Bilateral Coordination Toys

Bilateral coordination toys

Here we are covering all things bilateral coordination toys. When it comes to bilateral integration, coordinating both sides of the body in play can be a challenge for some children. These bilateral skills impact functional use of the body, motor planning, and bilateral integration as a whole. It’s through play that children can strengthen and develop this essential motor skill. Let’s dissect a few select toys that promote this skill.

Bilateral Coordination Toys

We’ve previously covered both fine motor toy ideas and gross motor toys. Today’s topic closely mirrors those areas. Today is all about the bilateral integration that goes into motor play. 

First, let’s talk Bilateral Coordination Toys!

Bilateral coordination toys are an occupational therapy intervention that helps children develop essential skills in bilateral integration. Toys that use both hands in a coordinated manner help children with bilateral coordination, crossing midline, and using both hands in tasks. These are essential skills that allow for an integration of both sides of the body, but more than that, bilateral coordination tells us that the brain is communicating effectively and sharing information between sides of the brain.

Today, I’m excited to share bilateral coordination toys and games to help support this essential skill.

Bilateral coordination toys for kids to develop coordination of both sides of the body.

Bilateral integration

Bilateral coordination in functional tasks makes up much of our day! Think of all of the other areas where you are using both hands or both sides of the body at the same time: getting dressed, tying shoes, cooking, typing, holding a book while reading, pouring a glass of water…the list could go on and on!

This integrated use of both sides of the body can be developed through play.

Using both sides of the body together is a skill needed for many tasks: writing with a pencil with one hand while stabilizing paper with the other hand is one such activity.

Another bilateral coordination task is cutting with scissors with one hand while holding and manipulating paper with the other hand.

For children with difficulty in crossing midline, or using integrated bilateral skills, using toys in play is an effective way to work on and nurture this skill.

Looking for a toy to work on bilateral coordination to add to your gift giving this holiday season? Today we are covering ways to build bilateral coordination skills using toys and everyday items. We also have another giveaway to share today. This time it’s a fine motor toy that promotes a variety of sills, bilateral integration being one of them. I wanted to highlight this as a toy for building bilateral coordination because as we know, promoting this skill is a valuable building block to other tasks such as handwriting, cutting with scissors, self-care tasks, and more.

Working on bilateral coordination in play is a means and a strategy for building this essential skill. So, why is bilateral coordination so important? And what exactly does bilateral coordination mean?

DIY Bilateral Coordination Toys

We’ve shared quite a few bilateral coordination toys and DIY activities here on this site in the past.

A bilateral coordination lacing plate is a DIY toy and activity that can be used to work on coordinated use of both hands with a variety of themes.

Using puzzles and games that you already have with an extra special addition can be a great way to work on bilateral coordination with puzzles.

Play dough and sensory doughs are fun ways to play while working on skills like bilateral coordination and other motor skills.

Stickers are an easy way to work on bilateral coordination and can be used in the classroom, clinic, or home and in combination with obstacle courses and other motor activities.

Pegboards (both DIY and store-bought versions), are a fantastic way to work on bilateral coordination in play and in developing visual motor skills and coordination.

DIY pick-up sticks are a fun way to address bilateral integration and coordinated use of both hands together.

Making DIY lacing cards are a fun way to work on bilateral coordination. Making the lacing cards is part of the fun.

Miniature rhythm sticks can be a musical and creative way to encourage bilateral coordination.

Lock and keys games like with this DIY lock and key activity makes fine motor development an out of the box way to work on skills kids need for independence and instrumental activities of daily living.

Bilateral Coordination Toys

There are many bilateral coordination toys on the market as well. Let’s take a look at some toys and games that you can add to your therapy toolbox.

Amazon affiliate links are included below.

Pop Tubes Toy for Bilateral Coordination– Pop tubes can be used in many ways to work on bilateral skills. Use them for a fine motor bilateral coordination task, or use them to work on a large scale or small scale. Wrap one around a wrist and build off of that tube. Or create a chain of tubes. Hold one and drop objects through the tube and into a container. How will you use this bilateral coordination toy?

Bilateral coordination toy for use in bilateral coordination obstacle courses and other occupational therapy interventions.

TruBalance Bilateral Coordination Toy This toy requires both hands as well as the eyes to challenge balance, coordination, and bimanual skills. Kids can work with this toy while sitting, standing, or in more challenging positions. Try incorporating couch cushions for a balance activity. Use this toy in a bilateral coordination obstacle course. Kids can use the pieces in a scavenger hunt type of activity where the parts are scattered at various levels and positioning, allowing the child to crawl, climb, walk, or squat while balancing the toy. The options go on and on!

Use nuts and bolts activities to help kids develop bilateral coordination.

Nuts and Bolts Bilateral Coordination Toy– This nuts and bolts activity is great for developing fine motor skills as well as bilateral coordination by requiring the child to use one hand to manipulate the parts while the other hand acts as a stabilizer. This is a nice way to develop skills needed for tasks like handwriting, pouring, stabilizing, cooking, etc.

Zoom ball in therapy can be used to work on bilateral coordination, visual convergence, core strength, shoulder stability, and motor planning.

Zoom Ball– This classic toy is such a great way to work on many skills: bilateral coordination, core strength, shoulder stability, visual convergence, motor planning, and coordination. Just like the TruBalance toy, a zoom ball can be used in different positions to challenge balance and vestibular input: Try using the zoom ball in sitting, standing, kneeling, standing on couch cushions, a slant…again, the options are limitless!

Thumbs up is a bilateral coordination game for kids.

Thumbs Up Game– This bilateral coordination game requires players to place rings on their thumb in a “thumbs up” position while they race to scoop and find the correct combination of colored rings to add to their thumb. It’s a fun racing game that builds visual perceptual skills too: figure ground, visual discrimination, visual memory, as well as the visual processing skill of scanning.

Lacing cards help kids develop bilateral coordination skills.

Lacing Buttons– There is no doubt about the power of lacing cards when it comes to developing bilateral coordination skills. However, this lacing buttons activity takes it up a notch with the eye-hand coordination and visual processing skills. Kids can lace buttons onto wooden shirt pieces while building bilateral skills, fine motor skills, and eye-hand coordination. However, the set also includes puzzle cards that ask the child to lace on colored buttons in specific order so it matches the cards. What a workout in visual processing skills, too!

use lacing beads to help kids with coordination, fine motor skills, and bimanual skills.

