February Lesson Plans

February lesson plans

These February lesson plans are perfect for developing skills in occupational therapy sessions, OT at home, or even other areas where child development is being addressed. We love to come up with themed lessons to support skill building and these February themes do just that.

February Lesson Plans

When we say February lesson plans, you might think classroom curriculum. But being an occupational therapist, we know that in the schools, OT professionals support all aspects of education as a supplement. At home or in the clinic however, it’s a great idea to have weekly therapy themes and motivating activities to use in therapy planning.

Use these ideas to support skill-building!

You’ll want to add these tools to your February Lesson Plans:

You’ll want to add a couple of resources to your therapy toolbox as well to support data collection and activity materials for the month of February:

  1. Occupational Therapy Screening and Data Collection KitThis has a packet for each month of the year and includes themed and motivating materials for all aspects of pediatric OT: handwriting, cutting with scissors, coloring, self-dressing, fine motor skills, visual motor skills, and more.
  2. Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Kit– Includes resources for heart and Valentine themed activities.
  3. Fix the Mistakes Mega BundleThis huge set of handwriting activities covers the whole year including themes for each month. Work on handwriting carryover by asking users to correct handwriting mistakes.
  4. The OT Toolbox Member’s Club– This membership includes access to our therapy themes and skill-based themes.

It’s been a lot of fun coming up with creative activities for Occupational Therapy treatment ideas for the past couple of months.  Since sharing our December and January calendars, I’ve had a lot of great feedback from Occupational Therapists who are using the calendars in treating clients, parents who are looking for creative activities to do with their kids at home, and teachers who are applying the ideas to the needs of the kids in their classroom.  These OT activity calendars are fun (for me!) to make, and I’m loving that they are being used to help so many kids with creative Occupational Therapy goals.

This calendar is meant to be a resource and not treatment.  All activities should be applied and modified to fit the needs and goals of your particular child or student.  Please contact an Occupational Therapist for assessment and evaluation of your child, as all kids are different and what works for one child will not necessarily work for another.

Occupational Therapy ideas

This post contains affiliate links.

Activities for Occupational Therapy Students in February:

1. Smash Peanuts Proprioception– Work on hand-eye coordination, proprioceptive input, and strengthening with this Valentine’s Day activity.  Modify the fun for a non-holiday activity.  Read about it here.

2. Heart Eye-Hand Coordination–  Use DIY cardboard hearts to work on fine motor skills like tripod grasp, intrinsic muscle strength, and an open thumb web space while addressing eye-hand coordination, visual scanning, and figure ground skills. Read about it here.

3. Heart Wall Push-Ups- These are a great warm-up for fine motor tasks. They can also be used as a brain break, or proprioception heavy work activity.  You’ll need two foam hearts (affiliate link).  

Tape them to a wall at chest level for your child.  Show them how to place their hands on the foam hearts (affiliate link) and do wall-push ups.  For the child who is working on left-right discrimination, write left/right on the hearts.

4. Valentine’s Day Sensory Bin–  A sensory bin provides textural sensory play in a container or bin and can be modified in so many ways to address tactile defensiveness and sensory exploration.  Try this sensory bin to work on eye-hand coordination and motor control with scoops.  Other ways a sensory bin helps kids are: language development, self-confidence, motor planning, visual tracking, and figure ground skills.  Read more here.

5. Heart Flashlight Game-  Use the same idea that we did here and use a flashlight to work on visual scanning, and visual tracking.  Add movement into the activity with spinning, jumping, and skipping to provide vestibular sensory input to the activity.  Write numbers or letters on hearts like these.  

Then, simply tape foam hearts (affiliate link)
to the wall and turn down the lights.  If you are using movement in your activity, you will want low lights instead of having the lights off completely.  Call out letters on the hearts and have the child use the flashlight to scan for the correct heart and “tag” it with the light.

6. Valentine’s Day Sensory Goop Painting– Explore tactile sensory play with homemade sensory goop.  Create heart valentines with the goop painting.  You can re-create this activity another time with white goop and snowflake cookie cutters on blue paper.

7. Valentine’s Day Sensory Bottle–  Create a sensory bottle for a calm down visual sensory tool. Kids can help to make the bottle, working on fine motor skills.

8. Heart Bead Fine Motor Sort–  Work on eye-hand coordination, tripod grasp, and in-hand manipulation with this bead color sorting activity.

9. Fine Motor Sprinkle Art–  This fine motor craft works on tripod grasp and gross motor strength while providing a olfactory sensory input.  Work on scissor skills and handwriting to create Valentines’ Day cards for loved ones.

10. Heart Therapy Ball Activities–  Use something you’ve got in your home to improve core muscle strength and proprioceptive input to address attention issues.  

