Fingerprint art is a fine motor powerhouse. These cute little Letter of the Week Alphabet finger print crafts don’t really show how many fine motor skills are bring addressed!
Four kids in eight years make a lot of fingerprints. Fingerprints on the fridge, fingerprints on the sink, and fingerprints on the windows. Then, there are the bins of artwork that I’ve got saved in the attic. We all have a couple of those bins of memories that a mama has got to save. The fingerprint and handprint Mother’s Day gifts, preschool crafts, and memorabilia.
As an Occupational Therapist who spent years working with kids, I can now practice the finger isolation needed in fine motor skills with my own kids, while creating fun artwork!
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It is not only fin to make fingerprint artwork, but educational too. Use fingerprints in fine motor patterns, addition, multiplication, and so many more ways…all while working on finger isolation.
What is Finger Isolation?
Finger isolation is using one finger to perform a task. Pointing with the index finger, wiggling all of the fingers individually, and counting out the fingers on your hand are finger isolation. This finger isolation is needed for many functional activities, like dexterity in managing pencils, paintbrushes, and other tools, typing on a keyboard, tying shoes, and many other skills.
Fine Motor Fingerprints
Many Occupational Therapists suggest fingerprint activities to their students for the fine motor benefits that the simple task allows. To create a fingerprint, a child needs to isolate one finger and bend (flex) the rest of the fingers into a fist. This is refinement from the fisted hand and “raking” motion that babies and young toddlers demonstrate. To create a fingerprint, the ulnar (pinkie side of the hand) are stabilized with the pinkie and ring fingers bent into the palm, or are positioned with the pinkie finger extended and abducted (spread apart).
This positioning allows the knuckle joints (metacarpals) to stabilize and allow the pointer and middle fingers to be used with more control. The separation of the radial and ulnar sides of the hand allows for more skilled fine motor manipulation.
So, how can you use fingerprints in activities?
Use fingerprints like you would a dobber.
Fingerprint math patterns.
Fingerprint pointillism art.
Draw circles and ask your child to add their fingerprints to each circle.
Fingerprint onto sight words, spelling words, or vocabulary words.
Finger Isolation Activities to Improve Fine Motor Dexterity:
Try these fine motor activities to work on finger isolation:
Fingerprints! Make a whole alphabet of fingerprint artwork, using the guide below. These are perfect for letter of the week letter learning or for just creating a A-Z art with fingerprints. Each fingerprint represents a letter of the alphabet. Simply show your child how to print in different colored paints. When the paint dries, use a black permanent marker to add details.
More Finger Isolation Activities
Squeeze a spray bottle using just one or two fingers.
Spin coins on their edges.
Roll small balls of play dough between the thumb and index finger. Repeat between the thumb-middle finger and thumb-ring finger.
Try sign language.
Play finger games like “Where is Thumbkin” and “Itsy Bitsy Spider”.
Finger pattern games. Ask your child to rest their fingers on the edge of a table. They can copy your hands as you lift indivisual fingers, seperate, bend, and tap your fingers in patterns. Ask them to copy using both hands at the same time, then work to copying patterns with just one hand at a time.
Finger Puppets allow kids to imagine and pretend while working on finger dexterity and movement of individual fingers in isolation of others. This is a great precurser to typing. Play with these puppets as a hand warm-up before working on keyboarding tasks.
Finger Painting This is a sensory and messy texture and wonderful for sensory feedback while working on finger isolation.
Play mazes with the fingers. This Sensory Gel Maze
is perfect for finger isolation.
Pick up stick games
Screw/Unscrew bottles, lids, nuts, and bolts
Use the activities in this post to work on the skills needed for so many fine motor tasks. Hopefully, you don’t end up with too many more fingerprints on the windows with all of this finger isolation practice!
I had just spent the afternoon cleaning the house, running loads of laundry, folding, wiping, swiping, and mopping. Our house sparkled.
But now. I walked into the bathroom and stared. The entire contents of the garbage can were in the toilet. The toilet paper was unrolled and piled as high as my 17 month old. The sink was running and thisclose to overflowing over it’s clean (cause I did just clean this room not an hour ago!) edges.
It looked like a burglar ransacked our bathroom.
