Pumpkin Deep Breathing Exercise for Halloween Mindfulness

Pumpkin deep breathing exercise

This Pumpkin Deep Breathing Exercise is the very first visual breathing tool that we created here on the website. We now have many more deep breathing exercises designed to support self-regulation, mindfulness, and brain break needs. We’ve recently updated this Halloween mindfulness activity to include more information on WHY this pumpkin deep breathing strategy works. We’ve also updated the printable to include a pumpkin breathing poster and a pumpkin mindfulness coloring page! This printable deep breathing exercise is a great Halloween Mindfulness mindfulness activity.

You can get both below or access them in our Member’s Club.

Pumpkin Deep breathing exercise

Pumpkin Deep Breathing Exercise

This Halloween activity is one that I came up with while thinking about our recent Halloween Occupational Therapy activities post. So often, we see kids who struggle with coping strategies and require tools to improve self regulation.

This can occur at school or at home. What if we could combine a child’s interest in all things Halloween with a deep breathing exercise that can be used as a coping strategy, or a calm down activity?

That’s where this pumpkin deep breathing exercise comes in.

This deep breathing exercise uses a pumpkin for a coping strategy for kids that is a calm down strategy this Halloween.

Halloween Mindfulness Activity

We’ve created many breathing exercises to calm down kids (and adults) here on the website, and this pumpkin themed mindfulness strategy is just one of the tools in the toolbox.

So often, parents and teachers ask for strategies to use as a coping mechanism. When kids have coping tools in their toolbox for addressing sensory needs, worries, and getting to that “just right” state of regulation, a self-reflective state can occur.

Addressing specific needs like sensory overload, worries or anxiety, fears, or nervousness can be as simple as having a set of sensory coping strategies on hand. One way to do this is using mindfulness and positive coping skills like this deep breathing exercises.

Using deep breathing exercises to support mindfulness and coping skills works for several reasons:

  • When kids are taught about how their body feels and reacts in certain situations, they can self-reflect on past responses.
  • They can better understand who they are and how their body reacts to stressful or sensory situations.
  • By better understanding their states of regulation, they can be mindful of things that may set them off, but better yet, know how to respond.
  • Having a coping strategy on hand can set them up for success in learning or social situations.

Practicing mindfulness activities and coping strategies can be powerful for kids!

Mindfulness is the ability and awareness of thoughts, feelings, and sensations as our body responds or reacts in thought, feeling, and sensations. Mindfulness is being present in the moment in any given situation with full awareness of inward and outward sensations. Practicing mindful awareness through deep breathing exercises is one way to notice how our body is reacting in a given moment and provides a tool to reset. Coping skills for kids may include deep breathing as just one strategy.

Here are some mindfulness videos on YouTube to help kids better understand what coping strategies and mindfulness in action looks and feels like.

Deep breathing acts as a coping tactic and a calming activity. It’s an easy coping strategy for kids because taking deep breaths with mindful breathing can be done anywhere and without any equipment.

Taking controlled breaths with deep breathing can give kids a sense of control that helps them rest and address self-regulation or emotional regulation when they are upset, worried, or feel a need to calm down.

Halloween Breathing Exercise

So now that we’ve covered deep breathing and why it’s a helpful coping strategy for kids, let’s talk about a fun Halloween themed coping strategy that kids will love to try.

The deep breathing printable activity uses a simple picture of a pumpkin, but you can use a real pumpkin, too.

Use a real pumpkin for more sensory benefits.

The small decorative gourds or pie pumpkins are perfect for this activity, because kids can hold the small pumpkin in their hands and feel the weight of the pumpkin as they complete the breathing strategy.

  1. Hold a small pumpkin in the palm of your hand.
  2. Use your pointer finger of your other hand to slowly trace up a ridge and breathe in.
  3. Then trace down another ridge and breathe out.
  4. Continue tracing the ridges of the pumpkin while deeply breathing in and out.

Take the breathing exercise a step further by trace the lines up toward the stem while taking a deep breath in. Hold the breath for a few seconds and then trace a line down another section of the pumpkin while slowly breathing out. Hold that breath for a few seconds. Repeat this process as you slowly trace up and down the sections of the pumpkin.

What’s happening with this pumpkin breathing exercise?

Several sensory systems are at work here when using a real pumpkin in this Halloween mindfulness strategy:

Heavy Work- The weight of the pumpkin on the arches of the palm of the hand= PROPRIOCEPTIVE sensory system.

Calming Tactile Cues- Engaging the tactile sensory system to trace the ridges of a smooth surface. Think about how some individuals like rubbing specific textures like a silky blanket or the calming strips of a fidget tool. Running a finger along the groove of a smooth pumpkin surface engages that calming tactile input.

Belly Breathing- Deep breaths combined with a visual focus offers proprioceptive input through the lungs and diaphragm. Engage belly breathing by taking in fully breaths to fully engage the lungs. Then hold the breath for a second or two before releasing the breath. When belly breathing is engaged, the lungs continue to expand for a moment and add further pressure throughout the ribcage and internal organs. This breath control evokes the interoceptive system.

Bilateral Coordination- When holding the pumpkin and tracing with a finger on the other hand, both sides of the body are at work in a coordinated manner, otherwise known as bilateral coordination. Holding the pumpkin with one hand and tracing with the other hand engages bilateral use of both sides of the body.

Whether you are using a pumpkin picture or real pumpkin, show kids how to use deep breathing as a coping tool by taking calming breaths while they trace the lines of the pumpkin.

Pumpkin deep breathing poster and coloring page
Pumpkin deep breathing poster and coloring page

Halloween Deep Breathing Poster

In this newest update to our calming breathing exercise, we created both a pumpkin deep breathing poster and a coloring page.

  1. The poster can be printed out and hung in a classroom, therapy clinic or home.

2. Use the deep breathing exercise as a brain break during the month of October.

3. It’s a great tool for using during Halloween parties as a therapist- approved activity that supports underlying needs, too.

4. Many times, children can become overstimulated during classroom Halloween parties, and the days leading up to Halloween. Use the pumpkin deep breathing visual as a tool for the whole classroom to organize their sensory systems and focus on the learning that still needs to happen.

5. This printable page is full color and makes a great addition to a calm down corner this time of year.

6. You can even add the pumpkin breathing poster to our Fall Sensory Stations, and include this in a hallway or therapy clinic this time of year.

7. One final way to use this pumpkin mindfulness exercise is during the actual trick or treating. Kids with sensory or self-regulation needs can become overstimulated during trick or treating on Halloween. There is a lot of sensory stimulation out there! From lights, to fog machines, children running in the streets, and lots of strangers in the neighborhood, trick-or-treating is an overloading environment for many kids and adults! Print off a copy of this pumpkin deep breathing tool and use it calm down, engage focused breathing strategies, and cope as needed!

Pumpkin Breathing Coloring Page

In the new download below, you’ll also find a page that is a pumpkin breathing coloring page. We know there are many benefits of coloring and one is the calming ability that coloring has.

Adding heavy work by coloring in pages can be a great way to calm the sensory system through heavy work in the hands.

Print off the coloring page and use it in several ways this time of year:

  • Color in at occupational therapy sessions
  • Use as a whole class activity
  • Kids can color in the breathing exercise page and use them as individual brain break tools
  • Hang the coloring page on a bulletin board for Halloween that explains sensory self-regulation strategies
  • Include in a Halloween party
Use a pumpkin as a deep breathing exercise for a coping strategy for kids.

This printable Halloween mindfulness activity supports coping needs.

