Narwhal Craft

This narwhal craft is perfect for an ocean theme, or for kids who are heading off to the beach this summer.  Sometimes, adding a themed craft to a favorite children’s book is just what kids need to get crafty while working on skills like scissor use and fine motor skills.  We used one of our favorite new books, “Not Quite Narwhal” by Jessi Sima to come up with a fun narwhal craft that is heavy on the scissor skill practice.  If you are looking to help a child with scissor use, we’ve got TONS of scissor skill activities here on the site. 


Make a narwhal craft that goes along with the children's' book Not Quite Narwahal
Affiliate links are included in this post.

Narwhal Craft 

This narwhal craft was a fun one for us!  I have a few girls in the house who are crazy about all things mermaids, unicorns, and rainbows.  While an actual narwhal has nothing to do with these things, there is just something fun and whimsical about narwhals!  

Not Quite Narwhal book and narwhal craft that kids will love making while working on scissor skills.
When you read Sima’s Not Quite Narwhal, you definitely feel the fun and whimsy of unicorns and narwhals!  We picked up the book in the new release section of our library and it has quickly become a hit in our house.  

This book is a creative and fun story about Kelp, who is born among the narwhals but always thought he seemed a little different. One day, Kelp is carried by a current to meet mysterious creatures who seem more like him and make him wonder if he might not be a narwhal after all. This is a sweet library book find that we’ll definitely check out again!! You know those books that show up in your library bag again and again. 


We’ve been reading Not Quite Narwhal over and over again and noticing new adorable details in the illustrations with each read-through! We decided to make a few narwhals of our own to join Kelp in his adventures!


Make a Narwhal Craft and work on Scissor Skills

This narwhal craft has double duty: It’s super cuteness goes along perfectly with the book AND it sneaks in scissor skills.  Kids can work on cutting on lines with simple shapes in order to build a narwhal.  

We made an easy version with simple geometric shapes and a more complex narwhal craft that would be perfect for older kids.


To make the narwhal craft, you’ll need just a few materials:

Blue cardstock (cardstock is thicker paper, so it’s excellent for slowing down scissors to ensure more accuracy when cutting along lines, especially for younger scissor users.)
Scissors (These are the best for kids who are learning to cut.)
Glue
Not Quite Narwhal (optional, but definitely recommended)

If you’re working on scissor skills, The Scissor Skills Book is a resource for parents, teachers, and therapists.

Read more about The Scissor Skills Book HERE.

Help kids improve scissor skills with this narwhal craft.

To make the narwhal craft:

Draw simple shapes on the cardstock.  For kids who are learning to cut, use thicker lines made with a marker.  You’ll need:

One large oval for the narwhal’s body
One curved rectangle for the tail
One long triangle for the bottom fin
Two small triangles for the tail fin
One long white triangle for the narwhal’s tusk

Use an ocean theme narwhal craft to work on scissor skills with kids.
Kids can cut on the lines and build a narwhal.  Use the picture above to construct the narwhal.

You can also use this craft as an opportunity to develop visual perceptual skills like form copying and eye hand coordination.  

It’s a lot like building pictures with tangrams!

Kids can work on scissor skills when making this narwhal craft.
For a more complex craft, draw the narwhal on the blue cardstock in one big, and curved shape.  Cutting on lines with multiple turns is appropriate for young tweens and older kids.

This narwhal craft is great for helping kids develop and work on scissor skills.

Let me know if you make this craft.  We shared our version on our Instagram page.  Post yours on our Facebook page. I would love to see your child’s work!
Find more crafts that address skills like scissor skills, direction following, and fine motor development on our crafts for kids page. 
The Scissor Skills Book addresses scissor skill development including scissor crafts for kids
Here are some kids crafts you may like: 
The Scissor Skills Book addresses scissor skill development including scissor crafts for kids

Easy Rice Writing Tray

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

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


Easy Rice Writing Tray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After writing the letters or numbers in the writing tray, give it a gently swish with both hands to clear the form.  This is a great way to get both hands working together in a way that encourages bilateral coordination at the midline.  Read more about bilateral coordination activities on the site. 
To make a writing tool, use an unsharpened pencil, sticking an eraser on the lead end.  These erasers work very well to turn a pencil into a writing tray tool. 
Easy rice writing tray for helping kids learn to write letters and numbers with a tactile sensory and movement based motor plan.

Sensory Summer Activity Guide

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

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

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

Looking for more summer occupational therapy activity ideas? We’ve got a lot here on The OT Toolbox!

 Sensory Summer Activity Guide
This guide book is perfect for parents who are looking for summer activities based on sensory input.
It’s the perfect summer program for therapists to send home for activity ideas that will last all summer long.  The best news is that you can access the summer sensory guide as a special bonus to the Summer OT Activity kit.

You’ll also be interested in our new Summer Occupational Therapy Activities Packet. It’s a collection of 14 items that guide summer programming at home, at school, and in therapy sessions. The summer activities bundle covers handwriting, visual perceptual skills and visual motor skills, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, regulation, and more.

