Hand Clapping Games

hand clapping games

Do you remember hand clapping games and activities as a kid? I do! We didn’t have the time occupiers of video games and an abundance of technology, so it was bike riding, roller skating, basketball, board games, and well, hand clapping. This was done with a sibling or a friend, and definitely a go-to when there were sleepovers and visits to the neighbor’s house.  But, did you ever think about the eye-hand coordination benefits, or bilateral coordination, and even crossing midline benefits?

Hand clapping games and activities using clapping rhymes

Clapping Therapy?

Hand clapping games are a fun and engaging way to interact with kids during therapy. Have you tried it? It’s a fun activity, whether it be to a classic game, a made-up song, or just as a quick transition between activities.

There are so many benefits to hand clapping games, from motor skills, sensory motor, visual motor, and even executive functioning skill development. We cover how each of these areas (and the sub-skills) are developed through the simple clapping activity in therapy.

But did you know there is a thing called “clapping therapy”? This was a new concept to me but one that piqued my interest. Essentially, the use of clapping therapy is the act of clapping hands to heal. This is considered a viable therapy because clapping the hands together activates skin and joint receptors in the hands (and upper extremities) to activate various systems within the body and brain.

Some of this idea is linked to reflexology but other considerations can be connected to the proprioception. We know that heavy work or deep pressure through the joints brings awareness and “wakes up” the muscles and joints. So clapping hands is a great way to activate the sensory systems.

Another consideration with clapping therapy is the fact that clapping stimulates blood circulation. This can be a potential way to promote healing.

I wasn’t able to find research on clapping therapy, but these are some things to think about when using hand clapping games to build on therapy goals.

hand clapping therapy games and clapping rhymes

Build Skills with hand clapping Games

Hand clapping actually does have many benefits to skill development, and can be a great way to work on specific skills with children. Why? Hand clapping activities are the ‘no-tools needed’ approach to building so many skills!

In fact, research shows that hand clapping rhymes and games make an improvement in motor and cognitive skills. The study found that kids that participate in hand clapping games have neater handwriting, write better and make fewer spelling errors.

Read on to see what skill areas the simple use of hand clapping can help develop:

  • Executive function skills– To complete a hand clapping activity, a child develops cognitive skills, but some of the softer skills might be overlooked. When playing a cooperative game like clapping together, there is a component of impulse control, task completion, working memory, attention, sequencing, self-reflection, emotional control, and self-monitoring. These skills can be carried over because of the confidence built up while playing with a friend in a low-stress situation.
  • Eye hand coordination skills– clapping hands together with a friend requires motor coordination to move and place hands together at the same time and positioning. Too far and you over-shoot the target. This is a great way to work with a friend on hitting targets and visual motor integration.
  • Bilateral coordination – hand clapping activities work on the use of both hands and arms to coordinate and reach with good timing either to a song, rhyme, a game with a partner, and even when hand clapping alone.
  • Motor planning – Most any clapping game involves a lot of motor planning to practice the movements needed repetitively. Once the movements are learned, they become more automatic.
  • Crossing midline – Let’s consider crossing midline for a moment: left to right, right to left, reaching diagonally across going up or down. Adding verbalizing the correct hand when in use, will help them to build left and right side recognition, and improve body awareness. 
  • Visual tracking – During hand clapping games with a partner, children must move their eyes continually from left to right, up and down. With a song or rhyme, children also learn to visually track with fluidity and rhythm. They need to watch and track their hands and their partner’s too.  
  • Sequencing – Many hand clapping games involve some sort of story telling in the sequence. This helps some children recall the lyrics more easily. When using hand clapping games and songs that tell a story, children develop important sequencing skills. They may also make a mental picture of that story in their minds as they play. Clapping along to a metronome app is excellent for building sequencing and rhythm.
  • Cognitive skills – The brain gets quite a workout when learning and doing hand clapping songs and games. You can use hand clapping to help children learn to spell a problematic word, or even learn the alphabet! Children can use a problematic word, or the alphabet as part of the song which can help them to recall the letters in sequence. They can also learn to sequence a storyline, making it easier to learn how to include a sequence when writing in the classroom. 
  • Social skills – Have a group in therapy? Hand clapping is ideal to help develop teamwork, collaboration, tolerance, and patience, which are all essential to successful socializing within a peer group. Switch it up and have kids work with varied partners, or work together as a larger group. These varied interactions can help build self-confidence, and proper interaction during play.
  • Memory – Let’s consider memory for a moment. Significant memory skills are needed when recalling simple to moderately complex hand clapping songs, these can require various levels of memory. Think about the lyrics and movements needed for: Patty Cake, A Sailor Went to Sea, Down, Miss Mary Mack, See See My Playmate, Miss Susie, etc.
  • Rhythm – Hand clapping is a great tool for rhythm and beat development, as the hands must develop a rhythm to match the lyrics and time with a partner.  Interactive Metronome is a popular program involving rhythm and timing.
  • Listening – It is a given that hand clapping games help work on listening skills, in order to learn the movements that match the lyrics. During this process, children are also developing the skills needed to combine memory, rhythm, and sequencing, as they listen attentively to follow the directions that are given within a song or rhyme.
  • Vocabulary skills – Many hand clapping rhymes or songs include singing the lyrics while clapping which can help build new vocabulary as the songs are learned. When working with a partner, communication skills can be addressed too. 
  • Proprioception– Hitting the palm of the hand against another hand offers feedback through the fingers, wrists, and whole upper extremity with heavy work input. This quick jolt of force through the upper body is a way to add proprioceptive input through play. The benefit for learning the clapping rhyme hand movements and positioning is through practice and that physical touch feedback is a loop that builds on itself.
Miss Mary Mack hand game

Hand Clapping Rhymes

Below is a round-up list of hand clapping rhymes and/or games that you will probably recall from your childhood, but if not, there are links below to YouTube videos that will demonstrate them for you. It is a great idea to practice these before performing with your students.

