Sensory Egg Dying Activities

sensory egg dying

There are many sensory activities that can be used to dye Easter eggs. In this blog post, you’ll find several sensory ways to dye eggs. Whether you are using natural egg dyes, movement activities to dye eggs, or using a rice shake egg dye activity, the sensory egg activities are perfect for adding movement that meets sensory needs. Add these sensory egg ideas to your Easter occupational therapy ideas!

sensory egg dying activities

Sensory Egg Activities

These sensory egg activities are fun and use all the senses! First, let’s explore the various senses that can be used when coloring eggs. Start by reading our resource on sensory play. You’ll see that there are 9 sensory systems at work at any given time:

  1. Tactile
  2. Vision
  3. Taste (Gustatory)
  4. Sound (Auditory)
  5. Smell (Olfactory
  6. Vestibular
  7. Proprioception

This sensory processing booklet is a good place to start in understanding sensory processing.

Take a look on Pinterest, and you can find SO MANY different ways to dye Easter Eggs.  We didn’t see any collections that centered on Sensory Exploration while dying eggs.
These are some fun, creative ways to dye eggs with a Sensory twist.

Movement sensory egg ideas

These ideas use movement to dye eggs. When shaking an egg in a paint bag, or shaking an egg in a bag of glitter or shaving cream, kids can use several sensory components:

  • Vestibular input by jumping or shaking
  • Bilateral coordination to use both hands together in coordinated manner to shake a plastic bag
  • Tactile sensory input to utilize several textures.
  • Visual sensory input with bright and colorful visual input.
Craftaholics Anonymous made glitter eggs. You can use a hardboiled egg and use any egg dye kit. Place the egg in a plastic baggie of glitter and shake, shake, shake!
The Chocolate Muffin Tree used crayon shavings to decorate. Can’t you just smell the crayons by looking at this picture? Use the same plastic baggie technique listed above but add crayon shavings. This is just another benefit of coloring and reason why coloring is such a great activity for kids!
Martha Stewart shows us how to decorate with thread to make a textured egg. This is a great bilateral coordination activity when wrapping string around an egg. But is this a sensory activity? 
When you consider the kinesthetic input of wrapping string around and egg, plus the other contributions: visual input, motor coordination, proprioception, then yes!
You could make melted crayon shaving eggs.  These look so textured and fun! 
Adding crayon shavings offers a specific scent, or olfactory input. 
 Creaative Green Living decorated patterned eggs using silks. This sensory egg dying technique offers tactile sensory input.
Lovely Indeed explores patterns and textures using Washi tape. Peeling tape adds fine motor proprioceptive input through the joints in the fingers. This is a great pincer grasp activity.
Add stickers to work on fine motor skills…pinching little stickers on the eggs.  This site shares some natural dying techniques, too. There are many reasons why playing with stickers supports development. This is a great sensory egg activity!
Toddler Approved used baking soda and vinegar to make these fun eggs.
 Explore those senses while dying eggs!

More sensory egg ideas for dying Easter Eggs

These ideas use tactile sensory input, movement (Vestibular sensory), visual sensory input. Each of these ideas are fun and creative was to color eggs!

  1. Natural Dyes: You can use natural dyes to color your Easter eggs. For example, beetroot juice will give a pink hue, turmeric can give a yellow hue, and red cabbage can give a blue hue.

  2. Kool-Aid: You can use Kool-Aid to dye your Easter eggs. Kool-Aid comes in a variety of colors and smells, and can be a fun sensory experience for kids.

  3. Shaving Cream: You can create a marbled effect on your Easter eggs by using shaving cream. Simply apply a layer of shaving cream to a shallow dish, add a few drops of food coloring or liquid watercolors, and swirl the colors together with a toothpick. Then, roll your egg through the shaving cream and let it sit for a few minutes before wiping it clean.

  4. Glitter: You can add some sparkle to your Easter eggs by using glitter. Simply brush some glue onto your egg, sprinkle glitter over it, and let it dry.

  5. Rice Shake: You can use rice and food coloring to create a sensory egg dyeing experience. Fill a sealable plastic bag with uncooked rice, add a few drops of food coloring, and shake the bag until the rice is evenly coated. Then, place your egg inside the bag, seal it, and shake it until the egg is evenly coated.

Many of these sensory activities for dying eggs can add sensory input to support self-regulation or to a functional sensory diet, and more!



The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook walks you through sensory processing information, each step of creating a meaningful and motivating sensory diet, that is guided by the individual’s personal interests and preferences.

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is not just about creating a sensory diet to meet sensory processing needs. This handbook is your key to creating an active and thriving lifestyle based on a deep understanding of sensory processing.

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

Types of Crawling

Types of crawling

Crawling is a babies’ first move toward independence, but did you know there are different types of crawling a baby can use? In this post we will explore: when babies start to crawl, types of crawling (army crawl, cross crawl, bear crawl, asymmetrical crawling), why crawling is important, and how to teach crawling.  Crawling is not just a gross motor activity. Crawling is a motor task component baby play that activates several of the senses, is a social event, and is the beginning of functional play.



Babies start to crawl between six and ten months, however with the various types of crawling, there are things to know about skills that impact a baby’s ability to move from place to place.

Some skip crawling all together, moving straight to cruising furniture and walking.  We will explore later why skipping crawling is not a great idea. 

In order to crawl, babies need a few skills, developmentally. This progression to crawling is a sequence of events.

Before crawling, babies learn to:

  1. Roll over
  2. Push up on their arms during tummy time
  3. Rock back and forth on their knees,
  4. Push backward

When given plenty of opportunity for movement, this stage of development often happens naturally. Crawling gives the baby an excellent sense of power and accomplishment.  It is a huge boost to their self esteem.  

There are several systems at play for these skills and crawling as a result to occur. The underlying skills involved with crawling includes:

  • Cognition
  • Problem solving
  • Balance (motor skills)
  • Sensory system
  • Gross motor skills
  • Coordination
  • Visual Motor skills
  • Spatial Relations

Referring specifically to the motor skills needed to crawl, we can target gross motor coordination and balance, no matter what type of crawling or mobility that a baby is using. The crawling movements utilize strength, mobility, and stabilization of the muscles of shoulders, neck, arms, back, trunk, and head need to be strong enough to support the weight of the baby. 

Binocular vision is needed for babies to switch between distance and close up viewing as they navigate their space.  Crawling offers a great mental workout as well.

Types of crawling

Types of Crawling

Did you know there are different types of crawling? Some of these types of crawling styles are a progression in coordination and balance. The baby will begin with one type of crawling and move onto a different crawling style, developmentally.

Other types of baby crawls are the style that the baby adopts either because one of the underlying skills have not yet developed, or they get into a habit and realize that they can get from A to B efficiently using the particular style. The different ways babies crawl do not necessarily mean a problem. However, there are aspects of each type of baby crawling style which we can look at.

Let’s take a closer look at each style of crawl.

Crawling on Hands and Knees

Crawling on hands and knees, or the classic hands and knees crawling style is a form of cross crawl – in therapy language this is often referred to as creeping. Babies bear weight on their hands and knees, moving one arm with the opposite knee forward at the same time.  This is the classic, traditional, most beneficial type of developmental crawling.

Bear crawl

Related to the classic crawling style on hands and knees, is the bear crawl. The bear crawl style of crawling is one in which babies cruise around on their hands and feet with their bottom up in the air.  This type of crawl provides great proprioceptive input, as well as reciprocal movement.

Army Crawl or Commando crawl

The army crawl, or otherwise known as the commando crawl, is a belly crawl style of crawling. This military style crawl involves babies on their tummies pulling themselves along with their arms and elbows while their stomach drags on the floor.  This type of crawl is excellent for building upper body strength, as well as providing great sensory input.

