The Many Benefits of Coloring with Crayons

Fine motor skills with coloring

There are many benefits of coloring with crayons in occupational therapy interventions. Coloring with crayons is a fine motor skill that builds other skills. Did you know that the act of coloring with a crayon can help children develop fine motor strength, dexterity, grasp, and endurance in their hands? Be sure to check out this resource on the best crayons, based on development and fine motor skills.

And, coloring skills develop by more coloring. Here’s the thing: occupational therapists use crayons to help children develop fine motor skills, but they also work on the development of coloring skills as a functional task that is part of play, and typical child development. Let’s talk about all of the coloring skills that occupational therapy addresses with a simple box of crayons.

Benefits of coloring in child development

You know that smell, right? It’s kind of waxy and flaky (if that’s a smell…) and so distinctive! If you open a box of crayons that have the little marks of each crayon inside the cardboard box, it has an even stronger smell.  Crayons smell like childhood! This post on coloring skills is part of my 31 Days of Occupational Therapy series, where each day is a creative activity using OT treatment materials that are free or almost free.  

Fine Motor Skills with Crayons

Crayons are something that most homes have in a pencil box, in an old tin, or in a drawer somewhere.  Did you know those childhood memory sticks (aka Crayons) can be used in SO many skill areas?  

Consider fine and gross motor strength, tool use, sensory processing, pencil grasp, line awareness, hand-eye coordination, dexterity, endurance, self-confidence, creativity, task completion, and learning objectives like color identification, and color matching.  Crayons develop the very skills needed for pencil grasp and carryover of that pencil grasp. Whew!  No wonder crayons get worn down to nubs with all of those areas that they are working on!  

One tool I love is our color by letter worksheet to support fine motor skills while coloring in a small space.

Coloring is a fine motor skill and it helps kids develop other areas.

Benefits of Coloring for Children

There are so many developmental benefits to coloring! It’s more than creating a colorful preschool work of art.

Related Read: Read about how we worked on carryover of pencil grasp and strengthened fine motor skills and so many other areas with our 3 Crayon Challenge activity.

There are so many benefits to coloring for kids: hand strength, visual motor skills, visual perception, tool use, creativity, endurance, creativity, self-confidence, task completion, and learning objectives!  Tips from an Occupational Therapist for working on coloring and handwriting in school and at home.

Coloring with crayons Improves Tool Use

Coloring with crayons improves a child’s ability to manipulate tools such as pencils, scissors, utensils, grooming and hygiene tools, and other functional tools with ease. By developing coloring skills, kids have a natural opportunity to explore a writing utensil in a way that is fun and creative.  

They can use different colors by placing crayons back into the box with a coordinated manner.  To further develop tool use with children, offer a crayon pencil sharpener, a small bin or zippered pouch that needs opening or closing, and a variety of crayon sizes and shapes. All of these can extend fine motor skills with more practice in tool use as well as dexterity.

Coloring with Crayons improves Bilateral Coordination

Bilateral Coordination is a fine motor skill needed for so many tasks. Using both hands together in a coordinated manner is a skill needed for handwriting, scissor use, and many functional tasks.  When coloring, a child needs to hold the paper as they color.  Using the assisting, non-dominant hand as a stabilizer allows a child to build strength and dexterity in their dominant hand.  This skill will carry over to writing tasks, and makes coloring a great activity for kids who are switching hands in activities.

Coloring with Crayons Improves Endurance

Building on the fine motor skill areas, coloring can deepen a child’s endurance in completing writing tasks.  

Many times, kids will complain of hand fatigue while coloring.  They can build muscle endurance by coloring with the small muscles of their hands and allow for greater endurance when writing, too. To help a child develop hand strength, use coloring!

You can help kids improve hand strength with this simple coloring exercise: Instruct a child how to color in small circles to work on the strength and endurance of the intrinsic muscles.  Ask them to fill in the complete circle. To extend the activity, create more circles. This exercise can be extended further by working on a vertical surface such as an easel or by taping the page to a wall. This develops proximal stability at the shoulder girdle as well as core strength, allowing for postural stability in written work.

