Build a Snowman Printable

Build a snowman printable is a paper snowman craft to develop fine motor skills, bilateral coordination skills, and more.

Today we have a fun fine motor paper snowman craft. It’s a “build a snowman printable” that you can print out and use to work on so many therapy skills. There is just something about making a snowman during the winter months, right? Today’s free fine motor snowman activity that kids will LOVE. So, do you want to build a snowman?

Build a snowman printable is a paper snowman craft to develop fine motor skills, bilateral coordination skills, and more.

Build a Snowman Printable

Heck yes!  Wait, not if I have to go outside.  With this great fine motor snowman printable activity, you can build a paper snowman from the comfort of your own house, in your pajamas, with a cup of cocoa if you like…and work on fine motor skills, scissor skills, sequencing, bilateral coordination, and more!

It’s no secret I love crafts.  You could pretend for half a second to like the cold and wet winter outside your door, or make this adorable snowman inside where it is warm.  Build this into a lesson plan about winter by talking about what winter is like in different parts of the world, For learners who have never experienced snow, provide pictures or videos for reference. Talk about what they think snow feels like.  

Snow comes in many different varieties. While it is all cold (except the plastic snow variety), some snow is wet and soggy, while other is dry and fluffy.  There is also icy snow that creates this lovely sheen across it,  and is very fun to smash and crash through!  Each type of snow has its uses and benefits.  Wet snow is better for building and packing. Dry and fluffy is better to keep you from getting soaked. Icy snow is just pretty to admire.  For those with tactile defensiveness that impact touching wet, mushy snow this can be a good discussion.

Use this snowman printable as a jumping off point to the rest of your treatment sessions.

As always I love the versatility of this printable paper snowman craft. With one snowman printable, you can address skills like fine motor, visual motor, turn taking, finger strengthening, and following instructions all wrapped up into one cute snowman.

It would be a great interactive snowman activity for kindergarten, preschool, and all ages, depending on how you adjust the activity.

How to Use this Build a Snowman Printable

What you will need for this task:

  1. Snowman printable
  2. Ruler or laminated strip of cardstock
  3. Clothespins
  4. Glue (drippy glue is best)
  5. Dice 

Instructions: Color the snowman or print out the pre-colored sheet.  Have students cut out snowballs and glue to the clothespins. Roll the dice and clip the corresponding number of clothespins to your ruler or strip of cardstock.

Explore all of the ways to use adapt and modify this free snowman printable:

  • Laminate the snowballs to make them more durable
  • Laminate the snowman head to make it reusable and durable
  • Change the ruler for a stiff piece of cardstock or cardboard
  • Print the snowman in color, or black and white so your learners can personalize theirs
  • Add large pom poms or scrunched up paper on the top of the snowballs for a 3d effect
  • Add glitter and sparkles to the snowballs for added sparkle and sensory experience
  • Paint the clothespins or dip in glitter to make them fancier
  • Drippy wet glue is preferred as it will stick better.  The added benefit is the sensory input from white glue, as well as the fine motor strengthening from squeezing the bottle
  • Pre-cut and glue all of the pieces ahead of time if the emphasis is on playing the game
  • Split this into two sessions, the first being the craft, the second working on the game
  • Incorporate gross motor work: Scatter the snowball clips around the room and ask the user to gather the snowballs to build their snowman. Add hops, kicks, jumps, and animal walks to gather the snowballs.

What is your focus? What goals do you want to focus on while using this activity?  You can use on or all of them:

  • Fine motor strengthening, hand development, and grasping pattern
  • Following directions, attention to detail, turn taking, waiting, social skills, compliance, behavior, and work tolerance
  • Cutting on the line ( if you choose to add this step), within half inch of lines, in the direction of lines
  • Pasting using glue stick or drippy glue with accuracy
  • Bilateral coordination – remembering to use their “helper hand” to hold the paper while cutting.  Using one hand for a dominant hand instead of switching back and forth is encouraged once a child is in grade school or demonstrates a significant strength in one or the other.
  • Strength – core strength, shoulder and wrist stability, head control, balance, and hand strength are all needed for upright sitting posture and fine motor tasks.

If you have not totally burned out on the movie Frozen and all of the theme work that goes with it…like this Frozen sensory dough, this will be a great addition.  This build a snowman activity can be creating Olaf from the movie. If you are super creative, you could switch out the head of the snowman for an Olaf printable. 

What else can I add to this paper snowman craft?

  • Have learners write the stages to building a snowman
  • Higher level learners can write down the directions to the game
  • More advanced learners can work on social skills by teaching beginners to play
  • Learners can explore other games they could make using this snowman (perhaps hiding the snowballs around the room and having learners run around collecting them)
  • Write a report about snowmen, types of snow, the history of snowmen, different snow celebrations or activities
  • Turn it into a gross motor task, sensory activity, following directions, or combination of all of these
  • Add glitter!  Glitter makes everything wonderful

More snowman activities

Incorporate more snowman themed activities along with this build a snowman printable for a full snowman theme.

What creative ways have you made snowmen?  I believe there was a little spray paint used instead of coal last winter, and I think the dog snatched the carrot before we had time to use it.  We have had snowmen families, lady snowmen, and grass covered snowmen when there really wasn’t enough snow to make one. 

If there is a dusting of snow in Charleston this winter, you better believe we will be out there rolling whatever snow falls down, creating our snowman.  Until then, I will just have to enjoy the sand instead.

Free Build a Snowman Printable

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Free Build a Snowman Printable

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    Keep those snowballs rolling!

    Victoria Wood, OTR/L

    Victoria Wood

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

    Snowman Therapy Activity Kit

    The Snowman Therapy Kit is a winter-themed therapy kit designed to develop motor skills, self-regulation, handwriting, and scissor skills. Over 75 pages of therapy activities to develop fine motor strength, dexterity, core strength, regulation, functional grasp, and endurance.

    Grab the Snowman Therapy Kit for snowman-themed materials

    Themed NO-PREP printable pages include tasks to address motor skill areas such as:

    • Self-Regulation
    • Core Strength
    • Visual Motor Skills
    • Sensory Processing Skills
    • Fine Motor Precision and Dexterity
    • Pinch and Grip Strength 
    • Arch Development
    • Finger Isolation
    • Bilateral Coordination
    • Eye-Hand Coordination
    • Crossing Midline
    • Balance & Endurance

    Free Apps for Occupational Therapy

    apps for occupational therapy

    Questions about the best apps for occupational therapy come up often. It is possible to address developmental skills through app play. Let’s cover various occupational therapy apps for the iPad or tablet.

    Children of today have technology very much integrated into all aspects of their daily lives. Technology is an occupation in and of itself. As occupational therapists, we strive to support functioning and full lives in our clients. Using apps in occupational therapy services serves two purposes: a meaningful and motivating tool to support functional skills by addressing underlying skills, AND as an extrinsic factor impacting function: using a device, filling form fields on apps, scheduling appointments, making calls, and other performance areas. Apps are a part of function because technology is so integrated into daily life.

    Let’s look at various areas of development where app use can help support kids, teens, and adults:

    Use these apps for occupational therapy to work on specific skills, development, and even functional skill work that is motivating and meaningful to today's kids.

    Apps for Occupational Therapy

    Normally at this time of year in therapy, it can be hard to keep the kids attention spans on track. Having a free app that builds skills can be one way to stay on track with addressing specific skills.

    Here, you will find free apps for occupational therapy that can be used as a supplemental activity or as a quick activity in between other occupational therapy activities. The OT apps for the ipad or tablet can be used in many different ways:

    1. Add them to your line-up of occupational therapy teletherapy activities.
    2. Use the OT apps as a supplemental activity for home recommendations or classroom down-time.
    3. Use the occupational therapy app as a transition activity that continues to develop skills addressed in therapy sessions.
    4. Others may want to use these apps for therapy breaks or as a reward at the end of the session.
    5. Use the apps for occupational therapy homework so that kids are motivated to participate and incentivize OT home programs, fostering the carryover we don’t sometimes see.
    6. Still others may find the occupational therapy apps perfect for home occupational therapy programs or ways to keep kids busy while parents are working from home.