11. Snowflake Trace- Work on handwriting and proprioception to the hands with resistive handwriting.  Tape paper to a window and trace snowflakes as they shine through the paper.  You can draw snowflakes on one side of the paper and trace the other side of the sheet.  Work on line awareness and pencil control for use in handwriting like we did here.

12. Heart Balance Beam- Place foam hearts (affiliate link) on the floor to create a balance beam like we did with snowflakes.  Address vestibular sensory needs, core muscle strength, and motor planning with an indoor balance beam.

13. Heart Buttoning Skill Activity– Work on self-care skills with homemade heart buttons to work on buttoning and fine motor skills.

14. Heart Lacing Activity–   Lacing activities are powerful way to work on many skills.  Address eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, tripod grasp, visual scanning, motor planning, tool use, direction following, extended wrist, and more with lacing cards.  Make a heart shaped DIY lacing card like we did here.  Read more about all things lacing cards.

15. Fine Motor Snowman Craft–  This craft works on precision and tripod grasp to build a snowman with stickers.  You can also address task completion, direction following, and problem solving with this OT craft.

16.  Snowman Smoothie- Make an icy treat with milk or ice cream and add snowman details to the glass like we did here.  Add a straw for proprioceptive oral sensory input.  Sucking a straw is calming and organizing for a child.  Try this activity during or right before a task that requires attention and focus like homework.  

17. Snowman Hopscotch- Draw a snowman on the sidewalk or on a large sheet of cardboard.  Add more circles for the snowman’s body and show your child how to hop along the snowman.  Activities like hopscotch provide vestibular and proprioceptive input.  Throwing a rock is a functional hand-eye coordination task that also addresses visual scanning, tracking, and motor planning.

18.  Play the Snow-key Pokey-  This is a fun game for indoor play.  Sing the hokey pokey song with a snow theme by substituting “hokey” with “snow-key”.  Add other winter themed details like putting your right mitten in and putting your boots out.  How creative can you get with the snow-key pokey?

Movement games like this provide vestibular input.  This game, in particular is a great listening skills and attention task.  Kids need to listen to follow directions and not miss instructions.  The Snow-key Pokey works on range of motion, too.

19. Snow Hop- This activity works on many skill areas:  handwriting, motor planning, gross motor skills, balance and coordination, direction following, listening skills, and proprioception.  Create a map of a snowy land using couch pillows and blankets.  A white sheet works well for this activity.  

Pile pillows up in some areas and cover them with a blanket. This is your “snowy land” with hills and valleys. Drawing a map addresses handwriting skills while using visual perceptual skills and spatial reasoning skills.  The child can hide a toy in the snowy land and draw an “X” on their map to show where they’ve hidden the toy.  Then, take turns navigating the land to find the toy.  This is a heavy work activity as the child moves cushions and pillows.  Walking on an unstable surface is a good balance and coordination activity, as well as a way to incorporate the vestibular sense.

20. Snow-barrow Races-  Do a wheelbarrow race with a snow theme.  Ask the child to put on winter clothing like boots, scarves, and gloves.  They then have to do a wheelbarrow (or SNOW-barrow) race across the room.  This activity is a fun one to do with several kids, but works well as an individual activity with an adult.  Wheelbarrow races provide proprioception sensory input and is a great upper body activity.  Quickly dressing with the snow items is an exercise in motor planning and self-care.

21. Frozen Snow Dough– Make a batch of snow dough for sensory tactile input.  This is a great activity for kids who are tactile defensive.  Add scoops and other utensils to work on eye-hand coordination and tool use.  

22. Build a Snowman- This activity provides proprioception while working on strengthening and motor planning, problem solving, bilateral hand coordination, crossing midline, and more.  Grab three pillow cases and towels and small blankets.  Use the blankets to stuff the pillow cases until they are mostly full. Try to get the pillow cases into a circular-ish shape. Build a living room snowman with the stuffed pillow cases.  Use pillows to prop up the snowman.  

23. Paint Snow–  Work on tool use to paint snow like we did here. Don’t have snow?  Use a wet paper towel for creative painting.  Add a hand strengthening and power grasp component by using squeeze bottles to paint, like we did here.

24. Salt Truck Craft– Work on scissor skills when making this snow truck craft.  Use scissor skills modifications to work on goal areas like accuracy and positioning of scissors when cutting.

25. Soda Dough Snowmen– Cook up a batch of baking soda dough and use it to work on fine motor skills like strengthening, tripod grasp, intrinsic strength, and in-hand manipulation like digital rotation while creating snowmen using this resistive, yet soft dough. 

