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THE SENSORY LIFESTYLE HANDBOOK
The Kinesthetic Sense is needed for almost every task. Read on for more information on kinesthetic learning, exactly what is kinesthesia, how the kinesthetic sense plays a part in fine motor skills, and kinesthetic fine motor activities that can help with motor planning and learning through play.


What is Kinesthetic Learning?


The Kinesthetic sense is a huge part of every action we do.  When we pick up a toothbrush and brush our teeth, we "know" the motion and amount of pressure that is needed to move the toothbrush and polish teeth without poking the side of mouth with the toothbrush. 

The Kinesthetic sense allows us to zipper a jacket without looking at the zipper. It allows us to tie our shoes while looking up at a friend on the playground.  It allows us to have a conversation and look around at our table mates while using a fork, wiping our mouth, and picking up a cup during dinner. It enables a student to flip the pencil and erase a mistake without looking at the pencil and thinking through each step of moving the pencil within the hand. 

Kinesthesia allows us to participate in actions with motor planning, appropriate motor actions, and effective proprioception. 

Below, you will find hand strengthening activities for kids, hand strength activities for adults, and therapy tools to develop hand strength. The activities to strengthen fine motor skills included in this post are perfect to improving grip strength, pinch strength, or as part of a finger exercises program for handwriting. 

Fine Motor Strength is essential for so many reasons! From maintaining a grasp on a pencil to opening and closing scissors, to buttoning buttons, snapping snaps, tying shoes, coloring a picture without stopping, to most everything we do...hand strength matters! 

Here, you will find a collection of fine motor resources and hand strengthening activities that can be used to improve tone in the hands, increase stability in the thumb and fingers, develop and define arches of the hands, improve precision with in-hand manipulation, improve endurance in hand strength, and address separation of the sides of the hand...in fun and creative ways! 



Use these hand strengthening activities to improve hand strength needed for pencil grasp, coloring, clothing fasteners, and using scissors or other fine motor tasks.


I wanted to cover fine motor strength and the skills kids need for pencil grasp, managing scissors, working clothing fasteners, and using those hands. 

So often, we see weak arches, instability, and low tone in the hands that transfers to awkward use of the hands, impractical grasps, and poor endurance in writing or coloring. Sneaking in a few strengthening activities each day can make a world of difference!

First, if you receive The OT Toolbox newsletter, you've seen a trend over the past few weeks. I've been loading subscribers up on therapy resources.

The emails have been very popular and many of you have sent little notes of thanks. I'm so happy to fill your therapy toolbox with the resources you need! It's my intention to continue this Thursday Therapy Toolbox (I need a better name for this! If you have any ideas, let me know!!) 


If you want in on this action, join our newsletter to receive weekly therapy resources right in your inbox. You'll also get access to our free printable library. Don't worry, your email is always private and will not be sold. Read more about our privacy policy here.

Each week, you will find a selection of resources on a particular topic that will provide a variety of strategies to address particular therapy areas. Pick and choose the tools you need and add them to YOUR OT Toolbox. Use them to tackle goals, address underlying skill areas, and focus on function in fun and creative ways!



Hand Strengthening Activities


Today includes a collection of hand strengthening activities that can be used as hand strength activities for adults, and to develop hand strength. Scroll through the activities below to find creative hand strengthening ideas to improve grip strength, pinch strength, or as part of a finger exercises program for handwriting.


Try these fine motor hand strengthening activity ideas:

First, check out our huge online library of fine motor activities. This is a collection of all of the fine motor activities on The OT Toolbox. There's something for everyone.

One thing that makes a big difference in fine motor dexterity is addressing separation of the sides of the hand. This post explains more about motoric separation of the hand and here is another fun activity that really strengthens those muscles.

These OT activities using tongs are great for developing and strengthening the arches of the hands for improved intrinsic strength.

In fact, the intrinsic muscles are the muscles in the hand that define the arches of the hands, bend the knuckles, and oppose with the thumbs. Activities like this intrinsic muscle strengthening activity can easily be replicated at home or in the therapy room.

Among these muscles are a group called the lumbricals. The lumbrical muscles have a job to bend (flex) the MCP joints and extend (straighten) the PIP and DIP joints. When the lumbricals are in action, the hand might look like it is holding a plate with the big knuckles bent and the fingers extended. Read more about strengthening the intrinsics here.