If a child needs to work on this area, you can show the student how to color on a slanted surface like a slanted table surface or elevated surface. Here is an easy way to create a DIY slant board.

Broken Crayons help with hand strength! 

Fine motor skills with coloring

Coloring develops Tripod Grasp

Coloring is a fine motor strengthening tool that many Occupational Therapists recommend and use in treatment sessions.  Coloring is a resistive task that provides the small muscles in the hand to work the waxy crayon onto coloring sheets.  When a child holds a crayon, they are working on the strength of the intrinsic muscles of the hand.  

Using broken crayons requires more work and is a greater strengthening task for kids who need to work on their tripod grasp. For more strengthening, encourage your child to color more resistive surfaces such as construction paper, cardboard, or even sand paper. 

Coloring offers sensory input

Coloring with a crayon can be an opportunity to add heavy work through the hands. This sensory feedback is proprioceptive input that “wakes up” the muscles of the hands and can be calming input.

Unlike a marker, children can color lightly or very dark by exerting more pressure.  The proprioceptive system comes into play when a child attempts to vary the amount of pressure they are exerting through the crayon.

Coloring with markers just doesn’t provide that resistive feedback that coloring with a waxy crayon does. Markers are smooth and don’t give kids the sensory input that help with learning letters.  For a fun twist on letter formation activities, grab a box of crayons!  

To help kids write with heavier or lighter pencil pressure when writing, encourage children to shade and combine colors by being aware of how lightly or darkly they are coloring.  There is also that crayon scent that children are aware of, either consciously or unconsciously.  If you recall the scent of crayons from your childhood, then you know what I’m talking about here!

Coloring Skills Develop Spatial Awareness

Coloring skill development progresses as children gain experience in coloring. By developing coloring skills, kids can improve visual perceptual skills. Spatial awareness is an aspect of perceptual skills.

Visual perception is so important to many functional skills in handwriting: awareness of the body’s position as it moves through space, line awareness, using margins on a page, and writing within a given space.  Coloring is a great tool in working on these areas as children color within lines and given spaces.  

But sometimes, kids have trouble staying in the lines or coloring in areas without leaving large spaces uncolored.  Verbal prompts, highlighted lines, bold lines, thick coloring lines, and physical prompts like raised lines can improve spatial awareness in coloring.

There are so many benefits to coloring for kids: hand strength, visual motor skills, visual perception, tool use, creativity, endurance, creativity, self-confidence, task completion, and learning objectives!  Tips from an Occupational Therapist for working on coloring and handwriting in school and at home.

Coloring Skills and Eye Hand Coordination

One reason that coloring in occupational therapy sessions is so well-used as an intervention strategy is the development of eye-hand coordination skills. There are benefits of coloring with crayons when it comes to coordinating vision and motor skills. When writing or coloring, children must coordinate their physical movements with information received from their visual system.  

Controlled movements are essential for handwriting, letter formation, and neatness in handwriting.  Coloring helps with practicing coordination of the visual input with physical movements of the hands in very small spaces or large areas.

Providing smaller areas of coloring require more controlled movements and dexterity.  For difficulties in this area, consider adding boundaries to coloring areas, with darkened and thicker lines or raised boundaries like using Wikki Stix around the coloring area.

Coloring Benefits Creativity and Self-Confidence

Another of the benefits of coloring with crayons involves self-confidence. Coloring inspires creativity in kids.  A blank piece of paper and a box of crayons can inspire stories and pictures.  Being creative allows a child to build their self-confidence in other areas, especially handwriting and pencil tasks. If you’ve ever received a coloring masterpiece from a child, then you know the pure delight they have when giving a creation they have made.  That boost of self-confidence will entice them to complete other paper/pencil tasks.

Coloring helps with Color Identification and Color Matching

Crayons are color!  Kids can be encouraged to practice color identification with the bright and vivid colors in a crayon box.  Use a color by number activity to work on color matching skills.

These visual discrimination skills, visual scanning, visual attention, and visual memory needed to identify and match colors are part of the visual perceptual skills we talked about above. All of these are needed skills for reading, writing, math, and other higher level cognitive skills.

