10 Ways to Teach Letter Formation

One thing that is apparent in teaching Handwriting is the very real need  that parents and teachers struggle with when it comes to teaching letter formation. Teaching letter formation can be a complicated thing for children with visual perception challenges, fine motor skill difficulties, or sensory processing concerns. In this article, you will find creative ways to teach letter formation.

So many members of the group question how to teach letter formation. They wonder where to start with teaching kids to write letters or they are challenged by kids who have formed bad habits with letter formation. They are seeing kiddos who form letters incorrectly or don’t know where to even start to teach letters accurately from the beginning. Read on to find 10 creative ways to teach letter formation whether you are starting at the beginning with a young child or are addressing those pesky bad handwriting habits that have resulted in poor letter formation and therefore, legibility.

Creative Ways to Teach Letter Formation

These fun handwriting activities are those that add a fresh concept to teaching letter formation. You can use these ideas to teach pre-writing skills or to work on specific letters.

But first, consider these thoughts when teaching kids to write letters…

When using the ideas below, it’s typically recommended to start with uppercase letters because of the simplified forms and letters that for the most part, start at the top and are formed in a downward pencil stroke, which is developmentally appropriate for young children. Read more about the order to teach letters like cursive letter order here.


Using a non-pencil activity to teach handwriting can be the trick to get kids interested in writing!

When kids are learning to write, knowing how to write letters can be hard! These handwriting activities are great for anyone trying to teach letter formation to kids.

 


10 Ways to Teach Letter Formation

Affiliate links are included in this article.

1.) Work on letter formation by “building” letters- This is a question for some parents, teachers, and therapists. Sometimes we see children who construct letters by parts, but use inappropriate letter formation when building letters. When writing a lowercase letter “d”, they might draw a circle and then draw a line, without the re-trace. Drawing or building letters can have inefficient consequences if kids are just allowed to copy letters inaccurately and without being taught. So often, we see this in those writing tray videos over on Pinterest or Facebook. Read more about writing trays and handwriting and how to use writing trays to effectively teach letter formation. Teaching kids wot build letters with proper sequence in each letter formation is essential! This color-coded letter building activity teaches kids to start at the correct starting spot and to pick up the pencil when necessary. Try this activity for those children who respond well to visual cues. Adding a kinetic twist to teaching letter formation can be just the tool that makes formation stick! Therapists love these hands-on letter parts in the Fundanoodle Letter Kit that allows kids to form the parts of letters and recognition of descriptive terms like big line, little line, big curve, little curve that many who use the Learning Without Tears program love!

2.) Teach Letter Formation with a Writing Tray- The fact is, using a sensory writing tray for handwriting is a technique to practice proper letter formation is a way to incorporate multiple senses into learning letter formation. Be sure to encourage proper starting points and direction of letter lines such as starting letters at the top and lifting the writing utensil when appropriate to form parts of letters such as the curves in a “B” or the slanted little lines in a “K”. Writing trays can come in all sorts of themes, sizes, and using all types of mediums. You can even create a mini-sensory writing tray like we did. Take it along in your therapy bag or on-the-go to learn and practice letter formation anywhere!

3.) Use the Sandpaper Letter Trick to Teach Letter Formation- Use a sheet of sandpaper to work on letter formation! This multi-sensory activity uses the senses to teach letter formation, by providing feedback for pencil control and line placement. Adding a quick sheet of sandpaper to your therapy toolkit is an easy way to work on letter placement by adding additional prompts to handwriting.

4.) Teach Letter Formation with Soap- Kids can learn to write letters in shaving cream, soap, and even pudding! Using multi-sensory strategies to work on letter formation can help kids remember the proper formation. So often we see strategies that are taught in isolation and then not carried over to the classroom or home. When a child is asked to write with increased speed or in a distracting environment, we may see letters that revert back to those bad habits. Adding sensory activities to letter formation such as writing in soap, shaving cream, or sandpaper can provide the feedback kids need to add just one more cue for formation. Remember to provide instruction in proper letter formation and line placement and not just setting up a child with an activity and then letting them “play and write”.

