Bird Play Dough Mat for Hand Strength

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

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

Print this free play dough mat to help kids with hand strength and fine motor skills like intrinsic hand strength and strengthening of the intrinsics of the hands to help with fine motor skills like handwriting and coloring, all using a bird theme playdough mat!

Bird Play Dough Mat

You may have seen some of the other play dough mats we’ve shared recently. Our free printable play mats included (so far): an Astronaut Play Dough Mat, Outer Space Play Dough Mat, and an Ice Cream Play Dough Mat. You may want to grab the original intrinsic muscle hand strengthening play dough mat that we’ve had on the site for some time. It’s a basic sheet of circles in various sizes, but the exercise is perfect for really working those intrinsics!

The bird play dough mat that you can download below will be a tool for strengthening little hands in a big way!

Why Use a Play Dough Mat for Hand Strengthening?

Play dough mats are a powerful tool in strengthening fine motor skills and hand strength. However, the ones that we’ve created so far (and there are a few more coming your way!) really boost those intrinsic muscles of the hand. 
The intrinsics are those muscles whose origin and insertion are within the hand.  That is, they are anchored to the bones in the hand and move the joints of the hand in delicate and precise ways.  These include the thenar muscles, the hypothenar muscles, the interossei, and the lumbricals. 
Using play dough to strengthen the hand muscles is as simple as rolling small balls of various sizes with just the tips of the fingers and the thumb. It’s important to use just one hand when doing this activity to really work those intrinsics. 

Grab the Free Printable Bird Play Dough Mat

Enter your email below to grab your printable play dough mat and play along with a bird theme while getting in a hand workout! Kids can count the birds on the mat, use a specific color of playdough that matches the colors of the birds, or many other activities. They should fill each circle with a small ball of play dough that they’ve rolled with their fingers. There are various sizes on the playdough mat to challenge precision and dexterity.

Want to strengthen the muscles in the hand to improve pencil grasp, scissor use, coloring, or fine motor coordination and endurance?

rab this FREE printable Bird themed play dough mat to help kids strengthen the intrinsic muscles of the hands!
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Try some of these ideas with your bird play dough mat: 

  • Match a different color play dough to the different colored birds
  • Fill all of the blue birds, then all of the yellow birds…
  • Write numbers in the circles in random order. They can then scan across the play dough mat to challenge visual perceptual skills.
  • Use the right hand to roll play dough balls for the circles on the left side of the playdough mat and use the left hand to roll play dough balls for the circles on the right side of the playdough mat.
  • There are so many ways to play and use this play dough mat for learning and play WHILE strengthening fine motor skills!
Enter your email address and click the button below to get your free printable play dough mat to improve hand strengthening: 

Looking for more play dough activities that kids can use to boost the fine motor skills they need for all sorts of tasks? 

Try some of these play dough activities:

Kids will love playing with this play dough mat with a bird theme while using playdough activities to help increase fine motor strength like hand strength of the intrinsic muscles of the hands. It's a great activity to work on fine motor skills with a free bird play dough mat!

Games that improve pencil grasp

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

Games that improve pencil grasp

Kids can play these games to improve pencil grasp by increasing hand strength, fine motor skills and other areas needed for pencil grasp.

Every child loves playing games, but did you know that games also help children improve their pencil grasp? There are many components to working on pencil grasp including core strength and stability, shoulder strength and stability, coordinated movements, hand/finger strength and visual motor skills.

Functions of the hand that help to improve pencil grasp

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

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

Separation of the two sides of the hand

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

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

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

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

Palm to finger translation skills

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

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

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

Games to Improve Pencil Grasp

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

Tong games to Improve Pencil Grasp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make Your Own Games to Improve Pencil Grasp

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

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

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

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

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

Looking for more ways to improve the skills needed for pencil grasp by using games, toys, and tools in the therapy clinic or at home?

These toys and tools to improve pencil grasp cover lots of interests and ideas!

Use these wind-up toys to help with fine motor skills.

This gift guide has lots of toys that promote a better pencil grasp.

These are must-have toys for stabile wrist extension needed for pencil grasp.

