Polar Bear Sensory Bin

Use a polar bear sensory bin for occupational therapy interventions

This polar bear sensory bin is an old one from The OT Toolbox site archives. This tactile sensory activity is a fun way to challenge sensory exploration with a variety of textures and materials. But more than that, this polar bear activity can be used in a therapy theme to address skills. The next part of the polar bear gross motor activity included a Our Polar Bear Sensory bin was cotton batting, tinsel, a stuffed polar bear, and a seal toy.  Little Guy glued some waxed paper to blue construction paper to make an ocean covered with ice.  We had a striped Christmas pencil for our “North Pole”. 

Polar bear sensory bin

Polar Bear Sensory Bin Materials

There are many ways to set up this sensory bin. Use items you have in your home or therapy space. Use some of the materials listed below. You DO NOT need all of these items. The nice thing about creating a themed sensory bin is that you can use what you have on hand. Some ideas for the sensory bin include:

  • Container or bin
  • Teddy bear
  • Tinsel
  • Cotton balls
  • Cotton batting
  • Tissue paper
  • Rice
  • Dry beans
  • Blue or white construction paper
  • Tape
  • Wax paper
  • Clear cellophane
  • Aluminum foil
  • Arctic animal figures
Make a polar bear sensory bin with figures, and sensory materials.

Other materials that you may want to add to the polar bear sensory bin to encourage fine motor skills and coordination skills:

  • Tweezers to pick up and manipulate materials
  • Small bowls
  • Tongs
  • Spoons or scoops
  • Chopsticks
  • Pickle picker
  • Containers
  • Counting cards (try the winter themed ones in the Winter Fine Motor Kit)

Fine Motor Skills in a Sensory Bin

Using the materials and tools above, students can work on fine motor skills to manipulate and explore the items in the sensory bin. Some ways to work on fine motor skills include:

Address in-hand manipulation by sorting items in the hands into containers or cups.

Work on hand strength and arch development by moving items with tongs, tweezers, or pickle picker.

Work on open thumb web space by pinching and pulling cotton balls.

Work on finger isolation by moving materials and items around in the bin.

Work on grasp and precision by picking up small items such as tinsel, mini-erasers, crumbled paper or tissue paper, etc.

Use a Sensory Bin for Visual Perception

This polar bear sensory bin can be used to address a variety of visual perceptual skills: visual discrimination, visual memory, visual attention, figure ground, and visual closure.

Ask children to locate specific items by color or texture. They can also recall items that they found in the sensory bin. Ask kids to locate items that are partially hidden by other objects or sensory bin filler materials. These are all ways to work on visual perceptual skills with this polar bear sensory bin.

Use a Sensory Bin for Eye-Hand Coordination

A sensory bin like this polar bear theme can be used in so many ways to address eye-hand coordination:

  • Pouring materials
  • Scooping materials like beans or rice
  • Using tongs or tweezers to pick up and move items like mini erasers
  • Sorting sensory bin items into piles or containers
  • Picking up and exploring various sensory bin items

Polar Bear Imagination Play

My kids had fun just imagining stories for the items in the sensory bin. We used the stuffed bear as a polar bear and a seal figure who was trying to escape into the ocean…Imagination play!  

Polar bear sensory bin with tinsel and arctic animal figures.

Baby Girl did NOT like the texture or “feel” of the tinsel. It got stuck to her hands and she would try to pull it off…The seal is another story.  She carried that thing around all day 🙂  

Kids of all ages can use the materials in the sensory bin to work on tactile sensory exploration, fine motor skills, and visual perception.

Looking for more Polar Bear play ideas??  We had fun with our first Polar Bear Theme activities day!   We should have more ideas up tomorrow to go along with the Polar Bear theme. 

You’ll also love all of the items in our Winter Fine Motor Kit. It’s loaded with coloring sheets, handwriting pages, puzzles, and crafts with a polar bear theme. There are sensory bin materials, polar bear finger puppets, lacing cards, and so much more.

winter fine motor kit

Click here to grab the Winter Fine Motor Kit.

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 Toys

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

Gross Motor Toys

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!

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!

Be sure to check out the winners from this giveaway in our annual Therapy Tools and Toys Giveaway series!

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.

Bilateral Coordination Toys

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 Coordination in 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.

