Spring Fine Motor Activities

Spring fine motor activities

Looking for Spring Fine Motor Activities to do with the kids this time of year? This is the space to find creative activities and ideas to promote fine motor skills like hand strength, dexterity, open thumb web space, arch development, and the precision grasp needed for functional tasks like pencil grasp, endurance in handwriting, scissor use, clothing fastener use, the ability to open containers, type with finger isolation, and every other fine motor task you can imagine!

For more ideas, grab our free April occupational therapy calendar to get your ideas started with therapy planning and building those motor skills!

The best thing about the Spring activities listed here are the use of everyday items, making therapy planning a breeze. Use some of these ideas in your Spring occupational therapy plans in the clinic or when coming up with a home program for your pediatric clients. It’s also a great way to sneak in fine motor work this time of year in a fun way!

 
These Spring fine motor activities are great to help kids develop hand strength, pencil grasp, grasp, and precision with bunny activities, flower activities, and other Spring theme ideas for kids.

Spring Fine Motor Activities

Other seasonal occupational therapy activities can be integrated with these sensory ideas. Include aspects of these Spring OT ideas to create a well-rounded lesson plan this time of year:

For a more exhaustive set of strategies, activities, and ideas, be sure to grab the Spring Fine Motor Kit (PLUS bonus kit which covers everything you need for Spring Break) that is on sale now for just $10. You’ll be loaded up on all kinds of tools that will last all season long.

 

Fine motor skills can be address through seasonal, Spring activities. Skills such as

One thing that makes a big difference in fine motor dexterity is addressing separation of the sides of the hand. This post explains more about motoric separation of the hand and here is another fun activity that really strengthens those muscles.

Quick Powerful Strategies to Build Fine Motor Skills 

Use a cootie catcher– When kids use a cootie catcher, they work on so many fine motor skills: scissor skills to cut the paper, finger isolation, hand strength, and bilateral coordination to fold the cootie catcher, eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, and separation of the sides of the hands, and arch development to use and manipulate the cootie catcher. This is a powerful fine motor tool! You can print off our Spring cootie catcher here (free download).
 
Sort and manipulate small objects- Holding a small item like crumbled paper, a bead, or mini-eraser helps refine motoric separation of the sides of the hand. Motoric Separation of the Two Sides of the Hand refers to using a precision side of the hand and a stabilizing side of the hand. This ability is needed for pencil grasp, managing buttons, shoe tying, threading a needle, buttoning, and so much more. 
 
Separation of the two sides of  two sides of the hand is important for tasks like holding a pencil while stabilizing the hand along the table, cutting with scissors, and managing coins, among other activities. 
 
Refinement of fine motor skills in the hand (the radial side) happens when the power half (the ulnar side) is stabilized.  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. 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. 
 

Try these quick Spring ideas to work fine motor skills:

  • Pick petals from leaves
  • Sort Spring mini-erasers into egg cartons
  • Crumble tissue paper to make tissue paper art
  • Tear small strips of paper and glue them to paper to build letters, spelling “SPRING”
Hand Dominance- Hand dominance in children is important for refining the skills needed to perform functional tasks.  While Toddlers begin to show a hand preference, a true hand dominance doesn’t typically develop until 2 to 3 1/2 years.  A toddler can show a hand preference, however hand usage is many times, experimented with during different activities throughout the Toddler and Preschool years.  There is typically variability in hand preference as toddlers and young preschoolers poke, pick up, throw, color, and play. 
 

These OT activities using tongs are great for developing and strengthening the arches of the hands for improved intrinsic strength.

In fact, the intrinsic muscles are the muscles in the hand that define the arches of the hands, bend the knuckles, and oppose with the thumbs. Activities like this intrinsic muscle strengthening activity can easily be replicated at home or in the therapy room.

Among these muscles are a group called the lumbricals. The lumbrical muscles have a job to bend (flex) the MCP joints and extend (straighten) the PIP and DIP joints. When the lumbricals are in action, the hand might look like it is holding a plate with the big knuckles bent and the fingers extended. Read more about strengthening the intrinsics here.

These are just a few examples of fine motor skills that are essential for functional development and effective manipulation of tools.  

Use tongs to help build fine motor skills with these Spring ideas:

  • Use tongs to color sort objects into baskets or bins
  • Use tweezers in a Spring sensory bin
  • Pick up items in a Spring obstacle course
  • Place colorful craft pom poms along a fine motor path on paper

These ideas are part of our Spring Week here on The OT Toolbox. Be sure to stop back each day this week to find more Spring occupational therapy activities and ideas to use all season long

Today is all about Spring Fine Motor Activities. Check the out below!

Spring Occupational Therapy Activities

Try some of these ideas to promote fine motor skills this Spring:

   This Easter activity for kids doubles as a scissor skills activity to build precision and accuracy with cutting with scissors.

 

For Spring crafts, start here with these cherry blossom crafts.

Use this cherry blossom activity to promote hand strength, precision, opening of the thumb web space, thumb stability, arch development and intrinsic muscle strength. Kids can make the cherry blossom activity, but also work on visual motor skills and patterns. Read more about this spring activity and how it promotes hand strength in so many ways.

Love cherry blossoms and want to go with a cherry blossom theme while boosting those fine motor skills? Try this Cherry Blossom Tree Craft and strengthen pinch, grip, arch development, separation of the sides of the hand, thumb stability, bilateral coordination, and other skills.

Perfect for the Spring season, this Easter activity builds the underlying skills needed for accuracy and precision with scissor skills.

 

Work on pincer grasp, hand strength, dexterity, and mobility with this robin craft. Kids will love feeding worms to the robins that they make from egg cartons. Best of all, it uses recycled materials and can be used over and over again!

Looking for tons of Spring craft ideas to last the whole season long? You’ll find loads of ideas from around the web!

 

Make flowers and use them to boost fine motor skills too with this fine motor flower craft!