More games and toys that improve pencil grasp: 

Lite Brite Position this old school toy on a slightly elevated surface to promote an extended wrist while managing the small pegs within the hand and with a tripod grasp.

Table Top Easel– This one is double sided to allow for chalk, dry erase markers, and has a clip for attaching paper.  Use the easel for writing, drawing, painting, coloring, chalking, and games like Hand Man to make strengthening fun.

Avalanche Fruit Stand Game– This game is a fun way to build fine motor skills with an extended wrist. 

Dartboard–  Tossing darts encourages an extended wrist while holding the darts.  This set comes with magnetic darts, which is great for kids.

Pop Beads–  The small size of pop beads promotes dexterity of the fingers as well as resistance to push the beads together.  Encouraging the child to do this task with both elbows on a table surface encourages an extended wrist.

Stamps–  Grab a set of small rubber stamps or any stamp that has a small handle.  Tape a piece of paper to the wall or clip it to an easel.  Holding the handle while stamping on a vertical surface promotes a functional wrist position.

Twister game–  Any game or activity that is done with the child extending their wrist as the press their upper body weight through the arm is a great strengthening exercise for wrist stability.  

Beads– Threading beads with a string or plastic cord encourages and extended wrist with fine motor dexterity. Beads can be found in various sizes to meet the needs of the child.

Etch-A Sketch– Another classic toy, the Etch-A Sketch is perfect for building an extended wrist.  Prop it up on a slanted position and be sure to place it upside down so the knobs are at the top.

Tissue Paper Art:  There is possible no better art project for hand strengthening than tissue paper art!  Crumbling little bits of tissue paper is perfect for strengthening the small muscles of the hand.  Encourage your child to use just their finger tips to crumble the bits of tissue paper rather than two hands to crumble.  This ALEX® Toys – Early Learning Tissue Paper Art -Little Hands 521W from Alex Toys is bold, colorful and just plain fun art!  Even better for the intrinsic muscles of the hands is tearing bits of paper before crumbling. 

Squeeze Toys: a gross grasp is using the whole hand to squeeze and flex into a grip.  What a great way to strengthen the muscles of the hands!  This Melissa & Doug Louie Lobster Claw Catcher from Melissa and Doug is a fun way to encourage hand strength and endurance for coloring and writing. 

 Easel: An easel can be used in so many ways while encouraging an extended wrist.  Paint, draw, color, or write on the elevated surface.  We love taping contact paper to our easel and sticking all kinds of craft supplies.  This really encourages an extended wrist while using a tripod grasp or tip to tip grasp to manipulate little items (think tissue paper, sequins, foil squares…the possibilities are endless!) This Easel is great for extended wrist activities.  And, it even folds down to reveal a desk surface.  It’s the perfect gift to promote improved handwriting! 

Ker Plunk: The Ker Plunk Game from Mattel encourages an extended wrist as the child pushes the sticks into the holes of the game.  They are encouraged to use a tripod grasp to hold the sticks as well.  Rotating the sticks encourages two types of in-hand manipulation. Take this game a step further in handwriting exercise for strengthening and play laying down on the floor, propped up on your elbows.  Getting down on the floor to play will activate the large muscles of the back and the shoulder girdle to improve precision in pencil grasp.

Lacing Cards:  Lacing cards are a great way to encourage a tripod grasp.  This set of Lacing Shapes from Patch Products come in simple shapes with bold colors. The child must hold the tip of the string in a dynamic tripod grasp to push through the holes of the card.  If your child has their thumb squashed up against their index finger while threading the cards, be sure to show them how to make a nice round circle for an easier time.  

Peg Boards: Grasping pegs encourage a tripod grasp especially while pushing them into the holes of a peg board.  This Lauri Tall-Stacker Pegs Building Set from Lauri is great for building peg towers while learning colors and shapes.  Older kids might love Fusion Beads like the Perler Beads 6,000 Count Bucket-Multi Mix from Perler.  

