Today I’ve got a fun astronaut theme play dough hand strength activity. There are so many fine motor benefits to using play dough mats in occupational therapy. And, actually, there are documented benefits of play dough itself as a therapy tool. We’ve had an intrinsic hand strengthening play dough mat on the website for a long time. It’s been one of our most popular fine motor resources ever since it was uploaded! There is a reason why: Kids need to strengthen fine motor skills, badly! It seems like there are more and more students who struggle with the necessary fine motor skills needed for a functional pencil grasp and other skills. They need hand strength!
Intrinsic Hand Strength with Play Dough
Using play dough, show the child how to roll a ball of play dough within one hand, using only the fingertips and thumbs.
This promotes development in a variety of areas:
- It strengthens the arches of the hands, helps awareness and coordination in separation of the two sides of the hand (finger strengthen exercises through play!)
- Promotes finger isolation for improved control and dexterity
- Encourages dexterity and coordination of the thumb and index finger which are important in pencil grasp,
- Strengthens the intrinsic muscles for improved endurance in fine motor tasks such as maintaining hold on a pencil, manipulating clothing fasteners, managing and using scissors, coloring, and many other tasks.
Because the simple play dough mat offered on this site has been such a need and so successful, We wanted to share a few other play dough mats that can also be used to encourage and develop these fine motor skills.
A the bottom of this post, you’ll find more ways to improve hand strength with play dough using free playdough mats.
Today we’ve got an Astronaut themed play mat. This mat is nice for incorporating into a space theme or for any child that just loves all things space!
For this play dough mat, you can ask children to pull off a small piece of play dough and roll it in their hand using only the fingers and thumb of one hand. To encourage intrinsic hand strength, dexterity, coordination, and endurance of the intrinsics, it’s important to use just that one hand. It’s part of the challenge!
Other uses for the play mat can include rolling the playdough with the palms of two hands. That’s a great activity too and fits perfectly with many children’s fine motor needs.
Play Dough Mat for Intrinsic Hand Strength
To use this play dough mat over and over again, add a layer of reusability by laminating the paper or slipping it into a sheet protector sleeve. There are different sizes of circles on the mat all with an astronaut theme. Each sized circle , requires the child to roll small or large play dough balls. This encourages more refined intrinsic muscle use and improved dexterity of the hands.
You can use the mat in several ways:
- Allow the child to fill the circles with play dough with random colors of play dough
- Assign different sized circles to different colors of play dough. This provides a visual scanning component to the activity
- Write numbers or letters in the circles, providing a visual scanning and letter order cognitive component
Need more hand strength ideas?
It’s my hope that these resources are a huge help for you! Here are a few more topics related to strength in the hands that you may need in your therapy toolbox:
Graded Precision in Grasp
More themed Play Dough Mats
Here are more free play dough mats available:
Here are more free play dough mats that you can print off and use to work on hand strength endurance, and fine motor skills:
Astronaut Play Dough Mat
Want to print off this astronaut play dough mat? Enter your email in the form below. You’ll receive an email with a link to access the file.
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.