Gross Motor Toys

gross motor toys

If you are looking for the best gross motor toys to challenge coordination, balance, motor planning through whole-body movement and heavy work play, then you are in luck with these occupational therapy toys. Each one is designed to develop gross motor skills: strength, coordination, balance, posture, and more.

PLUS, head to the bottom of this blog post for Day 2 of our therapy toy giveaway. We’re giving away a gross motor kit with agility cones, tossing loops, bean bags, and hula hoops, perfect for gross motor, balance, coordination, and even heavy sensory play through whole body movements.

We started off the fun with yesterday’s fine motor toy ideas. Today is all about the gross motor play.

First, let’s talk Gross Motor Toys!

Gross Motor Toys

Kids need gross motor movement for so many skills. Today, I have gross motor toys to share! Here, you’ll find the best whole body toys and ideas to help kids with balance, core strength, stability, coordination, and endurance. Scroll on to check out some therapist-approved toys that help gross motor skill development!

Gross motor toys to help kids develop skills in running, hopping, jumping, skipping, crawling, and more.

Gross Motor Toy Ideas

This list of toys for gross motor skills pairs well with our recent list of Fine Motor Toys. Today however, you’ll find toys that develop a few areas that are essential to areas of child development:

Bilateral Coordination– Kids need bilateral coordination in whole body movements to move their body in a coordinated way. These whole body movements can include coordination of the upper and lower body, or both arms, or both feet, and all of the above! Here are bilateral coordination toys to address this specific area.

Motor Planning– Motor planning with the whole body allows children to move in a room without crashing into objects or other people. Gross motor motor planning allows children to climb steps, navigate obstacles, or any movement-based task. Here is more information on motor planning and motor planning toys to address this specific sub-area.

Gross motor coordinationCoordination of gross motor skills is needed for tasks such as kicking or catching a ball, riding a bike, getting dressed, or any task that uses the entire body. Here are hand eye coordination toys to address this particular sub-area.

Proprioception– Integration of proprioceptive input allows children to know where their body is in space. It tells the body how much effort is needed to pick up and move objects. Proprioception allows us to understand the body’s position as it moves in a coordinated manner.

Vestibular input- Integration of vestibular input allows children to navigate the world around them as they move. Going up or down steps or bleachers is an example of this. Moving into different positions during tasks is another example of vestibular integration. Movement through different planes requires integration of vestibular input.

All of these areas work together in functional tasks and all are rooted in gross motor skills.

Related: This dinosaur gross motor game is a skill builder, as well.

Toys for Gross Motor Skill Development

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.

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

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

Zoom ball is a great gross motor toy for kids.

Zoom Ball– This classic toy is such a great way to work on many skills. 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! Address skills such as:

  • Bilateral coordination
  • Core strength
  • Shoulder stability
  • Visual convergence
  • Motor planning
  • Coordination
Pop and catch toys can help kids develop gross motor skills.

Pop and Catch- Use this coordination toy indoors or outdoors to get kids moving. This toy can be played with while the child is standing, sitting, kneeling, or in a half-sit to challenge the core and eye-hand coordination in a variety of planes. Try playing on all fours on the floor for a shoulder girdle stability activity. Another use for this toy is by playing by standing at a table while the child shoots the ball across the table surface as they play like a ping-pong type of game. There are many uses for this pop and catch activity:

  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Motor planning
  • Vestibular input
  • Core strength
  • Stability of core
  • Stability of shoulder girdle
use bucket stilts to help kids develop gross motor skills.

Bucket Stilts– These bucket stilts are perfect for helping kids develop gross motor skills. I love this set because there are 6 colored buckets that make a great gross motor obstacle course tool, too. You could use them as stepping stones to challenge balance and coordination, too. Here are gross motor skills that you can work on using these bucket stilts toys:

  • Core strength
  • Vestibular input
  • Motor planning
  • Coordination
  • Balance
  • Endurance
  • Stabilizing
use agility cones to help kids build gross motor skills in obstacle courses and more.

Agility Cones– Sports cones are such an open-ended gross motor toy that can be used to develop so many skills: hopping, jumping, skipping, running, climbing, crawling…the options are endless. Use these agility cones in therapy obstacle courses, challenges, drills, and more. I chose these particular cones because they can go very nicely with a Zones of Regulation activity! Use cones to support these areas:

  • Motor planning
  • Vestibular input
  • Coordination
  • Core strength
  • Endurance
Use carpet markers to build gross motor skills with gross motor obstacle courses, motor planning, and more.

Carpet Markers– These carpet markers are an occupational therapist’s dream toy! Use the colored marker spots to help kids work on so many movement skills in obstacle courses, visual perceptual skill activities, direction following, sensory movement breaks, positioning guides, and so much more. The arrows are perfect for addressing directionality. Use them to work on crawling, hopping, jumping, stopping on a point. Just some of the areas that these carpet spots support:

  • Core strength
  • Shoulder stability
  • Motor planning
  • Coordination
  • Endurance
  • Proprioception
A parachute is a great gross motor toy for kids.

Parachute– A parachute is another open-ended gross motor toy that the kids just LOVE. This one is small enough for small groups, but builds motor skills in a big way. Use the parachute to help kids develop:

  • Core stability
  • Arm strength
  • Motor planning
  • Endurance
  • Bilateral coordination
  • Proprioceptive input

Toys for Core Strength

Toys that develop core strength get kids moving in a variety of positions. These toys support and challenge the vestibular and proprioceptive systems so they can be calming activities as well. Strength and stability in the core is needed for almost all functional tasks. Challenge kids with these core strengthening toys by getting them moving, on the floor in floor play or strengthening the core muscles through movement and balance coordination. Some ideas for developing and strengthening core strength include:

Toys for balance

Toys that challenge movement changes, stepping from high to low and low to high, and movement with vestibular input offer opportunities to challenge and develop balance and coordination skills.