5.) Teach Letter Formation with Gross Motor Play- Sometimes, adding a movement component to teaching letter formation can be all it takes to make letters “stick”! There are so many options for adding gross motor to letter formation. These Upper Case Letter Muscle Mover Cards provide an opportunity to learn letter formation with gross motor movement. Each card has an uppercase letter on one side and a corresponding animal and gross motor activity on the other. Includes an O-ring for storage and a dry-erase pen. There is also a lower case version of these muscle mover cards that promote optimal letter formation for the lowercase letters of the alphabet. Both versions are laminated cards that are very durable and can be used with dry erase markers, wiki stix, and play dough to practice forming letters. Use the muscle mover cards for fun “brain breaks” to get the kiddos up and moving while teaching letter formation.


6.) Teach Letter Formation on an alternate surface with a sensory bag- Fill a sandwich bag with soap, foam, or other liquid material and practice letter formation. You can even tape the sensory bag onto a wall or window to practice letter formation. Read more about how to create and use a sensory bag to teach letter formation in this older post on sensory handwriting


7.) Use a resistive surface to teach letter formation- The motor plan needed for letter formation can occur with practice on a resistive surface. We’ve shared ideas to teach letter formation on resistive surfaces such as using carpet squares or carpet scraps, a styrofoam tray to learn letter formation, and foam sheets to teach letter formation.


8.) Teach Letter Formation with the “Ghost Writing” Trick- Have you tried the ghost writing trick to teach letter formation? It’s a fun way to explore the pencil strokes needed for letter formation as well as skills needed for legible handwriting and pencil pressure in written work. 


9.) Use Boxes and Dots to Teach Letter Formation- This box and dot letter formation trick also helps kids learn letter size or spatial awareness in written work. It’s also a tool to help kids who struggle with letter reversals. You can make your own paper or use graph paper to create a quick practice tool for teaching letter formation. 


10.) Help kids learn to write with a Kinetic Letter Formation- This is fun kinetic fine motor activity is another spin on adding resistive input and a motor component to letter formation, all using recycled materials or objects found around the home. Use a recycled can and push pins to teach letter formation while improving hand strength and fine motor skills. 

Working on handwriting with kids? These creative handwriting activities can help kids with letter formation and are a tool for anyone trying to teach letter formation in handwriting.



Do you have any letter formation activities that you love to use when teaching handwriting? Tell us about them! There are over 14,000 members in the Sweet Ideas of Handwriting Help Facebook Group that love sharing ideas to work on handwriting. 

How Vision Problems Affect Learning

With a new school year, it’s time to start thinking about kindergarten screenings, screenings for vision problems, and wondering how previously struggling kids will do in the next academic year. One of the largest challenges facing some of these kids may be unidentified vision problems. Read more to learn about how vision problems affect learning.

Typical vision screenings given by the pediatrician or school nurse test for acuity only. They do not look for any other underlying vision problems that a child may be experiencing that is hindering their overall development in reading and writing.

There are many ways that vision problems affect learning in kids.

What You Need to Know About Vision Problems and Learning

There are many causes of learning difficulties that a child may present with. However, the following list of difficulties may indicate underlying vision problems and the need for a more indepth vision screening.

Learning Difficulties Implying Underlying Vision Problems

* Reversals
* Difficulty with handwriting
* Poor reading comprehension
* Difficulty copying from the board
* Difficulty transferring information from one page to the next
* Frequent falls or walking into things
* Difficulty spelling
* Difficulty with letter and number recognition


Vision is More the 20/20 

Vision is more than 20/20 acuity. It is the ability to move your eyes with smooth, coordinated and controlled movements. These movements can be broken down into tracking (pursuits), depth perception, teaming, saccades, convergence/divergence and nystagmus. When these skills are impaired, learning difficulties will arise.

Here is more detailed and specific information related to saccades and their impact on learning.

Common Vision Problems that Impact Learning

These visual processing skills are essential to learning:

TrackingVisual Tracking is the ability smoothly follow an item with your eyes while in a stabilized position. A child with tracking difficulties may be unable to dissociate their eye movement from their head, be unable to maintain visual focus on the target, or “skip” or “jump” when crossing midline. These patterns indicate difficulties with tracking that may hinder the development of reading skills. Read more about visual tracking here.

Teaming– Teaming or binocular vision, refers to the ability to move both eyes in a controlled, coordinated fashion. Children with teaming difficulties also frequently have trouble with reading, along with letter and number recognition. This vision difficulty can be hard to see during a screening, as it is related to an eye muscle imbalance that may be slight, or due to fatigue during longer activities. However, teaming difficulties should be considered if the child is having tracking difficulties, as tracking and teaming skills play into one another.