Scoot Crawling

The bottom scoot crawl, or scoot crawling is another style of crawling. In this type of crawl, babies sit on their bottom, pulling themselves with their arms.  While this is a functional type of movement, it is not the most efficient or beneficial.  While scooting on their bottom, babies do not get the same reciprocal type of movement, or input through their legs and shoulder girdle.

Crab crawl

Crab crawl is a crawling style in which babies move themselves backward or sideways in this type of crawling movement pattern.  They might be prone (belly down) or supine (belly up) as they move.  This might be a functional movement style, but it is not providing the correct input and movement patterns for typical development.

Roll crawl

A roll crawl is another type of crawling which works as a mode of transportation for babies. With roll crawling, babies get where they want to go by rolling. This style of crawling is effective, in that the child gets to where they want in a room, however rolling crawl is not an efficient style of movement, nor is it a means of developing the best movement patterns.

Have you seen any of these types of crawling in action? Let’s move onto why crawling skills are an important part of development for young children.

Why is crawling important

Why is crawling important

There are many reasons why babies need to crawl as a developmental progression. Crawling is so important! Let’s take a look at each of the reasons why babies need to crawl.

  • Gross motor development – babies learn to coordinate both sides of their body as they crawl. They have to balance their body, while an arm and leg is off of the ground at the same time. Joints need to flex and extend, muscles must synchronize, all while each side of the body is doing a completely different movement.  
  • Eye-hand coordination- By crawling, babies develop eye-hand coordination. By moving toward a target, reaching for toys, and engaging in the world around them, coordination between the eyes and body develop.
  • Sensory development proprioception, or input/feedback through the muscles and joints is the primary input developed through crawling.  In addition, vestibular input is engaged through movement of the head and input through the ear.  Vision, tactile, and hearing senses are activated as well during crawling. Babies learn through exploring their environment.  During crawling, most of the senses are alerted, organized, and used to maneuver through space.
  • Mental/cognitive development – problem solving, memory, and processing information are needed for crawling.  The corpus callosum is activated in a balanced way during cross crawling, facilitating both sides of the brain to communicate.  The corpus callosum is not activated the same way during alternate methods of crawling (bottom scooting, crab crawl, commando crawl).
  • Crawling helps joint sockets form – as the baby crawls forward the hip sockets form, the muscles pulling them forward and inward.  This sets the development in motion for future walking.
  • Crossing midline – this is a vital skill for further development.  Cross crawling improves spinal rotation, eye hand coordination, and learning to separate both sides of the body which will be used later on (bike riding, playing the piano, running, climbing stairs).  Here are some cross crawl exercises for older learners to practice and develop this critical skill.
  • Crawling supports reading skills- Crawling on hands and knees helps reading! All this integration of brain halves, reflexes, and hand-eye coordination helps prepare the brain and body for reading. Crawling supports learning, creative problem solving, and brain function in general.
  • Visual Skills- When crawling, a baby is developing the building blocks of visual perception, visual tracking and visual scanning, as well as vision development When crawling a small child moves through space and the eyes develop visual convergence. Visual saccades and tracking is also a component of development. Read more about the development of visual spatial skills happening during the baby years.

NOTE: babies who crawl in alternate methods, while demonstrating creative ways of getting around, may be showing signs of delayed development.  They may have learned to compensate for poor strength, coordination, sensory skills, or cognitive development. Moving babies through the traditional methods of crawling can help with overall development.  Babies who skip crawling should be encouraged to move through this stage of development, as it will develop critical baseline skills to be used later on.

How to teach Crawling

The easiest way to encourage crawling is by setting up an optimal environment for exploration.  

  • Plenty of tummy time on a safe surface may be all that is needed for these skills to develop.  Some families do not have a safe space at home for crawling.  Get creative by suggesting a blanket on the grass, an open space such as the beach, the library floor, or a tarp on the ground covered by a blanket.  
  • Avoid propping the baby up and placing it in containers.  Container baby syndrome is increasing at an alarming rate as caregivers place young babies continually in car seats, carriers, bouncy seats, swings, or being held all of the time.
  • If your baby arches her back a lot, does not want to curl up and snuggle, does not use both arms and legs, uses rolling more often than crawling, or does not seem interested in moving, seek assistance from a functional neurology doctor.
  • Allow your baby to explore their environment freely.  Create safe zones free of wires, choking hazards, and other dangers.  Encourage caregivers not to be afraid to let their baby struggle. Caregivers need to understand that babies will topple over several times before getting it right.  A baby who is too sheltered will learn that movement is scary.
  • Hold a rolled up towel under your babies’ belly while they are in prone to relieve some of the weight off of their extremities, provide extra support, and move the baby through the crawling motions.
  • Help the baby get into a crawling position and gently rock them back and forth to stimulate movement.  Place items just out of reach of the baby to encourage them to reach for it, or move to try and get it.
  • Encourage movement toward a target using novel and innovative items such as these baby shaker toys or our engaging sensory baggie for babies.

Help parents and caregivers understand misconceptions that a baby isn’t “advanced” who skips crawling, “so cute” by bottom scooting instead of cross crawling, or “lazy” because they choose not to move.  While these aren’t always red flags for future difficulties, they can be, and should not be overlooked.

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.

Fine Motor Skills and Math Development

Fine motor math

Fine motor math is more than just a fine motor activity with math concepts. Here, we are covering specifically, the topic of how fine motor skills and math skills are connected. Increasing research is showing the connection between math and fine motor. Here, we’re looking at how these two seemingly different areas are closely connected. We covered some of this connection in our resource on fine motor STEM.

Fine motor math

Fine Motor Math

In young learners, we see fine motor and math more often than with older students. The ability to problem solve (an early math building block) and fine motor go hand in hand. But it doesn’t stop there. We see in early learning the use of counters to support one-to-one correspondence. 

Other early math skills that utilize fine motor skills:

  • Shapes
  • Spatial concepts
  • Math patterns
  • Same and difference
  • Number identification
  • Counting objects

These early mathematical concepts support numerical skills and more abstract thinking further along. The development of early mathematical skills builds upon itself. 

Later we see primary school children using fine motor math activities in hands-on math activities. Manipulatives like paper clips are used to measure. Counters are used to add and subtract. Snap blocks are used to grasp grouping and counting skills. 

numerical skill

What is a numerical skill?

A numerical skill is an ability to understand and work with numbers. This includes a range of math abilities, from counting and recognizing numbers to performing mathematical operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. 

While it may not seem obvious, there are underlying skills that impact numerical skill abilities and math development.

Numerical skills are essential for a wide range of tasks, from simple daily activities such as telling time and measuring ingredients to complex tasks such as calculating probabilities and analyzing data.

Some common numerical skills include:

  1. Counting: The ability to count objects and recognize number symbols.
  2. Number recognition: The ability to identify and name numbers.
  3. Comparing numbers: The ability to determine which number is greater or smaller than another.
  4. Addition and subtraction: The ability to add and subtract numbers.
  5. Multiplication and division: The ability to multiply and divide numbers.
  6. Estimation: The ability to make approximate calculations and estimations.
  7. Measurement: The ability to measure quantities such as length, weight, and volume.

Numerical skills develop gradually over time and are influenced by factors such as genetics, environment, and early experiences. 

Numerical skills can be improved through practice and instruction, and early intervention can help children develop a strong foundation in these skills that can benefit them throughout their lives.

Piaget, in his theory of play, theorized that people learn by doing.  We call this kinesthetic awareness, or the connection between the body and the brain. 

Early mathematical skill involves counting with the fingers, learning to isolate digits, and clapping/tapping out numbers. This is the beginning of fine motor skills and math development. 

Fischer, Stoeger, and Suggate concluded that, “FMS (fine motor skills) are closely related to early numerical skill development through finger-based numerical counting that aids the acquisition of mathematical mental representations.” Fischer, Stoeger, Suggate. 2017.

