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Teach Foresight to those with Executive Function Disorder

Foresight. It's the ability to predict future actions and the act of planning ahead as a result of forward thinking. Difficulty with foresight is a hallmark of those with executive function disorder, but it's also an executive functioning skill that kids develop over time. Teaching foresight to kids can be easy with a few games and activities, and it can make a difference in strengthening this and other executive function skills.

Helping kids to develop foresight can be a means for teac…

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We've shared much information on visual processing over the last few months. You've seen tips for addressing convergence insufficiency, visual tracking concerns, and other visual skill areas. Today we are talking about saccades and activities to improve saccades. These are the eye movements that allow the tracking skills necessary for reading comprehension, handwriting, and so many other areas. The saccade activities listed below are eye exercises that can help enhance visual processing skills. These visual tracking exercises can help with smooth pursuit of vision, in order to improve learning problems and other visual therapy concerns.

Use these visual saccades activities to help kids with visual tracking skills needed for reading and writing, and other learning skills.

Visual Saccades Activities

You’ve identified impaired saccadic movements, the child has seen a developmental optometrist and maybe has corrective lenses, but is still struggling. Now what? Check out the activities below to incorporate into therapy and home programs that address poor saccadic movements directly.

Related Read: Check out this article to learn more about how saccades impact learning skills.

Activities to Improve Saccades

Here are Saccade Exercises presented in fun ways:

Wall Ball Visual Saccade Activity

This activity addresses saccadic movements on a large scale and challenges the child to stretch their eye muscles into the peripherals and back again. The objective is to hit the first target, catch the ball and hit the second target while moving only your eyes. This pattern is completed for as many times in row the kiddo can without dropping the ball or missing the target.

The larger the distance between the targets, the harder the challenge is. Wall Ball also doubles as a dissociation activity of the eyes from head movements.

All you need for Wall Ball is a ball, two targets and a wall or solid structure to bounce the ball off of. The ball can be any size as long as it bounces back directly to the child. Tennis balls and kick balls work the best. The smaller the ball, the more challenging the task is. Grade the activity to meet the kiddo’s needs and abilities as he/she progresses.

How to Play Wall Ball

Begin with the target approximately four feet apart at eye level on the wall. Start with a horizontal line progressing to vertical, and then diagonal.

The kiddo should be standing approximately 3 feet from the wall so that they can see both targets without having to turn their head. This part is important as we want to work only the eye muscles. If the child cannot see both targets without moving their head, adjust the distance of the targets first and then the position of the child as needed.

Increase the challenge by adding paired colored targets and calling out what pair to hit one at a time or in a sequence. As the kiddo’s saccadic patterns become better and smoother, the time needed to complete the task will be shorter.

This activity to improve visual saccades uses a word search to help kids with visual tracking skills.

Read Word Searches to work on Saccades 

Reading requires very precise and accurate eye movements. When these patterns and muscle movements are not natural, they have to be taught and can be a significant challenge for children with impaired saccadic movements.

The objective of Word Search Reading is to have the kiddo read the letters or symbols of the word search out loud without deviating from the line, or skipping a line once back at the beginning of the pattern.

Word Search Reading Directions

Begin with a simple word search to establish the child’s abilities. A 4x4 line word search is usually a good place to start. As the child’s skills increase or this is too easy, increase the size of the word search. The larger the word search, the harder the child has to work to move their eyes in a smooth movement across the page and back to the next line.

Word search reading can be completed as a table top task, or a vertical surface. It is good to practice both skills as saccadic movements are needed in a variety of settings, not just for reading and writing.

Word Search Reading patterns can be left to right/top to bottom, or top to bottom/ left to right. There should be an emphasis on left to right patterns initially as this is the way that we read and write. As the child’s skills increase, patterns can be reversed right to left/top to bottom and top to bottom/right to left. The more patterns that the child’s eyes are exposed to, the easier fluid movements between any given set of points will become.

While I have listed very set patterns for this activity, it is important to remember that saccades is the fluid, coordinated movement of both eyes between ANY given set of points in ANY plane or position.

Modifications for Word Search Reading to Address Visual Tracking Needs

Word Search Reading activities can be very difficult and result in the kiddo being frustrated as it is making their eyes work in ways that they are not used to. However, there are a few modifications outside of the size of the word search that you can utilize to develop the just right challenge for each kiddo.