Free Pumpkin Deep Breathing Exercise

Want to get this free Pumpkin breathing exercise in both a color Poster format AND a coloring page? You’ve got it! Just enter your email address into the form below to access both printable pages.

This resource is also inside our Member’s Club. Members can log into their accounts and download the file directly without the need to enter an email address. The printable pages are located on our Pumpkin Therapy Theme page and our Mindfulness Toolbox.

Not a member of the Member’s Club yet? JOIN US HERE.

Pumpkin Deep Breathing Exercise

    What other freebies and resources would you like to receive?
    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

    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!

    Halloween Mindfulness Activities

    Use this printable pumpkin deep breathing exercise as a Halloween mindfulness activity. Other printable Halloween mindfulness activities include:

    Halloween Hand Breathing Technique

    We also have a new deep breathing exercise for the Fall or Halloween season. If using a printable to achieve Halloween coping skills isn’t ideal (sometimes you don’t have the printable version with you…or for some kids it might be hard for them to picture a pumpkin as they are coping with some self-regulation needs…), then having another tool in your toolbox is a must.

    We’ve come up with a Halloween Hand Breathing Technique to fit the bill!

    All you need is your hands and fingers to using this hand tracing breathing strategy.

    We talk a bit about using the Hand Breathing Technique for a self-reset to address coping skills, mindset, offset worries or anxiety, and as a deep breathing strategy.

    Check out our video over on YouTube, or you can see it below. If you can’t view the video due to blockers on your computer or device, check out our Pumpkin Hand Breathing Technique over on YouTube.

    To complete the Halloween Hand breathing technique, you can use the same pumpkin deep breathing strategy, but trace a pumpkin on the palm of your hand. We also included a pumpkin tracing task to create a motor plan for the pumpkin shape that is incorporated with deep breaths in and out.

    Have fun!

    Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

    Quick and Easy Middle School Brain Breaks

    middle school brain breaks

    Middle school brain breaks are an important part of the day that is often missed. In the middle school setting, we have kids that are moving from a primary grade setting into more responsibilities when it comes to curriculum. The bigger expectations for middle school students can lead to difficulties with organization, challenges with schedule and social and emotional difficulties. These are just some of the areas middle school occupational therapy addresses. One other tool in our toolbelt is the brain break. And this blog post we’re talking about brain breaks for middle school. You’ll find some brain breaks ideas for middle school students as well as strategies to support students’ self-regulation in the middle school environment.

    These brain breaks for high school can be of use, too.

    middle school brain breaks

    What are middle school brain breaks?

    First, let’s discuss the definition of brain breaks.  Brain breaks are a quick movement breaks, or active breaks for the brain and the body so that the user can pay attention for longer periods of time when we are participating in a task for an extended period of time. Brain break activity can be an easy to get back on track when middle schoolers become distracted by the many different things in the environment. They are a support for excess energy in pre-teens. 

    A brain break is a quick movement break or change from the repetition and an opportunity to recharge.

    Middle school brain breaks support critical thinking skills, impact distractibility, and are a tool for transition time during this stage of education. 

    Brain breaks are important for middle school students because these students ages 11 through 14 are still kids who are having a lot of changes emotionally physically cognitively as well as being required to complete larger assignments and follow a more rigid schedule.

    The middle school grade levels with effective brain breaks interwoven into the classroom support these changes.

    All of this plus the development that happens during the middle school ages can lead to challenges with paying attention in the classroom and learning as well as completing assignments when they need to be done.

    Brain breaks for middle school can be a huge support when it comes to emotional development, physical development, self-regulation and executive functioning skills.

    We know that executive functioning is developing in this age range however, there are a lot of distractions and there’s just a lot going on in the middle school students daily life. Having a regimen of brain break scheduled throughout the school day in the middle school setting is an asset for the students.

    benefits of middle school brain breaks

    Benefits of brain breaks for middle school students

    For middle school students, there are so many benefits to participating in brain breaks during the day. 

    Focus and Attention- Brain breaks can support the middle school student in focus and attention during the classroom learning.

    Stress- Adding brain break tasks in the middle of the classroom day can support the student so that they are less stressed. 

    Mental health- Brain breaks are especially important for mental health. This is especially true for the middle school aged student during the middle school ages mental health is becoming more and more of an issue for our students.

    There are a lot of expectations being held for our students, including classroom expectations, extracurricular activities, and busy schedules. The brain break offers an opportunity to support mental health by reducing stress and anxiety.

    Mood- It’s also a tool for improving mood and supporting the student in relaxation strategies. Impacting the social emotional and mental health components support the development of self-awareness skills that our middle school students need more than ever.

    Creativity- Brain breaks can improve creativity for the middle school student as well. When the student has a chance to move or get a little bit of activity during the day that can foster creative thought which can support writing, creative projects, and other tasks in the middle school curriculum.

    Physical health- Another benefit of brain breaks for the middle school student is overall physical health. Students are receiving more and more screen time throughout their day.

    Especially for the middle school student we have of variety in the schedule where students move throughout the building to different classrooms. While moving throughout the building, offers a natural brain break, it also leads us to several classes throughout the day that incorporate screens and technology in the curriculum. All of that screen time adds up, leading to more static time and more time spent staring at a screen, where previously there may have been more workbook more writing activities and more multi sensory tasks for the middle school student.

    Physical activity- In addition, there may be less movement time throughout the day than a student is used to in the primary school, because where there may have been a gym class or recess every day for primary students, the middle school student doesn’t have that recess time. So they go from one classroom to another where they’re sitting most of the day. A short break with a movement activity or variations from the routine can become motivation that impacts frustration and improves work time.

    Academic achievement- Brain breaks in the middle school, setting are an opportunity for academic achievement as well. We know that brain breaks improve students academic performance as a tool in learning. For the middle school student, this can be a benefit that allows the student to retain information longer and focus on learning, especially when it’s completed prior to important information in the classroom such as lectures.

    All of these are reasons why brain breaks support the middle school student.

    Types of brain breaks for middle school students

    There are many different types of brain breaks, which can be incorporated into a middle school students day. These include physical activities, mental activities, and relaxation breathing strategies.

    • Standing to complete activities in the classroom
    • Dance party
    • Mental exercises
    • Jumping jacks
    • Multisensory learning opportunities
    • This or That brain breaks- Students can raise their right hand for one option and their left hand for another option as a way to incorporate movement into a quick classroom break. Then, get kids moving further by asking them to raise their right or left foot, etc.
    • Relaxation strategies
    • Chewing gum if it is appropriate for the classroom participants or individuals
    • Freeze dance
    • Yoga, or specific yoga poses
    • The Macarena dance
    • Deep, breathing exercises,
    • Sign language
    • Heavy work activities, or opportunities to add calming and organizing proprioceptive input through the muscles and joints
    • Physical break from learning incorporated with just chatting in the classroom as a whole
    • Movement songs like these Brain Break videos on YouTube.
    • Brain teasers
    • Doodling on a piece of paper
    • Math problems incorporated into pencil brain breaks (like on our Writing Prompts with Pencil Brain Breaks packet)
    • Classic games like Simon Says, tag, dodge ball, catch, etc.
    • Journaling- Use these middle school journal prompts for a quiet brain break.

    How to incorporate brain breaks into the middle school classroom

    For middle school teachers it can be a challenge to incorporate brain breaks because there is a limited time in the classroom to get the information out that the student needs to learn.

    This is especially true for students moving from classroom to classroom throughout the day in order to follow a schedule.

    They might move into a new classroom and be expected to move through the curriculum pretty quickly for the science program or the math curriculum. There’s only a limited amount of time to get through the material. Because of the time limitation most middle school teachers experience, incorporating brain breaks into the middle school classroom can be a challenge.