Animal Lacing Beads– These lacing beads are chunky wooden animals that help kids develop bilateral coordination, eye-hand coordination, fine motor skills, and visual perceptual skills. As an occupational therapist, I am drawn to this toy because of the different animals that could be used in sequencing activities, sensory bins, pretend play, stacking activities, and so much more.

Apple lacing activity for bilateral skills.

Wooden Lacing Apple– This lacing puzzle challenges bilateral coordination skills and can be used to work on eye-hand coordination, tripod grasp, and motor planning. Use this activity to help with stabilization as well.

Press blocks offer a sensory feedback opportunity for building bilateral coordination.

Press and Stay Blocks– These building blocks require bilateral coordination with a press so they stay, helping kids to develop bilateral coordination and get proprioceptive input to push them together and then take them apart. Building blocks are a great way to build fine motor skills and visual perceptual skills, and these are a great addition to your therapy toolbox collection.

Labyrinth Game This maze game is a favorite in our house, and a tool for building bilateral coordination and visual perceptual skills too. Kids need to manipulate two knobs at the same time and coordinate visual information with one hand or the other…or both. It’s a brain building challenge that involves both sides of the body. Challenge kids to do this activity in a kneel or while standing on their knees at a low table to challenge balance and offer proprioceptive input as well.

fine motor toy for kids

Octi Buckle Plush Toy with Hook and Loop Straps– This play toy is a strategy to encourage development of fine motor skills, problem solving, color matching, coordination, and more. This stuffed play buddy is a toy that promotes development of many skills, bilateral coordination being one of them.

Using toys that double as quiet time activities, busy bags, or travel toys…all while working on skills is what makes toys like the buckle plush toy a therapist-approved toy. A buckle toy, with bright colors, shapes, straps, and zipper pouch will provide countless hours of recognition activities, brain building games and development puzzles. Your little one will stay busy counting the number of straps, connecting them together, pulling them apart, and starting over again. Kids can hide small items and treasures in the zip pouch, then unzip it later and get excited over their discovery!

More Bilateral coordination activities

Some of the smartest and most creative folks I know are the readers of The OT Toolbox. I asked readers to tell me sensory strategies they personally love and use to address sensory modulation. Scroll through the comments…you might just find some new sensory strategies that will work for you! Hopefully we can learn from one another!

Also, check out these other soy suggestions based on therapeutic development through play.

  1. Fine Motor Toys 
  2. Gross Motor Toys 
  3. Pencil Grasp Toys 
  4. Toys for Reluctant Writers
  5. Toys for Spatial Awareness 
  6. Toys for Visual Tracking 
  7. Toys for Sensory Play 
  8. Bilateral Coordination Toys 
  9. Games for Executive Functioning Skills 
  10. Toys and Tools to Improve Visual Perception 
  11. Toys to Help with Scissors Skills
  12. Toys for Attention and Focus 

Gross Motor Toys

Gross motor toys

If you are looking for the best gross motor toys to challenge coordination, balance, motor planning through whole-body movement and heavy work play, then you are in luck!

We started off the fun with yesterday’s fine motor toy ideas. Today is all about the gross motor play.

First, let’s talk Gross Motor Toys!

Gross Motor Toys

Kids need gross motor movement for so many skills. Today, I have gross motor toys to share! Here, you’ll find the best whole body toys and ideas to help kids with balance, core strength, stability, coordination, and endurance. Scroll on to check out some therapist-approved toys that help gross motor skill development!

Gross motor toys to help kids develop skills in running, hopping, jumping, skipping, crawling, and more.

Gross Motor Toy Ideas

This list of toys for gross motor skills pairs well with our recent list of Fine Motor Toys. Today however, you’ll find toys that develop a few areas that are essential to areas of child development:

Bilateral Coordination– Kids need bilateral coordination in whole body movements to move their body in a coordinated way. These whole body movements can include coordination of the upper and lower body, or both arms, or both feet, and all of the above! Here are bilateral coordination toys to address this specific area.

Motor Planning– Motor planning with the whole body allows children to move in a room without crashing into objects or other people. Gross motor motor planning allows children to climb steps, navigate obstacles, or any movement-based task. Here is more information on motor planning and motor planning toys to address this specific sub-area.

Gross motor coordinationCoordination of gross motor skills is needed for tasks such as kicking or catching a ball, riding a bike, getting dressed, or any task that uses the entire body. Here are hand eye coordination toys to address this particular sub-area.

Proprioception– Integration of proprioceptive input allows children to know where their body is in space. It tells the body how much effort is needed to pick up and move objects. Proprioception allows us to understand the body’s position as it moves in a coordinated manner.

Vestibular input- Integration of vestibular input allows children to navigate the world around them as they move. Going up or down steps or bleachers is an example of this. Moving into different positions during tasks is another example of vestibular integration. Movement through different planes requires integration of vestibular input.

All of these areas work together in functional tasks and all are rooted in gross motor skills.

Related: This dinosaur gross motor game is a skill builder, as well.

Toys for Gross Motor Skill Development

So often, therapists and teachers purchase items to use in their work using their own money. This giveaway offers a chance for you to win an item that will be useful in helping kids thrive.

And, given that kids are on screens more than ever before with all of the virtual learning and hybrid learning models being incorporated all over the world, therapists are seeing more need for active, physical play.

These are gross motor toys that you will find in therapy clinics. There is a reason why…because they are gross motor powerhouses! So, if you are looking for toy recommendations that build whole body motor skills, this is it!

Amazon affiliate links are included below. You can read more about these items by checking out the links.

Zoom ball is a great gross motor toy for kids.

Zoom Ball– This classic toy is such a great way to work on many skills. A zoom ball can be used in different positions to challenge balance and vestibular input: Try using the zoom ball in sitting, standing, kneeling, standing on couch cushions, a slant…again, the options are limitless! Address skills such as:

  • Bilateral coordination
  • Core strength
  • Shoulder stability
  • Visual convergence
  • Motor planning
  • Coordination
Pop and catch toys can help kids develop gross motor skills.

Pop and Catch- Use this coordination toy indoors or outdoors to get kids moving. This toy can be played with while the child is standing, sitting, kneeling, or in a half-sit to challenge the core and eye-hand coordination in a variety of planes. Try playing on all fours on the floor for a shoulder girdle stability activity. Another use for this toy is by playing by standing at a table while the child shoots the ball across the table surface as they play like a ping-pong type of game. There are many uses for this pop and catch activity:

  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Motor planning
  • Vestibular input
  • Core strength
  • Stability of core
  • Stability of shoulder girdle
use bucket stilts to help kids develop gross motor skills.