Gross Motor Coordination Toys

Encourage movement, whole body play, and gross motor coordination with throwing, tossing, and hand-eye coordination or foot-eye coordination skills with these gross motor coordination ideas:

Obstacle Course Toys

All of the gross motor toys listed above could be used in obstacle courses…and what a great way to encourage so many skills! These are perfect additions to your obstacle course ideas, and challenge balance, coordination, motor planning, and add sensory input. Use these obstacle course toys to vary movement and encourage the specific skills kids need:

Want to add these toys to your home, classroom, or therapy practice? I am SO happy to fill your toolbox so you can help kids thrive and build and develop the skills they need!

More therapy Toys

Check out the other therapy toy recommendations in the list 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 GROSS MOTOR

Want a printable copy of our therapist-recommended toys to support gross motor development?

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 GROSS 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
GROSS MOTOR TOYS HANDOUT

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    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.

    Check out the blog comments below to see tips and ideas from readers telling us which gross motor toys they would love to use with the kids they work with and love. Have other gross motor favorites that aren’t listed here? Tell us about them!

    Simon Says Commands

    Simon Says Commands

    If you’ve ever run a therapy session with a fun game of Simon Says, than you know the challenge of coming up with effective Simon Says commands on the spot. The beauty of a good game of Simon Says is that you can target any gross motor, fine motor, sensory motor, and visual motor skill area that you need to, making it the perfect gross motor coordination game that supports a variety of skills.

    Simon Says commands

    Simon Says Commands

    Woohoo, it’s Simon Says for OT! Who doesn’t love a good game of Simon Says? It’s a classic game that builds a variety of skills without kiddos knowing it.

    Below, you’ll find a great list of therapist-approved Simon Says game commands and, you can grab a Simon Says commands pdf so you can print off these game ideas and use them in any therapy session, or as a brain break in the classroom or home, too.

    Let’s cover all of the Simon Says ideas!

    How to play Simon Says in occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy to develop skills.

    How to Play Simon Says

    If you’ve never heard of Simon Says or don’t have a clue what it is, it’s a fun game that is easy to implement in any location. 

    First, you identify one player for the role of Simon and that player will give the other players commands for actions to perform. (There are many targeted goal areas identified with commands listed later in the post.) 

    Second, the game has a trick with it, Simon MUST preface the command by saying, “Simon Says”, or the command is NOT to be followed.

    If a player follows that direction and completes the movement when “Simon” doesn’t say “Simon Says”, they are out of the game or can lose one of their tally strokes or chips that is given to each player before play.

    If they DO NOT follow one of the stated Simon Says commands, they are out or lose a stroke or chip too. 

    Third, the last player standing or the player with the last chip or tally stroke is the winner. 

    Simon Says Examples:

    • Simon: “Simon Says hop on one foot.”
    • Other players: Correctly follow the direction and hop on one foot.
    • The players that completed the correct action stay in the game or can stay in the game and do not lose a token or tally chip/tally mark.
    • Simon: “Simon Says hop on one foot.”
    • Other players: Incorrectly do not follow the direction.
    • The players that did not complete the correct action are out of the game or can stay in the game and lose a token or tally chip/tally mark.
    • Simon: “Hop on one foot.”
    • Other players: Incorrectly follow the direction and hop on one foot.
    • The players that completed the incorrect action (Simon didn’t say “Simon Says”!) are out of the game or lose a token or tally chip/tally mark.
    • Simon: “Hop on one foot.”
    • Other players: Correctly do not follow the direction and do not hop on one foot.
    • The players that did not complete the incorrect action (Simon didn’t say “Simon Says”!) stay in the game or do not lose a token or tally chip/tally mark.

    Easy, right? Not too fast friends! A child’s (and adults’) attention, impulsivity, and patience can play a role in their ability to listen, act, and wait while playing this game. 

    Simon Says is actually a really great game for executive functioning skills, and specifically a game to

    Think about each child and what kind of commands you may need to give them to help them play successfully.

    Younger students or those working to improve the cognitive skill of following sequences can improve these areas with certain adaptations. Give them simple commands that have few words and one step. Think about saying something like, “Simon Says clap your hands” vs. saying, “Simon Says spin around and then clap your hands”, see the difference? This will help a child focus on one skill at a time and then build from there as they age or become better at following multiple directions. 

    If a child struggles with verbal or processing skills, consider the use of a visual choice board, like this one by Panda Speech Therapy, that displays someone speaking coupled with a visual that demonstrates the action that Simon Says to do. This is a great modification to help children that need this type of support to be successful during play or even those who are new to learning how to play the game. 

    Think about the OT skills that can be facilitated with this game: 

    Target whatever area you need to with children based on their goals and you’ve got a fun time with focus!

    Think about the social skills that can be targeted while following and giving multiple skill-driven directions – don’t forget to either simply say the direction or add, “Simon Says” to give kiddos the true direction to DO vs. the fake direction to REMAIN STILL. 

    Simon Says ideas for therapy

    Simon Says Ideas

    The list of Simon Says ideas below are separated by area of development. You’ll find specific movement ideas for:

    1. Visual motor skills
    2. Fine motor skills
    3. Gross motor skills
    4. Sensory motor skills
    5. Social skills
    6. Emotional skills
    7. Oral motor skills

    Simon Says Commands to Target Visual Motor Skills

    1. Draw a row of circles
    2. Draw a face
    3. Draw a person
    4. Trade drawing tools with your neighbor
    5. Use different colors and write the letters of your first name
    6. Write the ABCs 
    7. Build a block tower
    8. Build block stairs
    9. Build a block pyramid
    10. Write the numbers 1-10
    11. Toss a ball up to self and catch
    12. Walk a ball on the wall

    If you need more visual motor command ideas to help, look at these fun resources:

    Rainbow Visual Motor Slide Deck at The OT Toolbox

    Flower Visual Motor Slide Deck at The OT Toolbox

    Simon Says Commands to Target Fine Motor Skills

    1. Do finger taps to the thumb on both hands
    2. Make the okay sign
    3. Make the telephone sign with each hand
    4. Snap your fingers
    5. Push your fingertips together
    6. Clap your hands
    7. Rotate a pencil from writing to erasing
    8. Do pencil push-ups
    9. Do pencil walk up and down the shaft
    10. Wiggle the fingers on both hands
    11. Do finger pull-ups on both hands
    12. Do victory sign
    13. Make the ‘I love you’ sign