But burglars never ransack the bathroom. Right? You just never see it in the movies. I mean, picture it: A cute family comes home from a meal out and walk into their house. All looks fine and normal until someone heads to the bathroom. The teenager opens the door and with a look of alarm, yells, “MOMMM! We’ve been robbed! They stole our fluffy Good Towels and used all of the toilet paper!” That would never happen. I could have called a motion movie maker and sold them on the idea of a burglarized bathroom, if they only saw it.
A sweet little cutie pie Toddler stood in the middle of it all and just looked Oh So adorable.
This is motherhood.
Sometimes, life can get so busy and hectic with the schedules, managing the house, working, fixing healthy dinners, being present, exercising, and not losing your cool from ransacking Toddlers. It can be easy to let one or more of these areas slide. How do you make it all work? I’m not real sure. I’m still working on managing all of the things that make a family tick…And when I seem to get the hang of it and get it all together? Something changes. Homework gets trickier, schedules change, and Toddlers learn to turn on showers.
That’s the thing about family life. It changes so fast!
So what did I do that day with the soggy towels and the happy Toddler? I picked up the mess and packed everyone up to go out to dinner. A night out without another meal to make (and clean up) made this mama smile.
We headed out for a dinner at Chick-Fil-A’s Family Mystery night. We showed up on a Friday night, had a healthy meal, and spent time together as family. My kids are still talking about it. The secret spy names, the mystery tasks, the flashlight. (My kids looooove flashlights.) It was such a memorable evening together with real, wholesome food, imagination, and creativity.
We walked in to see yellow tape and local police officers. There was a detective and missing lemons. But who stole the lemons? It was a mystery! The kids had to solve riddles and puzzles to find clues as we ate our dinner. With full bellies, we took a tour of the kitchen, only to find the Chick-Fil-A cow in the walk-in freezer with all of the stolen lemons!
It was such a relief to know that my kids were enjoying healthy and real foods. Did you know Chick-Fil-A uses fresh, hand breaded chicken every day? That there are only a dozen or so salads made at a time so that they are always fresh? That they have “food scientists” that plan out the menu items in a state of the art kitchen at Chick-Fil-A headquarters? That the lemonade is squeezed fresh and contains only lemons, sugar, and water? That there are many healthy options like chicken noodle soup, Greek yogurt parfait, and applesauce? This is simply amazing from a fast-food restaurant!
We went to a story time at a local Chick-Fil-A store and this mama enjoyed the one-on-one time with my Toddler (the very same that terrorizes bathrooms). With friendly store employees that truly care, this is a local activity that we will be attending again! You can see more local story times here.
And our third event was a memory-maker for certain. We visited the Pittsburgh Zoo for an after-hours event for animals, yummo Chick-Fil-A food, dancing, games, and prizes. My kids are still talking about the zoo event!
Thank you Chick-Fil-A for the memories and the knowledge that I can take my family out to eat wholesome meals in a family-friendly environment.
When Toddlers are involved, bath time tends to be more wet than the splash zone at Sea World.
I’m reminded of our bath time adventures every time I step into the shower and see Barbie dolls, plastic cups, and every kind of bathtub water toy spread all over the edge of the tub. We’ve got the plastic bin right there in the bathroom, but just like any other aspect of childhood, little pieces and bits of the reminder of children seem to be left all over the place.
One of my kids favorite ways to play in the bathtub is with used shampoo and conditioner bottles. We leave a few along the edge of the tub for squirting and squeezing during bath time. Do you do this, too?
Recycled plastic bottles are perfect for exploring water, squeezing, and working on fine motor strength. Start saving those water bottles, because you and the kids are going to love this idea!
Save recycled plastic squeeze bottles, shampoo, and conditioner bottles for hand strengthening and fine motor skills and creative play with kids!
Fine Motor Development and Strength with Recycled Containers:
This post is part of our 31 Days of Occupational Therapy where we’ve shared a month of creative and mostly free ways to work on many Occupational Therapy skill areas. This one uses an item you typically throw into the recycle bin: plastic squeeze bottles.
It is so easy to throw this play activity together. Simply fill a container with water and throw a few recycled plastic bottles in. Done!
The best part of this easy activity is that kids are working on their gross motor grasp and hand strengthening and they don’t even realize it.
