Bat Template Fine Motor Activity

Bat stencil template

This bat template is a fine motor activity, perfect for building motor skills with a Halloween twist. Use the bat printable as a stencil to cut out, trace, and then use in fine motor work. Add this to your Halloween occupational therapy activities!

Bat Template

Fall is here and that means it’s time to pull out the Halloween crafts! This bat Halloween craft is a favorite in our house, and it’s actually a fun way to celebrate Halloween with kids without spooky decorations.

We also used this bat template in a Stellaluna activity that also challenged visual processing skills. Be sure to check that activity out for another way to use this printable bat stencil.

The nice thing about using our bat template is that it becomes an open-ended Halloween craft idea is one that doesn’t need a lot of materials. In fact, it’s a simple craft idea that is big on the fine motor skill development! When kids make this bat craft, they will be boosting skills such as fine motor strength and dexterity in a big way.

For more Halloween craft ideas, check out some of the ideas at the bottom of this post…it’s the perfect addition if you’re looking for Halloween crafts for toddlers or Halloween crafts for preschool parties.

Related, check out these spider activities for more spooky but fun ideas.

Printable bat stencil to use in fine motor crafts for Halloween


Bat Template Craft

We made this bat craft with a fun sensory twist.  And, since we have a certain second grader that is cursive handwriting obsessed, we decided to add a cursive handwriting twist to this activity.  This activity could work to help kids with letter formation of upper case letters, lowercase letters, or numbers too. The possibilities are endless. 

We arranged the bat template so you can print out one bat printable page and then get 3 bats from the one page.

Or, if you are using the bat templates with a group of kids like in a classroom Halloween party activity, you can easily cut the bat template page into three sections with one bat stencil for each child.

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Cut out bat template and trace onto black paper with yarn

Bat Printable

To make your bat craft, you’ll need just a few materials.

Affiliate links are included.

  • Bat printable (get your copy below)
  • black cardstock 
  • black yarn 
  • Glue 
  • Scissors (THIS is my favorite brand and the ones that I always recommended as an Occupational Therapist!)
  • Pencil or marker

This is a great Halloween craft for preschoolers because it’s a fantastic way to work on scissor skills with a Halloween activity.

Make the Bat Template

  1. First print out the Pat printable onto printer paper.
  2. Cut out the bat templates on the page. Each template has three bats. Students can cut out the bat printable or the adult can do this as preparation work.
  3. Trace the bat template onto cardstock or black construction paper. This is another good task for students to do as tracing the bat template supports development of bilateral coordination skills, eye-hand coordination, crossing midline, and pencil control skills.  
  4. Cut out the bat template.

Kids can cut out the shape using their Scissors for great scissor skill work.  The bat shape is a complex cutting shape and can be done by Elementary aged students.  

Cutting the angled wings and curves can be difficult, but by using the cardstock, kids will get a bit fore proprioceptive feedback from the thicker resistance of the paper material.  

To make the task easier, cut wings without the jagged lines or use thicker cutting lines when you draw the bat shape.  

Decorate the Bat Cutout

Once you have the bat, you’ll need to cut pieces of the black yarn.  Have your child cut long or short pieces, it doesn’t really matter what length they wish to cut for their bat’s texture.  

  1. Cut black yarn for the bat cutout.

Cutting the yarn is a great material to practice appropriate scissor positioning and bilateral hand coordination.  

If a child is holding the scissors on an angle, cutting the yarn will be more difficult.  (You may see them trying to “saw” at the yarn!) Encourage them to hold the scissors straight up and down and the blades of the scissors at a 90 degree angle to the yarn.  You can find more of our Scissor Skills activities.

Child dipping black yarn into glue to stick to the bat printable

2. Next, pour some glue into a shallow dish or plate.  Show your child how to drag the yarn through the glue and get it nice and saturated with the glue.  Use both hands to pinch and “scrape” off excess glue from the piece of yarn.  

3. Next, drape the black yarn on the bat shape.  You can let your child get as creative as they wish with this part.  Some might like to outline the bat shape and others, just pile it up on the bat.  

4. Let the glue and yarn harden and you’ll have a textured bat craft to use in Halloween decorations this Fall.  You will have to wait for the glue to dry, probably overnight.

