Fine Motor Play with Tissue Paper

Colorful tissue paper squares crumbled up and placed in two plastic water bottles. Text reads Crumbling paper activity and lists the fine motor benefits of crumbling paper.

Today we have a tissue paper crumpling activity (or paper crumbling!) that builds many fine motor skills, including hand strength. In this easy tissue paper fine motor activity, we are working on pinching and crumbling paper is an excellent fine motor exercise for children.  It is an activity that works the small muscles of the hand and really strengthens the arches of the hands

Colorful tissue paper squares crumbled up and placed in two plastic water bottles. Text reads Crumbling paper activity and lists the fine motor benefits of crumbling paper.

There are many fine motor benefits of crumpling paper into small pieces!

Paper Crumpling

Paper crumpling (or paper crumbling) is a great way to play with paper that builds fine motor skills in the hands.

If a child has weak muscles in their hands and the arches are not defined, you may see them holding a pencil or small items between their thumb and the side of their index finger.  The arches of their hand may not be defined and nice and round.  You may also see them holding their hands close to their chest as they attempt to gain stabilization of their arms to do the small motor task.

To really work those muscles, you could have your child first tear the bits of tissue paper before they crumble them up.

Defined arches are very important in shoe tying, handwriting, and managing clothing like buttons and snaps.

You can see how to incorporate tearing paper into this activity using the video below. Towards the end of the video, you’ll see ways to build fine motor strength and finger dexterity using crumbled paper pieces. The tissue paper squares that we are using in our activity today can be used like shown in the video for more finger strengthening exercises.

Working on fine motor skill development through play supports functional tasks, plus it’s fun!

Paper Crumpling Activity

We came up with this tissue paper crumbling activity many years ago, and it still stands as a great way to work on skills:

We’ve talked about the benefits of tearing paper before, and this activity expands on the skills a bit, because after you tear the tissue paper, you can have your student crumble the paper and then push it into the mouth of a water bottle.

While this is a really simple fine motor activity, it’s great because you build so many skills, and kids typically enjoy this simple task.

Tissue Paper Crumbling Activity

For this activity, you really can use items you have on hand. We used empty plastic water bottles, and colorful tissue paper squares.

  1. Cut tissue paper into small squares.
  2. Remove labels from plastic water bottles.

To increase the fine motor work, you could have the student rip pieces of the tissue paper to really increase grip strength work.

Ask the student to take one piece of tissue paper, and crumble it up with their finger tips.

Then, they should push the crumpled tissue paper into the empty water bottle.

You can make this activity a game by asking them to roll a dice and place that many squares of tissue paper into the bottle. Or you could have them sort colors by filling each water bottle with a single color.

 

plastic water bottles full of crumbled tissue paper and tissue paper squares on a table
 
This was an easy and fun little activity to throw together.
We have a bunch of little tissue paper squares in our craft supplies.  Put them next to a couple of empty plastic bottles, and the kids know what to do!
 
 
 
Pushing the tissue paper into the spout of the water bottle is great for encouraging a tripod grasp (using the thumb, index, and middle finger).
 
Holding the bottle with the non-dominant hand allows the child to work on their bilateral hand coordination (using both hands together in a coordinated manner…kids need this when they begin shoe tying and managing the zipper on their coat).
 
When you ask kids to crumble paper using just the tips of their fingers, you really isolate thumb IP joint flexion as they bend the tips of the fingers. This is needed for dexterity and precision skills in functional tasks such as writing with a pencil.
 
collage of child placing crumpled tissue paper into an empty plastic bottle, child holding plastic water bottle full of crumbled tissue paper, and water bottle and tissue paper squares
 
…And everyone loved the cool crunchy sound the bottle made when you squashed it!
 
Child holding a plastic water bottle full of  colorful tissue paper
 

 

There are so many ways to build skills with this simple tissue paper crumpling activity!

More fine motor fun…

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

Check out the seasonal Fine Motor Kits that kids love:

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

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

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

Toys to Improve Pencil Grasp

Pencil grasp toys

Have you ever used pencil grasp toys to support development of handwriting? 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 occupational therapy toys that target pencil grasp development. 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 by focusing on grasp pattern development through play!