Coloring with crayons in occupational therapy helps kids develop fine motor skills

Coloring in occupational therapy teletherapy

All you need to develop the skills listed above is a simple box of crayons. This makes coloring a powerful tool in occupational therapy teletherapy, because many homes have crayons available.

Working on fine motor skills in teletherapy can be difficult because so many of an occupational therapist’s favorite fine motor tools might not be available. This is where using crayons to work on a variety of skills can be so powerful.

Try some of these teletherapy activities using crayons:

So, now you know the many benefits of coloring with crayons.  How can you use crayons in developmental and functional tasks?  Let’s explore crayons for various ages and stages.

Toys and tools for kids who love to color and ways to incorporate coloring into kids daily lives to work on so many functional skills like fine motor, grasp, visual perceptual.

Toys for Coloring Skills

You’ll want to start by reading this article on the best crayons for toddlers. There, we cover crayons for building coloring skills from the youngest age, and highlight therapist-recommended crayons based on development.

First, start with our free President’s Day coloring pages (great for any US holiday!) and use the coloring therapy toys below.

Here are some creative learning and play ideas that kids will love.  Some of these are more pricey than just a box of crayons, but your crayon fan will enjoy using these toys and games and won’t even realize they are working on so many skills!

(We’re including affiliate links.)   One of our favorite books is The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Dewalt. This is a book for crayon fans! We grab this book from the library anytime we see it, and it’s got a great message, too. Kids will be inspired to color after reading this book about crayons. 

 It’s no secret that crayons are a fine motor powerhouse when it comes to developing that tripod grasp! You can use larger crayons for smaller kids or children who need to work on other grasps, like a lateral key grasp, or children who need to work on thumb adduction in functional tasks like scissoring. These ALEX Jr. Tots First Crayons are just the thing to try! 

 Work on more fine motor skills, like finger isolation when using Finger Crayons.

Kids can get creative and explore sensory play while using crayons in the bathtub. 

 These Bath Time Crayons are on my list to try!

Do you remember rubbing crayons over fashion design kits as a kid? There is a reason to do this play activity with kids! 

This Fashion Design Activity Kit provides proprioceptive input and strength to little hands in a fun and creative way. 

 With 152 colors, this Crayola Ultimate Crayon Case will give your kiddo a color for every creative whim. This looks so inviting! 

 There is a coloring book out there for everyone! Even adults can get in on the coloring fun with creative coloring like this Art Nouveau Animal Designs Coloring Book . Color alongside your child for calming and relaxing art time. 

 I love the large size and big pictures of the Melissa & Doug Jumbo Coloring Pads. They are perfect for the youngest colorers. 

For more creative fun, try Dry Erase Crayons right on a dry erase surface. This is a great way to practice spelling words on a resistive surface. 

Little artists will love to create their own t-shirt designs using Fabric Crayons
. This is a fun way to work on fine motor strength and bilateral coordination. Holding down that cotton t-shirt is a bilateral coordination workout!

There are so many benefits to coloring for kids: hand strength, visual motor skills, visual perception, tool use, creativity, endurance, creativity, self-confidence, task completion, and learning objectives!  Tips from an Occupational Therapist for working on coloring and handwriting in school and at home.

Colors Handwriting Kit

Working on handwriting skills in occupational therapy sessions?

Need to help your child with handwriting legibility, letter formation, spacing, and sizing in written work?

Working on handwriting in the classroom and need a fun colors of the rainbow theme for motivating handwriting tasks?

The Colors Handwriting Kit has you covered!

In the 60 page printable kit, you’ll find handwriting worksheets, fine motor activity pages for A-Z, colors “write the room” cards for uppercase letters, lowercase letters, and cursive letters. This kit has evertyhing you need for helpiing kindergarten-2nd grade students with handwriting skills.

Click here to access the Colors Handwriting Kit.

Colors Handwriting Kit
Colors Handwriting Kit for working on handwriting with a colors theme.