A relatively new math program called Touch Math, uses kinesthetic awareness by having students touch the numbers while counting the dots, in order to make a better connection to counting, rather than rote memorization. 

It has been hypothesized that early acceleration in mathematics frees brain space and working memory. This allows the brain and working memory to be utilized on more complex equations.

What does this mean?  

It means that counting on fingers is ok!  

It is a great stepping stone to moving further into math concepts using other methods such as number lines, touch math, memorization, or counting objects.  This is a critical stage in development of fine motor and math skills. 

Let’s explore some of the ways fine motor skills and math development are correlated:

  • Ancient mathematicians used an abacus method of sliding beads across a platform to calculate sums thus incorporating fine motor skills into math
  •  Modern math involves using a calculator, dependent on fine motor precision to press the correct keys in sequence
  • Stringing beads develops fine motor skills while working on patterns, copying designs, counting, and sorting
  • Unifix cubes (or snapping cubes) are used for counting, addition, and subtraction, but also involve fine motor precision to move, count, touch, stack, and sort the cubes.
  • Other tools such as a ruler, protractor, stencil, tape measure, pencil, scissors, or compass rely on accurate fine motor skills
  • Graph papernumber lines, timed tests, and lining numbers in rows all require fine motor precision
  • Flash cards, clothespins, manipulatives, and worksheets are some more tools used in math development


Educators have been using these tools forever, this is not new.  

What IS new, is the amount of children starting school with below average, or poor fine motor skills.  This is in addition to limited reading, math, and writing skills. 

Below average development in the early years  may be due to a lack of exposure, too much time on screen electronics, or a physical impairment.  The pandemic is largely to blame in recent years due to the amount of children being home, not exposed to materials, concepts, and tools.

If children are struggling to hold a writing tool, manipulate objects, or move their fingers, how are they going to focus on the higher math concepts such as long division, geometry or algebra?  

Older students may be unable to do fractions, multiplication, or larger sums, due to poor baseline skills.  These students are still trying to figure out how to count their fingers, put their numbers in columns, or do simple addition, rather than solving equations.

How can you help?

Go back to the basics. Take a break from fancy computer programs and iPad apps. Focus energy on working with math manipulatives: 

Building gross motor skills will also develop core strength, upper body strength, shoulder stability, and wrist/hand strength.

Think of all of the ways you could use paperclips, not only to develop math skills, but improve fine motor precision at the same time.  

A box of odds and ends from the junk drawer or tool shed serve as great manipulatives for both understanding math concepts, and developing fine motor skills. We have several ideas for occupational therapy kits to use for fine motor skill development. A math kit could easily support learning and motor skills.

Curriculums all around the world are shifting their focus to more computer based learning as it is “more appealing” to learners. While this might be accurate, it is not well rounded or beneficial to developing crucial skills. If you are unable to eliminate all the computer based work, add fine motor manipulatives along with these lessons to improve skills.  Worksheets are preferable to computer based programs as they incorporate pencil/crayon use, cutting, and gluing.

Check out this great Outer Space Fine Motor Pack that includes bead activities, counting, sorting, graphing, and tool use of scissors/tongs/pencils.  Building fine motor skills is not only essential for math, but handwriting, self care, and life skills.

research on fine motor and math

Research on Fine motor and math skills

Research is offering more and more evidence that there is a positive correlation between fine motor development and math abilities in children. Depending on the age of the child and the fine motor contribution, we can visibly see the impact of fine motor dexterity and hand eye coordination on math manipulatives.

While we know that fine motor development and the small motor movements of the hands and fingers, hand strength, dexterity, and coordination, several studies have found that children who have well-developed fine motor skills tend to perform better on math tasks than those who do not.

For example, a study published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 

found that preschool children who had better fine motor skills were also better at math skills. These early math skills specifically included: 

  • counting
  • number identification
  • pattern recognition 

Specific fine motor tasks that seem to play a role in math skills (according to this study) were pegboard activities and threading beads activities. 

As occupational therapy practitioners, we know the activity analysis behind these fine motor tasks. 

To complete a pegboard activity, fine motor contributions include:

Similarly, the fine motor contributions that are needed for threading beads includes:

  • Arch development
  • In-hand manipulation
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Open thumb web space
  • Tripod grasp/pincer grasp
  • Finger isolation
  • Thumb opposition
  • Wrist extension
  • Dexterity
  • Bilateral coordination

So, when we look at the connection between fine motor skills and early math skills, we can connect the dots. 

There’s more…

According to Pitchford, Papini, Outhwaite, and Guilliford, “The influence of fine motor precision and math abilities emerges over the first year of schooling, and might be closely linked with the numeracy skills children are acquiring, and the practice children have in writing numbers, as well as carrying out other math based activities that require fine motor precision”. 

Taking this further, “Fine Motor Integration remains a significant predictor of math ability, even after the influence of non-verbal IQ has been accounted for.” Pitchford, Papini, Outhwaite, Guilliford, 2016. Through different studies, such as the one above,  there has been a correlation between fine motor skills and math development.

It might be that both fine motor tasks and math activities require the manipulation of abstract concepts.

For example, to add, subtract, multiply, and divide, manipulate fractions, shapes, decimals, and percentages, children need to grasp the concept of numerical symbols and steps to complete math processes. The child needs to think abstractly. Math requires mental manipulation of concepts, numbers, and symbols. 

In fine motor skill activities, the child needs to manipulate small objects using their hands. While the manipulatives or objects are physical items, the child needs to manipulate the object in order to accomplish a specific task. Before they can do the task, they need to see the process in their mind’s eye. 

Both math and fine motor tasks require spatial relationships, and visual processing skills. 

For some kids, this can be a real stumbling block. 

The child might be able to manipulate numbers and symbols to complete math tasks but fine motor tasks is a challenge. It’s the spatial relations and the ability to conceptualize the fine motor task in their mind’s eye followed by follow-through.  

However, some individuals can strengthen one domain by building on skills of the other. 

A child who is strong in fine motor skills but weaker in math concepts can use manipulatives to build on math skills. 

A child who lags behind in fine motor dexterity and manipulation skills can utilize math skills to build strength in fine motor.

Another study  published in the Journal of Learning Disabilities found that fine motor skills were significantly correlated with math achievement in children with learning disabilities.

In that study, the researchers found that fine motor skills in children with learning disabilities were significantly correlated with math achievement. They determined that the children with better fine motor skills had higher math achievement scores, and especially math reasoning and problem solving skills. 

The researchers used fine motor tasks like drawing lines, copying shapes, and using tweezers to pick up small objects. Children with stronger fine motor skills in those tasks were able to achieve higher skills in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems.

Tips to improve fine motor math

Modern day learners are so reliant on calculators, simple math such as making change, calculating a tip percentage, or figuring out a discounted price, requires the use of technology. 

I have had to tell shopkeepers, and people at garage sales how much change to give me while they were whipping out their phones to calculate $20.00-5.00.

While I understand we are in the technology era, it saddens me to see the foundational skills being lost or forgotten. Some classrooms have eliminated pencils/crayons/scissors entirely, in favor of using an iPad.  

