Build a Snowman Printable

Build a snowman printable is a paper snowman craft to develop fine motor skills, bilateral coordination skills, and more.

Today we have a fun fine motor paper snowman craft. It’s a “build a snowman printable” that you can print out and use to work on so many therapy skills. There is just something about making a snowman during the winter months, right? Today’s free fine motor snowman activity that kids will LOVE. So, do you want to build a snowman?

Build a snowman printable is a paper snowman craft to develop fine motor skills, bilateral coordination skills, and more.

Build a Snowman Printable

Heck yes!  Wait, not if I have to go outside.  With this great fine motor snowman printable activity, you can build a paper snowman from the comfort of your own house, in your pajamas, with a cup of cocoa if you like…and work on fine motor skills, scissor skills, sequencing, bilateral coordination, and more!

It’s no secret I love crafts.  You could pretend for half a second to like the cold and wet winter outside your door, or make this adorable snowman inside where it is warm.  Build this into a lesson plan about winter by talking about what winter is like in different parts of the world, For learners who have never experienced snow, provide pictures or videos for reference. Talk about what they think snow feels like.  

Snow comes in many different varieties. While it is all cold (except the plastic snow variety), some snow is wet and soggy, while other is dry and fluffy.  There is also icy snow that creates this lovely sheen across it,  and is very fun to smash and crash through!  Each type of snow has its uses and benefits.  Wet snow is better for building and packing. Dry and fluffy is better to keep you from getting soaked. Icy snow is just pretty to admire.  For those with tactile defensiveness that impact touching wet, mushy snow this can be a good discussion.

Use this snowman printable as a jumping off point to the rest of your treatment sessions.

As always I love the versatility of this printable paper snowman craft. With one snowman printable, you can address skills like fine motor, visual motor, turn taking, finger strengthening, and following instructions all wrapped up into one cute snowman.

It would be a great interactive snowman activity for kindergarten, preschool, and all ages, depending on how you adjust the activity.

How to Use this Build a Snowman Printable

What you will need for this task:

  1. Snowman printable
  2. Ruler or laminated strip of cardstock
  3. Clothespins
  4. Glue (drippy glue is best)
  5. Dice 

Instructions: Color the snowman or print out the pre-colored sheet.  Have students cut out snowballs and glue to the clothespins. Roll the dice and clip the corresponding number of clothespins to your ruler or strip of cardstock.

Explore all of the ways to use adapt and modify this free snowman printable:

  • Laminate the snowballs to make them more durable
  • Laminate the snowman head to make it reusable and durable
  • Change the ruler for a stiff piece of cardstock or cardboard
  • Print the snowman in color, or black and white so your learners can personalize theirs
  • Add large pom poms or scrunched up paper on the top of the snowballs for a 3d effect
  • Add glitter and sparkles to the snowballs for added sparkle and sensory experience
  • Paint the clothespins or dip in glitter to make them fancier
  • Drippy wet glue is preferred as it will stick better.  The added benefit is the sensory input from white glue, as well as the fine motor strengthening from squeezing the bottle
  • Pre-cut and glue all of the pieces ahead of time if the emphasis is on playing the game
  • Split this into two sessions, the first being the craft, the second working on the game
  • Incorporate gross motor work: Scatter the snowball clips around the room and ask the user to gather the snowballs to build their snowman. Add hops, kicks, jumps, and animal walks to gather the snowballs.

What is your focus? What goals do you want to focus on while using this activity?  You can use on or all of them:

  • Fine motor strengthening, hand development, and grasping pattern
  • Following directions, attention to detail, turn taking, waiting, social skills, compliance, behavior, and work tolerance
  • Cutting on the line ( if you choose to add this step), within half inch of lines, in the direction of lines
  • Pasting using glue stick or drippy glue with accuracy
  • Bilateral coordination – remembering to use their “helper hand” to hold the paper while cutting.  Using one hand for a dominant hand instead of switching back and forth is encouraged once a child is in grade school or demonstrates a significant strength in one or the other.
  • Strength – core strength, shoulder and wrist stability, head control, balance, and hand strength are all needed for upright sitting posture and fine motor tasks.

If you have not totally burned out on the movie Frozen and all of the theme work that goes with it…like this Frozen sensory dough, this will be a great addition.  This build a snowman activity can be creating Olaf from the movie. If you are super creative, you could switch out the head of the snowman for an Olaf printable. 

What else can I add to this paper snowman craft?

  • Have learners write the stages to building a snowman
  • Higher level learners can write down the directions to the game
  • More advanced learners can work on social skills by teaching beginners to play
  • Learners can explore other games they could make using this snowman (perhaps hiding the snowballs around the room and having learners run around collecting them)
  • Write a report about snowmen, types of snow, the history of snowmen, different snow celebrations or activities
  • Turn it into a gross motor task, sensory activity, following directions, or combination of all of these
  • Add glitter!  Glitter makes everything wonderful

More snowman activities

Incorporate more snowman themed activities along with this build a snowman printable for a full snowman theme.

What creative ways have you made snowmen?  I believe there was a little spray paint used instead of coal last winter, and I think the dog snatched the carrot before we had time to use it.  We have had snowmen families, lady snowmen, and grass covered snowmen when there really wasn’t enough snow to make one. 

If there is a dusting of snow in Charleston this winter, you better believe we will be out there rolling whatever snow falls down, creating our snowman.  Until then, I will just have to enjoy the sand instead.

Free Build a Snowman Printable

Want to add this paper snowman printable to your therapy toolbox? Enter your email address into the form below. This resource is also available in The OT Toolbox Member’s Club. Members can head to the dashboard and download the resources right there.

Free Build a Snowman Printable

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    Keep those snowballs rolling!

    Victoria Wood, OTR/L

    Victoria Wood

    Victoria Wood, OTR/L 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.

    Snowman Therapy Activity Kit

    The Snowman Therapy Kit is a winter-themed therapy kit designed to develop motor skills, self-regulation, handwriting, and scissor skills. Over 75 pages of therapy activities to develop fine motor strength, dexterity, core strength, regulation, functional grasp, and endurance.

    Grab the Snowman Therapy Kit for snowman-themed materials

    Themed NO-PREP printable pages include tasks to address motor skill areas such as:

    • Self-Regulation
    • Core Strength
    • Visual Motor Skills
    • Sensory Processing Skills
    • Fine Motor Precision and Dexterity
    • Pinch and Grip Strength 
    • Arch Development
    • Finger Isolation
    • Bilateral Coordination
    • Eye-Hand Coordination
    • Crossing Midline
    • Balance & Endurance

    Welcome to the Pencil Grasp Challenge!

    Use these pencil grasp activities to help build the fine motor skills kids need for handwritng

    I am SO excited about this challenge. What is the Pencil Grasp Challenge? Well, if you know a child who struggles with pencil grasp, holds the pencil with a tight or inefficient grip, uses all of their fingers to hold a pencil , or writes with an awkward grasp, the Pencil Grasp Challenge is for you!