Depth Perception– Depth perception helps us to know where we are in relation to items in the world utilizing our visual system. Children with depth perception difficulties frequently fall, have difficulties with catching a ball (early closure of hands, or fail to catch at all), poor righting reactions and reflexes and frequent tendencies to readjust their bodies in relation to their work space.
Saccades Saccades is the ability to quickly look between a set of objects without losing focus. For children with difficulties with saccadic movements reading is a significant challenge. They frequently lose their place, are unable, to keep up or experience eye muscle fatigue and headaches.

Convergence/Divergence- Convergence is the ability to track an object from a distance into near point range with smooth movements. Divergence, is the opposite. It is the ability to track an object smoothly from near to far. Deficits in these skills often lead to difficulties with near and far point copying tasks. The child may skip lines, letters or even whole words with deficits in this area.

Nystagmus- Nystagmus is a visual response to circular vestibular input. After being spun, one’s eyes should oscillate before returning to a normal resting position. When a child does not have a nystagmus response, it can be an indicator of a vestibular deficit. However, in this post, if a nystagmus pattern is noted at rest without input, is abnormal and results in lowered overall vision.

Related Read: Need help addressing visual problems in the classroom? Here are classroom accommodations for visual impairments

Screening for Visual Problems

Screening for vision problems is an integral part to addressing visual motor integration concerns for school aged children. A simple screen during an OT evaluation can help make the difference in success or continued struggles with development, reading and writing.

What to Look for In Vision Screenings

A variety of simple tools can be utilized to complete screenings.

These tools include 2 pens or pencils with a fun end such as a character or cool eraser, H and X patterns, and ZigZag Patterns. H and X patterns look at tracking, while the ZigZag pattern looks at saccades, convergence/divergence.

The ZigZag Pattern is a series of movements that are not ZigZags, but were designed to be a fun way to explain to kids what you want them to do. Especially, as these movements are often difficult for them to complete resulting in frustration and non-compliance at times.

Screening for Visual Tracking

H and X Patterns When screening for tracking I tell the child that we are going to make H’s and X’s with our eyes only. It’s a fun way to engage the kiddo in a task that may seem challenging to them.

Have the child follow the tip of a pen or pencil approximately 12 inches from the face in an H and X pattern moving slowly. You are looking for smooth, controlled movements. Note any abnormal movements such as jumping, skipping or ticks. If the child is having a difficult time with following directions, complete the H and X patterns several times to get the best picture of the child’s skills.

Don’t forget to note if the child was unable to move his eyes in dissociation from his head/ body. This is a tell tale sign of a vision deficit.

Screening for Visual Saccades

“Zig” Pattern The “Zig” portion of the pattern assess saccadic movements. Hold 2 pens/pencils approximately 12 inches from the face, and 6 inches apart. Ask the child to look between the two items as fast as they can.

A child with difficulties with this skills will demonstrate slow, uncoordinated movements, attempt to move their head or say that they can’t do it.

Screening for Convergence Insufficiency or Divergence

Convergence/Divergence: “Zag” Pattern: The “Zag” portion of the pattern assesses convergence/divergence. Have the child watch the end of the pen/pencil all the way into their nose, and back out again.

Children with difficulties with convergence typically are unable to make their eyes move in towards their nose, or demonstrate jumping or extropic movement of one eye. The child may also be unable to remain in convergence for more than a few milliseconds before returning to a neutral position.

Difficulties with divergence are a little more difficult to spot. The child will typically have difficulty coming out of convergence with smooth movements, or may demonstrate one eye remaining in convergence before moving into a divergence pattern. The transition may also be uncoordinated and lack fluidity.

Learning Difficulties can Imply Underlying Vision Problems. Here are common vision problems that can affect learning in kids.

What if you suspect vision problems?

Now what?  When vision problems are suspected after a screening by the OT, it is best practice to refer the family to a developmental optometrist.

A developmental optometrist will complete a full evaluation and determine the need for corrective lenses, vision therapy or a home program to address vision concerns.

As occupational therapists, it is imperative that we rule out vision problems before treating handwriting or delays in visual motor integration, to ensure the best possible trajectory of development and success for the child.

Occupational Therapy Vision Screening Tool

Occupational Therapists screen for visual problems in order to determine how they may impact functional tasks. Visual screening can occur in the classroom setting, in inpatient settings, in outpatient therapy, and in early intervention or home care.
This visual screening tool was created by an occupational therapist and provides information on visual terms, frequently asked questions regarding visual problems, a variety of visual screening techniques, and other tools that therapists will find valuable in visual screenings.
This is a digital file. Upon purchase, you will be able to download the 10 page file and print off to use over and over again in vision screenings and in educating therapists, teachers, parents, and other child advocates or caregivers.