We can support kids who struggle with both math and fine motor skills (or one skill area of the other…)

Other tips to support a student who struggles with fine motor skills to improve their math skills (and vice versa):

  • Incorporate math and fine motor in the classroom- Encourage parents and educators to incorporate fine motor skills into their lesson plans as this correlates to improved math and writing scores. When therapy providers utilize push-in model of therapy this can happen efficiently.
  • Use manipulatives: Manipulatives are a fine motor tool, or physical objects that students can use to represent math concepts. For example, you can use blocks, counters, or beads to help students understand numbers, addition, and subtraction. Providing manipulatives can help students with fine motor difficulties to engage with math concepts in a more hands-on way, which can enhance their understanding and make learning more accessible. By using manipulatives in math, students grasp the abstract concepts using concrete objects and are offered an opportunity to practice motor skills. For those struggling with the fine motor concept, you can modify the manipulatives to make them larger or easier to manipulate.
  • Use technology: While it’s important to reduce screen time (use this screen time checklist to support this need), the fact is that technology is here to stay. Many technology tools, such as calculators or digital math programs, can help students with fine motor difficulties to engage with math concepts without having to rely on handwriting or drawing skills. For example, a student can use a digital drawing tablet to practice writing numbers and math symbols, or use a speech-to-text program to dictate math problems. This is an adaptation for students that can help them thrive. 
  • Focus on the student’s strengths: Students with fine motor difficulties may have strengths in other areas, such as verbal reasoning or visual-spatial skills. By focusing on these strengths, you can help students to engage with math concepts in ways that are more comfortable and accessible for them. For example, you can use visual aids, such as diagrams or charts, to help students understand math concepts, or engage them in verbal discussions about math problems.
  • Focus on a student’s interests: Occupational therapy providers love to use a client’s indivudualized interests in building skills because the motivation improves when a meaningful theme is used. Try using manipulatives that support interests, or math problems that focus on a specific topic or theme.
  • Provide targeted fine motor practice: Fine motor skills can be improved through targeted practice. For example, students can practice using tweezers (like this tweezer math activity), threading beads, or drawing shapes to improve their fine motor control. By providing targeted fine motor practice, you can help students to develop the skills they need to engage with math concepts more effectively.
  • Use multi-sensory approaches: Engaging multiple senses can help students with fine motor difficulties to better understand and remember math concepts. For example, you can use music, movement, or tactile experiences to help students engage with math concepts in a more holistic way.

All of these tips can be graded to meet the individual’s needs.

In the Fine Motor Kits here on The OT Toolbox, you’ll find various fine motor numerical activities designed to support math and motor skill development.

Use these Fine Motor Kits for hands-on activity kits to develop fine motor skills, strength, dexterity, and manipulation. Kids LOVE these fine motor kits for the motivating activities. Therapists love them because it’s fresh, fun ways to work on pinch, grip, manipulation skills, and much more. Try some of these themed therapy kits:

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.

Self Care Strategies for Therapy Providers

Self care strategies

Are you taking care of yourself with self care strategies as a busy therapy provider? Changes in routines, uncertainties, new requirements for therapy interventions…all of these transitions are reasons to add self care strategies in order to maintain occupational balance. In this post, I wanted to put together a toolbox for you. Here, you will find tips for self care for therapy providers. These are resources for self-reflection, mindfulness, self-care strategies, and easy ways for you to take care of yourself as a therapy provider.

Self care strategies for therapy providers

Take current events, the additional responsibilities of distance learning (and teaching your own kids), social distancing, and the stress of getting through the grocery store. Then add the task of planning and running teletherapy sessions. Add digital communication with kids at extreme needs to regular work challenges (Helloooo billing, documentation, productivity…or even unemployment.)

All of this together can build to create a tipping point of worries, stress, and anxiety for therapy providers.

Self care strategies for therapists

Self Care Strategies for Therapy Providers

Therapy professionals are no strangers to the need to have a self care plan in place. Occupational therapists, OTAs, speech therapists, and physical therapists, PTAs, are long-time sufferers of therapy burnout.

Take a look at the caseload requirements, productivity standards, and unpaid tasks that many therapists need to balance. But add in the new challenges with serving clients with increased productivity requirements, in many cases and self care for health professionals is very much-needed now more than ever.

Being cooped up at a computer means you may not be getting your regular exercise and dose of fresh air. All of that time spent indoors can lead to worries, depression, or a building up of anxiety in your chest. These self-care strategies are ways to heal those overwhelming feelings.

Use these self-care strategies for emotional self care.

Self Care Balance

The thing is that as occupational therapy providers, we KNOW the need for balance. The occupational balance of work/play/rest is very much a service to ourselves and a fine line that must be honored. We recognize the need to set realistic expectations for ourselves.

We know the power that limitations in self care has when combined with work demands, income concerns, and health and safety of ourselves and those we love. But, HOW is that self care balance and a healthy lifestyle possible during uncertain times?

Pour yourself a cup of tea or grab yourself a hot mug of coffee. Curl up with a cozy blanket or sit in the outdoors as you read this, friends.

Here are self care strategies that will serve you well as therapists or health care professionals.

Self care strategies

Self Care Strategies

Using self care methods as a healthcare provider offers an opportunity to promote your own well-being in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle so that you are capable of serving those in need. Sometimes it’s good to turn your well-tuned “OT lens” on yourself, right?

Try these strategies for emotional self care and physical self care needs. Some ideas may work for some, but not others. Others may find just the coping tool needed to find peace or a sense of occupational balance during uncertain times.

Mindfulness Strategies– Meditation or mindfulness practice on a regular basis offers a time for respite in daily schedules. Mindfulness is a great tool for boosting mental health. By intentionally being mindfully aware in situations, you can focus on the current situation by being present.

Sensory Diet– As therapists, creating sensory diets is second nature. But, when the feelings of stress and burnout occur, what if we turned out therapy hat onto ourselves by using those very sensory tools as coping strategies? Here is an explanation of what a sensory diet is to get you started. Think outside of the box when it comes to identifying needs.

You may not be experiencing the typical signs of sensory distress, but worries, sadness, or emotional fluctuations can be a change from the norm that are impacted by a few sensory tools. Here are tools for creating a sensory diet that works for you.

Turn off the News (or Facebook!)- We talk a lot about screen time for kids, but adult screen free time is important, too! Giving your brain a rest on what other’s think or see is a way to give your mental health priority.

When everyone’s got an opinion (and it’s not at all encouraging, hopeful, or helpful…) all of that information can man overload in your brain that builds the stress levels.

Give yourself permission to social distance from and social media.

Journaling– Using a journal to self-reflect is a means of taking time to think through thoughts and emotions. By writing out problems, one can reflect on possible solutions and problem solve ways to address concerns. Your journal is a place to be kind to yourself. Use it well!

This self-reflection journal for therapists is a good way to keep track of your thoughts, progress, and work during this unprecedented time in history.

Yoga/Exercise- Schedule time in your day for some exercise, whether that be a 10 minute walk, yoga stretches in the morning, or a full exercise routine. Take a walk after work or at the end of the day, or do a quick YouTube video to get the blood moving.

Physical exercise, especially aerobic exercise has been show to improve regulation, emotions, and mood. For the busy therapist, a treadmill workout that fits into everyday schedules is the way to go.

This is the time that I love to run along to music, podcasts, and even Netflix when running on the treadmill. Can you pair a HIIT treadmill workout with an OT podcast or fun movie?

Self-Reflect- Take a good look at this whole situation. When you step back for a moment, it’s pretty darn surreal, right? We are in the middle of a very fascinating yet scary experiment in social awareness, communication, emotions, health, and everything about modern life! We as therapy providers teach kids about self reflection.

We instruct clients of all ages about tools and strategies to self-reflect for awareness into specific occupations so they can thrive.

Take just a few minutes to create a self care assessment of how you are responding to current situations. How can you use that information to come up with a plan?

Can you take a minute for personal self-reflection, and come up with a few coping strategies that will work for your situation? Think about what you would say to a client in the same situation.

Sleep in- Saturdays used to be full of kids’ sports, running to the market, appointments, events, visiting, errands, and all sorts of tasks, right? Use the slower days to give yourself a dose of rest. Sleep in an hour. Or as late as the kids allow. If sleeping in is a no-go, try an afternoon nap when the kids nap or hit the hay an hour or two earlier.

Focus on Efficient Sleep- At the very least, aim for effective sleep. Turn off the screens right before bed. Use a fan or white noise. Add light reducing curtains. Open a window for a cooler sleeping environment. Layer on a heavy blanket or weighted blanket for added proprioceptive input. Reduce caffeine in your diet. Sleep is good and good sleep is better.

