The OT Toolbox

Saccades and Learning

Read below to learn about visual saccades and learning in kids, including how saccades effect learning, more about what are visual saccades, and what saccadic movement looks like. You'll also find information on saccades and smooth eye movements and the visual processing needs that impact learning. This information on vision can be helpful for the occupational therapist working with a child or student with vision related learning challenges as a result of visual saccades.


Visual Saccades and…


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THE SENSORY LIFESTYLE HANDBOOK
These following direction activities are directionality activities that can help kids learn directions or spatial concepts such as left, right, up, down, and compass directions (north, south, east, and west) with a motor component. This hands-on learning activity really gets the kiddos moving and learning! 

We've shared directionality activities before that help kids navigate and use maps with movement. 

Following Direction Activity

These direction following activities can help kids learn directionality such as left/right awareness, laterality, and directions needed for navigating.


Teaching kids to follow the directions they need to physically move right, left, up, down requires development of spatial concepts such as spatial reasoning. This can be a real challenge for some kids! 

Following directions and understanding of spatial concepts is a foundation for understanding and utilizing compass directions or the cardinal directions of north, south, east, and west, and the use of maps. 

Left Right Confusion Direction Challenges

It can be a real challenge for some kids who struggle with the spatial understanding of following directions, or understanding their left from right in a subconscious manner. 

Have you come across the child who is told to raise their right and and they take a five second count to stop, think, and then raise their hand? They might hesitate when raising one hand or the other and still be uncertain whether or not they have held up the correct hand. Then, when the teacher, parent, or anyone else really, says the inevitable, "Your other right hand...", the child feels a sense of discouragement and self-consciousness that doesn't drive in the underlying need to really know the right from left! 

That's where a directionality activity or following direction activity can come into play. Adding a physical component to learning directions and the difference between right, left, up, and down and what that looks like in relation to the child's body can be such a helpful force in driving home this concept. 

Why work on directions with kids?

Working on the ability for kids to follow directions and spatial concepts is so important for kids. The direction/spatial relationship/preposition words that tell you where something is related to something else (beside, in front of, behind, over, under, around,  through, last, etc.) are very important when teaching math and handwriting concepts. Directionality and the ability for kids to follow physical directions is important for discovering where their bodies are in relationship to objects. This translates to following directions when getting from place to place by following a map or the cardinal directions.

When kids picture a scene in their mind's eye and use that image to draw a map on paper, they are using higher thinking skills and spatial reasoning.

Directionality Activities

Amazon affiliate links are included below. 

The fun idea below comes from a new kids' activity book that we're devouring. It's the new Playful Learning Lab for Kids, by the occupational therapist and physical therapist team at The Inspired Treehouse. It's a book full of whole-body and sensory activities that enhance focus, engagement, and learning through movement and interaction.

Playful learning Lab activities for kids to learn through whole body movements

We used just a few materials to create this following directions activity:

Playful Learning Lab for Kids Book
Cardstock
Marker
Scissors

Use arrows to work on following directions and learning directions or directionality.

This is a simple activity (perfect for the classroom or homeschool when teaching directions!). First, draw and cut out large arrows from the cardstock. 

Next, place them along the floor in a path and start playing! 

Teach kids about directions and left right awareness or directionality through whole body movements with arrows!

There are so many ways to use these arrows to work on following directions and directionality:

1. Place the arrows on the floor for a fun brain break or sensory walk that uses directions as the kids work on following directions to stand in the direction the arrows are pointing. 

Direction following activities with arrows are a fun way to teach kids directionality and teach left and right with movement.

2. Name a cardinal direction or spatial direction and ask the child to point to the corresponding arrow. 

3. Place the arrows in a compass rose on the floor and ask kids to "step into a map" on the floor as they move north, south, east, and west.

Teach spatial concepts and spatial reasoning with arrows.

4. Stick the arrows to a wall using tape. Ask the students to write out a list of words that describe the directions the arrows are pointing (left, right, up, and down).

5. Hold up a sequence of arrows pointing in different directions. As the child to remember the pattern or order as they complete a series of side steps, front steps, or backward steps to follow the directions they see. 