Amazon affiliate links are included in this blog post. As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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. While not necessary…a functional grasp works, too…a tripod grasp is a term we’ve probably all heard described before.  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: (affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link) 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: (affiliate link) Lacing cards are a great way to encourage a tripod grasp.  This set of Lacing Shapes (affiliate link) 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: (affiliate link) Grasping pegs encourage a tripod grasp especially while pushing them into the holes of a peg board.  Here are homemade pegboard ideas and even a precision pegboard you can make using perler beads (see below).

This Lauri Tall-Stacker Pegs Building Set (affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link) from Perler.

Spike the Fine Motor Hedge Hog– (affiliate link) 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– (affiliate link) 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 intrinsic muscles 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 (affiliate link) from Learning Resources is a colorful way to encourage an open web space.  The vertical surface is perfect for encouraging an extended wrist.

Bead Sets: (affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link) 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: (affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link) 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:  (affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link) 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: (affiliate link) 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(affiliate link) 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 play dough 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: (affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link) 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:(affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link) from Melissa and Doug is a fun way to encourage hand strength and endurance for coloring and writing.

Geoboard Activities– (affiliate link) 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– (affiliate link) 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: (affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link) 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: (affiliate link) The Ker Plunk Game (affiliate link) 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-(affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link) 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

Printable List of Toys for Pencil Grasp

Want a printable copy of our therapist-recommended toys to support pencil grasp?

As therapy professionals, we LOVE to recommend therapy toys that build skills! This toy list is done for you so you don’t need to recreate the wheel.

Your therapy caseload will love these PENCIL GRASP toy recommendations. (There’s space on this handout for you to write in your own toy suggestions, to meet the client’s individual needs, too!)

Enter your email address into the form below. The OT Toolbox Member’s Club Members can access this handout inside the dashboard, under Educational Handouts. Just be sure to log into your account, first!

peg board building toy with text reading " pencil grasp toy"

Pencil Grasp Toy Giveaway

Today’s toy item is a (affiliate link) Peg Board Set.

As we discussed before with handwriting skills, children may strongly dislike working on their pencil grip if they struggle with handwriting. Therefore, activities need to be meaningful and motivating to keep the child engaged! With the Peg Board Building Set, children have the chance to be creative and build pegboard towers while also working on their pencil grasp without even realizing it! Grasping the pegs will encourage them to use a tripod grasp, especially when pushing them into the holes of the peg board! With 100 pegs in this set, the creations are endless!

Want to enter our Therapy Toys and Tools Giveaway for a chance to win a pencil grasp toy? Enter your email address into the form below. You’ll also get a free printable list of pencil grasp toys.

This giveaway runs from 12-5-23 through 12-5-23. A winner will be chosen on 12-6-2023.

Pencil Grasp Toy Giveaway

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    Enter all the giveaways here:

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

    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 with occupational therapy toys targeting bilateral skills that children can strengthen and develop this essential motor skill. Let’s dissect a few select toys that promote this skill.

    Amazon affiliate links are included in this blog post. As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases.

    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!

    Read about bilateral integration in the cross crawl exercise resource.

    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– (affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link) 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– (affiliate link) 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– (affiliate link) 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! Use our favorite zoom ball games to get started.

    Thumbs up is a bilateral coordination game for kids.

    Thumbs Up Game– (affiliate link) 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– (affiliate link) 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– (affiliate link) 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– (affiliate link) 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– (affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link) 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– (affiliate link) 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

    Amazon affiliate links are included below.

    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 

    Printable List of Toys for Bilateral Coordination

    Want a printable copy of our therapist-recommended toys to support bilateral coordination?

    As therapy professionals, we LOVE to recommend therapy toys that build skills! This toy list is done for you so you don’t need to recreate the wheel.

    Your therapy caseload will love these BILATERAL COORDINATION toy recommendations. (There’s space on this handout for you to write in your own toy suggestions, to meet the client’s individual needs, too!)

    Enter your email address into the form below. The OT Toolbox Member’s Club Members can access this handout inside the dashboard, under Educational Handouts. Just be sure to log into your account, first!

    Therapist-Recommended
    BILATERAL COORDINATION TOYS HANDOUT

      We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

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

      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. These occupational therapy toys support the development of precision, dexterity, hand strength, and coordination, through play. Let’s talk Fine Motor Toys!