    However, it is possible to integrate brain breaks into a middle school curriculum.

    Middle school teachers can incorporate brain breaks into their classroom routines in various ways:

    • Roll call- Ask students to check in to the classroom roll call with a movement task. This could include things like moving materials to a certain location in the classroom.
    • Moving materials around the room- Students can obtain needed materials from a certain area of the room. They can incorporate bending and reaching to placed materials into certain places in the room, like cubbies or cupboards. Students can get books from a certain location in the room and then carry them to their desks to complete tasks.
    • Kinesthetic learning– Students can participate in movement-based learning, like passing a object or a ball as they go through studies and lessons.
    • Stand to read- Teachers can ask students to stand to read off parts of their assignments.
    • Use the backpack– There is a thing called a sensory backpack with sensory diet supports integrated into the backpack. However, you can gain all the benefits of heavy work input by simply using a backpack throughout the school day. Students can also move materials throughout the building in their backpacks by carrying the needed materials from their lockers to different classrooms, adding heavy weight weight input through the backpack.
    • Yoga- Another idea is using yoga in the classroom as a quick break for the whole class. One way that is a great tool for social emotional regulation, as well as stress and anxiety that sometimes happens for middle school.
    • Integrate deep breathing into the classroom- Students is incorporating deep breathing as a lesson for each student. You can print off some deep breathing cards or use sensory station posters and encourage students to participate along with their peers. But then also use those deep breathing strategies on their own.
    • Joint compressions– Another way to incorporate brain breaks is to offer heavy joint input through the hands and arms. Students can be taught that they can do chair push-ups, or they can provide joint pressure through their hands in a way that other students might not notice. This is a great self-regulation strategy, especially for students that tend to become stressed or need to focus but they are distracted by thoughts or other things happening in the classroom.

    Middle School Mental Health Room

    Another strategy for addressing the mental health awareness, self regulation, and overall wellbeing of the middle school student is to create a mental health room.

    The mental health room in the middle school setting is an opportunity for a safe space and a tool for self-regulation, metal health, and well-being.

    For middle school students especially it can be hard to talk to others about what’s happening with their mental and emotional health. A safe place like a counselor’s office, or a specified relaxation place where the student can go during the day can support the mental and emotional health of middle school students.

    A visit to the middle school mental health room can be incorporated into a student schedule during a study hall session or another time when the student can make a quick break to visit the relaxation area.

    In a mental health room, middle school students can use relaxation techniques, sensory fidgets, get some reading materials, or participate in deep breathing strategies.

    When a mental health room is available for the general population, it’s just part of the day. Making these strategies more mainstream for the entire school is such a positive thing for middle school students and it’s really needed more than ever before.

    Heavy work for middle school

    Finally, one other tool to incorporate heavy work in the middle school setting during the student’s natural schedule, making brain breaks functional.

    Many middle schools offer elective classes, like wood shop, a form of home economics, and required classes such as art, gym, or a STEM/STEAM class. These classes may offer more variety in movement and heavy work opportunities. Also, the middle school time is a place to transition to a high school setting where this they are able to select electives based on their interest and professional goals.

    For the middle school student, heavy work and movement breaks can be incorporated into shop classes or industrial arts classes or even the home economics or foundations settings. All of these classes up offer an opportunity for movement throughout the curriculum.

    The student is lifting materials, moving items throughout the room, incorporating heavy work input through their body as they participate in these activities. All of these are actually brain breaks that can be integrated into the classroom setting and offered throughout the day. This is just one more opportunity for heavy work, input and movement incorporated into the middle school setting.

    Printables like these free heavy work cards can be used in this setting.

    A final note on brain breaks for middle school

    Middle school brain breaks are such an asset to every students curriculum. Integrating the movement break within the typical classroom schedule should be considered.

    For more resources, try grabbing our printable brain brake exercise cards as a heavy work input that can be incorporated into either life skills, activities, or depending on the interests of the student themed versions of brain breaks.

    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 has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

    Forest Sensory Path

    forest sensory path

    If taking a break is a must, but getting outside is tricky, then this Forest Sensory Path hits the mark! We’ve created another fun printable to our collection of free sensory paths with all of the calming benefits of nature and being in the woods. This printable forest sensory walk is perfect for bringing the calming input of nature into the indoors. Be sure to read this resource on sensory nature walks to read up on those calming and organizing self-regulation benefits of woods and nature.

    Forest sensory path printables

    Forest Sensory Path

    It seems life is getting more chaotic since the pandemic.  This may stem from isolation, lack of exposure, too much electronic use, stressors, or a sudden thrust back into “real life”.  Compounding this is the fact that learners do not know how to combat these environmental stressors, or self regulate.  It seems learners need instruction on how to take a break. That’s where these Forest Themed Sensory Path stations come in, which provide a structured sensory break, to help reorganize thoughts and body.

    Sensory paths and sensory stations became popular with the addition of expensive stickers set up around the school. These are awesome as a self-regulation activity and to address mindfulness with kids!  If you don’t have the budget or space for these custom stickers, try one of the sensory walk stations offered by the OT Toolbox.

    This month the Forest Sensory Path will fit in perfectly with your fall leaves occupational therapy theme.  Add your email below to be sent this FREE download.

    How does the FOrest sensory path work?

    Sensory activities like this Forest Sensory Walk Station offer tasks to promote body and mind regulation.  The initial response to a learner out of sync is to tell them to calm down. 

    What does “calm down” mean to you?  Adults generally have already figured out appropriate strategies to reduce anxiety, inducing a feeling of calm. 

    Children have no idea what “calm” looks like, because they rarely act this way.  They also lack the ability to calm themselves, or know what to do to slow their body/brain down. Having a strategy, movement, or action to stop, self-analyze, breathe for a moment, and take a break from the environmental or internal input, is a literal break for the brain and body. This is where we get the term brain breaks!

    Sensory stations provide the framework for self regulation.

    Printable Sensory Path: Forest Theme

    This Forest Sensory path combines deep breathing and proprioceptive input with eight different activities.  Proprioceptive exercise is a “go to” input for organizing the sensory processing system and regulating the sensory systems.

    It is alerting for those who are experiencing low arousal, and calming for those who seek additional input to get regulated.

    Connected to proprioception and interoception, deep breathing exercises slow the central nervous system, often elevated during periods of fight or flight responses. 

    The ultimate goal of sensory regulation is self-regulation.  Learners need to understand what strategies work for them, and when they are needed.  Sensory strategies are unique to each learner. 

    Just as adults have different routines they use for concentration and focus, children develop varied strategies. 

    Imagine the additional responsibility teachers take on remembering and learning  the sensory needs of each of their students. 

    When a student can advocate for themselves, this not only helps the student, but their caregivers as well.

    How to use the Forest Sensory Paths?

    • Lowest level learners need to be taken through the walk step by step
    • Middle level learners can be supervised while participating
    • Higher level learners will be able to complete this activity when instructed, or advocate for a sensory break
    • Laminate the page for reusability. This saves on resources.  Caregivers or young learners can help decorate these pages before they are laminated. 
    • Make this part of a larger lesson plan including gross motor, sensory, social, executive function, or other fine motor skills
    • Print in black and white, in color, or on colored paper for different levels of difficulty
    • Project this page onto a smart board for students to learn these activities as a group
    • More or less prompting may be needed to grade the activity to make it easier or harder.
    • Learners can explore other ways they could use this activity 
    • Explore different options for setting up this sensory station.  It could be appropriate in a classroom, hallway, gymnasium, outside the school, or walking into the cafeteria, depending on the needs of your learners

    sensory paths for elementary schools

    Some of the big budget sensory paths are thousands of dollars and require permanent installation over laminate floors. In many cases, getting approval for the purchase of a sensory path in an elementary school is just out of the question.