About Christina:

Christina Komaniecki is a school based Occupational Therapist. I graduated from Governors State University with a master’s in occupational therapy.   I have been working in the pediatric setting for almost 6 years and have worked in early intervention, outpatient pediatrics, inpatient pediatrics, day rehab, private clinic and schools. My passion is working with children and I love to see them learn new things and grow. I love my two little girls, family, yoga and going on long walks.  

Activities to Improve Convergence Skills

Below you will find information about convergence, including convergence insufficiency, and activities to improve convergence skills. These activities can be used by occupational therapists in treatment as indicated by vision screening and based on the individual needs of the child as determined by assessment.

These activities to improve convergence skills are ways to improve convergence insufficiency and visual motor skills needed for visual processing activities including fun occupational therapy activities for kids.

Activities to Improve Convergence Skills

**DISCLAIMER** I am not a developmental optometrist, ophthalmologist or vision therapist. Activities presented in this post are within the OT Scope of Practice.  A developmental optometrist or vision therapist should be consulted prior to completing any activities in this post to rule out the need for corrective lenses and vision therapy. 

Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links are included in this post.

Oculomotor control is a fine motor skill, that without the correct supports, is unable to function as it is intended. Like any other fine motor skill, a strong core foundation is imperative to the development of skills. As visual deficits are particularly hard to identify by themselves, this is an important piece of the puzzle. 

Foundations for Convergence Skills

What causes convergence insufficiency?

Convergence insufficiencies in young children is most commonly caused by an eye muscle imbalance. This eye muscle imbalance can be made more pronounced if the child does not have adequate core and neck strength. 

When a child lacks core and neck strength, they may adjust their head position, or cover one eye to compensate to provide increased support and stability to their eye muscles. 

This pattern of compensation is similar to the one we see when a child has a fine motor delay, and utilizes their scapula, elbow and wrist for support for increased dexterity. 

Activities to Improve Convergence Skills 

The following activities Address Foundational Areas Related to Convergence Skills:

Gross motor activities to support convergence skills should focus on balancing core muscles and strengthening of the neck, in particular, neck extension. Below are a few of my favorite activities to address core and neck strength with a focus on convergence skills. 

Supine Flexion and Prone Extension Activities 
While Supine Flexion and Prone Extension are not fun activities to complete on their own, it provides the therapist with an understanding of where the child’s muscle imbalances lie. These are also very easy activities for parents to build into their daily routines and in which progress is easily monitored. Add interest to these exercises by incorporating ball kicks or hit in prone or vertical ball toss in supine. 

Play in Prone on a Platform Swing 
Complete games such as Operation, simple interlocking puzzles and tangrams in prone on a platform swing to help develop sustained convergence skills. 

Adjust the swing so that the child’s elbows are at 90 degrees to allow maximum levels of movement, and appropriate distance to encourage use of convergence skills. Place game pieces in 180 degree arc and call pieces out for them to find moving back and forth from the game board. Looking for pieces within the arc give the child’s eyes an opportunity to go into divergence for a short period of rest, and then back into convergence. 

As the child’s skills increase, have them complete the activities in prone over a therapy ball. This requires increased core, neck and eye muscle control to complete the task at hand. 

Upright Bolster Swing Play 
For many kids, the upright bolster swing is a true challenge. It requires core engagement, along with vestibular and visual integration. These activities also challenge the child’s active abilities to converge and motor plan simultaneously. 

The first activity is to have the child attempt to grab items off the wall or structure within the gym space. The goal is for the child to watch his/her hand all the way to the item and grab it during “free” swing. “Free” swing refers to the child just being pushed and allowing the bolster to swing freely without direction from the therapist. 

This activity can be graded as necessary for each child to provide the just right challenge. 

The second activity builds upon to the first activity. The activity is completed in the same fashion on the bolster swing, but adding having the child throw the item (I like bean bags), into a bucket or barrel. As the child’s ability to converge in motion increases, so will their aim and timing.   

Convergence Activities

Many OT activities for visual motor overlap with convergence strengthening activities. ​It is important to ensure that breaks are built into convergence activities to prevent eye strain. 

If a child reports eye fatigue or is rubbing their eyes, have them sit up and look at a point in the distance for a few minutes. ​

Related Read: 
Looking for information related to Visual Saccades? Here is information on Saccades and Learning.

