How to Use Graph Paper

graph paper uses

Do you know how to use graph paper to meet specific OT goal areas? We can use grid paper in occupational therapy sessions to develop many goal areas. Did you ever see a student using graphed paper in occupational therapy and wonder about the pre-gridded paper purpose in supporting goals? Not only is graph paper a type of adapted paper for some, it can be a tool too! There are so many different reasons to use this type of paper to support specific handwriting or visual perception needs. Here we are discussing using graph paper and why this type of therapy tool can be helpful.

Graph paper uses in occupational therapy for handwriting and other areas.

Graph Paper Purpose in OT

Graph paper comes in many sizes!  Specific activities can be easily graded in difficulty just by making it easier when boxes are large and of course more challenging as boxes become smaller in size. 

Graph paper can be used as a tool to support many areas of development:

How to Use Graph Paper

Try these paper activities in occupational therapy sessions or at home. Here are ideas on using graph paper to meet specific goal areas in OT or at home:

Graph Paper for Visual Perception

Tasks like forming letters the correct size, using margins, aligning lists or columns are all visual perceptual areas of handwriting. You can use grid paper to support these needs.

Graph paper is great to use for math problems! Simply place one number in each box and line them up so numbers are easily read and there’s a spot for each number in your answer. Your math work just might be easier to do and it will for sure be easier to read.

Graph paper for visual motor skills

Related to the visual perception aspect is the contribution of motor skills. In order to copy shapes, copy and write words, recreate graphs, plot lines, etc. one needs visual motor skills.

Graph paper can be used to address visual motor skills with these activities:

  • Create a plot diagram. Use a ruler to connect lines.
  • Copy shapes and designs using the grid blocks on the paper.
  • Form block letters with or without a model.
  • Cut shapes and trace the shape using the graph paper template.
  • Create symmetry drawings by folding the graph paper in half.
  • Create pencil control exercises to work on precision with pencil use.


I love to use graph paper for imitating drawings. I will draw an odd shape or maybe even a specific item and ask a student to copy my drawing by counting and using the boxes to replicate my shape. Students can also draw their own shape and try to “stump” the therapist or other player.


If the adult/other player is creative, s/he can label the boxes with letters and numbers across the top and side edges (kind of like a BINGO board) and the student is asked to fill in box A-1, or C-3, etc. to create a picture that will mysteriously become visible at the end. The one helping here must do a little homework on their own first to make sure the colored in boxes will actually create a picture.

Draw shapes

The student can also be instructed (verbally or with written cues) to draw shapes, lines, letters, etc. in certain boxes or at the intersection of certain lines (e.g. put a yellow circle in box A-1, or draw a tree at line F-7 or similar). 

This helps to follow written instructions, draw a specific shape, and locate the correct space on the graph paper.  Be creative and make it fun!

Graph paper Letter Size Activity-

Finally, it would be an injustice to graph paper if I didn’t mention the use it can play in creating letter boxes for a box and dot handwriting task.  Your student may already be familiar with this through OT sessions. 

Graph lines can be used to outline the space in which a letter sits, using one single box for lower case letters.  Upper case letters and lower case tall letters: (t, d, f, h, k, l, b) will need to include the box ON TOP to make it a one wide by a 2 tall defined space. 

Lower case letters that are descending below the line, or tail letters (q, y, p, g, j) must include the box BELOW, making it also a one wide by 2 space, but the box on bottom goes below the line on which the letters are written. 

Missing letter activities-

Making up a “key” of words, or a game, have the student place the letters in the proper defined word space that has letter boxes outlined or maybe even just the word outlined.  This may be a fun way to practice spelling words. 

Cutting activity-

If nothing else, you can always use graph paper to practice cutting on the lines, creating a colored picture, making paper air planes, or crumpling into a ball to play a game.  Graph paper is one style of cutting paper with a graded resistance we talk about in our scissor skills crash course.

I’m sure your student can think of many non-traditional things to do with it on his/her own!

If you don’t have graph paper on hand, below are resources I have found which may be helpful.

More handwriting tips

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 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.

Travel Bar Soap Case Fine Motor Kit

Travel Bar Soap Case craft

I love this Dollar Store therapy idea because it develops so many skills, making the materials a great addition to any occupational therapy bag. If you are looking for a Dollar Store craft that builds several areas (and can be used with a variety of levels of your caseload), then this animal soap holder craft is a great one to try! If you’ve used a soap holder travel item in your travels in the past, then you may even have all of the items you need to make a mini fine motor kit! All you need is a plastic travel bar soap case and a few items to create a ton of fine motor skill-building!

travel bar soap case THerapy Kit

Looking for a fine motor craft idea that boosts all of the underlying skills kids need? This fine  motor craft is a soap holder animal and it adds opportunities for skills like fine motor strength, precision of fine motor skills, dexterity, coordination, visual motor skills, and many more therapy areas.