    If you need more fine motor command ideas to help, look at these fun resources:

    Fine Motor Skills Needed for School at The OT Toolbox

    Heavy Work for Little Fingers at Your Kids OT

    Simon Says Commands to Target Gross Motor Skills

    1. Do 10 wall push-ups
    2. Do 5 sit-ups
    3. Do 5 planks
    4. Do 8 body bridges
    5. Do 5 lunges
    6. Do 8 squats
    7. Do 6 hand presses
    8. Do 8 cross crawls
    9. Walk like a crab
    10. Walk like a bear
    11. Hop like a kangaroo
    12. Walk like a cat

    If you need more gross motor command ideas to help, look at these fun resources:

    Sports Gross Motor Slide Deck at The OT Toolbox

    Superhero Gross Motor Slide Deck at The OT Toolbox

    Simon says Commands to Target Sensory Motor Skills

    1. Stretch to the sky and then to the floor
    2. Wiggle your body all around
    3. Give yourself a hug
    4. March in place
    5. Sway your body left to right
    6. Spin around in a circle
    7. Do 5 deep breaths
    8. Do 5 long blows
    9. Do floor push-ups
    10. Sit and rock back and forth
    11. Army crawl in a line
    12. Walk forward and backward 

    If you need more sensory motor command ideas to help, look at these fun resources:

    Alerting and Calming Sensory Strategy Cards at The OT Toolbox

    Heavy Work Movement Cards at The OT Toolbox

    Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards at The OT Toolbox

    Deep Breathing Exercise Cards at The OT Toolbox

    Simon Says Commands to Target Social Skills

    1. Look to your neighbor and say, “Hello.”
    2. Shake your neighbor’s hand
    3. Say a positive affirmation statement to the group
    4. High-five a friend
    5. High ten your therapist
    6. Look at a neighbor and smile
    7. Look at a neighbor and give a thumbs-up 
    8. Look at a neighbor and introduce yourself
    9. Look at a neighbor and say, “Thank you.” 
    10. Give a compliment
    11. Give an apology
    12. Invite someone to play

    If you need more social command ideas to help, look at these fun resources:

    Self-Awareness Activities Slide Deck at The OT Toolbox

    Simon Says Commands to Target Emotions

    1. Make a smiley face
    2. Make a frowning face
    3. Make a scared face
    4. Make an angry face
    5. Make a surprised face
    6. Make a tired face
    7. Show being shy
    8. Show being worried
    9. Show being embarrassed
    10. Show being sick
    11. Show being proud
    12. Show being scared

    If you need more emotional command ideas to help, look at these fun resources:

    Emotions Cards at Growing Hands-On Kids 

    Simon Says Commands to Target Oral Motor Skills

    1. Stick out your tongue
    2. Open and close your mouth
    3. Wiggle your tongue from side to side
    4. Blow a kiss 
    5. Blow bubbles
    6. Smack your lips together
    7. Touch your nose with your tongue
    8. Massage your jaws with your fingertips
    9. Pull the corners of your mouth into a smile
    10. Scrunch up your lips and nose
    11. Push your tongue into your right cheek
    12. Push your tongue into your left cheek

    If you need more oral motor command ideas to help, look at these fun resources:

    Oral Motor Exercises at The OT Toolbox 

    Themed Oral Motor Activities and Exercises at the OT Toolbox:

    Simon Says Ideas for the Alphabet

    If you are looking for a combination of Simon Says Commands that address multiple areas, you can find a list of these below from A-Z.  Enjoy!

    A – Air write your name

    B – Blow pretend bubbles

    C – Cross crawls or crunches

    D – Deep breaths

    E – Excited body movements

    F – Fingertip taps to thumb

    G – Give a compliment 

    H – High 5 someone

    I – ‘I love you’ hand sign

    J – Join hands or arms with someone

    K – kangaroo hops

    L – Lick your lips all around

    M – Make a sad face

    N- Number 8’s in the air 

    O – One leg stands each leg

    P – Print the alphabet 

    Q – quick run in place

    R – Roll out a playdough square

    S – Stick out your tongue

    T – Twirl around

    U – Up on toes stretch

    V – Valentine’s heart hands

    W – Wave to someone

    X – XO to give self-hug

    Y – Yawn for feeling tired

    Z – Zig-zag line in air

    Lastly, you can also be creative and think about how you can use Simon Says Commands with commercial board games, like Operation, Perfection, Twister, Whac-A-Mole, Spot It, Avalanche, or Kerplunk. Think about just changing it up by using Simon Says commands or NOT, to direct the child in what they should or should not do.  It’s a new approach to some common board games used in pediatric OT and the kids will love it!

    Popsicle stick labels Simon Says Commands
    Free printable Simon Says Commands for craft stick labels.

    Free Alphabet Simon Says Popsicle Stick Labels

    I am so excited to share this newest resource. All you need is a printable page with the popsicle stick Simon Says commands and craft sticks. We used the larger-size popsicle sticks to make the popsicle stick commands.

    Kids can pull a craft stick out of a cup and use the command to create actions based on movements for each letter of the Alphabet. This set goes with our Alphabet Exercises blog post where each letter of the alphabet has a corresponding exercise or motor action.

    Want a copy of these popsicle stick exercise labels? Enter your email address into the form below. OT Toolbox members can also find this printable inside the Member’s Club (along with the full list of Simon Says cards listed above in printable card form AND in popsicle stick label format).

    Free Simon Says Popsicle Stick Labels

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      Regina Allen

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

      What is Motor Planning

      motor planning

      You may have heard the term motor planning but wondered what this means and what does it look like to utilize motor planning skills in everyday activities. Here, we are breaking down this important motor skills topic. Occupational therapists are skilled at analyzing movements and underlying skills needed to perform the things we do each day, or the tasks that occupy our time, and establishing an efficient and coordinated motor plan is one of the main aspects of this assessment. 

      Motor planning

      Motor Planning

      When we perform an action, there are movements of our bones, joints, and muscles that enable our bodies to move. It’s through this movement that the body and brain receives feedback, or a motor concept that tells the brain and body that we have moved in a certain way in order to accomplish a specific action. This is the motor plan for that particular task at work!

