Executive Functioning Resources on Therapy Thursday

Below, you will find a collection of executive functioning resources and tools for improving executive functioning skills that can be used in the home, school, therapy clinic, or anywhere!

So, I’m hearing lots of happy chatter about this new email series happening each Thursday!

Therapy Thursday has been off to a fantastic start. If you have missed some of the newsletters, have no fear. I’ve been compiling each week’s newsletter into a blog post and posting them on The OT Toolbox. Each newsletter in Therapy Thursday is chock full of resources and info on one specific topic. If you would like to join The OT Toolbox newsletter, add your email here.

Use these executive functioning resources to improve and develop executive functioning skills at home or in the classroom.

This week, we’re about Executive Functioning Skills!

If you follow The OT Toolbox, then you know we have a lot of resources on executive functioning skills. In fact, we even have an Executive Functioning Skills Toolbox Facebook Page! (Follow along for lots of resources curated from around the web!)

Here are strategies to help the adult with executive function disorder. Many of these tips and strategies are great for teens as well.

Let’s start at the beginning:

What are Executive Functioning Skills? 

Executive Functioning Skills guide everything we do, from making decisions, to staying on track with an activity, to planning and prioritizing a task.  The ability to make a decision, plan it out, and act on it without being distracted is what allows us to accomplish the most mundane of tasks to the more complicated and multi-step actions.

Children with executive functioning issues will suffer in a multitude of ways.

Some kids have many deficits in EF and others fall behind in several or all areas. _Everyone_ needs to develop and build executive functions as they grow.  Functional adults may still be struggling with aspects of executive functioning skills. These cognitive skills are an interconnected web of processing that allows for self-regulation, planning, organization, and memory.

Executive Functioning Skills are essential for learning, behavior, and development.  All of these skills work together and impact other areas.

**Executive Functioning Skills include:**
Emotional Control
Task Initiation
Task Completion
Working Memory
Planning
Prioritizing
Processing Speed
Organization
Attention
Self-Monitoring
Impulse Control
Cognitive Flexibility
Foresight
Hindsight
Self-Talk
Problem Solving
Persistence
Shift

Executive functioning skills development begins at a very early age. Click here to read more about executive functioning skill development.

Resources for Improving Executive Functioning Skills

Get a free three page printable packet of sheets that can help with impulse control.

Executive functions are heavily dependent on attention.  Read about the attention and executive functioning skill connection and the impact of attention on each of the executive functioning skills that children require and use every day.

Check out these fun games to help improve executive function skills.

Another area of interest to you might be the impact executive functioning skills have on handwriting.

Here are strategies for improving task initiation.

Read about tips for improving working memory.

Here are tons of tips for addressing organization issues at home or in school. These are great for younger kids through adult!

Here are many activities and loads of information on improving attention in kids.
Helping kids with impulse control can be a big challenge! Here are tips that can help.

That’s why I created The Impulse Control Journal.

The Impulse control journal is a printable journal for kids that helps them to identify goals, assess successes, and address areas of needs.  The Impulse Control Journal is a printable packet of sheets that help kids with impulse control needs.

Read more about The Impulse Control Journal HERE

The Impulse Control Journal has been totally revamped to include 79 pages of tools to address the habits, mindst, routines, and strategies to address impulse control in kids. 

More about the Impulse Control Journal:

  • 30 Drawing Journal Pages to reflect and pinpoint individual strategies 
  • 28 Journal Lists so kids can write quick checklists regarding strengths, qualities, supports, areas of need, and insights 
  • 8 Journaling worksheets to pinpoint coping skills, feelings, emotions, and strategies that work for the individual 
  • Daily and Weekly tracking sheets for keeping track of tasks and goals 
  • Mindset,Vision, and Habit pages for helping kids make an impact 
  • Self-evaluation sheets to self-reflect and identify when inhibition is hard and what choices look like 
  • Daily tracker pages so your child can keep track of their day 
  • Task lists to monitor chores and daily tasks so it gets done everyday  
  • Journal pages to help improve new habits  
  • Charts and guides for monitoring impulse control so your child can improve their self-confidence  
  • Strategy journal pages to help kids use self-reflection and self-regulation so they can succeed at home and in the classroom  
  • Goal sheets for setting goals and working to meet those goals while improving persistence  
  • Tools for improving mindset to help kids create a set of coping strategies that work for their needs  
  
This is a HUGE digital resource that you can download and print to use over and over again.  