This cupcake liner flower craft is a great (easy) craft idea to promote scissor skills. I love that it helps kids to work on precision when cutting with scissors and graded snips to stop at a specific point when cutting. This is a hard skill to master! Kids will love to see the flowers they create when cutting up to a point and then stopping the scissors to create the flower!

 

Another Spring fine motor activity that promotes scissor use is this butterfly craft. Kids can learn to cut curved lines and improve precision by cutting with a thinner material using cupcake liners to help with precision and accuracy. What a fun spring craft for kids!

Take a different spin on Spring activities and celebrate Earth Day by making crafts and activities using recycled materials. There’s something for everyone here…all while promoting fine motor skills!

Spring fine motor play dough activity

One easy way to work on hand strength is to create a Spring Play Dough Press Activity. Simply pull out the play dough and some Spring items like cookie cutters, flowers, feathers, small animal toys, and other Spring-themed items. Create a sensory table experience and press those items right into the play dough. Kids can hide items and find them again or match up the impressions to the toys. It’s a great way to strengthen the intrinsic muscles, promote endurance in the hands, and to do it with a Spring theme!

Spring sensory fine motor activity

This Spring Sensory Seek and Find Activity is an old one on the website, but it’s still a great way to promote fine motor skills like separation of the sides of the hand and finger isolation! It’s a good way to work on finger isolation and separation of the sides of the hand. Not to mention, moving the materials in the sensory bag around promotes hand strength, along with visual motor skills and visual perception. All you need is a plastic bag, clear hair gel, some food coloring, and Spring stickers!

Need some quick ideas to celebrate Easter? These bunny activities should spark some ideas!

Bunny tongs activity for fine motor skills

One of our favorite ways to work on fine motor skills this time of year is with our good, old bunny tongs. This Spring fine motor activity promotes the skills needed for scissor use, as well as hand strength, eye-hand coordination, and more. You should be able to find the bunny tongs at the dollar store this time of year!

Recycled art flower craft

Work on scissor skills with this Recycled Artwork Spring Flower craft. It’s a great way to use up that artwork that you don’t know what to do with, too!

 
These Spring fine motor activities are great to help kids develop hand strength, pencil grasp, grasp, and precision with bunny activities, flower activities, and other Spring theme ideas for kids.
 
 
 
 

Spring Fine Motor Kit

Score Fine Motor Tools and resources and help kids build the skills they need to thrive!

Developing hand strength, dexterity, dexterity, precision skills, and eye-hand coordination skills that kids need for holding and writing with a pencil, coloring, and manipulating small objects in every day task doesn’t need to be difficult. The Spring Fine Motor Kit includes 100 pages of fine motor activities, worksheets, crafts, and more:

Spring fine motor kit set of printable fine motor skills worksheets for kids.
  • Lacing cards
  • Sensory bin cards
  • Hole punch activities
  • Pencil control worksheets
  • Play dough mats
  • Write the Room cards
  • Modified paper
  • Sticker activities
  • MUCH MORE

Click here to add this resource set to your therapy toolbox.

Spring Fine Motor Kit
Spring Fine Motor Kit: TONS of resources and tools to build stronger hands.

Grab your copy of the Spring Fine Motor Kit and build coordination, strength, and endurance in fun and creative activities. Click here to add this resource set to your therapy toolbox.

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.

Pencil Pressure When Writing

If you’ve worked with kids teaching handwriting or fixing handwriting issues, they you probably have come across a common handwriting problem area…Pencil pressure when writing. Handwriting pressure can play a huge role in legibility, whether pressing too hard when writing or writing too lightly. 

Pencil Pressure in Handwriting

Some kids press too hard on the pencil. They may press so hard on the pencil that the pencil tears the paper when they write. When they try to erase, there are smudges that never really go away.

Other students use too little force when writing. Or, you might see pencil pressure that is so light that you can’t discern letters from one another.

Either way, pencil pressure plays a big part in handwriting legibility.

Here are tips for pressing too hard when writing…and tips for helping kids write darker. Scroll down for everything you need to know about writing with that “just write” pencil pressure…Typo intended  🙂

These writing tips are great for kids that press too hard when writing or write too lightly.

 

Pencil Pressure with Writing

Learning to write is a complex task.  Choosing a hand to hold the pencil with, pencil grasp, managing the paper with the assisting hand, sitting up straight.

And then there is the physical task of marking letters: letter formation, line awareness, letter size… this is multi-level functioning for a child!  

Yet another aspect to consider is the pressure one exerts on the paper when writing.  Press too lightly and the words are barely able to be seen.  Press too hard, and the letters are very dark, the pencil point breaks, lines are smudged, and when mistakes are erased, they don’t really erase all the way, the paper tears, and frustration ensues!  

Sometimes, when it comes to pencil pressure, simply helping kids become aware that they are writing too lightly or writing with too much pressure can make a big difference. Here is one simple activity to work on pencil pressure. All you need is a sheet of foam crafting paper. 

Pencil pressure is dependent on proprioception, one of the sensory systems.  With October being Sensory Processing Awareness month, this is the perfect time to talk sensory and handwriting!
 
As an occupational therapist in the school setting, I’ve come across many school-aged children showing difficulty with pencil pressure.  There are reasons for these dark pencil marks and some tips and tools for helping with this handwriting difficulty. 

 

 
Tips and tools for kids who write with too much pressure in handwriting.  Does your child write or color so hard that the pencil breaks?  Writing too hard makes handwriting difficult to read and effectively write.
 
 
 
This post contains affiliate links.  

 

Proprioception and Handwriting


The proprioceptive system receives input from the muscles and joints about body position, weight, pressure, stretch, movement and changes in position in space.  Our bodies are able to grade and coordinate movements based on the way muscles move, stretch, and contract. 

Proprioception allows us to apply more or less pressure and force in a task. Instinctively, we know that lifting a feather requires very little pressure and effort, while moving a large backpack requires more work.  

