Soap Shaving Bookmark Craft

soap shaving bookmarks

Today I wanted to share a fun kids craft that supports life skill development: using an iron and ironing board. To make the soap shavings, we also used a vegetable peeler, so this is a great way to incorporate fine motor skills into kitchen tasks needed for using kitchen items like the vegetable peeler. We also worked on a few different skills with this craft: cutting with scissors, fine motor skills, bilateral coordination, and executive functioning. Be sure to check out our music bookmark craft as well.

Make wax paper bookmarks using soap shavings to create soap shaving bookmarks.

Soap Shavings Bookmark Craft

Today we are incredibly excited to share this Soap Shavings Bookmark craft with you! 
 
Soap Shaving Bookmarks with peeled soap, part of the book, Pop! Squirt! Splash! book for kids with soap, water, and bubbles
 
 
 
Kids can get creative in their crafting using soap and a few materials from around the house.  We made these soap shaving bookmarks and had a blast creating!
Soap Shaving Bookmarks with peeled soap, part of the book, Pop! Squirt! Splash! book for kids with soap, water, and bubbles
 
This post contains affiliate links.
 


To make Soap Shaving Bookmarks:

You’ll need a few materials:

This soap craft is as beautiful as it is simple.  Kids will love to use a vegetable peeler on bars of soap to create soap shavings.  

Here are the steps to make this soap shaving bookmark craft:

  1. To make the bookmarks, lay a sheet of wax paper out on a hard surface like a cookie sheet or cutting board.  
Use a vegetable peeler to create soap shavings

Using a bar of soap to practice using a vegetable peeler is a great beginner step for kids learning to use kitchen tools, because the soap peels shavings much easier than an apple skin peels away from the apple.



2. Show your child how to grasp a bar of soap and using hand-over-hand guidance, help your child to slowly peel shavings from the bar of soap. Encourage them to peel away from their body for safety. 

This is important when teaching kids how to peel a potato or an apple, as well, so it’s great practice!


3. Peel long strips of soap and small shavings, mixing the colors of the different bars of soap on the wax paper.  Managing the vegetable peeler and the soap is a great way to encourage bilateral hand coordination (the use of two hands together in a coordinated manner).  


Children need bilateral hand coordination for functional skills like cutting with scissors, handwriting,  tying shoes, and managing clothing fasteners.  An activity like using a vegetable peeler on a soft bar of soap is a great way to work on using tow hands together effectively with a non-dominant assisting hand and a dominant hand with fluid and controlled motions.  


4. Arrange the soap peelings on the wax paper and place the second piece of wax paper on top.  

5. Carefully move the wax paper to an ironing board.  

6. Place a dishtowel over the wax paper and using an iron heated to medium, slowly press down.  The soap will slightly melt and flatten under the heat.  

7. Check often to see if the wax paper is adhering.  You can remove the dish towel and carefully heat the edges of the wax paper.  

8. Cut the wax paper into rectangular book marks.  

9. Punch a hole near the top of the book marks using the hole puncher.  

10. Tie a piece of ribbon in the hole.  This bookmark will smell great and would make a lovely gift!

Soap Shaving Bookmarks with peeled soap


*Note: This craft should be done under close supervision of an adult.  Be careful with the use of a vegetable peeler with small children.  For younger children, provide hand-over-hand assistance with the vegetable peeler.  Adults may want to complete the peeling portion of this soap craft.  Adults or responsible older children should manage the iron.  As always, use judgement when it comes to completing this and any activity with your kids.

Using the vegetable peeler and an iron to make our soap shaving bookmark makes working on IADLs fun and engaging. Life skills tasks like cooking is an essential Instrumental Activity of Daily Living that occupational therapy professionals address.

Soap Shaving Bookmarks with peeled soap, part of the book, Pop! Squirt! Splash! book for kids with soap, water, and bubbles

Alternate activities:

  1. Vary the scents and colors of your bookmarks with various soaps.
  2. Add a personal message or quote to the bookmarks.
  3. Add flower petals or scraps of paper to the soap shavings before ironing.
  4. Arrange the soap shavings in a mosaic or mandala pattern.

 

Use a vegetable peeler on a soap bar

Using a vegetable peeler to proactive the bilateral coordination and motor planning needed for peeling vegetables is a good way to grade down the activity because of the soft texture of the soap.

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.

Raccoon Craft for Math and Fine Motor

racoon craft

We made this racoon craft many moons ago, when my oldest was in second grade. She’s now a sophomore in high school, and I have to say that those years went by like a flash. This post was originally written in October, 2015 and I’m just updating it now with some tips about how to use the racoon craft to support fine motor development. One thing is for certain; this fine motor math craft still remains as cute as it did all those years ago!

This is a clothespin activity that supports development of many areas of motor skills AND learning regrouping in math!

racoon craft

Racoon Craft

I love that this racoon craft supports fine motor skills. Not only by making the craft, but by playing with the racoon clothes pin, there are some big fine motor benefits. Plus, it’s a fine motor STEM activity that kids seem to love.

There are so many benefits to using the clothes pin as a fine motor tool in math (and in kids crafts)!

For example, when manipulating clothes pins, 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

We made a video that shows how manipulating and pinching clothes pins promotes grasp development. Check it out here:

In the video, we show how to use the clothes pins to work on pinch strength and grip strength. You can use your racoon clothespin craft to do these things!

Regrouping Math Activity

Second grade.  They say it’s the old third grade in public schools.  My second grader is our oldest, so I’ve no previous school years to compare the class work or curriculum to.  We are plowing through the first few months of school though.  We are well into a routine with schedules, homework, and have only missed the bus once.  (This is our best year so far in that area!)  