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!

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.

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. Octi’s 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!

Tearing Paper Awesome Fine Motor Activity

Tearing paper activity for kids

So often, parents are looking for easy ways to help kids develop fine motor skills. Tearing paper is an amazing fine motor activity for kids.  It’s a simple fine motor activity that requires only scrap paper and your hands. In fact, tearing paper actually helps children develop so many essential skills: hand strength, hand eye coordination, precision, refined movements, bilateral coordination…

Tearing paper is an amazing fine motor activity for kids to build coordination and hand strength.

Tearing Paper

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

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

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

  • Hand eye coordination
  • Bilateral coordination
  • Pinch strength
  • Intrinsic hand strength
  • Separation of the sides of the hand
  • Shoulder and forearm stability
  • Precision and refined grasp
  • Proprioceptive input
  • Motor planning
tearing paper is a fine motor skills workout for kids.

Paper Tearing Activity

We use recycled artwork to create this Torn Paper texture art that would look great on any gallery (or family dining room) wall!

Paper tearing activity for kids uses recycled artwork to build fine motor skills and motor control while tearing paper.

Torn paper art work using recycled art:

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

Fine motor art craft for working on intrinsic muscle skills and tripod grasp with kids while using all of that recycled artwork, too!

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

For this paper tearing activity, first tear a sheet into long strips.  This will become the sky of our artwork.

Use kids artwork to create a paper tearing activity that builds fine motor skills.
Tearing paper builds fine motor skills and endurance in fine motor precision, making it a fine motor workout!

Torn paper Collage

Tearing strips of paper is especially a great fine motor task.  

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

Tearing the paper slowly while focusing on strait torn lines really encourages a workout of those intrinsic muscles.  We tore an 9×11 piece of painted printer paper into long strips, lengthwise.  The thin paper isn’t too difficult to tear, but requires motor control.

This is a fantastic way to build motor planning skills.

Tear paper in a torn paper collage artwork for kids. Tearing strips of green paper to build motor skills.

 Vary the texture of the paper and add green cardstock.  The thicker paper requires a bit more strength. Tearing paper that is thicker like cardstock, index cards, or construction paper adds heavy input through the hands. This propriocpetive input can be very calming and allow kids to regulate or focus while adding the sensory input they need.

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

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

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

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

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

Tear a piece of paper to help kids strengthen fine motor skills.

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

Tearing paper activity for kids

 Glue the sun onto the sky and enjoy the art.  

More paper activities that build skills:

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

Vision Activities for Kids

Vision activities

Skipping words when reading or copying written work, noticing details about things, reversing letters and numbers, poor eye-hand coordination or being a little clumsy, difficulty with reading comprehension…these are just SOME of the ways that vision impacts functional tasks in kids. Here you will find specific strategies and vision activities that help kids build and develop the underlying areas that impact independence.

Vision activities for kids to improve visual perception, visual efficiency, visual motor skills, eye-hand coordination, and more.

These vision activities are outlined by area that they improve, or those underlying skills that therapists work on so that kids can be independent in thins like catching a ball, writing on the lines, building puzzles, and so many other tasks.

We’ve recently put together a huge resource in our Visual Motor Skills section of the blog, which you can find under the tab at the top of the blog. Be sure to stop by and see all of the fun ways to play and develop visual perceptual skills, visual motor integration, visual figure ground, hand-eye coordination, visual discrimination, visual spatial relations, and more by checking out the vision activities for kids that we’ll be updating regularly.

Why Vision Activities?

Vision activities can sometimes be the missing piece to vision problems that we see in kids. Therapists often times working with kids with known or suspected visual perceptual or visual motor concerns, visual acuity issues, or other visual processing needs.

Teachers often have students that struggle with reading, copying, handwriitng, comprehension, attention, or focus.

Parents may have a child with a known vision issue or have a gut feeling about visual processing concerns.

Here is more information on visual processing and handwriting.

therapist Concerns

There are many concerns therapists have when it comes to vision needs in kids. Therapists need a quick screen to help identify the visual difficulties Rather than taking the extended time to work through several lengthy assessments, there is a time for evaluation, but a quick screening can pinpoint which strategy to take next.

