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.

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 

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 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.

    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!

    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 

    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 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!

      What is Motor Planning

      motor planning

      You may have heard the term motor planning but wondered what this means and what does it look like to utilize motor planning skills in everyday activities. Here, we are breaking down this important motor skills topic. Occupational therapists are skilled at analyzing movements and underlying skills needed to perform the things we do each day, or the tasks that occupy our time, and establishing an efficient and coordinated motor plan is one of the main aspects of this assessment. 

      Motor planning

      Motor Planning

      When we perform an action, there are movements of our bones, joints, and muscles that enable our bodies to move. It’s through this movement that the body and brain receives feedback, or a motor concept that tells the brain and body that we have moved in a certain way in order to accomplish a specific action. This is the motor plan for that particular task at work!

      Let’s look at a child’s motor skills in a specific action to really explore this concept. 

      Ok, so you’re walking along a hallway with an armful of bags and see a ball in your path. You walk around it and continue walking. But, hold on. That was a pretty cool ball. It was all red and shiny. It looked like a really fun ball to bounce. You stop, turn around, walk back to the ball, stoop down, put down your bags, and pick it up. Woah. It’s not only red and shiny, but it’s a little heavy too. 

      It takes a bit more muscle oomph than you were expecting. You hold your arm up high, with the ball up over your head. Totally not a baseball player’s pose, but all awkward and kid-like. You know. Pure fun throwing. 

      You toss that red, shiny, heavy ball as hard as you can towards a big old blank wall on one of the hallway walls. Now watch out! That red, shiny, heavy ball is bouncing around like crazy! 

      It’s bouncing off of the wall and right back at you! You jump to the side and then to the left and right as it bounces back and forth between the walls of that hallway. You have to skip to the side to avoid your bags. 

      The ball stops bouncing and rolls to the side of the hall. 

      Well, that was fun. You pick up the ball and hold it while you gather your bags. Now, you see a boy coming down the hall who sees that red, shiny, heavy ball in your hand and says, “Hey! There’s my ball!” You smile and toss the ball as he reaches out his hand and catches. “Thanks!!” he says as you wave and start walking down the hall again.

      What is Motor Planning? Tips and Tools in this post with a fun fine motor motor planning (dyspraxia) activity for kids and adults from an Occupational Therapist

      What is Motor Planning?

      Motor Planning happens with everything we do! From walking around objects in our path, to picking up items, to aiming and throwing, drawing, writing, getting dressed, and even dodging red bouncy balls…

      Motor Planning is defined as the problem solving and moving over, under, and around requires fine motor and gross motor skills and planning to plan out, organize, and carry out an action. We must organize incoming information, including sensory input, and integrate that information into our plan. We need to determine if a ball is heavy or light to pick up and hold it without dropping it.

      You might hear of motor planning referred to as praxis. 

      Praxis (generally also known as Motor Planning, but also it’s more than simply motor planning…) requires observing and understanding the task (ideation), planning out an action in response to the task (organization), and the act of carrying out the task (execution). A difficulty with any of these areas will lead to dyspraxia in many skill areas. 

      Praxis includes motor planning, but also involved is ideation, execution, and feedback, with adjustment to that feedback. You can see the similarities in motor planning, which refers to the conscious and subconscious (ingrained) motor actions or plans.

      Motor Planning is needed for everyday tasks. Think about the everyday activities that you complete day in and day out. Each of these actions requires a movement, or a series of movements to complete. There are both gross motor movements, fine motor movements, and posture all working together in a coordinated manner.

      There is a motor plan for actions such as:

      • using a toothbrush to brush one’s teeth
      • brushing hair
      • getting dressed
      • putting on a backpack
      • walking down a hallway
      • walking up steps
      • walking down steps
      • holding a pencil
      • writing with a pencil (motor planning and handwriting is discussed here.)
      • riding a bike
      • maintaining posture
      • putting on a coat or jacket (on top of other clothing such as a shirt so that in this case, there isn’t the tactile feedback available of the fabric directly on the skin’s surface)
      • performing sports actions such as swinging a baseball bat or tennis racket, running, or gymnastics like doing a cartwheel

      The interesting thing is that a movement plan, or the physical action that is completed whether the action has been performed in the past or if it is a new movement. A motor plan for a new task can be completed without thinking through how to move the body because it is just inherently completed.

      When we complete unfamiliar tasks and need to stop and think through how the body needs to move, is when we see inefficient movement, or motor planning issues.

      Motor Planning Difficulties

      Above, we talked about praxis as another term or way to name the motor plan concept. When there are difficulties with motor planning, we are referring to the opposite of praxis, or dyspraxia. 

       Dyspraxia can be a result of poor sensory integration, visual difficulties, fine motor and gross motor coordination and ability, neural processing, and many other areas.

      Motor planning difficulties can look like several things:

      • Difficult ability to complete physical tasks
      • Small steps
      • Slow speed
      • Pausing to think through actions
      • Clumsiness
      • Poor coordination
      • Weakness

      These challenges with motor function can exist with either new motor tasks or familiar actions. Deficits are apparent when speed is reduced so that the functional task isn’t efficient, when the motor task is unsafe, or poor completion of the task at hand.

      There are diagnoses that have poor motor planning as a component of the diagnosis. Some of these disorders can include:

      When motor planning difficulties exist, this can be a cause for other considerations related to movements, and demonstration of difficulties when participating in movement-based activities:

      • challenges in social interactions
      • anxiety
      • behaviors
      • social skills issues

      Today, I’ve got a quick and easy fine motor activity to work on motor planning with kids. This activity is part of our 31 Days of Occupational Therapy series where we’re sharing fun and frugal ideas for treatment of many OT skill areas with items you might already have in your house.

      motor planning activity

      Motor Planning Activity

      Affiliate links are included in this post. 