Bonus for subscribers only:

Subscribers of The OT Toolbox newsletter are getting a weekly email with loads of resources focusing on a specific topic. This week’s subscribers also got a free printable sheet and a special discount on an executive functioning resource. If you would like to get in on these perks, join us as a newsletter subscriber
Your privacy is important, and as a subscriber, we will never sell your information or use it maliciously. Read more about our privacy policy HERE.
Watch your inbox for next week’s Therapy Thursday!
Try these executive functioning resources to improve executive function in kids.

More Themed Occupational Therapy Activity Toolkits

his blog post by contributor author Regina Parsons-Allen describes occupational therapy activity kits that can be used to address a variety of occupational therapy goals using themed OT kits, saving time and planning for therapy. 


Another Look at Occupational Therapy Themed Tool Kits

This is part two of the blog post regarding themed occupational therapy activity tool kits.
Many people have contacted me to ask if I have other themed therapy tool kits that I use in my practice as a school-based COTA. This is part two of my original post where I will share more information regarding additional kits. Like I said, I have so many kits it is hard to share them all in one or even two posts.

What is an Occupational Therapy Activity Toolkit?

Let’s review, pediatric and school-based occupational therapy practitioners are busy people. Racing from school to school or site to site serving children of many ages all in a single day.

Having portable tool kits saves the therapists’ valuable time in planning, preparing, organizing and documenting for assessment and intervention. To sum up tool kits, they are portable, all inclusive, and can be separated by themes to support the different needs of the individual therapist and/or child.

There can be many types of tool kits using a variety of designs and sizes. Tool kits can be separated by many types of themes to address a therapists’ particular needs.

Please refer to the original blog post on occupational therapy activity toolkits as it contains lots of great information with the complete details regarding specific types of tool kits, valuable tips on how to make a tool kit, and some other examples of kits that I use in practice to include an Easter tool kit, a grab and go kit, and a strengthening kit.

More Occupational Therapy Activity Toolkit Ideas

Below is an example of a Seasonal Tool Kit – Summer:

Use these themed occupational therapy activity toolkit ideas to create a themed summer OT activity kit for on-the-go treatment.

Seasonal or holiday kits contain fun activities that can reach a vast majority of kiddos with many types of needs. Splashing the activities with some genuine OT creativity can really transform the impact of these kits.

“Dump and Run” Seasonal Therapy Tool Kit

Create a summer themed occupational therapy activity toolkit for pediatric occupational therapy treatment.

(Check out why I call it a “dump and run” kit in the original post.)

Tools of the Trade Occupational Therapy Activity Toolkits

Below are two examples of Tools of the Trade Kits – Pencil and Reading Aid Tool Kits:

Tools of the trade kits contain standard to adaptive tools, devices, or materials with items being either purchased or DIY. These tools can be used for treatment, trial, loan, or assessment and are useful to determine skill level, formulate therapy plans, and provide intervention.

Handwriting Pencil Toolkit:

Create a themed occupational therapy activity toolkit to address handwriting and pencil grips to address common handwriting issues in pediatric occupational therapy.

Create a themed occupational therapy activity toolkit to address handwriting and pencil grips to address common handwriting issues in pediatric occupational therapy.
This coban pencil grip can be added to the handwriting toolkit. Another addition that can benefit many students is this easy DIY pencil grip that uses balloons. 
Add a mechanical pencil to address proprioception needs or pencil pressure issues. Read about how a mechanical pencil can help with pencil pressure here. 

 Reading Aid Therapy Toolkit:

Create a reading aid toolkit for occupational therapy treatment of reading issues in pediatric occupational therapy activities.
Create a reading aid toolkit for occupational therapy treatment of reading issues in pediatric occupational therapy activities.

This visual tracking tool can make a nice addition to the reading aid toolkit.

Targeted Skill Area Tool Kits

Targeted skill area kits contain specific tools of the trade and other assorted materials that address the development of a targeted skill area.

Below are two examples of targeted skill area kits designed to address Self-regulation, Sensory, and Attention:

Make an occupational therapy activity toolkit to address attention or self-regulation needs using sensory fidget tools and other items used in pediatric OT.

Create a Pencil Box Fidget Tool Kit using a pencil box to store items.

Some of these quiet fidget tools can be a nice addition. Here are some DIY fidget tools that can be added, too.

Make an occupational therapy activity toolkit to address attention or self-regulation needs using sensory fidget tools and other items used in pediatric OT.

Make an occupational therapy activity toolkit to address attention or self-regulation needs using sensory fidget tools and other items used in pediatric OT.