Having quick activities to either do before or after an OT session, or to hand off to parents for home occupational therapy activities is a need for OTs. Similarly, quick vison activities that build on those underlying areas and are not disruptive to the class are sometimes needed.

Teacher Concerns

One of the main difficulties in the classroom is the impact vision has on learning. Kids struggle with visual stimulation and the inability to stay focused for any length of time due to visually processing so much information around us.  Students may visually dart their eyes from not only reading scripts but anything visually available, and they are unable to filter what isn’t required for the task at hand. When this happens, the eyes don’t know where to focus, therefore tasks take longer or don’t get completed, and it’s a real challenge for the child to focus. 

Handwriting is another reason to take a look at vision. Many kiddos have difficulties keeping letters aligned on a baseline, or even knowing where to place letters on a blank sheet of paper. 

So many kids cannot visually attend to an object to even assess tracking.  They will look past the tracking object and say they are looking at it or look at it for 1-2 seconds and their eyes dart in another direction.  How many children have you seen that have not had the capability to maintain visual contact with an object for a sustained amount of time? When this occurs, reading and handwriting can be a real problem?  

Vision Therapy

There is an overlap in interventions between vision therapy and occupational therapy. Much of the vision therapy research covers the vary skill areas that occupational therapy addresses in it’s OT activities.

So often, these two professions intervene in those vision activities that address the very areas kids struggle in:

-More and more kids who can not visually track- leading to trouble with reading and learning…

-Kids of various levels and abilities who struggle with interventions to address visual motor deficits…

-Students with real difficulties with reading and need strategies that make a difference in the classroom…

-Kids challenged by limited exposure to motor activities that translate to visual motor difficulties…

Kids struggle with orthographic memory (spelling patterns and knowing if a word looks right), but they have high levels of visual acuity.

-Many students have difficulty with visual memory and visual attention which makes it difficult for them to copy words or sentences. They require visual and verbal cues to refer back to the sample and often can only recall and copy one letter at a time.  

Vision Definitions

Before we cover various vision activities, we will go over the vision definitions for terms that relate to all things vision. This guide to vision can help you better understand what’s happening in those eyes.

Under each section are links to activities to build each skill area.

Visual Motor Integration- Visual motor integration includes the overarching umbrella that contains several areas, including visual perception, visual processing skills, and eye-hand coordination. The integration of these areas enables the eyes to perceive information through the vision functions (described in further below) and process information, resulting coordinated hand (and body) motor actions in order to complete a task. Visual motor integration includes a perceptual component that allows for copying of letters and positioning of objects based on perceptual input.

Here are visual motor skills activities.

Eye-Hand Coordination- This eye and hand skill allows an individual to catch a ball, hit a target, or complete other motor actions based on visual information. Development of eye-hand coordination occurs from birth and continues as kids develop more physical skills.

Here is an easy eye-hand coordination activity.

– work on hand eye coordination using an everyday item…something you have in your therapy bag right now!

Jumbo Fine Motor Threading Activity– Threading and lacing is a great way to work on hand eye coordination.

Eye-hand coordination activity with letters– Sorting, manipulating, and organizing small items can be a way to boost skills with coordination exercises.

Feather Beading– Threading beads onto feathers is a creative and fun way to improve eye hand coordination skills.

Vision Functions- This includes the actions and abilities of the eyes that allow information to be perceived. Visual functions include visual tracking, visual convergence, divergence, saccadic eye movements, depth perception, nystagmus, disassociated eye movements, eye positioning, teaming, and eye dominance. Here are visual scanning activities.

  • Visual Tracking- The eyes ability to follow a moving target through all fields of vision with smooth, coordinated movements in dissociation; it is also referred to as a pursuit. Here are activities to work on smooth pursuits.

Here are games for visual tracking.

  • Visual Convergence- The eyes ability to follow a moving target from a distance into the midline with smooth, coordinated movements. Convergence is the technical term for “crossing your eyes”. Convergence should be easily maintained for up to 5 seconds. Here are activities to improve visual convergence.
  • Divergence- The eyes ability to follow a moving target from convergence, or near point, out to a far point with smooth, coordinated movements.

Here is more information on convergence efficiency.