      Motor planning activity

      To make this motor planning activity, you’ll need just a few items: 

      • a clear plastic baggie
      • white crafting pom poms
      • one red pom pom. These are items we had in our crafting supplies, but you could modify this activity to use items you have. Other ideas might be beads, pin pong balls, ice cubes, or any small item.
      1. Fill the baggie with the pom poms and squeeze out the air. 
      2. Seal the baggie.
      3. Use a permanent marker to draw on a maze from one side of the baggie to the other. You can make this as complex as you like. 
      4. Add additional mazes, or two different pom pom colors for the maze. Work the red pom pom from one end of the maze to the other.
      Apraxia activity

      Squeezing the pom pom is a fine motor work out for the hands. You’ll need to open up the thumb web space (the part of your hand between the thumb and fingers, and use those intrinsic small muscles of the hand. Both of these areas are important for fine motor tasks like coloring and writing.

      Use this motor planning exercise as a warm-up activity before writing, coloring, and scissor activities. This is a great activity to have on hand in your therapy treatment bag or to pull out while waiting at the doctor’s office.

      Motor planning toys and games

      Motor Planning Activities

      Looking for more ways to work on dyspraxia with your kids? These are some fun fine and gross motor activities that are fun and creative. 

      The best thing about all of them is that they are open-ended. Use them in obstacle courses or in movement tasks to incorporate many skill areas. These are some fun ideas to save for gift ideas. Now which to get first…

      Work on fine motor dexterity and bilateral coordination while encouraging motor planning as the child matches colors of the nuts and bolts in this Jumbo Nuts and Bolts Set with Backpack set. The large size is perfect for preschoolers or children with a weak hand grasp.

      Practice motor planning and eye-hand coordination. This Button Mosaic Transperent Pegboard is a powerhouse of motor planning play. Kids can copy and match big and bright cards to the pegs in this large pegboard. I love that the toy is propped up on an incline plane, allowing for an extended wrist and a tripod grasp. Matching the colors and placing the pegs into the appropriate holes of the pegboard allow for motor planning practice.

      Develop refined precision of fine motor skills with eye-hand coordination. A big and bright puzzle like this Puzzle-shaped Block Set  allows kids to work on hand-eye coordination and motor planning as they scan for pieces, match the appropriate parts of the puzzle pieces, and attempt to work the pieces into place. Building a puzzle such as this one can be a workout for kids with hand and upper extremity weakness.

      Strengthen small motor skills. Kids of all ages can work on motor planning and fine motor skills with this Grimm’s Rainbow Bowls Shape & Color Sorting Activity. Use the colored fish to place into the matching cups, as children work on eye-hand coordination. Using the tongs requires a greater level of motor planning.

      You can modify this activity by placing the cups around a room for a gross motor visual scanning and motor planning activity. Children can then follow multi-level instructions as they climb over, around, under, and through obstacles to return the fish to their matching bowls.

      Encourage more gross motor planning with hopping, jumping, and skipping, or other gross motor tasks. This Crocodile Hop A Floor Mat Game does just that. It is a great way to encourage whole body motor planning and multiple-step direction following.

      Address balance and coordination. These Gonge Riverstones Gross Motor Course challenge balance skills as children step from stone to stone. These would make a great part of many imagination play activities as children plan out motor sequences to step, cross, hop, and jump…without even realizing they are working on motor planning tasks.

      Introduce multiple-step direction following and motor planning. These colored footprints like these Gonge Feet Markers support direction following skills. Plan out a combination of fine and gross motor obstacle courses for kids to work on motor planning skills.

      Make hand-eye coordination fun with challenges. For more fine motor coordination and motor planning, kids will love this Chickyboom Balance Game as they practice fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and about balance and mathematics.

      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.

      How to Dye Pumpkin Seeds for Sensory Play

      How to Dye Pumpkin seeds

      If you’ve ever carved a pumpkin and wondered how to dye pumpkin seeds, then you are in luck. The occupational therapists know the sensory benefits of lifting and carving a pumpkin, as well as separating pumpkin seeds from the ooey, gooey pumpkin guts. Here, we’re sharing one Fall Bucket List item must-have…dying pumpkin seeds for sensory play, pumpkin seed crafts, and pumpkin seed fine motor tasks! Read on for an easy dyeing method for pumpkin seeds that can be included in occupational therapy Halloween sessions or sent home as a home program for this time of year.

      How to dye pumpkin seeds

      Add dyed pumpkin seeds to your list of pumpkin activities!

      How to Dye Pumpkin Seeds

      This post on how to dye pumpkin seeds was one we originally created back in 2014. The thing is that colored pumpkin seeds is still just as much fun for fine motor and sensory play as it was years ago!

      Dying pumpkin seeds isn’t hard. In fact, the kids will love to get in on the mixing action. They will love to use those dyed pumpkin seeds in sensory bins, for fine motor pumpkin seeds activities, or even Fall crafts like this pumpkin seed craft.

      Once you dye the pumpkin seeds, use them for tons of fine motor activities, sensory play activities, and visual motor ideas, like sorting pumpkin seeds. These are fun Fall activities that will stick with kids as a memory!

      I love that this recipe is simple because it is a great way to support development of specific skills when kids are involved in making the dyed pumpkin seeds. By getting kids involved in the process, you can work on several areas:

      • executive functioning skills: planning, prioritization, working memory
      • problem solving
      • direction following
      • bilateral coordination
      • safety awareness
      • spatial awareness
      • kitchen tool use
      • fine motor skills
      • functional fine motor skills: opening containers, opening a plastic bag, scooping with a spoon, closing a plastic bag
      • eye-hand coordination skills
      • proprioception skills and body awareness with shaking a bag to coat the seeds completely

      We cover how using recipes to develop skills is such a powerful therapy tool in our resources on our blog on life skills cooking activities. It’s simple recipes like this one and others in our cooking with kids resources that pack a powerful punch in developing skill areas.

      Be sure to check out this resource on fine motor kitchen activities to better grasp all of the fine motor skills developed through cooking tasks like this pumpkin seed dying task.

      We also talked about about these skill areas in our resource on how to dye sand for sensory play.

      Colorful Pumpkin Seeds

      This post contains affiliate links.

      We wanted to make a batch of colorful pumpkin seeds with vivid colors, so I wasn’t sure how to dye the seeds to make the colors really pop. We decided to test which method would work to really get the best colors on our pumpkin seeds.