We are able to coordinate our movements effectively to manage our day’s activities with the proprioceptive system.  The brain also must coordinate input about gravity, movement, and balance involving the vestibular system.


When we write, the pencil is held with the index finger, middle finger, and thumb, and supported by the ring and pinkie finger as the hand moves across a page.  

A functioning proprioceptive system allows us to move the small muscles of the hand to move the pencil in fluid movements and with “just right” pressure.  

We are able to mark lines on the paper, erase mistakes, move the paper with our supporting arm, turn pages in a notebook fluidly, and keep the paper in one piece.

Heavy Pencil Pressure

When students press too hard on the pencil, handwriting suffers. Sometimes, children hold their pencil very tightly. Other times, they are seeking sensory feedback.  You’ll see some common signs of heavy pencil pressure:

  • They press so hard on the paper, that lines are very dark when writing.  
  • The pencil point breaks.  
  • When erasing, the pencil marks don’t completely erase, and the paper is torn.  
  • The non-dominant, assisting hand moves the paper so roughly that the paper crumbles.  
  • When turning pages in a notebook, the pages tear or crumble.
  • Movements are not fluid or efficient. 
  • Handwriting takes so much effort, that the child becomes fatigued, frustrated, and sore.  
  • It may take so much effort to write a single word, that handwriting is slow and difficult. 

All of these signs of heavy pencil pressure are red flags for pencil pressure issues. They are not functional handwriting

Below, we’ll cover ways to reduce  pencil pressure? 

Writing Pressure: Too Light

The other side of the coin is pencil pressure that is too light.

Writing with too little pencil pressure is another form of non-functional handwriting. Some signs of too little pencil pressure include:

  • Kids may write so lightly that you can’t read the overall writing sample.
  • You can’t discern between certain letters.
  • The writing pressure is just so light that the child’s hand or sleeve smudges the pencil lines and the writing sample is totally not functional or legible.
  • The student starts out writing at a legible pencil pressure, but with hand fatigue, the writing gets lighter and lighter.

All of these signs of too light pencil pressure and too much force when writing can be addressed with some simple tips. Working on proprioceptive input and hand strengthening can help with too light pencil pressure. Try some of the writing tips listed below.

Pencil pressure and Messy handwriting

Messy handwriting can be contributed to many factors.  Decreased hand strength, Visual motor difficulty, motor planning issues, visual memory difficulties, or impaired proprioception. 

Difficulty with grading the movements required in drawing or making letters in a coordinated way may present as messy, smudged, illegible handwriting.
 

Writing Tips for Pencil Pressure

Bringing the writer aware of what’s occurring is one way to support pencil pressure issues. Proprioceptive activities allow the muscles to “wake up” with heavy pressure.

Moving against resistance by pushing or pulling gives the muscles and joints an opportunity to modulate pressure.  

Resistive activities before and during a handwriting task can be beneficial for children who press hard on the pencil. 

 

Pencil Pressure Activities:

Some of these pencil pressure activities are writing strategies to help kids become more aware of the amount of pressure they are using when writing.

Others are tools for helping the hands with sensory needs. Still others are tools for strengthening the hands. Try some or a mixture of the following ideas to addressing handwriting needs.

  • Stress balls or fidget toys can help to strengthen pinch and grip strength. 
  • Use carbon paper or transfer paper to help kids become more aware of the amount of pressure they are exerting through the pencil when writing. Here is some easy ways to use a Dollar Store find to use carbon paper to work on handwriting
  • resistive bands- Use these as an arm warm-up to “wake up” the muscles of the whole upper body. They are great for positioning warm ups too. 
  • theraputty with graded amount of resistance (speak to a license occupational therapist about the amount of resistance needed for your child. An individual evaluation and recommendations will be needed for your child’s specific strengths/needs). 
  • Gross grasp activities- These activities can be a big help in adjusting the grasp on the pencil, helping the hands with sensory input and strengthening the hands to help with endurance when writing. 
  • Some children will benefit from using a liquid gel pen for fluid handwriting marks. The gel ink will provide feedback when gobs of ink are dispensed when writing too hard.
  • Still others will benefit from a gel pen, marker, or using a dry erase marker on a dry erase board. This can be beneficial as a tool for teaching about pencil pressure or as an accommodation for those writing too lightly.
  • Pencil Weights or Weighted Pencils- Weighted pencils can be helpful in providing sensory feedback through the hands.
  • A vibrating pen provides sensory feedback to the fingers and hand and helps to keep children focused on the task. 
  • Practice handwriting by placing a sheet of paper over a piece of sandpaper. The resistance of the sandpaper is great heavy work for small muscles of the hand. 
  • Practice writing on a dry erase board with dry erase markers to work on consistent pencil pressure- Pressing too hard will make the marker lines wider and press down on the tip of the marker. Can the learner keep a consistent line with their writing or drawing?
  • Use a grease pencil- These pencils are commonly used to marking wood or used in construction. The lead of the pencil is very soft and can be a great alternative for those that press too hard on pencils.
  • Cheap eyeliner pencil- One cheap alternative to a grease pencil is using an inexpensive eye liner pencil from the dollar store. Get the kind that you sharpen with a turn sharpener (almost like a hand held pencil sharpener). Kids can use that pencil to draw lines and match the amount of pressure they are using. This is a good activity for those that press too hard when writing, too.
  • Practice Ghost Writing: Encourage the child to write very lightly on paper and then erase the words without leaving any marks. The adult can try to read the words after they’ve been erased. If the words are not able to be read, the writer wins the game. 
  • Hand exercises are a great way to “wake up” the hands before a handwriting task. Encourage the child to squeeze their hand into a fist as tight as he can. Then relax and stretch the hand and fingers. Repeat the exercise several times. Practice holding the pencil with the same type of tight and relaxed exercises Practice writing on tissue paper. A very light hand is needed to prevent tears. Discuss the amount of pressure needed for writing on the tissue paper. 
  • This will provide the child with awareness and words for the way they are holding the pencil. 
  • Wrap a bit of play dough or putty around the pencil as a grip. Encourage the child to hold the pencil with a grasp that does not press deeply into the dough. Encourage using a “just right” pressure. 
  • Provide terms for they way they write. Encourage “just right” writing and not “too hard” or “too soft” marks. 
  • Use a lead pencil to color in a small picture, using light gray, medium gray, and dark gray. Talk about how using different amounts of pressure changes the shade of gray. 
  • Instead of writing on a notebook, pull a single sheet from the pages and place on a hard table or desk surface. The firm surface will limit the amount of pressure. You can also slip a clipboard between pages of a notebook to provide that hard surface, if sheets must remain in a notebook.
 