      Amazon affiliate links are included in this blog post. As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases.

      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!

      One type of toy that is easy to start with when it comes to supporting fine motor skills is buckle toys. These soft toys with straps, buckles, and connectors are great for all ages.

      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. Toys like Tinker Toys and a Lite Brite toy are classic ideas to build skills. But, there are many ideas out there!

      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 (affiliate link)- 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– (affiliate link) 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:

      Pop Tubes are a fine motor toy that helps kids build hand strength.

      Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog(affiliate link) 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– (affiliate link) 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-(affiliate link) 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– (affiliate link) 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-(affiliate link) 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– (affiliate link) 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– (affiliate link) 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– (affiliate link) Using STEM toys to support fine motor skills is a powerful strategy. Read more about STEM fine motor activities.

      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:

      Affiliate links are included below.

      Hand Strength Toys

      Affiliate links are included below.

      Fine Motor Games

      Affiliate links are included below.

      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 

      PRINTABLE LIST OF TOYS FOR Fine Motor Skills

      Want a printable copy of our therapist-recommended toys to support fine motor skills?

      As therapy professionals, we LOVE to recommend therapy toys that build skills! This toy list is done for you so you don’t need to recreate the wheel.

      Your therapy caseload will love these FINE MOTOR toy recommendations. (There’s space on this handout for you to write in your own toy suggestions, to meet the client’s individual needs, too!)

      Enter your email address into the form below. The OT Toolbox Member’s Club Members can access this handout inside the dashboard, under Educational Handouts. Just be sure to log into your account, first!

      Therapist-Recommended
      FINE MOTOR TOYS HANDOUT

        We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

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

        Baking Soda Dough Snowman

        baking soda dough snowmen

        This post on baking soda cornstarch dough was originally written January 22, 2014 and updated November 18, 2023.

        Many years ago, we made this baking soda dough cornstarch recipe to make baking soda dough snowmen. It was a fun sensory play activity for Christmas, and one of the many Christmas occupational therapy activities that we love to do with kids to support tactile play and sensory touch. However, you could extend the play out to all of the winter months, along with our other Winter fine motor activities.

        Today I have something fun to share: baking soda cornstarch dough! We tried a baking soda dough recipe and used it to make snowman in a way to help kids strengthen fine motor skills and hand strength.

        Just playing with the baking soda cornstarch dough has so many benefits. Specifically, we’ve covered the fine motor benefits of play dough (and soda dough counts in that regard!)

        If you’ve been a follower of this website for long, you know that we are big fans of play dough, salt dough, clay…any dough is tops in our house! It’s a great way to build fine motor skills with a fun sensory dough activity.

        We’ve tried a lot of different recipes for different doughs and have our favorites, definitely.  We wanted to make some snowmen one day and tried a new (to us) recipe…Baking Soda Dough!    

        Baking soda dough and soda dough snowmen to help kids build fine motor skills.

        Baking Soda Cornstarch Clay

        Ingredients:

        • 1 cup baking soda
        • 1/2 cup cornstarch
        • 3/4 cup water

        Instructions to make Baking Soda Cornstarch Clay:

        1. In a medium-sized saucepan, whisk together the baking soda and cornstarch.
        2. Gradually add the water to the dry ingredients, stirring continuously to avoid lumps.
        3. Place the saucepan over medium heat and continue stirring the mixture. As it heats, the mixture will start to thicken.
        4. Keep stirring until the mixture reaches a clay-like consistency. It should pull away from the sides of the pan and form a soft, pliable dough.
        5. Once the desired consistency is reached, remove the saucepan from heat and allow the mixture to cool.
        6. Once the baking soda clay is cool enough to handle, transfer it to a clean surface and knead it for a few minutes to make it smooth and more pliable.

        Now, your baking soda clay is ready for sensory play! Children can use it to create shapes, textures, and engage in imaginative play. It’s a great way to promote fine motor skills and sensory exploration.

        If you’re using this recipe in an educational or therapeutic setting, you might consider incorporating elements that align with child development principles. For example, you could guide children to create shapes related to their fine motor skill development or use the clay to explore different textures for sensory input.