How to improve hand grasp strength with recycled containers:
So, what is gross grasp and why do kids need this skill area? Gross grasp is used when squeezing all of the fingers shut around an object, like when holding the handle of a suitcase. Gross grasp is important in tasks like handwriting and scissor use. To do these activities, you need to squeeze your whole hand shut and maintain endurance to complete the activity. Development of hand arch and thumb web space is important for these functional skills and gross grasp plays a part.
Activities to work on Gross Grasp and fine motor skills:
Use the bottles to work on fine motor strength by squeezing the water into containers. Show your kids how to squeeze water up into the bottles and then to squeeze the water out again. We usually do this activity in the bathtub, but pulling it out and playing in the dining room with just a bin of water made a regular old activity novel and fun.
More gross grasp activities for kids:
Squeeze spray bottles
Cut resistive materials with scissors.
Use a hole punch
Tug of war
So, next time you are in the shower and you see those shampoo bottles, think about playing with them…and the fun of Sea World. I mean Toddler Bath Time.
This is such a super simple activity, with really no prep. It will be a hit with your kids, I promise! Share it on Facebook!
This Travel Sensory Diet Bag is perfect for on-the-go sensory needs for kids with Sensory Processing Disorders children experiencing the Autism spectrum. Read on for tips to help with sensory issues while out and about:
Have you ever been out shopping the day before Christmas Eve when the entire city is packing everything from pineapples to pickles in their carts? And while you wear your itchy winter coat and drippy boots, the carts bump into aisles, people are talking everywhere, and buzzes, dings, and noise are everywhere. It is utterly unorganized chaos.
Now imagine you have difficulty ignoring those beeps and buzzes. That itchy wool coat is SO there. The people talk and talk and you hear them all. The utterly unorganized chaos makes you feel so out of sorts that you can’t help but breakdown, throwing yourself on the floor, and trying to make it all go away.
Children who live with a Sensory Processing Disorder experience situations like this every day. It doesn’t have to be a busy holiday for the environment to be too much for their body to organize. It is everyday life for SPD kiddos. They over or under process environmental stimulation at the bus stop, in the library, in a restaurant, or while waiting with Mom at the Department of Motor Vehicles. The disruption of typical processing can occur at minor or severe levels, but is always a struggle.
Use of a specialized travel sensory diet can help with over or under sensory responses while out and about. Specific sensory inputs can help to organize these inappropriate sensory responses. Today, I’ve got a Travel Sensory Diet that can help with sensory needs and can go anywhere.
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Treatment of Sensory Processing Disorder with a Sensory Diet
To treat these responses to input, Occupational Therapists perform an assessment of individual abilities and needs. Using information from evaluation, they establish a diet of sensory integration activities to organize sensory systems so that appropriate and meaningful responses occur. Function and purposeful responses to sensory input in all settings are the goals of sensory integration and sensory diets.
A sensory diet is highly specific to the needs of a child with sensory processing disorder. Sensory diet activities should be specialized to the meet the child’s regulation needs. Items that are often times found on a sensory diet include activities like wall push-ups, jumping on a trampoline, vacuuming, pillow sandwiches, and kneading play dough (among tons of other ideas!)
But how do you do these sensory diet activities while in a restaurant or in a library?
Travel Sensory Diet Bag for On-the-Go Sensory Needs
This travel sensory diet is perfect for on-the-go sensory needs. We made a small tote bag with fun paint and used it to create a travel sensory diet. A tote of this size can be slid into a big purse, carried by the child, or carted around in the minivan. The best thing about this travel sensory diet is that you can switch out activities so that new regulating items are added in and old favorites remain.
So what do you include in a travel sensory diet bag?
Related articles: Read about proprioception here and here.
Bungee cord or Exercise band. These can be used by arms or legs while sitting or standing.
1 pound wrist weight: This is an important addition to a travel sensory bag. The weight provides proprioceptive input as the child carries the bag. Sometimes, just carrying the tote bag can be enough to regulate sensory needs.
Other ideas include wearing the weight on the wrist, ankle, placed on the lap, or draped over shoulders.
Use the weight of the bag as input: While seated, hang the loop of the handles over a knee for weight down through the calf and into the foot. Switch legs after a while.