Activities to improve convergence insufficiency can include occupational therapy activities for visual motor skills like swing and therapy ball activities along with the brock string and other visual convergence activities kids love!

More Activities to Address Visual Insufficiency

Below is a list of activities that OT’s can utilize in therapy to support convergence skills if the child is not already receiving vision therapy. 

1. Maze Activities to Improve Convergence Skills

Maze activities are great for working on sustained convergence and teaming skills. 

Complete them in a vertical plane or surface to encourage the neck and eye muscles to work correctly as a team, and to prevent the child from compensating with postural corrections. 

Start small and large, moving into more complex mazes that are smaller in nature. 

2. Use a Zoom Ball to Improve Convergence Skills

The Zoom Ball is great for active convergence/divergence. The child has to watch the ball all the way to their hands prior to opening them. 

As they develop convergence skills, their timing and speed at which they can play with the Zoom Ball will increases. 

Watch for decreasing abilities as the activity continues. This may indicate fatigue of the eye muscles and need for a break with the activity. 

3. Use Word Searches and Letter Searches to Improve Convergence Skills

Similar to the maze activities, word searches and letter searches work on sustained convergence and teaming skills. Without good teaming skills, convergence tasks are hard to complete.

Utilize simple word/letter searches to begin and advancing the level of difficulty as the child’s endurance skills increase. 

Have the child look for words OR letters in isolation. Make sure that they are using left to right, and top to bottom patterns when completing the activity. Utilizing this pattern helps prevent random eye movement around the page that does not encourage convergence and teaming skills. 

These are simple activities for parents to complete everyday at home, and chances are you are probably working on letter recognition in therapy. Two skills with one activity! 

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

4. Pencil Push Ups Activity to Improve Convergence Skills

Pencil Push Ups address sustained and active convergence skills. Much like the convergence portion of a screening assessment, have the child watch the end of a pen or pencil with a topper, from 18 inches away, into their nose and back out again. 

Be sure to have the child stop before their nose if they are seeing double. They may not realize that they are seeing double, so be sure to ask along the way. 

They may begin to see double as fatigue increases with the activity. Seeing double defeats the purpose of the activity, as the goal is to help the eyes work together to see ​ONE​ image. 

Complete this activity for several repetitions before taking a break and having the child look at a point in the distance. This can be used as a warm up activity to sustained convergence activities. 

5. Popsicle Stare Activity to Improve Convergence Skills

This visual convergence activity addresses sustained and active convergence, and can be done in a bunch of different ways! 

The idea is to hold something small, like a popsicle stick with a sticker or funny face at the end, approximately 10-12 inches from the child’s face. The goal is to have them stare at it maintaining clear focus, and then look away. These farm animal popsicle sticks are a fun DIY tool you can make.

This cycle is completed several times to help the child’s eye muscles become stronger as a team. 

6. Beads on a String Convergence Insufficiency Activity

The Brock String is something that you may be familiar with from school if you had a unit on vision. This activity has the child looking at various points along a fixed route. 

Points should be stabilized starting at approximately 4 feet, 18 inches and 12 inches. Tie a string to the end of the door knob or chair with beads placed at the above mentioned point. Have the child hold the string to their nose, and look at the beads from the farthest point, to the nearest point, focusing on each point as they go. 

The goal is to see only ONE​ bead as you move up and down the string. This activity is difficult for younger children, and should be utilized only if they are able to follow directions and verbalize what they are seeing or any discomfort to you. Limit the number of repetitions of this activity and utilize breaks as needed. 

This is also a good warm up activity for sustained convergence activities. 

For a fun twist on the Brock String, try asking the child to thread beads on a string when it is taped to a wall. Upside down beads are an even bigger twist!

A final note on Addressing Convergence Skills

OT and Vision Therapy overlap in many ways. It is important to note that an OT who has received specialized training for vision therapy, has many more tools and equipment available to them. They may utilize high tech computers, and lenses to address convergence insufficiencies more directly. 

The activities in this post are to be utilized to support the development of convergence insufficiencies, but should not be utilized in place of vision therapy or referral to a developmental optometrist. 