When kids write or color with a thumb web space area squashed shut, it's a sign of problems. Then might be compensating for thumb instability, underdeveloped hand arches, and/or poor strength. Each of these problem areas will lead to difficulties with handwriting, dexterity, manipulation of small items like beads, and pencil grasp. 


Writing with a closed web space is inefficient and will cause poor and slow handwriting, especially as kids grow and are expected to write at faster speeds. A closed web space while attempting to manage fasteners such as buttons and zippers will lead to fumbling and difficulty. So, what do you do if you've got a kiddo who is squashing that web space shut during functional tasks? I've got a few ideas on how to work on open thumb web spaces.

Here are even more ideas to promote thumb stability and tone with activities designed to open the thumb web space.


Strengthening the hand can occur through a variety of pinch and grip exercises. Here are ideas to strengthen the hands using clothespins.

In-hand manipulation is a skill requiring strength in the hands. Activities like this in-hand manipulation activity can boost these skills. 


There are several aspects to in-hand manipulation:
▪ Finger-to-Palm Translation: Movement of an object from the fingers to the palm i.e. picking up a coin and moving it to the palm.

▪ Palm-to-Finger Translation: Movement of an object from the palm to the fingertips. (i.e. moving a coin from the palm to the fingertips to insert into a vending machine.)

▪ Shift: Slight adjustment of an object on or by the finger pads. (i.e. adjusting a pencil up and down in your hand.)

▪ Simple Rotation: Turning or rolling an object 90 degrees or less with the fingers moving as a unit. (i.e. unscrewing a toothpaste lid)

▪ Complex Rotation: Turning an object more than 90 degrees using isolated finger and thumb movements. (i.e. Turning a paperclip)

Each of the above skills can occur with items "squirreled away in the palm using the pinky finger and ring finger. This is called "with stabilization". If other items are not pocketed away in the palm while in-hand manipulation occurs, it is called "without stabilization". 


Stabilization typically occurs around 2 years of age. Read more about in-hand manipulation here. Here are a couple of activity ideas that can be easily replicated at home.

A few more hand strengthening activities: 

It's my hope that these resources are a huge help for you! Here are a few more topics related to strength in the hands that you may need in your therapy toolbox: 
Graded Precision in Grasp 
Occupation-Centered Neat Pincer Grasp Activities 
Strengthen Tripod Grasp with Every Day Items 
DIY Clothespin Busy Bags to Strengthen Pinch 
Clay Strengthening Exercises 
Handwriting Warm-Up Exercises 
The Ultimate Guide to Fine Motor Strength

Finally, I wanted to add a resource product that will help with fine motor strengthening. The Ultimate Hand Strengthening Bundle is an exercise program that has everything you need to set up strengthening exercises, print off hand outs, send home home programs, and consistent approaches to building hand strength while ensuring carryover and tracking progress.



This hand strengthening exercise program is perfect for occupational therapists who suggest hand strengthening activities to kids who need improved hand strength.


The Hand Strengthening Exercise Program Bundle Includes
-The Hand Strengthening Handbook (regularly $15.99) 
-The brand new Hand Strengthening Exercise Program (regularly $12.99) 
-More than 30 scannable QR codes linking to short videos that show fun, creative activities to build hand strength 
-23 pages of playful hand strengthening ideas using simple materials 
-Printable cards with scannable QR codes 
-20-Page Hand Strengthening and Fine Motor Printable Resource Bundle including; 
-Kids and Clothing Fasteners 
-Teaching Kids How to Use Scissors 
-Printable Shape Cutting Templates 
-Hand Strengthening Supply List 
-Hand Strengthening Toys for Kids 
-Printable Hand Strength Activity Cards

This hand strengthening program was developed by my OT and PT pals over at The Inspired Treehouse. The bundle is on sale only through the 21st and is a deal priced at $19.99. So if you are looking for programs to strengthen the hands, this one would fit your needs.


How will you use the hand strengthening activities and ideas listed above? Maybe in a home exercise program or in a therapy program that runs throughout the school year? Maybe you will use the ideas at home or in a clinic. The ideas are endless!

Occupational therapists can use these hand strengthening activities to improve hand strength in kids or adults for improved fine motor skills.