26. Winter What’s Missing Tray-  Work on visual memory with a winter-themed tray.  Grab many winter-objects: gloves, tinsel, fake snow, cotton balls, to work on visual memory.  Ask the child to stare at the tray for 3 minutes, remembering as many items as they can.  Then, take the tray away and remove 3-5 items.  See if the child can recall the missing objects.

27. Paper Icicles– Practice scissor skills with this paper icicle craft.  Use thicker paper for proprioceptive input.

28. Snowman Fine Motor- Fill a large bin with cotton balls.  Use tweezers to pick up and transfer the cotton balls to bowls.  Add other small pieces like a snowman hat, scarf (use foam crafting sheets to make these parts), and toothpicks for snowman arms.  Transfer the pieces to work on tripod grasp, open thumb web space, intrinsic muscle strength, and extended wrist.

29. Motor Planning Snow Maze- Create an indoor maze using yarn like we did here.  Use white yarn to wrap around chairs.   Try to transfer winter items like scarves and gloves through the maze without dropping any items or bumping into the yarn maze.  This is a great exercise for motor planning while working on core muscle strength and the vestibular sense as the child bends over and around the yarn.

Use these ideas all month long to add Occupational Therapy into creative play while working on so many areas! 

Even MORE great pages you where you will find tons of Occupational Therapy treatment ideas and info that can be incorporated into simple play at home, using frugal (mostly free) items that you already have:

The Occupational Therapy Data Collection Kit includes activities for each month of the year with themes to make building skills fun and engaging. Follow along as your child makes progress in handwriting, copying and forming letters, coloring, cutting, completing self-care tasks, and more.

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 contact@theottoolbox.com.

Drawing Milestones

Drawing milestones

In child development, one of the underappreciated areas of development is the developmental stages of drawing, and specifically drawing milestones. Here, we are talking all things drawing, and what to look for when a child draws. This post will delve into the typical drawing milestones for young children or learners beginning to draw (as not all learners develop at the same pace).  You will also learn about what a drawing might say about a person.  The post will also include helpful strategies for developing drawing milestones as what to look for. Let’s explore development of drawing skills in detail. 

Also be sure to check out all of the ideas on our creative painting list for more self-expression fun.

Drawing milestones

Drawing Milestones

What do you look for when analyzing a learner’s drawings?  Design copy, clarity, number of details, realism, or psychosocial issues?  It can be all, some of the above, or something entirely different.  

From a toddler scribbling to a teenager drawing realistic art representations, there are various developmental stages of drawing that progress as grip, visual motor skills, eye-hand coordination, and imaginative thinking (and other areas) develop.

The following is a general guide to the development of drawing skills.  Not all learners develop at the same rate or age, however they tend to follow a similar pattern.  

According to the Empowered Parents group, caregivers should not teach drawing skills, or use coloring books, as this stunts the learner’s natural creativity.  This is a presumptive statement, as learners who are neurodivergent, or who have special needs, do not learn in the same way as their typical peers.  

Due to lack of insight or awareness of their environment, some learners will need to be taught or shown a model. 

Developmental Stages of Drawing

There are definite developmental stages of drawing, however, not every individual will progress through these stages in the same timing. 

Unlike other areas of developmental milestones, the development of drawing skills is fluid. Consider the ages and stages listed below as approximate as well as the characteristics for each stage.

  • At about 12 months of age, babies can make a mark on the paper about an inch long
  • 15-18 months babies draw scribbles and lines. This scribbling stage is the stage of cause and effect, with uncontrolled motor movements.  
  • Age two years is the start of controlled scribbling.  Learners may be able to draw lines and circular loop strokes.  They may be able to write a figure that looks like the letter T, but not purposefully intersecting lines yet. At this age learners understand that their movements are able to make marks on the paper. Drawing occurs through movement in the elbow and use of the whole hand. Fine motor control is becoming more of a contributing factor to line drawings. 
  • Three year olds are able to make basic circles, crosses, dots, loops, and sometimes poorly formed squares. Their drawing of a person resembles a tadpole, with a large head and floating legs.  Very little detail is added at this stage. They may be able to tell you about their picture, even if it is not recognizable.  Drawing continues to use the whole hand to make pencil movements. They do not accurately use colors to represent images. Hand eye coordination plays a role but it is primitive at this stage of drawing.
  • By four years learners begin making patterns and attributing meaning to their artwork. They are able to make circles and squares, and attempt a triangle, although usually poorly formed. They start pre writing skills at this stage. Their drawing of a person contains some details such as arms, eyes, and fingers.  Some children will begin to form a trunk at this stage.  Learners can start adding items together to form something like a house or a car.  Often they learn these skills by watching others.
  • At five years, drawing has some realism as well as detail to it. Their person may have hair, ears, glass, fingers, and clothing.  They start to be able to draw other familiar objects such as houses, horses, dogs, trucks, and rainbows.  They use color to represent certain features such as eye color, hair, or color of a house.  Objects are generally out of proportion and floating, as learners have not developed visual perceptual skills to understand these concepts yet.  Interesting tidbit from Empowered Parents: children often place themselves large, and in the center of their drawing as they are egocentric at this stage.
  • Ages 6-7: learners start to develop a specific drawing style.  Their shapes and representations are more clearly defined at this stage. They start to draw things in perspective. such as a tree being bigger than a person, or the family standing in the grass. Colors are more realistic at this stage. Learners tend to draw what they know or are interested in.  They draw their perception of the world, such as a horse being very large next to them or windows being very high on a house.
  • Seven to twelve: drawings start to have a pattern to them, learners develop a more artistic style, and some learners begin to excel at drawing. 