The best part is, after kids make this fun fine motor craft, they have a fine motor toolkit that can be used again and again to address the motor skills they need!

Let’s take a look at how to make a soap holder animal and use this fine motor craft idea to maximize the therapeutic benefits!

 

This fine motor craft for kids is a soap holder animal craft that helps work on to build fine motor skills, strength, bilateral coordination, and other areas that may be addressed in occupational therapy

 

Dollar Store Craft for Therapy

All you need is a colorful soap holder and a few other materials from the Dollar Store to create your own soap container craft.

Soap holder animals are great busy box kits which are made with simple materials and come in their own storage containers. They address creativity, visual perception, eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, problem solving and fine motor skills.

Being stored within themselves makes them easily portable allowing a therapist to toss one quickly into their therapy bag or cart.

Kids can make this soap holder animal fine motor craft to work on fine motor skills and other areas they need for holding a pencil and in handwriting.

Kids love soap holder animal crafts and therapists will find they make for a cool and engaging therapy activity. Soap holder busy box kits fit the bill for many pediatric therapists who travel from site to site.

They are a cheap and easy fine motor craft to transport, are easy to store, and are fun to create with an engaging focus on child skill development.

Therapists will find soap holder animal make for a great send home activity too! 

Make a soap holder busy bag into a fine motor craft by turning it into a soap holder animal while working on fine motor skills and visual motor skills.

Occupational Therapy Bag Item

Filling a plastic soap dish with small materials is great for the traveling occupational therapist, because you can add this mini container to your occupational therapy bag, and opening and closing the container is part of the therapy processes to further develop fine motor skills, bilateral coordination, and other areas.

Children love opening the boxes to see what’s inside and they are intrigued by what they are able to create with them. They love crafting animals and making them come to life. 

Soap holder busy box kits allow for children to expand on their skills while also enjoying the high level of creativity that can be achieved. 

With these soap holder creations, children experience an improved feeling of success and achievement having used their own skills to create something fun and entertaining.

Many skill areas are hidden within the process of this fun activity.  Just the developmental benefits of bead stringing alone would be enough to make the activity worth using!  Bead stringing activities can help improve overall fine motor, visual perception, visual motor and cognitive skills. Functionally, bead stringing can help a child improve their pencil grasp and control for drawing, writing and coloring as well as improve their ability to manipulate fasteners on clothing. 

This soap dish kit is actually a piece of pediatric therapy equipment you may not immediately think of when you think of occupational therapy toys, but it’s sure to be a big hit!

Use beads and a travel soap holder to make a fine motor craft that builds skills kids need.

Use the travel bar soap case craft to build skills

The skills and target areas addressed with soap holder animal crafts and use of these fun busy box kits include:

Bilateral coordination – The act of opening and closing the boxes, threading and un-threading the beads, and building legs or other appendages requires the child to use two hands together in a coordinated manner.

Pincer grasp and finger strength – Pinching small beads for placement and threading them requires a thumb to index finger pinch pattern and small muscle strength to manipulate and place the bead.

In-hand manipulation – Pinching small beads and turning them around within the fingers for placement requires coordination of the small hand and finger muscles working on shift and rotation movements.

Eye-hand coordination – Threading and un-threading beads and building legs or other appendages requires the child’s eyes and hands to work together.

Visual perception – Recalling the bead color pattern while searching for one specific bead color from a group of assorted beads requires visual memory, visual scanning and visual discrimination skills.

Executive functioning – Deciding what type of creature the child wants to make and organizing and planning their approach while also determining what kind of pattern they want to use and where to place the appendages requires organization, planning and problem-solving skills.

Use a travel bar soap case to make a fine motor kit for travel pediatric occupational therapy bags

Graded Fine Motor Craft Kids Love

Travel soap dish with lid are nice because you can fill the mini fine motor kit with any item that meets the needs of the child you are working with.

Soap holder busy box kits can easily be downgraded or upgraded by matching the type of materials used to the needs and abilities of the child or by modifying the approach and the necessary skills required to complete the activity.

A few considerations on adjusting this fine motor craft to meet the needs and skills of various children:

1. Consider the use of larger beads vs. smaller beads. Determine if the bead hole diameter is small enough or large enough to meet or challenge the child’s skills.