Help kids with pencil pressure and handwriting problems with these writing tips to work on heavy pencil pressure or writing too light.

Need more tips and tools for addressing handwriting needs? Be sure to check out all of our handwriting activities here on The OT Toolbox.

More Handwriting Tips

For a comprehensive resource on handwriting, check out The Handwriting Book. This e-book was written by pediatric occupational therapists and physical therapists who focus on function and take a developmental look at handwriting.

In The Handwriting Book, you’ll find practical suggestions to meet all needs that arise with messy or sloppy handwriting. The developmental-based approach to teaching handwriting focuses on strategies to support common issues with written work.

Click here for more information on The Handwriting Book.

The handwriting Book

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.

Play Dough Recipe Without Cream of Tartar

playdough without cream of tartar

If you’ve been following this site over the years, you’ve seen many of our play dough recipes, one of them being this play dough recipe without cream of tartar. This easy play dough recipe is one that kids can help to make, and to use in occupational therapy interventions. Read more on how play dough benefits child development, and making the play dough is half of the fun!

Use this homemade play dough without cream of tartar to work on fine motor skills, executive function, cognitive development, and more.

Homemade Play Dough without cream of tartar

Homemade play dough is a childhood staple. When kids are part of the playdough making process, they are active in the kitchen and can incorporate many executive functioning tasks as well as other skill-building.

But most homemade play dough recipes include cream of tartar as an ingredient. However, purchasing this ingredient is just expensive, and there really aren’t many common uses for cream of tartar except in the playdough recipes.

So, we decided to do some experimentation and come up with a play dough recipe that omits cream of tartar.

Our recipe uses a common ingredent that is inexpensive, but also can be used in other kitchen recipes. So, when you purchase this ingredient, you can use it for other recipes as well, making the purchase a good buying decision.

So? What is our substitute for cream of tartar in homemade playdough?

Lemon juice!

Lemon juice makes a great substitute for cream of tartar in homemade play dough recipes because it’s an easy to find ingredient in most stores and you can use it in so many other recipes. Plus, the lemon juice adds pliability to the play dough just like cream of tartar does.

why is play dough good for child development

Over the years, we’ve used many ingredients to make play dough as a sensory tool. These are all wonderful ways to incorporate various sensory input through sensory play.

One of our most popular playdough recipes is our crayon play dough recipe. But other homemade dough recipes you’ll love include:

All of these various doughs offer sensory experiences through play, using different scents and textures. We’ve strived to create sensory tools through easily accessible and inexpensive materials, mainly using ingredients that are on hand in the kitchen.

When sensory and fine motor play is easily accessible, kids develop skills!

And, playdough is a great tool for developing math skills, too.

Making homemade play dough is a great occupational therapy activity for the clinic, school-based session, or a home recommendation to carryover skills in a family time activity.

Play dough and hand strength

Play dough is a fantastic easy and inexpensive tool to work on hand strength and pinch strength. We previously covered over 30 ways to improve fine motor skills with play dough.

These are great ways to use playdough can be used as a warm up activity or to incorporate palm strengthening exercises into therapy through play.

Another aspect of homemade playdough and fine motor skills includes the mixing and kneading aspects. Pouring, scooping, stirring, and kneading are all very functional tasks that

Whether you are developing fine motor skills, addressing cognitive skills like direction following, or incorporating sensory play into occupational therapy interventions, a simple homemade play dough is the way to go. Play dough has many benefits and there are many ways to use a simple dough recipe into therapy.

Playing with playdough improves fine motor skills such as:

  • Pinch strength
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Intrinsic muscle strengthening
  • Separation of the sides of the hand
  • Pincer grasp
  • Opposition
  • Tripod grasp
  • Wrist extension
  • Bilateral coordination

All of this occurs through play!

Try these fine motor activities using play dough:

  1. This homemade play dough recipe is great for easy play dough activities like our play dough snakes.
  2. Match colored paper clips with play dough. This is a great pincer grasp, tripod grasp, and separation of the sides of the hand activity.
  3. Improve thumb opposition and address a thumb wrap pencil grasp using play dough and beads in this thumb IP joint activity.
  4. Explore all of the fine motor play dough activities.
ice cream play dough mat

Grab our free play dough mats available here on the website (or log into your Member’s Club dashboard to grab these in an instant download).

play dough and cognitive development

Play dough can be a great cognitive skill tool, too.

Play dough is a multi-step task. It involves following a recipe, following directions, planning, prioritization, impulse control, working memory, and other executive functioning skills.

Play dough is a great way to develop executive functioning skills while cooking.

Kids can work on safety skills while working in the kitchen to prepare this recipe. There is the heat of the play dough after cooking, and stove safety to consider.

Some users would benefit from using a stove to make the playdough and others may benefit by using an electric skillet in place of the stove.

So, let’s get to the recipe making with our play dough recipe (without cream of tartar)!

Playdough without cream of tartar

To make this playdough without cream of tartar, first gather your ingredients, cooking items, and get started.

You’ll need just a few ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cup salt
  • 3 and 1/4 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp oil
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • food coloring

How to make playdough without cream of tartar:

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl, using a fork to stir. Add the water, oil, and lemon juice and stir until the dough pulls together. Move the wet playdough lump to a sauce pan and cook over low heat for 3-4 minutes until the dough forms. 

