Wondering about what are executive functioning skills? Today, I’m very excited to share a mini course that I’ve been working on behind the scenes. This Free Executive Functioning Skills Course is a FREE, 5-day email course that will help you understand executive functioning and all that is included in the set of mental skills.
So often, therapists are asked to explain executive functioning. Parents are looking for insight and how to help kids who struggle with the underlying areas that play a part in attention, organization, working memory, impulse control, and the other executive functioning skills. Teachers are looking for strategies to use in the classroom while understanding exactly what makes up executive functioning and how to help disorganized kids in the classroom.
Does any of these scenarios sound familiar?
This free executive functioning skills course will cover all of the above and describe strategies to help.
Executive Functioning Skills Course
If you have ever wondered how to help kids who struggle with:
Disorganization leading to impulsive actions and inattention in the classroom
The child that struggles to plan ahead and be prepared for the day
The child that lacks insight to cross a busy street without looking both ways
The student that loses their homework and important papers every day
The kiddo that just can’t get simple tasks done like cleaning up toys on the playroom floor
The child that focuses on other kids rather than a classroom assignment and then doesn’t finish in a given time
The kiddo that is constantly late because he can’t prioritize morning tasks like brushing teeth, eating breakfast, and getting dressed.
Do any of THESE scenarios sound familiar?
So often, we KNOW kids are struggling with mental tasks that limit their functioning, safety, and learning. Here’s the thing: executive functioning skills develop over time. Kids aren’t instinctively able to organize, plan, prioritize, or use self-control. These skills occur with age, time, and use.
But, for the child that struggles in any one area, so many tasks that require executive functioning skills suffer. As a result, we see problems with social-emotional skills, self-consciousness, frustration, anxiety, or more!
Information on Executive Functioning Skills, right in your inbox!
So, if you are wondering about executive functioning skills…or want to know more about how executive functioning skills work together in learning and everyday activities…join us in the free 5-day executive functioning skills email course!
A little more information on the executive functioning skills email course:
This course is entirely email-based. All you have to do is open your email and read!
You’ll discover the “why” behind executive functioning, what to do about impulsivity, tips and tools, and loads of resources related to executive functioning skills.
We’ll cover impulse control, including how we use all of the executive functioning skills along with self-control and self-regulation strategies to “get stuff done”.
This email course doesn’t have homework or tests. This mini-course is informative and low-key.
Enter your email in the form below to confirm your subscription to the email course and you’ll be on your way.
Disclaimer: This email mini-course does not provide continuing education units or professional development units. The course is not intended to treat or evaluate any executive functioning or impulse control needs. This mini-course is intended for information purposes only. The reader is responsible for any action or consequence as a result of strategies listed in the email mini-course or on this website. The OT Toolbox and it’s author are not responsible for any results of actions taken as a result of reading this website or it’s email or social media outlets.
Know someone who would be interested in this free executive functioning skills course? Share the images below and let them know!
What is impulse control and what is normal development of impulsivity in child development?
Speaking out of turn. Pushing into a classmate in the bathroom line. Interrupting adult conversations. Grabbing a toy from a friend. Impulse control in kids can look like a lot of different things. But what is normal self-control in kids and what is considered impulsivity that interferes with social interactions and emotional wellness? Below we’re going to discuss what is impulse control and how to begin to work on impulsivity strategies so kids can succeed in learning and social situations. Helping kids learn impulse control can be tricky! It helps to understand what impulsivity looks like, what is normal development, and other considerations.
The definition of Impulse control is as varied as we are as individuals. The thing is, we are all driven by different desires and internal ambitions. Impulse control generally refers to the ability to control oneself, especially one’s emotions and desires. The way these impulses present is expressed as actions, thoughts, behaviors and can occur in any situation but especially in difficult situations.
Impulse control requires self-regulation, internal drive, coping strategies, and other internal skills in order to filter impulses as they present in various situations.
Impulse control disorder
In order to present with a diagnosis of an impulse control disorder, a set of specific symptoms and signs must be present. These specific symptoms vary depending on the individual and other factors such as developmental level, age, gender, internal drive, and other considerations. However, the signs and symptoms of impulse control disorder generally include different behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial symptoms. The specific diagnosing factors are not going to be discussed in this particular post but it is worth mentioning that these can present in many different ways. For example, some kids may have aggression, lying, stealing, risky behaviors, low self-esteem, irritability, impatience, and other presenting factors.
