Tracing Letters with Chalk

tracing letters with chalk

Have you heard of rainbow writing? How about chalk rainbow writing? There are many fine motor and visual motor skills that are used when using rainbow writing as a handwriting practice strategy! Let’s break down what rainbow writing is and how this chalk writing activity is a skill-builder for letter formation. Also check out our handwriting library for more ideas.

tracing letters with chalk

Tracing letters with chalk is a handwriting practice strategy that helps to build muscle memory when learning letter formations. You can rainbow write on paper or with different utensils such as crayons, colored pencils, markers, or chalk!

Tracing Letters with Chalk

Tracing letters with chalk is a colorful way to practice letter formation. The strategy builds skills in visual motor and hand eye coordination in order to trace over the lines of a letter.

When you use chalk tracing to practice a letter or a word, the child traces over the letter with each color of the rainbow.

They will end up with 6 or 7 trials in writing over the letter.

Some things to consider with tracing with chalk

Tracing over letters with chalk, crayons, or colored pencils is a powerful strategy when practicing letter formation and the line awareness needed for letter size and line placement.

Read through this resource on tracing sheets to see the pros and cons of tracing with kids.

Some things you’ll want to consider about chalk tracing writing activities:

  • Be sure to watch how the student starts the letters. It can be easy to start a poor muscle memory for writing the letters if they start at the wrong starting point or form the letters incorrectly. This creates an incorrect motor plan in the handwriting process.
  • Make sure the letters don’t progressively get worse as the student traces over the letters when rainbow writing.
  • Some kids tend to make the rainbow letters with colors next to each other like a rainbow rather than tracing on top of each color. Ask the student to make a mixed up rainbow by tracing right on top of each color.

Rainbow Writing with chalk

We did rainbow writing with chalk one day. This was a great way to work on letter formation while outside because there was the added benefit of playing on the ground.

Using chalk to practice letters supports development by adding proprioceptive input through the core, strengthens the shoulder girdle for adding more stability for writing, as well as adding strength and stability to the wrist.

Upper body strength in this way supports distal dexterity and mobility needed for writing.

Chalk Rainbow Writing

This chalk tracing activity was a lot of fun.

We have a big ol’ bucket of chalk that we play with almost everyday.  Our sidewalk and driveway have been know to be very colorful at times!  We took the chalk to our sidewalk squares one day this week and practiced a little letter formation.

Our sidewalk squares were the perfect area to practice forming letters accurately.  I used simple verbal cues to describe the formation of each letter (big line down, little curve around, little line) and we started in the corner of each square as we made the letters. 

I made the letter first and Big Sister and Little Guy watched.  Then we went to work making our letters very colorful!

Tracing the letters over and over again was a great way to practice accurate formation.  Big Sister got into this activity.  Little Guy only wanted to make a few letters that are in his name.

When the child is tracing the letters over and over again, they become more efficient at planning out and executing the movements needed to make a letter accurately.  This activity is great for a new writer because they are given a confined space to practice a letter, and visual cues (and verbal prompts from mom).

 

 
 
 

Use the activities and ideas in The Handwriting Book for more ways to work on writing skills.

The Handwriting Book is a comprehensive resource created by experienced pediatric OTs and PTs.

The Handwriting Book covers everything you need to know about handwriting, guided by development and focused on function. This digital resource is is the ultimate resource for tips, strategies, suggestions, and information to support handwriting development in kids.

The Handwriting Book breaks down the functional skill of handwriting into developmental areas. These include developmental progression of pre-writing strokes, fine motor skills, gross motor development, sensory considerations, and visual perceptual skills. Each section includes strategies and tips to improve these underlying areas.

  • Strategies to address letter and number formation and reversals
  • Ideas for combining handwriting and play
  • Activities to practice handwriting skills at home
  • Tips and strategies for the reluctant writer
  • Tips to improve pencil grip
  • Tips for sizing, spacing, and alignment with overall improved legibility

Click here to grab your copy of The Handwriting Book today.