      We tested using To make our seeds this year, we used (Amazon affiliate links) liquid food coloring dye and gel food coloring.  In our tests, each type of food coloring worked really well.  

      One thing to note is that if you use food coloring, technically, the pumpkin seeds are still edible. This is important if you have a child playing with the seeds that might put them into their mouth.

      The problem with roasting the seeds after coloring them is that the colors don’t “stick” as well to the seed, making less vivid colors.  If you are going to roast the seeds so that they are edible for these situation, I would suggest first roasting your seeds and THEN dying them for the brightest colors.

      That being said, you don’t NEED to roast the seeds in order to use them for sensory play. As long as the pumpkin seeds are dry, they will absorb the food coloring.

      Use these instructions on how to dye pumpkin seeds to make colored pumpkin seeds for fine motor and sensory play with kids.

      Materials to Dye Pumpkin Seeds:

      To dye pumpkin seeds, you need just a couple of items:

      • raw, clean pumpkin seeds from a fresh pumpkin
      • a plastic bag (sandwich bag or a gallon-sized plastic bag)
      • food coloring
      • paper towels

      That’s all of the items you need to dye pumpkin seeds! This is really a simple recipe, and one that is easy to make with kids.

      Dying PUmpkin Seeds

      To dye the pumpkin seeds, it is very simple:

      1. Put dry pumpkin seeds into a plastic bag.
      2. Add the food coloring.
      3. Seal the bag shut and shake the bag to coat all of the seeds with the food coloring.
      4. Pour the seeds out onto a surface covered with paper towels (A kitchen counter works well).
      5. Let the seeds dry.

      Whether you use liquid food coloring dye or gel food coloring, add the seeds to plastic baggies and add the food coloring.  Seal up the baggies, mix the seeds around, (or hand them over to the kids and let them go crazy), and get the seeds coated in coloring.  

      For kids that might eat the seeds during play: As we mentioned above, f there are any risks of the child eating a seed during sensory play or crafting, you can first roast the seeds.

      1. Roast the seeds before dying them. Spread the seeds out on aluminum foil spread on a cookie sheet.  
      2. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.  Be sure to check on the seeds often to make sure they are not burning.  
      3. Then dye the seeds using food coloring as described above. If you roast them first, the colors will cover any brown spots.
      Wondering how to dye pumpkin seeds and use in sensory play?


      Pumpkin Seed Activities

      Once you dye the pumpkin seeds, you can use them in pumpkin seed crafts and pumpkin seed activities that foster fine motor development.

      Pumpkin Seed Sensory Ideas:

      Pumpkin seeds are a great addition to sensory play experiences. Allowing kids to scoop the seeds directly from the pumpkin is such a tactile sensory experience!

      But for some kids, that pumpkin goop is just too much tactile input. Using dyed pumpkin seeds in sensory play is a “just right” challenge in exposure to carving pumpkins. It’s a first step in the tactile experience.

      Some of our favorite ways to use dyed pumpkin seeds in sensory play:

      • Use them in a sensory bin
      • Use colorful pumpkin seeds in a writing tray
      • Add dyed pumpkin seeds to a discovery bottle
      • Use rainbow pumpkin seeds on a Fall exploration table

      Use the directions listed above to create a set of colored pumpkin seeds. Use the colorful pumpkin seeds in a big pumpkin sensory bin to create a tactile sensory experience. Kids can draw letters in the seeds to work on letter formation. Add this idea to your toolbox of sensory writing tray ideas.

      Add a few Fall themed items such as small pumpkins, acorns, pinecones, scoops, and small bowls to the sensory bin activity. Dyed pumpkin seeds are a great sensory bin medium this time of year when making an easy sensory bin.

      Dyed pumpkin seeds in a sensory bin

      This sensory play activity was very fun.  We couldn’t keep our hands out of the tray as we played and created.

      Use dyed pumpkin seeds for sensory play with kids.
      Use this recipe for how to dye pumpkin seeds with kids.
      Colored pumpkin seeds are great for kids to use in sensory play.

      Pumpkin Seed Crafts

      Pumpkin seeds are a great fine motor tool to use in crafting.

      Try these craft ideas using dyed pumpkin seeds:

      Fine motor activity with dyed pumpkin seeds

      We used our dyed seeds in art projects first.  Manipulating those seeds is a great way to work on fine motor skills.  Little Sister was SO excited to make art!

      Add additional fine motor work by using a squeezable glue bottle to create a pumpkin seeds craft and pumpkin seed art. Squeezing that glue bottle adds a gross hand grasp and fine motor warm-up before performing fine motor tasks.

      How to dye pumpkin seeds to use in a Fall mandala craft.

      Use dyed pumpkin seeds to make a colorful mandala craft with fine motor benefits. Picking up the pumpkin seeds uses fine motor skills such as in-hand manipulation, separation of the sides of the hand, pincer grasp, open thumb web space, and distal mobility.

      Placing the colored pumpkin seeds into a symmetrical pattern of colors promotes eye-hand coordination and visual perceptual skills such as visual discrimination, figure ground, and other skills.

      Dying pumpkin seeds is a fun Fall activity for kids.

      Little Guy made a gingerbread man.  Because why not??! 😉

      Squeezing the glue bottle into a shape and placing the colored pumpkin seeds along the line is another exercise in visual perception and eye-hand coordination.

      Colored pumpkin seeds can be used in Fall sensory play and fine motor crafts.

      Little Sister made a rainbow with her seeds.

      Use colored pumpkin seeds to make a fine motor craft with kids.

      How to dye pumpkin seeds for sensory play for kids.

      Colored pumpkin seeds are fun for Fall crafts.

      Be sure to use your dyed pumpkin seeds for a few fun ideas like these:

      Pumpkin activity kit
      Pumpkin Fine Motor Kit

      Grab the Pumpkin Fine Motor Kit for more coloring, cutting, and eye-hand coordination activities with a Pumpkin theme! It includes:

      • 7 digital products that can be used any time of year- has a “pumpkins” theme
      • 5 pumpkin scissor skills cutting strips
      • Pumpkin scissor skills shapes- use in sensory bins, math, sorting, pattern activities
      • 2 pumpkin visual perception mazes with writing activity
      • Pumpkin “I Spy” sheet – color in the outline shapes to build pencil control and fine motor strength
      • Pumpkin Lacing cards – print, color, and hole punch to build bilateral coordination skills
      • 2 Pumpkin theme handwriting pages – single and double rule bold lined paper for handwriting practice

      Work on underlying fine motor and visual motor integration skills so you can help students excel in handwriting, learning, and motor skill development.