For more information on impulse control disorder and if you think this is a concern that should be addressed in an individual, please reach out to a physician.
Medically speaking, the definition of impulsivity refers to an inclination to act on an impulse rather than a thought. Those of us who are generally impulsive in most situations, have difficulty curbing their immediate reactions or think before they act. This can look like the child that speaks without raising his hand in the classroom. It can be a hasty decision. It can be inappropriate comments.
Impulse control development
The thing is, impulse control is a HARD skill to refine. All of us have trouble with impulse control at one time or another! Think about that last time you received an unexpected bill. Maybe you grabbed a cookie or six to calm your nerves. What about when you ran over a pot hole and ended up with a flat tire on the freeway. Did an expletive escape your lips? Impulse control is hard when our minds and body’s are dealing with difficult situations.
The thing is, that we learn to deal with the everyday stuff without eating dozens of cookies or yelling obscenities at our car radio. We filter information, adjust to situations, and make behavioral, mental, and psychosocial responses accordingly.
How does development of impulse control happen?
Impulse control skills reside in the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain doesn’t fuly develop until we are in our twenties. It’s easy to see why impulsivity is such a common theme up through early adulthood!
Additionally, sensory modulation, emotions, outside situations, difficult environments, illness, stress, anxiety, and so many other issues can compound impulsive acts.
In fact, impulse control doesn’t begin to develop until around age 3.5- 4.
We will be covering development of impulse control more thoroughly in an upcoming blog post.
What does impulse control look like?
We’ve talked about how impulse control looks so different for different people. We’ve covered the fact that different situations can bring about different impulsive responses.
The thing is, impulse control is so varied!
Here are some examples of impulse control in kids:
Keeping negative thoughts to oneself
Not saying exactly what one is thinking about in the moment
Controlling anger and using a coping strategy instead of physically acting out
Raising a hand instead of speaking out in the classroom
Standing in a line without pushing or shoving
Asking to join a friend’s game or activity instead of jumping right in
Asking to look at or share a toy instead of just taking it
Being patient when having to wait
Waiting for instructions on an assignment before starting right away
Resisting distractions in the classroom or while doing homework
Waiting until dessert to eat a sweet or special treat
Foresight. It’s the ability to predict future actions and the act of planning ahead as a result of forward thinking. Difficulty with foresight is a hallmark of those with executive function disorder, but it’s also an executive functioning skill that kids develop over time. Teaching foresight to kids can be easy with a few games and activities, and it can make a difference in strengthening this and other executive function skills.
Helping kids to develop foresight can be a means for teaching consequences. we all have to make decisions with either good or bad results. Having foresight can help us predict and make a better choice!
Activities to Improve Foresight
When a child learns to think using foresight, he or she will be able to more independent in tasks such as schoolwork, self-care, and safety in all situations.
What is foresight?
We’ve explained that foresight is an executive function skill. In fact, the ability to look ahead and use the skill to plan out a task or to accommodate for situations that may occur is an executive functioning skill that works so closely with other EF skills.
Foresight is connected to other executive functioning skills such as planning and prioritization, impulse control, working memory, and attention for example.
Matching clothing to the weather when getting dressed
Thinking to bring an umbrella on a day that seems cloudy and grey
Having all materials needed for the classroom
Clearing the dinner table without being asked
Remembering to feed a family pet because he or she is always hungry at the same time each day…and alerting a parent when the pet food is almost gone
Looking both ways before crossing the street
You can see that foresight is a skill used in everyday tasks, all day long!
It’s important to recognize that foresight in kids is not a given. In the toddler years and preschool years, children have little foresight. They are very scattered in their thoughts and often do not think ahead or think of others. Toward the end of the preschool years and in early elementary years, foresight begins to develop.
Development of Foresight
Development of foresight continues to grow and strengthen but only through practice and repetition. In those with executive function disorder AND every typically developing child, practice and repetition of foresight is necessary.