Patty Cake Patty Cake Baker’s Man

Pat-a-Cake – Actually titled Pat-a-Cake, many children call this rhyme Patty Cake Patty Cake Baker’s Man. This one is instructed by a physical therapist and I love it because she adds great motor planning movements and does it with her 3-year-old co-instructor. 

Here are the lyrics: 

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man.
Bake me a cake as fast as you can;
Roll it, pat it, and mark it with B, (or any letter of your first name)
Put it in the oven for baby and me.

miss mary mack Hand Game

Miss Mary Mack – This one is instructed by a K-5 music teacher. She makes the video using a complete tutorial to teach the lyrics and the movements slowly, and then in rhythm to the song by herself, and then with a partner. The Miss Mary Mack clapping game is a fan favorite among children.

Here are the Miss Mary Mack lyrics: 

Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack
All dressed in black, black, black
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons
All down her back, back, back.

She asked her mother, mother, mother
for fifty cents, cents, cents
To see the elephants, elephants, elephants
Jump over the fence, fence, fence.
They jumped so high, high, high
they reached the sky, sky, sky
And didn’t come back, back, back
Till the 4th of July, -ly, -ly.

rockin’ robin clapping game

Rockin’ Robin – The Rockin’ Robin clapping game is demonstrated and instructed by a homeschool mom who gives a short demonstration of the hand movements needed to complete the hand clap patterns to the lyrics, in slow motion. It’s only four hand movements that stay repetitive to the lyrics of the song, so it’s an easier one to teach and to do.

Here are the Rockin Robin lyrics:

He rocks in the treetops all day long, hoppin’ and a-boppin’ and singing his song 

All the little birds on Jaybird Street love to hear the robin go tweet-tweet-tweet 

Chorus: Rockin’ robin, Rock-rock-rockin’ robin’ Go rockin’ robin ’cause we’re really gonna rock tonight 

Every little swallow, every chick-a-dee, every little bird in the tall oak tree 

The wise old owl, the big black crow flappin’ their wings singin’ “go bird, go” 

Chorus: Rockin’ robin, Rock-rock-rockin’ robin’ Go rockin’ robin ’cause we’re really gonna rock tonight

double this double that

Double This Double That – This clapping hands rhyme is also demonstrated and instructed by the same homeschool mom who will show the simple hand movements needed, and discusses briefly how it can be used as a fun elimination game. You can do this one at various speeds, making it a super coordination activity in therapy. Use it with a partner, or part of a group activity. 

Double This Double That Lyrics:

Double, double this this,

Double, double that that,

Double this, double that,

Double, double this that.

twinkle twinkle little star

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star – This one has a unique teaching approach performed by an occupational therapist using this familiar song to work on hand movements in three different patterns. Go OT! I like this one as it can be done on the table top, but you could easily do the same movements with a partner too. There are no actual lyrics with this version of the activity, but they can easily be added during game play. 

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star lyrics:

Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are

clap RHyme

Clap – This Clap rhyme activity uses hand clapping as an exercise that is great for a whole-body warm-up, or as a sensory break. It uses upbeat music that the instructor claps along with, showing other body movements that are used in coordination with the clapping to improve body awareness, motor coordination, and endurance too!

There are few lyrics with the Clap rhyme activity, but there is a tune or beat that is played in the background as the video plays. 

avocado Hand Game

Avocado – This hand clap video is demonstrated by Miss Mortimer who is a K-5 Music Teacher. The video is funny because the dog feels left out, and wants to participate too!  She does a great job doing the demonstration of the Avocado hand game slowly, then along with the lyrics. Later Miss Mortimer shows an additional hand movement to make this clapping game more challenging. She also shows how you can speed it up, and then how you change the song when you lose the game. 

Here are the lyrics to the Avocado hand game:

Avocado, avocado, avocado, is the name of the game

If you mess up you have to change the name

a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z.

Hot cross buns Rhyme

Hot Cross Buns – This hand clapping demonstration is done by a homeschool mom with her child. They demonstrate how to do this hand clapping to the Hot Cross Buns rhyme in a variety of ways. I like the hand movements she uses as they incorporate a variety of motor planning skills. 

Here are the lyrics to the Hot Cross Buns rhyme:

Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons
One ha’ penny,
Two ha’ penny,
Hot Cross Buns!