2. Use flexible string vs. pipe cleaners. (Be sure the string is flexible enough that the box lid can close once they are inserted and that beads do not easily fall off.)  Flexible string can provide a good challenge for some children.

3. Keep pipe cleaners full length or cut in half to make the activity more challenging for appendage placement, manipulation, and orientation.

4. Consider keeping the process simple by having the activity set-up for the child and then have them only string the beads.

5. Have the child simply string beads at random vs. following a color pattern.

6. Work on opening containers using the travel soap dish with lid.

Work on fine motor skills, bilateral coordination, precision grasp and more with this fine motor craft to make a soap holder animal.

How to Make a travel bar soap case craft

Now that you know the total benefits and a few ways to grade the activity, here is what you need to create your very own soap holder animal using a travel bar soap case.

First, gather your materials:

Amazon affiliate links included below.

Use a soap holder to make a fine motor craft into a soap holder animal craft that builds fine motor skills kids need.
  1. Place all of the materials in the travel bar soap case. It’s ready to go into your occupational therapy bag.
  2. When you are ready to use the travel bar soap case in therapy sessions, pull out the travel bar soap case filled with fine motor items. Kids can open the container and use the materials to thread beads or explore.
  3. Bend the pipe cleaners to make legs for a spider or wings for a butterfly. 
  4. Thread beads onto the pipe cleaners.
  5. Place the ends of the pipe cleaners onto the edge of the travel soap container and close the lid. 
  6. Decorate the top with googly eyes.

They never get old as they may never be the same creation twice!

Soap holder busy bead kits are easy to assemble for use as a therapy activity or home busy box. Take a short time to gather the materials and use it all year long to build a multitude of skills with children.

Amazon affiliate links are included in this post.

Let us know if you make this soap holder animal fine motor craft!

Regina Allen

Regina Parsons-Allen is a school-based certified occupational therapy assistant. She has a pediatrics practice area of emphasis from the NBCOT. She graduated from the OTA program at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson, North Carolina with an A.A.S degree in occupational therapy assistant. She has been practicing occupational therapy in the same school district for 20 years. She loves her children, husband, OT, working with children and teaching Sunday school. She is passionate about engaging, empowering, and enabling children to reach their maximum potential in ALL of their occupations as well assuring them that God loves them!

Looking for more fun ways to develop fine motor skills? Grab one of our digital Fine Motor Kits!

Use these Fine Motor Kits for hands-on activity kits to develop fine motor skills, strength, dexterity, and manipulation. Kids LOVE these fine motor kits for the motivating activities. Therapists love them because it’s fresh, fun ways to work on pinch, grip, manipulation skills, and much more. Try some of these themed therapy kits:

Homemade Colored Sand

Color sand for sensory play

Have you ever thought about making colored sand? It is possible to color sand, easily, and get the kids involved in the process, too. Here, we are covering how to color sand as a sensory play material for the sandbox, for art, and for homemade colored sand fun!

We have been playing outside so much recently.  Our sandbox is right outside and the kids are in there daily. We added a little color to some of the sand this week and have been having fun with our colored sand!

Color sand for a sensory play experience with many therapy benefits.

Color Sand for Developing Skills

Kids love to color sand, and the process is a fun motor and sensory activity to support development of a variety of skill areas, too:

  • Eye-hand coordination to pour and scoop the sand
  • Bilateral coordination to pour sand into a bag or container
  • Gross motor skills, heavy work, proprioception, and motor planning skills to shake the containers of sand and paint
  • Executive functioning skills to mix and color the sand
  • Tactile sensory play to manipulate the mixed textures of dry sand and wet paint.
  • Fine motor skills to pinch the crumbled dry clumps of colored sand
using food coloring to make colored sand

How to Color Sand

We made a simple batch of colored sand very easily.  This simple recipe is a great activity for kids to make as a cognitive and direction-following activity. Read on for directions on how to make colored sand…

Big Sister helped me with this and we had fun while the little kids were napping.   So how did we make our colored sand?  

  1. Scoop a little sand into plastic baggies.
  2. Add around 10-15 drops of food coloring.
  3. Seal the baggie and shake it up. (great for some gross motor play!!)  
  4. Let the sand dry and have fun playing.  

We left our sand right in the open baggies and let it dry overnight.  If you wanted to play right away, you could spread the sand out on a tray and it would dry much sooner.

Color sand for sensory play
add food coloring to baggies of sand

Color Sand Activities

Once you have mixed a batch of colorful sand, you can use it in various sensory and motor activities.