    Let me tell you a little more about the challenge.

    PENCIL GRASP CHALLENGE

    The pencil grasp challenge for kids

    If you already signed up, be sure to check your email, because I have some surprises there for you and access to our private community.

    If you haven’t sighted up yet, but want to, find the link to join us below.

    What is the Pencil Grasp Challenge?

    Pencil grasp challenge activities to help pencil grasp problems

    The pencil grasp challenge is a free, 5 day mini course and challenge. During the course of five days, I’ll be teaching everything you need to know about the skills that make us a functional pencil grasp. You’ll learn what’s going on behind the inefficient and just plain terrible pencil grasps you see everyday in the classroom, clinic, or home. Along with loads of information, you’ll gain quick, daily activities that you can do today with a kiddo you know and love These are easy activities that use items you probably already have in your home right now.

    Besides learning and gaining a handful (pun intended) of fun ideas to make quick wins in pencil grasp work, you’ll gain free printable handouts that you can use to share with your team or with a parent/fellow teacher. You’ll get access to printable challenge sheets, and a few other fun surprises. And, possibly the best of all, you’ll get access to a secret challengers Facebook group, where you can share wins, chat about all things pencil grasp, and join a community of other therapists, parents and teachers working on pencil grasp issues. This is going to be fun!

    Pencil grasp challenge and activities for a better pencil grasp

    If you haven’t already, be sure to sign up now, because we’re gearing up for a fun week in the pencil grasp Facebook group.

    Use these pencil grasp activities to  help build the fine motor skills kids need for handwritng

    More about the challenge

    This challenge has been a yearly challenge for the last three years.

    The Pencil Grasp Challenge started because on The OT Toolbox, we have had many questions on handwriting and pencil grasp. Parents, teachers, and therapists have questions on concepts such as:

    • How do I fix pencil grasp?
    • What is an appropriate pencil grasp?
    • How does pencil grasp develop?
    • What is a functional pencil grasp?
    • How does pencil grasp impact handwriting?
    • I need handwriting help! Where do I begin?
    • When is it developmentally appropriate to work on pencil grasp?
    • My child/student has a terrible pencil grasp! What do I do?

    As a result, I have A LOT of handwriting and fine motor activities here on The OT Toolbox website. A lot of those activities are perfect for developing a functional and efficient pencil grasp. The Pencil Grasp Challenge started as I had an idea to create a challenge of fine motor activities to boost the skills kids need for strong and efficient hands, so they can hold and manipulate a pencil without difficulty. I started using #pencilgraspchallenge hashtag on my Instagram posts for those activities, with the intention to start this challenge with all of you.

    In fact, go ahead and check out #pencilgraspchallenge on Instagram…you’ll find loads of fun fine motor activities designed specifically to build the skills needed for a better pencil grasp.

    Join the pencil grasp challenge series to build fine motor skills in kids

    Enter the Pencil Grasp Challenge!

    Want to join us in helping kids achieve a better, functional pencil grasp that works for them? Enter your email address into the form below!

    Do you know a child with a terrible pencil grasp?

    ✏️Want to know what exactly is going on behind an awkward or weak pencil grasp?

    ✏️Want to know how to fix pencil grasps so they are FUNCTIONAL and EFFICENT?

    ✏️Want fun and actionable activities to build stronger hands so kids can write with ease?

    Join the Pencil Grasp Challenge for 5 days of tools and resources!

      So I can best serve you, are you…
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      Pencil activities to help kids write with a functional grasp

      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.

      100 Snowballs Winter Math Worksheet

      winter math worksheet 100th day of school

      Today, you’ll find a fun winter math worksheet with 100 snowballs. This is a great activity for the 100th day of school…and working on writing numbers with kids. Number formation skill can be a challenge, so making practice fun and engaging is key. Use this 1 to 100 writing practice sheet with other winter occupational therapy activities all winter long!

      winter math worksheet 100th day of school

      100 Snowballs Winter Math Worksheet

      This 100 snowballs activity is a winter math worksheet that is perfect for the 100th day of school. Incorporate it into other number formation goals along with these number formation resources:

      When it comes to working on numbers and handwriting skills, meaningful and motivating activities is key. So when winter brings snow and ice, you can incorporate this functional practice activity into goal areas.

      Winter and 100 snowballs

      If you have read my other winter blog posts, you already know I am not a fan of winter. The temperature hit 61F last night and I was FREEZING!  I do not know how I am going to survive the southern winter at this rate.  Speaking of survival, I know I survived my childhood in the Northern US and lived to tell about it, but right now I don’t know how you do it.

      Snowball fights were a staple of my winter childhood. We spent hours creating our stockpile of balls, to be ready to ambush an unsuspecting neighbor or sibling. Have you seen the new snowball maker contraption?  That is one cool tool.  Perfectly round balls of snow in five seconds flat. I am not sure why I remember liking snowball fights at all. I am not good at throwing anything, especially a flimsy ball of snow (we didn’t have that ball maker when I was young).  I can dodge ok I suppose, but who wants to just dodge all the time?  

      We went to a man-made snow place in Georgia last winter.  I temporarily forgot how bad my aim is. I loved making the snowballs with the new snow packer tool, but still got pummeled.  Based on the popularity, I am going to venture a guess that snowball fights are still a “thing.” 

      What better way to reminisce about winter than creating a lesson plan about it?  For adults it will be a great story telling opportunity (unless you have never ventured to the snow covered mountains), and for learners an excellent tie in to what is going on around them.  If your learners live where it is warm, use this opportunity to teach about snow with video clips, worksheets, activities, fine motor games, making an all inclusive lesson plan.

      Winter Math Worksheet

      To start off your Winter Lesson Plan, the OT Toolbox has you covered!  Check out the new 100 Snowball Math Worksheet.

      The winter math worksheet that you can grab below is a great way to work on number formation and filling in numbers. Add it to a 100th day of school lesson plan, or therapists can use this as a complementary winter math lesson while still working on goal areas to support educational needs.

      In its simplest form, this is a great PDF printable to address counting, number formation, and writing to 100. Add this to the other winter worksheets from The OT Toolbox and your Winter Lesson Plan will be well on its way.

      Let’s take a look at the plethora of other ways to use this worksheet and incorporate it into treatment. 

      1. Make tiny snowballs of tissue or playdough to work on in hand manipulation.  Place the tiny balls on each of the numbers.
      2. Use a dot marker to dab the snowballs as they are being counted. This adds color and flair as well as building critical grasping skills.
      3. Cut all of the numbers, putting all of the snowballs back in order like a puzzle.
      4. Make large snowballs out of crumpled paper, then work on upper body coordination throwing the snowballs at a target.
      5. Build this into a gross motor task by running back and forth with snowballs. 