      You can grab this Pumpkin Fine Motor kit for just $6!

      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.

      Bone Names Activity for Kids

      bone identification activity

      As occupational therapy students, we had to learn bone names and all about anatomy and physiology. Naming bones comes in very handy as an occupational therapist! But, if you are working in pediatrics, kids need to learn names of bones, too! For one thing, kids learn bone names in school. But did you consider the interoception aspect to teaching bone names? When it comes to internal feelings or anatomical states that impact sensory processing and internal body actions, learning names of bones supports this awareness of self. Add this fun way to learn names of bones to your anatomy and physiology games!

      Use labels to teach bone names with a fun way to learn the names of bones.

      Bone Names Activity

      Learning human anatomy has a special place in my heart. I mean, those semesters in Human Anatomy, Anatomy lab, and clinical kinesiology bring back fond memories.  

      So, when my kids ask questions like how their arm can pick up a sandwich, I have a little fun telling them about bones, joints, and muscles. This bone naming activity is just one fun way to teach bone names and teach kids about anatomy.

      (Moving a sandwich is a big deal in our house!)

      We’ve done a body part identification activity before, using band-aides, but these labels were a big hit with my kids.  We used them to practice for a test for my big kids.  

      My Kindergartner and Second grader had a bones theme in their gym class, we had fun talking about the bones in our body, and made this Bone Identification and movement activity. (It would be great as a skeleton activities for preschoolers, too.

      Bones Activity

      This bone activity for kids is one they won’t forget…and when teaching human anatomy to kids, it’s one that will stick! The fun stickers help! 🙂

      This post contains affiliate links.

      I threw this activity together really quickly.  We had a few sheets of blank address labels, and I grabbed a red permanent marker.  I made a quick strip across the top and bottom of the address labels and then wrote in black marker, “Hello my name is” with the bone names below.  

      If your kids are like mine, they get a kick out of those Hello My Name Is Stickers.  You could use store bought stickers, or just make your own like we did.  

      bone identification

      While we used this bone identification activity with kids, it would be a great way to learn bones as part of an anatomy and physiology lesson for OT or PT students, too!

      This bones anatomy movement and learning activity is perfect for kids or anyone learning human anatomy and bones or musculature. Add this to a health or gym curriculum to learn body parts with kids.

      list of bones in human body

      After I wrote out the names of the bones, I tested my kids on what they knew. They recalled most of the bones from gym class lessons, but we had a few that needed practicing.  

      For the second grade and kindergarten physical education curriculum, they had to know this list of bones in the human body

      • skull
      • humerus
      • radius
      • ulna
      • carpals
      • phalanges
      • clavicle
      • sternum
      • ribs
      • pelvis
      • femur
      • tibia
      • fibula
      • tarsals

      Complete List of Bone Names

      Above is just a simplified list of bone names, which can be used for teaching kids about the skeletal system. A more complete list is as follows. The bone identification activity shown below can definitely be used for this complete list of bone names and bone types. Classifying and naming the entire skeletal system requires much practice, and as occupational therapists we know the power of multi-sensory learning!

      Bones in the skull (includes bones in the head and face):

      • Cranial bones:
        • frontal bones
        • Parietal bone
        • temporal bones
        • occipital bone
        • sphenoid bone
        • ethmoid bone
      • Facial bones:
        • mandible
        • maxilla
        • palatine bone
        • zygomatic bone
        • nasal bone
        • lacrimal bone
        • vomer bone
        • inferior nasal conchae

      Bones in the thorax:

      • sternum
      • ribs

      Bones in the throat:

      • hyoid bone

      Bones in the vertebral column, or spine:

      • cervical vertebrae
      • thoracic vertebrae
      • lumbar vertebrae

      Bones in the pelvis:

      • coccyx
      • sacrum
      • ossa coxae (hip bones)

      Bones in the legs :

      • femur
      • patella
      • tibia
      • fibula

      Bones in the feet:

      • Ankle (tarsal) bones:
        • calcaneus (heel bone)
        • talus 
        • navicular bone
        • medial cuneiform bone 
        • intermediate cuneiform bone 
        • lateral cuneiform bone
        • cuboid bone 
      • Instep bones:
        • metatarsal bone
      • Toe bones:
        • proximal phalanges
        • intermediate phalanges 
        • distal phalanges 

      Bones in the middle ears:

      • malleus
      • incus
      • stapes

      Bones in the shoulder girdle:

      • scapula or shoulder blade
      • clavicle or collarbone

      Bones in the arms:

      • humerus
      • radius
      • ulna

      Bones in the hands:

      • Wrist (carpal) bones:
        • scaphoid bone
        • lunate bone
        • triquetral bone
        • pisiform bone
        • trapezium
        • trapezoid bone 
        • capitate bone
        • hamate bone 
      • Palm or metacarpal bones:
        • metacarpal bones
      • Finger bones or phalanges:
        • proximal phalanges
        • intermediate phalanges
        • distal phalanges

      Teach kids the names of bones with a bone identification activity.

      We had a blast sticking the labels all over ourselves while saying “Hello my name is humerus!” in funny voices.  

      While we had the labels on our body parts, we practiced the motions of that bone.  We talked about how that bone could move and what it could do.  

      Yes, your humerus has a job in picking up a sandwich! (This is a very important fact when teaching bone names to preschoolers!)

      Learn bone names by using this Bone identification activity and sticking bone name stickers onto a doll.
      Bone identification activity with a doll.

      Even the baby doll got in on the bone labeling action.

      Use stickers to learn bone names

      How cute are those tarsals??

      This bones anatomy movement and learning activity is perfect for kids or anyone learning human anatomy and bones or musculature. Add this to a health or gym curriculum to learn body parts with kids.