Create an Open Top Fidget or Sensory Tool Kit in a small bin or crate.

Make an occupational therapy activity toolkit to address attention or self-regulation needs using sensory fidget tools and other items used in pediatric OT.

Make an occupational therapy activity toolkit to address attention or self-regulation needs using sensory fidget tools and other items used in pediatric OT.

Themed therapy kits address the therapist’s desire for ease in program planning, preparation, organization and documentation. Invest the time now and enjoy the time later by simplifying your work as a pediatric therapist.

Children will be excited to see the kits coming and you will be better prepared to enjoy the time you spend providing intervention with the child.

This post was written by Regina Allen. Read about Regina in her Contributor Author Spotlight.

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Kinesthetic Learning Fine Motor Activity

The Kinesthetic Sense is needed for almost every task. Read on for more information on kinesthetic learning, exactly what is kinesthesia, how the kinesthetic sense plays a part in fine motor skills, and kinesthetic fine motor activities that can help with motor planning and learning through play.



What is Kinesthetic Learning?


The Kinesthetic sense is a huge part of every action we do.  When we pick up a toothbrush and brush our teeth, we “know” the motion and amount of pressure that is needed to move the toothbrush and polish teeth without poking the side of mouth with the toothbrush. 

The Kinesthetic sense allows us to zipper a jacket without looking at the zipper. It allows us to tie our shoes while looking up at a friend on the playground.  It allows us to have a conversation and look around at our table mates while using a fork, wiping our mouth, and picking up a cup during dinner. It enables a student to flip the pencil and erase a mistake without looking at the pencil and thinking through each step of moving the pencil within the hand. 

Kinesthesia allows us to participate in actions with motor planning, appropriate motor actions, and effective proprioception. 


These kinesthetic learning fine motor activities use homemade bean bags.




Praxis, or
kinesthesis
 help
us understand how to move our bodies. 
The praxic system is also known as the kinesthetic system. The kinesthetic system essentially “puts it all
together” when it comes to motor responses to sensory information that has been
perceived by the other senses.  

Knowing how to move our body and how those actions are to be performed is a big part of sensory processing, including a combination of many senses! Read more about sensory processing and how all of the senses are part of a big puzzle in our recent book, The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook


All of this processing movements and knowing how to move the body within an action make up kinesthetic learning


Kinesthetic learners need to move their bodies, manipulate materials, and really interact with learning materials.  These children tend to fidget, wiggle, slouch, or get up out of their seats when in the classroom setting.  This site has a lot of great information on kinesthetic learning. 


Adding movement opportunities involving multiple senses into learning opportunities benefit the kinesthetic learner. 


Kinesthetic learning has also been called three dimensional learning. 


Kinesthetic learning occurs during learning experiences where a student feels, touches, hears, moves, and overall “experiences” in learning. 

Kinesthetic Learning and Motor Planning in Activities


Having a motor plan for an action can help with tasks that
are performed again and again. This is true for the motion needed to open and
close scissors while using both hands in a coordinated manner. 

Motor planning
is necessary for formation of letters and numbers (Consider being able to jot
down notes very quickly or writing a quick fill-in-the-blank word when looking
up at a Smartboard.) Motor planning allows us to manage clothing fasteners
without looking. This is the “muscle memory” that allows movements to be performed in a
smooth and coordinated manner.

Addressing the kinesthetic sense in learning can be helpful for many children, particularly those who are kinesthetic learners. 

Proprioception and the kinesthetic sense

Linked to motor planning and kinesthetic motions is
proprioception. The ability for muscles and joints to manage weight and
position in space are necessary for movements to occur with appropriate force
modulation.

The Proprioception Sensory System is the recognition and response to the body’s
position in space with an internal feedback system using the position in space
of the joints, tendons, and muscles. 
This sensory system allows the body to automatically react to changes in
force and pressure given body movements and object manipulation.  The body receives more feedback from active
muscles rather than passive muscle use.  

Related to the proprioceptive system is kinesthetic motor actions, or praxis.  Individuals are able to plan and execute
motor tasks given feedback from the proprioceptive system. Praxis allows us to
utilize sensory input from the senses and to coordinate hat information to move
appropriately. 

Kinesthetic Learning Fine Motor Activities 

Kinesthetic actions occur in both gross and fine motormovements. When a child is able to complete jumping jacks with coordinated
upper and lower body movements they are utilizing gross motor kinesthetic
movements. 