Bucket Stilts– These bucket stilts are perfect for helping kids develop gross motor skills. I love this set because there are 6 colored buckets that make a great gross motor obstacle course tool, too. You could use them as stepping stones to challenge balance and coordination, too. Here are gross motor skills that you can work on using these bucket stilts toys:

  • Core strength
  • Vestibular input
  • Motor planning
  • Coordination
  • Balance
  • Endurance
  • Stabilizing
use agility cones to help kids build gross motor skills in obstacle courses and more.

Agility Cones– Sports cones are such an open-ended gross motor toy that can be used to develop so many skills: hopping, jumping, skipping, running, climbing, crawling…the options are endless. Use these agility cones in obstacle courses, challenges, drills, and more. I chose these particular cones because they can go very nicely with a Zones of Regulation activity! Use cones to support these areas:

  • Motor planning
  • Vestibular input
  • Coordination
  • Core strength
  • Endurance
Use carpet markers to build gross motor skills with gross motor obstacle courses, motor planning, and more.

Carpet Markers– These carpet markers are an occupational therapist’s dream toy! Use the colored marker spots to help kids work on so many movement skills in obstacle courses, visual perceptual skill activities, direction following, sensory movement breaks, positioning guides, and so much more. The arrows are perfect for addressing directionality. Use them to work on crawling, hopping, jumping, stopping on a point. Just some of the areas that these carpet spots support:

  • Core strength
  • Shoulder stability
  • Motor planning
  • Coordination
  • Endurance
  • Proprioception
A parachute is a great gross motor toy for kids.

Parachute– A parachute is another open-ended gross motor toy that the kids just LOVE. This one is small enough for small groups, but builds motor skills in a big way. Use the parachute to help kids develop:

  • Core stability
  • Arm strength
  • Motor planning
  • Endurance
  • Bilateral coordination
  • Proprioceptive input

Toys for Core Strength

Toys that develop core strength get kids moving in a variety of positions. These toys support and challenge the vestibular and proprioceptive systems so they can be calming activities as well. Strength and stability in the core is needed for almost all functional tasks. Challenge kids with these core strengthening toys by getting them moving, on the floor in floor play or strengthening the core muscles through movement and balance coordination. Some ideas for developing and strengthening core strength include:

Toys for balance

Toys that challenge movement changes, stepping from high to low and low to high, and movement with vestibular input offer opportunities to challenge and develop balance and coordination skills.

Gross Motor Coordination Toys

Encourage movement, whole body play, and gross motor coordination with throwing, tossing, and hand-eye coordination or foot-eye coordination skills with these gross motor coordination ideas:

Obstacle Course Toys

All of the gross motor toys listed above could be used in obstacle courses…and what a great way to encourage so many skills! These are perfect additions to your obstacle course ideas, and challenge balance, coordination, motor planning, and add sensory input. Use these obstacle course toys to vary movement and encourage the specific skills kids need:

Want to add these toys to your home, classroom, or therapy practice? I am SO happy to fill your toolbox so you can help kids thrive and build and develop the skills they need!

More therapy Toys

Check out the other therapy toy recommendations in the list below:

  1. Fine Motor Toys
  2. Gross Motor Toys
  3. Pencil Grasp Toys
  4. Toys for Reluctant Writers
  5. Toys for Spatial Awareness
  6. Toys for Visual Tracking
  7. Toys for Sensory Play
  8. Bilateral Coordination Toys
  9. Games for Executive Functioning Skills
  10. Toys and Tools to Improve Visual Perception 
  11. Toys to Help with Scissors Skills 
  12. Toys for Attention and Focus 

Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

Check out the blog comments below to see tips and ideas from readers telling us which gross motor toys they would love to use with the kids they work with and love. Have other gross motor favorites that aren’t listed here? Tell us about them!

Fall Cootie Catcher Template

Fall fine motor cootie catcher template

Working on handwriting with kids? This Fall cootie catcher template is a Fall writing prompt activity that builds fine motor skills. Just print off the cootie catcher templates, pick the one that works best to meet the needs of the child you are working with, and work on copying letters, words, and sentences. This cootie catcher PDF is a fun way to work on so many skills!

Fall cootie catcher for a fine motor writing prompt activity

We shared this Spring cootie catcher earlier this year and it was a huge hit, so this Fall themed printable will be loved as well.

Add this printable activity to Fall fine motor activities and Fall writing prompts.

What is a cootie catcher?

A cootie catcher is a folded paper game that includes squares and triangles that can be opened to contain written words or pictures. Cootie catchers are often used as a paper fortune teller game. A cootie catcher is an form of origami that kids can make, using a cootie catcher template. Once they practice using the blank template, children can learn the motor plan to create paper fortune tellers on their own.

In our case, we are using a cootie catcher as a fine motor tool for kids.

This one in particular includes writing prompts to make handwriting skills motivating and engaging for kids, with a Fall theme.

When you use this cootie catcher, kids can develop so many skills:

  • Bilateral coordination- When children fold paper, they use both hands together in a coordinated manner.
  • Hand strength- Pressing the paper into folded shapes requires strength in the hand to create a sharp crease.
  • Separation of the sides of the hand- Opening and closing the cootie catcher requires both hands to open and close at the thumb web space, and is a separation of the sides of the hand activity.
  • Arch development- Using fingers to fold paper develops arch development in the hand, which is needed for endurance in fine motor activities.
  • Finger isolation- Using a finger to fold and crease paper focuses on finger isolation, a dexterity skill in fine motor tasks.
  • Eye-hand coordination- Using the eyes and hands together to create and use the paper fortune teller develops and refines eye-hand coordination skills.
  • Letter formation- copy the words on the printable.
  • Spacing between letters and words- Copy the words and sentences and work on spatial awareness, letter formation, and legibility.
  • Letter size- Write words on the spaces on the blank template to work on fitting letters and words into the given space.

And those skills are just developed with kids use and play with the cootie catcher!

Cootie Catcher Template

This Cootie catcher printable includes four templates.

  1. You’ll find a printable fortune teller template pdf with instructions to write a word, sentence, or number.
  2. Next is a cootie catcher with sentence writing prompts in a Fall theme.
  3. There is a cootie catcher with Fall images which kids can write the name of the image.
  4. Finally there is a blank cootie catcher template.

This free printable cootie catcher worksheet is another Fall freebie in our Fall week.

Be sure to grab the other Fall printables that work on various skills:

Want to print off this free cootie catcher? Enter your email to the form below and you’ll receive this printable in your inbox.