      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.

      Bedtime Relaxation Stretches for Kids

      Relaxation stretches for bedtime

      In this post, you will find calming bedtime relaxation stretches for kids and families, based on the popular children’s book, Time for Bed. These activities are perfect for helping kids calm down before bed. We know the power of sleep hygiene in child development, but let’s consider the powerful impact of stretches before bed have on children.

      Relaxation Stretches for Kids Sleep

      An important thing to cover when it comes to helping children fall asleep and stay asleep at night is the concept of pre-bedtime yoga. When kids participate in bedtime stretches as part of their bedtime routine, it’s a sensory diet that supports sleep.

      relaxation stretches for bed time
      Use animal theme yoga poses to support relaxation at bedtime.

      One thing that we’ll cover here is the impact that the interoception sensory system has on sleep.

      Relaxation Stretches for Kids Sleep

      An important thing to cover when it comes to helping children fall asleep and stay asleep at night is the concept of pre-bedtime yoga. When kids participate in bedtime stretches as part of their bedtime routine, it’s a sensory diet that supports sleep.

      Use these relaxation stretches for bedtime to incorporate calming sensory input.

      One thing that we’ll cover here is the impact of the interoception sensory system has on sleep.

      Children can get a little wound up before bed.  All it takes is one rouge energy burst and you’ve got giggling kids bouncing from every surface imaginable.  

      Couch cushions? check. They are jumping up and down.  

      Running from room to room? Check. There’s two of them chasing one another back and forth will the occasional knee slide across the hardwoods.  

      Practicing the living room tumbling skills? Yep and check. There’s one more doing somersaults across the room.

      Why must they gang up on me with their endless energy during those exhausting pre-bedtime hours?

      Having a set of bedtime relaxation stretches in the nightly routine can support sensory needs and promote a sense of calm before bedtime, just when children are wound up and excitable.

      benefits of stretching before bed

      We know that sleep is a necessary occupation for all of us, but for children sleep patterns and healthy sleep cycles support so many aspects of development.

      • Cognition
      • Learning
      • Behavior
      • Nutrition
      • Emotional development
      • Social development

      When children don’t get enough hours of sleep, or if they don’t get quality sleep on a consistent basis, there are several things that can occur:

      • Poor focus
      • Trouble concentrating
      • Attention and behavior problems
      • Poor academic performance in school
      • Excess weight or increased food intake
      • Problems paying attention
      • Health problems: obesity, type 2 diabetes, poor mental health, and injuries
      • Decreased physical activity
      • Poor mental health
      • Unhealthy risky behaviors related to decision-making
      • Risk-taking behaviors, bullying, school violence-related behaviors, and physical fighting
      • Higher risk of unintentional injury

      There are several studies describing the benefits of stretching before bed. Kids can benefit from a pre-bedtime stretching sessions to integrate sensory processing systems and the calming benefits of slow movement, heavy work as a regulation tool. This calms the body and helps with relaxation before bed.

      Stretching before bed supports sleep quality. One review of multiple studies found that mindfulness meditation practices that incorporate gentle stretching, such as yoga and tai chi, generally improve sleep quality.

      Another study found that older adults reported improved sleep quality after performing low level physical and cognitive activity. The researchers found that gentle stretching resulted in better sleep than when the participants performed more strenuous exercises, such as aerobics.

      Bedtime stretches help kids stay asleep. A study into resistance exercise training and stretching found that exercises could improve symptoms of insomnia. In the study, the participants performed stretching in 60-minute sessions three times per week for a period of 4 months. The results showed improved sleep quality when stretching in the evening.

      Better sleep supports learning and executive functioning skills. Other studies tell us that better sleep hygiene in children support development of executive functioning skills.

      yoga poses for stress relief

      Today, I’m sharing a great way to calm kids down before bed so that quality sleep is possible. These yoga poses for stress relief and bedtime relaxation promote organizing heavy work through the proprioceptive sensory system and gentle movement through the vestibular sensory system.

      Another contributing factor is the interoceptive system which connects our internal systems such as digestion, heart rate, circadian rhythms, and muscle tension. All of these factors play a vital role in impacting sleep, with both the ability to fall asleep, and the ability to stay asleep throughout the night. This study shares more on the interoceptive system’s role in sleep.

      These organizing and calming yoga poses stretch the muscles and joints to offer feedback to regulate an overactive system.

      If you’ve ever participated in a yoga session, you know the benefits of certain yoga poses in reducing stress and anxiety.

      It’s important to make the connection between stress responses, anxiety, over-active thoughts, and a hyper-response to stimulation and emotional responses. The difficulty in identifying and describing emotions in self (a huge part of social emotional learning and development) is referred to as Alexithymia.

      This ability develop social emotional skills occurs with age, and social skills interventions.

      Specifically, alexithymia is defined as difficulty identifying and describing emotions in self. We know that noticing and understanding internal body signals (aka interoception) is crucial to a bodily systems, so it makes sense that if interoception is affected, using or showing emotions, and identifying emotions in self will be affected.

      Interoception influences emotions by it’s control and underlying influence on internal processes of the body: toileting, hunger, thirst, and sleep!

      When interoception impacts sleep, it then further impacts emotions:

      • stress
      • getting angry or frustrated easily
      • anxiety
      • fear
      • worry
      • overly emotional responses
      • sadness
      • over-excitability
      • hyperactive responses

      All of these emotional responses are normal and good feelings to experience. However, when sleep is reduced, they can move into an area of impacting other functional tasks or everyday occupations.

      You’ll also find information and resources in this article on the limbic system including the stress response. You can see how all of these concepts fit together to impact daily functioning.

      How to use yoga poses for stress relief with children

      Using yoga to support relaxation at bedtime is not a new concept. Yoga naturally supports relaxation through the heavy work input of the proprioceptive sense.

      However, yoga also adds the benefit of deep breathing exercises to calm and center the body as an organization tool.

      When it comes to bedtime, adding anything to the nightly routine can mean a delayed bedtime, so making the relaxation stretches part of the routine that is already in place is important. If you read a book together each night, incorporate stretches into that. If brushing teeth and going to the bathroom are the only tasks that happen each night, use the time just after those jobs to do a few stretches.