    The good news is that our printable sensory paths are totally free, AND you can print off the pages and switch out the themes according to the season.

    The other benefit that most therapist users see is that the printable pages can be positioned and placed according to the environment. These sensory path pages can be placed in a page protector sleeve and hung in a hallway. Or they can be laminated and placed in a calm down corner. The options are pretty limitless.

    A few other common questions about using the Forest sensory path in elementary schools or in therapy clinics can include:

    • Do sensory paths work for all learners?  No.  Sensory strategies are not one size fits all unfortunately.  Much of the treatment relies on trial and error.  If the forest sensory stations walk does not calm your learner, it is possible the treatment came too late, after the learner was already shut down.  Some learners are not able to self regulate through all parts of the sensory stations, however it is a great and simple activity for those who do.
    • How long should my learner use a sensory path?  There is no defined time frame for any self regulation strategies.  Some learners calm quickly, needing a diversion from their current state in order to regulate.  Other learners may take several minutes to calm after an upset.  Watch for signs of regulation and calming before suggesting your learner stops.  After the Forest Sensory Station Walk, take note of how long your learner is able to stay regulated.
    • How often should I use a sensory path?  Some learners need a boost of sensory regulation every twenty minutes, while others can go several hours before they need a moment to reset.  Watch for signs of disorganization and jump in with strategies before meltdown occurs.
    • Will a sensory path work consistently every time? Probably not. This worked last week, but not this week.  What happened?  Sensory strategies are not an exact science. Have a large “bag of tricks” in your toolbox to be able to offer several different strategies. 
    • How long will the effects of a sensory path last?  Every learner is different.  A very dysregulated learner may need almost constant strategies for self regulation.  A learner who is more organized and has been practicing strategies for a while, might reap the benefits of this sensory stations for two hours.  A great sensory workout can have long lasting effects.
    • Are sensory paths and sensory stations an evidenced based practice?  Because of the nature of sensory dysregulation and the strategies offered, it is very difficult to get consistent data in this area.  Use your clinical judgment and observations to determine how effective this Forest Themed Sensory Stations Walk is.

    Other Resources from the OT Toolbox

    Free Printable Forest Sensory Path

    Want to add a forest themed sensory path to your therapy toolbox? Enter your email address into the form below. This resource is also available inside The OT Toolbox Member’s Club. Members can log into their account and access this resource in the Forest Animals Therapy Theme area. Not a member of The OT Toolbox Member’s Club? Join us!

    Free Forest Printable Sensory Path

      We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

      Victoria Wood, OTR/L is a contributor to The OT Toolbox and has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.

      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.

      Winter Brain Breaks

      winter brain breaks

      Need Winter Brain Breaks for the kids? Here, you will find energizing brain breaks are gross motor activities that can break up the school day or be added to the classroom schedule. Mix some of these movement breaks into the classroom to help kids focus and stay on task while getting a chance to get a short mental break from the class schedule. With more online time and increased screen time than ever before, and the added piece of wintery weather, brain breaks are needed more now than ever.

      winter brain breaks

      Winter Brain Breaks

      I love that these movement breaks can give kids a chance to weave activity right into learning. Whether you are looking for stretches or specifics like activities that fit your curriculum, most of these brain break ideas can be modified to meet your classroom needs!

      For more winter activities, try using these ideas to help kids develop specific skill areas:

      Winter Fine Motor Activities – Use winter crafts, activities, snowflake crafts, and even paper icicles to work on fine motor skill work.

      Indoor Recess Activities– These indoor recess activities get kids moving when it’s too cold to go outside.

      Winter Bilateral Coordination Activities get kids moving with both sides of the body.

      Winter Mindfulness Activities help to focus and attend to the task at hand, as well as help with coping needs.

      This mitten printable is a great fine motor brain break that kids love. These are perfect for a fine motor and visual motor version of brain breaks.

      And, you’ll want to check out our new Winter Fine Motor Kit. It’s an amazing resource of 100 pages designed to help kids move and build the skills they need. While focused on the fine motor aspect, this kit includes play dough mats, toothpick art, lacing cards, crumble art, I Spy pages, and more, all which can be used in indoor brain break types of activities.

      Now, on to the winter brain breaks! Check out these Winter Brain Breaks for movement-based activity in the clinic, classroom, virtual therapy session, or home!

      1. Build a snowman- This winter brain break requires imagination and some large motor skills! Students may need verbal cues and maybe a visual model when first doing this snowman brain break. Here’s what  Pretend to roll a ball of snow. Then another big snowball. Ask students to place their pretend snowballs on the first one to build the snowman. Next, pick up a carrot and some “rocks” from the ground. Press them into the snowman’s head. Next, look on the “ground” to find some sticks for arms. Press them into the sides of the sides of the snowman. Add any additional details like a scarf, hat, or boots. 

      2. Winter Toothpick Art– Use the Winter Fine Motor Kit materials to get kids moving with the toothpick art activities. These can be used on cardboard or a carpeted area to help kids build fine motor strength and tripod grasp.

      3. Penguin Freeze Dance- This winter brain break activity is a great addition to an arctic theme in the classroom! Take 5 minutes to move and groove, penguin-style! Turn on some music and the students can waddle like penguins! Then suddenly stop the music and all of the classroom penguins need to FREEZE! Play for about 5 minutes and then get back to learning.

      4. Dice Roll- Write numbers 1-6 on the chalkboard. Assign each number to an action movement like hop up and down, touch the ground, stand on one leg, do a funny dance, jumping jacks, etc. Then roll the dice and everyone needs to do the action. Keep rolling and moving for 3-5 minutes. Some more action ideas include: turn in two circles, do a burpee, do a push-up, and sit on the floor then stand up very quickly.

      5. Winter Crumble Art- This is another fun fine motor activity for indoor recess. Use bits of tissue paper or crumbled up construction paper to create a winter picture. These sheets are in the Winter Fine Motor Kit, too.

      6. Winter Yoga- Add movement breaks to the classroom with some calming yoga moves. Winter themed yoga stretches can be a nice break in the classroom schedule when it’s too cold to go outdoors.

      7. Winter Play Dough Mats– While not a traditional brain break, the winter play dough mats in our new Winter Fine Motor Kit allow kids a chance to move and gain essential proprioceptive input through their hands.

      8. Snowman Says- Play a quick game of Simon Says with a snowman theme! Imagine you are part of a classroom full of snowmen who are moving their snowman parts. Use your imagination and stretch, move, and move that snow body! Use these printable Simon Says commands for specific skill-building.

      9. Polar Bear Brain Breaks- This polar bear gross motor slide deck is wintery fun! We’ve shared a bear brain breaks free printable sheet here on The OT Toolbox. Use it with a polar bear theme! Hint: Do the same brain break activities and call it a polar bear move 🙂

      10. Winter Brain Break YouTube Videos- There are some great break break ideas that are movement and activity videos on YouTube to get the kids up and moving so they are ready to learn. The YouTube brain break videos add movement and gross motor work. The ones listed below are winter themed. 

      11. Winter crossword puzzle Brain breaks don’t need to be gross motor tasks. Use this printable to target fine motor skills and visual motor skills while taking a break from other activities as a self-regulation strategy.