Below are activities and games to improve foresight and thinking ahead. Use these games and activities with those with executive function disorder and any child with whom would benefit from practicing foresight.
Activities to Teach Foresight
Amazon affiliate links are included in the list below.
Encourage self-talk. Kids can talk themselves through a difficult or complex task.
Teach kids to make lists.
Talk about what to take on a trip to the beach versus a trip to the mountains.
Play imagination games.
Talk about how to plan for emergencies.
Write down what happened at the end of the day. Note strategies or coping skills that worked and what didn’t work. (The Impulse Control Journal can help with this journaling on a daily basis.)
Discus logical thinking in events or tasks- When you’re pretend games, encourage the child to ask themselves, “If I do this, then my we will do that.”
Talk about budgeting and saving money for things they would like to purchase.
Play Mastermind– This game encourages thinking ahead to solve a code. There are only so many chances to guess the answer, and choosing pieces require foresight and insight.
Discuss everyday tasks with kids and talk about the steps that need to be done. This could include anything from washing dishes to feeding a pet.
Play the game, Clue. Clue is a board game that encourages logical thinking and critical thinking to solve a mystery. For younger kids, try Clue Jr. to solve the mystery of who ate the missing piece of cake.
Play Ticket to Ride– In this board game, players must plan ahead for a certain trip and use foresight in practice to make decisions based on their game pieces, cards, and actions of other players.
Play Tetris– This is the puzzle version of the old video game from our childhood but with a hands-on approach. Kids can look at the space available and use foresight to position various pieces while keeping other game pieces in mind.
Play checkers and chess.
Play Monopoly– This game promotes foresight and the use of critical thinking skills to plan moves, purchases, and use of money.
Plan meals for the week.
Set goals and talk about how to reach those goals.
Try writing things down! The Impulse Control Journal is just the tool to help with outlining strategies that work and don’t work in decision making while strengthening executive functioning skills.
More ways to work on executive functioning skills and those issues that present in executive function disorder:
Want to really take executive function skills like foresight to the next level of success? The Impulse Control Journal is your guide to addressing the underlying skills that play into trouble with planning and prioritization. The journal is an 80 page collection of worksheets and prompts to discover what’s really going on behind executive functioning skills like planning, organization, prioritization, working memory, and of course, impulse control. While the guide was developed for students of all ages, this printable workbook is perfect for adults, too. It can help you discover strategies that make a real impact for all of the skills needed to get things done. Here’s the thing; Everyone is SO different when it comes to struggles related to executive functioning and everyone’s interests, needs, challenges, strengths, and weaknesses are different too. All of these areas play into the challenges we see on the surface. And, this is where the Impulse Control Journal really hits those strengths, weaknesses, and challenges where it matters…in creating a plan that really works for kids of all ages (and adults, too!) Check out the Impulse Control Journal, and grab it before the end of February, because you’ll get a bonus packet of Coping Cards while the journal is at it’s lowest price.
There is a SALE on The Impulse Control Journal happening only through February 28th, 2019! The Impulse Control Journal has been totally revamped to include 79 pages of tools to address the habits, mindst, routines, and strategies to address impulse control in kids.
More about the Impulse Control Journal:
30 Drawing Journal Pages to reflect and pinpoint individual strategies
28 Journal Lists so kids can write quick checklists regarding strengths, qualities, supports, areas of need, and insights
8 Journaling worksheets to pinpoint coping skills, feelings, emotions, and strategies that work for the individual
Daily and Weekly tracking sheets for keeping track of tasks and goals
Mindset,Vision, and Habit pages for helping kids make an impact
Self-evaluation sheets to self-reflect and identify when inhibition is hard and what choices look like
Daily tracker pages so your child can keep track of their day
Task lists to monitor chores and daily tasks so it gets done everyday
Journal pages to help improve new habits
Charts and guides for monitoring impulse control so your child can improve their self confidence
Strategy journal pages to help kids use self-reflection and self-regulation so they can succeed at home and in the classroom
Goal sheets for setting goals and working to meet those goals while improving persistence
Tools for improving mindset to help kids create a set of coping strategies that work for their needs
This is a HUGE digital resource that you can download and print to use over and over again.