If you are unsure when to refer or having a hard time getting a parent on board, check out my ​OT Vision Screening Packet ​for more information. It contains a screener for therapists and useful handouts for parents on why addressing vision is important to their child’s success.

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.


Use a visual screening tool like this occupational therapy screening tool to address visual processing skills like visual convergence and to guide visual convergence activities in therapy.

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
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Toy Theme Play Dough Mat for Boosting Hand Strength in a Fun Way

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

Use this free printable toy theme play dough mat to boost fine motor skills and hand strength that kids need for fine motor tasks, perfect for those kids that love play dough activities!

Toy Theme PlayDough Mat

Kids love toys, right? I haven’t met a child who isn’t captivated by a new toy. This toy theme play dough mat builds on the fundamental “job” that kids have…play!

You can print off this printable play dough mat that focuses on toys and an toy theme and use it to work on fine motor skills and the intrinsic muscle strengthening that kids need to complete many functional tasks…and even play!

Use the Toy Themed Play Dough Mat to Increase Fine Motor Skills

Enter your email in the form below and access your free printable play dough mat. Then, pull out the play dough! 
Show your child how to use the finger tips and thumb of one hand to roll a small ball of play dough. By using just one hand, they can develop and define the arches of the hand, while strengthening the other muscles of the intrinsic muscle groups at the same time. 
Then, ask the child to place and press the play dough on the circles on the toy play dough mat. They may need to pull off a bit of dough to make the play dough ball fit into the circles. This is a great activity for boosting visual perceptual skills too!
Looking for more ways to use play dough to increase fine motor skills? Add these play dough activities to your therapy toolbox!

Kids will love this free playdough mat with a toy theme while building the hand strength and fine motor skills.

Woolly Bear Caterpillar Craft Idea

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

This fall craft idea is perfect for occupational therapists to use in OT sessions to work on handwriting with a woolly bear caterpillar theme for fall.

Fall Craft Idea: Woolly Bear Caterpillar Craft

Where I live we have a local Woolly Worm Festival that is celebrated the third week in October every year with the 41st annual taking place this year.  The festival hosts a fun race for woolly worms as they climb a three-foot length of string during different heats to win first place. The winning woolly worm gets the honor of predicting the severity of the coming winter based on its coloring. (The darker the shading the more snow and cold it represents.) 

A woolly bear caterpillar has 13 body segments and there are 13 weeks of winter so each segment represents each week of winter. Now this isn’t truly science, but simple local folklore fun for kids and adults. 

Kids can make a fall craft like this wooly bear caterpillar craft to help with skills like scissor skills, fine motor skills, visual motor sills, and more.

Woolly Bear Caterpillar Craft for Occupational Therapy Goals:

Since woolly bear caterpillars can be seen everywhere here as the fall season gets underway, we made a fun paper craft using simple materials to work on fine and visual motor skills. From cutting to pasting, construction to handwriting, this paper craft makes a big impact both in process and in end product. 

It’s a fun fall fine motor activity that kids will love!

Materials Needed to Make a Woolly Bear Caterpillar Craft

Amazon Affiliate links are included below.

Here are the materials needed to make this cute woolly bear paper craft:
Black construction paper
Brown construction paper
Sheet of white cardstock paper
Two googly eyes
Your preference of bottle or stick glue
Scissors (This brand is my favorite for kids)
Brown marker
Optional: fall leaf stickers or leaves to cut out 

Steps to Make a Woolly Bear Caterpillar Craft

Use this wooly bear caterpillar craft as a fall craft idea with kids in occupational therapy activities this school year.

Preparation steps:
1. Mark the black and brown construction paper with lines for a child to cut in order to create 1 ½” wide and 4 ½” long strips. Draw cutting guidelines with regard to width based on each child’s skill level.  You choose how many of each color.

2. If needed, write Woolly Bear Caterpillar on the cardstock paper for child trace or have child fill in the word or letter blanks or have child copy the text.  You choose which level of written output matches each child’s skill level.  