Hang the bag on one shoulder, then the other.
Hold the loops of the bag by the hand as if carrying a suitcase. Switch hands often.
Hold the loops of the bag by individual fingers.
Clothes pins for pinching and providing proprioception to hands. Add a few clothes pins to the tote bag and have your child pinch them onto the exercise band.
Small Scrub Brush
(The pictured brush is used in the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol. An Occupational Therapist should train you in this treatment
Baby wipe to wipe the face, arms, hands to “wake up” the skin.
Hang the head and arms down between the legs to touch the floor.
Twisting walks: Twist at the waist as the child walks.
Other sensory diet ideas that work while on-the-go:
Carry grocery bags.
Push shopping carts.
Bend over hand hang the head and arms down to the ground.
Find a wall for wall push-ups.
Hug from a loved one.
Drink from a straw.
Carry a sports bottle with crushed ice for resistive sucking and chewing ice.
March down a hallway.
Find stairs and climb them.
“Mountain Climb” up a stairwell banister.
Use a coat as a sensory wrapper. Wrap the child up like a burrito with an extra coat.
“Prayer Stretch” Press the palms of the hands together and press hard.
“Spider Finger” Stretches” Place fingertips of both hands together and stretch fingers up and down.
Spin in a chair (if at a doctor’s office).
Chair Push ups.
Weighted vest for situations that you know will cause sensory overload.
Headphones to cut out background noise.
This on-the-go travel sensory bag can go everywhere from the doctor’s office with the too-hot waiting room and buzzing fluorescent lights to the hair salon with the noisy dryers and itchy hair clippings.
Are you looking for more information on Sensory Processing and Proprioception (or any of the sensory systems and how they affect functional skills, behavior, and the body’s sensory systems? This book, Sensory Processing 101, will explain it all. Activities and Resources are included. Get it today and never struggle to understand or explain Sensory Integration again. Shop HERE. This post is part of our 31 Days of Occupational Therapy series where you can find free or almost free treatment activities and ideas. Stop by every day! You’ll find more fun ideas each day in October.
Looking for more sensory integration ideas? These are some of my favorite:
Today, I’ve got such a fun and gorgeously simple art project to share. This Jackson Pollock inspired tote bag art was just the creative outlet my second grader and I needed one rainy afternoon.
As a Mama of four goofy/amazing/active/wild kids, Pollock’s balance of control and chance speaks to me. I think Moms have the balance of control and chance pretty well managed…sometimes we have a little more control in situations and other times it’s more of a game of chance. The balance changes by the moment. And it’s all part of the job of being mom!
Flinging little drops of paint around sure was an act of balancing how hard we flung the paint and just accepting the chance of blue paint dripping onto bare ankles.
And lead to lots of giggles.
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Jackson Pollock Inspired Tote Bag Art
You’ll need just a few materials to make this art project:
We found this Jackson Pollock book
at our library and learned some interesting facts about the artist. One thing that stood out to us was the fact that Jackson Pollack’s paint brush never touched his canvas. When we painted out tote bag, we loved re-creating that fact!
Spread out a drop cloth, old table cloth, plastic throwaway table cloth, or even an under the bed storage bin. Anything that is going to protect your floors will work. The mess with this project depends solely on how the art moves you and the kids. And it might just end up being big old movements that paint the walls.
Jackson Pollock often times painted with items other than paint brushes. We did use paint brushes for our tote bag but only because we got too excited about painting and forgot to dip the stick end of the brush into the paints. Be sure to not touch the brush to the tote bag though! Instead, swirl, tap, swing, and shake the paint onto your painting surface.
Let the paint dry and use your tote to carry essentials. I’ll share how we’re using our tote in another post. Coming soon!
Today, I’ve got a creative way to practice a fine motor task that is often times a tricky for little fumbling fingers: teaching kids how to button…and with a recycled egg carton no less! Read more for creative tips and tools to practice buttoning with kids:
As an Occupational Therapist working with kiddos, I often times had children (and adults!) with goals to improve functional skills like buttoning and managing clothing fasteners. The best thing (to me) about OT is helping folks to work towards independence in meaningful activities and encouraging self-confidence in function through fun and creative ways. This egg carton buttoning activity is definitely fun and works on a task that can get real boring, real quick.