Concentration Clapping Game

In the concentration clapping game, you sit or stand across from a friend. Clap hands together after saying each line from the rhyme. This game supports development of attention, working memory, focus, and impulse control, as well as emotional control when the inevitable mistake happens. Players can list out numbers or they can substitute the numbers for different categories such as fruits, animals, sports, foods, etc. The slaps and claps can be hitting hands face to face followed by crossing the arms to clap. Then player one, continuing the rhythm, says a number or other word (colors, sports, foods, etc.) twice. Then the other player repeats those words and adds their own words in the same category. This goes back and forth as the players keep adding more words to the list.

Here are the lyrics to the Concentration Clapping Game:

Concentration (slap slap clap clap)

Are you ready? (slap slap clap clap)

If – so – (slap slap clap clap)

Let’s – go! (slap slap clap clap)

For example: cat, cat (slap slap)

The other player then does the same, starting with their own number and following with someone else’s:

cat, cat, dog, dog (slap slap clap clap)

Use these clap games in therapy or at home

So, do you feel inspired to get your hands clapping yet? Does this bring back memories of the playground songs, “Say Say my Playmate, Down Down Baby, or Miss Suzie? Once you view these fun videos, you’ll want to start using hand clapping as an intervention tool in your therapy sessions where you’ll start seeing children build important developmental skills while having some fun and getting a few laughs in too!

Pair these concentration clapping games with hula hoop activities and backyard tag games for old school fun!

Regina Allen

Regina Parsons-Allen is a school-based certified occupational therapy assistant. She has a pediatrics practice area of emphasis from the NBCOT. She graduated from the OTA program at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson, North Carolina with an A.A.S degree in occupational therapy assistant. She has been practicing occupational therapy in the same school district for 20 years. She loves her children, husband, OT, working with children and teaching Sunday school. She is passionate about engaging, empowering, and enabling children to reach their maximum potential in ALL of their occupations as well assuring them that God loves them!

What is Finger Isolation?

finger isolation

Today’s post is all about finger isolation: what does finger isolation mean, why this fine motor skill is important, and even finger isolation exercises and activities to support precision and dexterity in the fingers. As children develop dexterity in fine motor skills, more precision and refined movements allow for coordinated skill work. It’s through this motor skill that one can do specific tasks that use only one finger or several fingers.

You may have heard of finger isolation as a component of fine motor skills that kids need for dexterity and precision. Today, we’re discussing this important motor skill, how finger isolation impacts function, and activities to build finger dexterity. So, what is this motor skill that allows us to point, hold up a single finger, or make fingerprints? Let’s discuss!

What is finger isolation? 

Finger isolation is the ability to isolate and use the fingers one at a time in functional tasks. The fine motor skill of finger isolation is the development of being able to “isolate” or individually use each finger of the hand. Counting one finger at a time, tying shoes, typing on a screen or computer keyboard, finger games like “Where is Thumbkin?”, and opposing one finger to the thumb are examples of finger isolation.

When children are developing they begin to use each finger individually; as infants, children tend to use the hand as one solid unit. Finger isolation is one of the first important developmental milestones that leads to children’s ability to write well with a pencil, type on a keyboard, play a musical instrument, tie shoes ect!

If you’re wondering how to see if your child has good finger isolation, you can ask yourself:  

  • Does your preschooler or kindergartner avoid pointing?
  • Do they tend to gesture in the direction of an object instead of pointing?
  • Do they use their whole hand to grasp objects rather than one or two fingers when that makes more sense for the size of the object?
  • Do they struggle to manipulate coins, turn a page of a book, tie shoes, or other task requiring refined movements?

Then adding a few finger isolation activities and games might be helpful for your child!

Development of finger isolation

Finger isolation typically develops in the baby at around 6 months of age as they begin to pick up small pieces of cereal. It progresses to pointing, and then separation of the two sides of the hand with in-hand manipulation. Finger isolation is so important in fine motor dexterity in every task that the hands perform.

There are other components of fine motor skills that contribute to the precision of isolating fingers in activities:

  • Separation of the sides of the hand- Separating the sides of the hand isolates the precision side of the hand from the power side of the hand allows for, and requires isolation of fingers and joints during motor tasks.
  • In-hand manipulation- In hand manipulation includes moving objects within the hand and refined isolation of digits and joints on the fingers contribute to this skill.
  • Arch development- This hand strength allows for fingers to move in isolation of one another.
  • Opposition- Finger and thumb opposition of the thumb to the fingers also plays a role in finger isolation. This ability to oppose the thumb to a single digit allows for more refined and precise grasps on objects.
  • Open thumb web space- Similarly, to oppose the thumb to the fingertips, an open thumb web space is necessary.

Finger Isolation and Screens (apps and games)

From a very young age, many small children are efficient at using tablets and phone apps with finger isolation to point, swipe, and move through images on the screen. However, when kids are scrolling the screen, and using their finger in isolation on a tablet, they typically use only one finger (the index finger OR the middle finger) and do not exert strength on the screen.  

They are not receiving feedback through the muscles and joints of the hand (proprioception) to build motor plans for fine motor tasks. They are not establishing a “store” of fine motor experiences.

You then may see that single finger is stronger and more dominant in tasks such as pencil grasp or tying shoes. This concept is similar to the dominance of a hand or side of the body. Equally of interest is this post on deciphering the difference between dominance and ambidextrous. It’s all related, and to the occupational therapy professional, so interesting to read about the connections!

Read here for more symptoms of too much screen time.