Make Color Sand Pictures

So the next day, we spread the sand out on a tray and played!  She loves making pictures in the sand and telling stories (like Nina on Sprout!)  This was such a fun activity.  

Practice Writing Letters with Colored Sand

We spread out the sand onto a low tray and used it as a writing tray. My preschooler told me all kinds of stories, made words, and we practiced some lower case letter formation.

Big Sister is knows how to make most lowercase letters and can copy all of the letters.  This is a great activity for letter formation and practicing handwriting.  

Use Colored Sand for Pre-Writing Skills

For kids that are still working on diagonals, crossed lines, and shapes, a sand sensory writing tray is a great tool to work on pre-writing skills. The tactile feedback offers muscle memory for forming lines and shapes.

The sand adds a sensory aspect to letter formation. Using a large tray like this one adds whole arm movements which are perfect for the young child who is just learning letter formation.  I love the contrast that the white tray adds to the colored sand.  

We played for a long time with this (again during Little Kid nap time).

colored sand on tray for child to form letters

Of course, when you have bags of colored sand, you have to mix the colors together to see what happens 🙂  

Color sand for a sensory tray.

Grade the colored sand activity for therapy

How can you grade this activity for different aged children? There are many ways to color sand and use one batch with several ages. This is especially good for families with children at various ages. Consider the contamination aspect when using a batch of colored sand in the therapy setting.

  • Toddlers would love to explore the colors and sensation of the sand on their fingers.
  • Pre-writers can copy and trace shapes, zig-zag and intersecting lines
  • Early writers can trace upper case letters.
  • Older hand-writers can copy a word from a card positioned off to the side. 
  • Practice spelling words with school-aged kids.

    We saved our bags of colored sand and will be using them again.  Have you done any projects with colored sand? 

Finally, after playing with your homemade colored sand, use the opportunity to add this tactile sensory play experience to your toolbox of handwashing activities!

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.

Working on other fine motor skills through play? Grab one of our Fine Motor Kits to get started!

Use these Fine Motor Kits for hands-on activity kits to develop fine motor skills, strength, dexterity, and manipulation. Kids LOVE these fine motor kits for the motivating activities. Therapists love them because it’s fresh, fun ways to work on pinch, grip, manipulation skills, and much more. Try some of these themed therapy kits:

Pasta Threading Activity

pasta threading activity

This pasta threading activity is a fine motor task that supports development of many skills. If you are looking for toddler activities, preschool activities, or ideas for older kids to develop motor control and coordination, pasta threading is the way to go!

Pasta threading is a fun fine motor activity for toddlers and preschoolers.

Pasta Threading

First, you might be wondering what is “pasta threading”? If you have Pinterest, you may have seen activities where kids thread pasta onto straws placed into play dough. This is one form of pasta threading.

Another way to thread pasta as a fine motor activity is to simply create a pasta necklace by threading the pasta onto string or yarn. This is a classic craft that helps develop many skill areas.

By threading pasta, kids develop skills in areas such as:

  • Fine motor skills
  • Hand- Eye coordination
  • Creativity
  • Wrist stability and extension (needed for precision in the fingertips)
  • Attention and Concentration
  • Feeling of success and achievement when completed

We’ve covered other threading activities in the past, including this gross motor threading activity. Working from a larger aspect like using whole-body movements is a great precursor to the more refined fine motor work needed for threading pasta noodles.

Pasta Threading Activity

Similar to stringing beads as a therapy tool, threading pasta can be graded in many aspects to support the individual needs of the user.

  1. Modify the material– You can stringing pasta onto cord, thick yarn, straws, or even lightweight string.
  2. Modify the pasta size– Use a larger noodle or a smaller noodle. You can target in-hand manipulation skills, pincer grasp, and arch development by using different sizes of noodle.
  3. Modify the positioning– Ask users to thread onto a free lying piece of string. Or place straws or skewers into playdough to change the positioning and shoulder involvement.

Depending on the needs of the individual, you can adapt or modify these materials. Use a thicker straw or a smaller straw cut into pieces. Position the straws on angles or all in one direction.

There are so many ways to change this single activity to support a variety of needs and skill levels.

To complete this fine motor activity, you need only a few materials:

  • plastic straw or straight spaghetti
  • tubular pasta
  • play dough

Be sure to incorporate the play dough into the activity so that the user has ownership in setting up the activity. There are also the added fine motor benefits of play dough as well.

