The OT Toolbox
I have a super easy handwriting tool to try.  This is a sensory-motor activity that adds a tactile sensory experience to handwriting practice in a colorful and fun way.  You can read more about using writing trays in handwriting to encourage letter formation or check out the writing tray ideas below.

Use colored rice in this easy rice writing tray that will help kids learn to write letters and how to write numbers with a sensory writing activity.

Easy Rice Writing Tray

This rice writing tray is very easy to throw together.  You'll need a couple of items (Affiliate links are included in this post):
Rice  (colored with liquid food coloring)
A low tray like one of these wooden puzzle boxes
Colorful cardstock in a contrasting color (We used yellow cardstock)
Erasers (for the writing tool)

Dye the rice.  Here is a tutorial to dye rice.  Warning-this is an old blog post from way back when this site just started out!

Next, place the cardstock in a low tray.  The wooden tray from puzzles is perfect.

Pour the rice over the cardstock, and you are ready to write!

Use erasers or small toys in an easy rice writing tray to help kids learn how to write numbers.

Try adding small items like erasers to the tray.  Kids can count them and then work on number formation using large motor planning to address order of lines.  Add verbal cues for the child who is first learning how to make numbers or letters.

Kids can use an easy rice writing tray to work on bilateral coordination as well as letter and number formation.

After writing the letters or numbers in the writing tray, give it a gently swish with both hands to clear the form.  This is a great way to get both hands working together in a way that encourages bilateral coordination at the midline.  Read more about bilateral coordination activities on the site. 

To make a writing tool, use an unsharpened pencil, sticking an eraser on the lead end.  These erasers work very well to turn a pencil into a writing tray tool. 

Easy rice writing tray for helping kids learn to write letters and numbers with a tactile sensory and movement based motor plan.

Therapists know the importance of incorporating therapeutic and developmental activities into the everyday activities that a child and family experiences.  From a trip to the playground to a day at the beach, there are so many sensory-rich experiences that summer life has to offer!

What if you could add a few activities to the summer bucket list that would promote developmental skills while encouraging the integration of sensory tasks that help with behavior, attention, self-regulation, development, and more?

The activities outlined in this Sensory Summer Activity Guide do just that!

 Sensory Summer Activity Guide

This guide book is perfect for parents who are looking for summer activities based on sensory input.  

It's the perfect summer program for therapists to send home for activity ideas that will last all summer long. 

The Sensory Summer Activity Guide includes:

  • Sensory-based activities designed to improve attention, focus, behaviors, and self-regulation through vestibular, proprioceptive, and tactile sensory experiences.
  • Summer fun that the whole family can join in on.  These summer activities will be ones that make memories!
  • Summer proprioception activities
  • Summer vestibular activities
  • Summer tactile activities
  • Summer oral sensory activities
  • In all, 55 sensory-rich summer activities for children and families

Thank you for downloading the Free Brain Break printable page.  This is a spot on the site where I will have many free brain break printable sheets available, very soon.  

For now, you can access this Bear Themed Brain Break printable page

This Farm Themed Brain Break printable page is perfect for inspiring movement based on farm activities and animals.

You might also like this Dinosaur Themed Brain Break game

If you did not access this page by signing up with your email, you will want to do so HERE so that you gain access to emails related to brain break activities and receive free, subscriber only printable pages.

It can be hard to deal with the stress and anxiety caused by emotions.  For the child who is developing in this area, coping with emotions can be hard!  Kids with developmental delays in cognitive, emotional, physical, or sensory delays can especially suffer with impaired coping abilities to stress or anxiety.  Sometimes, those big feelings get to be TOO MUCH and anger, frustrations result in major meltdowns.

The key to dealing with these situations is a toolkit of coping strategies.

This easy coping strategy can help kids deal with big emotions or stress.

What is a Coping Strategy?

Coping strategies are a mechanism for dealing with big emotions.  These mechanisms for that can be used by kids and adults.  Coping strategies are well-known, and used to manage stress or high-level emotions.  When a person is feeling stressed out, a walk outside can help.  Other coping strategies might include deep breaths, meditation, prayer, relaxation, exercise, or sensory-based coping strategies.   

A coping strategy can be healthy and positive, or it can be negative and hurtful to an individual's health (think: addiction, smoking, alcohol, or other ineffective strategies that may feel as though they help defeat stress or anxiety in the short term).

Super Easy Coping Strategy

This coping strategy is similar to taking 5 deep breaths or stopping and breathing before answering when in a stressful or high-emotion situation.  An easy coping strategy is great for kids who have anxiety or big emotions when in school or environments like the school bus or in the community.

Sometimes, sensory issues cause the big emotions and require a child to stop and refresh before they can move on from the meltdowns.

This coping strategy requires no materials or tools other than your hands.

Ocean Sounds Coping Strategy

To use this easy coping strategy, you'll only need your hands!  

All you need to do is cup the palm of the hands and place them on your ears.  What do you hear? Does it sound like ocean waves are lapping gently in the distance?

Listen to the sounds of the waves and imagine the beach or a shore line where the waves roll in and out.  Listen for a count of 10 seconds or more.  If more time is needed to step back from a stressful situation, repeat the steps.

Try moving the position of your hands to make the "wave" sound louder or quieter.  

What is happening with this coping strategy?

It's a lot like holding a seashell to your ear.  It's not really ocean waves you are hearing in a seashell or when you cup your hands over your ears.  Rather, the sounds around you are resonating in the chamber you create with your cupped palms.

Did you try this coping strategy?  How did it work with you?  

