between the number on the dice and which Cootie part it corresponds to. Fine motor manipulation and coordination to handle dice and to attach Cootie parts.

Versions: Updated current version has some parts such as the eyes paired not separate. Miniature versions and key chains available.

Modifications: Let youngest children or children with fine motor difficulty play with and assemble Cooties without dice or competition.

Lucky Ducks Game
Lucky Ducks Game | Source

Lucky Ducks

Number of Players: For 2 to 4 players. Would also work well for individual play.

Age: 3 to 6 years old

Brief Overview: Ducks rotate in their “pond”. Players take turns selecting ducks from the pond. They must determine if the shape and color on the bottom of the duck matches their duck pad.

Amazon Customer Rating: 3.9 of 5 stars from 55 reviewers. Complaints are primarily that the game does not repackage well back into the box. Also that the game is loud and annoying, though the newest version is quieter. One parent found that with the older version, one battery controlled the movement and the other controlled the quacking.

Skills: Color and shape recognition and matching. Picking up and replacing ducks from a moving track.

Versions: Latest version is quieter. Also Sesame Street version.

Modifications: Children could practice color and shape matching without using the motorized track.

Lucky Ducks

Fun Express Jungla Animal Kids Beanbag Toss Game for Zoo Themed Parties
Fun Express Jungla Animal Kids Beanbag Toss Game for Zoo Themed Parties

Ratings for this version 3.3 of 5 stars from 37 raters.

Group plays Bean Bag Toss
Group plays Bean Bag Toss | Source

Bean Bag Toss

Number of Players: For 1 or more players.

Age: 3 and up

Brief Overview: Players toss bean bags at the board which has circle cutouts. Points scored may vary according to which hole a bean bag passes through.

Amazon Customer Rating: There are many designs and versions for bean bag toss, and ratings are specific to each.

Skills: Aiming bean bags toward target holes and throwing bags.

Versions: Pirate Ship, Jungle Animals, Tropical Fish, Baseball, others.

Modifications: Young children can stand as close as necessary to target.

Honey Bee Tree Game

Honey Bee Tree

Number of Players: 2 to 4 players.

Age: 4 and up

Brief Overview: Base has 4 compartments for up to 4 players, and 30 honey bees and 32 leaves. Players take turns pulling leaves out of the honey tree, trying not to disturb the bees. Winner is the one with the least amount of bees in their tray at the end of the game. Youngest children should be supervised due to small pieces.

Amazon Customer Rating: 3.7 of 5 stars by 151 raters. Chief complaints: Set up takes longer than play and must be done by an adult. Bees fall too quickly and easily. Note however that 96 of 151 raters rated the game 4 (43 raters) or 5 (53 raters).

Skills: Delicate controlled movement to pull leaves from the tree.

Versions: The Tumble game and Tumbling Monkeys are very similar games.

Modifications: One child could engage in solitary play practicing their skill at removing leaves with the least displacement of the bees.

Hungry Hungry Hippos Game
Hungry Hungry Hippos Game | Source

Hungry Hungry Hippos

Number of Players: For 2 to 4 players.

Age: 4 and up.

Brief Overview: Players press their hippo’s tail lever to try to gobble marbles. Marbles can be released 1 at a time, or all 20. Play is fast and furious. Player with the most gobbled marbles wins. Supervision needed for youngest children due to small parts.

Amazon Customer Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars from 253 raters. Primary complaint is of cheap construction of the game compared with the Hungry Hungry Hippos game of parents’ childhoods.

Skills: Hand grip and coordination to work the hippo. Counting skills.

Versions: Hungry Hungry Hippos Travel Game, Fun on the Run, and Keychain.

Hungry Hungry Hippos

What's in Ned's Head? Game

What's in Ned's Head

Number of Players: For 2 to 4 players. Could also engage a child in individual play.

Ages: 4 to 7

Brief Overview: This game was specifically recommended to me by our own Lily Rose. Players draw cards and must reach into 1 of 4 openings in Ned’s head to find their designated item. Items include rat, spider, moldy cheese, lost lunch and apple.

Amazon Customer Rating: 4.1 of 5 stars from 115 reviewers. Chief complaint is flimsiness and lack of form to Ned’s head and hollowness making it too easy to find objects. Cheap quality to some of the items to find such as large Q-tip.

Skills: Ability to recognize objects by touch (stereognosis).

Modifications: Per Amazon reviewers, it would help to add stuffing to Ned’s head to give it form and make it more difficult to find objects.

