This Valentine’s Day bilateral coordination activity uses a vivid salt tray in a way that encourages coordination of both hands together in a visual motor integration task. A fun heart themed activity is a great addition to an occupational therapy Valentine’s Day plan. Use this and other bilateral coordination activities in the home, classroom, or therapy clinic.
This bilateral coordination activity is a take on our Shamrock bilateral coordination activity that we did last year. It was a great way to encourage kids to work on visual motor integration while allowing them to use both hands together in a coordinated and functional manner.
Bilateral Coordination Activity for Valentine’s Day
Using both of the hands to copy heart designs from a different visual plane is a hands-on activity that really works the brain, eyes, and hands together.
Development of bilateral coordination results in improved independence in skills like feeding and self-dressing, handwriting, and many other skill areas. Get creative with a salt writing tray to work on many underlying skill areas that are needed for handwriting and motor planning in functional tasks.
First, let’s talk a little more about bilateral coordination:
Why is bilateral coordination important?
Bilateral coordination is important for a variety of skills.
When bilateral coordination or bilateral integration is intact and progressing appropriately through development, it is an indicator that both sides of the brain are communicating effectively and sharing information during functional tasks.
Younger toddlers and babies can be observed using both hands in play as they pick up objects in their line of sight. However, they typically will pick up items with the hand that is closest to the object or toy.
As toddlers progress in development, they will begin to establish a dominant hand and crossing midline. This ability to utilize a dominant hand and a non-dominant hand in activities indicates a maturation of the brain and lateralization in functional tasks, which is very important for motor planning, directionality, and visual motor skills.
In fact, impaired bilateral coordination skills can lead to difficulty in the classroom.
Development of bilateral coordination in self-feeding depends greatly on the child’s developmental level. The baby who is learning to place dry cereal in their mouth will be vastly different level than the child who is scooping soup or cutting a piece of chicken. Development of fine motor skills and visual motor skills have an impact on coordination of the hands in self-feeding.
What makes up bilateral coordination?
In fact, there are three components of bilateral coordination:
Dominant hand/supporting hand movements This post contains affiliate links.
This was an easy activity to set up. We started by making colored salt to use in our salt tray. Materials to make the colored salt:
- Sandwich baggie
- Washable paint (one or two squirts) 1.5 cups
- Salt 1/4 cup
- glitter (We received ours from www.craftprojectideas.com)
To make your own, fill a sandwich baggie with washable paint, salt, and glitter. We used red, but any color would be fine for making the colored salt. The amount of paint can vary. More paint will yield a more vivid hue. Know that using more paint will require a longer period to dry the salt.
Then, simply shade the baggie until the salt is coated with paint. This is a fun activity for kids to move with gross motor coordination and a creative way to sneak movement into the classroom.
Once the sand is coated with color, spread it out on a cookie sheet. We let our salt dry overnight. Note: if the salt is still wet, the paint will color your hands. Once it’s dry, it will not color your fingers. If you do end up with color on your hands or cookie sheet, just wash it off in warm soapy water. That’s the beauty of using washable paint for this project. When you salt is colored and ready to play, spread it out on a tray. I used a big shallow platter.
Quickly draw a few hearts on paper and prop them up vertically in front of the tray. A vertical placement is important for addressing the skills needed to copy written work from an overhead source such as a chalkboard or smart board in the classroom.
Kids will need to shift their eyes from the vertical plane to the horizontal plane in order to copy the heart patterns in the salt tray. Encourage use of both hands to make the hearts, starting at the middle point and using both hands at the same time. Show your child how to look at the vertical sample or at the starting point on the salt tray. You don’t want them to look at only one hand at a time as both hands are working together to make the heart shape.
What is going on with this visual motor integration activity?
While creating a heart shape as described above, the child is using his visual sense to guides movement through peripheral vision. This activity uses whole body movements to improve skills, including learning and functional tasks.
The activity encourages children to use both hands together. The point of the activity is to establish direction and orientation relative to the child’s body. The movement activity addresses hand-eye coordination in different visual fields, promotes spatial awareness and visual discrimination, addresses left and right awareness, improves peripheral vision, promotes body awareness and coordination with specialization of the hands and eyes, and works on gross motor movement skills. Using both hands to draw and copy from a visual prompt like this activity is an excellent way to promote whole body learning through simple and fun movement activities.
Watch for these things:
- While drawing, watch the child for stiffness in the hand, wrist, or arm.
- Remind the child to keep their eyes fixed on the starting point at the center of the heart.
- Remind the child to keep both fingers in contact with the sand. They shouldn’t lift their fingers at all.
- Watch for bilateral coordination, ensuring that both arms are moving at the same speed, distance, and positioning.
Related: Need some indoor bilateral coordination activities like this one? Try our list of Winter Bilateral Coordination Activities that kids will love!
More Valentine’s Day Occupational Therapy Activities
Heart Fine Motor Math Activity
Heart FIne Motor Sorting Activity
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.