While my second grader might be doing the stuff that third graders used to do, she is a trooper.  She works hard and she loves her teacher and her friends.  I mean, she even comes home from a long day of school and PLAYS school with her siblings.  While they have zero interest in regrouping addition problems, they are cooperative little students.

 
 Raccoon craft with a clothes pin for use in second grade math: this Regrouping Raccoon will help with regrouping double digit addition math problems!
 
 
 

Raccoon Craft

This Raccoon craft made the perfect tool to practice a math skill with my second grader: Regrouping Double Digit Addition Problems.  It was a fun craft to make alongside my daughter and turned out to be a pretty fun second grade craft, too!

Raccoon craft with a clothes pin for use in second grade math: this Regrouping Raccoon will help with regrouping double digit addition math problems!

 

What is Regrouping Double Digit Addition?

So, we actually did a regrouping activity last year when my little future teacher was in first grade.  That activity was about regrouping single digits in addition.  Now, a whole year later, we’re regrouping double digits and feel like big shots.  Ok, not really.  But it IS a whole other column of numbers that we are adding, here! 
 
Now, I’ve said it before.  I am not a teacher by trade.  In fact, I’m an Occupational Therapist.  So I don’t have a huge understanding of teaching techniques or educational standards and the like.  But, I do have the motivation that only a mom has when it comes to making homework fun, and easy.  I am so over pulling teeth to get homework done.  Let’s do a creative and playful activity to build on school-found skills and I’m good.  And really, when we pull in my OT-ness to the play and fun, it’s even better.  Fine motor skills, here we come!

Ok, ok back to what is regrouping question.  

Essentially, regrouping in math is borrowing or carrying a digit to aide in a math operation. In addition, digits from the ones column are added to the tens column to add single or double digits. 

My second grader is adding double digit numbers.  When the ones column of those double digits add up to more than 9, there is another tens to add to the tens column.  

Regrouping in Math Activity

Now, to practice regrouping double digit addition problems, you could do page after page of worksheets.  But if your kiddo is like mine (and any other kid out there), that will not go over well.  We made this sneaky little raccoon clothes pin craft to practice regrouping in math practice.
 
It’s a pretty easy craft that your second grader will love to try.  You’ll need just a few materials: (These are affiliate links.)

Raccoon craft with a clothes pin for use in second grade math: this Regrouping Raccoon will help with regrouping double digit addition math problems!
Raccoon craft with a clothes pin for use in second grade math: this Regrouping Raccoon will help with regrouping double digit addition math problems!
 
To make the racoon craft:
 
  1. Start by cutting a strip of newspaper to fit on the front of the clothes pin.  
  2. You’ll also want to cut a small circle for the raccoon’s head, and a tail-ish shape.  
  3. Glue the newspaper strip to the front of the clothes pin.  
  4. From the black cardstock, cut small strips to make the raccoon’s eye mask, tow triangle ears, and stripes for the tail.  
  5. Glue all of these paper pieces into place.  
  6. Add the googly eyes and draw on a cute little smile.  That raccoon is done and ready to help with regrouping. 


Regrouping Raccoon and Double Digit Addition

We decided that since raccoons are pretty sneaky and sometimes steal garbage from trash cans, that our Regrouping Raccoon would be the perfect buddy for stealing numbers from the ones column and placing them over in the tens column.  We practiced with a problem or two and added up the ones column.  If the total had 10 or more, than that sneaky little raccoon helped us move the ten over to the tens column.  Fun, right?
 
Now, grab a sheet of regrouping addition problems.  We used a homework page, but you could just write out problems on a piece of paper.  
 
As my daughter did the double digit math problems, I had her clip the raccoon onto the edge of the paper if it was a regrouping problem.  For the problems that did not require regrouping, we just left the raccoon in place.  

Raccoon craft with a clothes pin for use in second grade math: this Regrouping Raccoon will help with regrouping double digit addition math problems!
 
We ended up making a few more raccoon pinch clothes pins and had a family of raccoons!
 
Raccoon craft with a clothes pin for use in second grade math: this Regrouping Raccoon will help with regrouping double digit addition math problems!
 
 
 
 
 
More second grade activities you will love:
 
 
 
 
 
 
We have a few other resources that might help as well. These are free tools you can find on The OT Toolbox and all three include free downloads. These would go great with our racoon craft activity!
forest sensory path

Use the forest sensory path with our racoon craft to support self regulation needs.

shadow matching worksheet with forest animals theme

Add our forest animal visual discrimination worksheet to your therapy toolbox to work on visual scanning, visual form constancy, and other visual perceptual skills.

free forest animal worksheets

And, use our forest animal puzzles to work on scissor skills and visual motor skills.

I hope the racoon craft and all of the tips in this activity supports development! 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 contact@theottoolbox.com.

Snowy Farm Sensory Bin

farm sensory bin

Welcome to a winter wonderland on the farm! In today’s blog post, we’re diving into the magical world of sensory play with a snowy farm sensory bin. This delightful activity combines the charm of a farm theme with the sensory joys of winter, creating an engaging and therapeutic experience for children. This is one of our favorite winter sensory bins because you can focus on so many different underlying skills through play.

Farm sensory bin

Whether you’re a parent looking for creative winter activities or a therapist seeking effective tools for skill development, this farm sensory bin is tailored to captivate young minds while addressing various therapeutic areas. Read all about sensory bins in general as a therapy tool to support skill development.

