The OT Toolbox
We've been sharing a bunch of brain break ideas here on The OT Toolbox recently. You may have seen our recent Best Brain Breaks on YouTube post or some printable brain break activities like the themed activities including these apple themed brain breaks, and bear brain breaks. Each of these links includes a free printable sheet so you can download and use these brain break ideas over and over again. Scroll on down and you'll find a few more printable sheet ideas to incorporate movement into learning and play with special themes.

Movement breaks have been shown to improve academic achievements, attention, and more.

Squirrel brain breaks for a brain break themed activity that promotes movement for kids in the classroom or home this Fall while improving focus and attention through movement.

Today, you'll find squirrel brain break ideas to use during the Autumn months when the leaves are falling and squirrels are running around finding and hiding acorns and other nuts to stock up for the winter.

Many times, the Fall months mean squirrel and leaf books and learning in the classroom or at home. These squirrel brain breaks can be the perfect accompaniment for a Fall theme.

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We read the children's book, Scaredy Squirrel by  and were inspired to come up with squirrel themed brain breaks to go along with the book.

Print the Squirrel Brain Breaks and use them today. Don't forget to read the book, too!

Squirrel Brain Breaks - Ideas for the Classroom

One of the Squirrel Brain Breaks on the printable sheet includes the action song,
I'm an Acorn Small and Round". It's one of our favorite songs to sing during the autumn months. This action song is a fun one!

Lyrics to I'm an Acorn Small and Round

I'm an acorn, small and round (hold hands into a small ball)
Lying on the cold, cold ground (Lay down on the floor)
Everybody steps on me (Stomp foot)
That is why I'm cracked you see (Hold hands above eyes like binoculars)
I'm a nut! (Dance)
(Click, click with tongue)
I'm a nut! (Dance)
(Click, click with tongue)
I'm a nut I'm a nut I'm a nut (Dance)
(Click, click with tongue)

You can hear the song here.

Squirrel and Acorn Themed Activities

The book Scaredy Squirrel is this week's book in the Virtual Book Club for Kids series. Each week, a team of bloggers tackles activities based on a popular children's book. You can find all of the squirrel and acorn themed activities below:

Acorn Alphabet Sensory Jar Game   The Educators' Spin On It

Acorn Sharing Game  Witty Hoots

Counting Acorns Preschool Printables  The Moments at Home

Squirrel and Acorn Ten Frame Printables and Activities  JDaniel4's Mom

Acorn Fine Motor and Counting  Views From a Step Stool

DIY Song Cube with Fall Song Printable  My Storytime Corner

Fall Sensory Bin Acorns & Squirrels Color Picture Match  Sea of Knowledge

Acorn Discovery Table  Inspiration Laboratories

Acorn Color Sort  Teach Beside Me

Acorn Art  Messy Little Monster

Acorn Ramp Play for Toddlers  Toddler Approved

Help the squirrel find his acorn  Mama Smiles

Squirrel Action Rhyme  Preschool Powol Packets

Find the Acorns Printable Sight Word Game  Artsy Momma

Acorn Ordering and Sorting  Rainy Day Mum

Making Shapes With Acorns   To Be A Kid Again

Squirrel brain breaks for a brain break themed activity that promotes movement for kids in the classroom or home this Fall while improving focus and attention through movement.

Teachers are sometimes looking for movement and activity videos that they can use in the classroom. They may need movement ideas for throughout the day when kids need a brain break or they may want to start the day with a movement activity. Other times, kids need a movement "wake up" midway through the day when they are feeling and acting sluggish or even a little high energy. Maybe kids need to get their bodies moving before a test. Or, maybe teachers are looking for a way to get the kids moving during indoor recess time. Maybe you are a parent who is looking for ways to get the kids moving on a rainy day.

Below, you'll find some great brain break videos on YouTube. These are videos that can be pulled up on a smartboard in the classroom. 

The best brain break videos on YouTube can be used for classroom brain break needs, indoor movement and gross motor skills, circle time, indoor recess, or rainy days.

Brain Break Videos on YouTube

But first, if you are looking for some printable brain break ideas, here are some of our favorites:
Apple Theme Brain Breaks
Farm Theme Brain Breaks
Bear Brain Breaks
Squirrel Theme Brain Breaks

On to the brain break videos.  Try these videos to get the whole classroom up and moving!

Move and Freeze Song 

Shake Your Sillies Out

Count to 100 with Exercise

I Am a Gummy Bear

I'm Gonna Catch You

Frozen Themed Yoga

The Sid Shuffle - Ice Age: Continental Drift

Trolls: Can't Stop The Feeling | GoNoodle

I Get Loose - Koo Koo Kanga Roo | GoNoodle

Move To Learn Fitness Break!