    Whatever your need, these educational games and special education supports can be a powerful tool in distance learning and learning at home.

    These free apps for occupational therapy build handwriting, executive functioning, visual memory, fine motor skills, and more.

    Free Apps for Occupational Therapy

    The free apps below are broken down into targeted skill area. I’m adding apps for handwriting and letter formation, visual motor skills, executive functioning skills, and other areas. Some of these apps are IOS apps and others are Android apps.

    The apps that are available for Android on Google Play may be accessed through a Google account on a desktop and then accessed through the Google play app or via a Google account on an Apple device. Here is more information on how to access Google Play apps on an Apple device.

    I tried to locate only free apps in this resource. There are many great apps for occupational therapy out there, but I wanted to cover all the bases when it comes to OT interventions with free apps that can meet the needs for free!

    Another great idea for using free technology in occupational therapy includes using these Alexa skills in occupational therapy.

    Free Apps for Visual Motor Skills

    The apps listed below are some of the best apps for occupational therapists to use in therapy sessions, and to recommend to parents and teachers, when appropriate. Remember that all kids are different and all have specific needs, so these recommendations may not work for every child or individual.

    All About Shapes- This free app is available on IOS and is a shape drawing app. Users can draw and identify shapes.

    Vision Tap- This free IOS app is a great one for addressing visual processing and visual efficiency skills. Visual tracking, visual scanning, and oculo-motor skills are challenged with this one!


    Broom, Broom- This free IOS app allows children to draw paths for the vehicles in the game to drive on, building eye-hand coordination, motor planning, visual memory, and precision of fine motor skills.

    Visual Memory- is a free app available on Google Play. The game is designed to develop visual memory and improve attention. Users can find the image that appears at each level.

    Piko’s Blocks- this free IOS app really challenges the visual spatial skills for older kids.

    Memory Game- is another free app on Google Play. The game is just like the classic concentration game, helping users to build visual memory skills.

    Learning with Wally is an Android app available on Google Play. The visual discrimination app challenges users to discriminate between differences, recognize, and attend to details in visual forms, including pictures, letters, words and sentences.

    Sorting and Learning Game 4 Kids- This app is available on Google Play and challenges users to categorize and match themed objects while helping to build visual attention, visual memory, and focus with a concentration on visual perception.

    Visual Attention Therapy Life is an app available on Google Play. The free app allows users to address and build visual scanning, visual memory, and visual attention. It also helps rehab professionals to assess for neglect and provide more efficient and effective therapy for attention deficits.


    Sensory Baby Toddler Learning- This Google Play app is great for younger kids as they work on cause and effect and develop hand eye coordination skills.


    Connecting Dots is Fun- This free IOS app allows users to work on visual perceptual skills such as visual discrimination, form constancy, figure-ground and visual processing skills of tracking and scanning. Users create dot-to-dot activities in the app.

    Alphabet Puzzles For Toddlers- This Google Play app helps younger children work on letter identification and letter recognition. The letter learning app is a great app for preschoolers or toddlers. The visual perceptual app allows children to address form constancy, visual discrimination, figure ground, and other visual perceptual skills.

    iMazing- In this free IOS app, users can complete maze activities while challenging visual perception and visual motor skills.
    Skill Game- This free app is available on Android. The game allows users to draw lines to connect numbers while building eye-hand cordination, precision, motor planning, visual memory, and more.

    On the Line- This IOS app is great for working on visual motor skills using a stylus.


    Squiggles- This free app is a great one to work on pre-writing skills. Users can draw lines and figures and watch as they become animated.

    Use these free handwriting apps to work on letter formation, number formation, letter recognition, and more.

    Handwriting Apps

    These handwriting apps are occupational therapy tools that support the underlying skills needed for handwriting. Some apps allow kids to “write” letters using a resistance-free surface on the tablet or iPad. This input can be the “just right” level for some kids. Other Handwriting apps listed address other skills. Let’s take a look at how to use these apps in occupational therapy services.

    ITrace is a handwriting app that does have a price for the main version, however, there is a free version available with some activities. Users can trace letters, numbers, words, and shapes while working on visual motor skills and letter formation.


    Writing Wizard- This app is available on Google Play and allows users to trace letters along a visual guide. There are various fonts available and size can be adjusted for different ages.

    Writing Wizard-Cursive- This handwriting app is created by the makers of the regular, print version of Writing Wizard. Users can practice letter formation in cursive.

    Start Dot- This app addresses letter formation using visual, auditory, and movement cues. These prompts fade to address accuracy and independence.

    Ollie’s Handwriting and Phonics- This free app allows users to trace and copy individual letters and words on the app’s chalkboard wall.

    Write ABC – Learn Alphabets Games for Kids- This handwriting app is available on Google Play. The app helps younger children work on letter formation using visual cues for starting points and ending points.

    Sand Draw- This free Google Play app provides a sandy beach for kids to practice writing letters, words, or phrases in. Use it to practice spelling words for a fun twist.

    Snap Type- While this app has a paid version, the free version also allows users to create digital versions of worksheets. Students can take a picture of their worksheets, or import worksheets from anywhere on their device. They can then use their Android device keyboard to add text to these documents. When complete, students can print, email.

    Apps for Fine Motor Skills

    These apps for fine motor skill development might not be your go-to fine motor task when it comes to strengthening hands and promoting dexterity. But for the child that struggles with fine motor skills, a tablet or iPad app can be a motivating and meaningful way to address developmental skills.

    With an app, it is possible to address functional, fine motor skills:

    The fact is that devices are not going away. In fact, our youth are likely to see all aspects of their future lives managed by screen technology. For kids that struggle with dexterity, hand strength, motor planning, and other motor skills, we can help them to be the most functional and independent individuals.

    These fine motor apps are just one more strategy in our OT toolbelt.

    Dot to dot Game – Connect the dots ABC Kids Games- This free app is great for toddlers, preschoolers, or young children working on precision, dexterity, and fine motor work. the app addresses letter and number formation.

    Tiny Roads- This free app allows children to connect objects while working on precision and finger isolation.

    Montessori Fine Motor Skills Game School Numbers- This fine motor app helps users work on eye-hand coordination, precision, and finger isolation while working on numbers, letters, and shapes.

    Use these free executive functioning apps in occupational therapy sessions to build skills like working memory, attention, and focus.

    executive function apps

    When addressing attention, distraction, planning, prioritization, time management, and other executive functioning skills, using apps in occupational therapy is a no-brainer. Kids are exposed to the technology of devices every day and the ability to complete daily tasks using devices is just part of advances in our time.

    Use these executive function apps in occupational therapy as a support tool: devices to help with challenges like attention, organization, scheduling, and planning. Or, use these executive functioning apps in OT to work on cognitive skills that enable function; Apps are a great way to practice filling out forms, recalling and typing passwords, addressing online distraction, and other functional tasks that kids and adults are faced with every day. App use is an occupation, or task that occupies our daily lives, in a very real way.

    CogniFit Brain Fitness- This Google Play app uses memory games, puzzles, reasoning games, educational games, and learning games to train memory, attention, concentration, executive functions, reasoning, planning, mental agility, coordination and many other essential mental skills.

    Lumosity: Brain Training- This free executive functioning skills app uses games to exercise memory, attention, speed, flexibility and problem-solving.

    Memory Games: Brain Training– This executive functioning skills app uses memory and logic games  to improve memory, attention and concentration. 

    Alarmy- This free alarm app allows users to set alarms for attention building, and scheduling.

    The Google Tasks app– This free app creates checklists and sub-lists and allows users to add details about the areas that users need need to focus on in order to accomplish tasks. The app helps users to stay on track with due dates and notifications.

    The 30/30 app- This free app helps with executive functioning skills such as starting tasks, staying organized, and prioritization in tasks. This app is useful to address procrastination and motivation on bigger tasks or projects.