      Ways to modify this task for different levels of learners:

      • Count aloud as a group to find the next number
      • Encourage students to remember the numbers, instead of starting back at one each time
      • Enlarge this worksheet onto a board, for a group activity or to make more readable
      • Laminate this task and use markers to fill in the numbers
      • Print it onto colorful paper for visual contrast and readability
      • Color the winter math worksheet before laminating it, or have learners color after filling in the numbers
      • Provide a model for copying for learners who do not know the numbers yet
      • Make a dotted version of the answers for tracing into the open spaces
      • Use different writing tools for different effects
      • Cut the page into smaller chunks if your learners can not yet write to 100

      How to document about this 100 snowball printable worksheet?

      The most straightforward way to document your lesson plan with this math worksheet is to note the number of correct responses.  Then take it further and note number formation, the number of reversals, correct formation, sizing, legibility, placement inside the provided spaces, grasping pattern, and pressure on the paper.  To continue, make note of your learners’ attention to detail, frustration tolerance, number of cues needed, number of physical assists, overall attention, behavior, self regulation, working in a group, sitting posture, and 100 other observations.

      The great thing about worksheets like the 100 Snowball Printable from the OT Toolbox is the versatility of it.  My documentation might not have anything to do with number formation, grasping pattern, sizing, or spacing at all.  I can solely focus on social function and sensory strategies if that is the nature of my learner’s goals.

      For this reason, these winter worksheets can be used for a good variety of learners, not just the ones working on number formation.

      What else does the OT Toolbox have to offer?

      100 Snowballs- 100 snowballs, 1 to 100 writing practice sheet, winter math worksheets

      I love this all in one Winter Fine Motor Kit.

      For more snowball and snow themed activities, be sure to check out the Snowman Therapy Kit. It’s loaded with fine motor activities, crafts, gross motor tasks, coordination, motor planning, scissor skill tasks, and handwriting activities all with a snow and snowman theme.

      Free 100 Snowballs Worksheet

      Want to add this 100 snowballs worksheet to your therapy toolbox for winter occupational therapy activities this time of year? Enter your email address into the form below to access this printable. OT Toolbox Member’s Club members will also find this worksheet inside the membership, along with hundreds of other resources and tools.

      My treatment plans are all about efficiency, effectiveness, and getting the most out of each session…and this winter math worksheet fits the bill!

      Winter Math Worksheet for 100th Day of School

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        I will keep practicing my aim, just in case!

        Victoria Wood, OTR/L

        Victoria Wood

        Victoria Wood, OTR/L 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.

        Things to do on a Snow Day

        Use this snow writing prompt as a way to come up with things to do in the snow on a snow day.

        When school is cancelled for a snow day, it can be fun to think of things to do in the snow. For parents or therapists, sometimes kids need things to do on a day at home so they stay off the video games and screens. Here, you will find therapist-approved winter family activities, things to do in the snow, and a special printable handwriting worksheet with snow writing prompts…perfect for a home therapy task that helps kids build skills through motor skills, PLAY, and even motivating and functional handwriting.

        Use this snow writing prompt as a way to come up with things to do in the snow on a snow day.

        Things to do on a snow day

        Whether you live in the snow, are dreaming about wintery conditions, or are happy to never have to see it again, there is a lot to be said about a winter day. Check out these snow and ice activities, for snowy fun that doesn’t involve all of the cold, ice, and snowflakes!

        Snow days represent different things to different people. Does it represent winter family activities? As a child in Connecticut, winter and snowy days were great!  There were endless things to do outside in the cold. These winter days meant bundling up layers and layers of clothing to head outside, building forts, rolling a snowman, shoveling sidewalks, climbing snow drifts, making snow angels, creating paths of footprints across the fresh, untouched snow, walking across a frozen pond, sledding down a huge hill, or skiing.

        Some of my fondest childhood memories were made on winter days. During the blizzard of 1978, the snow was piled up over our heads.  We walked on top of huge piles over ten feet tall. We had a sheepdog for many winters, it was funny to see his fur covered in snowballs from jumping in the wet snow.  Not so funny having to take them all off after coming inside.  

        Snow days can also mean NO SCHOOL!  We watched and waited for the announcement that there would be no school.  While parents dread this news, kids everywhere cheer for a day off.  

        A day or two of fresh snowfall can mean some indoor cozy fun also. If the power went off, we had a rare chance for pizza from the little town.  I think the neighbor had a snowmobile to trek down and collect it. It also meant hot cocoa and home baked cookies.  In the 70’s and early 80’s TV was not really for kids, except Saturday mornings.  School cancellations did not mean lazy days by the TV or playing electronics.  Out came the board games, the Easy Bake Oven, puzzles, Legos, coloring books, and all of the other things we never seemed to find enough time for. 

        What does a winter snow day mean to you?  Did you grow up with cold winters, or just read about it?  Did you long for just one flurry during a southern winter? Winter days feel different to me now, than as a child.  Today I would treat a winter day as a cuddle up under a blanket with hot cocoa, cookies, a good book, and a dog.

        Snow days are now virtual school days?

        What does a snow day mean to your learners?  It could mean 100 different things. This is a great snow writing prompt for digging up memories, stories, shared ideas, and working on critical handwriting skills. 

        But, in many cases, a school cancellation means parents who still need to work while the kids are at home. There can be more screen time, video games, and YouTube watching than normal. Sometimes parents need a quick list of things to keep the kids busy and OFF screens.

        Even more recently, in many areas, a school cancellation day is no longer a day off from school. Snowy conditions and ice or other weather conditions that may have previously meant a day off from school now may mean a virtual learning day. This change for many kids, is a change that may not go away now that many schools have virtual learning opportunities in place. In these cases, kids attend virtual school, but then they are finished early or have breaks during the school day. The last thing parents want their kids doing during a break from virtual learning is hopping onto another device!

        That’s where a quick list of things to do on a snow day comes in handy.

        In these cases, therapists who may be seeing students virtually can offer therapeutic activities that actually develop the very skills that the students on their caseload are working on.

        Therapists may need a quick activity or task list that specifically addresses the skills their kids are working on, so the child can have an action list of activities to do outside in the winter.

        These snow day activities can even be followed-up on and used as writing prompts in a later session to address executive functioning skills, handwriting, memory, and other skill areas.

        That’s where the snow day activities worksheet available below comes into play. Print off the worksheet and use it to identify winter ideas. Then, when students do have a day off from school, they can use it as a winter bucket list. It’s also a great family activity list for winter days. Or, just use the worksheet in virtual or face to face learning to work on handwriting skills and executive functioning skills.

        Things to do in snow Worksheet

        This winter printable helps learners create a list of Things to do on a Snow Day.

        Each person will have a different experience to write about. Encourage your learners to explore all different aspects of winter days, whether they have experienced them, or just read about it.  Learners will write something to do in the snow in each snowball.