Move to Learn Pre K Counting

Going On a Bear Hunt with Dr. Jean

Dr. Jean's Banana Dance - (aka The Guacamole Song) - Dr. Jean's Banana Dance

If You're a Kid (Dance Around!) (song for kids about following directions)

Brain Breaks | Following Directions | Physical Education | Get Up To Get Down | Jack Hartmann

Letters of the Alphabet | Capital Letters | Uppercase Letters | Alphabet Workout | Jack Hartmann

Letters of the Alphabet | Lower Case Letter Formation | Alphabet Workout | Jack Hartmann

Hand Clapping Game "Bim Bum"

Classroom Yoga (Classroom Physical Activity Breaks)

Yoga for Kids - Children's Yoga - Brain Breaks - Kids Songs by The Learning Station

The best brain break videos on YouTube can be used for classroom brain break needs, indoor movement and gross motor skills, circle time, indoor recess, or rainy days.

The preschool classroom is a bustling place of activity, play, learning, and development.  All of these areas are happening at once, driven by the focus and intention of the preschool teacher.  I've had readers ask how to incorporate more developmental areas into group activities for the preschool aged child and how to incorporate development of pre-writing skills into a small group setting.  The activities below are ones that can be used in preschool centers or in small groups of children who are working on development of fine motor, visual perceptual motor skills needed for pre-writing and other tasks needed in a classroom setting. Considering all of the pre-writing skills that are developed during the preschool years, these centers can harness the excitement and play of creative play to promote development of skills needed throughout the child's life.

Use these preschool center ideas to help kids develop pre-writing skills and other developmental skills like visual motor and fine motor skills.

Preschool Centers and Development

Centers in the classroom are a common thing.  A center is a small group of children that work together on one area for a short period of time.  While in this small group, the children can work on a single area before moving on to a different center within the classroom.  You may see centers geared toward a single learning concept or area or you may see a center that combines motor involvement with learning.

In the preschool setting, centers include tactile play, play dough, water tables, blocks, imagination play, art creation, finger paints, sensory play, name writing, manipulatives, etc.

The Occupational Therapist can contribute information related to development and specific needs of the classroom when collaborating with the preschool teacher, focusing on fostering skill development through play and use of various media and materials within the centers.

Try setting up center activities on the floor to develop skills like crossing midline, core stability and strength, proprioceptive input, motor planning, arch development of the hands, shoulder stability, and more.

Skills to address in preschool centers:

Fine motor development
Gross motor development
Pincer grasp
Bilateral coordination
Crossing midline
Pre-writing skills
Eye-hand coordination
Manual coordination
Hand strength
Body coordination
Object manipulation
Grasp development

Fine Motor Preschool Center 

Fill a sensory table with different lengths of crepe paper for cutting
Squeeze water from small pieces of sponges into a water table
Spread out various lengths of cardstock and thin cardboard (open cereal boxes cut into strips)
Stringing beads
Set up Quiet Bins
Folding paper
Manipulating tape and envelopes
Thread recycled spools
Pinch clothespins onto paper stips
Poke pipe cleaners into a large cardboard box
Color match paper clips
Manipulate and build with rubber bands and blocks
Bead feathers

Writing Preschool Center

Copying shapes
Pre-writing lines with leaves
Copying letters
Stamping letters in play dough
Tracing shapes
Writing in wet clay
Drawing on carpet squares
Painting water on a chalkboard
Pencil control sheets

Visual Perception Preschool Center

Copying block shapes
Pegboard designs
I Spy activities
Geoboard designs
Memory games
Copy shapes with colored sticks
Color match craft sticks

Use these preschool center ideas to help kids develop pre-writing skills and other developmental skills like visual motor and fine motor skills.
Many times kids who struggle with handwriting just need some accommodations in order to complete written work in a legible and efficient manner. The strategies listed below are handwriting accommodations that can be used in a variety of classroom settings or in homeschool. The compilation of instructional ideas and accommodations below are able to be used by therapist and teachers with kids who struggle with handwriting. Handwriting accommodations can be used across throughout the school day or in individual situations. You may have seen a previous post here on The OT Toolbox on Handwriting Accommodations for the Classroom. As you know, sometimes a strategy will work for a child's particular needs and other times that idea will work for a short time. Sometimes you need to keep trying. Below, you will find MORE handwriting accommodation ideas for kids. 