    Forest- This app helps with procrastination, productivity, and motivation.

    Study Bunny- This free productivity app helps students pay attention and focus on studying and larger school projects or tasks.

    Habitica- This task completion app allows users to track habits, and add gamification to tasks to build motivation and help with productivity.

    HabitNow- This free habit tracker app helps users to track habits and build habits to improve productivity and time management. This is a great app for scheduled activities or daily tasks such as chores or morning/evening routines.

    Brain N-Back- This working memory app helps to train working memory.

    Clockwork Brain Training- This memory training app helps with working memory and concentration through games and puzzles.

    Use these free self-regulation apps to help kids identify emotions, and feelings and help with coping tools.

    Apps for Emotional regulation

    There are apps that can be used as self-regulation tools. There are apps to practice social interactions. There are even apps to check-in on emotional regulation and self-regulation needs. These apps for emotional regulation are a great way to support kids and teens emotional regulation and overall wellbeing needs through the use of a hand-held self-regulation tool.

    Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame- This self-regulation app uses a fun Sesame Street monster to help little ones calm down and solve everyday challenges. Available in English and Spanish, the coping tools app helps your child learn Sesame’s “Breathe, Think, Do” strategy for problem-solving.

    Trigger Stop: Sensory and Emotional Check-In- This free self-regulation app is available on Google Play so they can identify and communicate sensations and emotions or feelings in the body so they can express them in a healthy way.

    Social Navigator –This emotional regulation app is a great social skills app designed to assist children with social and behavioral challenges. Kids can develop essential social interaction skills by taking a look at their behavior in social situations, and this app is a nice way to build confidence in that area.

    EmoPaint – Paint your emotions! is a free self-regulation app available for IOS in the Apple Store or Google Play. The paint app allows users to represent emotions or bodily sensations through art, by painting them interactively on the screen.

    Moodflow: Self-care made easy!- keeps track of your emotions, moods, thoughts and general well-being with a self-rating system, emotional language, and a system that allows for identification of how coping strategies help with emotional regulation.

    Deep Breathing apps- there are many mindfulness and deep breathing apps out there. I even have one right on my watch. With calming visuals, mindfulness apps allow the user to calm down and regulate their emotions so they can function in any situation. Bubble: Breathing Companion is one self-regulation app that encourages emotion regulation through breathing exercises.

    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.

    Winter Fine Motor Activities

    winter fine motor activities

    Looking for winter fine motor activities that boost the skills kids need? These fine motor ideas develop the skills that kids need for tasks like handwriting, pencil grasp, cutting with scissors, managing clothing fasteners, and more. You’ll find winter activities that boost hand strength, grasp, precision and endurance in the hands…all through play! We’ve even got a winter fine motor kit, loaded with resources, activities, crafts, and no-prep materials designed to help kids develop fine motor skills. So scroll on! 


    First, stop by our fine motor skills library for tons of ideas to work on the motor skills kids need.


    It has been fun sharing winter activities this week! If you missed any of the posts, be sure to check them out below. We’ve talked about indoor recess ideas for winter, brain break ideas, and activities to address bilateral coordination skills, and even mindfulness! You will have ideas for a season of development!


    Check out the Winter Activities on the site this week: 


    Monday- Indoor Recess Ideas

    Tuesday- 
    Winter Brain Break Ideas

    Wednesday- 
    Winter Bilateral Coordination Activities

    Thursday-
    Winter Mindfulness Activities

    Friday- 
    Winter Fine Motor Activities (TONS of  Free Printables!)


    Now on to today’s topic, fine motor activities!

    These winter fine motor activities can help kids develop the hand strength and fine motor skills needed for every day tasks, all with a winter theme.

    Winter Fine Motor Activities

    Winter is a great time to work on fine motor skills. It’s so functional! You can help kids by getting those hands moving so they have the finger dexterity, pinch strength, and finger isolation to put on a pair of gloves. You can address gross hand grasp, arch development, and bilateral coordination skills so kids can pull on a pair of boots. You can work on precision, separation of the sides of the hand, eye-hand coordination, and in-hand manipulation skills so kids can zipper and button winter coats. All of these are functional winter tasks!

    We used those same hole reinforcer stickers to make a fine motor snowman craft that boosts skills like tip to tip precision, separation of the sides of the hand, and arch strength. 

    Many winter fine motor activities can be adjusted to meet the needs of the individual. For example, these snow globe letter puzzle cards can address fine motor skills to color and manipulate the cards. The winter-themed activity can be modified to meet the needs of the individual: using less or more cards, incorporating fine or gross motor input, and positioning the cards in different planes or surfaces to work on various levels of fine motor control. It’s just one more way to make therapy skills like fine motor dexterity fun with a winter theme!

    Similarly, this snow globe deep breathing exercise can be modified to address fine motor skills. Ask users to point and trace the breathing lines to integrate finger isolation, separation of the sides of the hand, and eye-hand coordination. Then, they can “draw” the same shape on their palm using their finger to point as they breathe. It’s a bilateral coordination and fine motor task that addresses self-regulation, too.

    This winter clothing worksheet is focused on tracing numbers. But, this hands-on activity can address many fine motor skills, too. Ask kids to color the pictures. then, they can cut out each number strip to work on scissor skills. Then, ask them to write the winter clothing word. Finally, they can write the number to work on number formation skills. But what if you asked them to then roll the same number of play dough balls for each number? What a great way to work on hand strength. If you asked the child to place the correct number of mini erasers or coins on the table or in a slotted top, they can incorporate in-hand manipulation skills, too.

    This beaded snowflake craft from Early Learning Ideas encourages bilateral coordination, separation of the sides of the hand, precision, in-hand manipulation, and a tripod grasp…with pretty results!


    Use paper hole reinforcers to improve precision and dexterity by forming letters and names like Fun-a-Day did. 


    If you’re looking for another craft idea, then this clothespin snowman craft uses a clothespin clip to really work the muscles of the hand. Move that snowman around and clip him onto bags, coats, and books! 


    If you’re looking for a fine motor activity for kindergarten kids, then this sight word tic tac toe game is the ticket! Kids can make the game pieces, and move them around to play a game of tic tac toe while strengthening skills like tip to tip grasp, arch development, separation of the sides of the hand, and finger isolation.


    For more craft ideas that boost fine motor skills, check out all of these winter bird crafts. You’ll find ideas for strengthening the hands and other fine motor skills while making cute bird crafts, bird feeders, and other activities. 


    If working on scissor skills is a priority, a paper snowflake is the way to go this winter. But what if you took the paper snowflake up a notch by cutting cupcake liners? This cupcake liner paper snowflake activity boosts hand strength with a pretty result!


    Working on pencil grasp? You don’t need a pencil! Make this snowflake stamp art and promote the fine motor skills that are needed for a functional grasp: separation of the sides of the hand, arch development, and an open thumb web space for example. This creative winter painting idea has a sensory component, too.

    Winter Fine Motor Worksheets

    Worksheets can get a bad rap. But, for the occupational therapy professional that thinks outside of the box, it is possible to use a printable tool to address hands-on skills like in-hand manipulation, separation of the sides of the hand, and more than just handwriting or scissor skills. The Penguin Therapy Kit, the Snowman Therapy Kit, and the Winter Fine Motor Kit all include resources that address so many fine motor areas:

    • dexterity
    • hand strength
    • in-hand manipulation
    • separation of the sides of the hand
    • finger isolation
    • arch development
    • finger opposition
    • pinch and grip strength
    • bilateral coordination
    • wrist stability
    • and more!

    Print off the pages that you need and you’ll never run out of fresh fine motor activities this winter!

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Handwriting Sensory Bin Materials- You and the kiddos will love these A-Z uppercase and lowercase tracing cards with directional arrows, 1-10 tracing cards with directional arrows, 1-10 counting cards. Using the sensory bin materials can develop tactile handwriting, letter and number formation, finger isolation, crossing midline, sensory challenges.