Finger isolation is a fine motor skill kids need for dexterity and precision. Here are ccupational therpay activities to work on fine motor skills.

Development of fine motor skills includes finger isolation. Here is more information on finger isolation for dexterity and motor control.

Finger Isolation Activities

So, how can you build and develop finger isolation?  There are many ways to build finger isolation skills. You’ll also find more finger isolation activities along with a craft that can help kids become more aware of this fine motor skill. Below are small motor tools to help with development. Add these finger strengthening exercises to your therapy plans or home programs.

One great way to develop precision in a single digit of the hand is to instruct the individual to tap each finger to their thumb (give them a demonstration so they can mirror you!),

Isolation of the individual fingers really develops with hand strength and coordination through the use of hand clapping games and finger rhyming songs. Show the individual finger and hand games such as “Where is Thumbkin?”, “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, and other rhyming games that involve hand motions.  

Overall, fingerplay songs are a powerful tool to support the development of finger isolation!

  • Pop bubbles
  • Play “I spy” with items around the house and encourage your child to point
  • Counting on fingers one at a time
  • “Itsy Bitsy Spider” (this is a great beginner motor plan with easy finger isolation hand motion)
  • Shadow hand puppets using a flashlight
  • Dampen fingers to pick up small items such as glitter, confetti, other small items
  • Teaching common finger expressions such as “A okay”, thumbs up, finger guns etc
  • “Lizard fingers”: this is one of my favorites that really makes kids laugh, stick small pieces of tape on each finger and have kids pretend to be a lizard and see what they can pick up around the room! (Make sure to have small items that can actually be picked up, we’ve had a couple failures with this activity!)

Other finger isolation ideas here on The OT Toolbox:

What is finger isolation? Use these button rings to work on using fingers one at a time in fine motor activities with kids!

Finger Isolation Crafts

  • Make and play with finger puppets
  • Finger painting
  • Using a pointer finger to trace shapes in foam, slime, various sensory mediums
  • Make “spaghetti” strings by rolling play-doh between the index finger and thumb
  • Make a “finger soccer board” by folding up a small piece of paper into a triangular shape and have your child “flick” the “ball” into the goal

If there is ever an easy craft that you and the kids make, this is it.  These button rings are as cute as they are effective in developing the skills needed for tasks like maintaining a pencil grasp, shoe tying, and managing clothing fasteners.

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You’ll need just a few items for this craft:


These super cute button rings are a craft that my kids loved making.  They wore these rings every day for a while there. (This mom did, too!)

What is finger isolation? Use these button rings to work on using fingers one at a time in fine motor activities with kids!

 

  1. To make the rings, cut the pipe cleaners into small pieces.  You’ll want them small enough to fit little fingers, but a little longer in order to add the buttons.
  2. Thread the buttons onto one end of the pipe cleaner.  
  3. Twist the two ends together and tuck the end of the pipe cleaner on the outside of the ring (so it won’t rub up against the skin).
  4. You can add extra buttons and layer different colored buttons for fun rings. 

Finger isolation activity with rings

  • When wearing the rings, incorporate finger isolation by placing rings on different fingers.  
  • Ask your child to hold up the finger with a specific colored button or pipe cleaner.  
  • Try tapping fingers with the rings one at a time by calling out a colored ring and asking your child to play a “SIMON” type of memory game.
What is finger isolation? Use these button rings to work on using fingers one at a time in fine motor activities with kids!

  You’ll love these fine motor activities, too:

Use these Fine Motor Kits for hands-on activity kits to develop fine motor skills, strength, dexterity, and manipulation. Kids LOVE these fine motor kits for the motivating activities. Therapists love them because it’s fresh, fun ways to work on pinch, grip, manipulation skills, and much more. Try some of these themed therapy kits:

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.

Powerful Action Rhymes and Nursery Rhymes with Actions

nursery rhymes with actions

Kids love finger plays and action rhymes.  You know the ones, right?  Here, we’re sharing nursery rhymes with actions that support development including gross motor coordination, bilateral coordination, and body awareness. These movement and rhyme phrases and songs that fill every childhood, preschool classroom, and library story time are a classic  part of childhood. 

Rhymes with action movements inspire rhythm and rhyming skills, but there is more than that: They are engaging, fun, and repetitive ways to work on motor development.

These nursery rhyme actions are great additions to nursery rhyme crafts!

nursery rhymes with actions


But, did you know that action rhymes help with childhood development? Childhood development and action rhymes go hand-in-hand so to speak.  Kids learn and grow by moving and repeating and then independently saying and singing rhymes that many kids could sing along to.  

What are some ways that childhood development and action rhymes help a child grow?

Action rhymes are a great way to address skills such as:

Use these creative and powerful nursery rhymes with actions to develop skills in OT sessions.




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Looking for brain break videos for the classroom or home? Here are the best brain break videos on YouTube.

What are action rhymes?

Action rhymes are movement songs or nursery rhymes with movement.  

They might be gross motor activities like “I’m a Little Teapot” or “Duck, Duck, Goose”. Or, they might be a fine motor activity like “Eensy Weensy Spider” or “Where is Thumbkin”.  

There are so many nursery rhymes with actions out there that preschool classrooms are using or even making up to suit their needs, but one thing is common with all action rhymes; They have sing-song phrases and involve movement.  