  • Saccadic Eye Movements- The ability to move one’s eyes simultaneously between two points of fixation with smooth movements. This skill is utilized for near and far point copying without losing your place. Here are activities for visual saccades.
  • Teaming- Fluid, smooth coordinated movements of both eyes in synchrony. Difficulties with teaming can lead to eye strain and fatigue, headaches, and blurred vision. Visual teaming is a big part of visual efficiency. Here are activities and more information on visual efficiency.
  • Disassociated Eye Movements- The ability to move your eyes separately from your head while it is stabilized. Lack of dissociation can indicate under developed motor patterns and eye muscle imbalances. 
  • Eye Positioning- This refers to the position of the eyes when resting. Both eyes should be in neutral, equal position. However, it is possible that one, or both eyes demonstrates deviation in an outward or inward deviation. This can indicate an eye muscle imbalance.
  • Nystagmus- Nystagmus refers to the reflexive lateral movement of the eyes post rotary stimulation. This should be present only after rotary stimulation. If it is present at rest it is considered abnormal. If it is NOT present or limited post rotary stimulation, it is considered abnormal and may indicate a vestibular disorder.
  • Eye Dominance- This indicates the eye that is the stronger of the two. This eye is typically the same eye as our dominant side for motor tasks.  However, mixed dominance does happen and can cause difficulties. 
  • Depth Perception- Allows us to perceive visual input in multiple dimensions (including length, width and depth), and to judge how far away an object is. Here is information and activities for depth perception.

Visual perception is our ability to make sense of what we see. Visual perceptual skills are essential for everything from navigating our world to reading, writing, and manipulating items. Visual perception is made up of a complex combination of various skills and systems, including sensory processing, visual attention. These visual perceptual skills are necessary together and in coordination with one another in order for use to see information and use that visual information to create responses or react with functional abilities like movement or processing. When visual perceptual skills are delayed or impaired, other areas can suffer, including: learning, social, emotional, self-regulation, behavior, attention, organization, concentration, self-esteem, etc.

Visual Perceptual Skills make up an important component of visual motor skills. For children, these abilities are necessary for so many things…from self-care to fine motor skills, to gross motor skills…all parts of a child’s development require visual perception. There are many pieces to the giant term of “visual perception”. Sub-components include: visual memory, form constancy, visual spatial relationships, visual attention, visual sequential memory, visual figure-ground, and visual closure.

Here are strategies for visual perception and handwriting.

Here are toys and games to improve visual perception.

Visual Memory– This is one’s ability to store visual information in short term memory.  This skill allows us to recall visual information.  When completing hidden picture puzzles, kids visually store images of items they are looking for when scanning to locate a specific shape or image.  This skill is necessary for handwriting tasks when copying information from a source, such as lists of words, homework lists, and copying sentences. which direction we see them. Here is more information and activities for visual memory.

Form Constancy– This skill allows us to visually recognize objects no matter their orientation.  When completing a hidden picture puzzle, children can recognize the missing object whether it is upside down or sideways.  In handwriting skills, we use this ability to read and know letters and numbers no matter the position of the letters/numbers. Here are fun ways to work on form constancy.

Visual Figure Ground is the ability to locate objects within a cluttered area (think “I Spy”).  Finding a red square among the pile of foam pieces is one fun way to work on this area of visual perception.

Try some of these figure ground activities:

Baby Ice and Bath

Bottle cap letters

Letter Bin

Sight word sensory bin

Rainbow sensory bins

I Spy sight word sensory bottle

Real toy I Spy game

Finger dexterity exercise

Figure ground sight word hunt

Visual Spatial Relationships- This visual perceptual skill allows us to recognize and understand the relationships of objects within the environment and how they relate to one another. Here are activities to improve spatial relations.


Visual Attention- This visual perceptual skill allows us to focus on the important pieces or parts of what we see. When we “take in” a scene or image in front of us, we are able to filter out the unimportant information. In this way, a student is able to focus our eyes on the teacher when she teaches. Driving down a road requires visual attention to take in the road so we can drive safely. Visual attention is important in copy work as students copy information from a Smart Board or book onto a piece of paper. As they visually scan from one point to another, they attend to the place they left off. Visual attention is also important and very needed in reading. Here is more information on visual attention.

Visual Sequential Memory- This visual perceptual skill is the ability to visually take in and then later recall the sequence or order of items in the correct order. This skill is important in reading and writing. Visual sequential memory is important in spelling words correctly and recognizing that words are not spelled correctly.