Plop the dough onto a clean surface and knead for a few minutes. 

Separate into portions and add food coloring.  Knead the dough to mix the food coloring. If you are making just one color of play dough, you can add the food coloring to the dough before cooking.

Many times, we want a variety of play dough colors, though, so mixing the food coloring in after the dough has been cooked is one way to get several colors of play dough.

Remember that the dough will be very hot to the touch after cooking. Use a dishtowel to mix the baggie so the color is absorbed throughout the dough.

Keep in covered containers/sealed plastic bags.  Dough does not need to be refrigerated.  

Playdough with cream of tartar

If you do have a jar of cream of tartar, use this play dough recipe:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cup salt
  • 3 and 1/4 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp oil
  • 2 Tbsp cream of tartar
  • food coloring

The same cooking process listed above can be used to make this dough recipe, using cream of tartar instead of lemon juice.

How to get Vivid Colors in Homemade PlayDough

Want the secret to really bold and vivid colors?  Use (Amazon affiliate link) Wilton’s gel food coloring.  I have a bunch of these that I use for my cookies, and Big Sister had fun picking out the colors she wanted to mix up.  

  A lot of times, you can find these color sets on clearance (plus add coupons) for a Great discount!

Little Guy had SO MUCH FUN playing with little straw pieces in the red play dough.   What a great

Fine Motor Activity for a three year old

This easy safe play dough recipe is great for toddlers and preschoolers, but also younger if closely watching young children.

We used the play dough recipe above, and some cut straw pieces to create a toddler-friendly play dough activity that builds fine motor skills.

Cut the straws into pieces. You can get preschoolers involved with this part of the activity for a scissor skills task.

 Then, show your toddler how to poke the straws into the play dough.

He played with this one for a long time…hiding the straw bits in the dough, poking circles, bending the bendable part of the straw… So much fun!   

Playdough Play Mats

Use this easy playdough recipe (without cream of tartar) with our playdough mats to add play dough as a handwriting warm-up and then incorporate handwriting skills!

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

Make a Play Dough Snake to Build Fine Motor Skills

play dough snakes

If you’ve ever played with Play Doh then you may have made a play dough snake. But did you ever stop and think about the various fine motor skills being developed with that simple play dough creature? Here we have a super simple and fun activity using play dough and rocks: Making play dough snakes! When you make a play dough snake so many skills are developed.

play dough snakes are an easy way to work on fine motor skills with kids.

Play Dough Snakes

We are big fans of play dough.  Adding in fun little extras (like making play dough snakes!) is a great way to keep it interesting, and get those fingers moving with fine motor work.  We shared a picture of this activity on Instagram and it was such a hit, that we had to share our play in a blog post!  We used regular play dough this time, but a batch of homemade play dough recipe would be perfect for this activity, too. 

The thing is that Play Doh snakes can be made with any type of play dough, homemade dough, slime, or even kinetic sand.

{This post contains affiliate links.  

Play Dough Snakes and Fine Motor Skills

Baby Girl loved this!!  I pulled out a few colors of play dough and a basket of  River Rocks.  She got started sorting, picking out her favorites, and pushing them into the play dough. 

I showed her how to roll a play dough snake to really work on those fine motor skills. 

By rolling a snake from playdough, so many fine motor skills are developed:

Pinching those play dough snakes and pressing the stones into the play dough really works the intrinsic muscles of the hand, and upper body strength.  It’s a fun way to practice tripod grasp, too.

How to Make a Play Dough Snake

To roll a play dough snake, all you need is a lump of play dough. Then, follow these directions to support fine motor skill development:

  1. Use both hands to roll play dough on the table surface. Both hands should work symmetrically together (bilateral coordination)
  2. As the play dough is rolled, it gets longer.
  3. Use varying amounts of pressure through the palms of the hands to make sure the play dough snake is even. (Graded pressure)
  4. As the playdough snake gets longer and thinner, use the finger tips to roll with more precision. (Precision skills)

Rolling a snake from play dough is a great way to strengthen the muscles of the hands, lengthen the muscles inside the hand (intrinsics), and work on grasp, and finger isolation.

Here is another way to work on intrinsic strength using play dough.

 I made a play dough snake and pressed rocks along the length.  Baby Girl watched and started making her own. 

More skills with Play Dough Snakes

After you’ve made a few snakes from play dough, you can continue the skill-building.

Freeze the play dough to make a stronger resistance. Freezing play dough for heavy work play is a great opportunity to challenge fine motor skills and add more resistive feedback through the hands.

Cut the Play Dough Snake- After you have a nice long ribbon of playdough created, use scissors to create marks along the length. Cut the play dough snake along those textured marks to work on scissor skills and visual motor skills. The play dough offers great feedback through the hands.

Add rocks to the play dough snake- Pushing the rocks into the play dough is a great fine motor proprioception activity.  This resistive activity really “wakes up” the small muscles in the hands.  What a great way to warm up the hands before a handwriting activity for older kids.  Proprioception activities like this one are a good way to calm and organize your child.  This activity would be a great addition to a Sensory Diet or a Sensory Lifestyle.  

We made our snakes into faces, too. I made a play dough face and Baby Girl was able to copy one to make her own.  We talked about all of the parts of the face.  Such a fun way to play and learn!

  After she made her play dough face, she made them talk to each other…”hi, how are you…” and conversation back and forth.  Language development is fun with play dough!

These cuties were best buds by the time we were done!

Let us know if you do this activity at your home or school. 

 

 
Create and explore proprioception with kids in this fine motor activity with play dough
 
 
 

 

More play dough ideas you may like:

 

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.