Fine Motor Action Rhymes:

  1. Where is Thumbkin?
  2. Creep Them, Creep Them
  3. Bringing Home a Baby Bumble Bee
  4. 5 in the Bed
  5. Eensy Weensy Spider

Gross Motor Action Rhymes:

  1. Wheels on the Bus
  2. I’m a Little Teapot
  3. Duck, Duck, Goose
  4. Farmer in the Dell
  5. If You’re Happy and You Know It
  6. Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
  7. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
  8. 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed
  9. Grand Old Duke of York

How to use nursery rhymes with actions to build childhood development?
Action rhymes and finger plays are perfect for the 18-24 month age range and the preschool years when so much development is occurring.  

Consider all the ways a toddler or preschooler are developing: fine and gross motor skills, language, cognitive, social-emotional…these years are full of natural progression with development going through the roof!

Childhood Development and Action Rhymes

There are so many ways that nursery rhymes with actions help to build childhood development in a healthy way:

  • Fine Motor Skills– Use the fingers and hands to build dexterity, eye-hand coordination, and finger isolation through movement. Encourage kids to follow along with the fine motor action rhymes listed above to improve dexterity and fine motor control.
  • Gross Motor Skills– Using the trunk, legs, and shoulders builds strength in the limbs and core muscle strength needed for attention and focus. Read more developing core strength through movement rhymes here.
  • Social/Emotional Development– Striving for independence, asserting ones independence, engaging with peers, and an emerging awareness of ones own body and a sense of awareness of others is developing and growing in the toddler and preschool years.  Action rhymes in a group setting promote all of these areas. Encourage kids to connect with other children and adults by pairing up kids to perform action rhymes in small groups of kids.
  • Speech and Language Development– The toddler and preschool age sets are flourishing in language skills.  There is a huge opportunity for developing and building skills through repetitive action rhymes.  Children can be encouraged to develop these skills when encouraged to participate in verbal exchanges.  Further promote communication skills by asking questions about the rhymes.
  • Spatial Concepts– Important for awareness of ones self and position in space, as well as in visual motor integration tasks like handwriting, action rhymes allow children to explore position in space through movement. Encourage development and understanding of front/back, over/under, top/bottom, etc. Try this action rhyme trick: when a spatial term is mentioned in an action rhyme, try pointing in the direction instead of saying the words or phrases.
  • Attention Span– Action rhymes allow kids to focus for a period of time on a teacher as well as peers individual and group action rhyme activities. Encourage longer attention by increasing time spent singing action rhymes. Lead into a group activity with action rhymes or use them as a tool to take a break during seated tasks or classroom activities that require focus and attention. 
  • Cognitive Development– Using action rhymes, children are introduced to concepts such as numbers, colors, shapes, sizes, names, letters, and more. Concrete concepts of the toddler and preschool years can be enhanced to more abstract ideas through cognitive development using sensori-motor components of action rhymes.  Movement and learning are very well connected and action rhymes add a sing-song rhyming component as well. Additionally, concepts such as patterning, sequencing, and cause-effect are addressed through action rhymes.
  • Self-Concept– Action rhymes provide an opportunity to learn about body parts. Encourage kids to learn about their body parts with action rhymes like, “If You’re Happy and You Know It”
  • Behavior Development– Action rhymes promote movement and an appropriate opportunity for students to get wiggles and fidgets out in a classroom setting.  Following the rhyme actions, kids can discover how they can move their body in purposeful ways.
Use these creative and powerful ideas to boost and build childhood development with action rhymes and finger plays with toddler and preschool kids in the classroom, home, or Occupational Therapy clinic.

  What are some favorite action rhymes in your classroom, home, or clinic?  

More movement and development ideas you will love: 

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook walks you through sensory processing information, each step of creating a meaningful and motivating sensory diet, that is guided by the individual’s personal interests and preferences.

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is not just about creating a sensory diet to meet sensory processing needs. This handbook is your key to creating an active and thriving lifestyle based on a deep understanding of sensory processing.

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.

Star Wars Occupational Therapy Lightsaber

star wars occupational therapy

Today I have a fun Star Wars occupational therapy activity. This block light saber requires just one material, but you can use this Lightsaber for so many OT goals! We actually created this counting block light saber years ago (original blog post was written in 2015) for May 4th activities for occupational therapy. May the 4th be with you with this fine motor Star Wars activity!

Star Wars occupational therapy activities for kids

Star Wars occupational therapy

Pediatric occupational therapy professionals know the power of using themes in OT therapy sessions. When we come up with a theme for fine motor, gross motor, visual motor, and sensory motor tasks, we can cover a wide range of OT goals while meeting the client (patient, student, etc.) where they are with a focus on their interests.

Using interests in therapy fosters meaning and engagement.

That’s where this Star Wars occupational therapy theme comes into play.

How many children have you met that love all things Star Wars? When you bring up the topic of light sabers, Millennium Falcon, Chewbacca, and Luke, you may see a sparkle in the eyes of a child that could talk for hours on all things Star Wars. That’s when you know you have a great therapy theme on your hands.