      Adding bedtime stretches for the purpose of relaxation doesn’t need to be difficult. The most important thing here is to make it work for your situation and home. down the somersaults and hardwood floor stunts into relaxing bedtime.  

      Here are some tips to support relaxation at bedtime:

      • Use bedtime relaxation stretches in a nightly routine. A visual schedule can be helpful with some kids.
      • Dim the lights and turn on soothing music
      • Read a book before bed
      • Drink a warm drink as a calming food/sensory tool.
      • Set the mood for sleep with a calming bedroom or sleep space: snuggly blankets, cozy pillows, or cool temperature, depending on the individual’s preferences.
      • Use the relaxation stretches listed below.

      One way that helps to get kids relaxed before bed is reading a great book.  When kids can listen to an engaging story that is read aloud, their bodies can’t help but slow down.  

      Bedtime Relaxation Stretches for Kids

      These bedtime relaxation stretches are a combination of relaxing yoga moves and heavy work that helps to ground the body through proprioceptive input to the body’s sensory receptors in the muscles. 

      Performing these relaxing stretches can help transition kids to a calmed state that allows for a better sleep.

      Below are forms of yoga poses for children.

      We decided to use one of our favorite going to bed books, (Amazon affiliate link) Mem Fox’s Time for Bed

      In the book, we hear a rhyming verse about each animal’s transition to sleep.  It’s such a beautiful book to snuggle up with kids during night time routines.  In fact, Time for Bed can easily become one of those books that you read over and over again.

      We loved looking at the watercolor pictures in Time for Bed and picturing each animal as it got ready for sleep.  

      To go along with the book, we tried some of these bedtime relaxation stretches. 

      Grab your copy of the free printable below by entering your email address into the form, or going to The OT Toolbox Member’s Club and heading to the Mindfulness Toolbox.

      Time for Bed book by Mem Fox and relaxation stretches for bedtime

      To do these exercises, simply cut out the printable on the lines, and create a small stack of stretches.  Kids can do one or more of these relaxation stretches to calm down before settling in with the Time for Bed book.

      Simply pull out a couple of the stretches and join your child on the floor to perform each stretch.  The stretches are designed based on the animals in the book.  

      When doing the stretches, hold the stretch for 2-3 minutes while maintaining deep breathing. 

      Bedtime relaxation stretches
      Print off these relaxation stretches for a bedtime calm down session for kids.

      As we all know, kids will be kids.  If your child is getting too wound up from the stretches (because sometimes the sleepy sillies take over and make concentrating on stretches and relaxing deep breaths nearly impossible!) simply put the stretches away and try them another day.

      Bedtime stretches with an animal theme
      Relaxation stretch for kids, incorporating yoga poses for stress, anxiety, or to calm down before bed.

      Your child will love doing these bedtime relaxation stretches with you and the whole family!

      Bedtime stretches to do before bed

      Little Goose Stretch– Lie on the floor on your back, with your feet raised up on the wall.  Keep your knees straight.  Spread your arms out on the floor like a goose.  Bend and point your toes slowly.

      Little Cat Stretch– Snuggle in tight!  Sit criss cross applesauce on the floor.  Bend forward at the hips and place your head on the ground.  Stretch your arms out on the floor over your head.

      Little Calf Stretch– Grasp both hands together behind your back.  Bend forward at the hips and raise your arms up behind you.

      Little Foal Stretch– Lie on your back and pull your knees in with your arms.  Hold the position and whisper about your day.

      Little Fish Stretch–  Take a deep breath. Hold your breath in your cheeks and puff out those cheeks.  Slowly let out your breath with pursed lips.

      Little Sheep Stretch–  Stand facing a wall and place your feet shoulder width apart.  Place your hands flat on the wall, shoulder width apart.  Push against the wall by bending and straightening your elbows.

      Little Bird Stretch–  Close your eyes.  Think about your day and take deep breaths.  Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.  Add a “wing” component by raising your arms up high as you breathe in and lowering them as you slowly breathe out.

      Little Snake Stretch–  Lie on your back on the floor.  Keep your legs straight and cross them at the ankles.  Place your arms over your head on the floor.  Cross them at the wrists.  

      Little Pup Stretch–  Get into a downward dog yoga position.  

      Little Deer Stretch– Sit on the floor with your legs straight. Spread them far apart and bend at the hips to touch one foot.  Hold it and then stretch to touch the other foot.

      Try this tonight!  Do a few stretches and then snuggle up while reading Time for Bed!

      Calming bedtime books for kids

      MORE relaxing bedtime books for kids

      These relaxing bedtime books for kids are other ideas to use to support calming sensory input in a relaxation bedtime routine:

      Amazon affiliate links are included below:

      Free Printable set of relaxation stretches for bedtime

      Use the Time For Bed book and relaxation stretches we used above in a bedtime routine of your own. Get a printable PDF of these stretches by entering your email address into the form below. Or, members in The OT Toolbox membership club can grab this PDF by logging in and heading to Brain Break Tools.

      Free Time For Bed Relaxation Stretches

        We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

        One more thing! If you are into creative ways to extend and learn based on books, you will LOVE this resource! 50 activities based on books that address friendship, acceptance, emotions…This ebook is amazing for covering all things emotional development through play!

        Get yours!  

        Read more about the book here.

        Exploring Books through Play helps kids develop fine motor skills and gross motor skills while learning about empathy and compassion.

        Sensory Activities For 1 Year Olds

        sensory activities for 1 year olds

        This blog post is one of the oldest posts on the site, but the sensory activities for 1 year olds that we shared way back when are just as fun now! When this post was written, the babies that played with the balls and muffin tins were just 11 months and going on 1 year. Those little ones are now 11 years old! This is such a great brain building activity for babies that I wanted to reshare the idea for the latest crop of babies out there!