We’ve shared much information on visual processing over the last few months. You’ve seen tips for addressing convergence insufficiency, visual tracking concerns, and other visual skill areas. Today we are talking about saccades and activities to improve saccades. These are the eye movements that allow the tracking skills necessary for reading comprehension, handwriting, and so many other areas. The saccade activities listed below are eye exercises that can help enhance visual processing skills. These visual tracking exercises can help with smooth pursuit of vision, in order to improve learning problems and other visual therapy concerns.
Visual Saccades Activities
You’ve identified impaired saccadic movements, the child has seen a developmental optometrist and maybe has corrective lenses, but is still struggling. Now what? Check out the activities below to incorporate into therapy and home programs that address poor saccadic movements directly.
This activity addresses saccadic movements on a large scale and challenges the child to stretch their eye muscles into the peripherals and back again. The objective is to hit the first target, catch the ball and hit the second target while moving only your eyes. This pattern is completed for as many times in row the kiddo can without dropping the ball or missing the target.
The larger the distance between the targets, the harder the challenge is. Wall Ball also doubles as a dissociation activity of the eyes from head movements.
All you need for Wall Ball is a ball, two targets and a wall or solid structure to bounce the ball off of. The ball can be any size as long as it bounces back directly to the child. Tennis balls and kick balls work the best. The smaller the ball, the more challenging the task is. Grade the activity to meet the kiddo’s needs and abilities as he/she progresses.
How to Play Wall Ball
Begin with the target approximately four feet apart at eye level on the wall. Start with a horizontal line progressing to vertical, and then diagonal.
The kiddo should be standing approximately 3 feet from the wall so that they can see both targets without having to turn their head. This part is important as we want to work only the eye muscles. If the child cannot see both targets without moving their head, adjust the distance of the targets first and then the position of the child as needed.
Increase the challenge by adding paired colored targets and calling out what pair to hit one at a time or in a sequence. As the kiddo’s saccadic patterns become better and smoother, the time needed to complete the task will be shorter.
Read Word Searches to work on Saccades
Reading requires very precise and accurate eye movements. When these patterns and muscle movements are not natural, they have to be taught and can be a significant challenge for children with impaired saccadic movements.
The objective of Word Search Reading is to have the kiddo read the letters or symbols of the word search out loud without deviating from the line, or skipping a line once back at the beginning of the pattern.
Word Search Reading Directions
Begin with a simple word search to establish the child’s abilities. A 4×4 line word search is usually a good place to start. As the child’s skills increase or this is too easy, increase the size of the word search. The larger the word search, the harder the child has to work to move their eyes in a smooth movement across the page and back to the next line.
Word search reading can be completed as a table top task, or a vertical surface. It is good to practice both skills as saccadic movements are needed in a variety of settings, not just for reading and writing.
Word Search Reading patterns can be left to right/top to bottom, or top to bottom/ left to right. There should be an emphasis on left to right patterns initially as this is the way that we read and write. As the child’s skills increase, patterns can be reversed right to left/top to bottom and top to bottom/right to left. The more patterns that the child’s eyes are exposed to, the easier fluid movements between any given set of points will become.
While I have listed very set patterns for this activity, it is important to remember that saccades is the fluid, coordinated movement of both eyes between ANY given set of points in ANY plane or position.
Modifications for Word Search Reading to Address Visual Tracking Needs
Word Search Reading activities can be very difficult and result in the kiddo being frustrated as it is making their eyes work in ways that they are not used to. However, there are a few modifications outside of the size of the word search that you can utilize to develop the just right challenge for each kiddo.
The first modification is blocking out lines they are not supposed to be looking at. A ruler or a sheet of paper is a great place to start with this modification. If this is still not enough support and they are skipping letters in the line or reversing letters, try having them track with their finger or a special “tracking tool” (pencil with topper, fun pen, etc.).
Sometimes, even utilizing a finger or tracking tool is not enough and there is still too much visual input and their eyes are trying to jump ahead. In this case, an index card with a slot cut to fit one to five letters at a time can help keep their eyes moving in a nice line.
While word searches are great, if you have a child that is struggling with letter recognition, this task can be completed with numbers or symbols. The main premise is that whatever items you use, are in a grid pattern.