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

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

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

    Get the Winter Fine Motor Kit Here.

    winter fine motor kit

     

     

    These fine motor winter activities will keep the kids active and moving all winter long.

    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.

    Christmas Maze Printable for in-hand Manipulation

    Free Christmas printable mazes

    This Christmas maze printable is a fun way to incorporate the holiday season while working on fine motor skills like in-hand manipulation. Add these free printable Christmas mazes for a therapy tool, or home activity that builds skills!

    Free printable Christmas mazes for building fine motor skills like in-hand manipulation and strength of the intrinsic muscles.

    Christmas Maze Printable

    Wait, what?  “Christmas” and “manipulation” should not be in the same sentence, right?  Well…….there is an awful lot of manipulation going on at the holidays in order for Santa to deliver the goods. 

    However, we are not referring to that type of manipulation. In hand manipulation is an important fine motor skill to develop the intrinsic muscles of the developing hand.  That sentence is a mouthful and sounds highly professional.  Be sure to slip that one into your conversation somewhere this month to sound super smart! 

    The term “manipulate” we are referring to when talking about “in hand manipulation” does not mean to control a situation or person, but rather; to treat or operate with or as if with the hands or by mechanical means especially in a skillful manner. Therefore in- hand manipulation refers to working the intrinsic hand muscles skillfully.

    Check out this article by Kelly DeYoung of the OT Perspective as she delves further into in-hand manipulation.

    Intrinsic hand muscles with a Christmas Maze Worksheet

    In simpler terms, there are many very tiny muscles inside the palm of the hand connecting to the fingers.  They are called intrinsic muscles because they are within the hand.  Great dexterity starts with the ability to move all of the muscles of the hand, rather than relying on more primitive motions using only the wrist or arm. 

    Now that we are clear that we are referring to skillfully working the small muscles of the hand, let us get on to the fun stuff! 

    Below, you can grab a set of FREE Christmas maze printables for in-hand manipulation as an excellent way to build these muscles while motivating your student at the same time.

    How to use these Christmas Maze Printables

    1. Have your student hold items such as coins, beads, bingo chips, mini marshmallows, in the palm of their hand. 
    2. Show them how to use their first finger to trace along the maze path. 
    3. At each circle have your student place one of their items onto the spot. 
    4. Continue tracing along the path placing objects until they reach the end of the maze.

    These Christmas and Candy Cane activities work on in-hand manipulation, finger/hand strength, dexterity, separation of sides of the hand, visual perceptual skills, following directions, and so much more all in one fun PDF printable.

    More ways to use these free printable christmas mazes

    Ways to modify or change this task:

    • Laminate the page to make it reusable.  Try coloring it first!
    • Print on different colored paper
    • Enlarge or shrink page to change the challenge
    • Have younger students use bingo markers on the dots as a fun game
    • Trace the line with a marker, then color the circles if handwriting is your objective
    • Color the picture after or before working on the in-hand manipulation task to add to the challenge
    • Have students pick up the coins one by one to get into their hand before dropping them one by one.  No raking grasp or sliding coins off of the table!

    Observe Skills when using the Christmas Mazes

    When working on this type of in-hand manipulation, there are several observations to be made. 

    • Can your student pick up the coins one at a time without using a raking grasp or sliding them off of the table?
    • How many items can your student hold at once without dropping some?
    • Can your student move the items from the palm of their hand to their finger tips to get them out, or do they drop the coins by opening their fingers?
    • Can your student continue to hold the coins while isolating one finger to continue the maze?
    • How many times do you need to repeat the directions so your student can follow them?
    • How many reminders does your student need while doing this activity?
    • What is your student’s frustration tolerance when they have to start over?
    • Is there any cheating or cutting corners going on? There always is.

    The best part of themed treatment planning is the ease of it.  It is streamlined and can be adapted for multiple levels of students.  If your students enjoyed the Christmas in-hand manipulation free printable, they will LOVE this Christmas Fine Motor Kit! If you order soon, you can get it while it is on sale.

    If you prefer a more “winter themed” treatment plan, the OT Toolbox has you covered.  They offer a Winter Fine Motor Kit crammed full of printable tasks to use to develop important fine motor skills.

    Writing all of these Christmas pages has me excited about trying some of these activities with my students.  I especially love this one, as in-hand manipulation tasks are one of my go to treatment plans for building hand muscles.  I just might order the Christmas Fine Motor Kit too.  With the holiday season as crazy as it is, I just don’t have time to create endless lesson plans and come up with novel ideas, when the OT Toolbox has me covered already.

    Free Christmas mazes

    Now to the fun stuff!  CHRISTMAS! These printables are a great way to incorporate meaningful relevant activities into the holiday season. As always, be mindful of your school’s policy on using specific Christmas activities that feature Santa.  Some districts have strict rules about how holidays can be celebrated.  Usually “winter theme” is a safe bet.  Candy canes, snowmen, snowflakes, hot cocoa, penguins, polar bears, etc are not usually frowned upon.

    Enter your email address into the form below and these printable Christmas mazes will be delivered. If you are a member of The OT Toolbox Member’s Club, you’ll find these printable mazes in your member’s dashboard area.

    FREE Christmas Maze Printables

      We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

      Happy Holidays!

      Victoria Wood, OTR/L

      Victoria Wood

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

      *The term, “student” is used throughout this post for readability, however this information is relevant for all types of learners, patents, clients, children of all ages, etc. The term “they” is used instead of he/she to be inclusive.

      Bilateral Coordination Toys

      Bilateral coordination toys

      Here we are covering all things bilateral coordination toys. When it comes to bilateral integration, coordinating both sides of the body in play can be a challenge for some children. These bilateral skills impact functional use of the body, motor planning, and bilateral integration as a whole. It’s through play that children can strengthen and develop this essential motor skill. Let’s dissect a few select toys that promote this skill.

      Bilateral Coordination Toys

      We’ve previously covered both fine motor toy ideas and gross motor toys. Today’s topic closely mirrors those areas. Today is all about the bilateral integration that goes into motor play. 

      First, let’s talk Bilateral Coordination Toys!

      Bilateral coordination toys are an occupational therapy intervention that helps children develop essential skills in bilateral integration. Toys that use both hands in a coordinated manner help children with bilateral coordination, crossing midline, and using both hands in tasks. These are essential skills that allow for an integration of both sides of the body, but more than that, bilateral coordination tells us that the brain is communicating effectively and sharing information between sides of the brain.

      Today, I’m excited to share bilateral coordination toys and games to help support this essential skill.

      Bilateral coordination toys for kids to develop coordination of both sides of the body.

      Bilateral integration

      Bilateral coordination in functional tasks makes up much of our day! Think of all of the other areas where you are using both hands or both sides of the body at the same time: getting dressed, tying shoes, cooking, typing, holding a book while reading, pouring a glass of water…the list could go on and on!

      This integrated use of both sides of the body can be developed through play.

      Using both sides of the body together is a skill needed for many tasks: writing with a pencil with one hand while stabilizing paper with the other hand is one such activity.

      Another bilateral coordination task is cutting with scissors with one hand while holding and manipulating paper with the other hand.

      For children with difficulty in crossing midline, or using integrated bilateral skills, using toys in play is an effective way to work on and nurture this skill.

      Looking for a toy to work on bilateral coordination to add to your gift giving this holiday season? Today we are covering ways to build bilateral coordination skills using toys and everyday items. We also have another giveaway to share today. This time it’s a fine motor toy that promotes a variety of sills, bilateral integration being one of them. I wanted to highlight this as a toy for building bilateral coordination because as we know, promoting this skill is a valuable building block to other tasks such as handwriting, cutting with scissors, self-care tasks, and more.

      Working on bilateral coordination in play is a means and a strategy for building this essential skill. So, why is bilateral coordination so important? And what exactly does bilateral coordination mean?