When a child manages buttons on their pajamas without looking and
with a coordinated manner, they are utilizing fine motor kinesthesia (among other skills! This is an overgeneralization.) 

These outdoor kinesthetic learning activities can be as fun as they are helpful for kids!


Kinesthetic Fine Motor Activity

Kids can work on kinesthetic learning and kinesthetic fine motor skills with this bean bag activity that helps to address motor planning needs.
There are ways to develop and strengthen kinesthetic fine
motor actions. These activities can be used to help develop muscle memory,
motor planning, and the ability to recognize and respond to various levels of
weight and kinesthetic input.

One way to develop kinesthetic fine motor skills is to use
weighted bean bags in various weights.

These simple DIY bean bags use brightly colored sand in
see-through plastic baggies. Different styles of DIY bean bags can be used to
provide more a more lasting bean bag.

Use these DIY bean bags to address kinesthetic learning needs and boost fine motor skills.
Use dry rice and liquid food coloring to create colored
rice. When the rice is completely dry, fill varying amounts into plastic bags.
(Cloth pockets can be used and then sewn up for a more lasting version.)

Use colored duct tape to secure the bean bags.

Occupational therapists will love this bean bag activity to build kinesthetic learning and fine motor skills by addressing motor planning needed for tasks.

Students can then use the weighted bean bags to practice and
develop kinesthetic fine motor skills.

Weighted bean bags may be sized appropriately to fit the
child’s hand to address arch development and closure of the hands.

The weighted objects can be dropped from one hand and caught
with the other supinated hand. Trial this activity in various positions and
distances. Then, switch hands so the non-dominant hand is dropping the bean bag
and the dominant hand catches the bean bag.

Have the child close their eyes and drop the bean bag from one hand to the other. This encourages and challenges the kinesthetic sense without input from the visual sense. More practice with the eyes open will make this exercise easier as the child’s muscle memory is built. 

Various weights and sizes of objects should be trialed in
the various positions and distances.


Try this activity while sitting and standing.

There is more input from heavier objects and less input from
lighter weight objects.



Be sure to limit throwing of these bean bags, unless you enjoy sweeping up lots of dyed rice! 

Other weighted objects can be used for this activity too,
including marbles, small balls, stress balls, etc.

This kinesthetic learning fine motor activity uses DIY beanbags made with colored rice. Use them in learning activities where kids move and learn.

Hand Strengthening Activities

Below, you will find hand strengthening activities for kids, hand strength activities for adults, and therapy tools to develop hand strength. The activities to strengthen fine motor skills included in this post are perfect to improving grip strength, pinch strength, or as part of a finger exercises program for handwriting. 

Fine Motor Strength is essential for so many reasons! From maintaining a grasp on a pencil to opening and closing scissors, to buttoning buttons, snapping snaps, tying shoes, coloring a picture without stopping, to most everything we do…hand strength matters! 

Here, you will find a collection of fine motor resources and hand strengthening activities that can be used to improve tone in the hands, increase stability in the thumb and fingers, develop and define arches of the hands, improve precision with in-hand manipulation, improve endurance in hand strength, and address separation of the sides of the hand…in fun and creative ways! 

Use these hand strengthening activities to improve hand strength needed for pencil grasp, coloring, clothing fasteners, and using scissors or other fine motor tasks.

 

 
I wanted to cover fine motor strength and the skills kids need for pencil grasp, managing scissors, working clothing fasteners, and using those hands. 

So often, we see weak arches, instability, and low tone in the hands that transfers to awkward use of the hands, impractical grasps, and poor endurance in writing or coloring. Sneaking in a few strengthening activities each day can make a world of difference!
 


Hand Strengthening Activities


Today includes a collection of hand strengthening activities that can be used as hand strength activities for adults, and to develop hand strength. Scroll through the activities below to find creative hand strengthening ideas to improve grip strength, pinch strength, or as part of a finger exercises program for handwriting.

Try these fine motor hand strengthening activity ideas:

First, check out our huge online library of fine motor activities. This is a collection of all of the fine motor activities on The OT Toolbox. There’s something for everyone.

One thing that makes a big difference in fine motor dexterity is addressing separation of the sides of the hand. This post explains more about motoric separation of the hand and here is another fun activity that really strengthens those muscles.

These OT activities using tongs are great for developing and strengthening the arches of the hands for improved intrinsic strength.

In fact, the intrinsic muscles are the muscles in the hand that define the arches of the hands, bend the knuckles, and oppose with the thumbs. Activities like this intrinsic muscle strengthening activity can easily be replicated at home or in the therapy room.