Poppa's Pizza Pile-Up

Number of Players: 2 to 4 players

Age: 4 and up

Brief Overview: Players take turns rolling the dice and placing toppings on the pizza, trying not to allow any toppings to fall off.

Amazon Customer Ratings: 2.9 of 5 stars from 45 raters (12 ratings of 5, 9 ratings of 4, 4 ratings each for 2 & 3, 16 ratings of 1). Chief complaints: Pizza tips too easily on chef’s finger, making it difficult even for adults to play. One reviewer stated this was easily fixed with a little tape to the finger. Some complained the pizza toppings were too slick to stay on, and roughing up the surface helped.

Skills: Delicate controlled movement to place toppings on pizza.

Modifications: Tape to chef’s finger and scratching topping backs to rough up the surface, both to make the game less frustrating to play. As suggested by 1 reviewer, players can also play in reverse, removing toppings. One player could play alone practicing their skills.

Squiggly Worms

Number of Players: 2 to 4 players

Ages: 4 and up

Brief Overview: Game has 20 worms in a plastic base, with 24 instruction cards. As worms move up and down, players pick worms up 1 at a time to try to find a worm whose tail color matches their card.

Amazon Customer Rating: Limited at 10 reviews, with rating of 4 of 5 stars.

Skills: Dexterity and speed to grasp moving worms.

There are now many options on Mr. Potato Head, such as Spider Spud, Darth Tater and Spud Trooper
There are now many options on Mr. Potato Head, such as Spider Spud, Darth Tater and Spud Trooper | Source

Mr. Potato Head

Number of Players: 1 or more

Age: 3 and up

Brief Overview: Children create using the Mr. Potato Head pieces to attach facial features, arms, legs. Create “aliens” by attaching nose where arm would be etc. Youngest children should be supervised due to small pieces.

Amazon Customer Rating: 4.2 of 5 stars from 149 raters, with 95 ratings of 5 stars.

Skills: Recognition Manipulation of Mr. Potato Head pieces, attaching them to the potato body.

Versions: Many, many versions, clearly aimed at much older “kids”. Classic Mr. Potato Head, Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head, Kiss Collector Set, Spider Spud & Friends, Darth Tater, Spud Trooper, Artoo Potatoo, Trick or Tater, Opti-Mash Prime, Transformers, NY Yankee, Indiana Spud and the Lost Ark, others.

Mr. Potato Head

Fishin' Fun

Number of Players: 1 to 4 players

Ages: 4 and up

Brief Overview: Players use magnetized fishing rods to fish for fish and other underwater objects that have metal rings attached. Each player has 2 attempts at fishing.

Amazon Customer Rating: Limited at 4 reviews, with rating of 3.8 of 5 stars.

Skills: Dexterity and coordination.


Submit a Comment

  • rmcrayne profile image

    rmcrayne 7 years ago from San Antonio Texas

    Thanks Neil. I hope you'll check out more of my hubs on children's table games.

  • Neil Ashworth profile image

    George Poe 7 years ago from United Kingdom

    Very good piece of writing. Love it..

  • rmcrayne profile image

    rmcrayne 8 years ago from San Antonio Texas

    Thanks Lily Rose and fastfreta for reading and commenting. Let the games begin!

  • fastfreta profile image

    Alfreta Sailor 8 years ago from Southern California

    My grandchildren range in age from 5 to 1, these games are ones that they could use. I'm going to look for as many as I can find. Oh yes, I remember most of these games and toys, especially hungry, hungry hippo and cootie, how quickly you forget, when you don't need a certain thing Thanks for a great informative hub.

  • Lily Rose profile image

    Lily Rose 8 years ago from East Coast

    You've got some great stuff here, RM! Thanks for the "mention" and FYI - I like that Ned isn't more stuffed because it easily folds flat for storage in its box - I'm all about being organized! We have a lot of fun and laughs when we play that game!

  • rmcrayne profile image

    rmcrayne 8 years ago from San Antonio Texas

    Kimberly you always make me smile. Thanks for the encouragement. I am proud of the series. Yet another topic area that I wish I'd had time to write about when I was a working therapist.

    Veronica thanks for your support. I loved using games when I did school-based therapy.

  • Veronica Allen profile image

    Veronica Allen 8 years ago from Georgia

    These are some great game ideas! I especially like the fact that they teach as well as allow the child to have fun.

  • profile image

    lyricsingray 8 years ago

    This series you are doing is just fantastic-way to go -- I still absolutely love mr. Potato head.Thanks for bringing back so many great memories