Farm Sensory Bin

We love a great occupational therapy sensory activity because cold winter temps and less daylight hours mean you might not have a chance to get little ones outside as often as you might like. Plus, a farm sensory bin goes great with a Farm theme in preschool or in occupational therapy sessions.

This farm sensory bin has a winter theme, but you could actually set up a farm sensory bin any time of year. In fact, we loved this play dough farm activity that goes along with a farm theme and supports fine motor skills as well as sensory input.

The base of shredded paper sets the stage for a snowy landscape, providing a tactile experience that stimulates sensory exploration and fine motor skills.

This winter-themed sensory bin features a collection of farm toys and mini figures, turning the snowy setting into a farm scene ready for imaginative play.

Farm Animal Sensory Bin

The farm animal sensory bin takes the excitement a step further, introducing miniature figures of beloved farm animals. As children dive into the bin, they engage in hands-on exploration, feeling the textures of the shredded paper, maneuvering the farm toys, and creating their own farm stories.

This sensory-rich experience enhances tactile input, encouraging self-confidence as children express themselves through play.

Farm Theme Sensory Bin Setup

Setting up the farm theme sensory bin is a breeze:

  1. Begin with a large container filled with shredded paper to create a snowy base. You could also use other sensory bin base materials if you don’t have shredded paper on hand.
  2. Add farm toys such as barns, tractors, and mini figures of animals to bring the farm to life.
  3. Encourage creativity by incorporating small props like faux trees or fences. This simple yet effective setup provides a canvas for endless imaginative scenarios.

Before this weekend, we’ve had a super cool spring.  With a handful of days where it snowed.  We are ready for outside play in short sleeves, running in the yard, and grass stained knees.

But, we have been loving this fun play activity too 🙂

We had a boat load of shredded paper from doing taxes recently.  It came in pretty handy for a small world snowy farm scene!

We put some farm animals, the Little People barn, and of course, Little Guy’s construction vehicles.

(how else can the farmer move allll that snow??)

Little Guy went to farm-town with imagination stories and pretend play.

Baby Girl loves to make the animal sounds and had a blast finding them in the shredded paper.

Why This Farm Sensory Bin Helps Development


Beyond simply playing in the sensory bin, this farm sensory bin serves as a therapeutic tool to foster development in various areas.

You can target areas in:

Fine motor skills are particularly important in early childhood development, as they lay the foundation for more complex tasks in the future. 

Tactile discrimination, exploration, and sensory desensitization are effectively addressed with sensory bins as they are playful and present in a non-threatening way. The playful nature of sensory bins allows children to control their tactile experiences, fostering confidence in their interactions with materials and gradually increasing their comfort with different sensations. 

The hands-on nature of the activity promotes fine motor skills as children manipulate the farm toys and engage with the sensory materials. Communication skills blossom as they create farm narratives, fostering language development.

In addition, occupational therapy providers love sensory bins because they can offer a unique and enjoyable way to engage reluctant children who may initially be hesitant about engaging in the sensory elements of tactile defensiveness challenges.

Tactile input and sensory exploration contribute to a holistic sensory experience, supporting overall sensory processing.

 

 
 
 
 
My fun-loving Baby Girl instigated this little incident…
 
she just couldn’t help herself 🙂
 
 
What are we learning through play?

Imagination Play

Pretend Play

Learning Animals

Animal Sounds

Visual Scanning

Sensory Play

 

Farm Sensory Bin Ideas

You can pair this farm sensory bin with other therapy ideas, too. Use some of these tools and resources to support skills like gross motor skills, coordination, brain breaks, and more:

  • These Farm Brain Breaks can add movement and gross motor input to a child’s day and fit in great with a farm animal theme. Print off the cards and use them in the classroom or home.
  • These heavy work cards includes a set of 8 farm themed heavy work activities that can be used as a brain break or added proprioceptive input.
  • Free Farm Scissor Skills Packet
  • This barn craft is fun because kids can make a barn and use it in the farm animal sensory bin.
  • This Farm Fingerprint art activity supports visual closure, visual tracking, and visual scanning activity, too.
  • The Farm Therapy Kit has a bunch or activities to support sensory needs, handwriting, motor skills, dexterity, and more.

Get your copy of the Farm Therapy Kit.

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.

Hand Strengthening Activity with Blocks and Rubber Bands (So Easy!)

Rubber band exercises with Jenga blocks and rubber bands to create block structures

Kids and occupational therapists alike will love this hand strengthening activity for kids. It’s a powerful way to build finger strength and increase grip strength using everyday materials. This fine motor activity is an old one…it’s one that we came up with years ago here on the website. It’s fun to look back at this super easy rubber band activity because the hand strengthening activity is not just fun, but it’s a great therapy tool, too.

Rubber Band Activity

This rubber band activity is a no-prep activity that you can pull out on a rainy day, while waiting at a restaurant, or when the kids are itching for something different to do.  This building activity is a fun STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) activity that can be modified to meet the needs and interests of your kiddo.  

I pulled this rubber band activity out one day when a little niece and nephew were over, and he loved building with something that was a little different than typical building blocks.  

This is a great activity for Occupational Therapists use in their treatment, because we’re working on so many skills here:  strengthening, bilateral hand coordination, motor planning, and eye-hand coordination.

This finger strength activity is part of our 31 Days of Occupational Therapy series, designed to help kids build skills through everyday items.

If playing with blocks is an engaging activity for the children you work with, be sure to check out our DIY cardboard bricks idea.

These hand strengthening activities use just rubber bands and blocks. Also included are hand strengthening activities with many materials.

  I’m including affiliate links in this post.