Visual Discrimination– This visual perception skill enables us to determine slight differences in objects.  In hidden picture activities, this skill is needed to determine and locate different hidden objects.  When writing and reading, visual discrimination allows us to perceive the difference between “p” and “d”. Here is a visual discrimination worksheet.

More visual discrimiation activities:

Color matching Elmer Activity

Finger dexterity exercise

Practice “b” and “d” with sensory writing

Color shape discrimination Sort

Coin discrimination

Real toy I Spy game

Visual Closure– This visual perceptual skill allows us to see part of an object and visualize in our “mind’s eye” to determine the whole object.  When we see part of an item, we use visual closure to know what the whole item is.  This skill requires the cognitive process of problem solving to identify items.  Visual Closure is used to locate and recognize items in a hidden picture puzzle.  In written work, we use visual closure to recognize parts of words and letters when reading and copying work. Here is a visual closure activity.

Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe Craft

Shoe tying craft for there was an old woman who lived in a shoe craft

This nursery rhyme craft is based on the classic nursery rhyme, “There was and Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe”. We had a blast building fine motor skills with this kids craft. It’s a great way to work on shoe tying, too!

Shoe tying craft based on the nursery rhyme, There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
Shoe tying craft for kids

We are starting off the nursery rhyme craft and activity series with a timeless nursery rhyme…There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.  This is one of our favorite nursery rhymes to recite, although to be honest, in our house we love them all!  When we visit the library, we usually hit up the nursery rhyme shelf and come home with a book or two about nursery rhymes.    

Nursery Rhyme crafts and activities for learning and play

Nursery Rhyme Craft

There is just something wonderful about reciting nursery rhymes.  The repetition of rhythm and rhyme teach kids about language, memory, and literacy.  They are fun to say over and over again.  And with this repetition, comes self-confidence in the child.  The timeless quality of nursery rhymes brings together generations of storytelling.  There is much to discover about how nursery rhymes help with learning, including pitch, imagination, sequencing, and phonics.    

We recited “There was an Old Woman who lived in a shoe” and made a boot craft to explore the rhyme.     There was an old woman  Who lived in a shoe. She had so many children She didn’t know what to do. She gave them some broth And a big slice of bread, Kissed them all soundly And sent them to bed.   (We went with the Mother Goose version)  

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe fine motor craft.

  This post contains affiliate links.  Thank you for your support of this blog.  

Shoe Tying Craft

This craft doubles as a shoe tying craft, too. Kids can build so many skills by making this craft, that are so important for shoe tying, including:

  • Bilateral Coordination
  • Lacing a shoe
  • Pincer Grasp
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Tying a bow

The best thing about this shoe tying craft is that kids will leave with a sense of accomplishment, allowing them to feel self-confidence with shoe tying.

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe craft

Craft supplies for a nursery rhyme craft for kids.

We started with a few supplies to make our nursery rhyme craft:

blue foam craft sheet 
red yarn 
colored card stock 
marker
yellow circle label stickers 
glue
hole punch

scissor skill craft shoe craft

  Start by drawing a large boot shape on the craft foam sheet.  Draw dots with the marker for the lacing holes.

Shoe craft for kids, based on the nursery rhyme, There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.

Older kids can cut out the boot shape.  Crafting foam is a great material to snip with scissors and provides a different resistance when cutting.

This shoe tying craft builds fine motor skills and bilateral skills that kids need to learn to tie their shoes.

Use the hole punch to punch the lacing holes.  We started with a kid friendly hole punch, but it didn’t work very well on the craft foam material.  The old fashioned hole punch worked better.

Child holding scissors with two hands.

Snip a long length of yarn.  Clearly Little Guy needs a little work on his scissor grasp. 😉  He was being silly with cutting the yarn.  

Here is a guide to scissor skills, including the bilateral coordination needed for shoe tying AND cutting with scissors.

Kids can use this shoe tying craft to build fine motor skills, lacing, and shoe tying.

Tape one end of the red yarn to the back side of the boot.  Get the kids lacing away on the boot.  This is a fantastic fine motor task for little fingers.  Tripod grasp, bilateral hand coordination, motor planning, eye-hand coordination…lacing is great for preschoolers!