This hand strengthening exercise program is perfect for occupational therapists working with kids who need to improve fine motor skills.

When it comes to legible handwriting, spatial awareness between letters and words makes a huge difference! Whether you are a teacher in the classroom, a parent who is struggling to find the trick to get your child to write legibly, or a therapist working on the underlying skills needed for functional written work, you've probably noticed that when letters are smashed up against one another, it's really hard to read what's been written! Stretching out spaces between words makes a huge difference in legibility. And there's more; Using consistent spacing between letters can help with legibility too.

That's why we're sharing this easy DIY handwriting spacing tool craft. It's a do it yourself version that kids will take pride in making and using. Many of us have used and love spacing tools made from craft sticks.

With the end of the school year upon us, many kids are excited for the days of summer ahead! But did you ever stop and think about how the basic play of summer is a goldmine of motor and sensory activities that can boost those underlying skills kids NEED through play? Use the summer resources for parents, teachers, and therapists to develop underlying skills in very fun ways! These are AWESOME summer occupational therapy activities!


One of the most popular posts here on The OT Toolbox is our 31 Days of Occupational Therapy Activities. It was a couple of years back that we shared 31 different occupational therapy activities using free or inexpensive materials. Since then, so many of you have checked out that list of activities. I wanted to expand on that series and add to your therapy toolbox using items you probably already have in your therapy bag. For that reason, we'll be sharing lots more lists of therapy ideas using common items.

Today, we'll be talking about occupational therapy activities using tongs.


Below, you will find information on development of bilateral coordination needed for feeding skills in kids who are challenged with using both hands together in a coordinated manner. Development of bilateral coordination skills is necessary for improved self-feeding in toddlers and improves through the childhood years.

When children learn to feed themselves and become more independent with self-feeding tool use with finger foods, utensils, or cups, development of bilateral coordination is one aspect that is necessary. When we think about self-feeding, problems can arise based on a variety of areas. Upper extremity coordination is one of those aspects that are evaluated and addressed when self-feeding difficulties are present. When thinking about development of self-feeding, consider the following issues related to bilateral coordination difficulty and try using some of the bilateral coordination activities based on development of bilateral coordination to improve feeding skills.

This blog post by contributor author Regina Parsons-Allen describes occupational therapy activity kits that can be used to address a variety of occupational therapy goals using themed OT kits, saving time and planning for therapy. 

Pediatric and school-based occupational therapy practitioners are busy people. Often times, they see many children and can work with preschoolers to young adults in a single day. They are challenged with keeping children actively participating in therapy while building skills to achieve their OT goals. Pediatric and school-based OTP’s must analyze, plan, prepare, implement, modify, adapt, grade, problem-solve, reflect, research, document, collaborate and consult for each child they serve. To say the least, they are busy, busy, busy and the “OT” never turns off!

Having a pre-planned set of occupational therapy activities in mind can be a huge help when it comes to addressing fine motor skills, visual motor skills, sensory processing needs, or other underlying areas interfering with function in the school, home, or community.

These occupational therapy activity kits are perfect for incorporating into a bin rotation system, much like these fine motor bins.

Make these grab and go occupational therapy toolkits to use in school based OT services or by mobile therapists working on fine motor skills or occupational therapy activities with kids.

Themed Occupational Therapy Activity Tool Kits


What is a themed occupational therapy therapy activity tool kit and how do I make one? 

Themed occupational therapy tool kits are a great way to invest some time now, but save a ton of time later. They help make a therapist’s job easier when planning, preparing and documenting. 

Tool kits are a great way for therapists to have what they need in an organized kit and ready to use with many kids at any given time. They are portable, all inclusive, and separated by a theme. Grab and go kits are the goal!

Holiday or seasonal themed tool kits contain activities that allow for “celebration” of holidays or events while heaping fun and play into a single session. Let’s face it, children love the holidays and these themed tool kits keep kiddos engaged and help them build skills for development and success. Kiddos love to see one coming their way! They know fun and surprise are inside while therapists know kiddos will be motivated to “work” on their therapy goals.

Tools of the trade kits may contain the staples for pediatric or school-based OT practice. More specifically, tools that are used during most OT sessions to include scissors, pencils, grips, paper, etc. 