Using that Star Wars theme in therapy allows kids to focus on the tasks at hand, try new activities, and put themselves out there to try activities that might be just a little difficult on the range of “just right” tasks. The point here is to meet those goals but when working on goals is difficult, it can be easy to quit or give up. However, if there is a topic of interest that really sparks a light of engagement, then you have a tool to support goal development.

This is when we see kids thrive!

Let’s go over a few Star Wars occupational therapy activities focusing on fine motor skills, visual motor skills, gross motor skills, handwriting, and sensory play.

Star Wars Fine Motor Activity- Build a Block Light Saber

If your sons (and daughters) are anything like mine they love to make lightsabers out of anything.  Ever since they were introduced to Star Wars, the lightsaber is definitely a favorite in our house.  We built these blocks Star Wars lightsabers using counting blocks and wanted to share.  Because it sure is fun!

The block light saber is a fine motor powerhouse. By snapping together the blocks, you’ll see:

All of these fine motor skills are essential to functional tasks. Using the Star Wars theme adds a “4th” theme (force) that can’t be beat!

Build a lightsaber using counting blocks or cubes for a Star Wars occupational therapy theme.

How to Make a Star Wars Lightsaber with Blocks

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To make build our lightsabers, we used one of our favorite toys; these snapping blocks are a toy that is used almost every day in our house.  From building robots to spaceships, and now lightsabers…we love these blocks.  They are great when used as a counting manipulative for preschoolers.  Other counting blocks could also be used.   

Use math blocks or counting snap blocks to make a light saber for May 4th activities or a Star Wars OT theme.

How to use this light saber in OT activities:

Visual Motor Skills- Create a block light saber model. Ask the child to copy the light saber using pattern blocks or snap blocks. They can copy the colors and spacing of the blocks to work on visual motor skills.

Other visual skills addressed with this activity include:

  • Visual scanning
  • Visual attention
  • Visual figure ground
  • Visual closure

Gross Motor Skills- Use the light saber to copy gross motor movements and motor planning patterns. The therapist can make movements with a block light saber and the client can copy them. Work on adding a sequence of movement patterns to work on sequencing, balance, motor planning, and recall. You can use the light saber like a movement stick like we did with this cursive writing warm-up activity.   

Other gross motor skills that are addressed with this Star Wars light saber therapy tool include:  

  • Crossing midline
  • Balance
  • sequencing
  • Motor planning
  • Visual tracking
  • Core strength and stability

Handwriting- This is one way to use the blocks light saber that I really love. Once the light saber has been built, use it as a spacing tool to space between words!

We’ve created a bunch of DIY spacing tools in the past: This light saber spacing tool joins the ranks of our popular space martian spacing tool, pipe cleaner spacing tool, craft stick and button spacing tool, and our craft stick (with a tracking dot) spacing tool.

To use the light saber as a spacing tool, the child can build their light saber using the snapping blocks. Then, ask them to write sentences on paper or a dry erase board, focusing on copying or writing words accurately on the lines. Show the child how to place the light saber blocks between each word as a visual cue and a tactile support to add space after the words. When they are completed with writing the sentence, they will have words that are accurately and consistently spaced out, making handwriting legibility a breeze.

Spatial awareness impacts handwriting legibility in big ways. The child can then recall using a light saber as their handwriting “force” each time they write, whether they have the actual light saber in hand or not. It’s a handwriting force that can’t be beat!

Sensory Activities- By adding sensory play into therapy sessions, children can address self-regulation needs, sensory challenges, and play-based learning. Scatter the blocks in a sensory bin with scoops, tongs, and cups. You’ll need a sensory bin base material as well. The sensory materials offer a way to explore textures and create in therapy sessions.

The student or child can find the needed items and then build their own light saber.

This sensory Star Wars idea addresses various skill areas:

  • Tactile exploration
  • Sensory motor skills
  • Visual processing
  • Proprioception

Build the lightsabers using a row of counting blocks.  Encourage your child to count out the blocks and match up the numbers when making a double lightsaber.  This is a fun way to encourage math through play and interests in Star Wars.  Have fun with your counting block lightsabers!  

Add this activity to these other Star Wars occupational therapy activities:

Star Wars Sensory Activities

  • Use Star Wars Moon Dough to encourage tactile hand sensory input, add heavy work through the hands with proprioceptive input.
  • Mix and make LEGO Star Wars Putty and develop tactile sensory challenges with bilateral coordination. Then address handwashing after playing.

Star Wars Fine Motor

  • Incorporate bilateral coordination, hand strength, coloring skills, and heavy work through the hands to make this Crayon Resist Death Star.
  • Work on scissor skills, bilateral coordination, precision, glue use, and handwriting to make this Star Wars R2-D2 Craft. 
  • Incorporate wrist extension, fine motor precision, hand strength, grasp development, tool use, and scissor skills and Make a Toilet Paper Roll Yoda.
  • Address tripod grasp, neat precision grasp, separation of the sides of the hand, open thumb web space, eye hand coordination, and visual motor skills with this Star Wars Day Perler Bead Pattern.

Star Wars Handwriting

Use the light saber spacing tool above with these Star Wars handwriting ideas in occupational therapy sessions:

  • Incorporate letter formation, copying skills, line use, spatial awareness, and handwriting legibility in a functional and meaningful Star Wars craft using this May the Fourth Be With You Card.
  • Use these Star Wars Children’s Books to work on handwriting skills by asking kids to copy sentences from the books or to find specific letters in the book and then work on letter formation. They can even use the pictures as inspiration for creative writing with a Star Wars theme.