      Let’s look at a child’s motor skills in a specific action to really explore this concept. 

      Ok, so you’re walking along a hallway with an armful of bags and see a ball in your path. You walk around it and continue walking. But, hold on. That was a pretty cool ball. It was all red and shiny. It looked like a really fun ball to bounce. You stop, turn around, walk back to the ball, stoop down, put down your bags, and pick it up. Woah. It’s not only red and shiny, but it’s a little heavy too. 

      It takes a bit more muscle oomph than you were expecting. You hold your arm up high, with the ball up over your head. Totally not a baseball player’s pose, but all awkward and kid-like. You know. Pure fun throwing. 

      You toss that red, shiny, heavy ball as hard as you can towards a big old blank wall on one of the hallway walls. Now watch out! That red, shiny, heavy ball is bouncing around like crazy! 

      It’s bouncing off of the wall and right back at you! You jump to the side and then to the left and right as it bounces back and forth between the walls of that hallway. You have to skip to the side to avoid your bags. 

      The ball stops bouncing and rolls to the side of the hall. 

      Well, that was fun. You pick up the ball and hold it while you gather your bags. Now, you see a boy coming down the hall who sees that red, shiny, heavy ball in your hand and says, “Hey! There’s my ball!” You smile and toss the ball as he reaches out his hand and catches. “Thanks!!” he says as you wave and start walking down the hall again.

      What is Motor Planning? Tips and Tools in this post with a fun fine motor motor planning (dyspraxia) activity for kids and adults from an Occupational Therapist

      What is Motor Planning?

      Motor Planning happens with everything we do! From walking around objects in our path, to picking up items, to aiming and throwing, drawing, writing, getting dressed, and even dodging red bouncy balls…

      Motor Planning is defined as the problem solving and moving over, under, and around requires fine motor and gross motor skills and planning to plan out, organize, and carry out an action. We must organize incoming information, including sensory input, and integrate that information into our plan. We need to determine if a ball is heavy or light to pick up and hold it without dropping it.

      You might hear of motor planning referred to as praxis. 

      Praxis (generally also known as Motor Planning, but also it’s more than simply motor planning…) requires observing and understanding the task (ideation), planning out an action in response to the task (organization), and the act of carrying out the task (execution). A difficulty with any of these areas will lead to dyspraxia in many skill areas. 

      Praxis includes motor planning, but also involved is ideation, execution, and feedback, with adjustment to that feedback. You can see the similarities in motor planning, which refers to the conscious and subconscious (ingrained) motor actions or plans.

      Motor Planning is needed for everyday tasks. Think about the everyday activities that you complete day in and day out. Each of these actions requires a movement, or a series of movements to complete. There are both gross motor movements, fine motor movements, and posture all working together in a coordinated manner.

      There is a motor plan for actions such as:

      • using a toothbrush to brush one’s teeth
      • brushing hair
      • getting dressed
      • putting on a backpack
      • walking down a hallway
      • walking up steps
      • walking down steps
      • holding a pencil
      • writing with a pencil (motor planning and handwriting is discussed here.)
      • riding a bike
      • maintaining posture
      • putting on a coat or jacket (on top of other clothing such as a shirt so that in this case, there isn’t the tactile feedback available of the fabric directly on the skin’s surface)
      • performing sports actions such as swinging a baseball bat or tennis racket, running, or gymnastics like doing a cartwheel

      The interesting thing is that a movement plan, or the physical action that is completed whether the action has been performed in the past or if it is a new movement. A motor plan for a new task can be completed without thinking through how to move the body because it is just inherently completed.

      When we complete unfamiliar tasks and need to stop and think through how the body needs to move, is when we see inefficient movement, or motor planning issues.

      Motor Planning Difficulties

      Above, we talked about praxis as another term or way to name the motor plan concept. When there are difficulties with motor planning, we are referring to the opposite of praxis, or dyspraxia. 

       Dyspraxia can be a result of poor sensory integration, visual difficulties, fine motor and gross motor coordination and ability, neural processing, and many other areas.

      Motor planning difficulties can look like several things:

      • Difficult ability to complete physical tasks
      • Small steps
      • Slow speed
      • Pausing to think through actions
      • Clumsiness
      • Poor coordination
      • Weakness

      These challenges with motor function can exist with either new motor tasks or familiar actions. Deficits are apparent when speed is reduced so that the functional task isn’t efficient, when the motor task is unsafe, or poor completion of the task at hand.

      There are diagnoses that have poor motor planning as a component of the diagnosis. Some of these disorders can include:

      When motor planning difficulties exist, this can be a cause for other considerations related to movements, and demonstration of difficulties when participating in movement-based activities:

      • challenges in social interactions
      • anxiety
      • behaviors
      • social skills issues

      Today, I’ve got a quick and easy fine motor activity to work on motor planning with kids. This activity is part of our 31 Days of Occupational Therapy series where we’re sharing fun and frugal ideas for treatment of many OT skill areas with items you might already have in your house.

      motor planning activity

      Motor Planning Activity

      Affiliate links are included in this post. 

      Motor planning activity

      To make this motor planning activity, you’ll need just a few items: 

      • a clear plastic baggie
      • white crafting pom poms
      • one red pom pom. These are items we had in our crafting supplies, but you could modify this activity to use items you have. Other ideas might be beads, pin pong balls, ice cubes, or any small item.
      1. Fill the baggie with the pom poms and squeeze out the air. 
      2. Seal the baggie.
      3. Use a permanent marker to draw on a maze from one side of the baggie to the other. You can make this as complex as you like. 
      4. Add additional mazes, or two different pom pom colors for the maze. Work the red pom pom from one end of the maze to the other.
      Apraxia activity

      Squeezing the pom pom is a fine motor work out for the hands. You’ll need to open up the thumb web space (the part of your hand between the thumb and fingers, and use those intrinsic small muscles of the hand. Both of these areas are important for fine motor tasks like coloring and writing.