Hand Strengthening Activities for Kids

You’ll need just two materials for this activity:  

  1. Jenga pieces
  2. A handful of rubber bands in different sizes. And that’s it!

How to set up this rubber band activity:

Creating a strengthening play activity or an opportunity for data collection using a specific number of repetitions with a rubber band exercise program is easy with just this one activity.

You can create an open-ended play activity by simply offering a box of Jenga blocks and a bag of rubber bands and asking the child to build anything. This provides an opportunity for creative expression and problem solving.

Or, you can set up an exercise program using a specific number of rubber bands and blocks and asking the child to complete certain exercises. (Read about these at the bottom of the blog post).

Hand strengthening activity for kids to play and create buildings with a asimple, no-prep activity. This is perfect for a busy bag activity for kids to do while waiting at restaurants or other places.  Also tips and ideas to work on intrinsic hand strengthening in kids, from an Occupational Therapist.

 

Show your kids how to wrap the rubber bands around the wooden blocks in different ways.  Let them get creative with building and creating.  

Hand strengthening activity for kids to play and create buildings with a asimple, no-prep activity. This is perfect for a busy bag activity for kids to do while waiting at restaurants or other places.  Also tips and ideas to work on intrinsic hand strengthening in kids, from an Occupational Therapist.

Finger Strength

My little nephew was so excited when I showed him this.  Cool Aunt status!  He sat and built creations for a long time.  And watching those little hands building and working was fun for me!  Manipulating the rubber bands is such a fine motor workout for kids.  Intrinsic hand muscles are needed for so many functional tasks.  

Hand strengthening activity for kids to play and create buildings with a a simple, no-prep activity. This is perfect for a busy bag activity for kids to do while waiting at restaurants or other places.  Also tips and ideas to work on intrinsic hand strengthening in kids, from an Occupational Therapist.
Finger strength activities and finger strength exercises using everyday toys and tools, perfect for kids.


Hand and Grip Strength

When kids have a functional finger strength levels, they are able to write and color with endurance. They are able to manipulate small items. Finger strength looks like the ability to open and close plastic baggies and other meal containers at lunch time in the school lunch room. It looks like the ability to manipulate clothing fasteners like buttons, snaps, and even the buckle on a car seat.

Finger strength can be tested to see if grip and pinch strength are at typical levels for the child’s age, but if you are noticing that activities the child should be accomplishing like managing items is hard, you can look into hand strengthening and grip strength exercises in more depth.

More signs of hand weakness include:

  • Kids with weakness in their hands may have difficulty with coloring and complain that it hurts to color large areas.  
  • You might see them color or write using their whole arm instead of just their wrist and fingers.
  • Hand weakness may be indicated by difficulty cutting a smooth line with scissors.  Rather, you’ll see jagged snips.  
  • Kids with hand weakness might have trouble managing a zipper or pushing a button through a button hole.
  • Weakness of the hand is indicated by a poor pencil grasp.  Kids with intrinsic muscle weakness will write with a closed thumb web space and will use their thumb to stabilize the pencil.
  • And then, you’ll see poor hand writing.
  • Hand weakness is indicated by light pencil pressure that is almost illegible, or very light coloring.
  • Difficulty with manipulating small items and using in-hand manipulation in managing small parts.
  • Trouble with grasping tools like utensils. scissors, scoops, tweezers, and eye droppers.
  • Difficulty manipulating and grasping small toys.
Hand strengthening activity for kids to play and create buildings with a asimple, no-prep activity. This is perfect for a busy bag activity for kids to do while waiting at restaurants or other places.  Also tips and ideas to work on intrinsic hand strengthening in kids, from an Occupational Therapist.

Grip exercises for kIds

We know that kids primary occupation is play, right? Kids learn and develop skills through play! So when it comes to strengthening hands, improving grip strength, forearm strength, and pinch strength, the key is to use games and play!

Some other ways that are perfect for hand strengthening are toys and games that are typically recommended by Occupational Therapists.  These are some of my favorites:

Hand strengthening activity for kids to play and create buildings with a asimple, no-prep activity. This is perfect for a busy bag activity for kids to do while waiting at restaurants or other places. Also tips and ideas to work on intrinsic hand strengthening in kids, from an Occupational Therapist.

Toys and Ideas for Working on Hand Strengthening for Kids

  • Squeezing water bottles to water plants.
  • Therapy Putty
    or play dough. Roll the dough into small balls.
  • Tear paper.
  • Crumble small squares of tissue paper.
  • Cut cardstock.
  • clothes pins
    to match colors in games and learning activities 
  • Building toys like this Building Blocks Disks or a favorite in our house, ZOOB Building Set
  • Squirt toys like these Munchkin Five Sea Squirts
    to aim at targets in the bathtub, sink, or plastic bins.
  • Small blocks such as LEGOs
    are perfect for strengthening the intrinsic muscles, with their resistance needed to push them together and pull them apart.  The position hands need to be in to work LEGOS is perfect for strengthening the muscles in the hand.
  • Squeeze a hole punch to create lines of holes along an edge of paper.
  • Eye Droppers and Tweezers are a fun way to explore sensory play while working on fine motor skills.
  • A squeeze toy like this Squishy Mesh Ball  is great for hand strengthening and a fun fidget too.

  More grip strength activities that you will enjoy:

 

Rubber band exercises using Jenga blocks with rubber bands wrapped around them to create block structures.

Rubber Band Hand Exercises

The rubber band hand exercises in this activity post are play-based. This means that you can set up an open-ended activity in an occupational therapy session by offering a tray of blocks and rubber bands. You can ask the student or OT client to just build whatever comes to mind.