How to thread pasta

To set up this fine motor activity, follow these steps:

  • flatten out play dough on to table
  • stick the straw/spaghetti into the play dough
  • thread the pasta onto the straw

Pasta threading is a great fine motor activity that supports so many areas, and can easily be set up at home.

Looking for more ways to develop fine motor skills and visual motor skills?

Use these Fine Motor Kits for hands-on activity kits to develop fine motor skills, strength, dexterity, and manipulation. Kids LOVE these fine motor kits for the motivating activities. Therapists love them because it’s fresh, fun ways to work on pinch, grip, manipulation skills, and much more. Try some of these themed therapy kits:

Pincer Grasp Activities

pincer grasp activities

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


Pincer Grasp

 

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



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.  

Pincer grasp develops around 9-12 months of age.  Neat pincer grasp develops between 12-18 months and is a much finer skill.

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.


This post contains affiliate links.


Ways to build pincer grasp:



Pick up sequins.
Pick up toothpicks.
Stick embroidery thread to contact paper.  Then pick up back up.
Peel tape.  Try this process art activity to stick and peel paint to address neat pincer grasp for fine motor skills.
Pick up and peel stickers.
Pick up and use very small beads like these 2 mm. glass beads in crafts.
Make crafts with fishing line.
Create string art.
Try peeling tape in a group activity.
Pick up small pasta in a sensory play activity.
Pick up and manipulate pasta in a fine motor color match activity with play dough.
Thread feathers.
Pick up grass seed to work on letter formation. (Grass seed is very small!)
Play with clothes pins to work on grasp.
Drop thread into a sensory bottle.

 

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.

Use these Fine Motor Kits for hands-on activity kits to develop fine motor skills, strength, dexterity, and manipulation. Kids LOVE these fine motor kits for the motivating activities. Therapists love them because it’s fresh, fun ways to work on pinch, grip, manipulation skills, and much more. Try some of these themed therapy kits:

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.

Star Wars Occupational Therapy Lightsaber

star wars occupational therapy

Today I have a fun Star Wars occupational therapy activity. This block light saber requires just one material, but you can use this Lightsaber for so many OT goals! We actually created this counting block light saber years ago (original blog post was written in 2015) for May 4th activities for occupational therapy. May the 4th be with you with this fine motor Star Wars activity!

Star Wars occupational therapy activities for kids

Star Wars occupational therapy

Pediatric occupational therapy professionals know the power of using themes in OT therapy sessions. When we come up with a theme for fine motor, gross motor, visual motor, and sensory motor tasks, we can cover a wide range of OT goals while meeting the client (patient, student, etc.) where they are with a focus on their interests.

Using interests in therapy fosters meaning and engagement.

That’s where this Star Wars occupational therapy theme comes into play.

How many children have you met that love all things Star Wars? When you bring up the topic of light sabers, Millennium Falcon, Chewbacca, and Luke, you may see a sparkle in the eyes of a child that could talk for hours on all things Star Wars. That’s when you know you have a great therapy theme on your hands.

Using that Star Wars theme in therapy allows kids to focus on the tasks at hand, try new activities, and put themselves out there to try activities that might be just a little difficult on the range of “just right” tasks. The point here is to meet those goals but when working on goals is difficult, it can be easy to quit or give up. However, if there is a topic of interest that really sparks a light of engagement, then you have a tool to support goal development.

This is when we see kids thrive!

Let’s go over a few Star Wars occupational therapy activities focusing on fine motor skills, visual motor skills, gross motor skills, handwriting, and sensory play.

Star Wars Fine Motor Activity- Build a Block Light Saber

If your sons (and daughters) are anything like mine they love to make lightsabers out of anything.  Ever since they were introduced to Star Wars, the lightsaber is definitely a favorite in our house.  We built these blocks Star Wars lightsabers using counting blocks and wanted to share.  Because it sure is fun!

The block light saber is a fine motor powerhouse. By snapping together the blocks, you’ll see:

All of these fine motor skills are essential to functional tasks. Using the Star Wars theme adds a “4th” theme (force) that can’t be beat!

Build a lightsaber using counting blocks or cubes for a Star Wars occupational therapy theme.

How to Make a Star Wars Lightsaber with Blocks

We are sharing affiliate links in this post.    

To make build our lightsabers, we used one of our favorite toys; these snapping blocks are a toy that is used almost every day in our house.  From building robots to spaceships, and now lightsabers…we love these blocks.  They are great when used as a counting manipulative for preschoolers.  Other counting blocks could also be used.   

Use math blocks or counting snap blocks to make a light saber for May 4th activities or a Star Wars OT theme.