        This activity can be modified for all levels of learners:

        • Lowest level learners can dictate what they would like written in the snow balls
        • This printable can be projected onto the board to work as a group task
        • Pictures of activities can be printed separately, cut and glued onto the snow balls. Use this Snow Day bingo game board to cut out ideas or play snowy bingo
        • The snowballs can be cut and glued onto a separate sheet of paper to add cutting and gluing to the task
        • Middle level learners can write one or two words in each ball.
        • Higher level learners can write an idea in each ball, then create a story or memory out of each idea.  This turns into a multilevel activity to use during many sessions.

        Skills addressed? As always, therapy or teaching is more than just fun and games. There are goals and objectives to be addressed.  This Things to do in the Snow printable, while being fun and relevant, also works on key skills

        • Handwriting – Work on letter formation, letter size, spacing, word and letter placement
        • Letter formation – correctly forming the letters top to bottom
        • Letter sizing – correctly fitting the letters into the size boxes
        • Copying – copying words from a model, transferring the letters from one place to another
        • Fine motor strengthening, hand development, and grasping pattern
        • Sequencing – will your learner do the words in order?   Will they go in a haphazard pattern all over the page?  
        • Following directions, attention to detail, turn taking, waiting, social skills, compliance, behavior, and work tolerance
        • Cutting on the line ( if you choose to add this step), within half inch of lines, in the direction of lines
        • Pasting using glue stick or drippy glue with accuracy
        • Bilateral coordination – remembering to use their “helper hand” to hold the paper while writing.  Using one hand for a dominant hand instead of switching back and forth is encouraged once a child is in grade school or demonstrates a significant strength in one or the other.
        • Strength – core strength, shoulder and wrist stability, head control, balance, and hand strength are all needed for upright sitting posture and writing tasks.

        Remember, you can address all of these skills at once, or focus on one or two.  Some skills above will be addressed without your conscious knowledge, while other skills will be directly worked on. 

        Documentation in Therapy with this Worksheet

        Use this snow day worksheet to document and track skills for data collection. Take note of these areas to collect data for documentation:

        • the percentage of correct letters, 
        • how many letters are formed correctly/directionality/legibility
        • size of letters in relation to the boxes
        • grasping pattern, hand dominance
        • attention to detail, following directions, prompts and reminders needed, level of assistance given

        Therapist-recommended Winter Activities

        If kids are filling out the worksheet and need some ideas to fill in the spaces, try these ideas. You can even fill out a worksheet to have as a copying activity for some student’s skill needs.

        These things to do in snow are perfect for a day off of school or winter family activities:

        What would you add to this list? Do any of these look like winter family activities that you would like to do on your next snow day?

        Free Snow Day Worksheet

        Make this snow writing prompt just part of your winter lesson plan. Print off this worksheet and get started with winter activities for the whole family! This winter worksheet is also available in the OT Toolbox Member’s Club. Members can log in and download this resource along with hundreds of other resources and tools to help kids thrive.

        Get free SNOWBALL ALPHABET WRITING PRACTICE SHEETS

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          Gotta go get my cocoa and marshmallows!

          Victoria Wood, OTR/L

          Victoria Wood

          Victoria Wood, OTR/L 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.

          Snowman Therapy Activity Kit

          Grab the Snowman Therapy Kit for more things to do on a snow day, or just in winter, whether you are on a snow day, or don’t even live in an area with snow!

          Snow and Ice Activities

          snow and ice activities

          These snow and ice activities are more winter occupational therapy activities that kids will love! Use these snow activities and ice themed ideas to help kids develop skills during the cold winter months. Brrr. It is cold outside!  We’re trying to stay warm these days by playing indoors or bundling up and heading outside.  Some days it’s just too cold to play outside with small kids and these indoor winter activities are fun ways to keep the kids learning when the temps dip! 

          snow and ice activities

          Snow and Ice Activities

          For specifically fine motor skill-building, be sure to check out the Winter Fine Motor Kit, the Snowman Therapy Kit, and the Penguin Therapy Kit. Each one includes different activities and they all develop fine motor, gross motor, visual motor, sensory, handwriting, scissor skills, and self-regulation skills through winter play.

           

          Winter snow and ice activities for kids
           

           

          These winter crafts are fun ways to explore the senses during the cold winter months. Kids will love the winter fine motor play ideas, too.

          Looking for more fun winter activities?  

          Fine motor snow number puzzles

          These ice number puzzles are a great fine motor activity. Kids can cut out the puzzles. Then, laminate them (or not!) and use them to work on fine motor skills. I love using tweezers or tongs to have kids move craft pom poms or mini erasers to match the ice number. This is such a great activity for building so many skills:

          • Scissor skills
          • Bilateral coordination
          • Visual scanning
          • Crossing midline
          • Fine motor strength
          • Endurance

          You can find this ice number activity inside our OT Toolbox Member’s Club.

          Other snow and ice printables that you can grab inside the Member’s Club (or as a free resource by entering your email into the forms on each blog post) are these snow, ice, and snowball activities:

          Snow and Ice Activities indoor winter play

          These fine motor play ideas are great for days when it’s too cold to play outside in the snow and ice.

          • Cut paper icicles and work on scissor skills, bilateral coordination, and eye-hand coordination. Label the icicles with sight words, math facts, vocabulary, etc. Get the kids involved in taping the icicles to the wall for shoulder strengthening, proprioceptive input, and other benefits of working on a vertical surface.
          • Make paper snowflakes for proprioceptive benefits, scissor skills, fine motor work, and bilateral coordination. Write math facts, sight words, vocab, etc. on the snowflakes.
          • Make Magic Milk Snowflakes for a fun STEAM activity that builds fine motor skills.
          • Have an indoor paper snowball fight to address motor planning, eye-hand coordination, balance, bilateral coordination, crossing midline, and more. Snowballs can be used as counters. Or, throw the paper snowballs at targets marked with facts or true/false containers.
          • Focus on fine motor skills by tearing paper. Add learning components by asking kids to first write answers on the paper, and then they can tear the page into strips or small squares. There are so many benefits to this activity!

          Have fun this winter while building skills through play!

          What if you had themed, NO-PREP activities designed to collect data and can help kids build essential fine motor skills?

          Take back your time and start the year off with a bang with these done-for-you fine motor plans to help kids form stronger hands with our Winter Fine Motor Kit. This print-and-go winter fine motor kit includes no-prep fine motor activities to help kids develop functional grasp, dexterity, strength, and endurance. Use fun, winter-themed, fine motor activities so you can help children develop strong fine motor skills in a digital world. 

          The Winter Fine Motor Kit includes reproducible activity pages include: pencil control strips, scissor skills strips, simple and complex cutting shapes, lacing cards, toothpick precision art, crumble hand strengthening crafts, memory cards, coloring activities, and so much more.

          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.

          Snowball Alphabet Worksheet pdf

          snowball alphabet letter formation worksheet

          Today, we have a fun handwriting resource for you. Grab your mittens because this snowball alphabet worksheet PDF is a free download that builds many skill areas. It may look like a snowball themed tracing worksheet, but this snowball letters PDF builds many skill areas. Let’s take a look at various ways to incorporate Winter Snowball letters into therapy and the classroom or home!