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.

Toilet Paper Roll Stamp

toilet paper roll stamp

This toilet paper roll stamp art is a fun creative painting activity we’ve had on the website for many years. Kids love the messy sensory fun of painting with a toilet paper roll. Therapy providers love using the recycled materials in building skills like bilateral coordination, motor planning, and more!

toilet paper roll stamp

toilet paper roll stamp

Therapy materials are expensive, so using items that you typically throw away are wonderful! That’s where this toilet paper roll stamp comes into play. All you need are a few toilet paper rolls or paper towel tubes and some foam stickers to get started.

We’ve painted paper rolls and used toilet paper tubes in crafts before but have you ever painted with a toilet paper tube?

How to make a toilet paper roll stamp

To use a paper tube into a stamp, you’ll need just a few items:

  • Recycled paper tube (toilet paper roll or the inside of a paper towel roll)
  • Foam stickers
  • Paint
  • Paper
  • Paint brush- this item isn’t necessary unless you want to paint the foam stickers to extend fine motor skill work.

To set up the painting with stamps activity, ask your child to help you stick the foam stickers all around the paper roll. There are so many benefits of playing with stickers and this part of the activity is another skill-builder.

Why?

Because when kids position stickers on a paper tube, they are building several motor areas:

After positioning the stickers onto the paper roll, pour some paint onto scrap paper or in a low tray.

  1. Show users how to roll the paper tube into the paint. This is a great exercises in graded pressure, or proprioception. If they press too hard, paint covers the whole paper tube. If they don’t press hard enough, paint will not evenly cover the foam stickers. This awareness carries over to pencil pressure when writing.
  2. Or, paint the foam stickers with a paint brush. This is a great way to work on pencil grasp with extended wrist, which pulls the muscles of the hand and wrist into an optimal position for pencil grasp through a play activity.
  3. Then, roll the paper tube onto paper. This again supports awareness of proprioception as well as bilateral awareness. If they press too hard, the paint images are squished and you can’t tell what the stamp is. If pressed too lightly, the paint doesn’t transfer to the paper. Using both hands together with equal pressure is a bilateral coordination skill that transfers to functional tasks.
 
We love any painting play in this house.  Big Sister was really into this project.
 
We stuck foam stickers onto an empty paper roll and she got busy painting them.
(I love her concentration here…)




 
 
 
 
After the foam stickers are painted, roll away!
 
 
 
Pretty Prints!
 
 
 
An easy and fun little painting craft!
 

Working on fine motor skills? Grab one of our Therapy Kits for printable activities that build dexterity, fine motor strength, and coordination needed for tasks like using scissors or pencil grasp.

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

Check out the seasonal Fine Motor Kits that kids love:

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

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

Play Dough Cupcakes

play dough cupcakes

These playdough cupcakes are one of our all-time favorite play dough activities! Occupational therapy providers know the incredible power of using play dough in therapy activities, so a fine motor activity like making pretend cupcakes with play dough is not only fun and engaging, it’s a fun dramatic play activity, too. The therapy providers love the benefits of motor skills, fine motor strength and coordination, too! Let’s make playdough baked goods!

play dough cupcakes

Playdough Cupcakes

All you need is a clean, recycled cupcake container and a few containers of play dough to make a batch of the best fine motor tools around. We love using our crayon play dough recipe to make colorful batches of play dough, but you can use any type of store-bought or homemade playdough.

Best of all, with different colors of dough, you can mix and match the cupcakes while building skills. Color matching with play dough is a fun way for preschoolers and toddlers to learn colors and so much more.

Why make Playdough Cupcakes?

One of the benefits of playing with play dough is the creativity that the material inspires. Playing with playdough is a great way to inspire fine motor STEM while building strength in the hands:

A stable and strong wrist is a powerful way to improve endurance in the hand during functional tasks.

How to Make Play Dough Cupcakes

The recipe to make play dough cupcakes is simple!