You’ll find ideas to use in virtual therapy sessions and to send home as home activities that build skills and power development with a fun, summer theme. Kids will love the Summer Spot It! game, the puzzles, handouts, and movement activities. Therapists will love the teletherapy slide deck and the easy, ready-to-go activities to slot into OT sessions. The packet is only $10.00 and can be used over and over again for every student/client!

Grab the Spring Occupational Therapy Activities Packet HERE.

summer occupational therapy activities for kids

Want to take summer play to the next level? Be sure to grab your copy of the Summer OT Activities Bundle!

Summer activities for kids

The Sensory Summer Activity Guide includes:

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

Brain Break Free Ideas

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


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


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


You might also like this Dinosaur Themed Brain Break game


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

Easy Coping Strategy

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

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


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

What is a Coping Strategy?

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

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


Super Easy Coping Strategy

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

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

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

Ocean Sounds Coping Strategy

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

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

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

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

What is happening with this coping strategy?

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

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

You can read more about sensory-based coping strategies
 
Kids can use this easy coping strategy with beach sounds in the classroom, home, or community to deal with emotions or stress.

What are Visual Spatial Relations

Knowing which shoe to put on which foot.  Understanding that a “b” has a bump on the right side.  Putting homework on the left side of the take home folder before putting books into a locker beside the gym bag.  Visual spatial relations are everywhere! Visual spatial skills in occupational therapy activities are an important skill.
 
Visual Spatial Relations is an important visual perceptual skill that is important for many functional tasks.  Visual spatial relations allows the organization of the body in relation to objects or spatial awareness.  This is an important part of spatial awareness in handwriting and many other movement-based activities.  An important part of visual spatial relations includes laterality and directionality.  These terms refer to left-right body awareness and the ability to perceive left/right relationship of objects. 


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

The following tasks require visual spatial relations:

Letter formation and number formation
Writing letters without reversal
Reading letters without reversal
Sports
Completing puzzles
Walking in a crowded hallway without running into others
Standing in line without bumping into others
Left/right awareness
Understanding spatial reasoning concepts such as beside/under/next to/etc
Reading without losing one’s place
Copying written work with appropriate spatial awareness
 
These activities all require the ability to perceive an object in space.  The way they interpret position in space to their body and to other objects in the environment impacts motor skills.  
 
Spacing pieces of a puzzle amongst the others and writing in relation to the lines is one way to work on this skill.
This map activity is great for building and developing spatial concepts and higher level thinking right in the backyard, using a map and lights to develop spatial relations. Teaching Spatial Concepts to Preschoolers and Toddlers through play. Over, under, around, and through and their need in functional tasks like shoe tying and handwriting. Visual Perception and spatial awareness in kids.  What is Spatial awareness and why do kids have trouble with spacing between letters and words, reversing letters, and all things vision.  Great tips here from an Occupational Therapist, including tips and tools to help kids with spacing in handwriting. What is spatial awareness?  Tips and tools for handwriting, reading, scissors, and all functional skills in kids and adults, from an Occupational Therapist.

Try these other activities that challenge visual spatial relations:

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

Letters on the garage door

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

Preschool Pre-Writing Skills

Many times, parents of very young children don’t think about handwriting skills. It’s not typical to think about holding a pencil, writing words and sentences, and copying letters when children are just mastering building with blocks, learning to pull on socks, and creating finger paint masterpieces.  But the truth is, when young preschoolers are playing, they are building the precursors to handwriting.  


The skills needed for managing a pencil, copying letter forms, and managing pencil control when copying lists and paragraphs into a space on a page are initiated in the early childhood years.  Below, you’ll find more about preschool pre-writing skills and the components of pre-writing skills that are developed through play.





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



Preschool Pre-Writing Skills

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


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


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


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


Sensory considerations
Attention demands
Posture and positioning
Strength and endurance


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


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


The answer is through play!


What makes up Pre-Writing Skills?

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

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

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


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


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

 The Handwriting Book

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

Handwriting Practice While Traveling

Summer vacation can mean relaxing times of making memories with family and friends.  Long, lazy days without routines, later bedtimes, and days without the daily grind of homework and school checklists are what make a childhood’s summer carefree.  But, summer can also mean the “summer slump”.  Those skills that were learned over the previous school year are quickly forgotten when pool time and planning the family vacation are priority.  


For the child who struggles with handwriting, the summer months can be especially hard on retaining skills.  Children often times, are not exposed to any handwriting work over the summer months.  So how do you help kids maintain the handwriting skills they’ve worked so hard to accomplish over the summer? 


When there are underlying skill areas that need attention in order to maintain legible handwriting, accurate letter formation, or spatial awareness in handwriting, how can you maintain or even improve these skills over the summer?


We’ve shared creative summer handwriting activities before, using a travel writing kit, a sensory-based handwriting summer camp, and motivational ideas to address handwriting needs.  


But, what about when travel, summer plans, and vacations are on the horizon?  Here are easy ways to work on handwriting while traveling this summer.  These are motivating, functional, and meaningful tasks that can sneak in handwriting practice.  