Among these muscles are a group called the lumbricals. The lumbrical muscles have a job to bend (flex) the MCP joints and extend (straighten) the PIP and DIP joints. When the lumbricals are in action, the hand might look like it is holding a plate with the big knuckles bent and the fingers extended. Read more about strengthening the intrinsics here.

When kids write or color with a thumb web space area squashed shut, it’s a sign of problems. Then might be compensating for thumb instability, underdeveloped hand arches, and/or poor strength. Each of these problem areas will lead to difficulties with handwriting, dexterity, manipulation of small items like beads, and pencil grasp. 


Writing with a closed web space is inefficient and will cause poor and slow handwriting, especially as kids grow and are expected to write at faster speeds. A closed web space while attempting to manage fasteners such as buttons and zippers will lead to fumbling and difficulty. So, what do you do if you’ve got a kiddo who is squashing that web space shut during functional tasks? I’ve got a few ideas on how to work on open thumb web spaces.

Here are even more ideas to promote thumb stability and tone with activities designed to open the thumb web space.


Strengthening the hand can occur through a variety of pinch and grip exercises. Here are ideas to strengthen the hands using clothespins.

In-hand manipulation is a skill requiring strength in the hands. Activities like this in-hand manipulation activity can boost these skills. 


There are several aspects to in-hand manipulation:
▪ Finger-to-Palm Translation: Movement of an object from the fingers to the palm i.e. picking up a coin and moving it to the palm.

▪ Palm-to-Finger Translation: Movement of an object from the palm to the fingertips. (i.e. moving a coin from the palm to the fingertips to insert into a vending machine.)

▪ Shift: Slight adjustment of an object on or by the finger pads. (i.e. adjusting a pencil up and down in your hand.)

▪ Simple Rotation: Turning or rolling an object 90 degrees or less with the fingers moving as a unit. (i.e. unscrewing a toothpaste lid)

▪ Complex Rotation: Turning an object more than 90 degrees using isolated finger and thumb movements. (i.e. Turning a paperclip)

Each of the above skills can occur with items “squirreled away in the palm using the pinky finger and ring finger. This is called “with stabilization”. If other items are not pocketed away in the palm while in-hand manipulation occurs, it is called “without stabilization”. 


Stabilization typically occurs around 2 years of age. Read more about in-hand manipulation here. Here are a couple of activity ideas that can be easily replicated at home.

A few more hand strengthening activities: 

It’s my hope that these resources are a huge help for you! Here are a few more topics related to strength in the hands that you may need in your therapy toolbox: 
Graded Precision in Grasp 
Occupation-Centered Neat Pincer Grasp Activities 
Strengthen Tripod Grasp with Every Day Items 
DIY Clothespin Busy Bags to Strengthen Pinch 
Clay Strengthening Exercises 
Handwriting Warm-Up Exercises 
The Ultimate Guide to Fine Motor Strength

The Hand Strengthening Exercise Program Bundle Includes
-The Hand Strengthening Handbook (regularly $15.99) 
-The brand new Hand Strengthening Exercise Program (regularly $12.99) 
-More than 30 scannable QR codes linking to short videos that show fun, creative activities to build hand strength 
-23 pages of playful hand strengthening ideas using simple materials 
-Printable cards with scannable QR codes 
-20-Page Hand Strengthening and Fine Motor Printable Resource Bundle including; 
-Kids and Clothing Fasteners 
-Teaching Kids How to Use Scissors 
-Printable Shape Cutting Templates 
-Hand Strengthening Supply List 
-Hand Strengthening Toys for Kids 
-Printable Hand Strength Activity Cards

This hand strengthening program was developed by my OT and PT pals over at The Inspired Treehouse. The bundle is on sale only through the 21st and is a deal priced at $19.99. So if you are looking for programs to strengthen the hands, this one would fit your needs.


How will you use the hand strengthening activities and ideas listed above? Maybe in a home exercise program or in a therapy program that runs throughout the school year? Maybe you will use the ideas at home or in a clinic. The ideas are endless!

Occupational therapists can use these hand strengthening activities to improve hand strength in kids or adults for improved fine motor skills.

DIY Handwriting Spacing Tool Craft

When it comes to legible handwriting, spatial awareness between letters and words makes a huge difference! Whether you are a teacher in the classroom, a parent who is struggling to find the trick to get your child to write legibly, or a therapist working on the underlying skills needed for functional written work, you’ve probably noticed that when letters are smashed up against one another, it’s really hard to read what’s been written! Stretching out spaces between words makes a huge difference in legibility. And there’s more; Using consistent spacing between letters can help with legibility too.