  1. Pull palm-sized balls of playdough from the container- this is a great way to improve intrinsic hand strength.
  2. Roll the ball of play dough between the palms.
  3. Press the ball of play dough into the cupcake container.
  4. Use small pieces of play dough to form imaginary decorations: sprinkles, icing, cherry, birthday candles, etc.

Using the fingertips of the hands to make these various small decorations really improves precision skills and dexterity in the hands.

 
 
We play with play dough so much around here.  This was one fun activity that we have enjoyed over and over again.  
 
We had a plastic cupcake holder from a recent bakery trip.  After the cupcakes were gone, we used the container to bake up some Play Dough cupcakes.  
 
 
Pinching play dough, rolling little play dough cherries and icing rolls, pressing the dough into the cupcake sections…there is some great fine motor play going on here!
 
 
 
Your cupcakes are served! 
 
Need more Play Dough play activities? 
 
Try making a play dough snake to work on skills like bilateral coordination and graded precision skills. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sensory Solutions for Fireworks

sensory solutions for fireworks

For children with sensory sensitivities, fireworks can be a real challenge. The days and weeks around 4th of July can be a celebration that leads to loud and lengthy firework shows, but there can be isolated booms and cracks that come at all times of day or night. For the individual with auditory sensitivities, this is a huge detriment. Having a sensory diet or sensory solution to the auditory input can support sensory needs.

sensory solutions for fireworks

Sensory Solutions for Fireworks

The intense noise of fireworks can trigger sensory overload, leading to feelings of distress, anxiety, or even pain for these individuals.

The explosive nature of fireworks results in sharp, unpredictable bursts of sound, which can be overwhelming and disruptive to individuals with sensory sensitivities. The loud noises can cause discomfort, stress, and sensory discomfort, impacting their overall well-being. Plus, for the child or individual that has experienced this discomfort may be traumatized by the potential for booms and cracks of fireworks that seem to come out of nowhere.

Another sensory consideration when it comes to firework season which can impact sensory sensitive individuals is the crowd. Fireworks displays are often watched in very crowded environments like parking lots, plazas, stadiums, fields, neighborhood lawns, etc. The physicals closeness of a crowd adds additional sensory stimuli like bright lights and vibrations.

The combination of these factors can further intensify the sensory overload experienced by individuals with auditory sensitivities, making it hard to self-regulate, and can potentially leading to heightened anxiety and meltdowns. We may even see a season of sensory dysregulation.

How to support the child sensitive to fireworks

It is important to recognize and respect the needs of individuals with auditory sensitivities during fireworks events.

Creating inclusive environments that offer quieter alternatives, such as silent fireworks or designated noise-reduced zones, can provide individuals with auditory sensitivities the opportunity to enjoy celebrations without the overwhelming impact of loud sounds.

Some sensory solutions for fireworks include sensory strategies and physical or location-based tactics:

  • Preparing for the event- talking about what is going to happen at the fireworks event or celebration
  • Using noise cancelling headphones or earbuds
  • Sensory diet tools like deep breathing exercises or weighted blankets to regulate and organize sensory needs
  • Sensory chaining techniques (see below)
  • Earplugs
  • Chewlery
  • Watching fireworks from a distance
  • Watching fireworks from a live streaming of the event or a TV/social media broadcast
  • Countdown from the start of the fireworks
  • Personal space away from crowds

When it’s time to sleep and the neighborhood is still celebrating, try:

  • White noise sound machine and blackout curtains
  • Music
  • Turn on a movie
  • “Camp out” in the basement for a fun adventure
  • Play a sleep app

By understanding and accommodating the challenges faced by individuals with auditory sensitivities, we can work towards creating more inclusive and sensory-friendly environments during fireworks displays, ensuring that everyone can fully participate in and enjoy these events. After all, we all have differing sensory needs, and sensitivities can look different for everyone. 

Sensory Chaining Technique

One way to challenge sensory systems and trial tools and strategies in sensory situations is through chaining.