Kids can use this wooly bear caterpillar craft idea as a fall fine motor craft that boosts the skills kids need for handwriting, scissor skills, fine motor skills, and many other areas that OTs work on in occupational therapy through crafts.

Child steps:
1.  Have child cut on the black and brown paper lines to create the individual strips.

2. Have child wrap strips into loops and glue the ends. Press and hold for a few seconds to ensure they remain adhered together. 

3.  Have child glue the loops onto the background cardstock paper to create a chain that resembles a caterpillar body. Have child press and hold each loop to the background paper for a few seconds to ensure it will remain attached to the paper.

4.  Once the caterpillar body chain is created, have the child glue googly eyes near the top of the last loop at one end. 

5. Optional: Peel sticker backs off of leaves and apply stickers to the background paper or cut and glue leaves on the background paper. 

6. Finalize the activity by labeling the craft creation with “Woolly Bear Caterpillar” text either by tracing, filling in the blank, or writing independently.  

Woolly Bear Caterpillar Handwriting Activity

For further handwriting practice for older children, you could have them write a fact sheet about woolly bear caterpillars or use the acrostic poem printable I have created and included below. 

Click here to print this free download to create a Woolly Bear Caterpillar Acrostic Poem and work on handwriting. 
The Woolly Bear Caterpillar craft can be taken home or used in the creation of a classroom or therapy room bulletin board to celebrate the coming of the fall season.  

Hope you enjoy this fun paper craft project with kids while working on fine and visual motor skills!

Outer Space Play Dough Mat for Intrinsic Hand Strength

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

This outer space play dough mat can be used to help kids increase their intrinsic hand strength and fine motor skills, using a space theme and a fun play dough activity that boosts the hand strengthening that kids need!

Outer Space Play Dough Mat

Working on intrinsic hand strength is a task that doesn’t need to be difficult…with a simple play dough activity like this one, building hand strength is easy! 
We’ve shared a few play dough strengthening activities before. They are some of our more popular fine motor activities here on the website! This simple printable play dough mat is the one that started all the buzz. There is a reason why: Kids NEED more hand strength. It’s evident in the increased pencil grasp issues that teachers, parents, and therapists are seeing every day! 
Looking for more strengthening activities using play dough? Try this flower play dough activity

Intrinsic Muscle Strengthening Activity

The thing about this outer space play dough mat is that it works on a specific set of muscles in the hand. The intrinsic muscles are those within the hand that enable dexterity and endurance in fine motor tasks. They are the ones that allow the arches of the hand to be used in fine motor tasks like manipulating objects with in the hand. They are the muscles of the hand that contribute to separation of the sides of the hand and create the thenar and hypothenar eminences. 
Specific exercises can strengthen these muscles and one of the biggest ones is rolling small balls of play dough with just the fingertips of the hand. 
That’s why we’ve created a series of free play dough mats that encourage small balls of play dough of various sizes. 

Outer Space Play Dough Mat Activity

Print off this play dough mat and add it to your toolbox for a fun fine motor activity that kids will love. 
You can enter your email into the form below and watch your email to find the printable outer space playdough mat. 
After printing, you may want to cover it with a plastic or laminated surface that allows you to use the playdough mat over and over again. Some of our favorite tricks for this include: (Amazon affiliate links are included below.)

Grab your free printable outer space play dough mat here and start working on that intrinsic hand strength!

Print off this free outer space play dough mat to help kids increase their hand strength and the intrinsic hand strength needed for fine motor tasks, all with a space theme!

More play dough activities you will love:

Amazon affiliate links are included in this post.

Ghost Craft to Work on Scissor Skills

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

Use this ghost craft to work on scissor skills with kids, the perfect halloween craft for a ghost theme occupational therapy activity that boosts fine motor skills and scissor use including bilateral coordination and the visual motor skills needed for cutting with scissors.

Ghost Craft to Work on Scissor Skills

This scissor skills craft is an easy craft to set up and one that you can pull together in in no time, making it a nice craft for on-the-go school based OTs looking for a ghost themed craft that addresses OT goal areas. Kiddos will love this ghost craft as it’s a cute craft idea that is motivating. In fact, kids won’t even realize they are working on skills like hand strength, separation of the sides of the hand, arch development, scissor use, or bilateral coordination. 
Here are more bilateral coordination activities that you can try.