That’s why we’re sharing this easy DIY handwriting spacing tool craft. It’s a do it yourself version that kids will take pride in making and using. Many of us have used and love spacing tools made from craft sticks.

Us pipe cleaners and craft items to make a handwriting spacing tool that kids can use to improve spacing between letters and words when writing.

This space man themed spacing tool is one of those fun DIY spacing tools.

Here’s ANOTHER craft stick spacing tool with a visual cue.

Today, we’ve got a spacing tool that doesn’t use a craft stick…it’s another fun DIY spacing tool idea!

Working on spacing in handwriting? Why not start a handwriting club for kids? Kids can work on handwriting skills in a fun way. Here’s how to start a handwriting club kids will WANT to join!

Handwriting Spacing Tool Craft

This spacing tool uses items that you probably already have in the house or classroom. Kids can use their creative style in making their spacing tool and really make it their own. We used a few materials to make our spacing tools.

Materials needed to make a spacing tool: 

Pipe cleaners
Craft pom poms

Our items came from www.craftprojectideas.com.

You could also use beads for a smaller space between words.

This project is super simple to put together. Creating the DIY spacing tools is a nice fine motor warm up to writing, too!

If you are using a crafting pom pom like we did, use a smaller sized pom pom. A 1/4 inch crafting pom pom is a good size. Once the pipe cleaner is wrapped around the pom pom a couple of times, the size will increase.

Wrap one end of the pipe cleaner around the craft pom pom several times so the pom pom is secure. A dab of craft glue can be used to secure the craft pom pom to the pipe cleaner, if you like.

You won’t want the top of the spacing tool to be too wide, otherwise the space between words will become too stretched.

A bead makes a nice spacer for spacing between words. Once the pipe cleaner is wrapped around the bead, there is a nice sized spacer for words.

And that’s all there is to it!

Use the spacing tool to space between words using the top of the space tool. The width of the pipe cleaner can be used to maintain a consistent space between letters.

Work on spacing between letters and words using a pipe cleaner spacing tool that improves handwriting in kids.

These handwriting spacing tools can be as varied as the students in a classroom. Allow the kiddos to use creativity when making theirs. Bend pipe cleaners, add additional beads or other embellishments like ribbon or twine.

Students will be proud to show off (and use!) their spacing tool when practicing handwriting and spacing between letters and words!

Kids can use pipe cleaners and craft items to make their own DIY handwriting spacing tool for writing neatly and improving spatial awareness in handwriting.

Occupational Therapy Activities Using Tongs

One of the most popular posts here on The OT Toolbox is our 31 Days of Occupational Therapy Activities. It was a couple of years back that we shared 31 different occupational therapy activities using free or inexpensive materials. Since then, so many of you have checked out that list of activities. I wanted to expand on that series and add to your therapy toolbox using items you probably already have in your therapy bag. For that reason, we’ll be sharing lots more lists of therapy ideas using common items.

Today, we’ll be talking about occupational therapy activities using tongs.

Tongs are a great tool for promoting and improving fine motor skills! Occupational therapy activities using tongs can strengthen fine motor skills!

Occupational Therapy Activities Using Tongs 

Most therapists probably have a pair of tongs in their therapy closet or therapy bag. There’s a reason why! Tongs are so very versatile when it comes to occupational therapy activities. They can be used in a variety of tasks and play activities that develop strength, an open thumb web space, bilateral coordination, crossing midline, shoulder and wrist stability, arch development, separation of the sides of the hand, visual motor skills, eye-hand coordination, direction-following, and SO much more!

Check out the activity ideas using tongs below for fresh ideas that can be used in treatment with many individuals.

These tong activities would be a great addition to summer occupational therapy activities and home programs!

Occupational Therapy Activities With Tongs

Use tongs to work on intrinsic hand strength and visual motor skills.

Make your own DIY Tongs with craft sticks! So fun and always a hit in our house.

Tongs can be helpful in increasing the graded grasp and release needed for controlling scissors when cutting. These bunny tongs were used to promote scissor skills.

Kids can work on eye-hand coordination with tongs. The nice thing about an activity like this one is that a variety of tongs can be used based on the child’s age, fine motor skills, development, or the goal of the activity.

Go small-scale and use a set of tweezers or mini tongs to remove seeds from apple slices.