Occupational therapy practitioners are familiar with chaining. There are different types of chaining strategies to support development of skills:

  • Forward chaining- Forward chaining is a teaching strategy that is often used to help individuals learn and develop new skills, particularly in the context of behavior management and task completion. This approach breaks down complex tasks into smaller, more manageable steps, allowing individuals to master each step before moving on to the next one.
  • Backward chaining- Backward chaining is a teaching strategy that can be helpful for teaching new skills as well, however, this approach involves starting with the final step of a task and working backward to teach each preceding step until the entire task is mastered.
  • Sensory chaining- this type of skill development is typically used to slowly and strategically chain a picky eater’s diet from exremely limited and preferred foods to a more diverse food input. This occurs by slowly introducing foods that are similar in texture in a step-by-step process.

Similar to chaining foods, sensory chaining can be one tactic to increase tolerance to sensory input in the form of tactile sensations, textures, messy play experiences, and even auditory input, or types of sounds.

The bubble wrap fireworks activity we have described below is a chaining activity to support individuals who are sensitive to fireworks. The activity is hands-on, and led by the child. They can pop the “fireworks” on their own time and gain not only proprioceptive feedback through their hands, but control the “pop” sound.

This is a fun fireworks themed activity to support the needs of individuals with auditory sensitivities especially when it comes to fireworks being too loud or sudden noises that typically occur during fireworks season. If you have a child sensitive to noise, then fireworks can be auditory overload. Using a sound “safe” activity to prepare for fireworks can be part of a sensory chaining strategy to support children sensitive to loud noises like fireworks.

This bubble wrap fireworks craft is a “safe” sound!

Use this fireworks themed sensory activity to incorporate skills such as fine motor skills, fine motor strength, bilateral coordination, and eye-hand coordination with an auditory processing component that is perfect for the 4th of July, or any patriotic holiday! It uses bubble wrap and red, white, and blue colored stickers to make a sensory tool that kids will love.

You’ll need just a couple of items:

  • Bubble wrap
  • Blue stickers
  • Red stickers

 

 
I stuck a bunch of red and blue labeling stickers on large bubble wrap.
 
When Big Sister and Little Guy saw this, they were very excited!
 
 
 
The pop made a perfect firework sound for each color.  It really did sound like the crack of  little fireworks.  We did a little listening activity, where I would tell them…”Pop red, then blue, then blue.”  We did a few patterns and all reds, and then all blues.
 
Each little bubble gave a very satisfying crack!
 
 
And then there was a huge crack as a certain Little Guy jumped on the rest of the un-popped bubbles 🙂

 

Fine Motor Toothpick Activity

toothpick activity

This toothpick activity requires only one item: a toothpick container found at the local dollar store. Typically a toothpick container is filled with toothpicks and has a few holes in the removable lid, making it a great fine motor tool for children. This occupational therapy activity is used because you can target many precision skills and dexterity in kids. Let’s check it out…

toothpick activity

Toothpick Container Activity

I’ve had a toothpick container in my therapy bag for many, many years. While we don’t actually use the toothpicks in their traditional use, we do, use the toothpicks in a fine motor activity that kids seem to love!

First, look for a holder that has small holes in a removeable lid. Amazon (affiliate link) has a three pack with color coded lids which would be great for sorting colored toothpicks.

Next, place toothpicks on the table and show the child how to pick up one at a time and drop them into the holes of the lid.

Use this basic activity in many ways:

  • Play pick up sticks
  • Roll a dice and pick up that many toothpicks. Drop them in the holes of the container.
  • Set a timer and place as many toothpicks in the holes as possible
  • Hide toothpicks in a sensory bin. Pull out a toothpick and drop them into the holes as they are found.

What other ways to use this toothpick container activity can you think of?

Fine Motor Toothpick activity

What skills are we working on here?

Talk about an easy set- up and great fine motor dexterity task…
 
toothpick activity for kids
 
Picking up those tooth picks from the table surface is perfect for a fine motor neat pincer grasp. 
 