  1. Ask the child to create structures, build creative items like animals, figures, or anything that comes to their mind.

2. You could also challenge them to create a structure with the blocks and rubber bands using a certain number of items, like 10 building blocks and 10 rubber bands. Ask them how high they can build a structure or if they can build a structure that doesn’t fall over with that number of materials.

Both of these hand exercises are play-based and open-ended, but they are great fine motor STEM activities.

To make the rubber band hand exercises more quantitative, ask the user to use a specific number of rubber bands and blocks. Ask them to wrap 3 rubber bands around each block. When you ask a student to complete this, they are stretching out the extensor muscles of the hands to extend the rubber band around the block.

And, when they pinch and pull the rubber band, the flexors and muscles of the palm of the hand, or the intrinsic muscles, are active. These facilitate strong and refined arch development for endurance in fine motor tasks.

You can grade these rubber band strength exercises in several ways.

Grade the activity harder, or make the exercise more difficult by:

  • Increasing the number of rubber bands (increase the repetitions)
  • Increase the number of blocks that the user needs to wrap the rubber bands around (increase the pull and resistance of the rubber bands)
  • Increase the number of blocks that need to be wrapped with rubber bands (increase the repetitions)
  • Decrease the size of the rubber band or increase the size of the block (increase the resistance of the band on the muscles)

You can grade the activity down, or make it easier for other users by:

  • Decreasing the number of rubber bands (lower the number of repetitions)
  • Decrease the number of blocks that the user needs to wrap the rubber bands around (decrease the pull and resistance of the rubber bands)
  • Decrease the number of blocks that need to be wrapped with rubber bands (lower the repetitions)
  • Increase the size of the rubber band or decrease the size of the block (decrease the resistance of the band on the muscles)

Note that when you grade the activity down, you can also increase the overall number of repetitions, which can be beneficial for improving strength and endurance. In this case, you should note the number of repetitions that are completed, because doing the exercises each day with increasing repetitions builds muscle memory and endurance.

These activities also support kinesthetic learners which learn counting and motor planning skills through repetition of physical tasks.

These rubber band exercise ideas are similar to a hand gripper workout, only they are play-based. Both offer resistance to the extrinsic flexors and extensors as well as intrinsic muscles.

Hand Exercises with Rubber Bands

Keeping in mind the ability to grade the exercises up or down depending on the unique needs of the individual, you can run through specific hand exercises with rubber bands. Include these rubber hand strengthening exercises in your documentation:

  1. Wrap one rubber band around a block twice (increase or decrease the number of bands)
  2. Wrap a rubber bad around the block lengthwise.
  3. Wrap a rubber band around two blocks to connect the blocks.
  4. Take the block creations apart when completed.

All of these fine motor pinch and grip strength exercises using rubber bands are a hit with kids and occupational therapy providers. You’ll find more ideas in our fine motor kits.

Working on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, or scissor skills? Our Fine Motor Kits cover all of these areas and more.

Check out the seasonal Fine Motor Kits that kids love:

Or, grab one of our themed Fine Motor Kits to target skills with fun themes:

Want access to all of these kits…and more being added each month? Join The OT Toolbox Member’s Club!

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.

Fine Motor Play with Tissue Paper

Colorful tissue paper squares crumbled up and placed in two plastic water bottles. Text reads Crumbling paper activity and lists the fine motor benefits of crumbling paper.

Today we have a tissue paper crumpling activity (or paper crumbling!) that builds many fine motor skills, including hand strength. In this easy tissue paper fine motor activity, we are working on pinching and crumbling paper is an excellent fine motor exercise for children.  It is an activity that works the small muscles of the hand and really strengthens the arches of the hands

Colorful tissue paper squares crumbled up and placed in two plastic water bottles. Text reads Crumbling paper activity and lists the fine motor benefits of crumbling paper.

There are many fine motor benefits of crumpling paper into small pieces!

Paper Crumpling

Paper crumpling (or paper crumbling) is a great way to play with paper that builds fine motor skills in the hands.

If a child has weak muscles in their hands and the arches are not defined, you may see them holding a pencil or small items between their thumb and the side of their index finger.  The arches of their hand may not be defined and nice and round.  You may also see them holding their hands close to their chest as they attempt to gain stabilization of their arms to do the small motor task.

To really work those muscles, you could have your child first tear the bits of tissue paper before they crumble them up.

Defined arches are very important in shoe tying, handwriting, and managing clothing like buttons and snaps.

You can see how to incorporate tearing paper into this activity using the video below. Towards the end of the video, you’ll see ways to build fine motor strength and finger dexterity using crumbled paper pieces. The tissue paper squares that we are using in our activity today can be used like shown in the video for more finger strengthening exercises.

Working on fine motor skill development through play supports functional tasks, plus it’s fun!

Paper Crumpling Activity

We came up with this tissue paper crumbling activity many years ago, and it still stands as a great way to work on skills:

We’ve talked about the benefits of tearing paper before, and this activity expands on the skills a bit, because after you tear the tissue paper, you can have your student crumble the paper and then push it into the mouth of a water bottle.

While this is a really simple fine motor activity, it’s great because you build so many skills, and kids typically enjoy this simple task.

Tissue Paper Crumbling Activity

For this activity, you really can use items you have on hand. We used empty plastic water bottles, and colorful tissue paper squares.

  1. Cut tissue paper into small squares.
  2. Remove labels from plastic water bottles.

To increase the fine motor work, you could have the student rip pieces of the tissue paper to really increase grip strength work.

Ask the student to take one piece of tissue paper, and crumble it up with their finger tips.

Then, they should push the crumpled tissue paper into the empty water bottle.

