Heartbreaker Valentine’s Day Activity Smashing Peanut Shells


Sometimes, you need to let out a little steam.  Valentine’s Day comes with a season of hearts, pink, and love everywhere.  This heart breaker Smashing Peanut Shells activity is perfect for the broken hearted…or for just having fun with a fun holiday!  Add it to an occupational therapy Valentine’s Day themed session or two. 
DISCLAIMER- This sensory play activity has sensory benefits, but it is not for everyone! Be cognizant of peanut allergies as the activity can leave peanut residue in the air or play space. Children who may place small items in their mouth should not participate in this activity. Use protective eyewear such as safety goggles as the peanut shells may fly. As ALWAYS, use common sense when choosing an activity to do with a child. The OT Toolbox is not responsible for your use of this activity. 
Now that the important stuff has been addressed, let’s get onto the fun stuff. I love to pull sensory play into our activities.  This smashing peanut shells activity was a great one for getting out a little aggression and adding a little proprioception into our day.  Kids will need to use their visual perceptual skills for this activity as well, so this was definitely a way to work on sensory in a very fun Valentine’s Day-themed way!


Broken heart? Celebrate Valentines Day with a smashing good time! Proprioception activity for kids with peanut shells.


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Valentines Day nuts. I'm nuts for you!
We started with just a few items.  A bag of peanuts, red and pink 

acrylic paints, and the wooden hammer from our peg pounding toy.

I started by cracking some peanuts.  The kids were happy to join in for a snack they love.  Let those kids crack their peanuts! Cracking peanuts is a fabulous fine motor activity.  When we had a pile of shells, I gave them a quick rinse under cool water to remove the salt and any peanut dust.  We popped the shells into an oven set at 200F for about 10 minutes to quick dry the shells.  You could let them sit overnight as well.

Once the shells are dry, pull out the paints.  I painted hearts on a few, and painted the rest red or pink.  Little Sister (age 3) helped out with this part.  She is my paint-loving kid.  Painting the peanut shells was a fun twist on her favorite activity and a pretty cool way to be creative.

Paint peanut shells for a sensory experience with kids.  This is fun for Valentines Day.  I'm NUTS about you!

Let the paint dry. Admire the adorable-ness.



Valentine’s Day Proprioception Activity


Now for the fun part!  My kids were anxiously waiting for those peanuts to dry!  Once we were ready to start, I pulled out our big cutting board and we got started with our shell smashing fun.

This activity is awesome for proprioceptive input.  


What is proprioception?  

Proprioception is a sensory process of the body that allows input to be regulated and responded to with motor movements and positions.  Whaaat, you ask?  The proprioceptive system receives input from the muscles and joints about body position, weight, pressure, stretch, movement and changes in position in space.  Our bodies are able to grade and coordinate movements based on the way muscles move, stretch, and contract. Proprioception allows us to apply more or less pressure and force in a task. Instinctively, we know that lifting a feather requires very little pressure and effort, while moving a large backpack requires more work.  We are able to coordinate our movements effectively to manage our day’s activities with the proprioceptive system.  The brain also must coordinate input about gravity, movement, and balance involving the vestibular system.

Banging that hammer and smashing those nuts requires work to smash the nut shells.  You can place the hammer on the nut and press down to get a satisfying “crunch” or you and hold the hammer over your head with both hands and swing it down HARD on the peanut shell.  Either way is fun (and we tried both techniques!)





Valentine’s Day Visual Perceptual Activity:

 Visual perception is anther piece of the sensory systems in the body, and this Valentine’s Day activity is a great way to practice visual scanning and eye-hand coordination.

What is visual perception?

Visual perception is the ability for the eyes to process information, resulting in sight.  Visual perception includes many abilities including scanning, figure ground, tracking, visual memory, visual closure, form constancy, visual discrimination, and eye-hand coordination among other skills that allow us to see and use that information for function.
Locating the red and pink nuts on the surface of the cutting board requires visual scanning.  Using the hammer in a coordinated way to bring it down and hit it requires eye-hand coordination.  
What a lot of systems the body is using to do a simple (and fun!) activity!




Side-note:  (This is your warning!) This activity makes a MESS! As much effort as I used to keep the dust and nut fragments contained, we still had shell pieces everywhere!  I had the kids playing right on our hardwood floors, so clean up wasn’t too bad.  A quick sweep up with the broom did the job.  But, if you are concerned with bits of shells and the mess is a concern for you, I would consider doing this activity outside.  Other options would include a large shallow pan or working on a table cloth that can be shook out over the garbage can.  Also note that kids with allergies should not participate in or near this activity.  As always, use your best judgement with your kids.  If they tend to put small items in their mouth, this is not an ideal activity.  Hold onto it, Pin it. And come back to it at another time.  All activities that we document on this blog are supervised.  The information on this website should not be used as medical advise.  Please contact a therapist for an individualized evaluation if therapeutic advise is needed.

I’m nuts about YOU, readers!
Looking for more Little Heartbreaker Activities? Try these:
Breaking Hearts: Fine Motor Play from Still Playing School
Catapult Science for Kids- Can You Break My Heart? on Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tail
Bubble Wrap Heart Breaking from House of Burke


Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.