Putting them into the little holes of the container works on a tripod grasp and extended wrist. 
 
Holding the container with the non-dominant hand is great for establishing a stabilizer hand (supporting the paper when writing).
 
 
toothpick holder activity for kids
 
 

More Toothpick Activities

  1. STEM Towers: Challenge your child to build towers using toothpicks and marshmallows. There is power in fine motor STEM! This activity promotes precision and hand-eye coordination.
  2. Pincer Grasp Practice: Encourage your child to pick up toothpicks using only the tips of their thumb and index finger in a neat pincer grasp. They can transfer toothpicks from one container to another, enhancing their fine motor control.
  3. Build letters: Use toothpicks to shape letters of the alphabet. Your child can place the toothpicks on a flat surface to form letters, improving their finger dexterity and control.
  4. Counting and Sorting: Have your child count and sort toothpicks into different groups based on length, color, or other criteria. This activity develops counting skills and promotes attention to detail. One way to expand this activity is to use a marker or paint to color the toothpicks or use (Amazon affiliate link) colored craft matchsticks.
  5. Geometric Shapes: Challenge your child to create geometric shapes, such as squares, triangles, or hexagons, by connecting toothpicks. This activity sharpens spatial awareness and fosters creativity.
  6. Playdough Poke: Make a playdough snake and then use the toothpicks to poke along the play dough. This threading exercise improves hand strength, hand-eye coordination, and fine motor control.
  7. Toothpick Art: Encourage your child to create miniature sculptures or artwork using toothpicks. They can connect toothpicks with glue or build structures, allowing their creativity to flourish while refining their fine motor skills.
  8. Sensory Play: Combine toothpicks with sensory materials like kinetic sand or rice. Your child can bury toothpicks in the material, dig them out, or create patterns and designs. This activity provides tactile stimulation and enhances finger strength.
  9. Fine Motor Mazes: Draw or print mazes on paper and use toothpicks as a stylus to navigate through the maze. This activity strengthens hand control and precision movements.

Plus, you can use the toothpicks in the toothpick art found in our seasonal Fine Motor Kits:

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

Check out the seasonal Fine Motor Kits that kids love:

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

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

DIY Light Box for Tracing

DIY light table for tracing

This DIY light box for tracing is an easy light box we put together in minutes. All you need is an under the bed storage container and a string of lights to make a tracing tool that kids will love. There are benefits to tracing and this tool is a fun way to build fine motor skills and visual motor skills as a visual motor skill leading to better handwriting.

DIY light box for tracing

A light box is a fun activity, and one you see in preschool classrooms, as it’s intended for hands-on play and exploring the senses. But did you know there are many benefits to using a light box for tracing (and other exploring play)?

How to Make a DIY Light Table for Tracing

This DIY Light Box was something I’ve seen around Pinterest and have wanted to try for a while…Once we had our Christmas lights outside, I thought we would definitely be doing this project after we pulled all of the lights back in.  So, after we brought the Christmas lights in from the outside bushes, this was easy to put together for a cold evening’s play!

You need just two items to make a DIY light table:

(Amazon affiliate links)

  1. Strand of white Christmas lights
  2. Clear, plastic under-the-bed storage bin

Important: The under the bed storage bin needs to be made of clear plastic or have just a slight opaque color to the plastic. Also, the top should be smooth. Many storage bins have textured surface or a white surface. The flat, smooth lid is important for sensory play as well as tracing with paper on the DIY light table. This brand is a good one to use.

Instructions to make a DIY light box:

  1. Plug in the lights.
  2. Place them into the bin.
  3. Either cut a hole in the base of the bin for the lights to go through or cut a small notch into the lid so the strand of lights can go under the lid.

To make this homemade light box safer and not use plug in lights, you can use battery operated button lights inside the storage bin. Or, there are many battery operated LED lights available now too. These are a great idea because many of them have a color-changing capability and can be operated from an app on your phone.