Valentine’s Day Occupational Therapy Activities

Here, you’ll find Valentine’s Day Occupational Therapy Activities that you can use this time of year to help kids develop skills. This is the time of year that red and pink hearts are everywhere, so why not use the theme of love and friendship in therapy interventions? Add these heart crafts, and love ideas to your therapy toolbox to work on things like fine motor skills, regulation, scissor skills, and more, all with a Valentine’s Day theme!

Use these valentine's day occupational therapy activities in therapy planning, classroom activites, and to work on skills like handwriting, fine motor skills, scissor skills and other developmental areas.

Valentine’s Day Occupational Therapy Activities

There are so many love and heart themed activities here on The OT Toolbox. Over the years, we’ve done a lot of fun activities that double as a skill building strategy. Check out these ideas and pick a few to add to your therapy line up and plans over the next few weeks. Some of these hear crafts and sensory ideas or games would make great additions to a Valentine’s Day party that builds skills, too!

Valentine’s Day Therapy Slide Decks

Working virtually? Use a done-for-you therapy slide deck. These are therapist-created and designed to meet the needs of a variety of levels of users. Adjust the slides and therapy activities to meet your needs and the needs of the learners you are working with.

If you are needing occupational therapy teletherapy resources, check out the hands-on Valentine’s Day activities below. They are great for February parties and therapy at home activities for this time of year, too.

Valentine’s Day Sensory Activities

From sensory bottles, to discovery activities, to heart painting and more, these sensory play activities can be a fun way to help kids develop skills through the senses. How can you use these Valentine’s Day occupational therapy activities in sessions or at home?

Valentines day sensory bottle for self regulation and sensory processing or visual processing

Valentine’s Day Sensory Bottle– Use this sensory bottle activity as a way to build fine motor skills while kids help to create the sensory bottle and add materials. Then use it in self-regulation, sensory processing needs as a calm down bottle. Sensory bottles are fantastic to work on visual processing skills like visual discrimination, figure-ground, and other visual perceptual skills.

Olive You Thumbprint CraftFingerprint art is a great way to work on finger isolation, an essential fine motor skill that kids need to manipulate items and improve pencil grasp. Here is more information on how fingerprint art improves fine motor skills. Add this artwork to a card or Valentine’s Day craft for fine motor fun.

Valentines Day play dough to build fine motor skills

Valentine’s Day Play Dough Activity Use a recycled chocolates box in a play dough activity that builds skills like strengthening of the intrinsic muscles and arches of the hands. This is a fun Valentine’s Day activity that can be used in classroom parties or in the therapy room to build skills.

Bilateral coordination activity for valentines day

Bilateral Coordination Heart Sensory Tray Use sand, rice, or other sensory bin material to create a bilateral coordination and visual motor activity for kids. They can work on eye-hand coordination, motor planning, and other skills. The point of the activity is to establish direction and orientation relative to the child’s body.  The movement activity addresses hand-eye coordination in different visual fields, promotes spatial awareness and visual discrimination, addresses left and right awareness, improves peripheral vision, promotes body awareness and coordination with specialization of the hands and eyes, and works on gross motor movement skills.

Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Activities

Try these Valentine’s Day fine motor activities in your occupational therapy interventions or home programs. The activities here are fun ways to help kids develop hand strength, dexterity, precision, grasp development, and motor control.

Be sure to check out the Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Kit. In the 25 activity printable kit, you’ll fine hands-on activities to build fine motor skills. Activities include coloring and cutting cards, pencil control sheets, heart crafts, Valentine’s Day write the room activities, hole punching exercises, and so much more. Grab the Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Kit here.

Visual perception activity and heart maze for valentines day

DIY Heart Maze- Look out visual motor skills…this heart maze is one you can make and print off for your whole caseload. Adjust the use according to your kiddos. Children can place objects like paper hearts, mini erasers, etc. on the hearts in the maze to double down on fine motor work, or color in the hearts to work on pencil control. This maze is a visual processing powerhouse. Find more information on visual processing here.

Fine motor heart activity

Teeny Tiny Sprinkle Heart Activity– This is a fine motor activity that builds precision and dexterity in the hands. It’s a fine motor workout kids can use to build hand strength and endurance for fine motor tasks. Use it in math centers to work on one-to-one correspondence and counting or sorting.

Heart fine motor and eye hand coordination activity

Heart Eye-Hand Coordination Activity– Work on eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills tongs and heart s cut from cardboard. If you are like me, you have a ton of delivery boxes coming to the house. Use those boxes in a fine motor skills building activity. Write numbers or letters on the hearts to make it a sorting, math, or spelling activity.

heart keychain made with salt dough

Salt Dough Keychain– This is a fun heart craft that goes along with the children’s book, “The Kissing Hand”. Use it to help kids work on fine motor skills, and hand strengthening. This keychain craft makes a great Valentine’s Day gift idea too!

Valentines Day crafts

One Zillion Valentines Book and Craft– Pairing a book with therapy or when working on skills with kids is a fun way to open up conversation, problem solving, and strategizing to create a project or activity based on the book. This Valentine’s Day book for kids is just that. One Zillion Valentines is one children’s book that pairs nicely with a fine motor craft for kids.   Kids can work on fine motor skills, motor lanning, direction following, and executive functioning skills while folding and making paper airplanes, and the cotton clouds in this fun craft idea.

Valentines day handprint art

I Love Ewe Handprint Craft– Use a handprint art activity as a tactile sensory experience. Pair scissor skills, pencil control, direction following, and copying skills to work on various areas needed for handwriting and school tasks. Pls, this makes a great Valentine’s Day craft or addition to a card!