Fine motor lacing activity boot craft for kids

This boot alone would make a very cute fine motor craft.  But it needs a little something extra for our nursery rhyme.

Use this shoe tying craft to help kids with lacing and tying shoes.

  We made a little old woman and many children on the boot.  Baby Girl loved sticking the yellow circle label stickers onto the boot.  These would be the faces.

Shoe tying craft for kids

  Next, we cut our colored card stock into triangles and rectangles for the bodies.  More fine motor work with the snipping card stock.  A bit of glue holds these shapes in place.  Be sure to talk about shapes and colors with your preschooler while doing this part.  

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe craft for kids

Baby Girl used a marker and drew faces on each person.  Working in a small defined area is a great way to further develop pre-handwriting skills drawing and pencil control.

She then drew arms and legs for the old woman and children.

How cute is this nursery rhyme craft?  It brings the rhyme to life with imagination and creativity.  Baby Girl wanted to introduce a duck to the woman and children.


Be sure to stop back tomorrow and the rest of this week and next week for the rest of the nursery rhyme series.  You can find them all of our nursery rhyme crafts here. 


This isn’t our first nursery rhyme craft.  Check out our This Little Piggy Went to the Market craft:

Nursery rhyme craft for the Three Little Pigs

Movement Activities Monster OT Slides

Recently, I’ve been sharing some occupational therapy slide decks with you. These slide decks are OT activities that can be used in teletherapy sessions as part of distance OT or distance learning. Today, I’ve got movement activities with a monster theme to share. These are monster themed occupational therapy activities that cover a variety of areas. When you access the OT slide deck download, use in to work on OT activities like a therapy warm-up, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, visual perceptual skills, visual motor skills, and finally, a self-regulation check-in. Each activity in the collection involves movement activities that build specific skills. Scroll to the bottom of this post to enter your email to access the latest free occupational therapy slide deck.

Movement activities for occupational therapy sessions with a free OT slide deck that incorporates fine motor, gross motor, coordination, visual motor skills, regulation and other movement in monster theme activities.

Movement activities

As always, my mission here at The OT Toolbox is to help you help kids thrive through the use of easily accessible tools and resources.

try these monster activities for a lesson plan for writing, letter identification through movement.

The slides included in this set are acceptable movement activities for preschoolers because they use letters, helping preschoolers to recognize and identify letters. The slides would also work as a movement activity for kids in older grades as well, using the handwriting and visual motor activities to build specific skills like visual motor skills needed for handwriting tasks, copying lists of words, and visual perceptual skills needed for reading.

Monster Movement Activities for Kids

The slide deck promotes movement activities for kids in several ways. These are the slides and an agenda of activities to use in therapy sessions:

Warm-Up– Use the gross motor movement activities as a warm up to help with body awareness and a sensory tool to add proprioceptive and vestibular input. Kids can copy the body positioning to challenge balance and coordination, as well as motor planning. I’ve added a visual perceptual component to the warm-up movement slides by asking children to identify a partially hidden letter as they do the whole-body movements. This challenges visual perceptual skills including visual discrimination, visual figure-ground, visual closure, form constancy, and visual memory. Read more about these skills that are needed to complete hidden pictures activities, for example.

Monster activity with movement activities for preschool and movement activities for kids of all ages.

Writing- The writing slides in this slide deck ask kids to identify the month they are born and the first letter of their name to create a wacky monster name. They can write this word phrase to practice handwriting. The visual scanning and tracking involved in this activity really challenges the visual processing skills and visual efficiency of the eyes. The movement activity of writing their name incorporates a functional task that they may be working on in their OT goals.

Kids will love to work on handwriting with this monster name activity.

Fine Motor- The fine motor portion of this movement activity slide deck involves tearing paper into small pieces. By ripping paper, kids are building hand strength, bilateral coordination, eye-hand coordination, and efficiency of grasp. I’ve added a visual motor component to this activity by asking the child to use those paper scraps in shaping and copying specific shapes. The whole fine motor activity adds much-needed fine motor movement and eye-hand coordination to a shape building activity.

Visual- The visual portion of this occupational therapy slide deck is a favorite for some kids (My own kids included!) Use the slides to work on visual perceptual skills as they find matching shadows for the monster figures in a series of three slides. After the child completes each slide, ask them to jump and and cheer!