      Use this motor planning exercise as a warm-up activity before writing, coloring, and scissor activities. This is a great activity to have on hand in your therapy treatment bag or to pull out while waiting at the doctor’s office.

      Motor planning toys and games

      Motor Planning Activities

      Looking for more ways to work on dyspraxia with your kids? These are some fun fine and gross motor activities that are fun and creative. 

      The best thing about all of them is that they are open-ended. Use them in obstacle courses or in movement tasks to incorporate many skill areas. These are some fun ideas to save for gift ideas. Now which to get first…

      Work on fine motor dexterity and bilateral coordination while encouraging motor planning as the child matches colors of the nuts and bolts in this Jumbo Nuts and Bolts Set with Backpack set. The large size is perfect for preschoolers or children with a weak hand grasp.

      Practice motor planning and eye-hand coordination. This Button Mosaic Transperent Pegboard is a powerhouse of motor planning play. Kids can copy and match big and bright cards to the pegs in this large pegboard. I love that the toy is propped up on an incline plane, allowing for an extended wrist and a tripod grasp. Matching the colors and placing the pegs into the appropriate holes of the pegboard allow for motor planning practice.

      Develop refined precision of fine motor skills with eye-hand coordination. A big and bright puzzle like this Puzzle-shaped Block Set  allows kids to work on hand-eye coordination and motor planning as they scan for pieces, match the appropriate parts of the puzzle pieces, and attempt to work the pieces into place. Building a puzzle such as this one can be a workout for kids with hand and upper extremity weakness.

      Strengthen small motor skills. Kids of all ages can work on motor planning and fine motor skills with this Grimm’s Rainbow Bowls Shape & Color Sorting Activity. Use the colored fish to place into the matching cups, as children work on eye-hand coordination. Using the tongs requires a greater level of motor planning.

      You can modify this activity by placing the cups around a room for a gross motor visual scanning and motor planning activity. Children can then follow multi-level instructions as they climb over, around, under, and through obstacles to return the fish to their matching bowls.

      Encourage more gross motor planning with hopping, jumping, and skipping, or other gross motor tasks. This Crocodile Hop A Floor Mat Game does just that. It is a great way to encourage whole body motor planning and multiple-step direction following.

      Address balance and coordination. These Gonge Riverstones Gross Motor Course challenge balance skills as children step from stone to stone. These would make a great part of many imagination play activities as children plan out motor sequences to step, cross, hop, and jump…without even realizing they are working on motor planning tasks.

      Introduce multiple-step direction following and motor planning. These colored footprints like these Gonge Feet Markers support direction following skills. Plan out a combination of fine and gross motor obstacle courses for kids to work on motor planning skills.

      Make hand-eye coordination fun with challenges. For more fine motor coordination and motor planning, kids will love this Chickyboom Balance Game as they practice fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and about balance and mathematics.

      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.

      Bone Names Activity for Kids

      bone identification activity

      As occupational therapy students, we had to learn bone names and all about anatomy and physiology. Naming bones comes in very handy as an occupational therapist! But, if you are working in pediatrics, kids need to learn names of bones, too! For one thing, kids learn bone names in school. But did you consider the interoception aspect to teaching bone names? When it comes to internal feelings or anatomical states that impact sensory processing and internal body actions, learning names of bones supports this awareness of self. Add this fun way to learn names of bones to your anatomy and physiology games!

      Use labels to teach bone names with a fun way to learn the names of bones.

      Bone Names Activity

      Learning human anatomy has a special place in my heart. I mean, those semesters in Human Anatomy, Anatomy lab, and clinical kinesiology bring back fond memories.  

      So, when my kids ask questions like how their arm can pick up a sandwich, I have a little fun telling them about bones, joints, and muscles. This bone naming activity is just one fun way to teach bone names and teach kids about anatomy.

      (Moving a sandwich is a big deal in our house!)

      We’ve done a body part identification activity before, using band-aides, but these labels were a big hit with my kids.  We used them to practice for a test for my big kids.  

      My Kindergartner and Second grader had a bones theme in their gym class, we had fun talking about the bones in our body, and made this Bone Identification and movement activity. (It would be great as a skeleton activities for preschoolers, too.

      Bones Activity

      This bone activity for kids is one they won’t forget…and when teaching human anatomy to kids, it’s one that will stick! The fun stickers help! 🙂

      This post contains affiliate links.

      I threw this activity together really quickly.  We had a few sheets of blank address labels, and I grabbed a red permanent marker.  I made a quick strip across the top and bottom of the address labels and then wrote in black marker, “Hello my name is” with the bone names below.  

      If your kids are like mine, they get a kick out of those Hello My Name Is Stickers.  You could use store bought stickers, or just make your own like we did.  

      bone identification

      While we used this bone identification activity with kids, it would be a great way to learn bones as part of an anatomy and physiology lesson for OT or PT students, too!

      This bones anatomy movement and learning activity is perfect for kids or anyone learning human anatomy and bones or musculature. Add this to a health or gym curriculum to learn body parts with kids.

      list of bones in human body

      After I wrote out the names of the bones, I tested my kids on what they knew. They recalled most of the bones from gym class lessons, but we had a few that needed practicing.  

      For the second grade and kindergarten physical education curriculum, they had to know this list of bones in the human body

      • skull
      • humerus
      • radius
      • ulna
      • carpals
      • phalanges
      • clavicle
      • sternum
      • ribs
      • pelvis
      • femur
      • tibia
      • fibula
      • tarsals

      Complete List of Bone Names

      Above is just a simplified list of bone names, which can be used for teaching kids about the skeletal system. A more complete list is as follows. The bone identification activity shown below can definitely be used for this complete list of bone names and bone types. Classifying and naming the entire skeletal system requires much practice, and as occupational therapists we know the power of multi-sensory learning!