6. Work on left/right directionality by holding up an arrow pointing in either the left or right directions. Kids should call out "Left!" or "Right!" when they see the direction the arrow is pointing. 

Teach kids directions and north, south, east, west using arrows and directionality concepts.

All of these following direction activities are ones that can be completed as on an individual basis or with a whole group. It's a great mini brain break for the classroom and can be incorporated into the classroom curriculum by working on cardinal directions. 


Want to grab more movement-based learning ideas that you can start on today? You will love the bright pictures, sensory-based activities, and whole-body activities in Playful Learning Lab for Kids

It's available now and is the perfect way to add movement to learning to improve attention, focus, brain function, remembering and learning!

This book will shift your entire mindset so you can begin to replace sedentary, one-dimensional lessons and worksheets with whole-body, multi-sensory activities that can instantly create a classroom or house full of active, engaged learners.

Playful Learning Lab for Kids is available on Amazon. If you get it now through November 13th, you can get an additional 20+ page pages of bonus materials. 

To get the bonus items, purchase Playful Learning Lab for Kids on Amazon and then just email your receipt of purchase to  theinspiredtreehouse@gmail.com. You don't want to miss this!












This Ice Cream Play Dough Mat printable is a free tool that can help kids work on improving hand strength with a fun, ice cream theme! 

When kids show weakness in their hands, it can be hard to know where to begin. Typically the child is frustrated by the very activities or tasks that strengthen hands. There's a reason why: it hurts! Their hand is fatigued and tasks like coloring are HARD! What if I told you a fun activity that involved an ice cream theme and play dough could take care of the fine motor struggles? When kids use this ice cream play dough mat, hand strengthening is sure to follow!

Therapists love a good deal. One of the best things about growing as a professional is the ability to continue to learn. As therapists, we strive to develop in our profession to meet the needs of our ever-changing client list. Reading or listening to books for occupational therapists is just one way to learn and grow professionally. Today, I've got a list of free audiobooks for occupational therapists. These occupational therapy audiobook ideas can be used to develop, learn, and grow as a therapist.

Audiobooks for Occupational Therapists

These audiobooks for occupational therapists are great for the travelling OT, or listening to while on a commute to work, covering a variety of areas that can improve your occupational therapy practice, in educating OT clients, advocating for occupational therapy patients, and improving OT practice areas.




Audible Books for Occupational Therapists

Recently, I came across a few books on Amazon that are perfect for therapists looking for books to grow and learn in different aspects of occupational therapy. THese are audiobooks that can help OTs grow as a practitioner by staying on tap of hot topics. As therapists, we strive to advocate for our clients, educate parents, teachers, or others on the child's tribe or team. These are audiobooks for occupational therapists that can help us grow as therapists!

Best of all, they are available as audiobooks for those of us looking for books to listen to while commuting, cooking, or working out!

Free Audio Books for Occupational Therapists

This post contains affiliate links.

Audible is a subset of Amazon and offers free books to members. While the membership does have a fee, there is a free 30 day trial, where books can be listened to anytime and anywhere. 

There's more: When you sign up for the free trial of Audible, you'll get two free books. These can be downloaded and are yours to keep. In addition to the 2 Free audiobooks, you'll also get 2 Free Audible Originals to get you started. 

After your free trial ends, if you do choose to continue with the membership, you'll get 1 audiobook and 2 Originals per month after trial. You can cancel anytime and keep all your audiobooks. You'll also get 30% off the price of additional audiobook purchases. 



So, after reading this, I had to check to see what books are available on Amazon's Audible that would be interesting as an OT. How cool to grab a free audio book on a topic I wanted to learn more about!








Books for Occupational Therapists on Audible






Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children- Written by occupational therapist, Angela J. Hanscom, describes children of today who have more sedentary lifestyles and desperately need outdoor play in order to develop their sensory, motor, and executive functions. The book describes nature as the ultimate sensory experience, and helps you discover little things you can do anytime, anywhere to help your kids achieve the movement they need to be happy and healthy in mind, body, and spirit.