Fall Cootie Catcher Writing Prompts

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    Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

    Playground Balance Activities

    playground balance activities

    Today I have a fun activity for kids…playground balance activities! This virtual playground activity has various movement and coordination tasks that challenge kids to work on posture, position changes, coordination, core strength, and much more. While playing at the playground is the way to go to develop gross motor skills, sometimes getting outdoors is just not possible. That’s where this playground therapy slide deck comes in!

    Playground balance activities for sensory play and coordination when going to the playground isn't possible. Use these in a playground theme in therapy activities.

    Playground Balance Activities

    When you think about playing at the playground, you think climbing, stooping, sliding, and balancing, right? There are so many ways that playing on playground equipment is such a powerful way to develop gross motor skills, balance, coordination, and overall strength.

    But, sometimes it’s just not possible to get out to the playground. Things like weather can impact playground use. Other times, limitations in using public spaces impacts use of the playground in the school setting. And, for therapists running therapy sessions, sometimes you want to incorporate all of the fun of a playground setting in the therapy clinic!

    When you access this playground balance activity slide deck, you get to pretend you are at the playground no matter what setting you are in. Then, by following the commands on each slide, children can get all of the benefits of stooping, crawling, balancing, and changing postures.

    Each slide on this free slide deck asks kids to follow the visual cue. There are visuals for different playground task. Things like:

    • Balancing on one leg by monkey bars
    • Stooping to pick up a ball
    • Kicking a ball
    • Squatting to play in the sandbox
    • Climbing on playground equiptment
    • Throwing a ball
    • Climbing on a merry-go-round
    • Jumping rope
    • Reaching up for monkey bars.

    Playground theme therapy

    By going through the playground exercises, kids work on a variety of areas:

    • Bilateral coordination
    • Motor planning
    • Core strength
    • Stabiliyt
    • Position changes
    • Sequencing
    • Motor control
    • Graded positioning
    • Posture
    • Balance
    • Direction-following

    These skills impact daily functioning in kids! Why not use a playground theme to work on these skill areas?

    When kids follow the directions on each slide, they are also gaining whole-body movements and heavy work input that can be calming as a regulation tool.

    If creating a weekly therapy theme works for your plans, then this playground theme is one you’ll want to add to your line up of occupational therapy activities and PT activities. You can use these playground balance exercises in therapy sessions to incorporate a therapy theme.

    1. Try using these visual playground strategies in between other tasks in a therapy session. Work on handwriting, scissor skills, and other functional tasks. And then come back to the balance activity. Then do another task and come back to the balance activity.
    2. Kids can work through the slides and try to remember all of the movements.
    3. Call out a piece of playground equipment and the child can recall the specific balance exercise. This is a great way to work on working memory and attention to detail.
    4. Incorporate handwriting: Ask students to list out all of the playground equipment. Work on letter formation, legibility, spacing, and line use. Then they can go through the slides and do the balance exercises.
    5. Add these activities to a sensory diet that helps kids regulate sensory input. Our outdoor sensory diet cards are the perfect combination to a playground theme!

    Free Playground Balance Activities Slide Deck

    Want to access this free therapy resource? It’s just one of the many free slides here on the website. All you need to do is enter your email address into the form below. You’ll receive a PDF containing a link to a Google slide deck. Copy it onto your drive and you are good to go! Start playing on the playground no matter where you are!

    Playground Balance Activities

      We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

      Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Tear Paper for Fine Motor Skills

      Tear paper fine motor activity

      Did you know you can tear paper to improve fine motor skills using materials you already have in your home? I have an incredibly easy fine motor activity to share: tearing paper! When kids tear paper, they are developing fine motor skills like grasp, hand strength, eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, and more. So often, parents are looking for easy ways to help kids develop fine motor skills, and the very material that can improve all of these areas is found right in the home. Let’s break down tearing paper as an amazing fine motor activity for kids.

      Tear paper to build fine motor skills and to use in occupational therapy activities like improving coordination, visual motor skills, and more.

      Tear Paper for Fine Motor Skills

      Tearing paper a simple fine motor activity that requires only scrap paper and your hands. In fact, tearing paper actually helps children develop so many essential skills: hand strength, hand eye coordination, precision, refined movements, bilateral coordination…

      When a child tears a piece of paper, they improve hand strength and endurance in the small muscles in the hand.  These intrinsic muscles are important in so many fine motor skills, including those important to handwriting and coloring, managing buttons and zippers, manipulating pegs, and more.  

      When paper is torn, the hands assume a great tripod grasp which is effective and a mature grasp for writing and coloring.  The non-dominant hand is assisting in the tearing and encourages appropriate assistance for tasks like holding the paper while writing, and managing paper while cutting with scissors.  

      Just look at the skills kids develop with a tear paper activity:

      • Hand eye coordination
      • Bilateral coordination
      • Pinch strength
      • Arch development
      • Intrinsic hand strength
      • Separation of the sides of the hand
      • Open thumb web space
      • Shoulder and forearm stability
      • Precision and refined grasp
      • Proprioceptive input
      • Motor planning
      Tearing paper is an amazing fine motor activity for kids to build coordination and hand strength.

      Paper Tearing Activity

      In this paper tearing activity, we use recycled artwork to create Torn Paper Art that would look great on any gallery (or family dining room) wall!

      Tearing strips of paper is especially a great fine motor task.  To work those fine motor skills, start with some junk mail or recycled paper materials and practice tearing.

      Tear paper into strips- To tear a long sheet of paper, you need to grasp the paper with an effective, yet not too strong grasp.  Tear too fast, and the paper is torn diagonally and not into strips.

      Make slow tears in the paper- Tearing the paper slowly while focusing on strait torn lines really encourages a workout of those intrinsic muscles.  

      Tear different weights of paper- Paper comes in different thicknesses, or weights. Practicing tearing different thicknesses really hones in on precision skills. We tore an 9×11 piece of painted printer paper into long strips, lengthwise.  The thin paper isn’t too difficult to tear, but requires motor control. Thicker paper like cardstock or cardboard requires more strength to grip the paper. The thicker paper also requires a bit more strength to tear with accuracy and precision. Tearing paper that is thicker like cardstock, index cards, or construction paper adds heavy input through the hands. This proprioceptive input can be very calming and allow kids to regulate or focus while adding the sensory input they need.

      Tear paper into shapes– Use the paper to create simple shapes like a circle, square, etc. You can make this task easier by drawing pencil lines and ripping along the lines. This is a fantastic way to build motor planning skills. Or, work on visual perceptual skills and try ripping paper into shapes without a template.