A monster visual perception activity for ot sessions.

Calm Down/Check-In- Lastly, you’ll find a calm down slide that incorporates the colors of the Zones of Regulation program. Children can complete the calm down movement activities shown on the slides and then choose a color to check in for their state of feelings.

Work on self-regulation activities with a monster theme.
Use the zones of regulation with a monster theme

Want these movement activity slides?

Enter your email below. If you are currently on The OT Toolbox newsletter list, this will not add you a second time. It will simply send the slides your way. Enjoy!

Get this Movement Activities slide deck

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.
    Powered By ConvertKit

    HERE ARE MORE Movement ACTIVITIES TO USE IN VIRTUAL OT SESSIONS

    Heavy work movement activity cards

    Monthly movement activities

    Teletherapy activities for kids

    Work on fine motor skills in teletherapy

    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.

    Hand Eye Coordination Toys

    Today, we’ve got just one of the many fun eye hand coordination toys to share. Let’s talk coordination skills needed for tasks like play and self-care.

    hand eye coordination games and activities to promote eye hand coordination skills in tasks like handwriting and play.

    What is Hand Eye Coordination

    Working on hand eye coordination is part of play. It occurs from a very young age…in fact development of hand eye coordination begins in the first month. The early development of this essential skill serves as a building block for functional tasks occuring much further down the road in beyond the infant period.

    Eye hand coordination is needed for tasks such as handwriting, tying shoe laces, managing clothing fasteners, catching and throwing a ball, reading, managing school supplies, and even walking through crowded hallways while managing items such as books, jacket and the backpack.

    Other examples of eye-hand coordination include catching a ball, manipulating pegs into a pegboard, lacing a lacing card, etc. This is a skill that is an integral part of each day.

    Poor hand eye coordination

    When delays in coordination skills are present, children struggle in many ways.

    While eye hand coordination plays closely with other visual processing areas such as visual perception and visual efficiency, visual tracking, convergence, etc., there is a motor component to consider as well. The visual portion and motor portion must be integrated in a coordinated manner, allowing for effective and efficient use of the hands so that we can manipulate and manage objects. This coordinated motor skill requires fine motor skill development equally as much as the visual skill component

    These motor skills allow us to collect visual information and use it in a motor action. Eye-hand coordination requires fine motor dexterity, strength, shoulder stability, core stability, etc.

    When there are difficulties with coordination of these areas, we see trouble with movement games, clumsiness, difficulty with sports, disorganization, and challenges with motor control in functional tasks.

    Coordination Games and Activities

    Hand eye coordination games and activities can be an effective way to work on these areas, even while addressing other areas such as sensory input, problem solving, and even learning. We’ve got many hand eye coordination activities here on the website:

    Eye-Hand Coordination Activities using Paper– work on hand eye coordination using an everyday item…something you have in your therapy bag right now!

    Bilateral Coordination Visual Motor Integration Clover– Work on the integration of visual processing skills with motor movements with this symmetrical drawing activity.

    Jumbo Fine Motor Threading Activity– Threading and lacing is a great way to work on hand eye coordination.

    Eye-hand coordination activity with letters– Sorting, manipulating, and organizing small items can be a way to boost skills with coordination exercises.

    Feather Beading– Threading beads onto feathers is a creative and fun way to improve eye hand coordination skills.

    Fine Motor color sorting– Encourage coordination skills for preschoolers and eye hand coordination in toddlers by sorting colors or shapes.

    Hand Eye Coordination Toy

    One such eye hand coordination toys that doubles as a tool for addressing sensory needs, motor planning, problem solving, and creative play is the Punkinfutz PunkinPitch Kit. This open-ended game uses a vest and soft, velcro “paint balls” that can be used to work on eye-hand coordination, motor planning, and more.

    Kids can wear the vest and move through an obstacle course or move from base to base as they dodge and avoid paint balls. They can then throw the soft balls at another player who is wearing the vest. The options are limitless, and part of the fun is coming up with creative ways to incorporate this coordination game into therapy needs or learning.

    Kids can work on other skills beyond eye-hand coordination as well: Motor planning, gross motor skills, core strength and rotation, and social play are just some of the areas covered by this coordination activity.

    Eye hand 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!