How to use this light saber in OT activities:

Visual Motor Skills- Create a block light saber model. Ask the child to copy the light saber using pattern blocks or snap blocks. They can copy the colors and spacing of the blocks to work on visual motor skills.

Other visual skills addressed with this activity include:

  • Visual scanning
  • Visual attention
  • Visual figure ground
  • Visual closure

Gross Motor Skills- Use the light saber to copy gross motor movements and motor planning patterns. The therapist can make movements with a block light saber and the client can copy them. Work on adding a sequence of movement patterns to work on sequencing, balance, motor planning, and recall. You can use the light saber like a movement stick like we did with this cursive writing warm-up activity.   

Other gross motor skills that are addressed with this Star Wars light saber therapy tool include:  

  • Crossing midline
  • Balance
  • sequencing
  • Motor planning
  • Visual tracking
  • Core strength and stability

Handwriting- This is one way to use the blocks light saber that I really love. Once the light saber has been built, use it as a spacing tool to space between words!

We’ve created a bunch of DIY spacing tools in the past: This light saber spacing tool joins the ranks of our popular space martian spacing tool, pipe cleaner spacing tool, craft stick and button spacing tool, and our craft stick (with a tracking dot) spacing tool.

To use the light saber as a spacing tool, the child can build their light saber using the snapping blocks. Then, ask them to write sentences on paper or a dry erase board, focusing on copying or writing words accurately on the lines. Show the child how to place the light saber blocks between each word as a visual cue and a tactile support to add space after the words. When they are completed with writing the sentence, they will have words that are accurately and consistently spaced out, making handwriting legibility a breeze.

Spatial awareness impacts handwriting legibility in big ways. The child can then recall using a light saber as their handwriting “force” each time they write, whether they have the actual light saber in hand or not. It’s a handwriting force that can’t be beat!

Sensory Activities- By adding sensory play into therapy sessions, children can address self-regulation needs, sensory challenges, and play-based learning. Scatter the blocks in a sensory bin with scoops, tongs, and cups. You’ll need a sensory bin base material as well. The sensory materials offer a way to explore textures and create in therapy sessions.

The student or child can find the needed items and then build their own light saber.

This sensory Star Wars idea addresses various skill areas:

  • Tactile exploration
  • Sensory motor skills
  • Visual processing
  • Proprioception

Build the lightsabers using a row of counting blocks.  Encourage your child to count out the blocks and match up the numbers when making a double lightsaber.  This is a fun way to encourage math through play and interests in Star Wars.  Have fun with your counting block lightsabers!  

Add this activity to these other Star Wars occupational therapy activities:

Star Wars Sensory Activities

  • Use Star Wars Moon Dough to encourage tactile hand sensory input, add heavy work through the hands with proprioceptive input.
  • Mix and make LEGO Star Wars Putty and develop tactile sensory challenges with bilateral coordination. Then address handwashing after playing.

Star Wars Fine Motor

  • Incorporate bilateral coordination, hand strength, coloring skills, and heavy work through the hands to make this Crayon Resist Death Star.
  • Work on scissor skills, bilateral coordination, precision, glue use, and handwriting to make this Star Wars R2-D2 Craft. 
  • Incorporate wrist extension, fine motor precision, hand strength, grasp development, tool use, and scissor skills and Make a Toilet Paper Roll Yoda.
  • Address tripod grasp, neat precision grasp, separation of the sides of the hand, open thumb web space, eye hand coordination, and visual motor skills with this Star Wars Day Perler Bead Pattern.

Star Wars Handwriting

Use the light saber spacing tool above with these Star Wars handwriting ideas in occupational therapy sessions:

  • Incorporate letter formation, copying skills, line use, spatial awareness, and handwriting legibility in a functional and meaningful Star Wars craft using this May the Fourth Be With You Card.
  • Use these Star Wars Children’s Books to work on handwriting skills by asking kids to copy sentences from the books or to find specific letters in the book and then work on letter formation. They can even use the pictures as inspiration for creative writing with a Star Wars theme.

Star Wars Executive Function Ideas

All of the crafts and activities above involve aspects of executive functioning skills. Making a play dough or slime recipe involves planning, prioritization, and other EF skill work. Try this activity with your star Wars theme to add more executive function work to your occupational therapy session:

  • Make stop action creations and work on planning, prioritization, impulse control, task completion and other executive functioning skills. You’ll find inspiration in this  Star Wars stop action activity.  

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.