      Winter Brain Breaks on YouTube

      Baby Shark, Winter Edition:

      Penguin Dance Brain Break: 


        The Sid Shuffle- Ice Age Continental Drift:

        Small Foot- Do the Yeti:  

      I’m a Penguin- Brain Break for Kindergarten:  

      Add winter brain break ideas to the classroom to add movement breaks so kids can learn and focus with better attention, all with a winter theme!

      Need more Brain Break Resources? 

      Follow our Brain Break Pinterest board.

      Here are more brain break videos (not winter-themed), but great for any time of year.

      Check out our past brain break activities here on The OT Toolbox and add them to your toolbox:

      I hope these ideas are helpful in creating opportunities for movement and activity during these indoor recess months at school! 

      winter fine motor kit


      To end out the Winter Week here on The OT Toolbox, I wanted to create a fine motor worksheets that are a true resource during the winter months. The Winter Fine Motor Kit contains fine motor worksheets that cover a variety of different fine motor abilities:  

      These reproducible activity pages include: pencil control strips, scissor skills strips, simple and complex cutting shapes, lacing cards, toothpick precision art, crumble hand strengthening crafts, memory cards, coloring activities, and so much more.

      Play Dough Roll Mats- We’ve shared some free play dough mats before. They are perfect for developing fine motor skills and hand strength needed for tasks like coloring with endurance, manipulating small items, and holding a pencil. Kids can roll small balls of play dough with just their fingertips to strengthen the intrinsic muscles. The Winter Fine Motor Kit contains 6 winter play dough mats that can be used all winter long!  

      Pinch and Grip Strength Activities- Includes: glue skills page, tong/tweezer activities, lacing cards, finger puppets, 1-10 counting clip cards, 10 toothpick art pages, find & color page, 5 crumble art pages. TARGET SKILLS: Precision, pinch and grip hand strength, tripod grasp, arch development, bilateral coordination, open thumb web-space.

      Pencil Control Worksheets- Connect the arctic animals or winter items and stay on the pencil path lines while mastering pencil control. Some of the lines are small and are a great way to strengthen the hands, too.  

      Arctic Animal Cutting Strips and Scissor Skills Sheets- Work on scissor skills to cut along lines to reach the arctic animal friends or snowflakes, snowmen, and mittens. This is a great way to strengthen the motor and visual skills needed for cutting with scissors.   Also included are 7 scissor skills strips with graded precision designed for data collection and accuracy development, 2 color & cut memory cards, 4 pages simple cutting shapes in small/med/large sizes, 3 pages complex cutting shapes in small/med/large sizes, 2 small and 2 large cutting skills puzzles. These worksheets help kids develop graded scissor skill accuracy and precision, visual perceptual skills, eye-hand coordination, crossing midline, bilateral coordination.

      Handwriting Sensory Bin Materials- You and the kiddos will love these A-Z uppercase and lowercase tracing cards with directional arrows, 1-10 tracing cards with directional arrows, 1-10 counting cards. Using the sensory bin materials can develop tactile handwriting, letter and number formation, finger isolation, crossing midline, sensory challenges. These materials in the Winter Fine Motor Kit are a great brain break idea for kids.

      “I Spy” Modified Paper- Includes: Color and find objects in two themes: winter items and arctic animals; 3 styles of modified paper for each theme: single rule bold lines, double rule bold lines, highlighted double rule. Use these pages to develop handwriting, pencil control, line and spatial awareness, legibility, visual perceptual skills, visual memory.

      Fine Motor Handwriting Sheets- Try the 4 Find/Color/Copy pages in different styles of modified paper, rainbow writing pages in 3 styles of modified paper. These handwriting worksheets use the winter theme to help with handwriting, visual perception, pencil control, visual memory, visual attention, precision, pencil control, functional handwriting.

      Write the Room Activities- Using a winter theme, these Write the Room cards includes: 5 lowercase copy cards, 5 uppercase copy cards, 5 lowercase tracing cards, 5 uppercase copy cards, 6 cursive writing copy cards, 2 styles of writing pages. TARGET SKILLS: Letter formation, pencil control, visual motor skills, visual attention, visual memory, line placement, functional handwriting at all levels and stages.

      All of this is available in the Winter Fine Motor Kit.

      For more ideas for older students, try these middle school brain breaks.

      Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Sports Gross Motor Exercises

      sports gross motor exercises and sports motor planning activities

      Working on gross motor skills, motor planning, or self-regulation? These sports gross motor exercises are perfect for kids that love all things sports! Use the football, baseball, hockey, and other sports activities to add athletic themed brain breaks and whole body movement.

      Sports gross motor exercises and motor planning activities for kids

      Sports Gross Motor Exercises

      These sports gross motor activities are a free therapy slide deck to use in virtual therapy sessions or in face-to-face sessions with an outline of activities.

      There are so many ways you can use these sports movement activities to promote development of gross motor skills:

      • Copy the athlete to work on motor planning
      • Go through several slides to encourage sequencing and memory skills
      • Use the sports activities as heavy work in sports themed brain breaks
      • Copy the athletes on each slide to work on bilateral coordination, crossing midline, and segmenting the body.
      • Address posture, position changes, coordination, balance, and endurance
      • Use these sports exercises in a sports themed therapy session and encourage functional tasks like ball catching and throwing
      • Ask students to copy the words and work on handwriting with a sports related brain break between each word
      • How would you use these sports exercises in therapy?

      Sports Exercises Slide Deck

      This resource is a free Google slide deck that you can download and add to your Google drive. Open the slide deck in your Google classroom or right on your computer/device to encourage gross motor activities.

      This is a great addition to other free slides that we’ve shared here on the website, and a fun weekly therapy theme when you’ve got a sports fan on your caseload.

      To access this free therapy slide deck, enter your email address into the form below. You’ll receive an email containing a download. Save that PDF so you can use this again and again! Then click the link on the PDF and copy the exercises to your Google drive. Then get ready to lead therapy kiddos through motor planning and gross motor exercises that build skills!

      FREE Sports Gross Motor Exercises

        We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

        Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

        Construction Truck Brain Breaks

        Construction Truck Brain Breaks

        These construction truck brain breaks are heavy work fun with a truck theme! The gross motor activities that kids can use as a brain break or a heavy work activity to help with attention, focus, and sensory input. The construction truck activities are great for kiddos that love all things trucks! You can access these heavy work activities in a free therapy slide deck and use it in teletherapy sessions or in face-to-face therapy (or at home and in the classroom, too!)

        These are perfect for kiddos that love all things garbage trucks, backhoes, excavators, cranes, steam rollers, and more. We’ve got all the construction vehicle activities covered in this therapy set!

        Construction truck brain breaks for kids that love all things construction vehicles.

        Construction Truck Brain Breaks

        I love using brain breaks in themed activities that kids love. The thing is that children are drawn to certain topics or themes, and construction truck themes are no different. There is just something about garbage trucks, dump trucks, backhoes, cement trucks, and excavators that are irresistible to children.

        These particular construction truck brain breaks offer an opportunity for kids to gain much-needed heavy work input in the way of proprioception. You can read more about proprioception and brain breaks here.

        The truck activities also allow children to move while gaining vestibular input as well. Adding movement in a variety of planes and directions in conjunction with input from the eyes, and heavy work feedback from muscle and joint receptors, is able to contribute to posture, coordination, and appropriate response of the visual system.

        Another reason to use heavy work activities like these truck brain breaks, is for the benefit of improving body awareness. Heavy work improves body awareness by incorporating proprioceptive input, with motor planning, attention, and “self-checks” that allow us to know where our body is in space during tasks. This is so important for kiddos facing more and more screen time than ever.

        For more heavy work activities, try these heavy work cards that come in a variety of themes.