The first modification is blocking out lines they are not supposed to be looking at. A ruler or a sheet of paper is a great place to start with this modification. If this is still not enough support and they are skipping letters in the line or reversing letters, try having them track with their finger or a special “tracking tool” (pencil with topper, fun pen, etc.).

Here is a DIY Visual Tracking Tool that can be used as an exercise, too.

Sometimes, even utilizing a finger or tracking tool is not enough and there is still too much visual input and their eyes are trying to jump ahead. In this case, an index card with a slot cut to fit one to five letters at a time can help keep their eyes moving in a nice line.

While word searches are great, if you have a child that is struggling with letter recognition, this task can be completed with numbers or symbols. The main premise is that whatever items you use, are in a grid pattern.

Adjust the challenge and supports as the kiddo gets better at reading the letters in the given pattern to create the just right challenge.

Saccade Activity with Timed Copying Tasks

One of the best activities to work on saccades is to complete table top activities. This simulates what kids do in school the best, and allows you to find where the breakdown is, and provide supports as needed.

Start with a small activity like a spelling list or site words on table next to the child and have them copy the words onto a piece of paper. Once they are able to do this in a reasonable amount of time increase the challenge to 3-4 words in sequence or short sentences, and then eventually a whole paragraph or short story. This set of activities is referred to as near point copying and is the foundation block for other copying tasks.

When they have mastered near point copying, it is time to move onto far point copying. This is when the items that are being copied are more than 18 inches from the child. Examples include copying from a SmartBoard or whiteboard, or off posters around the classroom. Eventually, this translates into taking notes in higher level education.

The same premise of starting small and building into larger tasks applies to far point copying as well. Utilize a timer to challenge the child to beat their best time and also to track progress. As they become stronger at looking between the two points without losing their spot, the faster the activity will go.

Visual Saccade Exercise: Speed Popsicle Sticks

Like Word Search Reading, this activity challenges the precise movements needed for efficient saccadic movements. Speed Popsicle Sticks is more exercise based then the other activities presented in this post and should be monitored for fatigue and strain like other exercise based activities. This activity is challenging and should be done with children who are able to follow directions and verbalize feelings of discomfort in their eye muscles.

The premise of this activity is to have the child look as quickly as they can between two points without losing focus or deviating from the path in a given amount of time. Popsicle sticks with stickers at the end of them work great at points to focus on.

Begin with the child sitting in front of you with their feet grounded. Hold the popsicle sticks approximately 12-15 inches apart, and 15-18 inches away from the child’s face. Then instruct them to look at first one sticker, bring it into focus, and look at the next sticker bringing it into focus before moving back to the first sticker.

Start with a short amount of time, such as 10 seconds to begin, and 2-3 repetitions with a break in between each repetition. Increase the amount of time to complete the activity as the kiddo’s eyes get stronger and they are not complaining of fatigue. Set a cap on time around 45 seconds for this exercise, and keep repetitions low.

Be sure that you listen to the child if they are complaining or are requesting a break. You do not want to cause eye fatigue or strain accidently.

Working on visual tracking skills? These visual saccades activities will help.

Games to Encourage Saccades

There are some great ready-made games on the market these days that challenge saccadic movements. Below is a list of a few of my favorites to utilize in therapy or for gift ideas for parents and home programs.

Amazon affiliate links are included in this list:

·         Crossword puzzles with word banks
·         Traffic Jam or Rush Hour Board Game
·         Geoboards—Pegs or rubber bands with pattern cards
·         Tangrams
·         Snap blocks with pattern cards
·         Lite Brite (Place the pattern cards on the side)
·         Battle Ship

Final Note on Activities to Improve Saccades

Practice, practice, practice! That is one of the biggest parts in helping a child develop motor patterns, and saccades are no different. With the just right challenge in place and encouragement, the kiddo’s saccadic patterns should become stronger and more fluid leading to increased success with visual tasks.

Looking for more information on vision deficits? Check out my OT Vision Screening Packet for useful handouts, checklists and a screener tool.

This visual screening tool was created by an occupational therapist and provides information on visual terms, frequently asked questions regarding visual problems, a variety of visual screening techniques, and other tools that therapists will find valuable in visual screenings. 