Adjust the challenge and supports as the kiddo gets better at reading the letters in the given pattern to create the just right challenge.
Saccade Activity with Timed Copying Tasks
One of the best activities to work on saccades is to complete table top activities. This simulates what kids do in school the best, and allows you to find where the breakdown is, and provide supports as needed.
Start with a small activity like a spelling list or site words on table next to the child and have them copy the words onto a piece of paper. Once they are able to do this in a reasonable amount of time increase the challenge to 3-4 words in sequence or short sentences, and then eventually a whole paragraph or short story. This set of activities is referred to as near point copying and is the foundation block for other copying tasks.
When they have mastered near point copying, it is time to move onto far point copying. This is when the items that are being copied are more than 18 inches from the child. Examples include copying from a SmartBoard or whiteboard, or off posters around the classroom. Eventually, this translates into taking notes in higher level education.
The same premise of starting small and building into larger tasks applies to far point copying as well. Utilize a timer to challenge the child to beat their best time and also to track progress. As they become stronger at looking between the two points without losing their spot, the faster the activity will go.
Visual Saccade Exercise: Speed Popsicle Sticks
Like Word Search Reading, this activity challenges the precise movements needed for efficient saccadic movements. Speed Popsicle Sticks is more exercise based then the other activities presented in this post and should be monitored for fatigue and strain like other exercise based activities. This activity is challenging and should be done with children who are able to follow directions and verbalize feelings of discomfort in their eye muscles.
The premise of this activity is to have the child look as quickly as they can between two points without losing focus or deviating from the path in a given amount of time. Popsicle sticks with stickers at the end of them work great at points to focus on.
Begin with the child sitting in front of you with their feet grounded. Hold the popsicle sticks approximately 12-15 inches apart, and 15-18 inches away from the child’s face. Then instruct them to look at first one sticker, bring it into focus, and look at the next sticker bringing it into focus before moving back to the first sticker.
Start with a short amount of time, such as 10 seconds to begin, and 2-3 repetitions with a break in between each repetition. Increase the amount of time to complete the activity as the kiddo’s eyes get stronger and they are not complaining of fatigue. Set a cap on time around 45 seconds for this exercise, and keep repetitions low.
Be sure that you listen to the child if they are complaining or are requesting a break. You do not want to cause eye fatigue or strain accidently.
Games to Encourage Saccades
There are some great ready-made games on the market these days that challenge saccadic movements. Below is a list of a few of my favorites to utilize in therapy or for gift ideas for parents and home programs.
Practice, practice, practice! That is one of the biggest parts in helping a child develop motor patterns, and saccades are no different. With the just right challenge in place and encouragement, the kiddo’s saccadic patterns should become stronger and more fluid leading to increased success with visual tasks.
Looking for more information on vision deficits? Check out my OT Vision Screening Packet for useful handouts, checklists and a screener tool.
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.
This article was written by The OT Toolbox Contributor, Kaylee:
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
Looking for winter fine motor activities that boost the skills kids need? These fine motor ideas develop the skills that kids need for tasks like handwriting, pencil grasp, cutting with scissors, managing clothing fasteners, and more. You’ll find winter activities that boost hand strength, grasp, precision and endurance in the hands…all through play! We’ve even got free arctic animal fine motor worksheets for you, so scroll on!
First, stop by our fine motor skills library for tons of ideas to work on the motor skills kids need.
It has been fun sharing winter activities this week! If you missed any of the posts, be sure to check them out below. We’ve talked about indoor recess ideas for winter, brain break ideas, and activities to address bilateral coordination skills, and even mindfulness! You will have ideas for a season of development!
Check out the Winter Activities on the site this week:
We used those same hole reinforcer stickers to make a fine motor snowman craft that boosts skills like tip to tip precision, separation of the sides of the hand, and arch strength.
If you’re looking for another craft idea, then this clothespin snowman craft uses a clothespin clip to really work the muscles of the hand. Move that snowman around and clip him onto bags, coats, and books!
If you’re looking for a fine motor activity for kindergarten kids, then this sight word tic tac toe game is the ticket! Kids can make the game pieces, and move them around to play a game of tic tac toe while strengthening skills like tip to tip grasp, arch development, separation of the sides of the hand, and finger isolation.