        Baking Soda Dough

        Add this activity to your snowman crafts and activities line-up or if you are using snowman in a therapy theme. More snowman activities can be found here:

        Snowman bilateral coordination activities– Our baking soda dough snowmen make a great addition to the snowman themed bilateral coordination activities shared in a previous post. Rolling, pinching, and manipulating baking soda dough supports bilateral coordination development.

        Snowman Fine Motor Craft– Add the baking soda snowmen to a fine motor theme when it comes to using snowmen in helping kids develop skills.

        Baking Soda Dough is the neatest stuff to play with.  This soda dough was soft and easy to mold into little snowmen.  Rolling the balls of dough with the hands is a powerful way to help kids develop hand strength.

        In fact, kids can improve intrinsic hand strength using dough by rolling small pieces with their fingertips. The kids loved playing and creating with our soda dough.  It was easy to roll little snowmen bodies and  so we made a bunch!   

        lump of baking soda dough on a blue plate

         We were inspired to make soda dough before Christmas when we made thumbprint reindeer ornaments for Christmas gifts to grandparents.  Jen over at Mama.Papa.Bubba. made these Baking Soda Clay Ornaments and we thought they were beyond adorable!  They made perfect little gifts from the kids. 

        It was an easy recipe to follow and perfect for little hands to mold, roll, and smash!  

        child's hands pressing lump of baking soda dough on a table

        We made these Soda Dough Snowmen one day when Little Nephew was over to play.  The toddlers were big fans of this dough!  They had so much fun making snowmen…we ended up making 12!

        child's hand rolling baking soda dough into a snowman

          Pinching, rolling, stacking…this was great fine motor play here!  Working the dough uses the small muscles of the hand (the intrinsic muscles) that are so important for small motor activities like button management and endurance in coloring and handwriting. 

        child's hand holding a ball of baking soda dough in the palm of their hand

        Once we had our family of snowmen, I put them on a cookie sheet and let them dry for two days.  At the end of two days, they were still a little soft, so I then threw them into the oven set at 150 degrees F.  I let them bake for about 2 hours and they seemed to be hardened up. 

        If you make snowmen like ours, keep an eye on them in the oven.  It will probably take longer if you bake them from the onset.   

        Our snowmen were hardened and ready for play and pretending. 

        Want more ways to boost fine motor skills with a snowman theme or winter theme? The Winter Fine Motor Kit is on sale now!

        winter fine motor kit

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

        More than ever, kids need the tools to help them build essential fine motor skills so they develop strong and dexterous hands so they can learn, hold & write with a pencil, and play.

        This 100 page no-prep packet includes everything you need to guide fine motor skills in face-to-face AND virtual learning. Includes winter themed activities for hand strength, pinch and grip, dexterity, eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, endurance, finger isolation, and more. 

        Click here to grab the Winter Fine Motor Kit!

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

         

        Fall Fine Motor Worksheets

        Fall fine motor worksheets

        If working on developing fine motor skills this Fall is something you’re focusing on, these Fall fine motor worksheets are the way to go. Add these printable clip cards use clothes pins or paper clips to develop hand and finger dexterity and grip and pinch strength to a Fall theme. Use these Fall leaves clip cards to several of our favorite Fall fine motor activities for developing hand strength, pinch, grip, and dexterity in the hands.

        You’ll love to add these Fall worksheets to more Fall fine motor activities!

        Free Fall fine motor worksheets for developing fine motor strength with a Fall leaves theme.

        Fall Fine Motor Worksheets

        These fall fine motor worksheets are clip cards that combine a print and play activity.

        It’s easy to set up this Fall fine motor worksheet into an interactive, and hands-on fine motor activity:

        1. Just print out the Fall leaves worksheets.
        2. Then laminate or use as a paper form. Cut out each circle.
        3. Then, kids can clip clothes pins or paper clips onto each circle as they count and match clips to the Fall leaves on the cards.

        Why Use Fall Fine Motor Tasks Like this one?