The kits have specific tools that are essential for intervention, assessment, progress review, or trial. These grab and go kits always contain a variety of tools, graded in nature, standard or adaptive, which are utilized by a wide range of kiddos with various levels of skill.

Other tools of the trade kits may contain therapy tools or materials that develop a targeted skill area such as fine motor, gross motor, strengthening, sensory processing, self-regulation, etc. The kits contain specific tools or materials that are needed mostly for specific intervention programming.

Types of Occupational Therapy Activity Kits

Let’s talk types of tool kits. There are many kinds of possible therapy tool kits that can be created for pediatric and school-based OT. Generally, they are separated into certain types while some may even be combined to meet the needs of the child and/or the therapist. Examples include:

Types of OT Activity Kits

Seasonal – spring, summer, fall, or winter

Holidays – Easter, Christmas, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, etc.

School Celebrated Times – Back to School, Dr. Seuss Day, Fire Safety, etc.

Skills – fine motor, gross motor, sensory, visual motor/visual perception, strengthening, prewriting, handwriting, dressing, oral motor, self-care, reading, etc.

Tools – scissors, writing/coloring implements, grips, tongs, feeding tools, fidgets, etc.

Size – small, medium, large or combination

Purpose – therapy session, screening, assessment, classroom inclusion, trial, therapy homework, etc.

Design – material, sectioned or non-sectioned, handled or non-handled, portable or non-portable, lid or no lid, stackable and/or slidable, etc.

How to Make an Occupational Therapy Activity Kit

Here are some size and design examples of types of tool kits and possible storage containers for inside:
Create an occupational therapy toolkit using a variety of containers to address underlying skills like fine motor skills, visual motor skills, or other OT goals.

Let’s talk tips on how to make one. Building tool kits for therapy can be done over time or immediately depending on the purpose, availability of items or materials, and funds for purchasing. 

Below are some helpful tips for building your own tool kits for therapy:

Gather all tools, materials or items you already have and simply start developing your tool kits based on what you already have. 

Then make a list of tools, materials or items you would like to add. Start small so that it doesn’t get overwhelming.

Know that your kits may, and probably will, start small and change over time. This is okay and sometimes better when you are first starting out in the field of OT.

Don’t be afraid to ask colleagues if they have some extra tools or items they would be willing to part with to help you stock your tool kit. OTP’s are generous people and willing to offer help. Just ask!

Look for items at the big retail chains such as Wal-Mart and Target. Look in the clearance, dollar, and seasonal sections. Check out weekly sales. Shop for items after the season or holiday is over to prep for the next year. You can get awesome deals such as 50-80% off of the regular price. Even check the craft sections for deals!

Search dollar stores for fun activities or ideas. Think outside of the box with items!! 

 Hint: try to pick items that have versatility so that you can reach a larger age range or items that can be combined to address a variety of needs.

Go to thrift stores and take a peek, you can find some great one-of-a-kind or classic items that will work great in a tool kit. 

Shop garage or yard sales and go to the toy sections or even those miscellaneous trinket boxes and look, look, look.

Get on email lists for some of the therapy companies that sell products so you can keep “in-the-know” when products go on sale or when new products are available.

Pick a kit container that best fits the objects you have, the design you like, the clients on your caseload (clear containers peak the most interest) and the portability and durability that you need. 

Buying stackable containers keeps the storage, organization, and the ‘grab and go’ approach easier. Also, consider if you like handles for single hand carry or if handles are not necessary.

Shop a variety of stores to find the type of containers you want or need. Check office, craft, and storage departments in bargain stores, big chain stores, dollar stores, online stores, and craft stores. Sometimes craft stores have great containers with many organizational possibilities.

Store items in your kit using various containers, especially if you have a large drop-in container vs. a sectioned container. 

 Consider using zipper baggies, twist top or flip top containers, button or snap containers, zipper pencil bags, squeeze containers, and other recyclable containers, etc. Build fine motor skills with the containers inside!

Consider keeping a few staples in each container such as writing or coloring tools, scissors, glue and paper. Or maybe you want to have those in a separate tool kit to ‘grab and go’ with your other kits. It’s your personal preference with this one!