This is a digital file. Upon purchase, you will be able to download the 10 page file and print off to use over and over again in vision screenings and in educating therapists, teachers, parents, and other child advocates or caregivers.

More visual Processing Articles you will love: 

How do vision problems affect learning in kids and underlying visual processing problems that impact learning in kids. Saccades and learning, read more to find out what are saccades, how to screen for visual saccades, and what saccadic impairments look like. Visual processing, visual efficiency, and learning including how vision is related to reading and writing.

Wondering about convergence insufficiency? This article explains what is convergence insufficiency, the definition of convergence, how convergence is used in vision tasks like handwriting, reading, catching a ball, and learning as well as red flags for convergence and visual processing skills and screening tools for convergence insufficiency.  Use a visual screening tool like this occupational therapy screening tool to address visual processing skills like visual convergence and to guide visual convergence activities in therapy. These visual tracking games are a helpful tool in addressig visual tracking goals that kids may have interfering with handwriting, reading, and learning.


This article was written by The OT Toolbox Contributor, Kaylee:

A little about Kaylee: 
Hi Everyone! I am originally from Upstate N.Y., but now live in Texas, and am the Lead OTR in a pediatric clinic. I have a bachelors in Health Science from Syracuse University at Utica College, and a Masters in Occupational Therapy from Utica College. I have been working with children with special needs for 8 years, and practicing occupational therapy for 4 years. I practice primarily in a private clinic, but have experience with Medicaid and home health settings also. Feeding is a skill that I learned by default in my current position and have come to love and be knowledgeable in. Visual development and motor integration is another area of practice that I frequently address and see with my current population. Looking forward to sharing my knowledge with you all! ~Kaylee Goodrich, OTR

These activities to help with visual saccades are fun ways to work on visual tracking with kids.
Looking for winter fine motor activities that boost the skills kids need? These fine motor ideas develop the skills that kids need for tasks like handwriting, pencil grasp, cutting with scissors, managing clothing fasteners, and more. You'll find winter activities that boost hand strength, grasp, precision and endurance in the hands...all through play! We've even got free arctic animal fine motor worksheets for you, so scroll on! 

First, stop by our fine motor skills library for tons of ideas to work on the motor skills kids need.

It has been fun sharing winter activities this week! If you missed any of the posts, be sure to check them out below. We've talked about indoor recess ideas for winter, brain break ideas, and activities to address bilateral coordination skills, and even mindfulness! You will have ideas for a season of development!

Check out the Winter Activities on the site this week: 

Monday- Indoor Recess Ideas

Tuesday- Winter Brain Break Ideas

Wednesday- Winter Bilateral Coordination Activities

Thursday-Winter Mindfulness Activities

Friday- Winter Fine Motor Activities (TONS of  Free Printables!)

Now on to today's topic, fine motor activities!

These winter fine motor activities can help kids develop the hand strength and fine motor skills needed for every day tasks, all with a winter theme.

Winter Fine Motor Activities

This beaded snowflake craft from Early Learning Ideas encourages bilateral coordination, separation of the sides of the hand, precision, in-hand manipulation, and a tripod grasp...with pretty results!

Use paper hole reinforcers to improve precision and dexterity by forming letters and names like Fun-a-Day did. 

We used those same hole reinforcer stickers to make a fine motor snowman craft that boosts skills like tip to tip precision, separation of the sides of the hand, and arch strength. 

If you're looking for another craft idea, then this clothespin snowman craft uses a clothespin clip to really work the muscles of the hand. Move that snowman around and clip him onto bags, coats, and books! 

If you're looking for a fine motor activity for kindergarten kids, then this sight word tic tac toe game is the ticket! Kids can make the game pieces, and move them around to play a game of tic tac toe while strengthening skills like tip to tip grasp, arch development, separation of the sides of the hand, and finger isolation.

For more craft ideas that boost fine motor skills, check out all of these winter bird crafts. You'll find ideas for strengthening the hands and other fine motor skills while making cute bird crafts, bird feeders, and other activities. 

If working on scissor skills is a priority, a paper snowflake is the way to go this winter. But what if you took the paper snowflake up a notch by cutting cupcake liners? This cupcake liner paper snowflake activity boosts hand strength with a pretty result!