      DIY Bilateral Coordination Toys

      We’ve shared quite a few bilateral coordination toys and DIY activities here on this site in the past.

      A bilateral coordination lacing plate is a DIY toy and activity that can be used to work on coordinated use of both hands with a variety of themes.

      Using puzzles and games that you already have with an extra special addition can be a great way to work on bilateral coordination with puzzles.

      Play dough and sensory doughs are fun ways to play while working on skills like bilateral coordination and other motor skills.

      Stickers are an easy way to work on bilateral coordination and can be used in the classroom, clinic, or home and in combination with obstacle courses and other motor activities.

      Pegboards (both DIY and store-bought versions), are a fantastic way to work on bilateral coordination in play and in developing visual motor skills and coordination.

      DIY pick-up sticks are a fun way to address bilateral integration and coordinated use of both hands together.

      Making DIY lacing cards are a fun way to work on bilateral coordination. Making the lacing cards is part of the fun.

      Miniature rhythm sticks can be a musical and creative way to encourage bilateral coordination.

      Lock and keys games like with this DIY lock and key activity makes fine motor development an out of the box way to work on skills kids need for independence and instrumental activities of daily living.

      Bilateral Coordination Toys

      There are many bilateral coordination toys on the market as well. Let’s take a look at some toys and games that you can add to your therapy toolbox.

      Amazon affiliate links are included below.

      Pop Tubes Toy for Bilateral Coordination– Pop tubes can be used in many ways to work on bilateral skills. Use them for a fine motor bilateral coordination task, or use them to work on a large scale or small scale. Wrap one around a wrist and build off of that tube. Or create a chain of tubes. Hold one and drop objects through the tube and into a container. How will you use this bilateral coordination toy?

      Bilateral coordination toy for use in bilateral coordination obstacle courses and other occupational therapy interventions.

      TruBalance Bilateral Coordination Toy This toy requires both hands as well as the eyes to challenge balance, coordination, and bimanual skills. Kids can work with this toy while sitting, standing, or in more challenging positions. Try incorporating couch cushions for a balance activity. Use this toy in a bilateral coordination obstacle course. Kids can use the pieces in a scavenger hunt type of activity where the parts are scattered at various levels and positioning, allowing the child to crawl, climb, walk, or squat while balancing the toy. The options go on and on!

      Use nuts and bolts activities to help kids develop bilateral coordination.

      Nuts and Bolts Bilateral Coordination Toy– This nuts and bolts activity is great for developing fine motor skills as well as bilateral coordination by requiring the child to use one hand to manipulate the parts while the other hand acts as a stabilizer. This is a nice way to develop skills needed for tasks like handwriting, pouring, stabilizing, cooking, etc.

      Zoom ball in therapy can be used to work on bilateral coordination, visual convergence, core strength, shoulder stability, and motor planning.

      Zoom Ball– This classic toy is such a great way to work on many skills: bilateral coordination, core strength, shoulder stability, visual convergence, motor planning, and coordination. Just like the TruBalance toy, a zoom ball can be used in different positions to challenge balance and vestibular input: Try using the zoom ball in sitting, standing, kneeling, standing on couch cushions, a slant…again, the options are limitless!

      Thumbs up is a bilateral coordination game for kids.

      Thumbs Up Game– This bilateral coordination game requires players to place rings on their thumb in a “thumbs up” position while they race to scoop and find the correct combination of colored rings to add to their thumb. It’s a fun racing game that builds visual perceptual skills too: figure ground, visual discrimination, visual memory, as well as the visual processing skill of scanning.

      Lacing cards help kids develop bilateral coordination skills.

      Lacing Buttons– There is no doubt about the power of lacing cards when it comes to developing bilateral coordination skills. However, this lacing buttons activity takes it up a notch with the eye-hand coordination and visual processing skills. Kids can lace buttons onto wooden shirt pieces while building bilateral skills, fine motor skills, and eye-hand coordination. However, the set also includes puzzle cards that ask the child to lace on colored buttons in specific order so it matches the cards. What a workout in visual processing skills, too!

      use lacing beads to help kids with coordination, fine motor skills, and bimanual skills.

      Animal Lacing Beads– These lacing beads are chunky wooden animals that help kids develop bilateral coordination, eye-hand coordination, fine motor skills, and visual perceptual skills. As an occupational therapist, I am drawn to this toy because of the different animals that could be used in sequencing activities, sensory bins, pretend play, stacking activities, and so much more.

      Apple lacing activity for bilateral skills.

      Wooden Lacing Apple– This lacing puzzle challenges bilateral coordination skills and can be used to work on eye-hand coordination, tripod grasp, and motor planning. Use this activity to help with stabilization as well.

      Press blocks offer a sensory feedback opportunity for building bilateral coordination.

      Press and Stay Blocks– These building blocks require bilateral coordination with a press so they stay, helping kids to develop bilateral coordination and get proprioceptive input to push them together and then take them apart. Building blocks are a great way to build fine motor skills and visual perceptual skills, and these are a great addition to your therapy toolbox collection.

      Labyrinth Game This maze game is a favorite in our house, and a tool for building bilateral coordination and visual perceptual skills too. Kids need to manipulate two knobs at the same time and coordinate visual information with one hand or the other…or both. It’s a brain building challenge that involves both sides of the body. Challenge kids to do this activity in a kneel or while standing on their knees at a low table to challenge balance and offer proprioceptive input as well.

      fine motor toy for kids

      Octi Buckle Plush Toy with Hook and Loop Straps– This play toy is a strategy to encourage development of fine motor skills, problem solving, color matching, coordination, and more. This stuffed play buddy is a toy that promotes development of many skills, bilateral coordination being one of them.

      Using toys that double as quiet time activities, busy bags, or travel toys…all while working on skills is what makes toys like the buckle plush toy a therapist-approved toy. A buckle toy, with bright colors, shapes, straps, and zipper pouch will provide countless hours of recognition activities, brain building games and development puzzles. Your little one will stay busy counting the number of straps, connecting them together, pulling them apart, and starting over again. Kids can hide small items and treasures in the zip pouch, then unzip it later and get excited over their discovery!

      More Bilateral coordination activities

      Some of the smartest and most creative folks I know are the readers of The OT Toolbox. I asked readers to tell me sensory strategies they personally love and use to address sensory modulation. Scroll through the comments…you might just find some new sensory strategies that will work for you! Hopefully we can learn from one another!

      Also, check out these other soy suggestions based on therapeutic development through play.

      1. Fine Motor Toys 
      2. Gross Motor Toys 
      3. Pencil Grasp Toys 
      4. Toys for Reluctant Writers
      5. Toys for Spatial Awareness 
      6. Toys for Visual Tracking 
      7. Toys for Sensory Play 
      8. Bilateral Coordination Toys 
      9. Games for Executive Functioning Skills 
      10. Toys and Tools to Improve Visual Perception 
      11. Toys to Help with Scissors Skills
      12. Toys for Attention and Focus 

      Toys to Improve Pencil Grasp

      Pencil grasp toys

      Helping kids with pencil grasp can be a challenge, so using motivating and fun activities to support the underlying skill areas is essential. Today, we’re going over the best pencil grasp toys to challenge precision, dexterity, endurance, separation of the sides of the hand, and other skills needed for a functional pencil grasp. All of this can happen through play using toys to support stronger hands!

      The best pencil grasp toys to support the fine motor skills needed for a better pencil grip.

      Recently, we shared fine motor toy ideas and then gross motor toys. Both of these areas are closely related to a functional pencil grasp, so be sure to check out those toy suggestions, too.

      Pencil Grasp Toys

      We love coming up with fun play and craft activities designed to work on the development of an efficient grasp.  Being the season of gifting to others, we thought it would be fun to bring you our top recommended toys to work on tripod grasp, intrinsic muscle strength, rotation of the pencil while handwriting, and an open thumb web space

      Children who have difficulty with handwriting may completely HATE to work on letter formation and pencil grip.  Why not gift them with a fun toy this holiday that will work on the developmental skills necessary to improve their grip on the pencil?  Make the exercise fun as they PLAY their way to a better pencil grasp!