        This activity is a powerful hands-on activity because it builds skills in many areas. Clipping clothes pins to paper or cards like this Fall themed activity develops several skill areas:

        Plus, pinching clothes pins onto paper is a tool to improve several areas:

        • tone in the hands/arch development
        • increase stability in the thumb and fingers
        • develop and define arches of the hands
        • improve precision with in-hand manipulation
        • improve endurance in hand strength
        • address hand separation into a fine motor side and a power side
        • Separation of the two sides of the hand allow for more precise use of the thumb. Hand separation starts when a baby bears weight through their arm and ulnar side of the hand while carrying a toy in the radial side. This simple activity developmentally lengthens the muscles of the ulnar side.
        • Intrinsic strength-The intrinsic muscles are the muscles in the hand that define the arches of the hands, bend the knuckles, and oppose with the thumbs.
        • Arch development: Arch support in the hand is related closely to the separation of the sides of the hand. Refinement of fine motor skills in the hand (the radial side) happens when the power half (the ulnar side) is stabilized.

        When kids hold the circle card, they use their non-dominant hand to hold the card, and can use their dominant hand to clip clothes pins onto the cards. Kids can count the number of leaves on each card and attach the same number of clothes pins.

        It’s a great activity that is fun and motivating without being rote finger strengthening exercises.

        A functional fine motor grasp and manipulation of objects is more accurate when the ring and pinky fingers are flexed (bent) into the palm. This positioning stabilizes the MCP arch and allows for control of the pointer and middle fingers.

        You can use this as an intervention when working on manual dexterity goals, too.

        This repeated clipping task combines heavy work proprioceptive input through the hands and develops refined strengthening of the arches of the hands. All of this occurs while children count and combine fine motor skills with math.

        It’s a great Fall preschool activity or a Fall kindergarten math center where kids are combining math with fine motor skills…and a Fall theme!

        Be sure to find out more information on development and when this type of activity is appropriate by reading about fine motor milestones.

        Free Fall Worksheets

        Want to add these Fall fine motor worksheet clip cards to your therapy toolbox? Enter your email address into the form below. You’ll receive these fine motor math worksheets in your inbox!

        Fall Fine Motor Clip Cards

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

          Finger Dexterity Exercises

          Hand holding coins by the fingertips and dropping one at a time into a stack of coins. Text reads "finger dexterity"

          Fine motor skills are a complex thing, but one thing that plays a major role in fine motor coordination is finger dexterity. The precision movements and endurance in small motor activities is driven by the ability to maneuver fingers and isolate the joints in holding and manipulating small objects. Let’s explore the role of manual dexterity in fine motor skills.

          The finger dexterity activities and exercises in this post can be used along with manual dexterity goals to support functional tasks.

          finger dexterity

          Fine Motor Dexterity

          Fine Motor Skills in kids are so important for independence in self care tasks.  Children need to develop the ability to manipulate their fingers in a coordinated manner in order to skillfully maneuver buttons, zippers, shoe laces, pencils…and the tools of learning and play…TOYS! 

          Dexterous movements are used in everyday activities throughout our day.

          What is finger dexterity?

          Finger dexterity refers to the ability to use coordination and manipulation of objects in the hands with precision. Dexterous motor skills can be broken down into areas: grasp and release, coordination with in the hand (in-hand manipulation), and proprioception (knowing how much effort is needed to manipulate objects without dropping them). There are many other contributions that impact finger dexterity and we list these below.

          Together, these precision skills enable us to pick up an object with the right amount of pressure and motor dexterity so you can grasp the object accurately taking eye-hand coordination skills into consideration.

          After grasping the object without overshooting or missing the item, it is necessary to position or rotate the object within the hand. Isolation of the joints of the fingers and thumb allow for precise movements and coordination when manipulating objects in functional tasks.

          The nine hole peg test is a good way to assess for finger dexterity.

           

          Finger Dexterity Examples

           
          Fine motor dexterity also looks like:
          • manipulating coins
          • picking up small beads
          • opening a tube of toothpaste
          • threading a needle
          • holding items in the palm of the hand and putting them down one at a time
          • crafts with small objects
          • peeling stickers off a page
          • opening or closing a clasp on a necklace
          • tying shoes
          • opening a bread tie
          • putting a pony tail holder in hair
          • braiding hair
          • maneuvering a pencil within the hand (rotating the pencil, erasing a small spot on the page)
          • turning a pencil in a handheld pencil sharpener
          • zippering– inserting a zipper into the zipper carriage
          • buttoning a shirt
          • lacing up shoes
          • stacking coins
          • holding playing cards in your hands
          • any other task that requires small motor tasks
           
           
          We’ve got lots of posts dedicated to fine motor skills.  Finger Dexterity is a necessary step in development of fine motor skills
           
           

           

           
          Kids will love to play this finger dexterity activity to work on fine motor skills.