Drink Water- Be sure you are drinking enough water. Schedule an alarm on your phone if needed.

Go Outside- Just sitting outside or being outdoors can make a difference. Breathe the fresh air, notice the birds, chat with the neighbors. Be mindful of your surroundings and notice your senses and how the air smells, the breeze feels, focus on the warmth of the sun, and the sounds around you.

Read a book- Spending a few minutes in another world can take your mind off things. Don’t have the energy to read? Try a podcast or audio book.

Turn off Notifications- Constantly being available wears on a person. With working from home, it’s possible that work hours run into the evening. Turn off the message and email notifications to give yourself a break.

Advocate for Yourself- When things build up, emotions can run deep. This article on AOTA offers some advice for self-advocating to address emotional, physical, or cognitive needs. We teach our clients about self-advocacy. Use those tools on yourself, too!

Set realistic expectations- Just because you don’t have the regular commute to work and now supposedly now have all of this time on your hands, you don’t need to try a new hobby, learn to cook, keep the house clean, teach the kids, maintain a schedule of 15 teletherapy sessions a day, and start running.

Give yourself flexibility and maintain realistic expectations for the time that you have during a day. Consider you personal tasks, abilities, and limitations. Give yourself some leeway. You don’t need to get it all done plus take on more.

Gratitude- Identifying things that you are thankful for has been shown to impact anxiety, depression, and worries. Write down one thing that you are thankful for each day. Use the time right before bed to identify one thing that happened during the day that you are grateful for. That simple thought of positivity can be very impact.

Deep Breathing- Deep breathing exercises aren’t just for the kids! Deep breathing is a tool for all ages. Deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth activates the regulatory system and offers a means for better for rest and digestion, by impacting the parasympathetic nervous system.

Phone a Friend- Talking to a friend or family member is one way to work through problems. Practice well-being by talking with someone who cares

Listen to a Podcast- Try a self-help podcast, a mindfulness podcast,

Focus on Executive Functioning Skills- As therapy providers, we know the power of tweaking a few executive functioning skill areas. Procrastination, time management, and breaking down tasks can be a game changer in achieving goals and getting things done. When you just don’t feel like moving, a few executive functioning tricks can be the ticket to effective use of time.

Still need more ideas to cope with difficulties as a therapy provider? Try to add just one or two of these self-care strategies into your daily tasks. Put some tasks aside (like chores that can wait until the weekend) and focusing on the most important items that need accomplished in the day. These tips for attention and focus can help.

They are the same strategies that we recommend to our clients, so using them for our own lives should be easy, right? We as occupational therapists are masters of adaption!

Use these self care strategies to cope with challenges in work.

psychological self care

An important component of all of the self-care strategies listed in this post is the psychological self care aspect.

By the term “psychological self care” we are referring to the specific actions and practices that we as therapy providers can engage in as a tool to support our mental and emotional well-being.

This means that we, as OT professionals, take care of our psychological needs, knowing that stressors impact our ability to manage stress, engage with others with empathy, and function in day to day tasks. When we have the appropriate tools to support mental health, we can be proactive and intentional about setting boundaries.

Not only is the emotional aspect of self-care a form of self-awareness and self-compassion, but it builds resilience in ourselves. Having coping mechanisms, stress relievers (like taking a minute to do relaxation breathing even during a busy day) supports social, emotional, and mental health needs.

All of these tools are strategies we have in our therapy toolbox as professionals, but sometimes, pulling out the correct resources for ourselves is more difficult than supporting our clients.

Taking care of our psychological needs is an important part of therapy self-care and promotes mental health.

Affiliate links are included in this post, but I only recommend products that I own, and love!

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

Cross Crawl Exercises

cross crawls

This article covers cross crawl exercises as a brain break tool and a bilateral coordination strategy to add sensory movement. Have you heard the term cross crawl and wondered what that meant? As parents, educators, and therapists, we are always looking for ways to help promote overall development of the children in our lives. One way to build connections in the brain and body is through meaningful exercise. In this post, we will focus in on a super important type of exercise: the cross-crawl.

Related: Butterfly Balance and Coordination Exercises 

What is a Cross Crawl

What is cross-crawl?

Cross crawl is defined as movements or cross lateral actions that are exercises that describe a category of movement – not just one exercise. Cross-crawl exercises are movements that involve crossing the midline of the body, which is an imaginary line that divides the body into left and right halves. You may have heard of the phrase bilateral coordination and crossing midline used with cross-crawls, too. 

The movement utilizes both hemispheres of the brain in a whole-brain activity by bringing self-awareness to the body (body awareness) as well as the physical coordination needed to create the physical, cross-lateral movements.

Cross Crawl exercises are specific cross lateral (one side of the body crosses, or reaches over to the other side of the body) movements designed to activate both sides of the brain and improve coordination, balance, and motor skills using a set number or repetitions.

Cross-crawl exercises can be as simple as marching or as complex as dancing, but they all involve movements that require the left and right sides of the body to work together while completing opposing actions. This might include: yoga, crunches with oblique rotation, standing and touching the right hand to the left foot/left hand to the right foot, standing and touching one elbow to the opposite knee, etc.

Pretty cool, right? 

Benefits of cross crawls

What do Cross Crawl Exercises do?

What are the benefits of cross-crawl exercises?

Cross-crawl exercises offer a wide range of benefits for children of all ages. 

Here are some of the most important benefits of cross-crawl exercises:

Improved coordination: Cross-crawl exercises help to improve coordination between the left and right sides of the body, which can lead to better balance and overall coordination. The cognitive coordination is visible as the child thinks about the action needed to complete the exercise and then works through the motor plan to complete the movements. 

As that action becomes more fluid, the movements occur in a more rhythmic way.

Increased brain activity: These exercises activate both sides of the brain and often challenge it to coordinate new motor plans. This can improve cognitive function and help children learn and remember new information.

Brain development occurs through a variety of movements, sensory stimulation, experiences, and learning opportunities. The cross-crawl technique is a tool to add to the sensory movement toolbox as completing the cross-pattern movements moves from slow and intentional to ingrained and automatic. This is fluid movement happening.

Better motor skillsCross-crawl exercises can help children develop gross motor strength and coordination. They may be able to jump higher, fall less, run faster, climb to the top… you get the idea!

Some of the motor skills that can improve include:

Improved reading and writing skills: Crossing the midline is required during reading and writing. Practicing cross-crawl exercises has been shown to improve these skills by helping children develop better eye-tracking (visual tracking) and hand-eye coordination. These can be a great classroom brain break for academic work.

Add the cross crawl activity to your list of ways to add movement to the classroom!

Reduced stress and anxiety: Cross-crawl exercises can help to reduce stress and anxiety by promoting relaxation and mindfulness. This occurs because the nervous system’s responses play a huge role in how we think, behave, and respond to a given situation. We cover this in more detail in our blog post on the limbic system.

We talk about the mind-body connections of movement as a self-regulation tool to impact stress, worries, frustration, and anxiety in our resources on anxiety and sensory coping skills

An opportunity to recharge through movement is a great tool to have on hand for a real stress buster! 

In addition, there are significant social-emotional benefits to supporting stress and anxiety through movement.

Improved Confidence: When you are able to accomplish new things, like riding a bike, passing the swimming test, or compete in a high level of your sport, confidence soars! 

How to do a cross crawl exercise

How to do a Cross Crawl Exercise

A cross crawl is a simple, yet effective way to build skills. You’ll see below that development of cross-lateral skills occurs naturally through play in each age range. So what does a cross-crawl exercise look like?