For more craft ideas that boost fine motor skills, check out all of these winter bird crafts. You’ll find ideas for strengthening the hands and other fine motor skills while making cute bird crafts, bird feeders, and other activities.
If working on scissor skills is a priority, a paper snowflake is the way to go this winter. But what if you took the paper snowflake up a notch by cutting cupcake liners? This cupcake liner paper snowflake activity boosts hand strength with a pretty result!
Working on pencil grasp? You don’t need a pencil! Make this snowflake stamp art and promote the fine motor skills that are needed for a functional grasp: separation of the sides of the hand, arch development, and an open thumb web space for example. This creative winter painting idea has a sensory component, too.
Arctic Animal Fine Motor Worksheets
To end out the Winter Week here on The OT Toolbox, I wanted to create a few free fine motor worksheets for you. These are arctic animal worksheets that cover a variety of different fine motor abilities:
Play Dough Roll Mat- We’ve shared some free play dough mats before. They are perfect for developing fine motor skills and hand strength needed for tasks like coloring with endurance, manipulating small items, and holding a pencil. Kids can roll small balls of play dough with just their fingertips to strengthen the intrinsic muscles. This Arctic Animal theme play dough mat can be used all winter long!
Pencil Control Worksheet- Connect the arctic animals and stay on the shaded lines while mastering pencil control. Some of the lines are small and are a great way to strengthen the hands, too.
Arctic Animal Cutting Strips- Work on scissor skills to cut along lines to reach the arctic animal friends. This is a great way to strengthen the motor and visual skills needed for cutting with scissors.
Arctic Animal Clip Cards- Cut out the cards and clip clothespins to match the number on the cards. If you laminate the cards, you can use them over and over again and write on the section below the number. Kids can practice tracing the number and then writing the word for the number. Pinching clothespins onto these cards is a great way to strengthen the hands while incorporating other skills like handwriting.
All four fine motor worksheets are included in this fine motor set and it’s totally free!
Just enter your email in the box below so the set can be delivered directly to your email inbox. Enjoy!
Teaching kids mindfulness techniques can be a way to incorporate self-awareness, self-regulation, and the senses. The winter months, can be a time when mindfulness is especially necessary. The winter mindfulness activities for kids listed below include tips for mindfulness in the classroom and creative mindfulness exercises with a winter theme. These mindfulness activities can be used as a support for so many occupational therapy goal areas. In fact, the benefits of mindfulness are many! Read on to learn more.
This post is part of our Winter Week here on The OT Toolbox. Each day this week, we’re sharing creative winter activities that can be used in occupational therapy plans, therapy home programs, the classroom, or home!
First, let’s talk about what is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of one’s actions and self in the moment. Mindfulness is an important part of self-regulation and the ability to regulate our senses, feelings, and body. It allows us to focus on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting “what’s happening” on the inside. These are our thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
Mindfulness is a skill that allows us to be aware of our body without responding rashly. In kids, mindfulness is important in the ability to pay attention and responding to input from the world around us. For kids, mindfulness is noticing their body and the things happening around them. It has a lot to do with impulse control. Just like any other skill, mindfulness is an ability that develops over time.
It’s easy to see how this skill relates to so many other areas that occupational therapists address: self-regulation, self-confidence, attention, social-emotional skills, coping skills, sensory processing, impulsivity and inhibition, and overall well being.
It’s a big part of treating the whole person!
How to Teach Mindfulness
There are ways to develop and refine self-awareness. The good thing to know that as occupational therapists, we are skilled in the areas that play into mindfulness: sensory processing (including interoception), coping strategies, self-awareness, and self-regulation.
It’s important to recognize that there is no one way to teach mindfulness. Each child is different and with different needs, strengths, and interests. The winter themed mindfulness activities below are just some strategies that teach the skill of self-awareness in a variety of ways. They all have one thing in common though…they are all winter themed!