Use the Bat Printable in Handwriting Practice

Occupational therapy practitioners know the value of using a single activity or material to develop a variety of skill areas. That is the case with this bat printable…use it to work on handwriting skills too!

We used those saturated yarn pieces to build cursive letters, but you could build printed letters as well, using our letter construction method.

This would be an excellent way to practice cursive letter formation in our Creative Cursive handwriting journal activity.

Make letters with yarn and decorate the bat printable.

Use this Bat Craft for kids to work on letter formation of any kind. It’s a creative writing activity that they will be sure to remember. Work on forming individual letters, spelling sight words, or making Halloween words.

Bat template and letters made with black yarn.

Use the Bat Printable in Learning

This would work as a very fun…and very sensory…classroom Halloween party idea or learning activity for this time of year, while working on team work skills, and learning components.

  1. Split kids up into teams. Give each team a collection of cut black yarn and a bowl of glue.
  2. Write a spelling word, or a Halloween word on the board or hold up a sign with a Halloween word.
  3. Each team has to work together to use the cut yarn and glue to spell the Halloween word on a piece of paper or cardboard.
  4. Once a team has completed the word, they have to hold up their paper or cardboard. The first team to spell the word with the letters sticking wins! (Too much glue or not enough glue will make this a fun race for Halloween parties for kids of all ages.)
Use black yarn to decorate the bat printable template and then write words with black yarn.

Build printed letters with the glue yarn, too.  We had a lot of fun with this Halloween craft and it was a hit with all of my kids…from preschool on up to grade school.

Check out some of these other Halloween activities and crafts:

Free Bat Template

Want a copy of this free bat template printable? Enter your email address into the form below to get a copy of this Halloween printable. This activity is also available inside The OT Toolbox Member’s Club under our Bat Therapy Theme. Members can log in and get the bat template there without entering an email address. Not a member yet? Join us today.

Free Bat Stencil

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    Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20+ years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

    Benefits of play dough

    Occupational therapists always has a container of play dough in their therapy bag…there are just so many benefits of play dough. Squish, squeeze, pinch, flatten, roll, cut, stamp, and mold and other fine motor playdough activities are just a few of the ways children can engage with play dough. It’s a classic modeling compound that is timeless, holds popularity, as well as longevity in childhood development. We know that the primary job, or occupation, of children is play and playdough offers a tool for play while building skills. Because of that fact, one of the main benefits of play dough is it helps to develop skills while providing hours of satisfying fun for children of any age.

    Benefits of play dough
    Just some of the benefits of playing with playdough

    Benefits of Play Dough

    Learners of all ages and stages can reap the benefits of play dough. As an adult, don’t you still enjoy the squishing, squeezing, and molding fun using play dough?

    Play dough can target many areas of skill development. Tons of inspirational ideas can be found online. There are many creative individuals online who share awesome ideas for play dough fun. As therapists, you can take those fun ideas and add your Occupational Therapy (OT) eye to build the skills a child needs for their specific development.

    Play dough is a tactile gem, and occupational therapy practitioners know this!  There are so many benefits of play dough. Playing with this dough regularly is great, as it is a toy with no right or wrong way to play, is safe, and appeals to many people with various learning styles and needs. Children can make their own play dough making it even more fun!  

    The benefits of playing with play dough include:

    • Fine motor skill development
    • Tactile sensory challenges
    • Bilateral coordination
    • Sensory development
    • Self regulation tool
    • Creative development
    • Eye-hand coordination development
    • Gross motor development
    • Social skill development
    • Life skill development
    • Learning skill development
    • Rapport-building tool

    We’ll cover how to use play dough as a tool to support development in all of these areas in greater detail below.

    As a side note, did you know that playdough was originally created as a wallpaper cleaner? This “mistake” turned out to be one of the most desirable and iconic playthings around…and kids gain all of the benefits of playing with playdough!

    How to Develop Skills with Play Dough

    So, when you pop open a tub of colorful play dough, you probably aren’t thinking about the benefits of playing with playdough…but your pediatric occupational therapist probably is!

    Fine motor skill development

    Play dough helps build multiple fine motor skills, while promoting play, as it instantly provides multi-sensory hands-on interaction. Children who are tactile seekers love to engage with play dough, and instantly begin squishing, squeezing, and molding it. 