      Handwriting is more than just pencil grasp! Manipulating a pencil to write letters and numbers has a lot to do with visual perceptual skills. You’ll find easy and fun ways to work on visual perceptual skills through play here. 


      You will also love these Games to Improve Pencil Grasp

      Best Toys to Improve Pencil Grasp

      Toys that will help improve pencil grasp

      {Note: This post contains affiliate links.}

      Toys That Improve Pencil Grasp

      Coming up with this list, we thought about the skills needed for an appropriate pencil grasp and age-appropriate handwriting.  This toy gift guide is broken down into toys that will help with different sets of problem areas when it comes to a poor pencil grasp.

      Let’s take a closer look at toy suggestions for these areas:

      • Toys for Tripod Grasp
      • Toys for an Open Thumb Web Space
      • Toys for Hand Strength
      • Toys for Extended Wrist

      Toys for Tripod Grasp

      Tripod grasp: The most efficient way to hold the pencil when writing is with a dynamic tripod grasp.  So WHAT is a tripod grasp? 

      A Tripod grasp starts with a nice round circle made with the thumb and index finger.  The pencil is pinched with the tips of the thumb and index finger and held close to the point of the pencil.  The pencil is resting on and assisted by the middle finger.  The ring finger and pinky fingers are tucked into the palm.  All movement should happen with the fingers and thumb.  The wrist and arm should not move while writing, coloring, or drawing. 

      Often times, new pencil and crayon users will hold the writing utensil in a different way.  You might see four fingers opposing the thumb to hold the pencil.  You might see the pencil positioned in the knuckles between the index and middle fingers.  Maybe they hold the pencil away from the tip where the lead is and instead hold it in the middle of the pencil shaft.  There are SO many variations of awkward and inefficient pencil grasps.  If your little hand writer is showing some version that affects their letter formation and pencil control, try a few of these fun toys…

      A few toys that help to encourage a tripod grasp:

      Light Brite: Picking up and manipulating those little colored pegs encourage a tripod grasp.  Pushing them through the paper and into the holes is a great resistive exercise…disguised as FUN!  We have this Lite Brite Flatscreen – Red
      from Hasbro and love making pictures with the pegs!  When the child holds the pegs in his hand, it’s a great way to encourage the ring finger and pinkie finger in a tucked position.  Show your child how to pick up a handful of pegs and “squirrel them away” in their palm while they push one peg into the board.  What a great fine motor exercise!  Not to mention, the dots of the guide paper is a great visual motor activity…so important in handwriting!

      Lacing Cards:  Lacing cards are a great way to encourage a tripod grasp.  This set of Lacing Shapes
      from Patch Products come in simple shapes with bold colors. The child must hold the tip of the string in a dynamic tripod grasp to push through the holes of the card.  If your child has their thumb squashed up against their index finger while threading the cards, be sure to show them how to make a nice round circle for an easier time.

      Peg Boards: Grasping pegs encourage a tripod grasp especially while pushing them into the holes of a peg board. 

      This Lauri Tall-Stacker Pegs Building Set from Lauri is great for building peg towers while learning colors and shapes. 

      Older kids might love Fusion Beads like the Perler Beads 6,000 Count Bucket-Multi Mix from Perler.

      Spike the Fine Motor Hedge Hog– This fine motor toy builds a stronger tripod grasp, and when positioned appropriately, can place the wrist into an extended position, too. This helps to further refine precision movements for accuracy and dexterity. These are great skills to carry over to pencil control and pencil movements during handwriting tasks.

      Learning Resources 3 Prong Tong– This tong tool promotes a better grasp on objects…but only if the hand is positioned correctly. If you allow kids to just pick up the 3 prong tongs and start using them, they likely will position the tong into their hand with a gross grasp, or by using all of the fingers along the length of the prong. This can actually strengthen the wrong muscles, and promote an ineffective motor plan that becomes muscle memory when writing with a pencil.

      When kids use these tongs, they should have their hand positioned almost under the tongs, as if it were a pencil. When used this way, the tongs can strengthen the intrinsics and promote a tripod grasp. These 3 prong tongs can work well when used correctly, but be sure to work along side a child with this one.

      Toys for Open Thumb Web Space

      Sometimes you will see a child who is holding their pencil with a closed web space.  This happens when the thumb web space is the area between the thumb and the index finger.  If the thumb is squashed up against the side of their index finger, they are not able to manipulate the pencil with small movements.  They might move their whole arm to make letters instead of just the hand.  A closed web space is an inefficient way to grasp the pencil and will lead to poor handwriting.  This type of positioning requires activities that strengthen and stabilize the thumb.

      A few toys that help encourage an open web space:

      Tweezer Games:  Tweezer activities promote an open web space and stabilization of the thumb.  This Avalanche Fruit Stand
      from Learning Resources is a colorful way to encourage an open web space.  The vertical surface is perfect for encouraging an extended wrist (see below).

      Bead Sets: Stringing beads is a good way to encourage an open web space.  The child must hold the bead and string between their thumb and index fingers.  Collapsing of the thumb web space will happen when the child demonstrates weakness in the muscles of the thumb.  Beading is a repetitive activity and promotes strength.  This Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Stringing Beads with over 200 beads
      from Melissa & Doug has over 200 beads in different colors and shapes, and even letters!  You could even form sentences for the child to copy and practice their improved pencil grasp!

      Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots:  Often times, a child will wrap their thumb around the index finger when they are writing with a pencil.. This indicates instability in the thumb and the muscles that allow for smooth pencil motions.  Pushing down on the buttons of the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em ROBOTS Game
      from Mattel really strengthens the muscles of the thumb and allows for more stability leading to an open web space and ultimately more fluid motions of the pencil in letter formation.  Plus, this game is just plain old FUN for kids of all ages!

      Toys for Hand Strength

      Hand Strength:  If a child has weakness in their hands, they may complain that their hand is tired when they write or color.  Then, to compensate for muscle fatigue, they resort to an inefficient hand grasp.  They may grip the pencil with four fingers or with their whole palm.  many times, a child will start off with a nice tripod grasp and then switch to a less efficient grasp…or even switch hands!  Do they complain that their hand is tired or that it hurts?  These kiddos need to work on hand strength.  To allow for increased endurance when writing and coloring, this child would benefit from strengthening exercises.

      A few toys that help encourage hand strength:

      Pop Beads:  Pushing pop beads together is a perfect way to strengthen the intrinsic muscles of the hands including the arches of the hands.  Pop beads are such a fun toy that can be used to make patterns, different lengths, bracelets, necklaces, and even shapes. This Pop Beads
      from ConstructivePlaythings are unique in their shape, color, sizes, and textures. A twist on the classic bead, this set will excite girls and boys of all ages.  Be sure to shop for size-appropriate beads for your child’s hands.

      Play-Doh:  Play dough is the ultimate open-ended toy for hand strengthening.  There are unlimited ways to play all the while encouraging hand development.  We love this Play-Doh 24-Pack of Colors
      for lots of creative play!  Hide coins, beans, or beads in the dough and allow the child to find the items.  Roll small balls of dough using just the thumb, index, and middle fingers.  Roll a “snake” with the dough and have the child pinch the dough between their thumb and index finger.  Just get creative and make some things with your play dough.  Most of all, have fun!

      Tissue Paper Art:  There is possible no better art project for hand strengthening than tissue paper art!  Crumbling little bits of tissue paper is perfect for strengthening the small muscles of the hand.  Encourage your child to use just their finger tips to crumble the bits of tissue paper rather than two hands to crumble.  This ALEX® Toys – Early Learning Tissue Paper Art -Little Hands 521W
      from Alex Toys is bold, colorful and just plain fun art!  Even better for the intrinsic muscles of the hands is tearing bits of paper before crumbling.