Winter Mindfulness Activities for Kids
Sensory Snow Painting- If you live in an area with snow, bring some indoors and pull out the watercolors. We shared an activity when this website was just a baby site on painting snow with watercolors. Add some calm and quiet music as you paint to make it a mindful act. Slowly and deliberately attend to the watercolors as they mix together. Add slow breathing for a mindfulness activity that results in a sensory component.
Use what you’ve got! This post from Grow Wise Yoga shares tons of easy and creative ways to use everyday materials in winter themed indoor mindfulness activities. I love that there are suggestions to use craft pom poms, beads, clay, scarves, and other materials that promote fine and gross motor skills in the act of mindfulness, too!
Make a Winter Themed Sensory Bottle- Blue glitter, water, snowflake sparkles or beads…this sounds like a winter sensory bottle idea that would make a great mindfulness tool! In fact, kids can use a sensory bottle to calm down, focus on the moment, concentrate on breathing, and attend to the present moment. A sensory bottle is a mindfulness tool that can be used as a coping strategy and in self-regulation. Here are tips and suggestions for how to make a sensory bottle.
Attending to a sound or sounds can be a way to mindfully focus in a moment. We’ve shared auditory processing activities here on The OT Toolbox that can help with this skill. Some ideas include listening with concentration to a single sound as it moves around a room or changes in volume. Some tools that we’ve shared on our auditory processing page include DIY shaker bottles, bell dominos, DIY rhythmsticks and other tools.
Stretch and move- Intentional breathing combined with stretch as in yoga stretches can be a strategy to teach mindfulness.
Practice Guided Mindfulness- Counselor Kori has some great winter themed printable resources that guide mindfulness including a hot cocoa activity and craft, a snow globe activity and craft, and a snowman mindfulness activity. These can be used to teach mindfulness while exercising the ability to refocus with a centered breathing pattern.
Guided Meditation and Relaxation Script- Follow a guided script to recenter with meditation and mindfulness. Greenchild has some free guided meditation scripts for kids that you can follow within a theme during the winter or all year round.
Looking for more Winter Activities? Be sure to check out the other activities we’re sharing this week!
Bilateral coordination is a big topic in child development. The fact is that the coordinated use of the hands is a tricky skill for many kids. Using the hands together in tasks is necessary for hand dominance and tasks like handwriting, managing clothing fasteners, catching and throwing a ball, fine motor tasks, and so many other skills. Below you will find winter bilateral coordination activities. These are winter themed activities that improve bilateral integration and can be used in occupational therapy activities in the winter months. Scroll through the activities below and add them to your therapy toolbox this winter!
Winter Bilateral Coordination Activities
This post is part of our Winter Week series here on The OT Toolbox. Each day this week, we are sharing activities, ideas, and tips for getting the kids active and moving…and working on occupational therapy goals in the winter months. This time of year can be tough on therapists; It’s right after the holidays. If in a cold weather environment, it can be a glum and gloomy time of year with cold temps and shorter days. It can be hard to come up with fresh ideas! That’s why I decided a Winter Week was in order. Each day this week, you’ll find winter themed activities designed to meet occupational therapy goal areas in fun ways. Here’s what’s going on this week:
On to the Winter Bilateral Coordination Activities! Have fun in OT these winter months!
First, What is Bilateral Coordination?
In short, bilateral coordination is the use of both hands together in a coordinated manner. There are three components of bilateral coordination, which include Symmetrical movements, Reciprocal movements, and Dominant hand/supporting hand movements.
These movements require both sides of the body. Also called bilateral integration, the movements of both hands together in activities requires processing and integration of both hemispheres of the brain to enable both hands working together at the same time.
Bilateral coordination is needed for skills like: eating, writing, coloring, drawing, self-dressing, brushing one’s teeth, playing, tying shoes, and so much more!
The winter themed bilateral coordination activities below are ideas for activities that can help to work on coordinated use of both hands in fun activities!
Winter Themed Bilateral Coordination Activities
1. Cutting Paper Snowflakes- Folding and cutting are bilateral coordination activities that require both hands being used together. Make paper snowflakes with different textures or types of papers to put a fun spin on this winter activity. Try making paper snowflakes with cupcake liners, paper bags, tissue paper, or large construction paper sheets!
2. Paper Snowmen- Remember making strands of paper dolls? Try making a strand of paper snowmen while working on bilateral coordination while folding and cutting the snowmen.