    If you are looking for ideas for therapeutic sessions, try these fun fine motor play dough activities to encourage fine motor skill development and hand strengthening throughout the year. 

    If learners seem tired of routine fine motor and visual motor activities, adding these super fun play dough game boards and cards to your OT Toolbox will keep kids engaged, while building their skills.

    Fine Motor Skills Developed through playing with Play Dough

    • Pinch strength
    • Eye-hand coordination
    • Intrinsic muscle strengthening
    • Separation of the sides of the hand
    • Pincer grasp
    • Opposition
    • Tripod grasp
    • Wrist extension

    If more strength and dexterity is needed, traditional thera-putty can be swapped for play dough.

    Specific skill areas can be developed using play dough including:

    Bilateral coordination

    Another one of the benefits of play dough is building bilateral coordination. Bilateral coordination can be both sides of the body doing the same thing, working together, like squishing the play dough.

    It can also be one hand holding the dough, while the other hand uses a tool. The addition of playdough tools can enhance skills and play.

    Rolling a play dough snake is particularly effective for developing bilateral coordination skills. In many functional tasks, both hands do symmetrical task (buttoning a shirt, pulling up pants, jumping rope, etc. When rolling a lump of play dough with the hands together, one needs to use the same amount of pressure or force with both hands, and move the playdough together at the same time. Otherwise, the play dough snake is lopsided, or thin on one end and not the other.

    There are many commercially available play dough tools, but there are also tools that can be found in the home!  Kitchen tools safe for children to use, are some of the best tools for bilateral hand skills. Start with simple flatware such as butter knives, forks, and spoons. Next, look through your utensil drawers.

    Do you have a spatula, pizza wheel, cookie cutters, garlic press, rolling pin, scissors, potato masher, skewers, or a muffin pan? These are perfect for play dough playtime! Experiment and see what your learners like to use. Build those bilateral coordination skills, while also building early life skills, with the use of kitchen tools. It’s a win for childhood development. 

    sensory development

    Using play dough can be great for the sensory seeker who loves texture. Those who seek out heavy work through the hands can benefit from

    While touching sticky or messy textures is difficult for the individual experiencing tactile defensiveness. For those who avoid textures, play dough can support development and tactile challenges with a sensory medium that is consistently the same texture each and every time. It is not as easy for the avoider who does not like to get messy. Sensory touch can be very limiting in some, so this is a good starting point to address defensiveness.

    Traditional play dough is not as sticky as slime or other putties, making it a great tool for some individuals.

    To use play dough to support tactile defensiveness, try these tips:

    • Add gloves for play with the learner with extreme avoidance, until they can tolerate touching the play dough.
    • Add different textures such as salt, glitter, beads, rice, to add more tactile input for your sensory seeker.
    • Be considerate of the smell of play dough. Some love it, while others can not tolerate this familiar smell.
    • Add your own scent in home made dough for olfactory input.

    What other kinds of sensory input can you think of using play dough?

    Provides calming and quiet time

    Play dough can be used as a relaxing medium that provides calm and quiet time for children who are feeling anxious or stressed and need a break away from the noise and the action. 

    This happens by the feedback of the dough as a resistive material, which offers heavy work through the hands, fingers, and arches of the hands. This feedback of proprioceptive input can be a coping strategy used in a sensory diet or as a self-regulation tool.

    Play dough manipulation also provides tactile sensory awareness and proprioceptive input, which can serve to be therapeutic by giving deep pressure to the hands, fingers, and arms in a calming manner. 

    If making your own play dough, add a little calming essential oil, and you’ve given it another desirable element for calm play, and time away. Another great benefit of play dough! 

    One especially calming play dough recipe is our crayon play dough, and playing with the dough when warm is very calming.

    As an added benefit, playdough mats support emotional regulation. These emotions playdough mats can be used in combination with other self regulation strategies to offer heavy work through the hands while building emotional intelligence in kids.

    Boosts creativity and imagination

    Working with play dough helps unlock the creative juices of a learner. Since there is no right or wrong, their creativity is unleashed and ready to go, using whatever materials are around and available. We covered using play dough imagination activities in greater detail on a previous blog post.

    Pretend play activities like pressing flowers and rocks into play dough is a pretend play activity while building underlying areas of sensory and motor development.