        Free Construction Truck Brain Breaks

        You can grab these construction truck activities and use them in teletherapy sessions, in face-to-face therapy sessions, in the classroom, or in the home. They are presented in a Google slide deck, so that they can be easily accessible from different devices and situations, using a Google drive.

        Check out all of the free therapy slide decks we have available here on the site.

        Want to add this resource to your therapy toolbox? Enter your email address into the form below.

        NOTE: Try to add a personal email address for deliverability, as work emails (who have a strict security wall in place) may block the deliverability of the PDF email.

        Construction Truck Brain Breaks (free slide deck)!

          We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.
          Heavy work cards

          Use the Heavy Work Activity Cards in play, learning, and brain breaking!

          Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

          Bear Brain Breaks

          bear brain breaks

          These bear brain breaks are perfect for winter time movement, or using in a bear theme in school or in therapy. Sometimes, brain breaks are the perfect tool to can help with movement or sensory needs in the classroom.  We used a favorite childhood book to come up with bear themed brain breaks that can be used alongside the book in a movement and learning activity or in a bear-themed classroom activities.  Not long ago, we shared more brain break ideas that you might like to add to your classroom.

          Use these bear brain breaks along with ideas from our hibernation activities for more winter fun!


          bear brain breaks

          Bear Brain Breaks

          Looking for brain break videos for the classroom or home? Here are the best brain break videos on YouTube.
          Bear brain breaks for movement and learning in the classroom setting with a bear theme

          This post contains affiliate links.

          Have you read the book, “Time for Sleep” by Denise Fleming? My kids loved to hear about all of the animals as they prepared for sleep over the winter.  We decided to try a few bear gross motor moves based on the book.

          Bear Theme Brain Breaks

          Stretches and whole-body movements that happen in a calm manner are a great way to prepare for sleep, so these activities went along nicely with the bear in the book as well as the getting ready for sleep theme.

          If fidgeting, wiggling, or just a break from screens is needed, try these movement breaks to help. 

          We created these themed brain breaks to go along with the book, Time to Sleep, but they are perfect for any day (or when paired with other bear books)!

          If you are looking for resources for sleep or bedtime relaxation stretches, we shared some based on another children’s book.

          Time for Sleep by Denise Fleming and bear themed brain breaks for a bear activity.
          This is such a fun book to read with kids.  It would go along perfectly with a bear theme in your classroom.  Try adding some gross motor movement activities based on the book.
          Kids can then use the bear themed brain breaks throughout their day when it seems the classroom or individual students need a movement break. 
          Below, you can enter your email to access the free brain break printable that would go along perfectly for teaching the classroom about these bear brain breaks.  They can be cut up and laminated for the children to pull out of a cup.  Or, add them to a key ring for bear themed movement activities.
          Using these bear brain breaks, kids can stretch, roll, reach, climb, and crawl like a bear.  There are eight bear themed movement activities included that allow kids to move with a bear theme.  
          Read the book Time for Sleep and try the movement activities!
          Bear brain break ideas for kids

          Bear Activities

          Looking for more bear themed activities?  Try these hands-on ways to play with a bear theme based on bear books like “Time for Sleep”.

          Polar Bear Gross Motor Ideas

          Bear Craft

          Fun and Therapeutic Polar bear Activities

          Polar Bear Therapy Slide Deck– Free! Perfect for virtual therapy sessions

          Polar Bear Self-Regulation Deep Breathing Activity

          Bear Says Thanks Fine Motor Activity

          Bear Oral Motor Exercise





          Get these free bear brain break activities

            We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

            These brain breaks would be a great addition to our Winter Fine Motor Kit, loaded with winter theme and bear activities! It’s got all things fine motor in print-and-go activities. You’ll find lacing cards, modified handwriting sheets, pencil control strips, cutting activities, crafts, coloring exercises, and MUCH MORE!

            Get the Winter Fine Motor Kit HERE.

            winter fine motor kit

            Dinosaur Proprioception Activities

            dinosaur movement cards for kids to use for heavy work and coping tools to address dinosaur sized feelings

            This dinosaur brain break activity is a set of free proprioception activities that provides heavy work with a dinosaur theme, making movement and proprioceptive input a fun way to address dinosaur -sized needs. Whether you are looking for heavy work activities for the kids to add to distance learning or heavy work activities for OT teletherapy programs, these free dinosaur movement cards are a great sensory activity to add to your therapy toolbox. Scroll all the way to the bottom of this post to grab your Dinosaur Movement Activity Cards…and check out the Dinosaur OT activities too!

            dinosaur movement cards for kids to use for heavy work and coping tools to address dinosaur sized feelings

            This post explains more about proprioception sensory activities but to better understand why and how to incorporate movement breaks into learning, check out this post on brain breaks for kids.

            This freebie was originally created as part of October’s Sensory Processing Awareness Month, however, for a kiddo that loves anything dinosaurs, it works out great any time of year. Kids with sensory integration needs are those kiddos who are bumping into everything and everyone.  

            The little ones who fall out of their chairs, press too hard on their pencils, are clumsy, fidget, or seek extra movements. They might flap their hands or slap their feet when they walk.  

            he thing about kids is that everyone is different and everyone will have different needs, interests, and abilities.  This Dinosaur Sized Feelings sensory movement activity  is perfect for kids seeking sensory input and kids who just need to move!

            Dinosaur feelings can impact emotional regulation, sensory processing, self-care, and function. Use dinosaur themed activities like these dinosaur heavy work cards as a coping tool.

            Now, it’s important for me to note, that when I say Dinosaur-Sized feelings in this post, I’m talking about the child’s feeling of hyposensitivity to their environment.

             They are seeking out extra stimulation from people, walls, cushions…anything really and are feeling a big need to improve their central neural system functioning in order to complete tasks and function.  

            (Read more about the Central Nervous System below!)  

            What I’m not talking about in this post is the emotional side of feelings.  There has been at least one study done that attempts to determine whether emotional feelings can be influenced by proprioceptive input.

            I’m not talking about the big emotional feels we all have. In this activity, I’m focusing on the big feelings of sensory needs kids might have, and how to stomp those sensory needs out with proprioception.

            It’s all about the ability to regulate those giant, dinosaur-sized sensory related feelings that impact emotional regulation, coping abilities, worries, anxieties. This post on Zones of Regulation activities explains a little more on self-regulation and specific ways to address these needs.

            What is Sensory Integration?

            Let’s cover some of the background info about what’s going on behind self-regulation. Typically, our Central Nervous System integrates sensory input from the environment in a balanced process that screens out certain information and acts on important information, at an automatic level…one that we are not cognitively aware of.  

            For kiddos with atypical sensory integration, the central nervous system has difficulty screening out unimportant information from our environment.  

            For those children, interaction with their surroundings can be stressful as they are either over responsive or under-responsive to normal stimulus. This results in dysfunctional behavior and social difficulties. 

            For a thorough explanation of sensory integration, sensory processing, and what specific actions look like as a part of our sensory systems, grab this free sensory processing booklet.

            You’ll access the free booklet and join a short email course that explains sensory processing in great detail. It’s a free informative course via email that you don’t want to miss.

            free sensory processing booklet

            Proprioception Activities for kids

            I shared a post in the past about proprioception and handwriting with too much pressure.  

            In that post, I told you how  the proprioceptive system receives input from the muscles and joints about body position, weight, pressure, stretch, movement and changes in position in space.  

            Our bodies are able to grade and coordinate movements based on the way muscles move, stretch, and contract. Proprioception allows us to apply more or less pressure and force in a task.

            Instinctively, we know that lifting a feather requires very little pressure and effort, while moving a large backpack requires more work.  We are able to coordinate our movements effectively to manage our day’s activities with the proprioceptive system.  