Looking for more information on visual problems and learning? Try these resources:

Try these toys to improve visual problems, tools for visual perception and other visual problems in kids.Read more about visual problems in kids and visual perceptual skills kids need for learning.
 
What is visual memory and how does problems with visual memory impact learning as a vision problem?What is visual tracking and how does visual tracking problems impact vision problems and learning?
A little about Kaylee: 
Hi Everyone! I am originally from Upstate N.Y., but now live in Texas, and am the Lead OTR in a pediatric clinic. I have a bachelors in Health Science from Syracuse University at Utica College, and a Masters in Occupational Therapy from Utica College. I have been working with children with special needs for 8 years, and practicing occupational therapy for 4 years. I practice primarily in a private clinic, but have experience with Medicaid and home health settings also. Feeding is a skill that I learned by default in my current position and have come to love and be knowledgeable in. Visual development and motor integration is another area of practice that I frequently address and see with my current population. Looking forward to sharing my knowledge with you all! ~Kaylee Goodrich, OTR

How do vision problems affect learning in kids and underlying visual processing problems that impact learning in kids.

Visual Tracking Games

Visual Tracking is an important part of everything we do and visual tracking games can be a valuable resource to improving visual tracking skills! For tasks such as reading and writing, however, the ability to track visually across a line of written text is essential for reading and fluency in reading.

When kids read across a line of text in a book, they are using visual tracking skills to follow the line from word to work. When they follow a finger along lines in a book they are using visual tracking skills. When they shift their vision from one point to another, they use a combination of visual scanning and visual tracking skills. Visual tracking is a multi-faceted topic and you can read more about visual tracking and all that it entails in functional tasks here on the website.

These visual tracking games will be a useful tool in helping kids with visual tracking needs to read, write, visually scan and complete other visual motor tasks, using fun tracking games and visual tools that kids will love to use in occupational therapy activities or as part of a therapy home program for visual tracking!

Visual Tracking Games and Visual Tracking Activities for Kids

So when visual tracking is such an important part of function and skills, how do you address this skill area? There are adaptations that can be put into place to help, such as prompting, cues, physical assists, and other tools. One way to work on visual tracking needed for functional tasks is to use visual tracking games in play and activities.

Visual tracking games and activities can be a valuable asset for increasing this skill area in kids with visual tracking skill deficits or needs.

Read on to find out more about visual tracking games and activities that may help  kids improve their visual tracking skills.

But first,

What does a Visual Tracking Problem Look Like?

The games and activities listed below are important for kids who struggle with tracking of words and letters when reading, writing, or completing math. Visual Tracking problems may also present as difficulty with sports or coordination. Visual tracking may be evident in learning. There are many ways that a visual tracking concern can become evident. If one of these areas or functional abilities is a problem for your child, student, or client, then a visual screening can be very useful in identifying specific needs.

Need help addressing visual problems in the classroom? Here are classroom accommodations for visual impairments

Occupational Therapy Vision Screening Tool

Occupational Therapists screen for visual problems in order to determine how they may impact functional tasks. Visual screening can occur in the classroom setting, in inpatient settings, in outpatient therapy, and in early intervention or home care.
This visual screening tool was created by an occupational therapist and provides information on visual terms, frequently asked questions regarding visual problems, a variety of visual screening techniques, and other tools that therapists will find valuable in visual screenings.

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

Visual Tracking Games for Kids

Kids can play visual tracking games that are free or are fun games out on the market to address this skill area and improve visual tracking skills so that reading and writing are easier.

Try some of these fun visual tracking games to help kids improve their visual tracking skills and they won’t even know they are “working”!

Badminton GamePhysical games and gross motor games like this one can help promote visual tracking across all visual fields including peripheral and in all directions (horizontal, vertical, circular, and diagonal)
 
Pop and Catch Game – Combining fine motor skills like this Pop and Catch game can bring the target close to the body to challenge convergence in kids with visual tracking needs in a visual tracking activity that the whole family can enjoy.
 
Velcro Ball and MittThis visual tracking game combines gross motor and sensory components with resistive work that kids can use to challenge upper body strength while playing. Follow the target ball as it sails toward and away to challenge convergence of the eyes. This activity can easily be modified to meet various needs by using a brightly colored ball or moving closer or farther away. is a game kids can play indoors or outdoors while working on their visual tracking skills.