      Bones in the skull (includes bones in the head and face):

      • Cranial bones:
        • frontal bones
        • Parietal bone
        • temporal bones
        • occipital bone
        • sphenoid bone
        • ethmoid bone
      • Facial bones:
        • mandible
        • maxilla
        • palatine bone
        • zygomatic bone
        • nasal bone
        • lacrimal bone
        • vomer bone
        • inferior nasal conchae

      Bones in the thorax:

      • sternum
      • ribs

      Bones in the throat:

      • hyoid bone

      Bones in the vertebral column, or spine:

      • cervical vertebrae
      • thoracic vertebrae
      • lumbar vertebrae

      Bones in the pelvis:

      • coccyx
      • sacrum
      • ossa coxae (hip bones)

      Bones in the legs :

      • femur
      • patella
      • tibia
      • fibula

      Bones in the feet:

      • Ankle (tarsal) bones:
        • calcaneus (heel bone)
        • talus 
        • navicular bone
        • medial cuneiform bone 
        • intermediate cuneiform bone 
        • lateral cuneiform bone
        • cuboid bone 
      • Instep bones:
        • metatarsal bone
      • Toe bones:
        • proximal phalanges
        • intermediate phalanges 
        • distal phalanges 

      Bones in the middle ears:

      • malleus
      • incus
      • stapes

      Bones in the shoulder girdle:

      • scapula or shoulder blade
      • clavicle or collarbone

      Bones in the arms:

      • humerus
      • radius
      • ulna

      Bones in the hands:

      • Wrist (carpal) bones:
        • scaphoid bone
        • lunate bone
        • triquetral bone
        • pisiform bone
        • trapezium
        • trapezoid bone 
        • capitate bone
        • hamate bone 
      • Palm or metacarpal bones:
        • metacarpal bones
      • Finger bones or phalanges:
        • proximal phalanges
        • intermediate phalanges
        • distal phalanges

      Teach kids the names of bones with a bone identification activity.

      We had a blast sticking the labels all over ourselves while saying “Hello my name is humerus!” in funny voices.  

      While we had the labels on our body parts, we practiced the motions of that bone.  We talked about how that bone could move and what it could do.  

      Yes, your humerus has a job in picking up a sandwich! (This is a very important fact when teaching bone names to preschoolers!)

      Learn bone names by using this Bone identification activity and sticking bone name stickers onto a doll.
      Bone identification activity with a doll.

      Even the baby doll got in on the bone labeling action.

      Use stickers to learn bone names

      How cute are those tarsals??

      This bones anatomy movement and learning activity is perfect for kids or anyone learning human anatomy and bones or musculature. Add this to a health or gym curriculum to learn body parts with kids.

      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.

      Bedtime Relaxation Stretches for Kids

      Relaxation stretches for bedtime

      In this post, you will find calming bedtime relaxation stretches for kids and families, based on the popular children’s book, Time for Bed. These activities are perfect for helping kids calm down before bed. We know the power of sleep hygiene in child development, but let’s consider the powerful impact of stretches before bed have on children.

      Relaxation Stretches for Kids Sleep

      An important thing to cover when it comes to helping children fall asleep and stay asleep at night is the concept of pre-bedtime yoga. When kids participate in bedtime stretches as part of their bedtime routine, it’s a sensory diet that supports sleep.

      relaxation stretches for bed time
      Use animal theme yoga poses to support relaxation at bedtime.

      One thing that we’ll cover here is the impact that the interoception sensory system has on sleep.

      Related is our resource on the role occupational therapy professionals can play in sleep for the whole family, when it comes to supporting a baby or newborn not sleeping.

      Relaxation Stretches for Kids Sleep

      An important thing to cover when it comes to helping children fall asleep and stay asleep at night is the concept of pre-bedtime yoga. When kids participate in bedtime stretches as part of their bedtime routine, it’s a sensory diet that supports sleep.

      I love to bring this concept together for kids by first talking about how everyone needs sleep. Kids, adults, and even pets and animals. Sleep supports growth, learning, and allows our brains to rest. You can even use a few of our hibernation activities to take this concept further with kids, depending on the interest level.

      Use these relaxation stretches for bedtime to incorporate calming sensory input.

      One thing that we’ll cover here is the impact of the interoception sensory system has on sleep.

      Children can get a little wound up before bed.  All it takes is one rouge energy burst and you’ve got giggling kids bouncing from every surface imaginable.  

      Couch cushions? check. They are jumping up and down.  

      Running from room to room? Check. There’s two of them chasing one another back and forth will the occasional knee slide across the hardwoods.  

      Practicing the living room tumbling skills? Yep and check. There’s one more doing somersaults across the room.

      Why must they gang up on me with their endless energy during those exhausting pre-bedtime hours?

      Having a set of bedtime relaxation stretches in the nightly routine can support sensory needs and promote a sense of calm before bedtime, just when children are wound up and excitable.

      benefits of stretching before bed

      We know that sleep is a necessary occupation for all of us, but for children sleep patterns and healthy sleep cycles support so many aspects of development.

      • Cognition
      • Learning
      • Behavior
      • Nutrition
      • Emotional development
      • Social development

      When children don’t get enough hours of sleep, or if they don’t get quality sleep on a consistent basis, there are several things that can occur:

      • Poor focus
      • Trouble concentrating
      • Attention and behavior problems
      • Poor academic performance in school
      • Excess weight or increased food intake
      • Problems paying attention
      • Health problems: obesity, type 2 diabetes, poor mental health, and injuries
      • Decreased physical activity
      • Poor mental health
      • Unhealthy risky behaviors related to decision-making
      • Risk-taking behaviors, bullying, school violence-related behaviors, and physical fighting
      • Higher risk of unintentional injury

      There are several studies describing the benefits of stretching before bed. Kids can benefit from a pre-bedtime stretching sessions to integrate sensory processing systems and the calming benefits of slow movement, heavy work as a regulation tool. This calms the body and helps with relaxation before bed.

      Stretching before bed supports sleep quality. One review of multiple studies found that mindfulness meditation practices that incorporate gentle stretching, such as yoga and tai chi, generally improve sleep quality.

      Another study found that older adults reported improved sleep quality after performing low level physical and cognitive activity. The researchers found that gentle stretching resulted in better sleep than when the participants performed more strenuous exercises, such as aerobics.

      Bedtime stretches help kids stay asleep. A study into resistance exercise training and stretching found that exercises could improve symptoms of insomnia. In the study, the participants performed stretching in 60-minute sessions three times per week for a period of 4 months. The results showed improved sleep quality when stretching in the evening.