IMPORTANT: This homemade light box project should always be done under the supervision of an adult. The lights can get warm inside the bin and they should be unplugged periodically.

This is not a project that should be set up and forgotten about. The OT Toolbox is not responsible for any harm, injury, or situation caused by this activity. It is for educational purposes only. Always use caution and consider the environment and individualized situation, including with this activity. Your use of this idea is your acceptance of this disclaimer.

I put all of the (already bundled-up) strands of Christmas lights …seriously, this does not get much easier…into an under-the-bed storage bin, connected the strands, and plugged in!

 

DIY light box for tracing

A DIY light box made with Christmas lights
 

Once you put the top on, it is perfect for tracing pictures!
 
Tracing on a DIY light box
 
 

Tracing pictures on a light table

 
This is so great for new (or seasoned) hand-writers.  They are working on pencil control, line awareness, hand-eye coordination…and end up with a super cool horse picture they can be proud of!
 
Use printable coloring pages and encourage bilateral coordination to hold the paper down. You can modify the activity by taping the coloring page onto the plastic bin lid. 
 
Tracing a picture on a DIY light table
 
 Big Sister LOOOOVED doing this!  And, I have to say, that she was doing the tracing thing for so long, that we had to turn the lights off because the bin was getting warm. 
 
 
 
trace letters on a light table
 

Other ways to use a DIY Light Table

 
We went around the house looking for cool things to place on top of the bin.  Magnetic letters looked really neat with the light glowing through…Baby Girl had a lot of fun playing with this.
 
You can add many different items onto the DIY light table:
  • Magnetic letters (the light shines through them slightly)
  • Sand for a tracing table- We cover how to use a sand writing tray in another blog post and all the benefits of tracing in a sensory medium. With the lights under the tracing area, this adds another multisensory component to the learning.
  • Shapes (Magnatiles would work well)
  • Feathers
  • Coins
  • Blocks
  • A marble run
 
letters on a light table
 
What a great learning tool…Shapes:
 
 
Letter Identification, spelling words:
 

 Color and sensory discrimination:
 
 
 
…All in a new and fun manner!  We had a lot of fun with this, but have since put our Christmas lights back up into the attic.  We will be sure to do this one again next year, once the lights come back out again 🙂
 

Please: if you do make one of these light boxes, keep an adult eye on it, as the box did warm up…not to burning warmth, but I would worry about the lights becoming over heated.  This is NOT something that kids should play with unsupervised!

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.

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

Check out the seasonal Fine Motor Kits that kids love:

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

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

Cutting Playdough

cutting playdough

This cutting playdough activity is a fine motor hand strengthening activity that builds scissor skills, bilateral coordination, and more! We love using play dough snakes to target these skills, but in this blog post, we’re talking all things cutting playdough with scissors!

cutting playdough

Cutting play Dough

By cutting playdough with scissors, you can quickly target several areas:

Little Guy is just learning how to hold the scissors, how to coordinate both hands together when cutting, how to open and shut the blades of the scissors to cut smooth lines, and how to stay on a line when cutting. 
 
This little activity is perfect to work on all of those things.
 
Plus, he thought it was a ton of fun to Cut. Play Dough. With. Scissors.

 

 
cutting playdough
 
 
 
 
First, roll out the play dough into a “play dough snake“…this is a perfect fine motor strengthening activity for little hands.
 
Mom, You then use the blades of the scissors to press lines into the “snake”.
 
 

Why cutting play dough?

 
The child will hold the play dough snake with his assisting (non-dominant hand).  Using the helper hand in a coordinated manner can be tricky for the new cutter.  A fun way to practice (like this activity) is a real confidence booster. 
 
Holding the scissors in a vertical position is sometimes, a big part of the problem with accuracy of cutting paper along lines.  Cutting the play dough snake usually will automatically correct a horizontal or diagonal position of the scissors.  Practice will help to carry-over the positioning when cutting paper. 
 