Types of Themed Occupational Therapy Tool Kits

Below are examples for a few types of themed tool kits:

Seasonal and holiday kits are fun activities contained in one kit which can reach a huge range of kiddos with many types of needs. OTP’s can splash the activities with a little creativity and modification to hit it out of the park during therapy sessions.

Below is an example of an Easter holiday themed tool kit and its contents. I lovingly refer to this kit as a “dump and run” kit because I can dump in the contents and run from session to session or site to site with little organization other than the use of some baggies.

Create a holiday themed Occupational Therapy Tool Kit

Create an Easter themed occupational therapy activity kit with a holiday theme to address underlying skill areas like strength, fine motor skills, visual motor skills, and other OT goals.

Create an Easter themed occupational therapy activity kit with a holiday theme to address underlying skill areas like strength, fine motor skills, visual motor skills, and other OT goals.



Easter Holiday Occupational Therapy Tool Activity Kit:


Tools of the trade kits contain specific tools, devices, or materials which are all inclusive from standard to adaptive and may either contain purchased or DIY contents. OTP’s need these essential tools for treatment, trial, loan, or assessment to determine level of performance, therapy plans, and interventions.

Make these grab and go occupational therapy toolkits to use in school based OT services or by mobile therapists working on fine motor skills or occupational therapy activities with kids.

Grab and Go Occupational Therapy Tool Kit to address a variety of needs

Below is one example of a small, tiered container with a combination of regularly used OT tools for use during treatment sessions. It is a simple tools kit that stays organized so I can grab it and go from similar sessions with all of my therapy staples in one kit.

OT Tools Tool Kit:

A grab and go occupational therapy toolkit helps the school based OT with organization while meeting a variety of OT goals to address therapy goal areas.A grab and go occupational therapy toolkit helps the school based OT with organization while meeting a variety of OT goals to address therapy goal areas.

 

Create an Occupational Therapy Activity Kit to address targeted skill areas

Below is an example of a targeted skill area kit which contains therapy tools and other materials that develop the targeted skill of strengthening. It contains specific tools of the trade and other miscellaneous materials.

Occupational therapists will love these occupational therapy activity toolkits for addressing skills like strengthening.

Strengthening Skills Kit: 
Create an occupational therapy activity toolkit designed to address hand strengthening and strengthening goals for students or clients in pediatric occupational therapy.


Create an occupational therapy activity toolkit designed to address hand strengthening and strengthening goals for students or clients in pediatric occupational therapy.

Create an Occupational Therapy Tool Kit to address areas like handwriting or scissor skills.

Make an occupational therapy activity toolkit to address skills like handwriting or scissor skills, perfect for the school based OT.

Make an occupational therapy activity toolkit to address skills like handwriting or scissor skills, perfect for the school based OT.

Themed therapy kits will make your life as a pediatric or school-based therapist easier and more enjoyable allowing you to focus on the intervention with the child!

Create occupational therapy activity kits to address a variety of occupational therapy goal areas.



Regina Parsons-Allen is a school-based certified occupational therapy assistant. She has a pediatrics practice area of emphasis from the NBCOT. She graduated from the OTA program at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson, North Carolina with an A.A.S degree in occupational therapy assistant. She has been practicing occupational therapy in the same school district for 20 years. She loves her children, husband, OT, working with children and teaching Sunday school. She is passionate about engaging, empowering, and enabling children to reach their maximum potential in ALL of their occupations as well assuring them that God loves them!

Below, you'll find a selection of sensory diet strategies to use when presenting sensory diet activities. Read on to find various ways to present sensory diet tasks for use within a child's day. 

Sensory diet activities that are appropriate for an individual child should be presented after analyzing and identifying the child's specific needs. Just as a sensory diet uses specific sensory activities based on the child's needs, the WAY a sensory diet is presented needs to be used according to the child's strengths,  abilities, and needs. Presenting a sensory diet activity in a way that the child understands is very important for carryover. 

Understanding exactly what is a sensory diet is a good starting point for addressing sensory needs. 

Try these strategies to present sensory diet activities to kids with sensory needs. They are quite effective strategies when getting started with setting up a sensory diet. If you are wondering where to start with addressing sensory processing needs in kids or wondering HOW to set up a sensory diet, start with the links below.