    If you have a few kiddos who seem to struggle with creativity, or imaginative play while at the play dough table, The OT Toolbox has you covered with these great play dough mats to facilitate engagement and boost creativity for kids.

    Take a look at these play dough mats, and get your FREE copies in the links below:

    Play dough Develops eye-hand coordination

    Play dough is the perfect tool for kids to work on important eye-hand connection skills. Learners utilize hand-eye coordination to poke, cut, smash, and pinch the play dough.

    Eye-hand connection is developed when using cookie cutters to cut playdough, and add accessories to decorate. Using stampers or objects to press into the dough to make images or scenes, can further build eye-hand coordination.

    If you want a fun way to encourage play dough engagement, it can be fun to add a weekly or monthly theme to therapy sessions way to facilitate hand actions, for play dough manipulation, including tool use. Just use play dough in each session and switch out the manipulatives, cookie cutters, or items to hide in the play dough.

    • Get out a set of Mr. Potato Head pieces and work on pressing these into the dough to make a funny character.

    Gross motor skill development

    Play dough can be used for gross motor development also. Include playdough in an obstacle course as a stop between obstacles, or gross motor exercises. 

    Try this:  walk the balance beam, then create a play dough stick figure, do a bear walk, next create a play dough bear face, roll in the tunnel, then roll a ball of play dough flat with a rolling pin, etc.

    Use the same idea for exercise programming: complete an exercise, complete a play dough activity, and so on.

    the benefits of play dough as a Multi-level tool

    Play dough can be used as a foundation when using materials included in (Amazon affiliate link) play trays, and other themed activities.

    There are many cool play dough tray ideas and inspiration for other themed activities that will make your play dough table the coolest table in the school building.

    Examples of play trays

    In addition to the above play dough tray ideas, there are several play dough kit ideas online ideal for the traveling therapist who needs to move throughout several buildings or homes. These kits are the perfect engagement tool, easily transported wherever you end up seeing a child for therapy. 

    Playdough Kits

    play dough builds life skills

    Engaging with play dough can help to build important life skills as children follow simple recipes to make their own play dough, and use kitchen tools for engagement. They are measuring, mixing, and creating, while developing knowledge of tool use and hand skills in the kitchen.

    When kids use play dough tools like plastic knives, play dough scissors, and other sculpting tools, they are strengthening the skills needed to hold a fork and spoon, developmental progression of grasping utensils, and particularly the skill of cutting food with a knife.

    Play dough recipes can be adapted from a very simple dough recipe to add in different ingredients and materials to create recipes on a spectrum of abilities and cooking tasks.

    Simple play dough recipe- This play dough recipe without cream of tarter is probably the simplest version which still challenges life skills.

    Advanced play dough recipe- Did you know you can use crayons to make play dough? Pick a color or shade, or mix them a few to create a new shade.  This crayon play dough recipe does require an adult to perform the stovetop part of the recipe. An older, or more advanced learner could do it with supervision. 

    On that spectrum of play dough recipes with varying difficulty are many of the best play dough recipes for therapy that we have here on the website.

    Social skill development

    Interacting with play dough provides social emotional learning and social skill development opportunities between children in a small group or child and adult. 

    When using play dough as a tool, children participate together by talking, sharing, and co-building. 

    When using play dough with no right or wrong way to play, play it is the perfect tool for social interaction without competition. 

    Learning tool

    One of the many benefits of play dough, is learning.  It can be a multi-level teaching tool for areas including math, literacy, and handwriting. 

    Use playdough as a creative way to practice math skills and concepts, or use it to mold and shape letters to work on handwriting.

    This is especially beneficial for kids who struggle with letter formation, and have weak fine motor skills. You can use play dough as part of a literacy routine, by creating scenes, acting out stories, stamping out sight words, representing new vocabulary terms, or using push pins to form words.

    Rapport building tool

    Play dough can help therapists/teachers/caregivers build rapport with new learners on their caseload or classroom during back-to-school rapport building periods or when meeting a new therapy client.

    Simply present it and play. It is really that easy. 

    Use a kit, tray, or a few cookie cutters, and you’ve got an instant engagement tool that allows for conversation and creation, while building that important therapeutic relationship.  

    Now, go have some amazing playtime with this classic toy. You know you want to!

    Regina Allen

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