           

          Skills needed for Finger Dexterity

          Children develop their hand skills from infancy. Hand strength develops from the time a small baby is placed in tummy time. You’ll start to see finger dexterity in action when a baby picks up cereal pieces using a pincer grasp.
           
          Finger dexterity requires components such as: 
           
          The terms that make up finger dexterity are explained in each of the blog posts in the list.
           
          There are developmental milestones for fine motor development that are necessary for independence each stage of childhood. When kids struggle with handwriting, manipulating small objects, hand fatigue in small motor tasks, finger dexterity and the underlying contributions should be considered.
           
          Children also need to demonstrate dexterity in order to manipulate objects.  They need to maneuver their fingers independently of one another (this is called finger isolation) and with separation of the two sides of the hand
           
          Without these skills, modifications or adjustments are often made by the child. We’ll cover more specifics about the relationship of finger dexterity and these components below.


          Finger Dexterity and Separation of the two sides of the hand

          When using the small muscles of the hands in dexterity tasks, one uses the side of the thumb-side of the hand. 
           
          The precision side of the hand is the thumb, pointer finger, and middle finger.  These are the fingers needed for dexterity tasks and fine motor skills. 
           
          The ring finger and pinkie finger are involved in providing stability during precision tasks.  When the index and thumb are involved in a small motor activity, the ring finger and pinkie finger are tucked into the palm and proved a support during handwriting and shoe tying
           
          They also provide power during grip and the force behind a gross grasp
           
          So when will you see the two sides of the hand separated during activities?? Tying shoes, pulling a zipper, fastening a button, and manipulating small pegs into a pegboard are some examples of separation of the two sides of the hand.


          Finger Dexterity and Finger Isolation

          Finger isolation is a key part of finer dexterity and begins when an infant begins to point at objects with one finger. 
           
          Using the fingers independent of one another is needed for tasks like turning a page in a book, typing, molding dough, sign language, and finger plays (“where is Thumbkin” and other fingerplay songs are great ways to practice finger isolation and dexterity!) 
           
          Kids can identify colors by playing this fine motor game.

           

          Finger dexterity Activity

           
          This finger strength exercise is actually a game, which makes it a great activity for developing precision in those little muscles of the hands, isolating fingers, and separating the two sides of the hand…all SO important in independence and play.
           
          Try this activity to work on separating the two sides of the hand with a fun activity for kids. 

          This post contains affiliate links.

          Our finger dexterity activity began with a little prep work.  We used acrylic paints to paint circles on the back of bubble wrap paper. 

          Kids will explore colors in this finger dexterity game.

           

          I painted the back side of large bubble wrap with different colors.   We let these dry (and it was slightly difficult to remain patient!!)

          Kids will love to play "Twister" in this fine motor exercise.

           

          Once our paints were dry, we got our fingers ready to play some finger dexterity games!  I had Little Guy get his fingers ready by making “legs”. 

          This is a great way to encourage use of the two sides of the hand.  He tucked his pinkie and ring fingers into the palm of his hand and got his pointer and middle finger busy as they “walked” around.

          Fun fine motor game for kids.

           

          We played a color matching game with the colored bubbles.  I called out a color and he had to “walk” his fingers to the color and pop the color.  He was working on color awareness at the same time as we practiced finger dexterity.

          kids can work on fine motor skills needed for independence in many tasks.

           

          As I called out different colors, he had to “walk” his fingers around to the different colors.  He really worked on those finger isolation skills as he searched for a bubble that was not yet popped. 

          Other ways to work on finger isolation and separation of the two sides of the hand include using small objects in manipulation like crafting pom poms.

          The index, middle finger, and thumb are needed to manipulate items in fine motor tasks. This activity is a great way to encourage dexterity in kids.

           

          Even Baby Girl wanted to get in on the fun!  This finger dexterity exercise is a great way to “warm up” the hands before a handwriting or typing task for older children. Using handwriting warm ups prepares the hands for tasks like writing with a pencil.

          When there is weakness in the small muscles of the hands, it is often times, difficult for children to write, color, or type with appropriate grasp and positioning of the fingers and wrist. 