If you are just getting started with setting up a sensory diet, start with How to Create a Sensory Diet

For understanding why a sensory diet is important, you'll want to read more about the goals of a sensory diet.
If you have been following along here on The OT Toolbox recently, then you may have seen some of our recent sensory diet resources. We've shared a lot of information about creating a sensory diet. There is a valid reason. Besides the growing need for sensory support for kids with sensory processing disorder or sensory challenges, there is a real need for parents and teachers to understand exactly what a sensory diet is and how it can help address sensory needs.  


The tips below are strategies for creating a sensory diet that can be effective and helpful in enabling a successful sensory lifestyle. Understanding how does a sensory diet help is many times, the first step in addressing sensory related needs!


Whether you are wondering exactly what a sensory diet entails or why a sensory diet can be effective in addressing underlying sensory needs, knowing how to create a sensory diet using the tools a child needs is essential. 


Recently here on The OT Toolbox, we’ve talked a lot about sensory processing needs and how strategies can be incorporated into the child’s environment. These tactics provide an authentic and meaningful sensory strategy for incorporating much-needed sensory input right into a child’s environment. It’s all part of creating a sensory lifestyle for a child!


Kinesthetic Learning Fine Motor Activity
Kinesthetic Learning Fine Motor Activity

The Kinesthetic Sense is needed for almost every task. Read on for more information on kinesthetic learning, exactly what is kinesthesia, how the kinesthetic sense plays a part in fine motor skills, and kinesthetic fine motor activities that can help with motor planning and learning through play.


Wh…
Hand Strengthening Activities
Hand Strengthening Activities

Below, you will find hand strengthening activities for kids, hand strength activities for adults, and therapy tools to develop hand strength. The activities to strengthen fine motor skills included in this post are perfect to improving grip strength, pinch strength, or as part of a finger exercises…
DIY Handwriting Spacing Tool Craft
DIY Handwriting Spacing Tool Craft

When it comes to legible handwriting, spatial awareness between letters and words makes a huge difference! Whether you are a teacher in the classroom, a parent who is struggling to find the trick to get your child to write legibly, or a therapist working on the underlying skills needed for function…
Summer Occupational Therapy Activities
Summer Occupational Therapy Activities

With the end of the school year upon us, many kids are excited for the days of summer ahead! But did you ever stop and think about how the basic play of summer is a goldmine of motor and sensory activities that can boost those underlying skills kids NEED through play? Use the summer resources for p…
Occupational Therapy Activities Using Tongs
Occupational Therapy Activities Using Tongs

One of the most popular posts here on The OT Toolbox is our 31 Days of Occupational Therapy Activities. It was a couple of years back that we shared 31 different occupational therapy activities using free or inexpensive materials. Since then, so many of you have checked out that list of activities.…
Development of Bilateral Coordination for Feeding Skills
Development of Bilateral Coordination for Feeding Skills

Below, you will find information on development of bilateral coordination needed for feeding skills in kids who are challenged with using both hands together in a coordinated manner. Development of bilateral coordination skills is necessary for improved self-feeding in toddlers and improves through…
Occupational Therapy Activity Kits
Occupational Therapy Activity Kits

This blog post by contributor author Regina Parsons-Allen describes occupational therapy activity kits that can be used to address a variety of occupational therapy goals using themed OT kits, saving time and planning for therapy. 
Pediatric and school-based occupational therapy practitioners are b…
How to Schedule Sensory Diet Activities
How to Schedule Sensory Diet Activities

Below, you'll find a selection of sensory diet strategies to use when presenting sensory diet activities. Read on to find various ways to present sensory diet tasks for use within a child's day. 
Sensory diet activities that are appropriate for an individual child should be presented after a…
How to Create a Sensory Diet
How to Create a Sensory Diet

If you have been following along here on The OT Toolbox recently, then you may have seen some of our recent sensory diet resources. We've shared a lot of information about creating a sensory diet. There is a valid reason. Besides the growing need for sensory support for kids with sensory proces…
Attention and Sensory Needs are Connected
Attention and Sensory Needs are Connected

Recently here on The OT Toolbox, we’ve talked a lot about sensory processing needs and how strategies can be incorporated into the child’s environment. These tactics provide an authentic and meaningful sensory strategy for incorporating much-needed sensory input right into a child’s environment. It…