Thinking outside of the box. Fine motor activities for toddlers.

by Alenka

Honestly, this is the easiest sensory activity to set up for a toddler. And, surprisingly, absolutely fascinating one for him!  As a mom, I find it fascinating too: small motor coordination development, sorting, bigger-smaller concepts, colors and shapes are all the benefits packed inside each little box…


  • boxes. Boxes of every possible shape, shape, size,and colors. One thing on common: they all should close in some way. With a lid, with a snap, with Velcro, with a bang! With a diamond fastener if you please. As long as it is not too hard for the little hands to open.
  • a tray. I like working on a tray. It gives a sense of order, prevents mess of lids and toys dispersed through the room, clearly defines a work environment, teaches kids respectful care towards their teaching materials. In Montessori schools all work is usually done on a rug. In my home environment, trays work better: easier to contain, clean up, put away if something needs to be finished later.


Got the boxes, a tray or a rug. Or just set up your little one’s work environment in whatever way it works in your home. Now what?

Cover it up!

1.  Let your little one open the boxes and put their lids on another tray in a random order.
2.  Now he should try to find the right lid for each box and close it again.

My own toddler can spend hours opening and closing snaps, velcro, finding lids again and again.



See if any of the boxes can fit and be hidden inside each other. I once purchased some Halloween candy purely because of a series of little cardboard boxes that can fit inside one another. Candy went straight to trick-or-treaters and some of these boxes are still creating as much excitement and exercise for my third toddler in a row, as if they were Russian nesting dolls instead of old purses of cardboard.




Sort the boxes by shape and/or color.


Tricky box

Offer one box that has a trickier mechanism for opening: sliding, having a hidden compartment, etc.


Treasure Hunt

You’ll need a little acorn, she’ll or a toy to fit inside one of the boxes. Place it in a box. Close the lid. Now offer your little one all if the boxes and let him keep opening them, until he finds a toy. You can even take turns hiding it!


Hiding treasures

Now a whole bunch of little objects get hidden inside every single box. We use safari tube animals and planes. Each gets a sleeping quarters or a parking spot inside one of the boxes. Not every one of them fits in each box, so it turns out to be quite a 3d puzzle to fit the right size planes/animals into the right size box..

If you have any other out of the box (or in?) ideas, please share them in the comment section below!