Use these strategies and ideas to encourage handwriting tasks.  Letter formation, line use, and margins don’t need to be perfect.  The key here is to help kids feel important, needed, and handwriting-smart!  The children who struggle with written work can get overwhelmed by interventions during the school year.  Take the time summer break as a time to keep up on the skills they’ve learned in a low-key way!

You’ll also be interested in our new Summer Occupational Therapy Activities Packet. It’s a collection of 14 items that guide summer programming at home, at school, and in therapy sessions. The summer activities bundle covers handwriting, visual perceptual skills and visual motor skills, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, regulation, and more.

n the Summer OT packet, you’ll find:

  • Beach Fun Google Slide Deck/PDF set
  • Summer Spot It! Printable Game
  • Hole Punch Cards for matching upper case and lower case letters
  • 7 Roll and Write Play Dough Sheets – Apples, Bees, Bugs, Buttons, Donuts, Play Dough, and Unicorn themes
  • Summer Fun Pencil Control Strips
  • Summer Lists Writing Prompts
  • Summer Number Practice
  • Summer Visual Perception Pages

All of the Summer OT activities include ideas to promote various developmental areas with a Summer-theme. Activities guide and challenge development of handwriting, eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, body scheme, oculomotor control, visual perception, fine motor skills, self-regulation, gross motor skills, and more.

Use these activities as warm-ups to your therapy sessions, or add them to the homework page below to create a home program.

You’ll find ideas to use in virtual therapy sessions and to send home as home activities that build skills and power development with a fun, summer theme. Kids will love the Summer Spot It! game, the puzzles, handouts, and movement activities. Therapists will love the teletherapy slide deck and the easy, ready-to-go activities to slot into OT sessions. The packet is only $10.00 and can be used over and over again for every student/client!

Grab the Spring Occupational Therapy Activities Packet HERE.

 

summer occupational therapy activities for kids



 
 


Ideas for Handwriting Practice While Traveling

Use this list as a way to get students, OT clients, or your own child writing and moving that pencil this summer.  Print off this list here.  The printable version of this list is a great tool for the school-based Occupational Therapist.  Add it to summer home exercise programs.  Teachers can send this home at the end of school.  


These ideas would be a great addition to all of our summer occupational therapy activities here on The OT Toolbox! 


 

 


Handwriting Ideas for Kids While Traveling

 



Going on vacation this summer?  We need to prepare!  Grab a handful of colorful pens and let’s get started.

 
  • Create a Family Meeting Sheet to plan the vacation.
  • Make a shopping list to prepare for vacation travels.
  • Map out travel routes.  Use a real, paper map and highlight routes of travel. Tracing lines on a map is a great exercise in visual perceptual and visual motor skills. 
  • Make a packing list.
  • Write a vacation bucket-list.
  • Create a checklist of stops that we will make while at our vacation destination (visits with family, grocery store needs, etc)
  • Start a daily itinerary- Plan a schedule of events, big or small.  
  • Write a list of names and addresses that can be used for writing postcards to family and friends.
  • Make a postcard writing kit, filled with stamps, your address list, and fun pens.
  • Write postcards.
  • Get a notebook and start a travel journal.
  • Write out the first day of travel, including an itinerary with stops.  Watch for signs while driving and mark them off the list.
  • Write out travel information such as the local Tourist Board, Chamber of Commerce information, Tourist Department info, State websites, and County websites.
  • List local parks, festivals, activities, historical areas, museums, zoos, and entertainment areas. 
  • Create a Rainy Day Guide that includes a list and phone numbers of indoor activities in the area of your destination. This might include: cinemas, shopping areas, Children’s museums, or aquariums.
  • Make an Adventure Scrapbook- This can be as simple as paper stapled together. Fill the scrapbook with an outline of daily activities, and paste pictures cut from travel brochures onto the pages.  Add ticket stubs, postcards, souvenirs, or even stamped napkins from restaurants.  Label and quickly describe each page.  This is a great project to take into school in the Fall to describe your summer to classmates and new teachers!
  • Play the license plate game. List out states on a piece of paper and check off each state as you see a car with that license plate.  Make it a game with everyone in the car!
  • Play Destination Scramble: Are you going to Disneyland in Florida? Write that out on the top of a piece of paper.  Then, try to make as many words as you can using all of those letters. 
  • Make your own travel word search using graph paper.  First, write travel-themed words going up, down, or diagonally on the graph paper.  Connect words when you are able.  Then, fill in letters surrounding the words to make a full word search.  Pass the puzzle off to another car rider and have them find all of the words.  Travel words include: suitcase, sunscreen, beach, family, vacation, etc.
  • Play a game of travel-themed “Headbanz”. Using index cards, write out travel-themed words.  Without looking, hold it up on your forehead and another person in the car has to answer questions as you try to figure out your word.  
  • Play “Connect 5” with letters on graph paper.  Play this writing game with a friend.  All you need is paper and pencils.  (A clipboard can’t hurt!)  Take turns, writing your first initial on the graph paper. Try to get 5 of your letters in a row while blocking the other person from getting five letters in a row. This game can get tricky but is a great way to work on visual scanning, visual memory, visual discrimination, and visual figure ground while addressing spatial relations.