Star Wars Executive Function Ideas

All of the crafts and activities above involve aspects of executive functioning skills. Making a play dough or slime recipe involves planning, prioritization, and other EF skill work. Try this activity with your star Wars theme to add more executive function work to your occupational therapy session:

  • Make stop action creations and work on planning, prioritization, impulse control, task completion and other executive functioning skills. You’ll find inspiration in this  Star Wars stop action activity.  

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.

Beaded Feather Fine Motor Activity

beaded feathers fine motor activity

This beaded feather activity is a fine motor task that we created YEARS ago. WE love it because beads and feathers are common craft materials found in many pediatric occupational therapy professionals’ therapy toolbox. In fact OTs love crafts as a fine motor strategy and this feather bead activity is a powerhouse!

Beaded Feather Activity

If you need a quick and easy little activity for the kids while you are making dinner, or just something fun for the kids to keep practice a few fine motor skills, then this is a great activity for you.  Simple to set up and easy to clean up, this one will get those little muscles going and moving with fine motor dexterity!
 


Beading with feathers

This activity works on several grasps, color awareness, counting, sorting, visual scanning, and eye-hand-coordination.  How can you beat such an easy activity with so many benefits??  

 

 
Fine motor activity for kids using beads and feathers.
 
 
 
This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
 
You’ll need just two craft materials for this fine motor activity:
 

 

 

 
 
Preschoolers and Toddlers can match beads to feathers to learn colors.
 
Get your feathers and some coordinating beads and lay them out on the table.  I started a few feathers to show the kids what we were doing and had the invitation to start ready to go. 
 
They came over to check it out and would bead a bit here and there throughout the day.  It was kind of like a therapeutic little break from bouncing off of couch cushions and each other. 
 
Their little bodies needed a chance to slow down and re-group before getting back into the routine of regularly scheduled chaos.
 
But maybe that’s just my kids?
  
Sorting colored beads to match colored feathers is a fun way to learn colors.

 

Pincer Grasp Activity With Beads and Feathers

You could also put out a big old tray of all kinds of beads with different colors, shapes, sizes to work with. 
 
This slightly makes the activity just a little more difficult as the child has to visually scan for the colors needed and pick out the beads that they want with a neat pincer grasp
 
Using the tips of the index finger and the thumb in a precision grasp to manipulate beads from a big tray of colors is great for eye-hand coordination
 
Want more ideas to work on neat pincer grasp or eye hand coordination?  We’ve got plenty!
 
Threading colored beads on feathers is a great way for prechoolers and toddlers to work on colors and fine motor skills.

 

Beading Feathers Bilateral Coordination Activity

Holding the feather and the beads requires two hands to work together in a coordinated way (bilateral hand coordination). 
 
This is a great way to practice pre-writing skills and those requirements needed for self- care like managing buttons, zippers, shoe-tying, and scissor skills.
 
Beads and feathers are a fun way to practice colors and fine motor skills with kids.

 

Bead Feathers to learn colors


Younger children (Baby Girl is just getting this!)  can learn colors and practice naming colors as they pick out the beads and match to the color of the feather. 

How many other ways can you think of to make this a learning opportunity? 

Patterns, sorting, counting…this is a fun learning op and a great way to get those little hands moving!


                                Kids can work on fine motor skills and color matching awareness while beading feathers.

 

Fine motor activity for kids using beads and feathers.
 
 
More Fine Motor activities you will love:
 
 

 

The beaded feather activity and the other fine motor tasks listed above are a great addition to our popular Fine Motor Kits:

Use these Fine Motor Kits for hands-on activity kits to develop fine motor skills, strength, dexterity, and manipulation. Kids LOVE these fine motor kits for the motivating activities. Therapists love them because it’s fresh, fun ways to work on pinch, grip, manipulation skills, and much more. Try some of these themed therapy kits:

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.

Skipping Activities for Kids

How to teach skipping

Young children often ask to learn to skip. Here, you’ll discover skipping activities for kids, as well as specific strategies to teach children how to skip. Skipping is an important gross motor target. For some children, learning to skip is a real challenge! 

These skipping activities are fun ways to teach kids to skip.

Learn to Skip with Skipping Activities

If you have ever spent time in an elementary school, you may have noticed that the youngest members of the school community, specifically kindergarteners, hardly ever walk from place to place… they skip (and hop, jump, twirl, and gallop, too)!

Skipping is a developmental milestone or marker that generally emerges around age 5, with a range of age 4-6 years.  For many kids, skipping emerges without intervention, just the way reaching, crawling, or walking develops. 

For kids who struggle with gross motor skills and bilateral coordination, direct teaching may be necessary to develop this critical skill.  Once the basics are learned, skipping activities are a great way to practice.

learning to skip requires motor planning and sensory integration

Skipping is such a perfect example of motor planning and sensory integration.  It requires ideation (having the idea about how to move), planning (sequencing the movement), and execution (carrying out the movement).  

For a person to execute the motor plan of skipping, the coordinated effort of sensory systems and the brain is required. 