      Squeeze Toys: a gross grasp is using the whole hand to squeeze and flex into a grip.  What a great way to strengthen the muscles of the hands!  This Melissa & Doug Louie Lobster Claw Catcher
      from Melissa and Doug is a fun way to encourage hand strength and endurance for coloring and writing.

      Geoboard Activities– Using a geoboard supports hand strength to enable endurance in handwriting. Manipulating the rubber bands promotes finger isolation, open thumb web-space, and and extended wrist.

      Learning Resources Helping Hands Fine Motor Tool Set Toy– This set of fine motor tools includes an eye-dropper, scissor scoops, and tongs. The sensory bin scoops and tools support hand strength through manipulating small objects or water. These tools are a great way to strengthen the exact muscles needed for a functional pencil grasp.

      Toys for Extended Wrist

      Extended Wrist:  An Extended wrist is a slightly bent back wrist.  When a child’s hand is bent forward toward the palm, they typically exhibit inefficient grasp on the pencil and weakness in the hand. A slight bend in the wrist towards the back of the hand (bent up toward the ceiling when writing) allows for better movement and flow of the fingers when forming letters.  Often times a child with a poor handwriting demonstrates a “hooked wrist” or a flat wrist and it leads back to inefficient control of the pencil and messy handwriting. 

      A few toys that help encourage an Extended Wrist:

      Easel: An easel can be used in so many ways while encouraging an extended wrist.  Paint, draw, color, or write on the elevated surface.  We love taping contact paper to our easel and sticking all kinds of craft supplies.  This really encourages an extended wrist while using a tripod grasp or tip to tip grasp to manipulate little items (think tissue paper, sequins, foil squares…the possibilities are endless!) This Easel is great for extended wrist activities.  And, it even folds down to reveal a desk surface.  It’s the perfect gift to promote improved handwriting!

      Ker Plunk: The Ker Plunk Game
      from Mattel encourages an extended wrist as the child pushes the sticks into the holes of the game.  They are encouraged to use a tripod grasp to hold the sticks as well.  Rotating the sticks encourages two types of in-hand manipulation. Take this game a step further in handwriting exercise for strengthening and play laying down on the floor, propped up on your elbows.  Getting down on the floor to play will activate the large muscles of the back and the shoulder girdle to improve precision in pencil grasp.

      Montessori Boards– Precision and dexterity activities are needed for pencil grasp and when you add in dexterity tasks and manipulation of tongs, spoons, or tweezers to move and place objects, it’s a win-win. This precision Montessori board builds the skills needed for pencil grasp: a stabile wrist, in-hand manipulation, open thumb web space, and dexterity.

      Best toys and ideas to help kids improve their pencil grasp

      Looking for a few activities to improve handwriting skills? Check out our round-up of the best handwriting activities from our blog and these other toy suggestions:

      More Therapy Toy Ideas

      Want to find more therapy recommended toys to help kids develop specific skills? Check out the list of skill areas below.

      1. Fine Motor Toys 
      2. Gross Motor Toys 
      3. Pencil Grasp Toys
      4. Toys for Reluctant Writers
      5. Toys for Spatial Awareness
      6. Toys for Visual Tracking
      7. Toys for Sensory Play 
      8. Bilateral Coordination Toys 
      9. Games for Executive Functioning Skills
      10. Toys and Tools to Improve Visual Perception
      11. Toys to Help with Scissors Skills
      12. Toys for Attention and Focus

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

      Fine Motor Toys

      Awesome fine motor toys for kids

      Working on fine motor skills through play is natural. Here, you’ll find the very best fine motor toys designed to promote and support a variety of therapy skills. Let’s talk Fine Motor Toys!

      Fine Motor Toy Ideas

      Today is going to be FUN! I am beyond excited to share the very best fine motor toys that support development of hand strength, dexterity, precision. We’ll also cover why these occupational therapy toys support fine motor development, and cover a little about an occupational therapist’s perspective on what makes them such amazing tools for building hand strength, dexterity, motor control, and fine motor coordination.

      Here’s why: I love to share my OT perspective on helping kids develop skills, using fun and engaging therapy toys that kids are excited about.

      Check out the items below, and add one of these fine motor toys to your therapy toolbox!

      These fine motor toys are therapy toys that help kids build motor skills like hand strength, coordination, and more.

      Fine Motor Toys

      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.

      Because of that, I’m excited to share with these fine motor toys that help kids develop the motor skills they need!

      Fine Motor Skills Toys

      Here on The OT Toolbox, I’ve shared a lot of different toy suggestions, that are perfectly suited to meet specific needs, like fine motor strength, grasp, pincer grip, and dexterity. Some of these specifics can be found here:

      Today, I wanted to go through some specific toys that develop fine motor skills. AND…as part of the Therapy Tools and Toys Giveaway, you can enter to win these items!

      Therapy Toys for Fine Motor Skills

      These are fine motor toys that you will find in therapy clinics. There is a reason why…because they are fine motor powerhouses! So, if you are looking for toy recommendations that build motor skills, this is it!

      Amazon affiliate links are included below. You can read more about these items by checking out the links.

      Learning Resources Avalanche Fruit Stand– This toy is one of my FAVORITE ways to develop fine motor skills in kids. Kids use tweezers to manipulate fruit pieces and can work on colors, counting, matching, and other learning skills. The fine motor components are impressive! Address skills such as:

      • Pincer and Tripod grasp development
      • Hand strength
      • Arch development
      • Separation of the sides of the hand
      • Wrist stability
      • Wrist extension
      • Eye-hand coordination
      • Motor control
      Build fine motor skills with this Avalanche Fruit Stand game that helps with fine motor skills.

      Pop Tubes– There are so many ways that these fine motor tools build skills in kids. You can read about using Pop Tubes for bilateral coordination skills in this previous blog post, but beyond bilateral coordination, these bendable tubes can be used to help kids develop body awareness through tactile stimulation, fine motor skills auditory feedback, AND fine motor skills such as:

      • Grasp
      • Arch development and hand strength
      • Separation of the sides of the hand
      • Eye-hand coordination
      • Bilateral coordination
      • Proprioception to the hands (use them as a fidget tool)
      Pop Tubes are a fine motor toy that helps kids build hand strength.

      Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog– Have you seen this cute hedgehog toy? It’s a great way to help kids develop fine motor skills in a fun way. The bright colors are a nice way to work on matching, sorting, math skills, and color recognition, too. The chunky pegs make this fine motor tool a great toy for toddlers, but the hedgehog’s cute factor makes it a great fine motor activity for older children as well. These fine motor skills are addressed with this toy:

      • Eye-hand coordination
      • Pincer grasp
      • Grasp development
      • Hand strength
      • Motor planning
      The fine motor hedgehog toy helps kids with fine motor skills.

      Bucket of Perler Fuse Beads– This bucket of beads is the perfect way to build so many fine motor skills. I love working with perler beads with children because you can target many skills, and it’s a great fine motor activity for older children that may benefit from fine motor work. This bucket of perler beads makes my recommendation list for it’s fine motor benefits:

      • Pincer grasp
      • In-hand manipulation
      • Separation of the sides of the hand
      • Open thumb web-space
      • Dexterity
      • Precision
      • Wrist stability
      • Eye-hand coordination
      Perler beads are a great fine motor toy for kids.

      Jenga Game– This classic game is a fine motor powerhouse that kids love. As a therapist, I love to use this game to build fine motor skills, because it’s such an open-ended activity. You can play the Jenga game, but you can use the blocks in building activities and pretend play activities, too. Consider the fine motor benefits of this game:

      • Precision
      • Dexterity
      • Separation of the sides of the hand
      • Eye-hand coordination
      • Motor planning
      • Motor control
      Use Jenga to help kids develop fine motor skills and coordination

      Coogam Wooden Mosaic Puzzle– This pixel puzzle comes with a wooden board, a puzzle booklet, and 370 small block pieces in 8 different colors. Children can use this fine motor toy to develop so many fine motor and visual motor skills. Use it to copy and build letters and numbers, shapes, and pictures. This toy is great for math concepts, too. This is a powerful toy!