You can make this activity a game by asking them to roll a dice and place that many squares of tissue paper into the bottle. Or you could have them sort colors by filling each water bottle with a single color.

 

plastic water bottles full of crumbled tissue paper and tissue paper squares on a table
 
This was an easy and fun little activity to throw together.
We have a bunch of little tissue paper squares in our craft supplies.  Put them next to a couple of empty plastic bottles, and the kids know what to do!
 
 
 
Pushing the tissue paper into the spout of the water bottle is great for encouraging a tripod grasp (using the thumb, index, and middle finger).
 
Holding the bottle with the non-dominant hand allows the child to work on their bilateral hand coordination (using both hands together in a coordinated manner…kids need this when they begin shoe tying and managing the zipper on their coat).
 
When you ask kids to crumble paper using just the tips of their fingers, you really isolate thumb IP joint flexion as they bend the tips of the fingers. This is needed for dexterity and precision skills in functional tasks such as writing with a pencil.
 
collage of child placing crumpled tissue paper into an empty plastic bottle, child holding plastic water bottle full of crumbled tissue paper, and water bottle and tissue paper squares
 
…And everyone loved the cool crunchy sound the bottle made when you squashed it!
 
Child holding a plastic water bottle full of  colorful tissue paper
 

 

There are so many ways to build skills with this simple tissue paper crumpling activity!

More fine motor fun…

Working on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, or scissor skills? Our Fine Motor Kits cover all of these areas and more.

Check out the seasonal Fine Motor Kits that kids love:

Or, grab one of our themed Fine Motor Kits to target skills with fun themes:

Want access to all of these kits…and more being added each month? Join The OT Toolbox Member’s Club!

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.

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 with occupational therapy toys targeting bilateral skills that children can strengthen and develop this essential motor skill. Let’s dissect a few select toys that promote this skill.

Amazon affiliate links are included in this blog post. As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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!

Read about bilateral integration in the cross crawl exercise resource.

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– (affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link) 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– (affiliate link) 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– (affiliate link) 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! Use our favorite zoom ball games to get started.

Thumbs up is a bilateral coordination game for kids.

Thumbs Up Game– (affiliate link) 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– (affiliate link) 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– (affiliate link) 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– (affiliate link) 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– (affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link) 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– (affiliate link) 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

Amazon affiliate links are included below.

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 

Printable List of Toys for Bilateral Coordination

Want a printable copy of our therapist-recommended toys to support bilateral coordination?

As therapy professionals, we LOVE to recommend therapy toys that build skills! This toy list is done for you so you don’t need to recreate the wheel.

Your therapy caseload will love these BILATERAL COORDINATION toy recommendations. (There’s space on this handout for you to write in your own toy suggestions, to meet the client’s individual needs, too!)

Enter your email address into the form below. The OT Toolbox Member’s Club Members can access this handout inside the dashboard, under Educational Handouts. Just be sure to log into your account, first!

Therapist-Recommended
BILATERAL COORDINATION TOYS HANDOUT

    We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

    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.

    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 with these occupational therapy toys. Each one is designed to develop gross motor skills: strength, coordination, balance, posture, and more.

    PLUS, head to the bottom of this blog post for Day 2 of our therapy toy giveaway. We’re giving away a gross motor kit with agility cones, tossing loops, bean bags, and hula hoops, perfect for gross motor, balance, coordination, and even heavy sensory play through whole body movements.

    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!

    You’ll also want to check out our blog post on Gross Motor Activities for Preschoolers because many of the gross motor toy ideas listed in this post would be great for the preschool years (and beyond!).

    Amazon affiliate links are included in this blog post. As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases.

    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.

    These gross motor games and toys support a variety of skill areas and functional tasks. Gross motor toys can be used to strengthen balance, coordination, motor planning, position changes, and other areas.

    And, when you see kids struggling to kick a ball, walk in a line at school, jump, skip, ride a bike…that’s where therapeutic play comes in!

    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 games 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 therapy 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 

    PRINTABLE LIST OF TOYS FOR GROSS MOTOR

    Want a printable copy of our therapist-recommended toys to support gross motor development?

    As therapy professionals, we LOVE to recommend therapy toys that build skills! This toy list is done for you so you don’t need to recreate the wheel.

    Your therapy caseload will love these GROSS MOTOR toy recommendations. (There’s space on this handout for you to write in your own toy suggestions, to meet the client’s individual needs, too!)

    Enter your email address into the form below. The OT Toolbox Member’s Club Members can access this handout inside the dashboard, under Educational Handouts. Just be sure to log into your account, first!

    Therapist-Recommended
    GROSS MOTOR TOYS HANDOUT

      We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

      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.

      Enter all the giveaways here:

      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!

      Christmas Tree Hole Punch Activity

      Christmas tree hole punch

      This hole punch Christmas tree craft was originally published 11-19-2015 and was updated 11-8-2023.

      This Christmas Tree Hole Punch activity is an OLD fine motor activity on our site, but it’s one you’ll want to add to your Christmas occupational therapy activity line up. Why? Because the simple Christmas tree activity is easy to set up and builds many skills all at once: fine motor, bilateral coordination, eye-hand coordination, hand strength, and much more are all developed with one fun activity. All of this skill-building makes it a Christmas craft for kids that is a must this time of year!

      Christmas tree hole punch fine motor activity

      Christmas Tree Hole Punch for Therapy

      This Christmas Tree Fine Motor Activity is a Christmas themed busy bag that will hopefully help some of that hectic holiday craze that happens this time of year.  Give the kiddos this proprioception powerhouse punching activity and be assured that the kids will be learning, getting out a little holiday wiggles, and you, Mama, can cross off an item from that post-it note.  