Imaging fumbling to fasten on a row of buttons on a shirt. Trying to push that little button through the hole of the shirt, but struggling. But, you have to keep working on it, because it’s something you want to do yourself. But it’s just so hard. Still, you keep trying. Over and over again.
Teach Kids How to Button a Shirt (in no time flat!)
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First, let’s talk about why buttoning a shirt is so hard for some kids. You really need a lot of skills in order to button a shirt. Both hands need to work together in a coordinated manner while doing different movements. Buttons are small in most cases and require a good grasp to hold the edge of the button, and arch development, along with intrinsic muscle strength to hold the button and push it through the button hole. Then there is the other hand working to hold that button hole. But first, you need to make sure the buttons and holes are lined up correctly. There is a lot of problem solving and sequencing involved in buttoning. All of this is done while wearing the shirt and at an awkward position, while looking down. If any of these areas are a problem area, then buttoning a shirt immediately becomes much more difficult.
Tips for Teaching Kids to Button
There are a few ways that make learning the steps of buttoning a bit easier:
Practice unbuttoning first.
Break down steps of buttoning. Use consistent verbal and physical cues when helping the child button.
If aligning buttons to the button holes is a difficult task, show them how to take this part a step at a time, by lining up the bottom button to the bottom hole.
Practice buttoning from bottom to top. The child will have more room to work and a better view of the buttons at the bottom of a vest or shirt.
Backward Chaining: Encourage success in buttoning by starting with the last step. Work on just this last step with your child until they have mastered it. Then, work on the previous step. Gradually, add more steps to the buttoning task until they are able to complete the whole process. Backward chaining encourages self-confidence and success in learning new skills.
Practice buttoning with shirts/vests that are not visually distracting. Use a white shirt with colored buttons. You can also add a dot of paint to buttons to make them stand out.
At first, practice buttoning with a shirt laying on the child’s lap or table, and positioned like it would be on their body. Practicing with a different shirt on the table gives the child more room to see the buttons and how their hands are working than if they are buttoning on their body.
Then, practice with an over-shirt, with the shirt on their body.
Practice with larger buttons.
Iron the button and hole edges of the shirt for a stiffer material to work with.
Practice with a jacket that is made with a thicker material, like corduroy.
For younger kids (age 3) you can snip the button hole just a little to make buttoning easier.
More Activities to Work on Buttoning with Kids
Work on the fine motor skills needed to button by pushing coins into a piggy bank.
Cut a slit in felt and push a coin through the felt.
Make an Egg Carton Buttoning Tool to Help Kids Practice Buttoning:
This is a fine motor activity to make the buttoning tool, so get the kids involved in the prep-work! We made a similar egg carton shoe tying tool recently. Did you see it? It was a lot of fun.
Yes, sure. You can work on buttoning and shoe tying with a plain old shirt or shoe. But. Sometimes it is good to bring new experiences into the learning process. Adding a new way to practice makes it less boring and kids will be excited to try working those buttons again and again.
Start by poking the corn holder into the bottoms of the egg carton. You want four holes for each button. Then thread the pipe cleaner through one of the holes, and through the button and back down through the egg carton, like this:
Bend the pipe cleaner back up through the holes and back down to the inside of the egg carton. Twist the pipe cleaner ends together to secure the button. You will want the button to have some give and not be completely flat against the egg carton.
Then, start practicing the buttons. Use a long ribbon with slits cut lengthwise. Practice with the egg carton on your child’s lap or on the tabletop in front of them.
Use tissue paper on the buttons for more practice. We also used squares of cardstock and cut up cereal boxes. Make sure the buttons are not flush against the egg carton.
Looking for even more ways to practice buttoning? These are some of my favorite items on the market.
When a child needs to work on some skills for their independence, toys can be the way to go! These toys are great for developing independence in dressing skills. This post contains affiliate links. See our full disclosure here.
Small World Toys Learning – Before and After is great for kids who need to gain insight into concepts of before and after. You can not put your shoes on before you put your socks on. Cognitive concepts can be tricky for children to understand if auditory processing of these ideas are difficult.