Valentines Day activities to build skills for kids
valentines day color sorting fine motor activity

Valentines Day Color Sorting Fine Motor Activity– Grab a couple of cookie cutters and some beads. This is a fine motor activity that kids can use to build skills like in-hand manipulation, separation of the sides of the hand, finger isolation, open thumb webspace, and more.

love bugs valentines day crafts

Love Bugs Crafts– Work on fine motor skills, scissor skills, direction-following, eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, and more with these cute bug crafts for kids.

valentines day sensory bin

Valentine’s Day Sensory Bin– There are so many benefits to using a sensory bin in building fine motor skills. Pour, scoop, and stir with the hands for a tactile sensory experience. Using a sensory bin can be a great way to work on visual perceptual skills like figure-ground, visual discrimination, and other essential visual processing areas. Find and ovate objects or add a learning component by writing sight words or math problems on hearts. This is an open-ended activity that can be used in so many ways.

valentines day books

I Love You Books for Kids– These Valentine’s Day books for kids are a fun way to combine books with crafts or love themed activities. Use them to work on copying words or sentences for handwriting practice. The options are limitless. What love and heart themed books would you add to this list?

Valentines day activities to build fine motor skills
heart play dough

Valentine’s Day Crayon Play Dough– Use play dough to work on so many areas: hand strength, arch development, separation of the sides of the hand, endurance, eye-hand coordination…But have you ever had trouble getting a a really vivid red play dough when using food coloring? The answer to the red play dough problem is using vivid crayons! Here is our crayon play dough recipe that gives you the brightest colors, perfect for using in Valentine’s Day play dough activities!

heart craft to work on fine motor skills like scissor skills

Heart Bookmark Craft– This is such a fun and easy Valentine’s Day craft to use when working on scissor skills with kids. The strait lines of the bookmark and curved lines of the heart make it a great activity for kids just working on the basics of scissor skills.

Valentines day craft for kids

Heart Butterfly Craft- Work on scissor skills, handwriting, and fine motor skills to make this fun card. The directions to make this Valentine’s Day craft are over here on a guest post we did for Hands On as We Grow. Use this fun craft with a group. It’s a great Valentine’s Day party idea!

Valentines Day craft for kids to work on fine motor skills and scissor skills

Valentine’s Day Tea Craft– This Valentine’s Day craft is a fun way to work on scissor skills, handwriting, and fine motor skills. Kids can make this craft as a gift for friends or parents and work on skill development, too.

More Valentines’ Day Activities

Try some of these other ideas:

Valentine’s Day Sensory Bin with Fine Motor Paper

Valentine’s Day Snacks for Kids

Valentine’s Day Goop Painting

Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Sparkle Craft

Crunchy (Sensory Diet!) Heart Tortilla Snack

Teach Buttoning with Heart Buttons

So, what are your favorite ways to work on skills with a holiday theme? Try some of these heart activities at Valentine’s Day parties, at home when making cards for loved ones, or in therapy planning! Have fun!

Want to add more Valentine’s Day activities and movement tools to your skill-building?

he Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Kit is here! This printable kit is 25 pages of hands-on activity sheets designed to build skills in pinch and grasp strength, endurance, eye-hand coordination, precision, dexterity, pencil control, handwriting, scissor skills, coloring, and more.

When you grab the Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Kit now, you’ll get a free BONUS activity: 1-10 clip cards so you can challenge hand strength and endurance with a counting eye-hand coordination activity.

Valentines Day fine motor kit

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

Fine Motor Penguin Worksheet

Free penguin worksheet for fine motor skills

This time of year is perfect for a penguin theme and the fine motor penguin worksheet below is a perfect addition to a penguin lesson plan. This penguin worksheet works on a variety of fine motor skills and can be adjusted to meet educational needs as well, making it a functional worksheet for kids. Use it along with a Tacky The Penguin book and theme, and fun facts about penguins (great for writing prompts while working on handwriting!)

Free fine motor penguin activity with this penguin worksheet

When planning a penguin theme, be sure to add activities from our new Penguin Therapy Kit. It’s got fine motor, gross motor, self-regulation, sensory materials, scissor skill activities, handwriting tasks, and more.

Let’s get on with this free penguin worksheet!

Penguin Worksheet for Fine Motor Skills

As occupational therapists, we love all things function, so functional handwriting beats out on rote copying any day. We can help kids with handwriting skills using a motivating topic like penguins, or we can use discussion of facts that go with an educational theme when working on handwriting skills. The fine motor worksheet here is a perfect addition to that functional and educational topic because it can be used as a hand-warm-up while staying on a theme that is being discussed in the classroom. For OTs pushing into the classroom, this will be a fine motor warm-up that the whole class might want to join in on!

First start with the fine motor work out using the penguin worksheet and then move onto penguin writing prompts.

Then, add other penguin activities like this penguin yoga, penguin deep breathing, and penguin brain breaks, sensory bin play.

Penguin writing Prompts

When thinking about penguins, the movie, March of the Penguins comes to mind.

March of the Penguins Writing Prompts- Use the movie, March of the Penguins as a writing prompt idea to work on handwriting skills after you do a fine motor warm up with our free penguin fine motor worksheet.

I imagine everyone has a different take away from the film March of the Penguins. For me, it was seeing how cold it was in Antarctica in the winter, and watching that poor Dad penguin who has to sit on that egg all winter, while the Mom goes out and gets a few snacks. There was that one scene where the penguin BECOMES the snack, but let’s gloss over that part. 

Other people watching the film might take away the fact that the Dad was really stepping up to do his part in the family. These types of Emperor penguins  mate for life, and start this ritual every march.

Depending on your audience, this movie leads to opportunities for some deep discussion. Use those discussions as writing prompts.

  • Penguin facts
  • Facts about Antarctica
  • Facts about Emperor penguins

Tacky the Penguin Writing Prompts- If your learners are preschoolers or young children, reading Tacky the Penguin, by Helen Lester might be more their speed. 

  • Write out the story in a comic strip type of writing prompt
  • List out penguin names from Tacky the Penguin
  • List out features of Tacky that describe: loud, distracting, funny, is himself
  • Incorporate interoception concepts from the Tacky the Penguin that kids can relate to.
  • Use materials from these Tacky the Penguin
  • Incorporate activities and ideas from this Tacky the Penguin lesson plan.