          This snowball alphabet worksheet PDF is a free download that can be used to work on letter formation, handwriting skills, and more.

          Snowball Letters

          The OT Toolbox is continuing with its winter theme this month by offering another wonderful free printable.  If you have to live/vacation/endure somewhere with snow, you might as well make the best of it.  Everyone loves making snowballs.  That is why they have snow making machines pumping out fake snow here in the south, so we don’t miss out on all of the fun.  I have to say it is kind of strange sledding and throwing snowballs while wearing a short sleeved shirt.  

          Before we get to the snowball letters activities, check out these snowball sensory ideas. Use real snow brought indoors (or use the items outside!). Kids will LOVE to use these snowball tools with our fake snow recipe. Plus, when kids are involved in making the fake snow, there are more therapy goals to address like executive functioning, bilateral control, and even tactile defensiveness.

          Snowball Maker- The beauty of making snowballs?  It has evolved!  No longer do you need to have cold wet mittens while scooping up layers and layers of snow.  They have a tool for that! This (amazon affiliate link) snowball scooper is perfect for creating the perfect snowball.

          Before you scoff and say you would rather do it the old fashioned way, you need to check this thing out!  I made the most perfect fake balls of snow with this contraption.  Now all I need is a launcher like they make for tennis balls, and some better aim.  Are you intrigued by this wonderful tool? 

          Snowball Mold Set– Wait, there is more!  Kind of makes me want to have a snow day to try all of this cool stuff out.  You no longer have to roll snowmen, create handmade blocks for igloos, or scoop the snow with your hands.  Tired of circle snowballs?  They have a solution for that!  This snow mold set comes with penguin and heart shapes.  Need to be more efficient when creating these fluffy white bundles of fun?  They have a tool that will make FIVE snowballs at once!  They have just ramped being out in the snow to a whole new level.

          Now that we have filled your shopping cart with such wonderful things to do in the snow, what about the days when your learners have to be in school, or it is too awful to stay outside all day?  A winter skills treatment or lesson plan is just what you need.

          Snowball Alphabet PDF

          The OT toolbox is showcasing winter activities and PDF sheets all month long. Today’s cute design is an alphabet letter worksheet full of winter snowballs to practice letter formation.

          As always I love the versatility of each of these pdf activities and printables.  This design comes with two different ways to change the activity for different skill levels.  Tracing inside snowballs or working on letter formation with blank winter snowballs.

          Use this snowball alphabet worksheet PDF along with our recent Winter Clothes Number Tracing worksheet for tons of skill areas.

          When working with any learners, it is important to be able to adapt or grade your activity for multiple learning levels.  What does it mean to grade an activity?  To make it easier or harder for your whole caseload of learners or adapt the task for a specific learner.  Suppose you get started with the blank snowballs and realize your learner has no clue what the letters look like.  You would grade this down to either tracing, or copying letters from a model.  You could grade it further down to matching letters or identifying them.  You can grade up to writing lowercase and uppercase letters in the winter snowballs.

          Snowball Letter Tracing Sheet

          Since the first page is a tracing task, let’s talk about tracing. I am not a fan of tracing unless it is used correctly, or the objective is understood. 

          • Tracing is not going to teach number/letter formation if the learner does not know what those figures are.  To a learner who does not know these symbols, they will be tracing lines, not numbers or letters
          • Know your audience. If your learner does not know the letters or numbers, use the activity as a fine motor task to develop dexterity
          • Kinesthetic awareness.  This long word means to learn by doing.  Theoretically if a person writes the number 5 enough times, the body will start to recognize this pattern and commit it to memory.  This only works if the learner understands what is being traced
          • Tracing for dexterity. This is the type of tracing I like best.  Tracing for dexterity works on staying on the lines, fine motor control, building hand muscles, scanning and so much more.

          What else does tracing and writing alphabet letters work on?

          • Handwriting – this is obvious as you are building letter formation
          • Fine motor control – holding a pencil, developing intrinsic muscle control to improve written expression, dexterity to stay on the lines on the tracing section
          • Letter formation – correctly forming the letters top to bottom
          • Letter sizing – correctly fitting the letters into the size boxes
          • Copying – copying letters from a model if you have graded it to include one
          • Working memory – remembering what letters have already been written, and what comes next. See if your learner can recall the next letter without going back to letter A each time
          • Sequencing – will your learner do the letters in order?  Will they go in a haphazard pattern all over the page?  
          • Bilateral coordination – remembering to use their “helper hand” to hold the paper while writing.  Using one hand for a dominant hand instead of switching back and forth is encouraged once a child is in grade school or demonstrates a significant strength in one or the other.
          • Strength – core strength, shoulder and wrist stability, head control, balance, and hand strength are all needed for upright sitting posture and writing tasks.
          • Executive function skills – attention, frustration tolerance, task completion and initiation, self regulation, working independently

          To learn more about executive function, type this into the search bar on the OT Toolbox to see dozens of posts on this topic.  Here is a general post on executive function by Colleen Beck, owner of the OT Toolbox:

          snowball letters, Winter Letter SNowballs- snowball letters, alphabet worksheets pdf, snowball alphabet worksheet

          More ways to use the SNOWBALL ALPHABET WRITING PRACTICE SHEETS PDF

          There are many other ways to adapt or grade the snowball alphabet sheet:

          • Laminate the page for using markers and wipes. This can be useful for reusability, as well as the enjoyment markers bring.
          • Place craft pom poms or mini erasers on the letters.
          • Cut out the snowballs and use them to match letters.
          • Use the snowballs for letter BINGO. Call out letters and ask kids to find the letter in the alphabet.
          • Call out a letter and have a student place a mini eraser or marker on the letter. Then they can form the letter onto paper or onto the blank snowballs.
          • Different colored paper may make it more or less challenging for your learner
          • Enlarging the font may be necessary to beginning handwriting students who need bigger space to write.
          • Create another page with all of the alphabet letters for copying or reference
          • Have students cut out letters from another page and glue to the snowballs – this adds a cutting and gluing element
          • Velcro the back of the snowballs, after laminating and cutting it, to create a matching game
          • Make changes to the type of writing utensil, paper used, or level of difficulty
          • Have students write on a slant board, lying prone on the floor with the page in front to build shoulder stability, or supine with the page taped under the table
          • Project this page onto a smart board for students to come to the board and write in big letters.
          • More or less prompting may be needed to grade e activity to make it easier or harder
          • Make this part of a larger lesson plan including gross motor, sensory, social, executive function, or other fine motor skills

          How to document this activity:

          • First determine what goals and skills you are addressing. Are you looking strictly at letter formation, tracing, and alphabet recall?  Or something else entirely such as executive function and behavior?
          • Focus your observations on the skills you are addressing.  It is alright to address one or ten skills at once, just be sure to watch for those skills during the activity.  This can take practice to watch everything all at once. Newer clinicians often videotape sessions to go back and review clinical observations they may have missed.
          • Use data to back up your documentation. Avoid or limit phrases such as min assist, fair, good, some, many, etc.  They are vague and do not contain the numbers and data critical to proficient documentation.  Instead use percentages, number of trials, number of errors, exact sizing, how many letters were written incorrectly, number of reversals, number of prompts, minutes of attention.  You get the idea.
          • This type of documentation may feel foreign at first if this is not what you are used to, however insurance and governing agencies are becoming more strict on accurate documentation.