      Vary the texture of the paper– You can add a sensory component and use different textures of paper. Try painted or colored paper. Try printed paper or a rough paper like last year’s paper calendar. Try ripping cardstock or textured crepe paper.

      Work on tearing paper fringes- Tearing into the edge of the page, and stopping at a certain point requires refined motor work. It’s easy to tear right across the page, but requires precision and coordination to stop tearing at a certain point. To grade this activity easier, try marking the stopping point with a pencil mark.

      tearing paper is a fine motor skills workout for kids.

      Types of paper to use in tearing paper activities

      There are many benefits to using different textures and types of paper. Let’s take a look at some of the possible types of paper. These are materials that you may already have in your home. Varying the paper type in torn paper activities can help to grade an activity, or make it easier or more difficult. These are great ways to vary the amount of fine motor strength and precision needed, thereby improving fine motor skills and visual motor skills.

      Types of paper to use in tearing paper activities:

      • Junk mail
      • Old phone books
      • Recycled newspapers
      • Magazines
      • Flyers from school or the community
      • Printer paper
      • Notebook paper
      • Cardboard
      • Recycled food boxes (cereal boxes, tissue boxes, etc.)
      • Paper bags
      • Tissue paper
      • Crepe paper
      • Toilet paper
      • Paper towels
      • Napkins
      • Paper plates
      • Recycled artwork
      • Used coloring books
      • Cardboard tubes (toilet paper tubes, paper towel rolls)
      • Old calendars
      This torn paper art is a paper tearing activity for kids that uses recycled artwork to build fine motor skills and motor control while tearing paper.

      Torn paper art  

      This ripped paper art is a craft that is so simple, yet such a fun way to create art while working on fine motor skills.  

      Tear paper into strips to work on fine motor skills with kids.

      You’ll need just a few materials for ripped paper art:

      • Paper (Any type or texture will do…old crafts, kids artwork, or paper that has been painted)
      • Glue
      • Paper to cardstock to use as a base
      • Your hands!

      We all have piles of kids’ artwork that is gorgeous…yet abundant.  You keep the ones that mean the most, but what do you do with those piles of painted paper, scribbled sheets, and crafty pages?  You sure can’t keep it all or your house will become covered in paper, paint, and glitter.  We used a great blue page to make our torn paper art.

      Making the torn paper art is very simple. It’s a process art activity that will look different no matter how many times you do the activity.

      How to create torn paper art:

      1. Select a variety of paper colors, materials, and textures.
      2. Tear a sheet into long strips.  This will become the sky of our artwork.
      3. Use white paper to create cloud shapes. Tear the paper into shapes.
      4. Use green cardstock or other material to create grass. Tear small strips into the paper but not through to the edge. Create a fringe with the paper.
      5. Glue the torn paper onto the base page in layers.
      6. Use your imagination and have fun!

      A few tips for creating torn paper art

      Have a variety of paper types, colors, and textures available. Some ideas include using junk mail, recycled artwork, cardstock, construction paper, printer paper, crepe paper, cardboard, cereal boxes, etc.

      Use your imagination. You can start with an idea to create or you can go with the flow of the art creation and start without an idea.

      If you have trouble coming up with an idea for your torn paper art, try some of these:

      • Create a torn paper landscape
      • Create an object from ripped paper textures
      • Make a torn paper abstract artwork
      • Copy real life objects and make representational art
      • Create a ripped paper still life
      • Use all one color of paper in different textures to make a monochromatic artwork
      • Make abstract portraits
      • Tear the paper into shapes to make geometric artwork
      • Explore art concepts such as size, shape, color, lines, form, space, texture
      • Explore multimedia: Incorporate printed paper, painted paper, glossy paper, cardboard in different textures, crayon colored paper, etc.
      Tear paper into strips of ripped paper to work on eye-hand coordination in an occupational therapy activity with recycled materials.
      Tearing paper builds fine motor skills and endurance in fine motor precision, making it a fine motor workout!
      Ripping paper is a fine motor activity for kids in occupational therapy or working on fine motor skills at home.

       More paper activities

      Tear and paste activity with blue paper and green cardstock to create a torn paper collage.

      We used one of the long strips of green cardstock to create grass by making small tears.  Be careful not to tear the whole way across the strip!  What a workout this is for those hand muscles.  

      Use recycled art like painted paper to create torn art collage while building fine motor skills in kids.

       Next glue the blue strips onto a background piece of paper.  Tear white scrap paper into cloud shapes.  They can be any shape, just like clouds in the sky!

      Tear paper to help kids strengthen fine motor skills.

       Grab a piece of yellow cardstock and create a sun.  This is another fabulous fine motor workout.  Tearing a circle-ish shape and creating small tears really works those muscles in the hands.

      Tearing paper activity for kids

       Glue the sun onto the sky and enjoy the art.  

      More paper activities that build skills:

      Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Coin Activities for Kids

      Coin Activities

      These coin activities are fun ways to develop fine motor skills AND functional money skills. The fact is that coin sorting activities and counting coins activities are functional…they are tasks kids need to develop for daily living skills. But, did you ever stop to think about the fine motor benefits of playing with coins? There are a handful! So, grab a handful of coins and use these coin activities to help kids with fine motor skill development!

      Coin activities for counting coins and sorting coins as an occupational therapy tool and a functional task for kids as they use money in IADLs.

      Coin Activities

      This is an older blog post on the website, but one that has so many fine motor activities using just coins. You’ll find coin sorting activities, coin rubbing art, money counting skills, and counting coin activities that build math and money skills as well as fine motor skills.

      But, I also wanted to go into detail on the various ways kids can use a stack of coins to develop skills needed for fine motor tasks.

      You may have seen a previous blog post detailing the use of plastic gold coins to develop fine motor skills…today’s article covers real coins you have in your purse or pocket, and can be used for teaching money to kindergarten or first grade students.

      Coin Sorting Activity

      A warm-up activity with sorting coins is a nice start to the therapy session because it can help to connect with the child and that they are engaged in the process, using a functional task that is needed for IADLs.

      Coin Sorting Activity #1

      A nice warm-up to an occupational therapy session is this coin sorting activity: Once we’ve said hello and I have checked in with how my client is doing its time to ‘show me the money’. Place a pile of coins on the desk, and spend some time sorting coins into piles. I ask the child to show me the coins that match and we discuss what pictures we can see on the coins, what numbers we can see and how much the coins are worth. Sorting coins is a great task to work on a variety of skills:

      • Visual discrimination
      • Form constancy
      • Size awareness
      • Visual closure
      • Visual figure-ground
      • Visual memory

      Coin Sorting Activity #2

      Once we have looked through all our coins I ask the children to place the coins in a pile in front of them and close their eyes. With their eyes closed they must pick a coin and show me which one they have collected.