Working on pencil grasp? You don't need a pencil! Make this snowflake stamp art and promote the fine motor skills that are needed for a functional grasp: separation of the sides of the hand, arch development, and an open thumb web space for example. This creative winter painting idea has a sensory component, too.

Arctic animals worksheets for working on fine motor skills with kids this winter.

Arctic Animal Fine Motor Worksheets 

To end out the Winter Week here on The OT Toolbox, I wanted to create a few free fine motor worksheets for you. These are arctic animal worksheets that cover a variety of different fine motor abilities:

Play Dough Roll Mat- We've shared some free play dough mats before. They are perfect for developing fine motor skills and hand strength needed for tasks like coloring with endurance, manipulating small items, and holding a pencil. Kids can roll small balls of play dough with just their fingertips to strengthen the intrinsic muscles. This Arctic Animal theme play dough mat can be used all winter long!

Pencil Control Worksheet- Connect the arctic animals and stay on the shaded lines while mastering pencil control. Some of the lines are small and are a great way to strengthen the hands, too.

Arctic Animal Cutting Strips- Work on scissor skills to cut along lines to reach the arctic animal friends. This is a great way to strengthen the motor and visual skills needed for cutting with scissors.

Arctic Animal Clip Cards- Cut out the cards and clip clothespins to match the number on the cards. If you laminate the cards, you can use them over and over again and write on the section below the number. Kids can practice tracing the number and then writing the word for the number. Pinching clothespins onto these cards is a great way to strengthen the hands while incorporating other skills like handwriting.

All four fine motor worksheets are included in this fine motor set and it's totally free! 

Just enter your email in the box below so the set can be delivered directly to your email inbox. Enjoy!

Arctic Animal Fine Motor Set

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    These fine motor winter activities will keep the kids active and moving all winter long.
    Teaching kids mindfulness techniques can be a way to incorporate self-awareness, self-regulation, and the senses. The winter months, can be a time when mindfulness is especially necessary. The winter mindfulness activities for kids listed below include tips for mindfulness in the classroom and creative mindfulness exercises with a winter theme. These mindfulness activities can be used as a support for so many occupational therapy goal areas. In fact, the benefits of mindfulness are many! Read on to learn more.

    You may also be interested in checking out a previous post here on The OT Toolbox where we shared a collection of videos on Mindfulness for Kids over on YouTube.

    Kids can practice mindfulness to focus, attend, and be more present in the moment. These winter mindfulness activities are activities that have a winter theme.

    Winter Mindfulness Activities for Kids

    This post is part of our Winter Week here on The OT Toolbox. Each day this week, we're sharing creative winter activities that can be used in occupational therapy plans, therapy home programs, the classroom, or home! 

    Check out the Winter Activities on the site this week: 

    Monday- Indoor Recess Ideas

    Tuesday- Winter Brain Break Ideas

    Wednesday- Winter Bilateral Coordination Activities

    Thursday-Winter Mindfulness Activities

    Friday- Winter Fine Motor Activities (AND Free Fine Motor Printables!)

    Now on to today's topic, mindfulness activities!

    What is mindfulness? 

     First, let's talk about what is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of one's actions and self in the moment. Mindfulness is an important part of self-regulation and the ability to regulate our senses, feelings, and body. It allows us to focus on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting what's happening on the inside: in our feelings, thoughts, or sensations.

    Mindfulness is a skill that allows us to be aware of our body without responding rashly. In kids, mindfulness is important in the ability to pay attention and responding to input from the world around us.

    For kids, mindfulness is noticing their body and the things happening around them. It has a lot to do with impulse control. Just like any other skill, mindfulness is an ability that develops over time.

    It's easy to see how this skill relates to so many other areas that occupational therapists address: self-regulation, self-confidence, attention, social-emotional skills, coping skills, sensory processing, impulsivity and inhibition, and overall well being.

    It's a big part of treating the whole person!

    Mindfulness helps kids relax, think more positively, attend, promote self-confidence, improve social emotional skills, and so many other areas. These mindfulness strategies for kids can be used as a tool for treating the whole person.

    How to Teach Mindfulness

    There are ways to develop and refine self-awareness. The good thing to know that as occupational therapists, we are skilled in the areas that play into mindfulness: sensory processing (including interoception), coping strategies, self-awareness, and self-regulation.