          A dexterity exercise like this one is a fun way to play and get those muscles of the hand moving and strengthened in order to improve endurance and positioning.

          Manual Dexterity Activities

          Looking for more fun ways to practice manual dexterity of the fingers?  These are some fun games and activities you may want to try:

          Finger dexterity exercises

          Using the activities listed above are great ways to build fine motor skills. You can also improve manual dexterity with the following exercises:

          • Pinch putty or playdough 10 times, with 3 repetitions (find more reps in our theraputty exercises blog post)
          • Place pegs into a pegboard- time the student to see how many they can place in 30 seconds. Try to beat that time.
          • Hand gripper workouts to improve proximal stability
          • Stack 10 coins or game tokens into a pile. Then pick them up one at a time and place them into the palm of the hand
          • Deal a deck of cards
          • Creating a fine motor home exercise program
          • Using the exercises described in the Weekly Fine Motor Program
          • Finger aerobics shown in the video below.

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

          Check out the seasonal Fine Motor Kits that kids love:

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

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

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

          Halloween Math Activities

          Halloween math activities

          What if you could take the excitement and fun of Halloween and combine it with writing numbers, counting, and all things math? These Halloween math activities are a great way to use fine motor math with all that this time of year offers. We’ve shared Halloween occupational therapy activities before, but these ideas are designed to boost math through play! Spooky learning ideas, ghost math, pumpkin adding…there is a lot of fun to be had!  What a fun way to learn and play!  

          Halloween Math activities

          Halloween math activities are a fun way to build math skills leading up to Halloween!

          Halloween Math Activities

          We’ve included Halloween Math Activities to target a variety of skills:

          • fine motor math
          • pumpkin math
          • ghost counting
          • spider addition
          • scarecrow place value activity

          However, we wanted to share a few other ideas that support math skills…

          Combine these activities with a group therapy session, push in therapy, or even a Classroom Halloween party for building skills AND learning this month.

          Gather a few items for Halloween math…

          • pumpkin seeds
          • Halloween mini erasers
          • mini plastic pumpkins or cauldrons
          • tongs, tweezers, etc.
          • candy corn
          • spider rings
          • bat stickers
          • glow in the dark stars
          • candy wrappers
          • monster eyes (googly eyes)

          Each of these items can be used to count, do math, use in number lines, fraction activities, and much more.

          Fine Motor Halloween Math

          There is much research telling us that fine motor skills predict math skills in kids, so why not add the fun of Halloween with fine motor activities? Studies show that motor skills are significantly related to their mathematical ability.

          Here are Halloween fine motor activities that double as math activities for counting, sorting, patterns, and more.

          Halloween math activities to work on addition, subtraction, fact families, near doubles, and other math skills with a Halloween theme.

          Pumpkin Math

          In this fine motor pumpkin sticker activity, we made our own pumpkin stickers, and used them in a Halloween literacy activity. But, they are perfect pumpkins for math skills too. Use the small pumpkins to count, add, work on place value, and to sort into arrays for multiplication and division.

          This is a great Halloween math activity for pushing into the classroom or to use in home occupational therapy via OT teletherapy sessions. Kids will need only three materials:

          • Orange construction paper
          • Hole puncher
          • Pencil or marker

          Ask kids to use the hole punch to punch orange circles onto their desk surface. They can use their pencil or marker to add a small stem to each pumpkin. Then, it’s time to sort, count, add, subtract, and arrange into piles of ten.

          fine motor pumpkin stickers to count and build motor skills for math

          Ghost Counting

          This ghost craft is one of my favorite Halloween crafts here on the site. Save up a handful of bread ties and use them for math activities, sorting, counting, and adding/subtracting. The cute spooky manipulative is fun and not scary!

          You’ll need just one material for this, but you can add them to any sensory tray like we did, using dry black beans:

          • White bread ties

          Slide them onto pipe cleaners to count and sort by groups for counting and multiplying.

          ghost counting activity

          Spider Addition

          Use this spider math craft to work on adding, subtracting, and fact families. You’ll need just a couple of materials:

          • Black construction paper
          • Scissors
          • White chalk, crayon, or colored pencil

          Make the spider by following the directions in the spider math craft tutorial and then work on the math skills that your child needs to address. We used the creepy crawly craft to work on near doubles, but you could use this for any math facts!