Sensory Processing Disorder: Not Just a Strong-Willed Child, Book 1- This audiobook is a resource for parents that therapists can recommend for those looking for more information on Sensory Processing Disorder or those striving to empower their child. By listening to this audiobook, you'll learn more about what is sensory processing disorder, common behaviors of different types of SPD, differences between SPD and some other look-alike conditions like ADHD, OCD, ODD and anxiety disorder, tips on how to manage SPD at home, school, and community.




Overcoming Dyslexia- This book on dyslexia helps us to understand, identify, and overcome the reading problems that so many kids struggle with in schools. In this audio book, you'll learn exactly what dyslexia is and how to identify dyslexia in preschoolers, schoolchildren, young adults, and adults. You'll discover how to work productively with the teacher of a child with dyslexia or reading challenges. Included are exercises to help children use the parts of the brain that control reading, including a twenty-minute nightly home program to enhance reading. There are also ways to improve a child's self-esteem and more. Click here to listen to a free sample from the book. 




The Smart but Scattered Guide to Success: How to Use Your Brain's Executive Skills to Keep Up, Stay Calm, and Get Organized at Work and at Home- This audiobook helps the listener identify their executive skills profile and shares effective steps to boost organizational skills, time management, emotional control, and nine other essential skills. This is a resource for parents and therapists who may be struggling with executive functioning skills or those working with teens or older clients. 



Smart but Scattered Teens: The"Executive Skills" Program for Helping Teens Reach Their Potential- This audiobook describes research-based strategies for promoting teens' independence by building their executive functioning skills in order to get organized, stay focused, and control impulses and emotions.



Bright Kids Who Can't Keep Up: Help Your Child Overcome Slow Processing Speed and Succeed in a Fast-Paced World- This audiobook is geared toward those kids who struggle with processing speed in tasks like classwork, homework, caring for themselves, motor tasks, or following directions.






Disconnected Kids: The Groundbreaking Brain Balance Program for Children with Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Neurological Disorders- This audio book by Dr. Robert Melillo of the Brain Balance Program gives therapists a background on what to tell parents or teachers who bring up the Brain balance Programs as an alternative to occupational therapy intervention. 




Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew- This audiobook describes 10 characteristics that help illuminate, not define,  children with autism. The book describes and helps listeners  understand the needs and the potential of every child with autism. It's been said that "Every parent, teacher, social worker, therapist, and physician should have this succinct and informative audiobook in their back pocket".



1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism or Asperger's- This book shares tons of tips, strategies, tools, and resources that can be helpful to parents, teachers, and therapists working with kids with autism or asperger's. There are modifications for older kids to help children achieve success at home, in school, and in the community. 



The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum- This book by Dr.  Temple Grandin teaches listeners the science of the autistic brain, and with it the history and sociology of autism.




The Loving Push: How Parents and Professionals Can Help Spectrum Kids Become Successful Adults- This book is described as an essential roadmap for parents, teachers, therapists, and anyone working with the child with autism. Another resource by Dr. Temple Grandin, psychologist and autism specialist Dr. Debra Moore share insight in helping kids  build on their strengths to improve motivation in real life strategies.




What's Going on in There?: How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life- This book by a research neuroscientist describes how the baby's brain is formed, and when each sense, skill, and cognitive ability is developed from conception through the first five years.The book shares development of motor skills, social and emotional behaviors, and mental functions such as attention, language, memory, reasoning, and intelligence. 



The Emotional Life of the Toddler- This audiobook covers the emotional development of kids through the toddler years, with the latest research on this crucial stage of development. This is a great resource for the pediatric OT.




Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of ParentingDr. John Gottman shares strategies to teach their children self-awareness and self-control and to foster good emotional development. This audiobook is a resource for parents and those working with families with young children.



Raising Your Spirited Child, Third Edition: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic- This audiobook is the very same as the book that has been voted one of the top 20 parenting books out there. It's a tool therapists can use to provide parents with the tips and tools they need based on research and practical strategies for raising spirited children. It's a book for anyone who knows meltdowns, behavior, and spirited kids!