Tongs can be added to an occupational therapy activity kit depending on the needs of children on a caseload. Use those tongs to address many different needs and underlying skills!

Incorporate tongs into play to address fine motor skills. Use the fine motor tool in a variety of play experiences.

Use mini erasers in counting, sorting, and learning like The Crafty OT.

Use tongs to manipulate and move strands of yarn in a pasta pretend play activity like Ever Never Again. What a fun activity!

Use cut straws and tongs to strengthen fine motor skills like Mess for Less.

Try these occupational therapy activities using tongs to improve many fine motor skills needed for tasks like handwriting, clothing fasteners, and scissor skills!

How can Occupational Therapy Activities Using Tongs Help with Development? 

In SO many ways!

Motoric Separation of the Two Sides of the Hands- Separation of the two sides of 
two sides of the hand is important for tasks like holding a pencil while stabilizing the
hand along the table, cutting with scissors, and managing coins, among other activities. 

Refinement of fine motor skills in the hand (the radial side) happens when the power half (the ulnar side) is stabilized.  A functional fine motor grasp and manipulation of objects is more accurate when the ring and pinky fingers are flexed (bent) into the palm. 

This positioning stabilizes the MCP arch and allows for control of the pointer and middle fingers. Separation of the two sides of the hand allow for more precise use of the thumb. Hand separation starts when a baby bears weight through their arm and ulnar side of the hand while carrying a toy in the radial side.  

This simple activity developmentally lengthens the muscles of the ulnar side. 

Hand Dominance- Hand dominance in children is important for refining the skills needed 



to perform functional tasks.  While Toddlers begin to show a hand preference, a true hand dominance doesn’t typically develop until 2 to 3 1/2 years.  A toddler can show a hand preference, however hand usage is many times, experimented with during different activities throughout the Toddler and Preschool years.  There is typically variability in hand preference as toddlers and young preschoolers poke, pick up, throw, color, and play. 



Another consideration is that oftentimes, kids of this age are influenced in which hand they choose by position of toy, location of the adult or playmate, method materials are presented, and sitting position of the child.  

Lateralization refers to the brain’s ability to control the two sides of the body.  Each hemisphere of the brain controls different tasks and functions.  When a child shows difficulties with laterality, they might switch objects between the two hands in functional tasks.  As a child grows, they are challenged to become more efficient with tools in school. 

True hand dominance may not be completely integrated in the child until around 8 or 9 years of age. Occupational therapy activities using tongs can help to build consistency with the child’s preferred hand dominance.  

If your child shows a preferred hand, set up the activity to work on tong use with the typically used hand.  

Open Thumb Web Space- An open thumb webspace is essential for true 
opposition of the thumb to the precision side of the hand.  A round “O” shape 
allows the thumb to rotate and oppose the pointer finger in pincer grasp activities.  

When kids write or color with that web space area squashed shut, it’s a sign of problems. There may be compensation for thumb instability, underdeveloped hand arches, and/or poor strength.  Each of these problem areas will lead to difficulties with handwriting, dexterity, manipulation of small items like beads, and pencil grasp. 

Activities using tongs can help with development of an open thumb web space. 

Precision of Grasp- Precision skills allow a person to manipulate and release of small objects.  Precision provides efficient grading movements in very small dexterity patterns like threading a string through a needle.  

Difficulty with precise motor movements of the hand may cause fumbling with zippers and buttons and trouble with advancing the pencil on small lines of paper. Precision occurs with development of grasp when child to use the pads of the index finger, middle finger, and thumb to manipulate objects with opposition. 

Occupational therapists can promote precision of grasp with activities using tongs in occupational therapy activities.

Pinch Strength and Control- There are a few different grip postions of the 
hand and fingers that are used in play with children.  Difficulties in using and 
maintaining any certain grasp may interfere with tasks that require using the 
hands. 





Types of grasp patterns that can be addressed using tongs include: 


  • Lateral Pinch Grip (aka Key Pinch Grip)- The thumb opposes the lateral side of the pointer finger.  This grasp is used when holding and and using a key. A sub group of this type of pinch is the Lateral Prehension Grip– The thumb is flexed (bent) and it’s pad opposes the lateral side of the tip of the pointer finger. This grip is used to hold an index card or paper, sometimes.
  • Three jaw Chuck Pinch Grip– The thumb is flexed (bent) and opposes the pads of the pointer finger and middle finger. Holding a small cap like a toothpaste lid uses this grip. This is the grip used in holding a pencil.
  • Tip to Tip Grip– The tip of the thumb touches the tip of the pointer finger.  The thumb and pointer finger form an circle (or open thumb web space). This grasp is also called a pincer grasp.  It is used to pick up small items like cereal or beads.  If very small items are picked up (like a needle), a Neat Pincer Grasp is being used.
  • Lateral Grip– Pinching an item between the pointer and middle fingers use this grip.  You would use this grip in holding a cigarette.  While this is not a functional grasp for kids (obviously), you might see kiddos fiddle with a pencil by holding it between two fingers.
Gross Hand Strength and Grasp- 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.  