          In addition to this great winter snowballs alphabet PDF worksheet, the OT Toolbox has entire winter themed lesson plans available as well as a Snowman Lesson Plan Kit that covers all aspects of therapy sessions.

          These winter printables, including this Snowball Alphabet Worksheet will be highlighted all month long to help create amazing therapy sessions.  I have to say I am kind of excited about the snowball making contraption for those of you who live in the frozen north.  

          Free SNOWBALL ALPHABET WRITING PRACTICE SHEETS PDF

          Want to grab a copy of this Snowball Alphabet Worksheet PDF for your therapy toolbox? Enter your email address into the form below and the PDF will be delivered to your inbox. OT Toolbox Member’s Club members can access this writing practice sheet along with many others with one click to download, inside the dashboard.

          Get free SNOWBALL ALPHABET WRITING PRACTICE SHEETS

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            I’d rather throw sand than snowballs any day!

            Victoria Wood, OTR/L

            Victoria Wood

            Victoria Wood, OTR/L 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.

            Snowman Therapy Activity Kit

            Click here to read more about the Snowman Therapy Kit and to grab your copy while it’s on sale.

            Free Apps for Occupational Therapy

            apps for occupational therapy

            Questions about the best apps for occupational therapy come up often. It is possible to address developmental skills through app play. Let’s cover various occupational therapy apps for the iPad or tablet.

            Children of today have technology very much integrated into all aspects of their daily lives. Technology is an occupation in and of itself. As occupational therapists, we strive to support functioning and full lives in our clients. Using apps in occupational therapy services serves two purposes: a meaningful and motivating tool to support functional skills by addressing underlying skills, AND as an extrinsic factor impacting function: using a device, filling form fields on apps, scheduling appointments, making calls, and other performance areas. Apps are a part of function because technology is so integrated into daily life.

            Let’s look at various areas of development where app use can help support kids, teens, and adults:

            Use these apps for occupational therapy to work on specific skills, development, and even functional skill work that is motivating and meaningful to today's kids.

            Apps for Occupational Therapy

            Normally at this time of year in therapy, it can be hard to keep the kids attention spans on track. Having a free app that builds skills can be one way to stay on track with addressing specific skills.

            Here, you will find free apps for occupational therapy that can be used as a supplemental activity or as a quick activity in between other occupational therapy activities. The OT apps for the ipad or tablet can be used in many different ways:

            1. Add them to your line-up of occupational therapy teletherapy activities.
            2. Use the OT apps as a supplemental activity for home recommendations or classroom down-time.
            3. Use the occupational therapy app as a transition activity that continues to develop skills addressed in therapy sessions.
            4. Others may want to use these apps for therapy breaks or as a reward at the end of the session.
            5. Use the apps for occupational therapy homework so that kids are motivated to participate and incentivize OT home programs, fostering the carryover we don’t sometimes see.
            6. Still others may find the occupational therapy apps perfect for home occupational therapy programs or ways to keep kids busy while parents are working from home.

            Whatever your need, these educational games and special education supports can be a powerful tool in distance learning and learning at home.

            These free apps for occupational therapy build handwriting, executive functioning, visual memory, fine motor skills, and more.

            Free Apps for Occupational Therapy

            The free apps below are broken down into targeted skill area. I’m adding apps for handwriting and letter formation, visual motor skills, executive functioning skills, and other areas. Some of these apps are IOS apps and others are Android apps.

            The apps that are available for Android on Google Play may be accessed through a Google account on a desktop and then accessed through the Google play app or via a Google account on an Apple device. Here is more information on how to access Google Play apps on an Apple device.

            I tried to locate only free apps in this resource. There are many great apps for occupational therapy out there, but I wanted to cover all the bases when it comes to OT interventions with free apps that can meet the needs for free!

            Another great idea for using free technology in occupational therapy includes using these Alexa skills in occupational therapy.

            Free Apps for Visual Motor Skills

            The apps listed below are some of the best apps for occupational therapists to use in therapy sessions, and to recommend to parents and teachers, when appropriate. Remember that all kids are different and all have specific needs, so these recommendations may not work for every child or individual.

            All About Shapes- This free app is available on IOS and is a shape drawing app. Users can draw and identify shapes.

            Vision Tap- This free IOS app is a great one for addressing visual processing and visual efficiency skills. Visual tracking, visual scanning, and oculo-motor skills are challenged with this one!


            Broom, Broom- This free IOS app allows children to draw paths for the vehicles in the game to drive on, building eye-hand coordination, motor planning, visual memory, and precision of fine motor skills.

            Visual Memory- is a free app available on Google Play. The game is designed to develop visual memory and improve attention. Users can find the image that appears at each level.

            Piko’s Blocks- this free IOS app really challenges the visual spatial skills for older kids.

            Memory Game- is another free app on Google Play. The game is just like the classic concentration game, helping users to build visual memory skills.

            Learning with Wally is an Android app available on Google Play. The visual discrimination app challenges users to discriminate between differences, recognize, and attend to details in visual forms, including pictures, letters, words and sentences.

            Sorting and Learning Game 4 Kids- This app is available on Google Play and challenges users to categorize and match themed objects while helping to build visual attention, visual memory, and focus with a concentration on visual perception.

            Visual Attention Therapy Life is an app available on Google Play. The free app allows users to address and build visual scanning, visual memory, and visual attention. It also helps rehab professionals to assess for neglect and provide more efficient and effective therapy for attention deficits.


            Sensory Baby Toddler Learning- This Google Play app is great for younger kids as they work on cause and effect and develop hand eye coordination skills.


            Connecting Dots is Fun- This free IOS app allows users to work on visual perceptual skills such as visual discrimination, form constancy, figure-ground and visual processing skills of tracking and scanning. Users create dot-to-dot activities in the app.

            Alphabet Puzzles For Toddlers- This Google Play app helps younger children work on letter identification and letter recognition. The letter learning app is a great app for preschoolers or toddlers. The visual perceptual app allows children to address form constancy, visual discrimination, figure ground, and other visual perceptual skills.

            iMazing- In this free IOS app, users can complete maze activities while challenging visual perception and visual motor skills.
            Skill Game- This free app is available on Android. The game allows users to draw lines to connect numbers while building eye-hand cordination, precision, motor planning, visual memory, and more.

            On the Line- This IOS app is great for working on visual motor skills using a stylus.


            Squiggles- This free app is a great one to work on pre-writing skills. Users can draw lines and figures and watch as they become animated.