      I have a list of corresponding whole body, gross motor exercises that they must perform depending on the coin they have selected. These exercises will target specific gross motor goals that we are working on.

      The gross motor skills addressed with these coin sorting exercises include:

      • Core stability
      • Shoulder stability
      • Balance
      • Bilateral coordination
      • Posture and positioning changes
      • Vestibular input
      • Proprioceptive input
      • Eye-hand coordination 

      Grab this handout by entering your email address into the form at the bottom of this blog post.

      Coin Activities for Fine Motor Skills

      Once we are all warmed up and feeling focused and attentive, we are ready to work on our fine motor skills. One aspect of money counting skills that can be difficult for children is the fine motor component. These coin activities take into consideration, all of the fine motor skills needed for counting and sorting coins.

      In-hand manipulation activities are a great way to boost fine motor skills needed for tasks like managing clothing fasteners, using a pencil when writing, manipulating items like coins or beads, and more. 

      The dexterity that is worked on when picking up coins from a flat surface is huge!  You need to pick up the edges with a tip-to-tip grasp and perform in-hand manipulation to “squirrel away” the coin into the palm of the hand.  In-hand manipulation is moving an object within the hand, without help from the other hand. This resource explains ways to work on in-hand manipulation with coins.

      Stacking coins is another great exercise.  We put the quarters into piles and counted out dollars.  But at the same time, we were working on translation of the coin from the palm of the hand to the tips of the fingers.   Translation is a type of in-hand manipulation that you use when moving an object from the finger tips to the palm and vice versa.  Stacking requires a lot of controlled dexterity!  

      Stack coins for a fine motor workout and to improve coin sorting skills.

      Why are these skills important? Kids need to refine their fine motor skills and in-hand manipulation in order to manipulate the pencil with slight movements while writing, erasing, and coloring.  They need the small motor control to manage fasteners like zippers, snaps, buttons, and shoe ties. 

      Using coins is a wonderful way to work on so many fine motor skills. You can target selective finger movements, tactile discrimination, in hand manipulation and finger strengthening. 

      For these fine motor coin counting activities, ask the children to count out a certain number of coins. I have been working with the number range between 10 and 20 depending on the child’s age. 

      1. Use plastic coins to build fine motor skills– This blog post includes a free printable handout detailing coin activities. This is a great home exercise program for parents.
      2. Count coins. Use these ideas to work on counting money and building fine motor skills.
      3. Use coins to work on patterns and skip counting, but also finger isolation skills. This blog post includes a free handout to use in skip counting with coins.
      4. Coin road – line the coins up in a row as quickly as you can using only your right hand. The children enjoy competing with me during this task. Once completed ask them to perform this activity again using their left hand. 
      5. Coin flip – line the coins up in a row. Using only one hand flip each coin over starting at one end and flipping each coin until you reach the end of the row. Work from left to right to reinforce directionality. Repeat with the other hand.
      6. Coin stack – see how high you can stack your coins. Keeping going (and counting) until your stack falls over.
      7. Coin grab – using one hand see how many coins you can pick up and keep safe in your hand. Don’t drop any coins while you are collecting. 
      8. Coin counting – this requires a piggy bank or a parent to assist with making a simple money counting receptacle from a cardboard box or recycled container. See you many coins you can count within a time limit. 
      9. Playdough and coins – this activity requires the addition of playdough. Where this is available encourage children to make impressions of their coins with playdough, roll small balls of playdough and build coin sandwiches or roll snakes of playdough and stand coins in the roll to represent the scales. 
      10. Dice and coins – If your child has a dice available try the following activities. Roll the dice and see if you can pick up the number of coins the dice lands on. Roll the dice and set out your coins in the same position as the dots on the dice (re-create the dice number pattern).
      Make coin rubbing art to work on learning coins, and building fine motor skills in kids.

      Coin rubbing art

      Coin rubbing art is a fine motor activity with huge benefits that you can add to your math art ideas. Rubbing the textures of coins onto paper builds so many fine motor skills: precision, bilateral coordination, pinch and grip strength, and eye-hand coordination skills.

      To make a coin rubbing, you’ll need a few materials:

      • A handful of coins
      • Paper
      • Crayons
      1. First place the coins on a table. Be sure to place some coins heads side up, and others tails side up. This helps children to identify both sides of the coin.
      2. Place a piece of paper over the coins.
      3. Use the side of a crayon to rub the texture of the coin through the paper. The image of the coin will show up on the paper.

      Work on holding the coin below the paper without moving the coin (bilateral coordination.

      Work on rubbing the crayon at the “just right” level of pressure (proprioceptive input)

      Read more about the benefits of coin rubbing art projects in this sight word crayon rubbing activity that we did.

      Coin Activities for Visual Perception

      An important part of money lesson plans is identifying different images on the coins, to enable counting and money use. But, visually discriminating between coin size and images can be very difficult for some children. Then consider that each coin has a different “heads” side and a different “tails” side. Then, consider that there are different versions of each coin. In the U.S. for example, each state has it’s own version of the quarter. This can make coin counting very difficult for children with visual perceptual skill challenges.

      Visual perception Coin sorting – this is a great way to work on visual discrimination. I ask my children to draw four or five circles on a piece of paper depending on the different denominations of the coins. Then we sort out pile of coins into the different denominations. Each circle is home to a certain denomination of coin.

      The coin whole body movement exercises listed in the form below is a fantastic way to work on discriminating between coin differences. Sometimes adding movement to learning is a game changer, and this multi-sensory learning activity is sure to be a hit.

      Coin activities for kids to improve fine motor skills, gross motor skills, pencil control, and visual discrimination.

      Teaching Money to Children and Pencil control  

      Finally, the following money activities incorporate the skill of pencil control. Right around kindergarten and first grade level, students are gaining more precision and dexterity with pencil control. Why not work on both coin sorting and coin identification AND pencil control for a doubled functional task?

      Coin decorating – Ask your child to write their name in large letters and then place coins over each letter to decorate their name. This can be done with individual letters or numbers if you are working on number formation or letter formations

      Coin race track – encourage your child to draw a race track. Use the coin as a car and demonstrate how to drive the car along the track using an individual finger. Each finger can have a turn to drive the car. 

      Coin rubbings – place a few coins on the table and place a piece of paper over the coins. Rub over the coin with a crayon or pencil to produce the impression of the coin on the page.

      Free coin exercises or learning money with multisensory learning.