Looking for more info on handwriting? Start here, at our handwriting help page.

Use these handwriting accommodation ideas to help kids with handwriting difficulties to write more legibly using alternate ideas that change how a student completes written work based on their needs.

Handwriting Accommodation Ideas

1. Fill-in-the-blank worksheets can be used in place of written responses.
2. Use adapted handwriting paper such as stop go paper. Here are free adapted paper sources from around the internet.
3. Practice handwriting by using color changeable markers to address letter formation and motor planning needed for letters. 
4. Use manipulatives such as magnets to write answers to problems and written responses. 
5. Use a dry erase marker and whiteboard for written responses. 
6. Students can write using large graph paper with boxes for individual letters. 
7. Try using a sensory or writing tray for students to respond to multiple choice problems by forming letter responses in the sensory tray.
8. Use a sheet of sandpaper under written work for feedback in letter formation in line awareness. 
9. Use the computer for spelling tests and vocabulary tests. 
10. Stamp answers to spelling tests or multiple choice tests using letter stamps.
11. Provide adapted spelling test and vocabulary test using multiple choice problems where students can correct the can choose the correct answer by circling a letter. 
12. Use a highlighter for tests and worksheets where students can highlight the correct answer. 
13. Use a apps which can adapt worksheets into tablet form. Answers or responses can then be typed onto the tablet.
14. Explore several different pencil grips and pencil types to reduce the amount of pressure a student requires when writing. 
15. Add a red or green dot to margins to help students identify starting and stopping points for writing. 
16. Allow extra time for written responses.
17. use a handheld recorder to copy notes in older grades. 
18. Trial use of a gel pen.

What are some handwriting accommodations that you have seen in place to meet specific handwriting needs? Let us know in the Sweet Ideas for Handwriting Help Facebook group.

Here are some creative ways to work on handwriting needs.  Click on the link or the image to find out more:

 Writing too dark or too light.  Line awareness and spatial awareness without handwriting DIY slant board  Spatial awareness in handwriting

Handwriting accomodations for addressing handwriting needs

Handwriting and the visual motor skills needed for writing letters and numbers happens long before a child writes the alphabet.  There is a developmental progression of skills that a child must master before they are able to write A-Z. Pre-writing skills and pre-writing lines are just one of the skills that occur before a child writes or copies letters. The prewriting activity below is just one way to help children work on and develop the skills they need to accurately write letters on their own.

Pre-writing activity for helping kids develop the skills needed for pre-writing lines and handwriting using fall leaves

Pre-Writing Lines Activity 

Working on the skills needed to write letters and numbers involve the development of pencil control, visual motor skills, and visual perception.  You can read more about the developmental progression of pre-writing lines as well as a free printable that lists out pre-writing lines as they typically develop here on The OT Toolbox. 

This post on our Facebook page shows development of pre-writing lines and shapes by age

The pre-writing lines activity described below is just one way to help kids develop these skills, while working on abilities such as crossing midline and fine motor skills needed for handwriting.

Pre-Writing Activity Leaf Theme

You'll need just a few items for this pre-writing activity:

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Leaves (Try to find smaller sized leaves to boost fine motor skills. We used leaves that had already changed colors on our burning bush.)
Permanent marker

Pre-writing activity for helping kids develop the skills needed for pre-writing lines and handwriting using fall leaves

To do this activity, simply draw one pre-writing line or shape on each piece of paper.

Use a glue stick to trace lines and work on pre-writing skills with this pre-writing lines activity for kids.

Pre-writing activity for helping kids develop the skills needed for pre-writing lines and handwriting using fall leaves

Then, ask your child or student to trace over the line with a glue stick.  A purple colored glue stick helps kids to see where they have traced the line. Be careful to provided assistance with this part of the activity if needed. The glue stick uses very little resistance when swiped on the paper. Kids can easily draw the glue line off of the stimulus line.

Then, kids can place leaves right on the glue line and sharpie line.  Ask them to gently press the leaf down, using finger isolation and separation of the two sides of the hand.

Pre-writing activity for helping kids develop the skills needed for pre-writing lines and handwriting using fall leaves

Leaf Theme Fine Motor Activity

This is a great activity to incorporate fine motor skills. Show your child or student how to pick leaves from a branch.  This allows children to strengthen the intrinsic muscles of their hand while working on bilateral coordination, graded grasp, pincer grasp, and an open thumb web space.

Don't have small leaves in your area? No problem! Use paper cut outs by punching leaf shaped paper using this leaf hole punch. Allow the kids to punch the holes to boost hand strength.