    It's important to recognize that there is no one way to teach mindfulness. Each child is different and with different needs, strengths, and interests. The winter themed mindfulness activities below are just some strategies that teach the skill of self-awareness in a variety of ways. They all have one thing in common though...they are all winter themed!

    These winter mindfulness activities for kids use snowman activities, snow activities, and other winter mindfulness activities to improve focus, attention, self-awareness, coping skills, and self-regulation.

    Winter Mindfulness Activities for Kids

    Sensory Snow Painting- If you live in an area with snow, bring some indoors and pull out the watercolors. We shared an activity when this website was just a baby site on painting snow with watercolors. Add some calm and quiet music as you paint to make it a mindful act. Slowly and deliberately attend to the watercolors as they mix together. Add slow breathing for a mindfulness activity that results in a sensory component.

    Use what you've got! This post from Grow Wise Yoga shares tons of easy and creative ways to use everyday materials in winter themed indoor mindfulness activities. I love that there are suggestions to use craft pom poms, beads, clay, scarves, and other materials that promote fine and gross motor skills in the act of mindfulness, too!

    Make a Winter Themed Sensory Bottle- Blue glitter, water, snowflake sparkles or beads...this sounds like a winter sensory bottle idea that would make a great mindfulness tool! In fact, kids can use a sensory bottle to calm down, focus on the moment, concentrate on breathing, and attend to the present moment. A sensory bottle is a mindfulness tool that can be used as a coping strategy and in self-regulation. Here are tips and suggestions for how to make a sensory bottle.

    Attending to a sound or sounds can be a way to mindfully focus in a moment. We've shared auditory processing activities here on The OT Toolbox that can help with this skill. Some ideas include listening with concentration to a single sound as it moves around a room or changes in volume. Some tools that we've shared on our auditory processing page include DIY shaker bottles, bell dominos, DIY rhythm sticks and other tools.

    Stretch and move- Intentional breathing combined with stretch as in yoga stretches can be a strategy to teach mindfulness. This Winter Yoga Pack from the physical therapist at Pink Oatmeal has printable cards that can be used over and over again (with the whole family!) in mindfulness.

    Practice Guided Mindfulness- Counselor Kori has some great winter themed printable resources that guide mindfulness including a hot cocoa activity and craft, a snowglobe activity and craft, and a snowman mindfulness activity. These can be used to teach mindfulness while exercising the ability to refocus with a centered breathing pattern.

    Guided Meditation and Relaxation Script- Follow a guided script to recenter with meditation and mindfulness. Greenchild has some free guided meditation scripts for kids that you can follow within a theme during the winter or all year round.

    Looking for more Winter Activities? Be sure to check out the other activites we're sharing this week!

    You may also be interested in:

    Use these winter mindfulness activities for kids this winter.

    Bilateral coordination is a big topic in child development. The fact is that the coordinated use of the hands is a tricky skill for many kids. Using the hands together in tasks is necessary for hand dominance and tasks like handwriting, managing clothing fasteners, catching and throwing a ball, fine motor tasks, and so many other skills. Below you will find winter bilateral coordination activities. These are winter themed activities that improve bilateral integration and can be used in occupational therapy activities in the winter months. Scroll through the activities below and add them to your therapy toolbox this winter!

    Kids will love these winter bilateral coordination activities to help develop the skills to use both hands together in a coordinated way! Snowman activities, snowflake activities, and other winter themed activities for use in occupational therapy and at home.

    Winter Bilateral Coordination Activities

    This post is part of our Winter Week series here on The OT Toolbox. Each day this week, we are sharing activities, ideas, and tips for getting the kids active and moving...and working on occupational therapy goals in the winter months. This time of year can be tough on therapists; It's right after the holidays. If in a cold weather environment, it can be a glum and gloomy time of year with cold temps and shorter days. It can be hard to come up with fresh ideas! That's why I decided a Winter Week was in order. Each day this week, you'll find winter themed activities designed to meet occupational therapy goal areas in fun ways. Here's what's going on this week: 

    Monday- Indoor Recess Ideas

    Tuesday- Winter Brain Break Ideas

    Wednesday- Winter Bilateral Coordination Activities

    Thursday-Winter Mindfulness Activities

    Friday- Winter Fine Motor Activities (AND Free Fine Motor Printables!)