How to complete a cross crawl exercise:

  1. When standing, bend the left knee to lift the left foot up off the floor. 
  2. Bend and rotate slightly at the waist to touch your right elbow to your left knee.
  3. Then stand back up straight again.
  4. Next, bend the right knee and bring the right foot up off the floor. 
  5. Bend and rotate slightly at the waist to touch your left elbow to your right knee.
  6. Then stand back up straight again.

Essentially, in cross lateral exercises, we are physically moving to connect the left side of the body with the right side of the body. This engages both the right hemisphere of the brain (with one action) to the left hemisphere of the brain (with a different action). Both sides of your brain are engaged and active through the movements.

There are many ways to connect the right leg to the left arm and the left leg to the right arm. Adding upper and lower body movements, plus rotation, to left and right sides of the body occurs naturally throughout the day in daily tasks. 

Let’s do a simple activity analysis of a daily task like washing clothes. Think about pulling a load of laundry out of a washing machine. 

  • You might need to bend at the waist and place your left hand into a washing machine, reaching down towards your right side. You see rotation at work, as well as reaching across the body. 
  • You pull heavy, wet clothing out of the washer and pull it across your body to place it into a dryer. 
  • Then, your right hand reaches across your body and down to push the wet laundry into the dryer. 

This is just looking at two simple actions in the whole task, and presenting one layout. This daily task can incorporate cross lateral movements in many different ways. What we see though, is that these actions occur naturally.

This simple exercise can be expanded on in many ways. We cover different ways to incorporate opposite sides of the body work in age-appropriate manners below.

Cross crawl exercises

Cross Crawl Exercises

It’s important to present kids with age-appropriate cross-crawl exercises for children as a tool that supports the areas needed for each individual.

Here is a list of cross crawl exercises that can be incorporated into obstacle courses, brain breaks, exercise sequences, etc. These can be modified to meet the needs of individuals of all ages. Find age-appropriate and play based cross crawl activities that occur naturally in daily tasks and interests listed below.

  1. Standing cross crawl- Stand on the right foot. Raise the left foot and touch the left knee to the right elbow. Hold the pose. Then raise the right foot and touch the right knee to the left elbow. Hold the pose. Try to maintain balance without falling.
  2. Seated cross crawl- Sit on a chair, bench, or surface without a back support. Repeat the directions from #1 in a seated position.
  3. Laying cross crawl- Lie down on the floor on your back. Bend at the waist and touch the right elbow to the left knee. Return to lying flat on the floor. Then, bend the left elbow and to touch the right knee. Repeat with trunk rotation for crunches with oblique muscle involvement.
  4. Bug exercise- Lie down on the floor with your arms above your head on the floor and your legs straight. Keep your right arm straight and raise it up as you raise your left leg straight up to touch your right hand to your left foot. Repeat on the other side.
  5. Standing cross crawl on an unstable surface- Repeat the directions from #1 while standing on an unstable surface such as a pillow, a foam exercise mat, at slanted surface, or a low step.
  6. Standing toe touch- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your arms stretched overhead. Bend and reach your right hand down to touch your left foot. Stand back up and repeat on the other side.
  7. Bridge cross crawl- Position in a crawling position with belly lifted up off the ground. Bring one knee up and touch the opposite elbow to the knee. Repeat on the other side.
  8. Plank cross crawl- Position in a raised plank position. Carefully lift one hand and reach down to touch the opposite hip. Return the hand to the plank position. Repeat on the other side. Then try touching the hand to the opposite knee.
  9. Plank leg raise- Position in a raised plank position. Bring one knee up and touch the knee with the opposite hand. Repeat on the other side.
  10. Seated toe touch- Sit on the floor with legs spread wide. Reach across the body and touch the right hand to the left toes. Hold. Then repeat on the opposite side.

Here are some age-appropriate variations of cross-crawl exercises that children of all ages can enjoy:

Infants (birth -1 year): Before they are able to crawl (my favorite cross-crawl exercise!) you can teach your baby the motions while they lay on their back. 

Make it fun with a song or silly sounds and gently move the arm down and across the body while the opposite leg moves up and in – just how it would look if they were crawling. 

  • Use floor play activities
  • Use toys to encourage crawling
  • Place a bin or basket to one side and balls, toys, or blocks the child can place into the basket on the other side to to encourage rotation and reaching across the midline

Toddlers (ages 1-3): Toddlers can benefit from simplified cross-crawl exercises, such as crawling, rolling, and clapping. 

Encourage your toddler to crawl across the room (or  over furniture or your legs for an extra challenge!), roll from side to side, and complete high fives across all directions. They’ll love being able to play like this with you! 

  • Use a target like a blow up inner tube and encourage crawling and reaching across the body to sort colors like in this hand eye coordination activities for toddlers task.
  • Play follow the leader, simon says activities to encourage various movements
  • Climbing toys and activities
  • Hokey pokey games

Preschoolers (ages 3-5): Preschoolers can enjoy more complex cross-crawl exercises, such as hopping on one foot, skipping, and dancing. 

Play music and encourage your preschooler to dance around the room, hop on one foot, and skip across the yard.

  • All of the ideas listed above, plus…
  • Freeze dance
  • Follow the leader
  • Simon Says commands that target crossing midline
  • Yoga poses
  • Standing cross crawl exercises

Elementary school-age children (ages 6-12): Elementary school-age children can enjoy a variety of cross-crawl exercises, such as crab walks, mountain climbers, and yoga. These movements can be added to brain break games like Simon Says, Follow the Leader, and Charades.

Encourage your child to try new activities and find ones that they enjoy. This is a great break activity for the classroom or for an after school brain break before doing homework!

  • More complex yoga activities
  • Quadruped cross crawl exercises
  • Twister game
  • Complex charade games
  • Gymnastics
  • Martial arts
  • Basketball
  • Soccer
  • Riding a bike
  • Climbing trees
  • Swimming
  • Climbing walls
  • Ribbon dancing

Teens (ages 13-18): Teens can benefit from more challenging cross-crawl exercises, such as martial arts, structured dance, and team sports. High school occupational therapy can support this age with various tools to encourage mental health, coping strategies, and learning. Encourage your teen to try new activities and find ones that challenge them both mentally and physically.

Use the complex movements in brain breaks for high school or middle school brain breaks depending on the age.

  • All of the activities listed above plus…
  • Complex yoga sequences
  • Horseback riding
  • Track and field activities like Discus/Shot put/javelin
  • Cross training activities for sports
  • Kickboxing
  • Weightlifting
  • Cooking
  • Tai chi
  • Sports like basketball, football, basketball, kickboxing, martial arts, dance, etc.

For more exercise ideas, check out the Motor Skills Exercise Wheel. You can also have a great time challenging yourself and the kids with an OT Obstacle Course! 

It’s clear that cross-crawl exercises are an important aspect of the complex brain and a part of childhood development that should not be overlooked. All ages can enjoy and benefit from cross crawls! 

By incorporating these intentional cross-lateral activity exercises into your child’s daily routine, you can help them improve their coordination, balance, motor skills, cognitive function, and overall well-being. So, let’s get moving!

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook walks you through sensory processing information, each step of creating a meaningful and motivating sensory diet, that is guided by the individual’s personal interests and preferences.

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is not just about creating a sensory diet to meet sensory processing needs. This handbook is your key to creating an active and thriving lifestyle based on a deep understanding of sensory processing.

Sydney Thorson, OTR/L, is a new occupational therapist working in school-based therapy. Her
background is in Human Development and Family Studies, and she is passionate about
providing individualized and meaningful treatment for each child and their family. Sydney is also
a children’s author and illustrator and is always working on new and exciting projects.

Hand Eye Coordination Activities for Toddlers

hand eye coordination activities for toddlers

If you are looking for fun ways to help toddlers develop skills through play, then this hand eye coordination activities for toddlers is for you. During the toddler years, there is much development happening. Whether you need fun ways to help little ones build gross or fine motor skills, this hand eye coordination activity will support the cognitive and physical development the young child can use for learning and play.

hand eye coordination activities for toddlers

Hand Eye Coordination Activities for Toddlers

Hand eye coordination refers to the coordination between visual input through the eyes and physical motor movements through an integration of the visual and motor systems in order to use the hands and arms.