      Better sleep supports learning and executive functioning skills. Other studies tell us that better sleep hygiene in children support development of executive functioning skills.

      yoga poses for stress relief

      Today, I’m sharing a great way to calm kids down before bed so that quality sleep is possible. These yoga poses for stress relief and bedtime relaxation promote organizing heavy work through the proprioceptive sensory system and gentle movement through the vestibular sensory system.

      Another contributing factor is the interoceptive system which connects our internal systems such as digestion, heart rate, circadian rhythms, and muscle tension. All of these factors play a vital role in impacting sleep, with both the ability to fall asleep, and the ability to stay asleep throughout the night. This study shares more on the interoceptive system’s role in sleep.

      These organizing and calming yoga poses stretch the muscles and joints to offer feedback to regulate an overactive system.

      If you’ve ever participated in a yoga session, you know the benefits of certain yoga poses in reducing stress and anxiety.

      It’s important to make the connection between stress responses, anxiety, over-active thoughts, and a hyper-response to stimulation and emotional responses. The difficulty in identifying and describing emotions in self (a huge part of social emotional learning and development) is referred to as Alexithymia.

      This ability develop social emotional skills occurs with age, and social skills interventions.

      Specifically, alexithymia is defined as difficulty identifying and describing emotions in self. We know that noticing and understanding internal body signals (aka interoception) is crucial to a bodily systems, so it makes sense that if interoception is affected, using or showing emotions, and identifying emotions in self will be affected.

      Interoception influences emotions by it’s control and underlying influence on internal processes of the body: toileting, hunger, thirst, and sleep!

      When interoception impacts sleep, it then further impacts emotions:

      • stress
      • getting angry or frustrated easily
      • anxiety
      • fear
      • worry
      • overly emotional responses
      • sadness
      • over-excitability
      • hyperactive responses

      All of these emotional responses are normal and good feelings to experience. However, when sleep is reduced, they can move into an area of impacting other functional tasks or everyday occupations.

      You’ll also find information and resources in this article on the limbic system including the stress response. You can see how all of these concepts fit together to impact daily functioning.

      How to use yoga poses for stress relief with children

      Using yoga to support relaxation at bedtime is not a new concept. Yoga naturally supports relaxation through the heavy work input of the proprioceptive sense.

      However, yoga also adds the benefit of deep breathing exercises to calm and center the body as an organization tool.

      When it comes to bedtime, adding anything to the nightly routine can mean a delayed bedtime, so making the relaxation stretches part of the routine that is already in place is important. If you read a book together each night, incorporate stretches into that. If brushing teeth and going to the bathroom are the only tasks that happen each night, use the time just after those jobs to do a few stretches.

      Adding bedtime stretches for the purpose of relaxation doesn’t need to be difficult. The most important thing here is to make it work for your situation and home. down the somersaults and hardwood floor stunts into relaxing bedtime.  

      Here are some tips to support relaxation at bedtime:

      • Use bedtime relaxation stretches in a nightly routine. A visual schedule can be helpful with some kids.
      • Dim the lights and turn on soothing music
      • Read a book before bed
      • Drink a warm drink as a calming food/sensory tool.
      • Set the mood for sleep with a calming bedroom or sleep space: snuggly blankets, cozy pillows, or cool temperature, depending on the individual’s preferences.
      • Use the relaxation stretches listed below.

      One way that helps to get kids relaxed before bed is reading a great book.  When kids can listen to an engaging story that is read aloud, their bodies can’t help but slow down.  

      Bedtime Relaxation Stretches for Kids

      These bedtime relaxation stretches are a combination of relaxing yoga moves and heavy work that helps to ground the body through proprioceptive input to the body’s sensory receptors in the muscles. 

      Performing these relaxing stretches can help transition kids to a calmed state that allows for a better sleep.

      Below are forms of yoga poses for children.

      We decided to use one of our favorite going to bed books, (Amazon affiliate link) Mem Fox’s Time for Bed

      In the book, we hear a rhyming verse about each animal’s transition to sleep.  It’s such a beautiful book to snuggle up with kids during night time routines.  In fact, Time for Bed can easily become one of those books that you read over and over again.

      We loved looking at the watercolor pictures in Time for Bed and picturing each animal as it got ready for sleep.  

      To go along with the book, we tried some of these bedtime relaxation stretches. 

      Grab your copy of the free printable below by entering your email address into the form, or going to The OT Toolbox Member’s Club and heading to the Mindfulness Toolbox.

      Time for Bed book by Mem Fox and relaxation stretches for bedtime

      To do these exercises, simply cut out the printable on the lines, and create a small stack of stretches.  Kids can do one or more of these relaxation stretches to calm down before settling in with the Time for Bed book.

      Simply pull out a couple of the stretches and join your child on the floor to perform each stretch.  The stretches are designed based on the animals in the book.  

      When doing the stretches, hold the stretch for 2-3 minutes while maintaining deep breathing. 

      Bedtime relaxation stretches
      Print off these relaxation stretches for a bedtime calm down session for kids.

      As we all know, kids will be kids.  If your child is getting too wound up from the stretches (because sometimes the sleepy sillies take over and make concentrating on stretches and relaxing deep breaths nearly impossible!) simply put the stretches away and try them another day.

      Bedtime stretches with an animal theme
      Relaxation stretch for kids, incorporating yoga poses for stress, anxiety, or to calm down before bed.

      Your child will love doing these bedtime relaxation stretches with you and the whole family!

      Bedtime stretches to do before bed

      Little Goose Stretch– Lie on the floor on your back, with your feet raised up on the wall.  Keep your knees straight.  Spread your arms out on the floor like a goose.  Bend and point your toes slowly.

      Little Cat Stretch– Snuggle in tight!  Sit criss cross applesauce on the floor.  Bend forward at the hips and place your head on the ground.  Stretch your arms out on the floor over your head.

      Little Calf Stretch– Grasp both hands together behind your back.  Bend forward at the hips and raise your arms up behind you.