Scoop ball Try to scoop the ball while moving, while seated or while in a variety of positions and planes to add a graded component to this visual tracking game.

Wham-O Track BallThis classic visual tracking game is traditionally an outdoor lawn game for kids or adults, but it makes an awesome visual tracking game! When kids struggle with visual tracking skills, they can benefit from watching a moving target and challenges in visual tracking across various fields of vision. Play this visual tracking game indoors or outdoors. Why not add a prone component by playing while crawling or laying on the floor or while on a scooter board?

Light Up Bouncy Ball – While any ball could potentially be used as a visual tracking tool, this light up ball can be used in a dark room or at night for a visual tracking game that kids can’t resist! Play a slow rolling game of catch or try to invoke spontaneous visual tracking skills by bouncing the ball against a wall in a darkened room. What fun!

Glow in the Dark Ring Toss – This is another glow in the dark game that kids can play in a darkened space. The room doesn’t need to be completely dark to encourage visual tracking with this glowing game. Just close the blinds or play at night with a low light on and the glowing visual tracking can still happen! Ask the child to watch as the ring is tossed away from them. They child can also position themselves on the sidelines when they are waiting for their turn while others play, allowing for visual tracking across planes.

Zoom Ball – This is a great therapy tool because the child can control and feel when the moving target is moving toward them and away from them. Zoom ball is a visual tracking tool that requires convergence as the child watches the target move between them and another player.

Rocket Launch – There are many rocket launch toys on the market and any would work as a visual tracking tool. But this one is nice because it has the ability to change the angle so the rocket can be sent hier or at different angles. Kids can watch the brightly colored rocket as it sails through the air into unpredictable tracks and various fields of vision, including the peripheral.

Slingshot Creatures – These fun creatures can be sent at targets or at any plane as a visual tracking tool. Kids will love shooting these creatures or watching them sail across the room!

Parachute Toy – Parachute toys, flying discs, and other flying target toys are great for addressing visual tracking skills. Kids can toss them up or watch as they drop while following the target. This set includes lots of fun extras!

Glowing Finger Slingshots – Flinger slingshots are a fun tool for targeting visual tracking skills. This visual tracking activity is one kids will love to engage with! Try them in a darkened room to encourage visual tracking as the glowing toy flies across the room!

Flying slingshot copter – This is another slingshot activity that kids can shoot themselves while visual tracking as the target soars. Play indoors or outdoors. Visual tracking tools like this are motivating and a fun addition to goody bags or as a small gift idea.
Handheld helicopter drone – This indoor or outdoor drone is a nice visual tracking tool that kids will love to send up and watch as it soars.  


These visual tracking games are a helpful tool in addressig visual tracking goals that kids may have interfering with handwriting, reading, and learning.
Need a resource to address visual tracking or need to know where to start with identifying visual tracking concerns? The Visual Tracking Screening Tool can help therapists screen for and identify visual problems that interfere with visual tracking, convergence, and other visual skills.

Need a Fine Motor Craft? Make a Soap Holder Animal!

Looking for a fine motor craft idea that boosts all of the underlying skills kids need? This fine  motor craft is a soap holder animal and it adds opportunities for skills like fine motor strength, precision of fine motor skills, dexterity, coordination, visual motor skills, and many more therapy areas. The best part is, after kids make this fun fine motor craft, they have a fine motor toolkit that can be used again and again to address the motor skills they need! Contributor author, Regina Parsons-Allen shares how to make a soap holder animal and use this fine motor craft idea to maximize the therapeutic benefits!

This fine motor craft for kids is a soap holder animal craft that helps work on to build fine motor skills, strength, bilateral coordination, and other areas that may be addressed in occupational therapy

Fine Motor Craft- Soap Holder Animals

Soap holder animals are great busy box kits which are made with simple materials and come in their own storage containers. They address creativity, visual perception, eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, problem solving and fine motor skills. Being stored within themselves makes them easily portable allowing a therapist to toss one quickly into their therapy bag or cart.

Kids can make this soap holder animal fine motor craft to work on fine motor skills and other areas they need for holding a pencil and in handwriting.

Kids love soap holder animal crafts and therapists will find they make for a cool and engaging therapy activity. Soap holder busy box kits fit the bill for many pediatric therapists who travel from site to site. They are a cheap and easy fine motor craft to transport, are easy to store, and are fun to create with an engaging focus on child skill development.