The nice wide and short lines in the play dough snake are great for practicing line awareness and the “open/shut” motion of the scissors when cutting.  Plus, the slight resistance of the play dough really provides feedback to the child. We cover this in our post on graded precision.
 
Just be sure to do this activity with your child.  This shouldn’t be an unsupervised activity…a little finger can get caught in the scissors easily.
 
 
This one looked like so much fun that Big Sister had to join in too 🙂
 
 

Expand the activity to cut play dough with scissors

One way to make this activity more difficult, or to add resistance to the playdough for greater hand strengthening is to freeze the play dough. Popping it in the freezer makes the dough more resistant, adding greater feedback through the hands.

More fine motor activities:

 

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

Check out the seasonal Fine Motor Kits that kids love:

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

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

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

Pincer Grasp Activities

pincer grasp

The development of fine motor skills such as the pincer grasp is an important aspect of a baby’s growth and development. As a baby grows and gains more control over their movements, they begin to develop the ability to grasp objects with increasing precision. One of the most significant fine motor milestones in this journey is the emergence of the pincer grasp. This grasp enables babies to pick up small objects and use their fingers with greater dexterity, allowing them to explore their surroundings in new and exciting ways.

However, the functional use of a pincer grip doesn’t stop in babies and toddlers. Pincer grip use supports independent and manipulation of items with precision and dexterity and is an important part of fine motor work. 

In this blog, we will delve deeper into the pincer grasp, exploring what it is, how it develops, and why it is such an important milestone for a baby’s growth and development. 

pincer grasp

What is Pincer Grasp?

The pincer grasp is a significant hand grasp that enables one to pick up and manipulate items with the tips of the fingers and is used to manipulate items such as small pieces of cereal or other little items. When we manipulate objects between the pad of the thumb to the pad of the pointer finger (index finger), we are using pincer grasp.

Pincer grip is essential for babies who are beginning to explore self-feeding with finger foods and begins to develop with the raking motion of the hands used to grasp at items such as food or cereal pieces. The hand eye coordination progression builds from here.

The raking grasp motion we see in young babies is actually a prerequisite to facilitate a pincer grasp development as the motion supports strengthening and coordination with all of the fingers, allowing for development of finger isolation in the index finger and thumb. 

 With the pincer grasp, the baby can pick up small items between the tips of their index and thumb fingers and bring them to their mouth. 

Pincer grip can be broken down into types:

  • Inferior pincer grasp- Also known as crude pincer grasp, or pad-to-pad grasp, the inferior pincer grasp uses the pads of the index and thumb to grasp objects. 
  • Pincer grasp- Slight flexion of the DIP joint of the index finger and IP joint of the thumb results in a round thumb web space. This grasp component utilizes the tips of these fingers. 
  • Neat pincer grasp- Also known as superior pincer grasp, Neat pincer grasp pulls the tips of the fingers in closer to the thumb web space and requires more flexion of the thumb IP joint and index finger DIP joint as well as flexion of the thumb MP joint and index PIP joint. Neat pincer grip is a more refined and dexterous grip used for extremely precise fine motor tasks such as picking up very small objects like a pin, thread, or sequin.

Development of Pincer Grasp

Pincer grip is one of the first dexterity skills to develop. The grasp pattern is a precision motor skill that emerges when a baby is between 8 to 10 months old and is guided by self-feeding and exploring objects through the primary sensory system at this young age: the mouth. 

Inferior pincer grasp begins at 6-9 months. Before a true pincer grasp is established, you’ll notice a lateral pincer grasp, or an inferior pincer grasp. This progression begins as a raking motion from the fingers to grasp at the food pieces, but this movement is typically not successful in picking up small foods like baby puff snacks. The next stage of pincer grasp development progresses as the baby uses the lateral side of the index finger and the thumb to pick up small food pieces using the thumb and the side of the pointer finger to grasp items (not a true pincer grasp).

Pincer grasp develops around 9-12 months of age.  This is when you see the baby pick up baby puffs and small chunks of food pieces to pick up the items with the thumb and the pad of the index finger.