      • Precision
      • Eye-hand coordination
      • Visual motor skills
      • Pincer grasp
      • In-hand manipulation
      • Open thumb web-space
      Use this shapes puzzle to help kids develop fine motor skills, coordination, and motor control.

      3D Building Block Gear Shapes– This building toy is a fine motor goldmine. Kids can construct 3D shapes or they can copy figures and work on visual motor skills. Use this fine motor toy to work on skills such as:

      • Hand strength
      • Arch development
      • Separation of the sides of the hand
      • Bilateral coordination
      • Pinch and grip strength
      • Wrist stability
      Use these gear building toys to help kids develop fine motor skills like hand strength.

      Coogam Wooden Blocks Puzzle Brain Teasers Toy Tangram– This puzzle toy is a fantastic addition to have in your therapy bag, classroom, or home. Kids can complete the fine motor puzzles and use it as a brain break to learning. Plus, there are so many visual motor benefits to this toy:

      • Visual motor integration
      • Eye-hand coordination
      • Precision
      • Wrist stability
      • Wrist extension
      • Separation of the sides of the hand
      • In-hand manipulation
      • Open thumb web-space
      Children can develop precision and dexterity with this tangram activity.

      Mini Squigz– Squigz are such a great fine motor toy for kids. Use them to build on one another or to stick to a wall or protective plexiglass surface. The sticking suction cap toys provide resistive feedback that not only strengthens little hands, but offers a proprioceptive sensory feedback, too. Here are more fine motor benefits to this toy:

      • Hand strength
      • Arch development
      • Separation of the sides of the hand
      • Eye-hand coordination
      • In-hand manipulation
      • Precision and dexterity
      Use squigz to help kids build hand strength.

      Straw Constructor STEM Building Toy– This fine motor toy is such a fun way to help kids develop and strengthen motor skills. Even better, is that this building toy can become a gross motor toy, too. Containing 300 pieces of plastic straws and connecting pieces, this construction toy helps kids develop so many areas:

      • Bilateral coordination
      • Visual motor skills
      • Eye-hand coordination
      • Pincer grasp
      • Tripod grasp
      • Hand strength
      • Arch development
      • Separation of the sides of the hand
      • In-hand manipulation
      A straw construction toy is great for fine motor skill development.

      Pincer Grasp Toys

      Toys to improve pincer grasp include:

      Hand Strength Toys

      Fine Motor Games

      More Therapy Toys

      Check out the therapy toy ideas listed in the blog posts below. Each article covers a different area of child development.

      1. Fine Motor Toys 
      2. Gross Motor Toys
      3. Pencil Grasp Toys
      4. Toys for Reluctant Writers
      5. Toys for Spatial Awareness
      6. Toys for Visual Tracking
      7. Toys for Sensory Play
      8. Bilateral Coordination Toys
      9. Games for Executive Functioning Skills 
      10. Toys and Tools to Improve Visual Perception 
      11. Toys to Help with Scissors Skills 
      12. Toys for Attention and Focus 

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

      Christmas Worksheet PDF- Hidden Picture Worksheet

      Christmas hidden picture worksheet

      Are you looking for a Christmas hidden picture worksheet that doubles as a visual figure ground activity? This Christmas worksheet PDF can be used with students to also address fine motor skills and coloring?  Christmas Color and Count is a printable hidden picture printable PDF 2 page resource that will help you address these skills with your students. 

      This Christmas worksheet PDF is a printable hidden pictures activity for the Christmas season.

      Christmas Worksheet PDF: Hidden Pictures

      This Christmas hidden picture resource includes 2 printable PDF pages to use with your students during the holidays.  The first page has Christmas lights and stars and the second page has 2 different types of gifts. 

      These printable hidden picture PDFs work on several areas over the holiday season…when kids might not want to work on difficult skill areas. A festive and fun themed activity can help address the underlying areas that impact handwriting, reading, and other visual processing tasks.

      How do Hidden Picture Worksheets Help?

      Hidden picture worksheets can address many areas that impact function. Let’s take look at all the ways to use this free hidden picture puzzle in therapy”

      These worksheets target the visual perceptual skill of visual figure ground.  You will also be able to use these worksheets to work on fine motor skills at the same time while finding and coloring the Christmas stars and holiday lights.

      Visual Figure Ground Skills- First, let’s look at the visual perceptual skill of visual figure ground.  Visual figure ground is the ability to differentiate or pick out an object from a busy background.  This skill is essential for supporting the occupations of students in school, from reading text to finding an item in a cluttered desk. 

      Students use their visual figure ground skills to be able to differentiate words in a book, when copying information from the board, or when looking for something in their backpack.  

      You could easily use these Christmas Color and Count worksheets paired with other therapy activities to support visual figure ground skills.  An important function of visual figure ground is the ability to scan the environment and find the important visual information. 

      More ideas using the Christmas Hidden Picture

      There are more ways to use this Christmas Printable PDF in a variety of therapy activities to incorporate gross motor skills, fine motor skills, coordination, and more…

      Use the Christmas Hidden Picture Printable PDF in an I Spy Game- It would be fun to extend this activity to include a scavenger hunt or I Spy Game in your therapy space, either as a warm up activity or as a game to end your session. 

      1. Hide stars or an image of Christmas lights around your space. 
      2. You could ask your students to collect the stars or play I Spy with the images of colored Christmas lights. 

      Other fun games to address visual figure ground include (Amazon affiliate links) Spot It or I Spy Board Game.

      Visual Discrimination Activity- Once you have completed a scavenger hunt or other warm up activity and your students are ready to move on, you can begin by having them look at the pictures at the top of the page. 

      1. Ask them to identify and describe the key features of the objects they will count.  For example, the star has angles and the Christmas lights are rounded. 
      2. Ask them to describe the differences between how the 2 gifts look on the second page. 

      Executive Function Activity- Next, ask your students how they plan to start this activity. 

      This helps with executive functioning and organization. 

      1. Will they find all of one item and then move to the next? 
      2. Will they start at the top and scan in a left to right manner? 
      3. Asking your students to verbalize their plan will help you understand their organizational strategies and how you may best support their executive functioning.

      Visual Scanning Activity- Now, your students are ready to scan and color each shape. 

      Coloring is a great way to develop fine motor strength and endurance.  Coloring is a skill that needs to be taught to support the fine motor development of students. Coloring is a skill that requires hand strength. 

      Often children with decreased hand strength dislike coloring because they do not have the endurance to complete the task.  If you have students who struggle with coloring try offering alternatives to crayons, and then work your way up using crayons or colored pencils. 

      Often students who have difficulty with the fine motor components of coloring prefer using markers.  Markers provide less resistance and for many students they provide more visual interest.  Using markers to increase visual attention and motivation for coloring is a great tool for students struggling to build fine motor and visual skills.

      For students who may struggle with coloring, think of ways to make it more fun and interesting for them.  Here are some ideas:

      Christmas Hidden Picture and Strengthening Activity- For students who need additional strengthening opportunities, think about how you can challenge their postural strength and upper body stability. 

      Other ways to incorporate strengthening into this activity:

      • Tape the worksheets to the wall at eye level which will address shoulder strength and stability
      • You could also tape the worksheets under the table and have your students work while lying on their back.  This a fun and different way to work on fine motor strengthening!
      • Find some floor space and have the students lie prone, propped up on elbows while coloring.  This position will help strengthen their postural muscles and increase shoulder stability.
      • Use a large therapy ball instead of a chair to challenge postural strength while coloring at the table.  

      For students who avoid or dislike coloring, incorporating different positions into your session may help them start and stay engaged, building not only their fine motor skills, but also strengthening their visual attention. 

      Free Christmas Hidden Picture Worksheet PDF

      Christmas Color and Count is a great activity for building important visual figure ground skills and strengthening fine motor endurance at the same time!

      FREE Christmas Hidden Picture Worksheet

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