Skipping also provides excellent sensory input. No wonder kindergarteners like to skip from place to place… the vestibular and proprioceptive input they receive is a natural reward for all their hard work in mastering the skill!

what about bilateral coordination?

The ability to coordinate the two sides of the body involved in learning how to skip requires balance, strength, motor planning, and bilateral coordination. Bilateral coordination refers to the ability of the brain and body to process and integrate information from both sides of the brain to respond with movements in a coordinated manner. 

Many functional tasks and daily activities, such as feeding, dressing, and writing rely on bilateral coordination. 

Being able to coordinate both sides of the body is also a foundation skill for gross motor coordination activities such as walking, running, galloping and skipping.

Wondering how to teach skipping? This blog post breaks down the steps of skipping.

How to Teach Skipping

When you have a goal for a child to learn to skip, it is important to make sure that you address all of the components of skipping.  Teaching kids to skip starts with seeing what skills the individual is able to do. There are skills that are required to skip. Can the child balance on one foot and hop? Does the child have a dominant leg? Can they gallop or perform a different version of skipping? These are all good questions to ask when teaching skipping skills.

First, evaluate and observe the following gross motor skills needed for skipping:

  • Balance – check to make sure they can balance on either foot
  • Hopping – are they able to hop in place on each foot?  Are they able to hop forward on one foot?  Have them try to take 5 hops forward on either foot
  • Leg dominance – it may be helpful to know if they have a preferred leg for activities like hopping or kicking
  • Galloping – are they able to gallop? Can they gallop on either side?  This is more of a unilateral skill, which is often easier for kids who demonstrate difficulty with bilateral coordination skills.

If any of the above skills are weak, start with developing balance and hopping.  Then progress to galloping, followed by skipping. 

Then, use these strategies to teach skipping:

  1. To teach skipping, start by breaking down the steps for the child.  Provide a demonstration and simple verbal cues like “Step, hop, switch”.  You may need to provide a visual cue as well, using colored dots or markers on the floor, such as these (Amazon affiliate link) Little Polly Markers.

2. Once the child is able to complete the “step, hop, switch” sequence. This can be a very slow process at first. Some kids will need to think through the motor plan of each step. That’s ok! Use visual and verbal cues to work on the step with one foot, the hop, and the switch to the other foot.

3. Work to improve their fluency and speed of the step, hop switch sequence. Use these steps in an obstacle course or a relay activity to work on speed and gross motor coordination to improve fluent motor skills.

3. As they master the skill of skipping, you can encourage them to incorporate their upper body into the movement as well. Show them how to swing their arms in coordination with the legs. This will become more fluent and integrated with practice.  

Working on the coordination and motor planning to master learning to skip involves more than just a hop and a skip. Skipping is a complex task, but once you break it down and address underlying skill areas, it becomes easier. 

Skipping Activities

Here are some gross motor coordination games and skipping activities that address bilateral coordination and motor skills:

  • Obstacle courses – set up a simple hopping and jumping obstacle course inside or outside.  Use pool noodles to jump over with two feet, hop in and out of hula hoops, jump over cardboard bricks, etc.  Here is a post about Outdoor Lawn Games with lots of ideas for using backyard toys and equipment to address gross motor coordination skills.
  • This Ultra Dash Game is fun for kids of all ages!  You can set up an obstacle course in various ways and then the kids have to race to match the colors from the wand to the colored base.  You could incorporate skipping, jumping, and hopping into this game to work on those skills in a new way.
  • Use gross motor toys to work on balance, coordination, motor planning, and core strength.
  • Use a long jump rope to hop over on one foot. 
  • Stand like a flamingo. Try freeze dance games with a flamingo theme. When the music stops, players have to hold one leg up like a flamingo!
  • Simon says- Incorporate the hop and jump tasks needed in the task of skipping.
  • Yoga is a great activity to build body awareness, gross motor skills, and bilateral coordination.  Here are several different kids yoga resources:
  • Skip ball– this toy is a fun tool to practice skipping skills
  • Chinese Jump Rope – who remembers this classic toy? Relive your childhood while passing on this great game
  • Mini Trampoline – these are great to work on jumping, hopping, coordination, following directions, all great skills to teach skipping
  • Musical Hippity Hop Stick – this rotating stick encourages children to jump over the stick as it rotates by. If the stick touches them, the game is over. Practice this with two feet first, then try hopping over the stick
  • Hopscotch!  Don’t forget about this one!  All you need is some chalk and a sunny day to get outside and practice hopping and jumping.  This would be a great activity to set up on the playground for kids to work on skipping skills during recess. Not ready for outside play? Use painter’s tape down the hallway.

spring has almost sprung!

With Spring right around the corner, here are some Spring Gross Motor Activities to use with your students in the upcoming weeks to address gross motor coordination skills.

It’s time to get some “Spring” back in our steps!  Bring your kids outside and have some fun working on hopping, jumping, and of course…skipping!

Katherine Cook is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience primarily working in schools with students from preschool through Grade 12.  Katherine graduated from Boston University in 2001 and completed her Master’s degree and Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study at Tufts University in 2010.  Katherine’s school based experience includes working in integrated preschool programs, supporting students in the inclusion setting, as well as program development and providing consultation to students in substantially separate programs.  Katherine has a passion for fostering the play skills of children and supporting their occupations in school. 

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!