Neat pincer grasp develops between 12-18 months and is a much finer skill. This is a common part of feeding developmental milestone achievement which allows babies to pick up and then feed themselves using that pincer grasp. This is when you will see babies pick up small crumbs from the carpet. Baby proofing takes on a whole new level once pincer grasp has developed!

Pincer Grasp Activities

We can use play-based pincer grasp activities to support this development based on the child’s age, development of these motor skills build independence, too. This pincer grasp activity supports precision needed to manipulate a pencil.

Pincer grasp and neat pincer grasp are precision fine motor skills that develop when babies start to pick up cereal in self-feeding. The developmental skill is essential for development of fine motor skills and manipulation of toys and items in play and discovery.  

Try these pincer grasp activities:

  1. Stacking blocks
  2. Practice buttoning with buttons. Here are button activities to try.
  3. Build puzzles
  4. Play with nuts and bolts
  5. Open drawers with knobs
  6. Pound golf tees into an egg carton or hammering golf tees into the ground
  7. Flip pages of a board book
  8. Spray water with a spray bottle to strengthen the arches of the palm
  9. Color with small crayon pieces. Read more about the benefits of coloring.
  10. Play with play dough- Roll play dough into small balls and place onto a target. Use our play dough mats for inspiration.
  11. Bend pipe cleaners into different shapes
  12. Play with stickers. Read this resource on 10 reasons why every kid needs to play with stickers.
  13. Poke holes in a cardboard box and thread pipe cleaners into the holes.
  14. Press a pushpin into a lid of a container or cardboard box
  15. Use tongs to manipulate objects and sort craft pom poms by color
  16. Use tweezers to pick up cotton balls
  17. Tissue paper art- crumble tissue paper and dip into glue, then paste to paper
  18. Offer small food items in a cupcake pan
  19. Glue beans onto lines on paper
  20. Tread beads onto pipe cleaners or string
  21. Play with marbles (this marble slime activity is fun!)
  22. Water play with an eye dropper and colored water.
  23. Clip clothespins onto paper. These clothes pin ideas will give you more fun ways to build a stronger pincer grasp.
  24. Play with Cheerios or small pieces of cereal
  25. Build with LEGO blocks
  26. Play with wind-up toys
  27. String pasta onto yarn or pipe cleaners
  28. Geoboard and pegboards

What is Neat Pincer Grasp?

Neat pincer grasp is used to pick up very small items such as perler beads, a thread from a surface, or a needle.  You might see the tip-to-tip grasp to pick up a sequin or fuzz from clothing.


Think about the “ok” sign with the thumb and pointer finger touching and a nice round “O” in the thumb web space.  That tip-to-tip pinch is neat pincer grasp.


If neat pincer grasp is not developed, kids can potentially present with less thumb IP joint flexion and difficulty opening the thumb web space when manipulating very small items.  This can lead to fumbling and decreased dexterity during fine motor tasks.


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Neat Pincer Grasp Activities

Neat pincer grasp uses the tips of the thumb and pointer finger to stabilize objects.  When using a pincer grasp, children use the pads of the thumb and finger to stabilize the object.  

These neat pincer grasp activities are creative ways that can help kids develop the small motor skill area.

 

Neat pincer grasp activities for kids to develop dexterity and fine motor skills.

 

Neat pincer grasp activities for kids to develop dexterity and fine motor skills.



More fine motor skills you will love to explore:

 Pincer grasp fine motor activity
 
 

Neat Pincer Grasp Fine Motor Activity Buttoning Tips and Tricks https://www.theottoolbox.com/2015/11/benefits-of-playing-with-stickers-occupational-therapy.html
 
 
 
 
 

In the Fine Motor Kits here on our website, you’ll find many precision activities that support development of pincer grasp. Specifically, there are tearing activities, crumbling activities, pinch activities, and other hand strengthening activities using themed fine motor activities.

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

Check out the seasonal Fine Motor Kits that kids love:

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

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

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