You can read more about sensory-based coping strategies

Kids can use this easy coping strategy with beach sounds in the classroom, home, or community to deal with emotions or stress.

Knowing which shoe to put on which foot.  Understanding that a "b" has a bump on the right side.  Putting homework on the left side of the take home folder before putting books into a locker beside the gym bag.  Visual spatial relations are everywhere!

Visual Spatial Relations is an important visual perceptual skill that is important for many functional tasks.  Visual spatial relations allows the organization of the body in relation to objects or spatial awareness.  This is an important part of spatial awareness in handwriting and many other movement-based activities.  An important part of visual spatial relations includes laterality and directionality.  These terms refer to left-right body awareness and the ability to perceive left/right relationship of objects. 

What are visual spatial relations and how are visual relationships and visual concepts needed for functional tasks?

The following tasks require visual spatial relations:

Letter formation and number formation
Writing letters without reversal
Reading letters without reversal
Completing puzzles
Walking in a crowded hallway without running into others
Standing in line without bumping into others
Left/right awareness
Understanding spatial reasoning concepts such as beside/under/next to/etc
Reading without losing one's place
Copying written work with appropriate spatial awareness

These activities all require the ability to perceive an object in space.  The way they interpret position in space to their body and to other objects in the environment impacts motor skills.  

Spacing pieces of a puzzle amongst the others and writing in relation to the lines is one way to work on this skill.

This map activity is great for building and developing spatial concepts and higher level thinking right in the backyard, using a map and lights to develop spatial relations. Teaching Spatial Concepts to Preschoolers and Toddlers through play. Over, under, around, and through and their need in functional tasks like shoe tying and handwriting. Visual Perception and spatial awareness in kids.  What is Spatial awareness and why do kids have trouble with spacing between letters and words, reversing letters, and all things vision.  Great tips here from an Occupational Therapist, including tips and tools to help kids with spacing in handwriting. What is spatial awareness?  Tips and tools for handwriting, reading, scissors, and all functional skills in kids and adults, from an Occupational Therapist.

Try these other activities that challenge visual spatial relations:

Concentric Circle Painting
Line Matching with pipe cleaners
Color matching Elmer Activity
Word building with nature
Line awareness heart maze
Finger dexterity exercise
Winter scissor activity-cut icicles
Pencil Control candy cane
Sight word match with string
Giant motor planning maze
Line awareness bead picture
Create your own race track

Letters on the garage door

What are visual spatial relations and how are visual relationships and visual concepts needed for functional tasks?

Many times, parents of very young children don't think about handwriting skills. It's not typical to think about holding a pencil, writing words and sentences, and copying letters when children are just mastering building with blocks, learning to pull on socks, and creating finger paint masterpieces.  But the truth is, when young preschoolers are playing, they are building the pre-cursors to handwriting.  The skills needed for managing a pencil, copying letter forms, and managing pencil control when copying lists and paragraphs into a space on a page are initiated in the early childhood years.  Below, you'll find more about preschool pre-writing skills and the components of pre-writing skills that are developed through play.

Pre-writing skill development begins with preschool aged children through play.

Preschool Pre-Writing Skills

Preschool is prime time to develop the underlying skills needed for handwriting. So often, the older, school-aged kids that are struggling with handwriting are missing the underlying areas that make up the skills of handwriting.

First, it's important to recognize that handwriting is made up of so many areas.  
From holding the pencil to moving and controlling the pencil when writing letter forms, handwriting requires a variety of motor movements that all must work together.

Additionally, there are the eyes.  What is seen and recognized needs to be coordinated with the hand.  Visual processing has a huge component in written work!

When kids have trouble with handwriting, it can be frustrating for the teacher or parent who practices words or letters over and over again only to continue with the same frustrations or inaccuracies.  It might be that there are other skill areas that need addressing:

Sensory considerations
Attention demands
Posture and positioning
Strength and endurance

If any of these areas might be an issue for your child with handwriting troubles, consider grabbing The Handwriting Book as a resource that covers all of the underlying skill areas related to handwriting.

So how are all of these areas addressed as a pre-writing skill in preschool? 

The answer is through play!

What makes up Pre-Writing Skills?

There are many pre-writing skills that transfer to accuracy in written work. Consider the following skill areas that relate to handwriting: 

Gross motor development
Initial core control and core body strength
Bilateral arm and hand use
Imitation of movements
Ability to learn novel motor movements
                    Development and control of the skilled side of the hand
                    Development and control of the strength side of the hand stable                         side of the hand
Thumb Isolation and use as a stability point
Thumb dexterity and strength
Development of a dominant hand and an assisting hand
Manipulation of objects and dexterity of the hand with objects
Tactile sensory awareness
Discrimination of sensation
Visual perception
Oculomotor control
Visual attention
Visual-figure ground
Form perception
Eye-hand coordination
Visual attention
Direction following
Directional concepts
Awareness of left-right concepts in books and written work

Can you believe that all of these areas are being addressed through play in the early childhood development stages?  And that all of these areas are building and developing with a resulting use in handwriting?  Amazing, right?

Pre-writing skills start to develop in preschool aged kids.

Stop by later this week to find out easy ways to encourage development of the above skill areas in group settings in the preschool environment.  It can be difficult to address the needs of a preschool class when there are 16 four year olds that need reining in.  I'll have easy ways to encourage development of fine motor skills, visual motor skills, and attention skills in fun and creative ways...coming soon!

 The Handwriting Book

Want to know more about The Handwriting Book?  Click on the image above to find out how to address every underlying area related to handwriting skills.

Click here to BUY NOW.

Working on Handwriting?