What are your favorite audiobooks for occupational therapy? You know, those audiobooks you LOVE that advance your practice knowledge, improve your advocacy for OT clients, and help to educate parents or teachers of  occupational therapy clients? Let us know at contact@theottoolbox.com.

These audiobooks for occupational therapists are great for advancing as an occupational therapist by reading the hot topics in the field, so that you can advocate for OT clients, educate the parents and teachers of kids on an occupational therapy caseload.








Grab this bird play dough mat to work on hand strength and improve fine motor skills with a bird theme! 

Sometimes, adding a motor component to a leaning theme can be a strategy to help kids learn through play while boosting the fine motor skills they need for tasks like holding a pencil grasp, having endurance in  coloring and writing, and improved dexterity in pencil control, which plays a big part in fluid and legible letter formation. This bird theme play dough mat is a free printable that you can print off and use over and over again to work on hand strength such as intrinsic muscle strength kids need for these tasks and other fine motor skills.


Working on a functional pencil grasp with your child or occupational therapy caseload? Need activities to improve pencil grasp that kids WANT to do? These games that improve pencil grasp through fine motor activities are activities that boost the skills kids need for pencil grasp and games that strengthen the hands. Working on pencil grip to make and efficient and functional pencil grasp can be as easy as adding a few fine motor games to your therapy toolbox!

Games that improve pencil grasp

Kids can play these games to improve pencil grasp by increasing hand strength, fine motor skills and other areas needed for pencil grasp.
Every child loves playing games, but did you know that games also help children improve their pencil grasp? There are many components to working on pencil grasp including core strength and stability, shoulder strength and stability, coordinated movements, hand/finger strength and visual motor skills.

Functions of the hand that help to improve pencil grasp


Arches of the hand start to develop very early on in children. They can develop these skills by crawling and doing weight bearing activities. The arches of the hands help to direct the skilled movement of the hands, how to pick up different size blocks for example.

Here is a fun way for your child to work on grasp: The Ultimate Guide to fine motor strength with recycled materials.

Separation of the two sides of the hand

Around 2-3 years of age children will start experimenting with a tripod grasp (first three digits hold pencil while the ring and pinky are tucked in). In order to do this the child has to have a separation of function of the two sides of the hand.

The precision side of the hand (thumb, pointer, middle finger) does the work and the power side of the hand the last two fingers (ring and picky) are used as the stabilizer.

An example of this is when you hold a pencil. Typically your ulnar side of the hand (pinky) will rest of the paper and the thumb, pointer and middle finger will hold the writing utensil and move.

Check out, Easy Ideas for Motoric Separation of the Hand in Fine Motor Skills, for some more ideas.

Palm to finger translation skills

Another important skill needed for pencil grasp is palm to finger translation skills. This is when you use only one hand and move items from you palm to your fingertips. Try holding a few marbles or coins and using your fingers to “take” the coins/marbles out of our palm and bring them to your fingertips.

Here is a fun in-hand manipulation activity using a puzzle. Use puzzles you already have in the home!

Add these games to improve pencil grasp to occupational therapy activities that help with fine motor skills and the skills needed for better handwriting and pencil grasp in kids.

Games to Improve Pencil Grasp

There are lots of  components to developing pencil grasp,  listed below are games that work on these skills.




Tong games to Improve Pencil Grasp

You can buy the following games that use tongs (Amazon Affiliate links included below):





Use the Wok and Roll game to improve pencil grasp, making it the perfect fine motor game for occupational therapy activities.

Wok and Roll- This game uses long tongs that can be used to pick up and manipulate small pieces, perfect for strengthening and improving precision, arch strength and development, separation of the sides of the hand, coordination, and open thumb web space necessary for pencil grasp.

Use the Operation game to improve pencil grasp, making it the perfect fine motor game for occupational therapy activities.

Operation- This fine motor game requires visual motor skills and precision along with open thumb web space, arch development, and separation of the sides of the hand to manipulate and remove small pieces. Operation comes in a variety of themes that kids will love.