        If you are looking for more Baby activities, try the fun over on our Baby Play page. You’ll also find some great ideas for different ages on this post on baby sensory play.  We’ve been busy!

        sensory activities for 1 year olds

        sensory activities for 1 year olds

        This sensory activity for 1 year olds is an easy activity to set up. You’ll need just a few items:

        • colorful balls
        • muffin tins

        You can add create another sensory activity for the babies with the same colorful balls and a cardboard box or basket. We also used an empty cereal box with hole cut into the sides.

        Each sensory activity here supports development of eye-hand coordination, grasp and release, core strength and stability in dynamic sitting, positioning and seated play on the floor (floor play).

        Baby and Toddler Brain Building activity using balls and a muffin tin. Perfect for developing fine motor skills, visual perceptual skills in an active activity for sitting and mobile babies.

        An important consideration is the use of baby positioners as they can impact powerful movement-based play in babies.

        The best for sensory play for 1 year olds is just playing on the floor! There are so many benefits to playing on the floor with a basket of balls and a few muffin tins.

        Baby and Toddler Brain Building activity using balls and a muffin tin. Perfect for developing fine motor skills, visual perceptual skills in an active activity for sitting and mobile babies.

        What do babies love to do? Take things out and put them back into containers.

        We have a bunch of different colored and sized balls that are so fun to play with in so many ways. I had my nephew here one day and we needed something different to do. My nephew and my Baby Girl are both 11 months old and they absolutely loved this play activity! 

        I pulled out my muffin tins and they had a blast putting the balls into the tins, taking them out, putting them back into the box, and pulling them out again!

        Little Guy (my 3 year old ) loved joining in too. Really, who could resist playing with all of these colorful balls???

        Peek a Boo Sensory Activity for 1 year olds

        What else do babies love? The peek-a-boo game!

        It’s at this age (around one year) that babies often struggle with separation anxiety when being dropped off at a caregiver’s when separated from their parents or caregivers. You will even see signs of separation angst when a parent goes into another room, which can especially happen when the baby is tired.

        The next sensory activity for baby was a fun one!

        We had an empty cereal box that I cut circles into. They had a ton of fun putting the balls into a hole, and pulling a different one out as the box moved around…there were a lot of little hands in there moving that box around 🙂

        The it’s-there-then-it’s not of a great game of peek-a-boo (or peek-a-ball in this case!) is awesome in building neural pathways of the brain. 

         

         

        More sensory activities for babies

        Other sensory activities for 1 year olds and babies include using small baskets or boxes to transfer the balls from one container to the other.

        Transferring from box to box…working those hands to pick up different sized/weighted/textured balls.  Dropping the ball to see what happens is so predictable, but it is important in learning for babies. Just like when baby drops the cup from her highchair a million times…

        We had a ball!

        (couldn’t resist that one…heehee)

        Baby and Toddler Brain Building activity using balls and a muffin tin. Perfect for developing fine motor skills, visual perceptual skills in an active activity for sitting and mobile babies.

        Need more sensory ideas for 1 year olds? Try these:

        • Sensory tables- put interesting toys, textures, scoops, and containers on a low table like a coffee table. The new cruiser or early walker can stand at the table and explore the textures
        • Messy play on a highchair- Strap baby in and encourage messy food play. Thing about apple sauce, pudding, or mashed potatoes.
        • Textured fabrics- Put a bunch of fabric scraps into a box and invite the one year old to pull them out and put them back in.
        • Play with cups and spoons– with supervision- This is a great activity for eye hand coordination skills.

        Bilateral Integration

        bilateral integration

        Bilateral Integration is an area that kids need for so many tasks…but it’s not a developmental milestone that stands out unless a problem is necessarily noticed unless there is a problem. What we do notice in as our kids grow and develop are the motor skills that impact functioning. We notice use of both hands, fluid and efficient movements in tasks like playing, getting dressed, and interacting with peers. Let’s take a look at bilateral integration and dissect how to support this essential sensory motor skill.

        Another resource that supports this information is our blog post on bilateral coordination. You’ll find many bilateral integration activities in that blog post.

        Bilateral integration resources and information

        Bilateral Integration

        From writing and holding the paper, to holding a art project and cutting with scissors, to zippering a jacket, coordinating both sides of the body in an efficient manner is a skill that is necessary for almost everything we do.

        Bilateral coordination develops from a very young age. When babies begin to bring both hands together at their mouth, you are seeing coordinated efforts begin. When the infant pushes up on both arms while lying in a tummy time position, the integrated movements of both hands and legs occurs along with strength and control.

        Research tells us that motor tasks like jumping, jumping jacks, riding a bike, hopping, etc. become easier and more fluid with age as children develop. It’s through play, sensory input, motor skill experience, and activities that these skills are developed.

        Below, you will find bilateral integration activities that can be incorporated at various ages. Use these bilateral coordination activities to promote coordinated and efficient movements in meaningful activities.

        What is Bilateral integration?

        Bilateral integration refers to the ability of both sides of the brain to work together in a coordinated manner. We see this ability when the skills associated with the left side of the brain are done in conjunction with skills associated with the right side of the brain.

        Skills associated with the left side of the brain:

        • Speech and language- Understanding using language (listening, reading, speaking and writing)
        • Comprehension
        • Math problems and facts
        • Handwriting
        • Linear thinking
        • Memory for spoken and written messages
        • Logic
        • Verbal language
        • Sequencing

        Skills associated with the right side of the brain:

        • Creativity and imagination
        • Creative thinking
        • Spatial skills
        • Intuition
        • Art, drawing, and creative artistic skills
        • Musical skills

        Then, when other aspects of functional performance are added to the mix and the individual is still able to complete the task, this is bilateral integration in action.

        Those other considerations include:

        • Attention and focus
        • Proprioceptive input
        • Vestibular input
        • Visual information
        • Motor targets achieved, or motor control shown by fluid movements
        • Praxis- movements thought about and completed in coordinated manner

        When both sides of the body work together in a coordinated manner so that the individual can manipulate objects such as cutlery with various amounts of force modulation, taking in sensory stimuli such as sights, sounds, tastes, and proprioceptive and vestibular input, and managing posture, coordination, and body awareness, bilateral integration is visible.

        When bilateral coordination or bilateral integration is intact and progressing appropriately through development, it is an indicator that both sides of the brain are communicating effectively and sharing information during functional tasks. 