            The brain also must coordinate input about gravity, movement, and balance involving the vestibular system.   

            (This post does contain affiliate links.)

            Kids who are showing signs of proprioceptive dysfunction might do some of these things:

            • Appear clumsy
            • Fidget when asked to sit quietly.
            • Show an increased activity level or arousal level.
            • Seek intense proprioceptive input by “crashing and bashing” into anything.
            • Slap their feet when walking.
            • Flap hands.
            • Use too much or too little force on pencils, scissors, objects, and people.
            • “No fear” when jumping or walking down stairs.
            • Or, are overly fearful of walking down steps/jumping.
            • Look at their body parts (hands/feet) when completing simple tasks.
            • Sit down too hard or miss chairs when sitting.
            • Fall out of their seat.
            • Fluctuates between over-reacting and under-reacting in response to stimulation.
            • Constantly on the move.
            • Slow to get moving and then fatigue easily.
            Dinosaur themed sensory (proprioception) heavy work activities for organizing and calming sensory input. This is perfect for a child who seeks out sensory stimulation.

            Dinosaur Themed Heavy Work Activities

            This activity is easy.  There is not much to it really, other than being a dinosaur themed way to calm and organize those big dinosaur feelings.

            The heavy work activities add proprioception that can be a tool to address regulation or sensory needs. Here, I’m sharing with you a few heavy work suggestions that may help hyposensitive kiddos.  

            I wanted to share activities that might be of interest to the child that loves a dinosaur theme.  It’s my hope that these work for you and your family!  If you are looking for more dinosaur themed movement activities, check out this past post sharing Dinosaur movement activities, based on the book popular children’s book, Dinosaurumpus.  

            Dinosaur heavy work activities can help as a coping tool for self-regulation in kids.

            Please note (as with any activity that you find on this website): This is meant to be a resource and not Occupational Therapy treatment.  

            Please seek individualized evaluation and treatment strategies for your child.  All kids are so different in their sensory needs and abilities and adverse reactions can occur with globalized treatments.   

            Dinosaur themed sensory (proprioception) heavy work activities for organizing and calming sensory input. This is perfect for a child who seeks out sensory stimulation.

              Big dino-sized feelings can happen in a little body!    

            These dinosaur brain breaks are free heavy work cards for dinosaur proprioception activities

             Simply print out the free printable, cut out the cards, and pretend to play, walk, and eat like a dinosaur!  

            We did use our Mini Dinosaurs as we practiced all of the Dino Moves in these activities. Use them in a scavenger hunt. Your child needs to find hidden dinosaurs and once they bring them back to you, do a proprioception activity from the handout.

            Another idea is to do the heavy wok activities before a fine motor task like handwriting to calm and organize the body. 

            You can get the free dinosaur proprioception activities printable by joining the thousands of others on our newsletter subscriber list.  You will receive occasional newsletter emails.

            Once you subscribe you’ll receive an email with a link to the free printable, as well as other freebies that only our subscribers receive.  

            Kids will love these dinosaur activities for occupational therapy to help kids address fine and gross motor skills using OT dinosaur activities.

            Dinosaur Activities for OT sessions

            Looking for more Dinosaur activities?  Try adding these to your occupational therapy interventions. Some of the ideas below are great for adding to teletherapy sessions. Others make great OT home programs.

            Dinosaur Activities for Occupational Therapy

            Ok, you have a child on your OT caseload (on in your classroom or home) that LOVES all things dinosaur…how do you get them involved in therapy sessions? You can totally guide therapy goals along a theme like dinosaurs.

            The OT dinosaur activities listed below are fun ways to work on specific skills in therapy sessions, using hands-on play and activities. You’ll find fine motor dinosaur activities, gross motor dinosaur ideas, dinosaur printables, sensory play with a dino theme, and even dinosaur visual perception activities.

            If you have a child in OT who LOVES all things dinosaur, these are great incentive activities that will build attention and focus to the session. Adding a much-loved theme to therapy sessions can empower a child as they play with more intent and attention.

            Occupational therapy activities with a dinosaur theme for heavy work activities and movement.

            Dinosaur Gross Motor Game– This dinosaur game offers kids a chance to MOVE! Use a child’s love of dinosaurs to create movement breaks and indoor activity with a dinosaur theme.

            This is one indoor play idea that my own children loved when they were little, but the bonus is that they gain midline crossing, motor planning, sequencing, bilateral coordination, balance, endurance, proprioception, and vestibular benefits all in the same movement activity.

            Dinosaur Playdough Kit can be made with play dough and a few small dinosaur figures. It’s a great way to add proprioception to the hands as heavy work before a handwriting activity.

            This busy activity can be pulled out at any time and kids can keep those hands busy while building intrinsic hand strength and endurance needed for tasks like coloring. Read more about warming-up the hands before fine motor tasks here.

            Free Dinosaur Visual Perception Sheet– This printable page can be printed off once and used with a page protector sheet for the whole therapy caseload. Or, add it to teletherapy sessions or distance learning as part of a child’s specific plan.

            Kids can work on visual perceptual skills such as scanning, form discrimination, figure ground, form constancy, and other visual perception skills. It’s perfect for dinosaur fans of all ages!

            Dinosaur Counting Cards with clothes pins to clip onto the matching number of dinosaurs is a great way to build hand strength with a dinosaur theme. Print them off and add them to your therapy toolbox. Here are more ways to use clothes pins in building skills in kids.

            Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs book and jacks game– have you read the children’s book, Goldilocks and the three dinosaurs? This children’s book is very cute and a fun way to add books to occupational therapy sessions.

            Then, add the fine motor and motor planning jacks game to build coordination and dexterity skills by playing jacks. This is such a fun way to add movement and reading to therapy sessions, making motor planning, sustained attention, bilateral coordination, crossing midline, floor play (heavy work!), all integrated into a single dinosaur activity!

            Dinosaur Matching with mini-figure dinosaurs is a fun way to work on visual scanning, visual discrimination, visual memory, and other visual perceptual skills. Using a small ball of play dough, press the dinosaur’s feet into the dough. They can then try to match up the feet to the footprints.

            All you need are mini dinosaur figures and salt dough, play dough, or similar dough. It’s a fun way to work on skills that come in handy for handwriting, reading, and number identification.

            Dinosaur Guessing Game is a fun way to work on discrimination skills and visual attention. For kids that have trouble attending to tasks, this dinosaur themed activity may do just the trick. Use dinosaur figurines and a box or basket to hide the dinosaurs.

            You can cover the dinosaurs and ask children to find the dino with specific features such as sharp teeth or a specific color. This visual memory game builds skills needed for letter discrimination and attention to detail.

            Free Dinosaur Number Puzzles– Kids can cut the paper puzzles into strips to work on scissor skills and bilateral coordination. The strait lines or these puzzles make it a great beginning scissor activity for children learning to use scissors. Then, they can challenge those visual perceptual skills to build the puzzle by scanning, and attending to details as they discriminate parts of the puzzles.

            Dinosaur Emergent Reader– Use a piece of colored paper to create a cone dinosaur craft like the one shown in this post.

            Kids can make colored dinosaurs and match them to dinosaur counters or small pieces of paper that match the colors. Don’t want to make the dinosaur crafts? Use colored cups to pretend!

            Free Dinosaur Subtilizing Game– This dinosaur subtilizing printable page has a fine motor component by that builds precision and dexterity as kids place counters on a printable play mat. They can roll a dice and work on an the essential math skill of subtilizing.