Just as the average adult reads at a fifth grade level, I would venture a guess that most adults can draw at this childhood level also!  

Drawing Milestones Tests

One of the famous drawing milestones tests was seen in a scene from Silence of the Lambs. In the movie, the subject was asked to draw a person, a tree, and a house, so the examiner could determine if the man was psychotic.  

Other drawing tests are used to determine visual motor integration levels. Occupational therapists are familiar with the use of basic shapes in order to determine visual motor skills and visual perceptual skills

One of these drawing tests is the Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency (BOT2). This test includes a form copying portion to determine visual motor integration skills.

Another drawing test is portions of the Beery-Buktenica Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration (Beery VMI). This test is an assessment of the child’s development of visual motor integration and includes drawing assessment to copy geometric forms arranged in order of increasing difficulty.

Draw a Person Test

The creators of the Draw a Person test claimed it was able to determine if a person had schizophrenia by the nature of the subject’s drawing.  Features such as a large head, no hair, omitted ears, and large hands, indicated various conditions such as paranoia, narcissism, oppositional behavior, impulsivity, and more.  

What do you look for when analyzing a picture? In school we learned that a person without eyes must have poor eye contact or difficulty seeing, whereas a person without ears feels they are not heard.  In practice it seems more likely that the learner forgot certain elements, doesn’t think about parts like ears, or has not mastered that stage of drawing milestones.

Have you seen any drawings that have made you pause?  Perhaps a young child drawing something graphic or violent, or possibly inappropriate?  As a rule of thumb, I try to analyze the learner as a whole, rather than becoming overly alarmed simply by their drawings. 

Clock Drawing Test

Clock-drawing tests are a traditional tool to assess the mental status of patients and is one of the most widely used screening tests for cognitive impairment in Alzhiemer’s Dementia. By drawing a clock from memory, this drawing test can assess various components such as executive functioning, visual spatial skills, and semantic memory. This drawing assessment shows presence of a cognitive decline in patience.

Benefits of Drawing 

What are the Benefits of Drawing?

  • Helps build eye-hand coordination
  • Works on bilateral integration
  • Develops fine motor skills
  • Enhances creativity when drawing freely
  • Begins the foundation of pre-writing skills
  • Helps develop grasping pattern
  • Addresses attention and focus
  • Develops cognitive skills, visual perception, and social function
  • While tracing and copying do not develop creativity, these activities will help build the other important skills above.  Hopefully copying drawings will develop into creative expression

How to Develop Drawing Milestones

  • Provide lots of tools/mediums for drawing and exploration including paint, chalk, markers, crayons, finger paints etc
  • Encourage creativity and free play with drawing tools and craft supplies
  • Entice young learners with fun objects such as glitter, sequins, pom poms, and colored paper to add to their pictures
  • Model drawing and coloring skills- color at a restaurant, while waiting for a doctor, or as a family
  • Play family drawing games such as Pictionary
  • Some learners may refuse crayons because of the texture or force needed to color.  Provide alternatives such as markers, bingo pens, or paint brushes to encourage expression
  • Look at all of the details of the drawing when critiquing. How many body parts are present, how many different colors were used, are the shapes open or closed at the corners, is the picture recognizable to others.  These measurements can be used to track their performance from previous work.

Despite what the folks at Empowered Parents say, I personally love a good coloring book.  It has not stunted my creativity,  because there are endless color combinations, glitter pens, and coloring styles!  

Drawing Milestone Activities

If a child (or older individual) has an interest in drawing, this is a great way to support development of skills. Try some of the drawing activities listed below.

The OT Toolbox is a great resource for drawing and coloring activities.  Check out some of these products:

Victoria Wood, OTR/L is a contributor to The OT Toolbox and has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.