Therapists will find soap holder animal make for a great send home activity too! 

Make a soap holder busy bag into a fine motor craft by turning it into a soap holder animal while working on fine motor skills and visual motor skills.

More benefits of a soap holder animal fine motor craft:

Children love opening the boxes to see what’s inside and they are intrigued by what they are able to create with them. They love crafting animals and making them come to life. 

Soap holder busy box kits allow for children to expand on their skills while also enjoying the high level of creativity that can be achieved. 

With these soap holder creations, children experience an improved feeling of success and achievement having used their own skills to create something fun and entertaining.

Many skill areas are hidden within the process of this fun activity.  Just the developmental benefits of bead stringing alone would be enough to make the activity worth using!  Bead stringing activities can help improve overall fine motor, visual perception, visual motor and cognitive skills. Functionally, bead stringing can help a child improve their pencil grasp and control for drawing, writing and coloring as well as improve their ability to manipulate fasteners on clothing. 

Use beads and a travel soap holder to make a fine motor craft that builds skills kids need.

The skills and target areas addressed with soap holder animal crafts and use of these fun busy box kits include:

Bilateral coordination – The act of opening and closing the boxes, threading and un-threading the beads, and building legs or other appendages requires the child to use two hands together in a coordinated manner.

Pincer grasp and finger strength – Pinching small beads for placement and threading them requires a thumb to index finger pinch pattern and small muscle strength to manipulate and place the bead.

In-hand manipulation – Pinching small beads and turning them around within the fingers for placement requires coordination of the small hand and finger muscles working on shift and rotation movements.

Eye-hand coordination – Threading and un-threading beads and building legs or other appendages requires the child’s eyes and hands to work together.

Visual perception – Recalling the bead color pattern while searching for one specific bead color from a group of assorted beads requires visual memory, visual scanning and visual discrimination skills.

Executive functioning – Deciding what type of creature the child wants to make and organizing and planning their approach while also determining what kind of pattern they want to use and where to place the appendages requires organization, planning and problem-solving skills.

Kids can work on fine motor skills, visual motor skills, and other areas in occupational therapy with this fine motor craft to create soap holder animals.

Graded Fine Motor Craft Kids Love

Soap holder busy box kits can easily be downgraded or upgraded by matching the type of materials used to the needs and abilities of the child or by modifying the approach and the necessary skills required to complete the activity.

A few considerations on adjusting this fine motor craft to meet the needs and skills of various children:

1. Consider the use of larger beads vs. smaller beads. Determine if the bead hole diameter is small enough or large enough to meet or challenge the child’s skills.

2. Use flexible string vs. pipe cleaners. (Be sure the string is flexible enough that the box lid can close once they are inserted and that beads do not easily fall off.)  Flexible string can provide a good challenge for some children.

3. Keep pipe cleaners full length or cut in half to make the activity more challenging for appendage placement, manipulation, and orientation.

4. Consider keeping the process simple by having the activity set-up for the child and then have them only string the beads.

5. Have the child simply string beads at random vs. following a color pattern.

Work on fine motor skills, bilateral coordination, precision grasp and more with this fine motor craft to make a soap holder animal.

How to Make a Soap Holder Animal Fine Motor Craft

Now that you know the total benefits and a few ways to grade the activity, here is what you need to create your very own soap holder animal:

Travel soap container with a flip-top lid
Assorted pony beads
Assorted paper straw beads (paper straws cut into beads)
Assorted pipe cleaners (either full length or cut in half)
Googly eyes (to tape or hot glue to the top of the soap holder) Self-adhesive googly eyes may work too, depending on the soap holder.

Use a soap holder to make a fine motor craft into a soap holder animal craft that builds fine motor skills kids need.

Soap holder busy bead kits are easy to assemble for use as a therapy activity or home busy box. Take a short time to gather the materials and use it all year long to build a multitude of skills with children.

They never get old as they may never be the same creation twice!

Amazon affiliate links are included in this post.

About Regina:

Regina Parsons-Allen is a school-based certified occupational therapy assistant. She has a pediatrics practice area of emphasis from the NBCOT. She graduated from the OTA program at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson, North Carolina with an A.A.S degree in occupational therapy assistant. She has been practicing occupational therapy in the same school district for 20 years. She loves her children, husband, OT, working with children and teaching Sunday school. She is passionate about engaging, empowering, and enabling children to reach their maximum potential in ALL of their occupations as well assuring them that God loves them!