          Spider math craft

          Scarecrow Place Value Activity

          This scarecrow math activity is one way to work on place value math, but you could use it to build skills in understanding any addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division skills. Work on fact families, or writing numbers in different forms on each strand of the scarecrow’s hair. The options are pretty limitless! Be sure to check out the scarecrow craft tutorial for this activity.

          There are a lot of fine motor skills happening with this Halloween craft, too!

          scarecrow craft for a farm activities theme

          More Halloween Learning Activities

          Looking for more fun Halloween math activities? Check out the activities from other bloggers in the list below.

          halloween learning activities for preschool and toddlers. Math, science, literacy activities with a fall or Halloween theme.

          Here are more Halloween learning ideas that build skills, including monster math, candy corn counting, fall math, and more!

          Pumpkin Hunt Math– Make a Halloween scavenger hunt that adds visual memory, visual attention, and working memory skills. These are underlying skill areas that can impact math.

          Monster Math is a fun math and fine motor activity. I love counting googly eyes to match the number of dots on a monster, especially because neat precision skills are needed to pick up small items like googly eyes in a craft activity.


          Candy Corn Literacy Games has some fun Halloween learning ideas, too. I love the candy corn cones that are a great tool for gross motor work like balance, coordination, and other motor planning tasks.


          Pumpkin Name Game uses mini pumpkins to work on letter recognition and skills like visual figure ground, visual discrimination, and visual memory. These are great tools to have in your toolbelt when it comes to math and reading.


          Candy Corn Math is a fun Halloween math activity that works on visual attention and visual memory skills. Plus, occupational therapy practitioners LOVE using puzzles in OT sessions for all of the visual perceptual skills that impact learning.


          Fall Counting Activities involves hands-on one-to-one correspondence with a fine motor math component. There are so many ways to expand this activity to build sensory motor skills needed for writing with a pencil.


          Fall Tree Number Matching builds the visual perceptual skills needed for number recognition with a fun Halloween or Fall theme.

          fun Halloween math activities

          Fun Halloween math activities don’t need to involve a themed worksheet! You can definitely support the underlying skills needed for math, using a pencil to complete math problems, and the visual perceptual skills that impact math skills with learning.

          Use manipulatives like:

          • pumpkin mini erasers
          • pumpkin seeds
          • candies
          • small Halloween pumpkins to sort and count
          • pumpkin or Halloween play dough mats

          All of these items can be used to work on fine motor math skills with a fun Halloween theme!

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

          Pumpkin activity kit
          Pumpkin Fine Motor Kit

          Grab the Pumpkin Fine Motor Kit for more coloring, cutting, and eye-hand coordination activities with a Pumpkin theme! It includes:

          • 7 digital products that can be used any time of year- has a “pumpkins” theme
          • 5 pumpkin scissor skills cutting strips
          • Pumpkin scissor skills shapes- use in sensory bins, math, sorting, pattern activities
          • 2 pumpkin visual perception mazes with writing activity
          • Pumpkin “I Spy” sheet – color in the outline shapes to build pencil control and fine motor strength
          • Pumpkin Lacing cards – print, color, and hole punch to build bilateral coordination skills
          • 2 Pumpkin theme handwriting pages – single and double rule bold lined paper for handwriting practice

          Work on underlying fine motor and visual motor integration skills so you can help students excel in handwriting, learning, and motor skill development.

          You can grab this Pumpkin Fine Motor kit for just $6!

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

          Tracing Letters with Chalk

          chalk lines overlapping to make letter z in several colors of chalk. Text reads "chalk tracing"

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

          tracing letters with chalk

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

          Tracing Letters with Chalk

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

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

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

          Some things to consider with tracing with chalk

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

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

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

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

          Rainbow Writing with chalk

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

          Using chalk to practice letters supports development by adding proprioceptive input through the core, strengthens the shoulder girdle for adding more stability for writing, as well as adding strength and stability to the wrist. It’s also a great way to focus on wrist range of motion exercises in a fun way.

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

          Chalk Rainbow Writing

          This chalk tracing activity was a lot of fun.

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

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

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

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

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

           

           
           
           

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

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

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

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

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

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

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