3. Lacing Mittens- Make a cardboard set of mittens and poke holes around the edges. Then lace with cord, yarn, or string like Fun Family Crafts did with their mitten lacing activity. Lacing is a bilateral coordination activity that boost the skills kids need for tasks like handwriting. Read more about how lacing is such a great activity for kids here.
4. Play Dough Snowmen- Mixing and rolling dough is a fantastic bilateral coordination activity. Here’s why: By mixing dough, both hands are working together against resistance of the dough, providing a sensory component in the form of proprioception. This feedback can provide a powerful muscle memory to the hands as they work. Kids can mix, stir, and knead while strengthening the hands and arms. This Baking soda dough is perfect for creating snowmen, which require rolling and building…and more bilateral coordination!
5. Snowman Sensory Bag- This is such a fun sensory activity that allows kids to work both hands together to move parts of a snowman face while working on finger isolation and dexterity. This snowman sensory bag version from Mama Papa Bubba is very cute!
Be sure to stop back the rest of this week to find more winter activities to inspire movement and development!
Looking for more bilateral coordination ideas? Try these:
Need Brain Break ideas for the kids? These energizing brain breaks are gross motor activities that can break up the school day or be added to the classroom schedule. Mix some of these movement breaks into the classroom to help kids focus and stay on task while getting a chance to get a short mental break from the class schedule. I love that these movement breaks can give kids a chance to weave activity right into learning. Whether you are looking for stretches or specifics like activities that fit your curriculum, most of these brain break ideas can be modified to meet your classroom needs!
Winter Brain Breaks
Brain Break Ideas
It’s Winter Week here on The OT Toolbox and each day we’re talking all about activities to get the kids active and moving indoors. If you would like to see the other activities we are sharing this week, you can check out yesterday’s Indoor Recess Ideas.
Here is the line-up for Winter Week activities, so be sure to stop back each day this week. By the end of the week, you’ll have enough ideas to last the rest of the winter months!
And now, on to the brain breaks! Check out these Winter Brain Breaks for classroom
1. Build a snowman- This winter brain break requires imagination and some large motor skills! Students may need verbal cues and maybe a visual model when first doing this snowman brain break. Here’s what Pretend to roll a ball of snow. Then another big snowball. Ask students to place their pretend snowballs on the first one to build the snowman. Next, pick up a carrot and some “rocks” from the ground. Press them into the snowman’s head. Next, look on the “ground” to find some sticks for arms. Press them into the sides of the sides of the snowman. Add any additional details like a scarf, hat, or boots.
2. Penguin Freeze Dance- This winter brain break activity is a great addition to an arctic theme in the classroom! Take 5 minutes to move and groove, penguin-style! Turn on some music and the students can waddle like penguins! Then suddenly stop the music and all of the classroom penguins need to FREEZE! Play for about 5 minutes and then get back to learning.
3. Dice Roll- Write numbers 1-6 on the chalkboard. Assign each number to an action movement like hop up and down, touch the ground, stand on one leg, do a funny dance, jumping jacks, etc. Then roll the dice and everyone needs to do the action. Keep rolling and moving for 3-5 minutes. Some more action ideas include: turn in two circles, do a burpee, do a push-up, and sit on the floor then stand up very quickly.
4. Winter Yoga- Add movement breaks to the classroom with some calming yoga moves. Winter themed yoga stretches can be a nice break in the classroom schedule when it’s too cold to go outdoors. Here is a Winter Yoga Card Bundle that has printable yoga cards and comes with a story using the yoga poses.
5. Snowman Says- Play a quick game of Simon Says with a snowman theme! Imagine you are part of a classroom full of snowmen who are moving their snowman parts. Use your imagination and stretch, move, and move that snow body!
6. Polar Bear Brain Breaks- We’ve shared a bear brain breaks free printable sheet here on The OT Toolbox. Use it with a polar bear theme! Hint: Do the same brain break activities and call it a polar bear move 🙂
7. Winter Brain Break YouTube Videos- There are some great movement and activity videos on YouTube that can get the kids up and moving so they are ready to learn. The brain break videos below are winter themed.