These early years have many fine motor milestones that support functional skills and self-care. Additionally, the visual motor development of this age is huge!

Hand Eye coordination for toddlers is necessary for play, self-feeding, and increasing independence in young children.

This is a developmental skill that begins at a young age and progresses in skill and precision.

Examples of Hand Eye Coordination in Toddlers

Toddlers gain precision and accuracy in motor skills at a rapid rate. You’ll notice this as they become more and more refined in motor skills. Some examples of activities that require hand-eye coordination during the toddler years includes:

  • Throwing a ball
  • Catching a ball
  • Drawing with a crayon (Read about the best crayons for toddlers)
  • Stacking blocks
  • Age-appropriate toys like dolls or figures
  • Taking off socks/putting on socks
  • Taking off clothing (shirts/pants) and putting on clothing
  • Putting toys into containers, bags, purses
  • Participating in pretend play
  • Self-feeding using feeding utensils (Read here for tips on how to hold a spoon to encourage self-feeding skills
  • Drinking from an open cup

Why build hand eye coordination in toddlers?

There are many benefits to encouraging hand eye coordination activities in toddlers. Through play, you can create opportunities for young children to gain the type of play that the young child needs. This includes fine motor play, gross motor play, and not screen use!

Some benefits for toddlers to participate in hand eye coordination tasks includes:

Toddler Hand Eye Coordination Activities

Hand eye coordination activities for toddlers can be simple, yet fun. Some ideas include:

Try the hand eye coordination activity we did using an inner tube. This is a great color activity for young children.

This was a fun little play activity for the Toddlers.  Nephew (19 months) was with us one day and LOVED doing this.  

I put the blue inner tube and a little basketful of balls out on the dining room floor.  I put one ball into the center of the inner tube and he was INTO it!  Little nephew went crazy putting the balls in the center, taking them out, putting them back into the basket.  This was FUN!

What are we learning with this activity?

  • Eye-Hand Coordination
  • Toddler Visual-motor skills
  • Cause and effect (if I throw this ball into the center, it might bounce out…)
  • Learning colors
  • Gross Motor Skills (throwing, rolling, bouncing)

We’ve been on a BLUE kick around here these days.
This was a fun little play activity for the Toddlers.  Nephew (19 months) was with us one day and LOVED doing this.  

This little (and EASY…seriously, it does not get much easier than this…) game will be coming out again.  This Aunt can clean up the breakfast mess when something like this is going on!


Tips for Toddler Hand eye coordination skills

When setting up activities for toddlers, some tips include following the child’s lead. Offer support when needed, but allow the young child to participate in the process. Sometimes working and playing along side the toddler offers a model that the young child can copy if they like, but they won’t feel pressured and they still have the autonomy that gives them a sense of success.

Most of all, have fun!

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

Brain Break Games

brain break games

Brain break games are another brain break activity that is great for all ages. You can use movement games that are age-appropriate to meet the needs of preschoolers, middle schoolers, elementary school, students, high school students, and even beyond.

And this blog post will discuss games that act as brain breaks and can be used to incorporate Heavy work input, proprioceptive, sensory systems, vestibular, sensory input, visual input and more.

Also check out some of our quick brain breaks as they are easy to use in various game activities, too!

brain break games

Brain break games

One of the benefits of brain break games is that self-regulation is addressed, but also beyond emotional and social regulation is the ability to improve attention and focus.

So for these reasons, brain break games are a great activity for recess or for times when a classroom brain break needs to focus and pay attention.

Some brain break games are classic games that you and I know from our childhood. These are recess, games or party games that get kids moving, but also engage all of the sensory systems including proprioception and vestibular input.

As a therapist, I love to use brain break games as a warm-up for therapy sessions or a way to calm the child down before attend sending them back to the classroom. Not only that, but using a game version of a coping tool is so helpful for children. So let’s get on with our brain break break games for at each age

Brain break games for toddlers 

The toddler years are all about exploring, following directions gaining self-confidence and learning through experience.

These brain break games for toddlers, allow kids to improve gross motor skills and fine motor skills, but also explore and learn about the world around them. 

Try these brain break games for toddlers

  • Follow the Leader,
  • Catching a ball
  • Peek-a-boo
  • Sensory bins
  • Follow the leader (activities)
  • Dance parties
  • play blowing bubbles playing with Play-Doh coloring
  • Throwing a ball into a target
  • Reading a book
  • Snuggling
  • Tickling
  • Sensory play

Brain break games for preschoolers

During the preschool years, we love to see play as the main source of learning and skill development. Activities for preschool that engage, stronger hands and muscles also incorporating self-regulation is important for this age. Many of the fine motor activities for preschoolers that we’ve shared on the site are great movement activities for this age.

There is much social and emotional development happening during the preschool years, too so having self-regulation tools on hand is great because young children are not typically able to use these strategies just yet. Making it fun is key.

Some brain break games for Preschool include:

  • Animal walks
  • Duck duck, goose
  • Hot potato
  • Charades
  • Freeze dance
  • Red light, Green Light
  • Follow the Leader
  • The hokey pokey
  • Simon Says – Here are some great Simon Says commands in a variety of themes
  • Dance parties
  • Obstacle courses
  • Parachute
  • Sensory bins and sensory play

One last benefit for brain breaks for preschoolers is that when they play the games they are improving friendship skills, which is a great skill development in the preschool years.

Bring break games for elementary kids

We know the benefits of brain breaks in the classroom and adding some fun movement can help kids become engaged in because of the physical activity.

Some of these brain break games are great for recess or free time but also therapy sessions.

Brain break games for elementary start school students include: 

Brain break games for middle school

We know the benefits of brain breaks in the middle school. At this age kids are needing movement and activity, but also there is self regulation attention in organizational skill, emotional needs, mental health and wellbeing needs, as well as coping skills that need to be taught. 

Games for middle school include: 

  • Volleyball
  • Paper football
  • Dance break
  • Gaga ball
  • Flag football
  • Kickball
  • Floor hockey
  • Foursquare
  • Tag
  • Relay races

Brain break charades games 

Kids of all ages love to play charades and nice thing about charades is that you can encourage variety of movements and activities. Not only that, but charades offers gross motor coordination, creativity, imagination and problem-solving. This is a great group activity for students. 

Charade games that encourage movement include: 

  • Pretend to be a tree
  • Pretend to climb a tree
  • Pretending to be a flower,
  • Yoga poses
  • Do a specific dance
  • Pretend to run
  • Pretend to go fishing
  • Pretend to make a snowman
  • Pretend swimming
  • Actions like hopping, leaping, or jumping jacks
  • Shooting a basketball
  • Throwing a football
  • Catching a ball
  • Or, act out themes or actions of specific lessons from the classroom

Animal walk games for kids

It’s easy to incorporate activities like a balance beam, relay race, or obstacle courses into a motivating gamified activity. 

Simply create a challenge for kids, add a timer, and ask the students to beat a certain time. Or, you can race against the child on a scooter or by using specific gross motor coordination tasks that challenge motor skills. 

Try to use these animal walks in brain break games:

  • Crab walk
  • Bear walk
  • Elephant walk
  • Frog jump
  • Horse gallop
  • Duck walk
  • Snake slither
  • Gorilla walk
  • Penguin waddle
  • Butterfly fly
  • Bunny hop
  • Inchworm crawl

What are your favorite brain break games?

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

Quick Brain Breaks

Quick brain breaks

Need a few quick brain breaks to have on hand for a busy classroom or therapy session? These easy and fast brain break ideas are perfect to add heavy work, calming sensory input, and movement activities that help self-regulation needs. Explore all of the brain breaks below but be sure to check out the other resources we have on the site: brain breaks for high school, middle school brain breaks are just some examples!