Beaded Feather Fine Motor Activity

beaded feathers fine motor activity

This beaded feather activity is a fine motor task that we created YEARS ago. WE love it because beads and feathers are common craft materials found in many pediatric occupational therapy professionals’ therapy toolbox. In fact OTs love crafts as a fine motor strategy and this feather bead activity is a powerhouse!

Beaded Feather Activity

If you need a quick and easy little activity for the kids while you are making dinner, or just something fun for the kids to keep practice a few fine motor skills, then this is a great activity for you.  Simple to set up and easy to clean up, this one will get those little muscles going and moving with fine motor dexterity!
 


Beading with feathers

This activity works on several grasps, color awareness, counting, sorting, visual scanning, and eye-hand-coordination.  How can you beat such an easy activity with so many benefits??  

 

 
Fine motor activity for kids using beads and feathers.
 
 
 
This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
 
You’ll need just two craft materials for this fine motor activity:
 

 

 

 
 
Preschoolers and Toddlers can match beads to feathers to learn colors.
 
Get your feathers and some coordinating beads and lay them out on the table.  I started a few feathers to show the kids what we were doing and had the invitation to start ready to go. 
 
They came over to check it out and would bead a bit here and there throughout the day.  It was kind of like a therapeutic little break from bouncing off of couch cushions and each other. 
 
Their little bodies needed a chance to slow down and re-group before getting back into the routine of regularly scheduled chaos.
 
But maybe that’s just my kids?
  
Sorting colored beads to match colored feathers is a fun way to learn colors.

 

Pincer Grasp Activity With Beads and Feathers

You could also put out a big old tray of all kinds of beads with different colors, shapes, sizes to work with. 
 
This slightly makes the activity just a little more difficult as the child has to visually scan for the colors needed and pick out the beads that they want with a neat pincer grasp
 
Using the tips of the index finger and the thumb in a precision grasp to manipulate beads from a big tray of colors is great for eye-hand coordination
 
Want more ideas to work on neat pincer grasp or eye hand coordination?  We’ve got plenty!
 
Threading colored beads on feathers is a great way for prechoolers and toddlers to work on colors and fine motor skills.

 

Beading Feathers Bilateral Coordination Activity

Holding the feather and the beads requires two hands to work together in a coordinated way (bilateral hand coordination). 
 
This is a great way to practice pre-writing skills and those requirements needed for self- care like managing buttons, zippers, shoe-tying, and scissor skills.
 
Beads and feathers are a fun way to practice colors and fine motor skills with kids.

 

Bead Feathers to learn colors


Younger children (Baby Girl is just getting this!)  can learn colors and practice naming colors as they pick out the beads and match to the color of the feather. 

How many other ways can you think of to make this a learning opportunity? 

Patterns, sorting, counting…this is a fun learning op and a great way to get those little hands moving!


                                Kids can work on fine motor skills and color matching awareness while beading feathers.

 

Fine motor activity for kids using beads and feathers.
 
 
More Fine Motor activities you will love:
 
 

 

The beaded feather activity and the other fine motor tasks listed above are a great addition to our popular Fine Motor Kits:

Use these Fine Motor Kits for hands-on activity kits to develop fine motor skills, strength, dexterity, and manipulation. Kids LOVE these fine motor kits for the motivating activities. Therapists love them because it’s fresh, fun ways to work on pinch, grip, manipulation skills, and much more. Try some of these themed therapy kits:

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.

Cotton Swab Painting for Spring

Spring themed cotton bud painting worksheets

There are signs of Spring everywhere, and this Spring Cotton Swab Painting is one of them!  This spring themed Cotton Swab Painting activity will get you in the mood to change things up a bit, while developing important skills. This is a powerhouse Spring occupational therapy activity that builds many developmental areas through art.

Spring themed cotton swab art to build fine motor skills

Cotton swab painting

Before diving deep into the why and how of cotton swab painting, let’s talk about cotton swabs (formerly known as Q-Tips) first:

  • They are great disposable tools to use when germs are a concern
  • Your learner is only going to gag themselves once with it, before learning a valuable lesson
  • If you learner is sticking it in their nose, eye, or anywhere else it does not belong, they need extra supervision
  • Sustainability a concern?  Last Swab makes (Amazon affiliate link) REUSABLE cotton swabs!  Check it out! In the FAQ it says these are appropriate for art projects
  • Cotton swabs come in different colors, sizes, shapes, varieties for pure enjoyment purposes, or to develop different skills

Cotton Swab Art and Fine Motor

In doing research on the connection between math and fine motor skills, the data suggests fine motor precision is just as important as visual motor skills. 

Being able to cut on a line is not enough. An advanced learner needs to be able to cut intricate shapes. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning is at the forefront of education.