        Tasks that require bilateral integration

        Knowing what we covered above, it is easy to see how some daily tasks are impacted by coordinated and integrated motor skills requiring both sides of the body. Each of these skills requires and has input from other sensory systems and cognitive systems as well, such as proprioceptive input, executive functioning, attention, and even creative thinking and problem solving.

        • Writing and holding the paper in a stable position
        • Cutting and holding the paper steady and at an appropriate height
        • Putting on a coat while holding a backpack (or other item)
        • Tying shoes
        • Pulling up pants and not losing balance
        • Putting socks on
        • Jumping jacks with coordinated movements
        • Turning a page and writing or copying work
        • Typing
        • Squeezing toothpaste and brushing teeth
        • Flossing teeth
        • Playing an instrument
        • Using a knife and fork
        • Pouring water from a pitcher into a cup
        • Cooking skills: chopping, cutting, slicing, peeling, taking food out of packages, putting food into the microwave or stove, taking food out of the fridge
        • Reaching for objects
        • Stabilizing an object with one hand while manipulating another object with the other
        • Jumping rope
        • Catching a ball
        • Riding a bike
        • Swimming
        • Many more tasks!
        These bilateral integration activities are creative ways to help kids with bilateral integration needed for fine motor tasks like handwriting, scissor use, and other functional skills.

        Bilateral Integration Activities 

        Amazon affiliate links are included in this post.

        First, let’s talk about some ways that coordinated use of the arms and legs are needed for coordinated movements. These are skills and tasks that can easily be performed by some children. Others, who struggle with motor planning, core strength, posture needs, left-right discrimination, visual motor skills, or many other areas can struggle. It’s easy to see that simply addressing some areas won’t fix the issue when an underlying concern is present.

        To promote the skills needed for these tasks, try some of the activities listed below to promote bilateral integration:

        Related Read: Here are are some additional bilateral coordination activities with a winter theme.

        Bilateral Integration Activities for Babies

        Bilateral movements are part of everyday life for baby! From turning, creeping on the floor, rolling, sitting, crawling, cruising on furniture, and taking first steps, babies are developing bilateral integration skills from birth.

        Encourage these bilateral integration activities with babies:

        There are ways to support child development at this stage through age-appropriate play that will support the child’s progression at later stages, too.

        • Provide various toys and objects appropriate for young babies. Include bold colored objects including black, white, and red items or contrasting colors, toys, or pictures on a blanket or play mat during tummy time. This black and white board book can be propped up or used while on an adult’s lap.
        • Provide gentle infant massage during and after bath time, and on all extremities. Here is a resource book on infant massage.
        • Provide toys and age-appropriate objects for reach and grasp. This banana toothbrush teether has molded handles that make it a great teething item for little ones.
        • Provide teething toys as baby brings hands together at their mouth.
        • Provide toys that are appropriate for mouthing that can be held in both hands.
        • Provide hand-held toys while the child is seated in a high chair. This one has a suction cup base to keep it stable, but has a black and white ring at the base that babies can grasp with one hand while manipulating with the other hand.
        • Provide toys of various weights when seated upright to provide resistance against gravity and to promote strengthening of the upper extremities. Blocks, rings, sorting toys, or something like this quality teething toy made of heavier materials can be useful to provide variances in weight, while still allowing the baby to manipulate the item.
        • Provide toys available on a high chair or table surface at various distances to provide opportunities for depth of perception when reaching for toys and bringing them to the mouth.
        • Continue tummy time while playing in prone to promote strength and stability in upper extremities.
        • Use the ideas in our baby play library for more ideas.

        Bilateral Integration Activities for Toddlers

        Provide toys requiring one hand to stabilize a base while the other hands manipulates an object. Shape sorters are great for this.

        Other toys include:

        • Peg Boards
        • Blocks- These press and stay sensory blocks are perfect for encouraging one hand to use as a stabilizer and one hand as a
        • Play Dough
        • Drawing/coloring- Here is more information on the benefits of coloring.
        • Use these crayons for toddlers to support bilateral coordination skills during coloring.

        Bilateral Integration Activities for Preschool

        Preschool is a time for building hand strength, coordination, eye-hand coordination, and improving motor skills needed for the upcoming years. You can find many preschool activities here on our website, but some specific ways to support bilateral integration include:

        • Encourage kids to participate in cooking activities.
        • Use play dough to cut with scissors and roll out play dough snakes or balls of play dough.
        • Age-appropriate crafts and craft sets are great for this age.
        • Play with stickers of various sizes.
        • Make “snow angels” on a carpet or fluffy blanket
        • Simon Says is a great game for encouraging novel and varied motor combinations. Use these Simon Says Commands to get started.
        • Play various song and movement games such as the Hokey Pokey, Farmer in the Dell, etc. Here are movement and song activities that can be used in circle time, warm-ups, centers, or in group activities. All of these move and dance songs promote core strength and stability.
        • Climb on outdoor play areas at playgrounds and in low trees.
        • Add sensory! Try this table top bilateral coordination activity to draw shapes.
        • Draw with both hands! This four leaf clover activity is a powerful one as it covers a variety of skills.

        Bilateral Coordination Activities for School-Aged Kids

        In schools, development of bilateral integration is important for tasks like putting on a coat or jacket and backpack, holding a paper with the supporting hand and writing, and using scissors. There are many other bilateral integration tasks that happen throughout the day.

        Some ways you can support development of these skills include:

        Try these bilateral integration activities and coordination ideas to promote use of both hands together in activities such as handwriting, cutting with scissors and so many other tasks!

        Last thoughts on encouraging bilateral integration

        The best way to encourage and promote integration of both sides of the body? Movement and play! Get the kids active, moving, and experiencing various planes against resistance and with exposure to all types of sensory experiences.

        The combination of proprioceptive input into a play experience that promotes strengthening in a fun way provides all of the benefits kids need to improve bilateral coordination skills. Add personal interests as the child grows. And finally, have fun!

        Use these bilateral coordination activities to promote bilateral integration needed for skills like writing and holding the paper and any activity that uses one hand to manipulate an object while stabilizing with the other hand.