Occupational therapy activities using tongs can address hand strength by increasing repetitions or smaller object manipulation with a variety of tongs.

Thump Opposition- Thumb oppositon occurs when the thumb is rotated at the
carpometacarpal joint.  Opposition of the thumb to the fingertips is essential 
for tasks such as holding a hairbrush, managing buttons, and even grasping a door 
knob.   Thumb opposition coincides with an open web space in functional tasks.

Tongs can be used to address thumb opposition by ensuring rotation of the base of the thumb
and curving of the palmar arches. Occupational therapy activities using tongs can promote 
these skills.

Palmer Arches- In the palm of the hand, there are arches that shape the hand’s grasp on
objects of all shapes and sizes.  There are two transverse arches that cross the hand at the 
carpals and at the metacarpals.  There is a longitudinal arch for each finger. These arches 
allow for skilled movements of the hands and first develop during crawling.  Arch development
is essential for manipulating small objects such as a writing utensil.

Bilateral Coordination- Bilateral coordination is the functional use of the two hands 
together in a coordinated manner.  It’s coordinating both hands together and is closely related
to hand dominance. When a child has an established hand dominance, there needs to be a 
fluid use of the two hands together.  

In development of the child, children use both hands together then progress to using 
one hand at a time and finally using both hands together.  
Refined bilateral coordination skills allow a child to use both hands in separate tasks fluidly.

Use tongs to promote bilateral coordination by asing kids to support a bowl or cup while
manipulating or moving small items with tongs with the dominant hand. 


Wrist and Hand Development- A prerequisite to controlled movements of the hand and 
fingers are strength and stabilization of the wrist.  Control in the wrist allows for 
manipulation of small items and grasps with the fingers. 

A functional position for the wrist  in most activities requiring fine motor skills is slight extension and neutral positioning.  
This is an optimal position for handwriting or tasks such as manipulating tongs.  
Other activities like using a toothbrush or managing a utensil during feeding require 
slight ulnar deviation. Stabilization of the wrist is essential in play and learning activities. 


In order to allow precision of fine motor tasks, the wrist should be stabilized in extension 
with precision tasks performed on a vertical surface, putting the wrist into optimal 
positioning and facilitating thumb abduction for distal work to the fingers.


Use tongs to promote fine motor skills like these occupational therapy activities using tongs.


Best tongs for promoting fine motor skills in Occupational Therapy Activities

Amazon affiliate links are included below.




Occupational Therapy Activities Using Tong Games

Use tongs to promote fine motor skills like these occupational therapy activities using tongs.

Thank You Astronaut Play Dough Mat

Thank you for downloading the Astronaut Play Dough Mat! You should have an email in your inbox right now with a link to download the file. 


The email also includes some instructions and the “why” behind play dough mats like this one. THere is a lot of development going on when a little one uses a play dough mat like the one you just accessed! Scroll below to to find some additional usage instructions.

Housekeeping Information:

If you do not see the email right away, check back within 30 minutes. Be sure to check your SPAM folder.  Other subscribers using an email hosted on a school system’s email provider may have security restrictions in place that block the email. If you still don’t see the email, shoot me a message at contact@www.theottoolbox.com and I will send the file to you directly.


If you arrived here by accident and would like to receive a free astronaut themed play dough mat to improve hand strength, check out this post that shares information on the Astronaut Play Dough Mat.

How to use Improve Intrinsic Hand Strength with a Play Dough Mat

You are going to build so many small muscles of the hand with this activity!


Rolling play dough within one hand promotes development of a variety of areas: 


Strengthens the arches of the hands, helps awareness and coordination in separation of the two sides of the hand.


Promotes finger isolation for improved control and dexterity


Encourages dexterity and coordination of the thumb and index finger which are important in pencil grasp


Strengthens the intrinsic muscles for improved endurance in fine motor tasks such as maintaining hold on a pencil, manipulating clothing fasteners, managing and using scissors, coloring, and many other tasks