This leaf themed activity goes along perfectly with the popular children's book, Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert. Read the book and work on pre-writing lines with this leaf themed pre-writing activity!

Red Leaf Yellow Leaf is this week's book in the Virtual Book Club for Kids series.  Check out the ideas below to find leaf themed movement, play, development, and learning ideas:

Use these fall leaves activities to help kids learn and develop skills like fine motor skills, gross motor skills, scissor skills, handwriting, and more using leaves.

Spell Your Name With Leaves   Clare's Little Tots
Leaf Measurement and Sorting Activity  Inspiration Laboratories
Fall Sensory Bin  The Moments at Home
Foil Leaf Preschool Art  Preschool Powol Packets
Handprint Art Messy Little Monster
Nature Color Hunt  My Bored Toddler
Salt Painting - Artsy Momma
Leaf Printing   CrArty Kids
Fall Color Leaf Viewer  JDaniel4's Mom
Lines and Watercolor Fall Leaves  Views From a Step Stool
Fall Leaf Color Stomp  Toddler Approved
Fall Leaf Shape Match  Teach Beside Me

Pre-writing activity for helping kids develop the skills needed for pre-writing lines and handwriting using fall leaves

Here are more LEAF ACTIVITIES that you will love:

Handwriting can be a stressful situation for many students. Encouraging written communication in a stress-free environment can help kids write more fluently and legibly.

For the student who is who struggles with handwriting, practicing written work can be very overwhelming. He or she may scribble down whatever is on their mind as quickly as they can just to get the task done. Encouraging an environment where students feel respected and less handwriting-related stress can help with handwriting legibility. Use the ideas below to encourage a climate of acceptance and respect where students can write in their own manner.

Stress-free handwriting practice ideas for kids who hate handwriting or have practiced handwriting but continue with frustration.

Stress free handwriting practice ideas

Encourage an environment of acceptance students can then right as they like without worrying about how letters are formed how they're spaced or how hard they're pressing with their pencil.

Encourage the freedom to write as they like. Let the students know it's OK to write as they normally do and to be spontaneous and written work. This simple freedom can enable students to write more fluently and efficiently.

Take away the stress by limiting criticism, comparison, judgment, and competition regarding handwriting legibility. In this way students can know that what they are writing down on paper is more important than the way it looks.

Make writing fun! Take away the seriousness of handwriting practice by balancing freedom to experiment with ideas putting ideas on paper and producing clear written work. Encourage a fun writing assignment but make sure the student knows that it does take work to make written material legible.

Share excitement and encouragement about handwriting. Kids that see that handwriting practice can't be fun will be more eager to practice. Use big motions, music, songs, rhymes, and any creative ideas like fun ways to work on letter formation to help kids spark enjoyment of handwriting practice.

Remove the obstacles of handwriting. Take away comparison, Over-analysis, judgment, and over-reactions to mistakes to help kids feel more at ease with handwriting.

Allow time. Give kids lots of time to put their ideas on paper. A graphic organizer can be one way to help kids get ideas down on paper in a visual way. They can then use the graphic organizer as a sloppy copy to help hand writing occur in a timely but efficient manner where they are given enough time to put their words on paper. Many times kids can work practice letter formation in legibility of him ready when they don't have to think about what they are writing.

Let kids write without asking them to stop and correct mistakes. Students can write down their ideas and get answers on the paper without worrying about legibility mistakes or letter formation mistakes. Use a short period of time at the end of the assignment to quickly go over and check any legibility errors.

Collaborative writing. When kids right with others they can see the momentum that goes into hand writing. For the reluctant and writer sharing good ideas in writing in a group setting can help them to see that others are writing just as they are. Kids can also see good writing skills happening. Create a small group writing area where students can sit at a desk or table of 3 to 4 other students and each writes about one particular item that is sitting in the middle of the table such as a bowl of pipe cleaners. Use that physical picture as a writing prompt for students.

Balance the seriousness of handwriting with the freedom to experiment in written work. Kids should know that writing does take hard work but it can be fun to put your words on paper so that others can read them. Set up a writing pen-pal relationship where students correspond with students in another school. Here are a few sites to find a pen pal for students.

What are your favorite ways to encourage stress-free handwriting?

Stress-free handwriting practice ideas for kids who hate handwriting or have practiced handwriting but continue with frustration.

Try these handwriting ideas to work on the skills needed for legible written work:

 color mixing letter formation activity bold lines handwriting trick Small pencil trick for helping with a better pencil grasp  Thumb IP joint flexion pencil grasp trick

Working on Handwriting?