      More Activities for a Money Lesson Plan

      Occupational therapists know the value of multisensory learning and this list of coin counting and sorting activities are sure to build knowledge and functional skills in children. For a whole-body, movement based resource on learning coins, grab this coin exercise handout.

      Free Coin Sorting Exercises

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        Be sure to wash hands after manipulating coins!  And as always, keep a close eye on your child when coins are part of fine motor play to ensure safety.

        Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

        Weaving Projects for Kids

        weaving projects for kids

        Recently, I was looking into new ways to challenge fine motor skills for my clients – especially ones that did not require purchasing new materials. I wanted something that could challenge scissors use, problem solving, sequencing, attention, and could be used in prep for ADL skills, like buttoning. Then, it came to me: weaving!

        Weaving projects for kids including simple weaving and complex weaving activities to work on fine motor skills.

        Weaving Projects for Kids

        Weaving projects and craft are so simple, yet so effective – even the clients that I thought would be frustrated by this old-school craft were super proud of their work. Weaving is something you can do in many different ways, typically dependent on skill level and desired outcomes.

        Since we are talking about buttoning skills, I am offering two different options: an advanced one for the kiddos that are almost ready to button independently, and a
        beginner version for those who are not quite ready to button yet. I hope you adapt these crafts as needed to meet the “just-right” challenge!

        Related: Feathers and Burlap Weaving activity that builds bilateral coordination, eye-hand coordination, pinch, grip, and dexterity.

        Complex Weaving Instructions

        1. With two pieces of paper of different colors, cut strips of any thickness or length you’d like – just make sure you have an even number. The thinner and longer you cut them, the bigger the challenge. I like to use two different colors to make the task easier to understand and add visual interest.
        2. Cut holes for threading. Half of your strips (or all of one color) need holes for threading. Have your kiddos figure out how big the cuts need to be in order to fit the other strips of paper through.
        3. Fold the paper in order to cut two holes, side by side, throughout the strip of
          paper. This will be where you weave the other strips of paper through.
        4. Begin Weaving.
        5. Weave the remaining strips of paper (the ones without the holes) into the paper
          with the holes, making a basket-weave pattern.
        6. Here is where those buttoning skills come into play! The practice of moving the
          strip of paper through one hole and up and over through the next hole mimics the actions of buttoning and unbuttoning.

        If you are creating a specific craft, here is where you can make the weaved pattern into your kids’ desired shape! If you are unsure what you could offer, see the examples below.

        1. Draw the desired object on top of the weaved pattern OR use simple print out to guide the scissors.
        2. Cut the object out.
        3. Add extra paper or decorative objects with glue to seal the edges if you’d like!

        Does this sound a bit too challenging for one of your kids? You can lower the difficulty in a few different ways, but below is one idea that is particularly useful if your child demonstrates difficulty with visual motor or perception skills that are required for buttoning.

        Simple Weaving Instructions

        1. With two pieces of paper of different colors:
          a. Cut multiple, 1-inch thick straight lines to the edge of one piece of paper, leaving about an inch uncut on one edge to “hold” all the strips together.
          b. Cut 1-inch strips of the other piece of paper.
        2. Simply overlap the loose strips of paper onto the other cut paper, every other to make a checkerboard pattern.
        3. Maybe add a gluing or stapling component to challenge them in a different way!

        Weaving Projects for kids

        I know that it’s so much easier to motivate kids to complete a craft or activity if it is related to a season, holiday, or something that they are personally interested in. That’s one reason why I love weaving crafts – they are so simple at their base, that they can truly be used for anything!

        Fall Weaving Crafts- Plaid shirts, apple baskets, spider webs, or hay bales.
        Winter Weaving Crafts- Sweaters, holiday gifts, Christmas Stockings, or candy canes
        Spring Weaving Crafts- Easter baskets, Spring dresses, umbrellas, or raincoats
        Summer Weaving Crafts- Picnic blankets, picnic baskets, or beach towels.

        Or for the sporty kiddos in your life, make basketball hoops, soccer goals, tennis rackets, or hockey goalie helmets! The possibilities with weaving projects really are endless.

        Here are some additional weaving and buttoning crafts to get the ball rolling!

        More Fine Motor ideas to build skills:

        Working on building skills this summer? The Summer OT Bundle is for you!

        Summer occupational therapy activities bundle

        Work on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, scissor skills, and much more so that kids can accomplish self-care tasks, learn, and grow through play all summer long.

        This bundle is perfect for the pediatric occupational therapist who needs resources and tools to use in summer therapy sessions, home programs, or extended school year therapy plans.

        This bundle is perfect for parents, grandparents, and caregivers looking to provide developmental fine motor activities designed to help kids build skills.

        • Send kids back to school in the Fall without worrying about the “Summer Slide”.
        • Use these materials to work on areas like hand strength, fine motor development, scissor skills, handwriting, pencil control, pencil grasp, sensory play experiences, and much more. Just pull out the pages or activities you need for your child, and develop skills through play!

        The Summer OT Bundle includes 19 resources that you can print and use over and over again:

        Helping children develop and achieve functional skills this summer was never so easy (or fun!)

        Be sure to grab the Summer OT Bundle, a HUGE resource of therapy tools and activities for all things building skills this summer.

        Grab the Summer OT Bundle here.

        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.

        Water Sensory Bin Ideas

        Sensory water bins in therapy

        When the weather is hot, you need water play ideas that build skills…and make Summer memories! These water sensory bin ideas are perfect for HOT Summer days while incorporating sensory and motor skills. Use these water sensory bin activities in therapy or in the backyard to help kids build skills this Summer…and cool off!

        Sensory water bins and sensory water table ideas for water therapy with kids.

        Water Sensory Bin

        Now, you may be wondering what is a water sensory bin??!! A water sensory bin is a sensory play experience that uses water as a medium for holding various textures designed to promote sensory motor play and learning.

        A water sensory bin inspires motor skill development through the use of materials presented in water and the manipulation of tools to scoop, pour, and manipulate water and themed items.

        Water sensory bins inspire creative play, exposure to various textures, and motor skill opportunities such as laterality, bilateral coordination, grasp, precision, manipulation, grip and pinch strength, and others.

        And best of all, water sensory bins are a fun way to play and explore!

        Water Sensory Table

        Similar to a sensory water bin, a sensory water table is a sensory play experience using water and other materials in a water table. Water tables can be great for child development for toddlers and preschoolers as they are the perfect height for standing and moving around during play.