Use the Super Sorting Pie game to improve pencil grasp, making it the perfect fine motor game for occupational therapy activities.

Super Sorting Pie- This game is a fantastic way to work on hand strength, grasp, and even in-hand manipulation such as translation from the palm to the fingertips. It's a game that can be played in a variety of ways, making it a great addition to the therapy clinic.

Use the Bed Bugs game to improve pencil grasp, making it the perfect fine motor game for occupational therapy activities.

Bed Bugs Game- This tong game has different colored tongs and matching bugs that promotes not only fine motor skills needed for pencil grasp, by eye-hand coordination and visual perceptual work, too. This game is geared toward preschool-aged kids, but can be easily graded up or down to suit older or lower developmental aged kids.

Use the Sneaky, Snacky, Squirrel game to improve pencil grasp, making it the perfect fine motor game for occupational therapy activities.

The Sneaky, Snacky, Squirrel Game- Great for younger kids or non-readers, this game promotes hand strength and eye-hand coordination. Players use squirrel shaped tongs to pick up and manipulate small acorn pieces. It's a fun game to promote separation of the sides of the hands and arch strength needed for pencil grasp!

Use the Fruit Avalanche game to improve pencil grasp, making it the perfect fine motor game for occupational therapy activities.

Avalanche Fruit Stand- This game is a powerful tool to promote pencil grasp! Kids use the tweezers to remove different shaped fruits from a stand that is on a slanted surface, promoting extension of the wrist. The slanted surface encourages separation of the sides of the hand and use of the precision side of the hand, while strengthening the arches for improved functional pencil grasp.

Make Your Own Games to Improve Pencil Grasp

Feed the dog- Take a box, put a picture of a dog on it. Cut out a hole for the mouth and uses tongs to pick up cheerios to place in the dog's mouth.

Occupational Therapy activities using tongs has even more tong ideas you can do at home.

Wind up toys are another great way to work on developing  the precision  side of the hand. Holding the wind up part with the thumb, pointer and middle finger works on the precision side of the hand and grasp.

Use the Battleship game to improve pencil grasp, making it the perfect fine motor game for occupational therapy activities.

Battleship is a great game to work on using the precision side of the hand. Every time your opponent says the coordinates of the strike you have to grab a tiny peg, red or white and place it on the ocean grid. This gives the child lots of practice with fine motor skills!

Looking for more ways to improve the skills needed for pencil grasp by using games, toys, and tools in the therapy clinic or at home? These toys and tools to improve pencil grasp cover lots of interests and ideas!


About Christina:
Christina Komaniecki is a school based Occupational Therapist. I graduated from Governors State University with a master’s in occupational therapy.   I have been working in the pediatric setting for almost 6 years and have worked in early intervention, outpatient pediatrics, inpatient pediatrics, day rehab, private clinic and schools. My passion is working with children and I love to see them learn new things and grow. I love my two little girls, family, yoga and going on long walks.  
Below you will find information about convergence, including convergence insufficiency, and activities to improve convergence skills. These activities can be used by occupational therapists in treatment as indicated by vision screening and based on the individual needs of the child as determined by assessment.


A toy play dough mat may be just the incentive kids need to build hand strength! Kids can improve hand strength in fun ways when play dough is added to the mix! If you've been watching The OT Toolbox recently, then you've probably seen our recent posts on playdough mats. We've been sharing a variety of free play dough mats based on several different themes. These are free printable playdough mats that kids can use to increase hand strength, specially strength of the intrinsic muscles of the hands.

Make a simple woolly bear caterpillar craft to celebrate the coming of the fall season!  This caterpillar craft is a fun fall craft idea that can be used in occupational therapy activities to help kids with scissor skills, bilateral coordination, visual motor skills, direction following, fine motor skills, and more. 

If you are working on building intrinsic hand strength and the fine motor skills kids need to improve tasks such as maintaining a pencil grasp or coloring with endurance, than this intrinsic hand strength activity is perfect for you. Lately, we've been busy creating some fun play dough mats that kids will love for the fun play dough activities. They won't even realize they are working on intrinsic hand strength or hand strengthening in general. In fact, this outer space play dough mat is a free printable playdough mat that will go perfectly with a space theme!