Penguin Facts Writing Prompts- Use other penguin facts as writing prompts no matter the age of the learner.

  • Facts about penguin species
  • Penguin features
  • Penguin eggs
  • Penguin habitats

Create an entire treatment plan around this penguin winter theme. Whatever direction you decide to take your penguin writing theme, the OT Toolbox has you covered with penguin worksheets and printables.

Before rushing out to watch March of the Penguins (I may be scarred for life), perhaps take in a viewing of Happy Feat for a lighter film.  Also consider purchasing this winter fine motor set as an add on to your treatment theme:

In the Penguin Therapy Kit, you’ll find penguin writing pages to use with these handwriting tasks. There are also penguin-themed sensory bin materials, letter formation cards with a penguin theme.

Penguin Worksheet

Along with the writing prompt ideas, use the free penguin printable below to address fine motor skill work. It’s appropriate for many ages and skill needs. From tracing, to cutting the penguin paths, to working on in-hand manipulation, pencil control, and more.

Beyond a cute tracing activity, this penguin worksheet targets many different skills:

  1. Tracing for dexterity works on staying on the lines, fine motor control, building hand muscles, scanning and a whole host of other important skills as defined below.
  2. Visual motor skills –Combining what is seen visually and what is written motorically.  This takes coordination to be able to translate information from visual input to motor output. Coloring, drawing, counting, cutting, and tracing are some visual motor skills.
  3. Kinesthetic awareness – This means learning by doing.
  4. Hand strength and dexterity – staying on the lines builds hand muscles and develops muscle control. 
  5. Visual Perception – Developing figure ground to see where the lines start and end, being able to follow the path with the eye and hand, seeing the dotted lines creating a path rather than just dots.
  6. Strength – Core strength needed for sitting, shoulder/elbow/wrist stability, finger strength, and head control all play their role in writing.
  7. Bilateral Coordination – Be sure your learner uses their helper hand for stabilizing the paper while using their dominant hand for writing.
  8. Social/Executive Function – Following directions, task completion, orienting to details, neatness, multi-tasking, attending to task, and impulse control can be addressed using this Penguin worksheet.

There are many different variables that can be modified while using this activity:

  1. Paper: 
  • lightweight paper is much more difficult to stabilize than heavy weight construction or cardstock paper.  
  • Colored paper may be easier or more difficult for children to work with because of color contrasts.
  • The page can be laminated first, using wipe off markers to trace the penguin paths.  This is a great way to make this page reusable. 
  1. Writing utensils: 
  • There are endless possibilities for written expression.  Markers, crayons, colored pencils, paints, watercolor, chalk, or dry erase pens all provide different input, and require different levels of fine motor skill to manipulate. 
  • Small one inch crayons are excellent for developing those tiny hand muscles.  
  • Chalk, with its grainy texture, provides sensory feedback and can be a positive (or negative) experience
  • Markers glide easily, requiring less precision and grip strength
  • Change writing utensils to appeal to different students and improve their level of motivation. 
  1. Other ways to change this task:
  • Have learners write on a slant board to build wrist control and shoulder stability
  • Try having learners lying prone on the floor with the page in front to build shoulder stability
  • Lying supine with the page taped above the child, under the table builds shoulder and wrist stability
  • Project this page onto a smart board for students to come to the board and write in big letters.
  • Enlarge or shrink this page to make it easier/harder
  • Place mini erasers or beads along the path
  • More or less prompting may be needed to grade the activity to make it easier or harder
  • Make this part of a larger lesson plan including gross motor, sensory, social, executive function, or other fine motor skills
  • Press a fingertip into paint and dot along the lines to work on finger isolation and separation of the sides of the hand

Use the penguin worksheet for sensory play

  • Use sugar cubes to move along the worksheet path and to make igloos
  • Make fake snow to get hands into for more fine motor play. Slide the worksheet into a page protector. Use the fake snow to mold a snowy path along the penguin’s path.
  • Shredded paper in a pool would make a great snow activity. Spread it along the penguin path, adding glue to create a textured, snowy path.
  • Trace the lines with squeeze glue and add craft materials.
  • Use glue and feathers to make a feathery walk to the penguin.
  • Use the penguin path in a preschool penguin theme in a sensory bin using penguin figures, dry beans, scoops, and tongs.

Free Fine Motor Penguin Worksheet

Want to get your hands on this free printable so the kids you serve can develop stronger hands? Enter your email address into the form below for access through your email inbox. This resource is also available in our Member’s Club…you’ve asked for it: A one-stop space to access all of our free downloads in one place. Members can log into their dashboard and download every freebie we have on the website in one place. You’ll also find exclusive Member’s Only materials. Level 2 members get immediate access to the Penguin Therapy Kit mentioned in this post.

Free Fine Motor Penguin Worksheet

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    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.

    Victoria Wood, OTR/L

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

    Build a Snowman Printable

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

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

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

    Build a Snowman Printable

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

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

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

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

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

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

    How to Use this Build a Snowman Printable

    What you will need for this task:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What else can I add to this paper snowman craft?

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

    More snowman activities

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

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

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

    Free Build a Snowman Printable

    Want to add this paper snowman printable to your therapy toolbox? Enter your email address into the form below. This resource is also available in The OT Toolbox Member’s Club. Members can head to the dashboard and download the resources right there.

    Free Build a Snowman Printable

      We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

      Keep those snowballs rolling!

      Victoria Wood, OTR/L

      Victoria Wood

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

      Snowman Therapy Activity Kit

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

      Grab the Snowman Therapy Kit for snowman-themed materials

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

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

      Free Apps for Occupational Therapy

      apps for occupational therapy

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

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

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

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

      Apps for Occupational Therapy

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

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

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

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

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

      Free Apps for Occupational Therapy

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

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

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

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

      Free Apps for Visual Motor Skills

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

      Handwriting Apps

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Apps for Fine Motor Skills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      executive function apps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Apps for Emotional regulation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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