    On to the Winter Bilateral Coordination Activities! Have fun in OT these winter months!

    First, What is Bilateral Coordination?

    In short, bilateral coordination is the use of both hands together in a coordinated manner. There are three components of bilateral coordination, which include Symmetrical movements, Reciprocal movements, and Dominant hand/supporting hand movements. 

    These movements require both sides of the body.  Also called bilateral integration, the movements of both hands together in activities requires processing and integration of both hemispheres of the brain to enable both hands working together at the same time.

    Bilateral coordination is needed for skills like: eating, writing, coloring, drawing, self-dressing, brushing one's teeth, playing, tying shoes, and so much more!

    The winter themed bilateral coordination activities below are ideas for activities that can help to work on coordinated use of both hands in fun activities!

    Winter Themed Bilateral Coordination Activities

    1. Cutting Paper Snowflakes- Folding and cutting are bilateral coordination activities that require both hands being used together. Make paper snowflakes with different textures or types of papers to put a fun spin on this winter activity. Try making paper snowflakes with cupcake liners, paper bags, tissue paper, or large construction paper sheets!

    2. Paper Snowmen- Remember making strands of paper dolls? Try making a strand of paper snowmen while working on bilateral coordination while folding and cutting the snowmen.

    3. Lacing Mittens- Make a cardboard set of mittens and poke holes around the edges. Then lace with cord, yarn, or string like Fun Family Crafts did with their mitten lacing activity. Lacing is a bilateral coordination activity that boost the skills kids need for tasks like handwriting. Read more about how lacing is such a great activity for kids here. 

    4. Play Dough Snowmen- Mixing and rolling dough is a fantastic bilateral coordination activity. Here's why: By mixing dough, both hands are working together against resistance of the dough, providing a sensory component in the form of proprioception. This feedback can provide a powerful muscle memory to the hands as they work. Kids can mix, stir, and knead while strengthening the hands and arms. This Baking soda dough is perfect for creating snowmen, which require rolling and building...and more bilateral coordination!

    5. Snowman Sensory Bag- This is such a fun sensory activity that allows kids to work both hands together to move parts of a snowman face while working on finger isolation and dexterity. This snowman sensory bag version from Mama Papa Bubba is very cute!

    Be sure to stop back the rest of this week to find more winter activities to inspire movement and development! 

    Looking for more bilateral coordination ideas? Try these: 

    Development of Bilateral Coordination and Feeding

    Bilateral Coordination Lacing Plate

    Bilateral Coordination Activity with Pop Tubes

    Bilateral Coordination and Visual Motor Activity with Hearts

    Bilateral Coordination and Visual Motor Activity Clover

    Homemade and Store Bought Lacing Cards for Bilateral Coordination Skills

    These winter bilateral coordination activities are great for helping kids develop the skills to use both hands together in tasks like handwriting, cutting with scissors, and more.

    Fun Activities to Improve Visual Saccades
    Fun Activities to Improve Visual Saccades

    We've shared much information on visual processing over the last few months. You've seen tips for addressing convergence insufficiency, visual tracking concerns, and other visual skill areas. Today we are talking about saccades and activities to improve saccades. These are the eye movements…
    Winter Fine Motor Activities
    Winter Fine Motor Activities

    Looking for winter fine motor activities that boost the skills kids need? These fine motor ideas develop the skills that kids need for tasks like handwriting, pencil grasp, cutting with scissors, managing clothing fasteners, and more. You'll find winter activities that boost hand strength, gras…
    Winter Mindfulness Activities for Kids
    Winter Mindfulness Activities for Kids

    Teaching kids mindfulness techniques can be a way to incorporate self-awareness, self-regulation, and the senses. The winter months, can be a time when mindfulness is especially necessary. The winter mindfulness activities for kids listed below include tips for mindfulness in the classroom and crea…
    Winter Bilateral Coordination Activities
    Winter Bilateral Coordination Activities

    Bilateral coordination is a big topic in child development. The fact is that the coordinated use of the hands is a tricky skill for many kids. Using the hands together in tasks is necessary for hand dominance and tasks like handwriting, managing clothing fasteners, catching and throwing a ball, fin…