You can find all of Regina’s posts on The OT Toolbox on her Contributor Spotlight page.

Let us know if you make this soap holder animal fine motor craft!

Use this City Play Dough Mat for Increasing Hand Strength

Travelling with kids to the city? Reading a book about a city? Learning about or teaching kids about geography or communities? This City Play Dough Mat is a supplement that can help with more skills than just adding to a city learning theme, all in a fun play dough activity! This free play dough mat has a city theme and a special component that boosts fine motor skills specifically hand strength, and the intrinsic muscles of the hands. Print off this city playdough mat and start playing and learning WHILE boosting those skills that kids need!

Kids can use this city play dough mat to increase hand strength for fine motor skills like handwriting and pencil grasp all with play dough activities kids love!

City Play Dough Mat

I love adding hands-on components to learning themes. It adds a special twist that really helps with recall when motor components are added. This city play dough mat is a great accompaniment to any community or geography theme. Kids can fill in the circles in the city skyline while building the fine motor skills they need for tasks such as endurance with writing or coloring, pencil control when forming letters, functional pencil grasp, management of buttons/zippers/other clothing fasteners, opening and closing of food containers, and so many other fine motor tasks!

For the child who struggles with fine motor skills or has a fine motor delay, this city play dough mat can be a fun way to build those skills. In fact, there are so many fine motor skills needed in school environments whether it occurs in the classroom or homeschool dining room. Building fine motor skills can make an impactful difference in learning and functional tasks!

How to increase hand strength with a play dough mat

Play dough mats are everywhere! Do a quick Google search and you will come up with tons of options for free printable playdough mats that kids can use. The thing is, though that just the act of playing with play dough on a play dough mat is a really power tool in strengthening little hands!
In fact, there are so many ways to use a play dough mat to strengthen the skills kids need for fine motor tasks.
One of the ways we have been focusing on here on The OT Toolbox with our recent play dough mat series is working the intrinsic muscles of the hands by rolling small balls of play dough in various sizes. Using the finger tips and thumb of one hand at a time to roll a play dough ball is an intrinsic muscle workout that builds the muscles of the thenar eminence, hypothenar eminence, the interossei, and the lumbricals. All of these muscle groups make up the intrinsic hand muscles which are those located within the hands.
The intrinsic muscles are those responsible for nice, defined arches of the hands, the ability to separate the two sides of the hand, and to have nice, bulky muscle tone in the mass that makes up the base of the thumb and the side of the pinkie finger. These muscle groups help with dexterity, endurance, coordination, and controlled manipulation of small items and all things fine motor!

Use this Free Play Dough Mat with a City Theme in fine motor play!

Grab a copy of this free playdough mat by entering your email in the form below. You will receive the printable play dough mat in your email where you can download it and use it over and over again in your therapy toolbox. You’ll also receive a couple of emails over the next week or so that provide resources and tools for increasing hand strength with play dough, along with all of the other free play dough mats we’ve shared here on the site. You’ll definitely want to get in on this email action!
Want to check out the other play dough mats we’ve shared recently? They are all designed to promote strengthening of the intrinsics and hand strength in kids! Here’s the thing, though…you only need to enter your email into one of these pages listed below. As a subscriber, you get access to all of the free play dough mats.
Be sure to grab the city play dough mat and use it for increasing hand strength in fun ways!
Use this city theme play dough mat to work on hand strength and increasing the hand strength needed for fine motor skills.

Thank You City Play Dough Mat

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

Did you find this page accidentally and want to get your free copy of our city themed playdough mat? Go to our city play dough mat page to get your free city play dough mat!

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 instructions to best use the play dough mat to increase hand strength of the intrinsic muscles of the hands.


General Housekeeping Information on your Free Printable:


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 city themed play dough mat to improve hand strength, check out this post that shares information on the City Themed Play Dough Mat.

Play Dough Mats Can Be Used to Improve Fine Motor Skills

Kids love play dough! This city play dough mat is a fun way to build so many small muscles of the hand with this activity! Follow the directions below to maximize intrinsic muscle strengthening. Start with play dough of any kind and the printable playdough mat.

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.


Looking for more play dough activities to boost fine motor strengthening?


Play Dough Farm Activity | Play Dough Activity Color Match  | Play Dough Cupcakes