            Use these free handwriting apps to work on letter formation, number formation, letter recognition, and more.

            Handwriting Apps

            These handwriting apps are occupational therapy tools that support the underlying skills needed for handwriting. Some apps allow kids to “write” letters using a resistance-free surface on the tablet or iPad. This input can be the “just right” level for some kids. Other Handwriting apps listed address other skills. Let’s take a look at how to use these apps in occupational therapy services.

            ITrace is a handwriting app that does have a price for the main version, however, there is a free version available with some activities. Users can trace letters, numbers, words, and shapes while working on visual motor skills and letter formation.


            Writing Wizard- This app is available on Google Play and allows users to trace letters along a visual guide. There are various fonts available and size can be adjusted for different ages.

            Writing Wizard-Cursive- This handwriting app is created by the makers of the regular, print version of Writing Wizard. Users can practice letter formation in cursive.

            Start Dot- This app addresses letter formation using visual, auditory, and movement cues. These prompts fade to address accuracy and independence.

            Ollie’s Handwriting and Phonics- This free app allows users to trace and copy individual letters and words on the app’s chalkboard wall.

            Write ABC – Learn Alphabets Games for Kids- This handwriting app is available on Google Play. The app helps younger children work on letter formation using visual cues for starting points and ending points.

            Sand Draw- This free Google Play app provides a sandy beach for kids to practice writing letters, words, or phrases in. Use it to practice spelling words for a fun twist.

            Snap Type- While this app has a paid version, the free version also allows users to create digital versions of worksheets. Students can take a picture of their worksheets, or import worksheets from anywhere on their device. They can then use their Android device keyboard to add text to these documents. When complete, students can print, email.

            Apps for Fine Motor Skills

            These apps for fine motor skill development might not be your go-to fine motor task when it comes to strengthening hands and promoting dexterity. But for the child that struggles with fine motor skills, a tablet or iPad app can be a motivating and meaningful way to address developmental skills.

            With an app, it is possible to address functional, fine motor skills:

            The fact is that devices are not going away. In fact, our youth are likely to see all aspects of their future lives managed by screen technology. For kids that struggle with dexterity, hand strength, motor planning, and other motor skills, we can help them to be the most functional and independent individuals.

            These fine motor apps are just one more strategy in our OT toolbelt.

            Dot to dot Game – Connect the dots ABC Kids Games- This free app is great for toddlers, preschoolers, or young children working on precision, dexterity, and fine motor work. the app addresses letter and number formation.

            Tiny Roads- This free app allows children to connect objects while working on precision and finger isolation.

            Montessori Fine Motor Skills Game School Numbers- This fine motor app helps users work on eye-hand coordination, precision, and finger isolation while working on numbers, letters, and shapes.

            Use these free executive functioning apps in occupational therapy sessions to build skills like working memory, attention, and focus.

            executive function apps

            When addressing attention, distraction, planning, prioritization, time management, and other executive functioning skills, using apps in occupational therapy is a no-brainer. Kids are exposed to the technology of devices every day and the ability to complete daily tasks using devices is just part of advances in our time.

            Use these executive function apps in occupational therapy as a support tool: devices to help with challenges like attention, organization, scheduling, and planning. Or, use these executive functioning apps in OT to work on cognitive skills that enable function; Apps are a great way to practice filling out forms, recalling and typing passwords, addressing online distraction, and other functional tasks that kids and adults are faced with every day. App use is an occupation, or task that occupies our daily lives, in a very real way.

            CogniFit Brain Fitness- This Google Play app uses memory games, puzzles, reasoning games, educational games, and learning games to train memory, attention, concentration, executive functions, reasoning, planning, mental agility, coordination and many other essential mental skills.

            Lumosity: Brain Training- This free executive functioning skills app uses games to exercise memory, attention, speed, flexibility and problem-solving.

            Memory Games: Brain Training– This executive functioning skills app uses memory and logic games  to improve memory, attention and concentration. 

            Alarmy- This free alarm app allows users to set alarms for attention building, and scheduling.

            The Google Tasks app– This free app creates checklists and sub-lists and allows users to add details about the areas that users need need to focus on in order to accomplish tasks. The app helps users to stay on track with due dates and notifications.

            The 30/30 app- This free app helps with executive functioning skills such as starting tasks, staying organized, and prioritization in tasks. This app is useful to address procrastination and motivation on bigger tasks or projects.

            Forest- This app helps with procrastination, productivity, and motivation.

            Study Bunny- This free productivity app helps students pay attention and focus on studying and larger school projects or tasks.

            Habitica- This task completion app allows users to track habits, and add gamification to tasks to build motivation and help with productivity.

            HabitNow- This free habit tracker app helps users to track habits and build habits to improve productivity and time management. This is a great app for scheduled activities or daily tasks such as chores or morning/evening routines.

            Brain N-Back- This working memory app helps to train working memory.

            Clockwork Brain Training- This memory training app helps with working memory and concentration through games and puzzles.

            Use these free self-regulation apps to help kids identify emotions, and feelings and help with coping tools.

            Apps for Emotional regulation

            There are apps that can be used as self-regulation tools. There are apps to practice social interactions. There are even apps to check-in on emotional regulation and self-regulation needs. These apps for emotional regulation are a great way to support kids and teens emotional regulation and overall wellbeing needs through the use of a hand-held self-regulation tool.

            Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame- This self-regulation app uses a fun Sesame Street monster to help little ones calm down and solve everyday challenges. Available in English and Spanish, the coping tools app helps your child learn Sesame’s “Breathe, Think, Do” strategy for problem-solving.

            Trigger Stop: Sensory and Emotional Check-In- This free self-regulation app is available on Google Play so they can identify and communicate sensations and emotions or feelings in the body so they can express them in a healthy way.

            Social Navigator –This emotional regulation app is a great social skills app designed to assist children with social and behavioral challenges. Kids can develop essential social interaction skills by taking a look at their behavior in social situations, and this app is a nice way to build confidence in that area.

            EmoPaint – Paint your emotions! is a free self-regulation app available for IOS in the Apple Store or Google Play. The paint app allows users to represent emotions or bodily sensations through art, by painting them interactively on the screen.

            Moodflow: Self-care made easy!- keeps track of your emotions, moods, thoughts and general well-being with a self-rating system, emotional language, and a system that allows for identification of how coping strategies help with emotional regulation.

            Deep Breathing apps- there are many mindfulness and deep breathing apps out there. I even have one right on my watch. With calming visuals, mindfulness apps allow the user to calm down and regulate their emotions so they can function in any situation. Bubble: Breathing Companion is one self-regulation app that encourages emotion regulation through breathing exercises.

            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.

            How to Support Self-Regulation in Preschoolers

            Here we are discussing the topic of how to support Self-Regulation in Preschoolers. For our youngest students, identifying emotions, and using self-regulation strategies for preschoolers is just hard. The preschool and Pre-K years are a time to work on emotional regulation through play and experience. Occupational therapy professionals can be a support and a service for parents, teachers, AND preschoolers in OT in the preschool years. Let’s break this down a bit…

            Self-regulation in preschoolers

            This blog includes 5 simple ways to support a preschool child’s ability to regulate their emotions using age appropriate strategies.  