            What is subtilizing? Essentially, this skill means kids can look at a group of objects and know how many there without having to count each object one by one. Subtilizing is important in math, especially higher math skills.

            Dinosaur Sensory Bottle– You know we love sensory bottles! Sensory bottles are a great tool to add to your toolbox to address sensory needs or self-regulation. Using a sensory bottle as a coping tool can help kids relax, calm down, or focus.

            This dinosaur themed sensory bottle is great for kids who love dinosaur anything! Here is more information on how to make a sensory bottle.

            Dinosaur Letter Tracing– Kids can work on fine motor precision and dexterity while also working on letter formation, gross motor skills, bilateral coordination, crossing midline, visual tracking, and so many more skills.

            All you need are dinosaur mini-figures, paper, and a marker. Draw a large letter on the paper and then children can place the small dinosaurs along the lines to “build” the letters. Here is more information on teaching letter formation and using manipulatives like these small dinosaur figures in teaching letters.

            DIY Dinosaur Tangrams
            All you need is a set of tangram shapes, paper, and markers to make your own dinosaur tangram pattern cards. Kids will love building their own pattern cards, too.

            This is a great activity for those who have the actual tangram puzzle pieces, but don’t have access to a color printer or are able to purchase pre-made dinosaur pattern cards. Work on visual perceptual skills by copying and building the geometric dinosaurs together as a fun activity that little dinosaur fans will love.

            Here is a great resource on how to use tangrams to build visual perceptual skills. Check out that article, and then you can read more on the specifics of tangrams and handwriting. The fine motor activity and the functional task of writing go “hand-in-hand”!

            Dinosaur themed sensory (proprioception) heavy work activities for organizing and calming sensory input. This is perfect for a child who seeks out sensory stimulation.

            Are you looking for thorough information on Sensory Processing and Proprioception (or any of the sensory systems and how they affect functional skills, behavior, and the body’s sensory systems?  This book, Sensory Lifestyle Handbook, will explain it all.  Activities and Resources are included. Get it today and never struggle to understand or explain Sensory Integration again.  Shop HERE.

            This post is part of our 31 Days of Occupational Therapy series where you can find free or almost free treatment activities and ideas.  Stop by every day!  You’ll find more fun ideas each day in October.

            Free Dinosaur Movement Cards

            Dinosaur brain breaks and proprioception activities

              So I can best serve you, are you…
              Powered By ConvertKit

              Classroom Breaks and Behavior

              Movement breaks in the classroom ideas and activities for the classroom

              Adding movement breaks to the classroom can be a tool for helping kids focus and learn. Read below about some research related to classroom breaks and behavior, learning, and focus in the classroom. These are brain breaks that can be used as classroom breaks to take a short break from learning…OR used as a strategy to incorporate movement into learning activities!

              We talk more about the benefits of movement in our post on middle school brain breaks.

              Classroom breaks add an opportunity to boost learning skills and reduce behaviors that interfere with academics. These movement activities and classroom breaks can be incorporated into the classroom and are evidence-based.

              Movement Breaks

              I was thinking about the cold weather we’ve been having recently. My kids have been cooped up in school and when they get home from school, it’s been FREEZING. Sure, we can bundle up and run around the yard for a bit (and I try to get all the kiddos to do this)…but it is downright cold out there. We can’t last too long when the wind chill is -4 degrees F!

              Not only that, but many schools aren’t having outdoor recess when it’s this cold. Some are getting their kids bundled up and outside, but for the most part, it’s been indoor recess for many kids.

              So when the school day is an indoor affair all day long, kids can become antsy!

              Research on Classroom Breaks

              Research tells us that activity breaks in the classroom can improve classroom behavior and can increase students’ overall physical activity.

              We know as therapists, that behaviors are just the tip of the iceberg. They are the sign that something bigger is causing the behavior we see. It might be anxiety, worries, sensory needs, communication issues, emotional concerns, social situations, or a myriad other underlying areas that lead to the behavior we see. 

              So, to know that science tells us that a brain break can help get out of that rut of behaviors is huge! It’s a strategy to help reduce the behavior and move toward focused learning and attention. In fact, there’s been some findings indicating physical activity during the school day improves attention-to-task in elementary school students. 

              The evidence suggests that increasing physical activity may improve academic performance, in the forms of recess, physical education class, and physical activity in the classroom. But if indoor recess is the only option this time of year, and gym class occurs every one day out of 6 in a classroom rotation schedule, or even one day/week, where does this leave us? Movement and learning and classroom breaks seem to be the option left!

              In my research of the available evidence-based practice scenarios out there, I found some interesting points related to learning and specifically executive functioning skills and overall cognitive functions related to learning. 

              Here is some more information on physical activity and brain structure such as brain white matter and brain function. 

              Executive function is related to learning

              It seems that executive functioning skills play more into learning that just having a neat and tidy desk space or remembering homework. 

              In fact, executive function plays very much into the use of those mental skills in learning and classroom tasks. These skills can play a big role in attention levels and impulse control of kids in the classroom. They play a part in learning in many ways. Here are just a few examples:

              -Arriving to class on time
              -Staying on task in an assignment
              -Staying focused when completing minor tasks such as retrieving a pencil. Here’s a scenarios you may have seen before: A student drops their pencil. They bend to retrieve that pencil and then get distracted and lose focus on the assignment they are working on. Sound familiar?
              -Visual attention in order to scan a math worksheet and going through the assignment part by part without skipping sections or getting distracted or overwhelmed

              Activity and Learning

              • Evidence suggests that mathematics and reading are the classroom subjects topics that are most influenced by physical activity. These academic areas depend on “efficient and effective executive function, which has been linked to physical activity and physical fitness”.
              • Executive function and brain health are the basis of academic performance. The cognitive functions of attention and memory are essential for learning. These executive function skills are enhanced by physical activity and higher aerobic fitness.

              Physical activity and behaviors

              It seems that when physical activity is used as a break in the classroom, whether as a brain break or , during gym class, recess time, or during active learning, attention, on-task behavior, and academic performance  improves as well. 

              How to add more physical activity to the school day 

              Some ideas for adding physical activity into the classroom in order to improve behaviors include:

              1. Offering physical activity breaks within the curriculum or learning activity

              2. Allow students to stand at the student’s discretion. This strategy should be used with a training period and even a contract signed by the student that says they will not move away from their desk and that they will perform the work that’s asked of them while standing at their desk.

              3. YouTube Videos- Here are our recommendations for YouTube brain breaks that can be added into classroom breaks. Some of these would be great for an indoor recess dance party, too. 

              4. Print off a collection of brain breaks and pull them out at different times during the day or as a transition activity. Here are some printable sheets of brain breaks: Bear brain breaksSquirrel Themed Brain Breaks apple themed brain breaks

              5. Add a beach ball or bean bag to group activities. Toss while naming the answer to questions. 

              6. Jumping Jack Spelling Words- This is a whole-class exercise drill that gets the brain and the heart moving!

              7. Make indoor recess an active time. Here are indoor recess ideas to get the kids moving. 

              Use these classroom movement ideas to help with behaviors, learning, and to promote academic skills like math and reading.


              Grieco LA, Jowers EM, Bartholomew JB. Physically active academic lessons and time on task: The moderating effect of body mass index. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2009;41(10):1921–1926. 

              Mahar MT, Murphy SK, Rowe DA, Golden J, Shields AT, Raedeke TD. Effects of a classroom-based program on physical activity and on-task behavior. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2006;38(12):2086.

              Donnelly JE, Lambourne K. Classroom-based physical activity, cognition, and academic achievement. Preventive Medicine. 2011;52(Suppl 1):S36–S42.