Kids will love this ghost craft for a halloween craft that works on scissor skills in kids.

Ghost Craft for Kids

To create this ghost craft and work on scissor skills as well as fine motor skills, you will need only a few materials (affiliate links are included below):
Paper or cardstock
Scissors (These scissors are therapist-approved!)
Hole Punch Here is a reduced effort hole punch, perfect for kids or those working on building hand strength.
Kids can make this ghost craft to work on scissor skills and hand strength with a ghost theme this halloween, the fun ghost craft that helps kids cut with scissors.
First, it’s important to talk about where to start with know what a child can benefit from when it comes to paper type (construction paper, printer paper, cardstock, and other paper types all play important parts in addressing needs in scissor skills. Read about the various paper choices in addressing scissor skills in our scissor skills crash course
In that crash course, you’ll also find information related to line thickness when it comes to teaching kids to move through the stages of scissor skills. 
Use this ghost craft to work on scissor skills and other fine motor skills, perfect for a halloween craft or ghost theme in occupational therapy activities.

Steps to Make a Ghost Craft and Work on Scissor Skills

To make this ghost craft (and boost those scissor skills), simply draw a semi circle on the edge of a piece of paper. 
Ask kids to cut out out the ghost craft along the curved line. You can draw visual cues on the paper to cue kids on where to hold the paper as they turn the paper while cutting.
Next, draw or ask the child to draw circles for the mouth and two eyes. They can then use the hole punch to punch holes inside the circles of the eyes and mouth. 
This ghost craft works on scissor skills and fine motor skills needed for cutting with scissors, using a ghost theme for halloween craft ideas in occupational therapy activities.

Graded Scissor Skills Craft

There are several ways to grade this ghost craft to make the craft easier or more difficult depending on the child’s needs:
  • Use lighter or heavier paper grades. Some ideas are tissue paper, newspaper, wrapping paper, paper towels, or coffee filters to make the craft more difficult. Some ideas to make the ghost craft easier include cardstock, manilla folders, poster board, or thin cardboard.
  • Add more details to the ghost craft such as a bottom that the child needs to cut along a 90 degree angle to cut the bottom of the ghost. 
  • Add a wavy line to the bottom to require more details and scissor movement. 
  • Make larger or smaller ghosts.
Looking for more scissor skills crafts? Try these: 
Kids will love this fun ghost craft in occupational therapy activities this fall, use this ghost craft idea to work on scissor skills and other fine motor skills in occupational therapy activities.

Use scissors and a hole punch to work on the fine motor skills and scissor skills with this ghost craft.

What is Convergence Insufficiency?

As therapists, we often times see clients with vision needs that impact functional skills. Visual processing is a complex topic and convergence insufficiency is just one area. Read below to find out more about convergence in kids, to understand exactly what is convergence insufficiency, and how convergence plays into functional skills and learning.

**DISCLAIMER** I am not an optometrist, ophthalmologist or vision therapist. All information in this post is informational in nature only and should not be utilized in place of the appropriate professionals treatment and evaluations.

Convergence insufficiency is a vision problem that many kids experience when struggling with learning or reading. This article explains OTs role in vision problems and also what is convergence insufficiency, screening  tools for convergence, how to identify convergence.

What is Convergence Insufficiency?

Vision is a hot topic among therapists these days. It’s a foundational skill that we often overlook, or don’t have a clue where to start even if we know that we need to address it. When our vision is impaired, so is our learning.

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

Vision screenings done in the school nurses or pediatricians office only addresses acuity, resulting in other underlying vision concerns being missed.

These concerns can go unaddressed for long periods of time until the child has received remediation services, OT and other services to address the child’s deficits. By the time we realize that vision needs to be re-addressed the child is struggling and does not find academic work enjoyable.

Underlying vision concerns are often hard to detect, with convergence insufficiencies being one of the most common issues.