Quick brain breaks

Quick Brain Breaks

In this blog post, we are sharing some quick brain breaks or activities that you can use for quick brain break ideas in the classroom. This is important because most classrooms are a busy place and there is a lot of material that needs to be worked through. Self-regulation needs don’t stop just because of a busy schedule!

Brain breaks support attention, focus, organization, and social-emotional needs. Not only that, but having a quick movement activity worked into the classroom allows students to re-focus and refresh for learning.

Why have quick and Easy brain breaks?

There can be a lot of activities kids are pulled for extra-curricular activities, special classes during the school day. Even with the fast pace of today’s classrooms, testing and full curricula needs to be done. Teachers are asked to fit more and more into the school day, so learning in the classroom follows a very quick pace.

But self-regulation needs do not follow along with that quick piece of the classroom. Because of this, and the schedule in the schools, quick brain breaks are needed to meet the needs of students: self regulation, emotional regulation, attention, and focus.

Having a handful of fun and easy brain break ideas on hand that you can pull out quickly in a moments notice is a true tool for teachers and therapists working in the schools.

As a school-based occupational therapist, I love to have a few two minute brain break ideas or three minute brain break ideas on hand, because having those quick movement breaks available to use at a moments notice is perfect, especially for students that are on the go in the classroom.

Two or three minute brain breaks are great because they can help students refocus and recharge so that they can pay attention and be productive in their learning in the classroom. This is great to fit into a busy classroom schedule…and a busy pediatric OT‘s full caseload.

Research on Quick brain breaks.

Studies have shown that switching between activities can support attention and attentional control specifically cognitive flexibility.

One study suggests that individuals that are better at switching between tasks then show better attentional control in skills. This happens because they are able to attend to certain stimulation, but ignore others.

When this happens, one is able to avoid distractions. This type of switching between activities would not work for every individual.

However, we can see that switching between activities does activate portions of the brain.

We know this, because another study determined that some sexual regions of the brain Are associated with the control and the ability to attend and regulate attention.

We also know from research that switching between activities supports one type of attention called sustained attention.

This skill, called quick activity switching, supports as sustained attention on tasks more so than those who don’t take breaks between tasks and just keep going.

All of this tells us that switching between activities (like when we take a break to do a different activity like a brain break), can support cognitive control, and the ability to switch attention and focus.

This is important because in every situation, we are prone to distractions or things in our environment that distract us. The ability to return to the task at hand is essential. Sustained attention with working memory to the task is needed for functional skills daily life tasks, and learning.

So knowing all of that, we can see that brain breaks that are very quick in nature (like a 2-3 minute brain break) can be really beneficial to students.

Quick brain break ideas

Let’s get quickly to some fast and easy three minute brain break ideas that teachers can use in a busy classroom.

These are great to help kids refocus and attend, especially when attention levels are super low or extremely high.

Some brain break ideas that can quickly help with refocus and self regulation needs include:

  • Brain teasers use things like crossword puzzles
  • Wordsearch puzzles
  • Riddles
  • Simon Says- We love our Simon Says commands because they are easy to attach to popsicle sticks and pull out at in the moments notice. Having some gross motor activities on hand that the whole class can do quickly is a real life saver for a classroom who needs to refocus and attend.
  • Chair yoga- Seated yoga is a great quick brain break idea because students don’t need to get out of their seats. They can get some added movement activating the vestibular and proprioceptive systems, which can be calming and organizing.
  • Counting activities- Students can use forehead tapping exercises or joint pressure input by counting as they do chair push-ups right in their seat.
  • Music breaks- turn on some music and allow students to chill to the music for a couple of minutes.
  • Dance breaks- Dance breaks are a great three minute activity because you can pull up some brain break YouTube videos and get the classroom moving and then get them right back to their classroom activities.
  • Breathing exercises- we have a lot of breathing exercises here on the website and you can print these off and have them ready to go at a moments notice. Print off our deep breathing cards to have on hand.
  • Stretching- Stretching is a great quick brain break because it offers gross motor coordination opportunities and activates vestibular and proprioceptive input while calming and organizing the body.
  • Relaxation Breathing– The quick breathing exercises activated by relaxation breathing calms and regulates.
  • Laugh Break- When was the last time you really laughed? A big belly laugh is a calming and organizing sensory task. A laugh break is when you activate your belly, laugh, and really get into the sillies. Much like the concepts behind relaxation breathing, proprioceptive input enables internal calming. The thing to consider is that as a result of a laughing break, you have emotional input that can help to switch back to an activity and focus. This might be a quick brain break that isn’t used all the time, but you can pull it out for something that is motivating if needed.

Guided drawing activity

One quick and easy brain break activity that I remember from third grade (which was many years ago) is a guided drawing activity.

You might call this a blind drawing activity, because when you when kids participate in this activity, they close their eyes and the teacher or the therapist describes a scene, and the students can then draw what they imagine with their eyes while their eyes are still closed.

The teacher can describe a very descriptive scene or an object, describing how the materials look the feel, and the shape of objects, etc.

The students can draw the object in the picture in using their mind’s eye. Then, once the scene is described, the student opens their eyes and looks at their picture.

Some guided drawing scenes might include:

  • A strange planet scene with a rocket ship, space aliens, with planets and stars in the background
  • An underwater scene
  • A forest scene with flowers, trees, and animals
  • A farm scene with farm animals, a barn, plants, and the sun

This is a very therapeutic activity and it supports spatial relationships, pencil control imagination, and creativity, as well as sensory processing because the student is hearing descriptive terms, and putting that onto paper. This is a great quick brain break for students because it’s calming and centering. Guided drawing is also a great auditory processing activity.

Quick Guided Meditation

One fast and easy brain break for students is to walk them through a two minute guided meditation.

For students, this might look like a very simple, guided meditation. Try this quick guided meditation for students:

  1. Ask the student to close their eyes and get comfortable in their seat.
  2. Ask the child to take a deep breath in through their nose, filling up their lungs and slowly breathing out through their mouth.
  3. Ask the student to imagine they are in a peaceful setting like a beach or a deep forest.
  4. Describe the scene around the child and ask them to take deep breaths as they imagine the air, feel of the grass or the ground and they can imagine the things that they can hear in their imaginary descriptive world.
  5. Encourage the students to keep taking deep breaths in through their nose and out through their mouth as they relax each part of their body starting at their head and working down towards their toes.
  6. Allow the student to rest with their eyes closed for a few minutes as they keep imagining the sounds that they hear around them.
  7. Finally, ask the students to open their eyes slowly and bring them back to attention in the classroom. There will be a definite and noticeable calmness.

Guided meditation is great for students because it gives them the tools they need to relax and reduce stress and anxiety. And, using guided meditation is an activity that they can carry with them into middle school brain break needs and high school brain break needs.

3 minute drawing activity

One quick sensory drawing activity that can be completed in 3 minutes or less is a “scribble drawing” exercise. Here’s how it works:

  1. Give the child or student a blank sheet of paper and a crayon, marker, or pencil.
  2. Set a timer for 3 minutes.
  3. Tell the student to close their eyes and position the writing utensil on the paper surface. 
  4. They should use the writing tool to make a continuous scribble or squiggle on the paper, without lifting it from the page.
  5. When the timer goes off, ask the student to open their eyes and look at their scribble.
  6. Then, show them how to turn their scribble into a drawing by adding details like facial features, added objects, details, and by coloring it in.

This activity encourages participants to let go of control and embrace the spontaneity and creativity of the moment. It also allows for exploration and experimentation with different materials and textures, and can be a fun and engaging way to promote relaxation and stress relief.

Do any of these Quick brain break ideas work for your classroom? It’s always good to have new strategies on hand.

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