      Or grab a cup of coffee and just relax for a second.  Both are equally important.

      Check out these Christmas Fine Motor Activities for more creative ways to work on fine motor skills and address development of skills this Christmas season. 

      This activity will help your child with:

      Christmas Tree hole punch activity

      Affiliate links are included in this blog post.


      Christmas Tree Hole Punch

      This activity is perfect for an Occupational Therapist‘s treatment bag in the days leading up to Christmas.  Kids get a little bit excited (right?) and the wiggles and giggles may end up leading to sensory overload.  A proprioception activity like punching holes is perfect to provide heavy work input to the hands and add calming input.  

      Using a hole punch provides a gross hand grasp strengthening work to the hands.  This activity is perfect for a Christmas themed warm-up activity before handwriting this season.

      A busy bag is intended to keep little hands busy, while learning, exploring, and getting stronger through fine motor play!  And, what does a mom need on occasion for little ones, but busy activities for quiet time.

      RELATED POST: CHRISTMAS JINGLE BELL SORT BUSY BAG

      Christmas tree hole punch and punching holes each each tree


      Materials Needed for a Christmas Tree Hole Punch

      This Christmas Tree activity is easy to put together.  We used just a few items:

      Amazon affiliate links:

      How to make the Hole Punch Christmas Tree


      To make the Christmas tree counting busy bag:

      1. Cut the Green Cardstock into tree shapes.  
      2. Add trunks with the Brown Cardstock.  Glue these in place at the base of each triangle.  
      3. Use the black marker to write a number on each tree trunk.
      4. Next, show your child how to name the number on the Christmas tree and then to punch the corresponding number of holes into the branches of the tree.

      Christmas Tree Busy Bag Counting and proprioception activity

      RELATED POST: EGG CARTON CHRISTMAS TREE FINE MOTOR CRAFT

      hole punch Christmas tree

      Christmas Hole Punch Activity

      Enjoy this time as your kiddo counts, hole punches, and works on so many skills.  And rest assured that they will be doing a productive activity…and not adding more to that to-do list!

      As mentioned above, this Christmas hole punch task covers a variety of skills, but we should go into more detail on the hand strengthening component when using a hole punch to create holes in each Christmas tree.

      Squeezing a hole puncher challenges a grasp pattern with an open thumb web space to strengthen grip strength.

      Finger strength is developed by squeezing a hole puncher. Plus, when the hole punch is held, wrist stability is needed to hold the hole punch in an optimal position to squeeze it completely.

      Then, when you have the holes punched in the trees, you can use them to create a hole punch Christmas tree craft!

      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.

      Looking for done-for you therapy activities this holiday season?

      This print-and-go Christmas Therapy Kit includes no-prep, fine motor, gross motor, self-regulation, visual perceptual activities…and much more… to help kids develop functional grasp, dexterity, strength, and endurance. Use fun, Christmas-themed, motor activities so you can help children develop the skills they need.

      This 100 page no-prep packet includes everything you need to guide fine motor skills in face-to-face AND virtual learning. You’ll find Christmas-themed activities for hand strength, pinch and grip, dexterity, eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, endurance, finger isolation, and more. 

      Finger Dexterity Exercises

      Hand holding coins by the fingertips and dropping one at a time into a stack of coins. Text reads "finger dexterity"

      Fine motor skills are a complex thing, but one thing that plays a major role in fine motor coordination is finger dexterity. The precision movements and endurance in small motor activities is driven by the ability to maneuver fingers and isolate the joints in holding and manipulating small objects. Let’s explore the role of manual dexterity in fine motor skills.

      The finger dexterity activities and exercises in this post can be used along with manual dexterity goals to support functional tasks.

      finger dexterity

      Fine Motor Dexterity

      Fine Motor Skills in kids are so important for independence in self care tasks.  Children need to develop the ability to manipulate their fingers in a coordinated manner in order to skillfully maneuver buttons, zippers, shoe laces, pencils…and the tools of learning and play…TOYS! 

      Dexterous movements are used in everyday activities throughout our day.

      What is finger dexterity?

      Finger dexterity refers to the ability to use coordination and manipulation of objects in the hands with precision. Dexterous motor skills can be broken down into areas: grasp and release, coordination with in the hand (in-hand manipulation), and proprioception (knowing how much effort is needed to manipulate objects without dropping them). There are many other contributions that impact finger dexterity and we list these below.

      Together, these precision skills enable us to pick up an object with the right amount of pressure and motor dexterity so you can grasp the object accurately taking eye-hand coordination skills into consideration.

      After grasping the object without overshooting or missing the item, it is necessary to position or rotate the object within the hand. Isolation of the joints of the fingers and thumb allow for precise movements and coordination when manipulating objects in functional tasks.

      The nine hole peg test is a good way to assess for finger dexterity.

       

      Finger Dexterity Examples

       
      Fine motor dexterity also looks like:
      • manipulating coins
      • picking up small beads
      • opening a tube of toothpaste
      • threading a needle
      • holding items in the palm of the hand and putting them down one at a time
      • crafts with small objects
      • peeling stickers off a page
      • opening or closing a clasp on a necklace
      • tying shoes
      • opening a bread tie
      • putting a pony tail holder in hair
      • braiding hair
      • maneuvering a pencil within the hand (rotating the pencil, erasing a small spot on the page)
      • turning a pencil in a handheld pencil sharpener
      • zippering– inserting a zipper into the zipper carriage
      • buttoning a shirt
      • lacing up shoes
      • stacking coins
      • holding playing cards in your hands
      • any other task that requires small motor tasks
       
       
      We’ve got lots of posts dedicated to fine motor skills.  Finger Dexterity is a necessary step in development of fine motor skills
       
       

       

       
      Kids will love to play this finger dexterity activity to work on fine motor skills.