Sometimes a fun after school snack is just what a couple of kids need on a dreary Monday. Sure, sure. Your kids don’t NEED animal-themed, candy-eyed, cutest-thing-ever snacks. But it sure is a good day when you giggle with the kids over something as fun as these Turkey Treat snacks!
So these turkeys are not just simple to make. They are actually super simple and you can whip them up in 15 minutes. I know that every mom needs super simple, so these cuties are definitely a must-make snack. Get ready for post-school bus, pre-homework smiles because we’ve got a fun snack idea for you!
Turkey Themed Snack Idea for Kids (and Adults)
Here are the ingredients you’ll need for the turkey treats:
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To make the Turkey treats: Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees F. Place a few round crackers on a baking tray. Place one unwrapped Rollo on each cracker. Place the tray into the oven for about 10 minutes. Keep a close eye on the chocolates to make sure they do not bubble.
Pull the tray out and gently press the candy eyes strait down onto the Rollos. The chocolate will crack and gooey caramel will ooze out. Yum.
Using two hands, place the chocolate candies (We used M&Ms.) into the top of the Rollo by pressing them into the chocolate on their sides. Add an orange candy for the turkey’s beak.
Let the turkeys cool like the super cool turkeys they are.
Enjoy a turkey treat with a kiddo fresh off of the school bus and enjoy the giggles and smiles!
(This turkey treat is equally enjoyable by kids who have not recently gotten off of a school bus. Children who are at home or at school, at play dates, or at Grandma’s for Thanksgiving will love them too!)
We made a similar turkey snack last year and will be making another batch of our Pretzel Rod Turkeys soon!
Today, I’ve got a fun activity for you that really works on fine motor skills. And the bonus is that it is a super big hit with the kids.
Can you tell from the picture below what we used to work onneat pincer grasp? Any guesses?
You can scroll down to the comments and take a guess of what you think we might have used to work on neat pincer grasp…or you can just keep reading. Both are cool.
Back to our neat pincer grasp activity. This was an absolute blast.
Neat Pincer Grasp Activity for Fine Motor Function
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First, let’s talk about Neat Pincer Grasp. What is it? And what makes a grasp “neat”? While I am a believer that all things fine motor is pretty darn neat, the thing about a neat pincer grasp is actually the fact that it’s used for ultra-small grasping. I explained a bit about what neat pincer grasp is over here.
Neat Pincer Grasp is a precision grasp using the very tips of the thumb and the pointer finger to pick up and hold very small items. Sometimes, the fingernails are used in the grasp of items. Neat pincer grasp is used to pick up and hold a pin, a needle in sewing activities, or super small beads like Perler Beads. This can be a tricky grasp for kids with difficulties in fine motor skills or core weakness.
So? Did you guess what those stripes are up above? It’s tape! We used tape in a fine motor activity a while back and it was such a hit that I had to pull out the activity again. In fact, the last time we used tape in fine motor play, my third kiddo was about the age of my fourth baby is now. And my littlest one loved this activity as much as her big sister did two years ago.
Simply stick masking tape to a table or plastic surface. We used the lid of a storage bin at first. And then did the activity again using a dry erase board. You want a surface that is easy to pull the tape off without pulling off bits of paper, for example.
Pulling the tape from the surface requires a tip to tip neat pincer grasp and is a great fine motor workout, with the sticky back of the tape. It’s such a fun strengthening and sensory experience for kids who might not typically play with tape.
We decided to add a little color to our tape play and painted long pieces of masking tape with brightly colored paint. This poster paint
is my favorite for it’s bright color that doesn’t thin as it dries.
Get the kids in on the painting fun for tool use with the paint brushes. Let the paint dry. Have your kids peel the long strips of tape from the dry erase board. Peeling those long strands of tape is another workout for little fingers. Not only do they have to use a neat pincer grasp to pick at and peel up the edge of the tape, they need to peel up long strands with coordination and control to keep the tape from sticking on itself. This can be a tricky activity for adults, depending on how long the tape strands are. If you’ve ever painted walls and peeled off the painter’s tape, then you know the stickiness of masking tape.
Tape sticking to itself isn’t a problem, though. Show your kids how to stick it to paper and create artwork with the painted tape. Tear the tape into small pieces for an intrinsic muscle strengthening exercise.