These specific subjects require fine motor skills beyond basic cutting, writing, and coloring. This post on Using Everyday Items to Build a Tripod Grasp is helpful and informative.

The Spring cotton swab painting worksheet available at the bottom of this blog post develops fine motor skills while honing in on precision.  

Not only do learners need to develop command over the cotton swab, they need to be able to precisely mark it into the correct circular space.  This does not rule out less advanced learners. 

There is much to be gained from this task, without being able to make the dots in the correct places.

There are too many skills to count that are developed using just this one task. 

The benefits of cotton swab art in therapy to develop skills include:

  • Kinesthetic awareness – This means learning by doing. What better way to practice fine motor precision than with cotton swab painting!
  • Hand strength and dexterity – Dotting within the borders builds hand muscles and develops muscle control. 
  • Visual motor skills –combining what is seen visually and what is produced motorically.  This takes coordination to be able to translate information from visual input to motor output. Being able to dot onto a designated spot is more than just making random marks on paper.
  • Visual Perception – scanning to find all the dots, and visual closure to understand that dotted lines will create something. 
  • Sequencing – will your learner do the dots in order? Will they go in a haphazard pattern all over the page?  There really isn’t a right way in this task, but learning sequencing will be important in higher level tasks such as math
  • Proprioception – pressure on paper, grip on cotton swab
  • Social/Executive Function – Following directions, turn taking, task completion, orienting to details, neatness, multi-tasking, attending to task, compliance, task completion, and impulse control can be addressed using this Spring Cotton Swab Painting PDF
  • Bilateral coordination – remembering to use their “helper hand” to hold the paper while painting.  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.

Remember, you can address all of these skills at once, or focus on one or two.  Some skills above will be addressed without your conscious knowledge, while other skills will be directly worked on. 

Using a cotton swab art activity for different levels

It is definitely possible to use a cotton swab art activity for various levels and skills. One single activity can be used with a whole therapy caseload, while meeting different skills, needs, and developmental levels.

How do I grade (make it easier/harder), change, or modify this task?  There are a million ways to use this cotton swab art in your treatment plans.  Below are just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Make this part of a larger lesson plan including gross motor, sensory, social, executive function, or other fine motor skills
  • Print in black and white or color for different levels of difficulty
  • Print on colored paper and use a hole punch to create this design
  • Talk about spring, clouds, flowers, seasons and more to further engage your learners
  • Enlarging the font may be necessary to beginning learners who need bigger space due to less accuracy
  • More or less prompting may be needed to grade the activity to make it easier or harder.
  • Add a sensory element by using a finger tip instead of a cotton bud. 
  • Use different types of paint or shaving cream for alternate types of learning
  • Work in pairs or in a small group to address problem solving, turn taking, and negotiation skills.
  • Make baked cotton swabs to work on developing fine motor skills.  I wonder if these can be used as watercolor paints?  This would eliminate some of the mess
  • Add glitter!  Glitter makes everything wonderful

The OT Toolbox has some great ideas for spring themes, fine motor precision, arts and crafts, treatment planning and more.  Start with this spring flower eye hand coordination activity.  What about more cotton swab activities?  Since you can buy these cotton buds in packs of thousands, you might as well use them in more than one activity.

Feeling overwhelmed?  Starting something new can feel intimidating. Some people are able to plow through their apprehension, while others get stuck.  Either way, the OT Toolbox has just what you need. 

An entire kit of Spring Fine Motor Activities!  This print-and-go Spring  fine motor kit includes no-prep fine motor activities to help kids develop functional grasp, dexterity, strength, and endurance. Use fun, Spring-themed, fine motor activities so you can help children develop strong fine motor skills in a digital world.

What does spring mean to you?  Embrace the new season and take a risk.  Get out of your comfort zone and push your learners to get out of theirs.

Free Cotton Swab Art Worksheets

Want to add this resource to your therapy toolbox so you can help kids thrive? Enter your email into the form below to access this printable tool.

This resource is just one of the many tools available in The OT Toolbox Member’s Club. Each month, members get instant access to downloadable activities, handouts, worksheets, and printable tools to support development. Members can log into their dashboard and access all of our free downloads in one place. Plus, you’ll find exclusive materials and premium level materials.

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FREE Spring Cotton Swab Worksheets

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    NOTE*The term, “learner” is used throughout this post for consistency. This information is relevant for students, patients, clients, preschoolers, kids/children of all ages and stages or whomever could benefit from these resources. The term “they” is used instead of he/she to be inclusive.

    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.