       

      Skills needed for Finger Dexterity

      Children develop their hand skills from infancy. Hand strength develops from the time a small baby is placed in tummy time. You’ll start to see finger dexterity in action when a baby picks up cereal pieces using a pincer grasp.
       
      Finger dexterity requires components such as: 
       
      The terms that make up finger dexterity are explained in each of the blog posts in the list.
       
      There are developmental milestones for fine motor development that are necessary for independence each stage of childhood. When kids struggle with handwriting, manipulating small objects, hand fatigue in small motor tasks, finger dexterity and the underlying contributions should be considered.
       
      Children also need to demonstrate dexterity in order to manipulate objects.  They need to maneuver their fingers independently of one another (this is called finger isolation) and with separation of the two sides of the hand
       
      Without these skills, modifications or adjustments are often made by the child. We’ll cover more specifics about the relationship of finger dexterity and these components below.


      Finger Dexterity and Separation of the two sides of the hand

      When using the small muscles of the hands in dexterity tasks, one uses the side of the thumb-side of the hand. 
       
      The precision side of the hand is the thumb, pointer finger, and middle finger.  These are the fingers needed for dexterity tasks and fine motor skills. 
       
      The ring finger and pinkie finger are involved in providing stability during precision tasks.  When the index and thumb are involved in a small motor activity, the ring finger and pinkie finger are tucked into the palm and proved a support during handwriting and shoe tying
       
      They also provide power during grip and the force behind a gross grasp
       
      So when will you see the two sides of the hand separated during activities?? Tying shoes, pulling a zipper, fastening a button, and manipulating small pegs into a pegboard are some examples of separation of the two sides of the hand.


      Finger Dexterity and Finger Isolation

      Finger isolation is a key part of finer dexterity and begins when an infant begins to point at objects with one finger. 
       
      Using the fingers independent of one another is needed for tasks like turning a page in a book, typing, molding dough, sign language, and finger plays (“where is Thumbkin” and other fingerplay songs are great ways to practice finger isolation and dexterity!) 
       
      Kids can identify colors by playing this fine motor game.

       

      Finger dexterity Activity

       
      This finger strength exercise is actually a game, which makes it a great activity for developing precision in those little muscles of the hands, isolating fingers, and separating the two sides of the hand…all SO important in independence and play.
       
      Try this activity to work on separating the two sides of the hand with a fun activity for kids. 

      This post contains affiliate links.

      Our finger dexterity activity began with a little prep work.  We used acrylic paints to paint circles on the back of bubble wrap paper. 

      Kids will explore colors in this finger dexterity game.

       

      I painted the back side of large bubble wrap with different colors.   We let these dry (and it was slightly difficult to remain patient!!)

      Kids will love to play "Twister" in this fine motor exercise.

       

      Once our paints were dry, we got our fingers ready to play some finger dexterity games!  I had Little Guy get his fingers ready by making “legs”. 

      This is a great way to encourage use of the two sides of the hand.  He tucked his pinkie and ring fingers into the palm of his hand and got his pointer and middle finger busy as they “walked” around.

      Fun fine motor game for kids.

       

      We played a color matching game with the colored bubbles.  I called out a color and he had to “walk” his fingers to the color and pop the color.  He was working on color awareness at the same time as we practiced finger dexterity.

      kids can work on fine motor skills needed for independence in many tasks.

       

      As I called out different colors, he had to “walk” his fingers around to the different colors.  He really worked on those finger isolation skills as he searched for a bubble that was not yet popped. 

      Other ways to work on finger isolation and separation of the two sides of the hand include using small objects in manipulation like crafting pom poms.

      The index, middle finger, and thumb are needed to manipulate items in fine motor tasks. This activity is a great way to encourage dexterity in kids.

       

      Even Baby Girl wanted to get in on the fun!  This finger dexterity exercise is a great way to “warm up” the hands before a handwriting or typing task for older children. Using handwriting warm ups prepares the hands for tasks like writing with a pencil.

      When there is weakness in the small muscles of the hands, it is often times, difficult for children to write, color, or type with appropriate grasp and positioning of the fingers and wrist. 

      A dexterity exercise like this one is a fun way to play and get those muscles of the hand moving and strengthened in order to improve endurance and positioning.

      Manual Dexterity Activities

      Looking for more fun ways to practice manual dexterity of the fingers?  These are some fun games and activities you may want to try:

      Finger dexterity exercises

      Using the activities listed above are great ways to build fine motor skills. You can also improve manual dexterity with the following exercises:

      • Pinch putty or playdough 10 times, with 3 repetitions (find more reps in our theraputty exercises blog post)
      • Place pegs into a pegboard- time the student to see how many they can place in 30 seconds. Try to beat that time.
      • Hand gripper workouts to improve proximal stability
      • Stack 10 coins or game tokens into a pile. Then pick them up one at a time and place them into the palm of the hand
      • Deal a deck of cards
      • Creating a fine motor home exercise program
      • Using the exercises described in the Weekly Fine Motor Program
      • Finger aerobics shown in the video below.

      Working on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, or scissor skills? Our Fine Motor Kits cover all of these areas and more.

      Check out the seasonal Fine Motor Kits that kids love:

      Or, grab one of our themed Fine Motor Kits to target skills with fun themes:

      Want access to all of these kits…and more being added each month? Join The OT Toolbox Member’s Club!

      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.