More Crayon activities

Metallic Crayon Dough

Shades of red crayon play dough 

Harold and the Purple Crayon play dough 

Rainbow Crayon Play Dough

Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to

Reindeer Games Gross Motor Slide Deck

Christmas gross motor activities

I am so excited to share this gross motor slide deck for teletherapy. It’s a reindeer games theme that allows kids to support gross motor skills in teletherapy, which is sometimes difficult to facilitate via a virtual therapy setting. These reindeer games activities are FUN for kids and they will be excited to see and do the gross motor activity on each slide of the therapy slide deck. Let’s explore reindeer games!

Pair these with our reindeer activities to address other goal areas, and these free fine motor reindeer printables.

Reindeer games activities for kids in a gross motor teletherapy slide deck.

Reindeer Games Activities

These reindeer games are fun for kids, and I am excited to use the therapy slide deck with my own kids at home. With colder temperatures and less kids’ sports activities this year, getting the kids active and moving can be tricky.

So, that’s where these reindeer games for kids come in…we’ll use the reindeer games for a Christmas party at home as a way to get the whole family moving with a reindeer theme.

Kids can use these reindeer games in teletherapy gross motor activities.

Christmas Gross Motor Activities

I wanted to use reindeer in the gross motor activities and challenge kids to move in different positioning, much like yoga positions. The gross motor challenges require kids to copy an image and hold that image.

The slides can be graded to each child’s needs. Can they hold the position while reading the reindeer joke on the slide? Can they read just the response to the reindeer joke? Adjust the slide in a way that meets the needs of each child.

The Christmas jokes are a fun way to encourage various positions and movement with themed Christmas gross motor activities.

This Christmas slide deck goes great with our Gingerbread Man Teletherapy Slide Deck, our Decorate a Gingerbread House Teletherapy Slide Deck, and our Holiday Cookies Slide Deck.

Use this gross motor teletherapy slide deck with a reindeer theme for Christmas gross motor activities.

Gross Motor Slide Deck for Teletherapy

Because incorporating gross motor skills in teletherapy is sometimes a challenge (especially to find interesting and new ideas!) this gross motor slide deck was desined for teletherapy in a way that instructs kids to copy various postions as they balance and strengthen their core.

Included are some slides to incorporate propriocepetion and vestibular input as well.

All of these skills can be addressed with this gross motor slide deck in teletherapy sessions:

  • Core strength
  • Stability
  • Balance and equilibrium skills
  • Coordination
  • Range of motion
  • Flexibility
  • Motor planning
  • Crossing midline
  • Movement patterns
  • Posture and postural control
  • Muscle tone
  • Proprioceptive input
  • Vestibular input
Use these Christmas gross motor activities with a reindeer theme in teletherapy movement activities.

Want this Free Gross Motor Slide Deck?

This slide deck is not interactive. It has no movable parts on the slide deck. Because it is static slides in the activity, you can use the slide deck on any devices, including tablets and phones.

Be sure to make a copy of this slide deck and not change the url to indicate “edit” at the end. When you make a copy of the slide deck onto your Google drive, you will end up with your own version that you are free to adjust in order to meet your student’s needs. By changing the url to “edit”, you can potentially mess up the original version that many other therapists and The OT Toolbox users are given.

ou can grab a copy of this Google slide deck and use it to work on specific skills.

Enter your email address below and you will receive a PDF containing a link to copy the slide deck onto your Google drive. Save that PDF file, because you can come back to it again and again and send it to the kids on your caseload (or classroom) so they can make their own copy on their Google drive.

Please use the copy of the slide deck and do not change the url.

FREE Reindeer Games Gross Motor Therapy Activities!

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    Would you like more therapy slide decks? Grab the others to add to your therapy toolbox!

    Kids are loving this Decorate a Gingerbread House slide deck.

    Try this Gingerbread Man Slide Deck.

    Use this Holiday Cookies Activities to address working memory, visual perception, and direction following.

    Here is a Community Helpers Theme Slide Deck.

    Here is a Football Theme Slide Deck.

    Here is a slide deck for a Social Story for Wearing a Mask.

    Here is a Space Theme Therapy Slide Deck.

    Here is a Therapy Planning Interactive Slide Deck.

    Here is a Back to School Writing Activity Slide Deck.

    Here is an Alphabet Exercises Slide Deck.

    Here is a Self-Awareness Activities Slide Deck.

    Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to