Looking for ideas to work on scissor skills? Do you need a quick craft idea to add to your therapy line up to address skills like scissor use, bilateral coordination, hand strength, or visual motor skills? This Ghost Craft is a fun Halloween craft idea that kids can do while boosting the skills they need for scissor skills and other fine motor skills. Use this ghost craft idea to work on occupational therapy activities and OT goal areas in a fun and festive way, perfect for Fall activities and ghost theme therapy ideas! Here is another quick and fun ghost craft that will boost those fine motor skills. 
Following Direction Activities
Following Direction Activities

These following direction activities are directionality activities that can help kids learn directions or spatial concepts such as left, right, up, down, and compass directions (north, south, east, and west) with a motor component. This hands-on learning activity really gets the kiddos moving and l…
Ice Cream Play Dough Mat Hand Strengthening
Ice Cream Play Dough Mat Hand Strengthening

This Ice Cream Play Dough Mat printable is a free tool that can help kids work on improving hand strength with a fun, ice cream theme! 

When kids show weakness in their hands, it can be hard to know where to begin. Typically the child is frustrated by the very activities or tasks that strengthen han…
Audiobooks for Occupational Therapists
Audiobooks for Occupational Therapists

Therapists love a good deal. One of the best things about growing as a professional is the ability to continue to learn. As therapists, we strive to develop in our profession to meet the needs of our ever-changing client list. Reading or listening to books for occupational therapists is just one wa…
Bird Play Dough Mat for Hand Strength
Bird Play Dough Mat for Hand Strength

Grab this bird play dough mat to work on hand strength and improve fine motor skills with a bird theme! 

Sometimes, adding a motor component to a leaning theme can be a strategy to help kids learn through play while boosting the fine motor skills they need for tasks like holding a pencil grasp, havi…
Games that improve pencil grasp
Games that improve pencil grasp

Working on a functional pencil grasp with your child or occupational therapy caseload? Need activities to improve pencil grasp that kids WANT to do? These games that improve pencil grasp through fine motor activities are activities that boost the skills kids need for pencil grasp and games that str…
Activities to Improve Convergence Skills
Activities to Improve Convergence Skills

Below you will find information about convergence, including convergence insufficiency, and activities to improve convergence skills. These activities can be used by occupational therapists in treatment as indicated by vision screening and based on the individual needs of the child as determined by…
Toy Theme Play Dough Mat for Boosting Hand Strength in a Fun Way
Toy Theme Play Dough Mat for Boosting Hand Strength in a Fun Way

A toy play dough mat may be just the incentive kids need to build hand strength! Kids can improve hand strength in fun ways when play dough is added to the mix! If you've been watching The OT Toolbox recently, then you've probably seen our recent posts on playdough mats. We've been shar…
Woolly Bear Caterpillar Craft Idea
Woolly Bear Caterpillar Craft Idea

Make a simple woolly bear caterpillar craft to celebrate the coming of the fall season!  This caterpillar craft is a fun fall craft idea that can be used in occupational therapy activities to help kids with scissor skills, bilateral coordination, visual motor skills, direction following, fine motor…
Outer Space Play Dough Mat for Intrinsic Hand Strength
Outer Space Play Dough Mat for Intrinsic Hand Strength

If you are working on building intrinsic hand strength and the fine motor skills kids need to improve tasks such as maintaining a pencil grasp or coloring with endurance, than this intrinsic hand strength activity is perfect for you. Lately, we've been busy creating some fun play dough mats tha…
Ghost Craft to Work on Scissor Skills
Ghost Craft to Work on Scissor Skills

Looking for ideas to work on scissor skills? Do you need a quick craft idea to add to your therapy line up to address skills like scissor use, bilateral coordination, hand strength, or visual motor skills? This Ghost Craft is a fun Halloween craft idea that kids can do while boosting the skills th…