            Self Regulation in Preschool

            Young children feel their emotions before they know what they mean. The first step to responding to a child’s behavior is to understand what they are feeling when they are having trouble with regulation. Sometimes children need others to co-regulate while other times they need time on their own to self-regulate.

            When four year old, Anglea, screams at the top of her lungs, we hear the scream, but we don’t feel what she is feeling. The first step to responding to a child’s behavior is to understand how they are feeling.

            In order to do this, we need to take a step back and remember what it feels like when we become upset. Do you remember the last time that you were frustrated and wanted to scream? 

            Like the time that you were running late and you had to stop at every single stop light on the way to the grocery store. You are feeling annoyed right now, but you can deal with it. Then, the only open parking spot was at the every end of the parking lot (and it was next to a HUGE SUV that parked over their side of the line.) Ugh. You feel your fists clenching a bit as you try to squeeze out of your door. 

            When you walk up to the store, there are no grocery baskets. You walk back to the return basket spot in the parking lot to get a soaking wet basket. You roll your eyes as your patience is tempted. As soon as you walk into the store, you realize the shopping cart you picked is one that “squeals” across the floor. That’s it. You have had enough but you made it into the store and you are going to grab the milk that your two year old wants so she will sleep through the night tonight.

            As you rush to the milk aisle, you gasp as the only 2% milk left is the one she won’t drink. Your heart starts to race and you feel like crying. The last thing you want to do is go to another grocery store after the ordeal you already have had. So you grab the off brand milk and say a little prayer that she will drink it tonight. 

            You’ve had a rough day, but you are almost done. After standing in the 20 minute checkout line (because for some reason the grocery store decided to only have TWO checkout lines open at 5pm on a Friday) you are now able to load your groceries onto the conveyor belt. 

            You’re next in line. You text your husband that you are hurrying as fast as you can and then the worst thing happens. Over the loud speaker, a voice says “Sorry customers. Due to a technical difficulty, we are only able to accept cash or check. No credit cards are able to be processed.” 

            How do you feel now? You take three deep breaths as you are trying your best not to scream. You want to fall on the floor and maybe cry? Or you want to toss the milk to the side and run out the door screaming.

            You are so upset that you are having a hard time regulating.

            But you don’t. You leave the cart, walk to your car (saying some words under your breath) and head to the other grocery store for milk.

            Now picture your preschooler feeling that same way. What do they do? 

            Development of self regulation in preschoolers

            Development of Self-Regulation Skills

            Preschoolers need to practice self-regulating skills before they can control their responses. This foundational skill will help them manage their thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Self-regulation skills develop over time. According to this article, even babies are able to self-regulate.

            The article states that in infancy, babies are able to self-regulate through strategies:

            • Shifting attention or averting gaze when overwhelmed
            • Self-soothing by sucking fingers or a pacifier to reduce distress

            As children gain new skills, they are able to self- regulate in different ways. This same article discussed the next steps in self-regulation development in the toddler years:

            The article describes toddler’s abilities to self-regulate through strategies such as: 

            • Focusing attention for short periods  
            • Adjusting behavior to achieve goals  
            • Beginning to label feelings  
            • Briefly delaying gratification  
            • Turning to adults for help with strong feelings 

            Self-regulation development continues in the preschool years. For kids ages 3-5, self-regulation is experienced in preschool-aged children through strategies such as:  

            • “Recognizing a growing array of feelings in self and others  
            • Identifying solutions to simple problems  
            • With support, using strategies like deep breaths and self-talk to calm down  
            • Focusing attention and persisting on difficult tasks for increased lengths of time
            • Perspective-taking and early empathy”
            Self regulation strategies for preschool students

            Preschool Self-Regulation

            Preschoolers love to engage in hands-on activities that teach a variety of concepts. One of the most important concepts is self-regulation. This skill can be taught and practiced at home, at school and out in the community. As children experience the world, there are so many different external circumstances that can trigger a child’s emotions. Each of these experiences gives preschoolers the opportunity to practice self-regulation techniques that they have learned. 

            Here are 5 ways to teach self regulation strategies to preschoolers:

            1. Soothing Sammy:

            Soothing Sammy is a preschool self-regulation strategy that uses an adorable golden retriever teaches children how to use their sensory system to calm down. The book, plush and playful activities all work together to help children create their own sensory basket they can visit whenever they need some extra calm down tools. With two simple words, “Sammy Time,” your preschoolers will be redirected to visit Sammy, the plush, at his house, use a cup of water, spot to jump or other sensory materials, to calm down. Once calm, children are able to talk about their feelings and problem solve. Soothing Sammy is perfect for classrooms and homes!

            2. Proprioceptive and Movement Based Input:

            Taking a heavy work movement break is a great way to redirect ourselves (like when we go for a run or go to the gym to cool down). This works for preschoolers also. Our other article includes over 50 ideas on how to help children calm down, including movement based input such as taking a walk and rocking back and forth in a chair. When we include proprioceptive input while moving, joint compression increases the ability for us to calm down fast! Some ideas include stomping, squeezing playdough, and stretching! 

            3. Calming Nature Sensory Bottle:

            Looking at calming visuals, like this calming nature sensory bottle, helps redirect our attention to something interesting and beautiful. These easy sensory bottle creation not only supports visual aesthetics, but it also reminds children of being outdoors in nature. This sensory bottle would be a great addition to the Soothing Sammy program.

            4. Emotional Vocabulary:

            Understanding how to describe our feelings, not only keeps us calm, but also helps us communicate our feelings to others. When children learn the words that match their feelings, they are able to come up with solutions with peers and adults. Playing emotion games, like the ones included in this article, will help even the smallest of children remember emotion words during times of stress. 

            5. Pretend Play: 

            Children learn so much while they play. Playing with peers and also participating in pretend play, allows children to act out scenes from different situations. These situations can be happy ones, stressful ones, adventurous ones and so much more! The use of puppets, baby dolls and dramatic play materials helps children formulate situations, discover different responses and make plans for if certain experiences happen in real life. This article goes into more detail about the importance of pretend play in social development.

            As children grow and develop, they experience the world in a variety of different ways. Sometimes everything goes as they planned, and other times, there are unexpected situations where they will need to manage their emotions. By teaching children self-regulation strategies, they will be able to respond to their emotions in a positive way, calmly plan their response and move forward with their day. 

            Jeana Kinne is a veteran preschool teacher and director. She has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood Education field. Her Bachelors Degree is in Child Development and her Masters Degree is in Early Childhood Education. She has spent over 10 years as a coach, working with Parents and Preschool Teachers, and another 10 years working with infants and toddlers with special needs. She is also the author of the “Sammy the Golden Dog” series, teaching children important skills through play.