What is Convergence

Before we can talk about convergence insufficiencies, we need to address what typical, intact convergence patterns look like.  Simply put, convergence is our eyes ability to smoothly follow a moving target as a team, from a distance to a very near point, such as the tip of our nose.

Convergence is not only an active motor pattern, it is also a sustained motor pattern. Sustained convergence is utilized for the completion of near point work tasks. Intact convergence skills allow us to read, write, draw and catch a ball, and similar tasks with relative ease. When the system experiences difficulties, it can result in a convergence insufficiency.

Convergence Insufficiency

A convergence insufficiency is caused when the dynamic system of convergence/divergence is impaired or experiences stress. The impairment hinders the child’s ability to move their eyes in synchronized, coordinated, and smooth movements from a far point to a near point or near point to far point.

The ability to assume, and maintain sustained convergence patterns may also be significantly affected.

Causes of Convergence Insufficiency

Impairments to this system can stem from several different causes, with the most common reason being an eye muscle imbalance or weakness. Muscle imbalance and weakness can occur in one or both eyes. It is very dependent upon the child.

Other causes of a convergence insufficiency may be due to congenital neurological reasons, traumatic events, or other physical impairments that affect the eye. These are ​NOT​ the usual suspect for why a child experiences a convergence insufficiency and  should be ruled out by an optometrist or ophthalmologist if there is a reason to believe this is the case.

Screening for a Convergence Insufficiency

The most recognizable form of a convergence insufficiency found during a vision screening, is when the child is unable to follow the tracking item to within one half inch of their nose. When this happens, the child’s eyes may appear to “bounce” or “snap” back to a midline position despite the child’s best effort to find the item. This can happen with one or both eyes, and it is important to note in your screening what happened. In more severe cases, the child is unable to move their eyes to follow the tracking item to their nose.

More commonly, the child may be able to complete the convergence/divergence patterns, but experiences headaches, complains about their eyes hurting or frequently rubs their eyes with sustained convergence activities such as reading and writing.

It is also important to note, if the child is unable to sustain convergence at the end of the convergence/divergence pattern screening for more than a few seconds. This can also be an indicator that the child has a convergence insufficiency. This is one of the hardest skill deficits to identify as it is very subtle and difficult to see at times. If you suspect a convergence insufficiency, look for other red flags to support your observations.

Red Flags of Convergence Insufficiency

A convergence insufficiency is often hard to identify in screenings alone. Below are a list of skills that may be affected if a child is experiencing difficulties with convergence.

● Frequent headaches
● Rubbing of the eyes
● Covering one eye consistently
● Red or bloodshot eyes
● Distress with reading tasks
● Distress with near and far point copying tasks such as copying from the board
● Difficulty with catching a ball
● Use of a finger to track their place when reading
● Sleepiness or fatigue during near point work
● Motion sickness
● Blurred and/or double vision
● Words appearing to “jump” or “move” on the page

If the child is experiencing any of these signs, have their vision checked by an optometrist to rule out an eye muscle imbalance that may be causing a convergence insufficiency.

Treatment of Convergence Insufficiency

Convergence insufficiencies are diagnosed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. It is important to note that an OT cannot diagnose a convergence insufficiency. She/He can only report their observations and recommend follow up with the appropriate health care provider.

Upon seeing an optometrist, corrective lenses or vision therapy may be recommended based on the child’s needs. It is ​VERY​ important that the child wear his/her glasses and complete vision therapy if recommended as prolonged convergence insufficiencies can result in permanent eye strain and damage.

Once the child has received their corrective lenses, and if vision therapy has not been recommended, OT can help provide foundational skill remediation and exercises to promote the development of the child’s convergence skills.

Be on the lookout for my next post, ​Activities to Improve Convergence Skills​ to further fill your vision tool box. Also be sure to check out my OT Vision Screening Packet for useful forms and handouts to help you identify convergence insufficiencies and other vision concerns.

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.
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
Wondering about convergence insufficiency? This article explains what is convergence insufficiency, the definition of convergence, how convergence is used in vision tasks like handwriting, reading, catching a ball, and learning as well as red flags for convergence and visual processing skills and screening tools for convergence insufficiency.