        Aquatic Therapy

        Water sensory tables, like water sensory bins, can be created in a variety of themes, designed for creative play or for learning specific skills or concepts. While aquatic therapy is often thought of as a gross motor therapy tool (using water or a swimming pool as a therapy medium for whole body movements, balance, and gross motor coordination), water bins and water tables involve water therapy play into a smaller scale of aquatic therapy. With a small pool of water, kids can develop and refine so many skills!

        In therapy, water tables and water bins can be used to focus on specific skills, including functional tasks. Let’s take a look at different ways that water bins and water tables can be used in therapy:

        Functional Skills in Aquatic Therapy

        Water therapy can be used to help kids refine and develop functional skills…making water a resistive surface that provides proprioceptive feedback, turn-taking, and self-confidence. Functional skills that can be addressed in water play in therapy include:

        • washing hands
        • drying hands
        • wiping spills
        • pouring water (liquids)
        • using cups and pitchers or scoops (tool use)
        • measuring liquids for cooking tasks
        • play
        • washing dishes

        Sensory Benefits of Water Therapy

        Aquatic therapy involves the sensory systems and on a small scale, water bins and water tables are a powerful therapy tool. You can focus on refined sensory input on a small scale through play using water tables in therapy.

        • Proprioceptive input
        • Tactile exploration
        • Mixed textures
        • Temperature tolerances
        • Warm water temperature as a calming sensory input
        • Cold water temperatures as alerting sensory input
        • Reduces stress through calming sensory input
        • Visual processing benefits- visual scanning, visual tracking, visual discrimination, eye-hand coordination, visual closure

        Fine Motor benefits of water therapy

        On a small scale, water tables and water bins offer many motor skills opportunities for kids to develop fine motor skills! Fine motor skills abound in aquatic therapy!

        • Grasp
        • Coordination
        • Pincer grasp
        • Hand strength (tong or tweezer use, squeezing water squeeze toys, syringes, spray bottles)
        • Eye-hand coordination (scooping, pouring, dumping water)
        • Water resistance

        Gross Motor Skill Benefits of water therapy

        Even on a small scale, there are gross motor benefits of using water tables and water bins to help with gross motor skill development. Consider these strategies for developing skills using water play:

        • Core strengthening by playing in a water bin on the ground: crouching, squatting, getting up and down from the ground
        • Upper body support through the arm and shoulder for developing strength and stability
        • Sitting crisscross apple sauce with extended reach in all directions
        • Weighted containers to pour, mix, and dump water
        • Coordination skills
        • Motor planning
        • Heavy work to dump and move water
        • Crossing midline to pour or scoop water, reach for objects in the water
        • Bilateral coordination to support and manipulate items
        • Standing with reach at a water table
        • Mobilizing along a supported surface with head and arm movements

        How to use a water sensory bin in aquatic therapy

        Kids will love these water bin play ideas listed below! Adding sensory play into a water bin is an easy way to explore the senses, challenge tactile and sensory systems, and encourage development of skills such as fine motor skills, bilateral coordination, crossing midline, visual motor skills, coordination, confidence, and language. Kids love so many sensory activities when you simply add water.

        Water sensory bins and tables use any basic water table or can be set up with just a large tote bin, a small food casserole dish, storage bins, or any container that will hold water. The nice thing about these water play ideas is that you can create any theme or use any type of manipulative to the water to engage kids attention and interest. Place the bin on the floor for floor play and core strengthening or position the bin on a table surface for a table set-up.

        Water play is so great for little kids to experience and enjoy.  The sensory aspect of getting their hands in the water and manipulating objects is great for brain development and sensory integration.  They are improving their fine motor skills, bilateral hand coordination, language development, problem solving, creative development, and even self-confidence!  

        The open-endedness of water play enables learning in endless varieties.  Consider adding math or letter concepts to a bin of water.  The child is enthralled by the sensory experience and learning happens!  Just think, all you have to do is add water and there is so much learning to experience!

        To encourage movement, heavy work input, fine motor skill development, try adding these materials to water sensory play experiences:

        • Scoops
        • Measuring cups
        • Spoons
        • Watering can
        • Marble run
        • Water dropper
        • Syringe
        • Spray bottle
        • Squeeze toys
        • Tweezers
        • Tongs
        • Floating toys or foam
        • Cut pool noodles
        • Balls or ping pong balls (any ball that floats)
        • Small animal toys or figures
        • Water beads
        • Scents
        • Glitter
        • Food coloring or water paints
        • Paint brushes
        • Chalk

        Water Sensory Play Ideas

        Below are are fun water bin sensory play ideas for kids that can be used to address a variety of skills or concepts. Scroll on to find some creative ways to encourage play and development of skills with simple water bins.

        Kids of all ages will love these water play ideas…even the big kids! When the weather is hot (Or not…bring these water bin ideas indoors for more fun and sensory play!) you can add any type of learning, cause and effect, and even STEM activities, using some water and some added materials.

        • Colors/Fine Motor/Sensory Water Play– Work on bilateral coordination, eye-hand coordination, motor planning, precision, and proximal stability as well as tool use in this color water sensory bin.
        • Island Luau Water Party Water Bin – Use small scoops and island themed items to work on fine motor skills, scooping, pouring, and fine motor strengthening.
        • Swamp Water Bin – Explore textures in this swamp themed water bin.
        • Pool Noodles Water Bin -Incorporate cut pool noodles for fine motor work, core strengthening, and gross motor skills.
        • Color Match Water Bin – Use colors and letters to work on visual scanning, visual motor skills, visual discrimination, and learning colors and letters.
        • Rainy Summer Day: Ice Muffins Water Play – Freeze letter magnets or foam letters into ice cubes for sensory motor learning experiences. Kids can chip the alphabet letters from the ice cubes and explore letters while strengthening visual perceptual skills and fine motor strength.
        • Colors, Fine Motor, Sensory Water Play -Work on hand strength, grasp, coordination, visual perceptual skills and more with simple materials you already have in the home.
        • Ping Pong Ball Water Play for Toddlers– Work on eye-hand coordination, visual scanning, tracking, coordination, crossing midline and more.

            We are so excited to start playing away the summer with our water bins.  We’re hoping you are inspired…we are inspired, too!              

        And here are links to the fun water bins over at Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails:
                     Week 1: Lavender/Purple Water Bin by FSPDT
                     Week 2: Beach Luau Water Bin by FSPDT
                     Week 3: Swamp Water Bin by FSPDT
                     Week 4: Pool Noodle Water Bin by FSPDT
                     Week 5: Color Match Water Bin by FSPDT

        more Sensory water bins

        Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.