      Little Foal Stretch– Lie on your back and pull your knees in with your arms.  Hold the position and whisper about your day.

      Little Fish Stretch–  Take a deep breath. Hold your breath in your cheeks and puff out those cheeks.  Slowly let out your breath with pursed lips.

      Little Sheep Stretch–  Stand facing a wall and place your feet shoulder width apart.  Place your hands flat on the wall, shoulder width apart.  Push against the wall by bending and straightening your elbows.

      Little Bird Stretch–  Close your eyes.  Think about your day and take deep breaths.  Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.  Add a “wing” component by raising your arms up high as you breathe in and lowering them as you slowly breathe out.

      Little Snake Stretch–  Lie on your back on the floor.  Keep your legs straight and cross them at the ankles.  Place your arms over your head on the floor.  Cross them at the wrists.  

      Little Pup Stretch–  Get into a downward dog yoga position.  

      Little Deer Stretch– Sit on the floor with your legs straight. Spread them far apart and bend at the hips to touch one foot.  Hold it and then stretch to touch the other foot.

      Try this tonight!  Do a few stretches and then snuggle up while reading Time for Bed!

      Calming bedtime books for kids

      MORE relaxing bedtime books for kids

      These relaxing bedtime books for kids are other ideas to use to support calming sensory input in a relaxation bedtime routine:

      Amazon affiliate links are included below:

      Free Printable set of relaxation stretches for bedtime

      Use the Time For Bed book and relaxation stretches we used above in a bedtime routine of your own. Get a printable PDF of these stretches by entering your email address into the form below. Or, members in The OT Toolbox membership club can grab this PDF by logging in and heading to Brain Break Tools.

      Free Time For Bed Relaxation Stretches

        We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

        One more thing! If you are into creative ways to extend and learn based on books, you will LOVE this resource! 50 activities based on books that address friendship, acceptance, emotions…This ebook is amazing for covering all things emotional development through play!

        Get yours!  

        Read more about the book here.

        Exploring Books through Play helps kids develop fine motor skills and gross motor skills while learning about empathy and compassion.

        Bilateral Integration

        bilateral integration

        Bilateral Integration is an area that kids need for so many tasks…but it’s not a developmental milestone that stands out unless a problem is necessarily noticed unless there is a problem. What we do notice in as our kids grow and develop are the motor skills that impact functioning. We notice use of both hands, fluid and efficient movements in tasks like playing, getting dressed, and interacting with peers. Let’s take a look at bilateral integration and dissect how to support this essential sensory motor skill.

        Another resource that supports this information is our blog post on bilateral coordination. You’ll find many bilateral integration activities in that blog post.

        Bilateral integration resources and information

        Bilateral Integration

        From writing and holding the paper, to holding a art project and cutting with scissors, to zippering a jacket, coordinating both sides of the body in an efficient manner is a skill that is necessary for almost everything we do.

        Bilateral coordination develops from a very young age. When babies begin to bring both hands together at their mouth, you are seeing coordinated efforts begin. When the infant pushes up on both arms while lying in a tummy time position, the integrated movements of both hands and legs occurs along with strength and control.

        Research tells us that motor tasks like jumping, jumping jacks, riding a bike, hopping, etc. become easier and more fluid with age as children develop. It’s through play, sensory input, motor skill experience, and activities that these skills are developed.

        Below, you will find bilateral integration activities that can be incorporated at various ages. Use these bilateral coordination activities to promote coordinated and efficient movements in meaningful activities.

        What is Bilateral integration?

        Bilateral integration refers to the ability of both sides of the brain to work together in a coordinated manner. We see this ability when the skills associated with the left side of the brain are done in conjunction with skills associated with the right side of the brain.

        Skills associated with the left side of the brain:

        • Speech and language- Understanding using language (listening, reading, speaking and writing)
        • Comprehension
        • Math problems and facts
        • Handwriting
        • Linear thinking
        • Memory for spoken and written messages
        • Logic
        • Verbal language
        • Sequencing

        Skills associated with the right side of the brain:

        • Creativity and imagination
        • Creative thinking
        • Spatial skills
        • Intuition
        • Art, drawing, and creative artistic skills
        • Musical skills

        Then, when other aspects of functional performance are added to the mix and the individual is still able to complete the task, this is bilateral integration in action.

        Those other considerations include:

        • Attention and focus
        • Proprioceptive input
        • Vestibular input
        • Visual information
        • Motor targets achieved, or motor control shown by fluid movements
        • Praxis- movements thought about and completed in coordinated manner

        When both sides of the body work together in a coordinated manner so that the individual can manipulate objects such as cutlery with various amounts of force modulation, taking in sensory stimuli such as sights, sounds, tastes, and proprioceptive and vestibular input, and managing posture, coordination, and body awareness, bilateral integration is visible.

        When bilateral coordination or bilateral integration is intact and progressing appropriately through development, it is an indicator that both sides of the brain are communicating effectively and sharing information during functional tasks. 

        Tasks that require bilateral integration

        Knowing what we covered above, it is easy to see how some daily tasks are impacted by coordinated and integrated motor skills requiring both sides of the body. Each of these skills requires and has input from other sensory systems and cognitive systems as well, such as proprioceptive input, executive functioning, attention, and even creative thinking and problem solving.

        • Writing and holding the paper in a stable position
        • Cutting and holding the paper steady and at an appropriate height
        • Putting on a coat while holding a backpack (or other item)
        • Tying shoes
        • Pulling up pants and not losing balance
        • Putting socks on
        • Jumping jacks with coordinated movements
        • Turning a page and writing or copying work
        • Typing
        • Squeezing toothpaste and brushing teeth
        • Flossing teeth
        • Playing an instrument
        • Using a knife and fork
        • Pouring water from a pitcher into a cup
        • Cooking skills: chopping, cutting, slicing, peeling, taking food out of packages, putting food into the microwave or stove, taking food out of the fridge
        • Reaching for objects
        • Stabilizing an object with one hand while manipulating another object with the other
        • Jumping rope
        • Catching a ball
        • Riding a bike
        • Swimming
        • Many more tasks!
        These bilateral integration activities are creative ways to help kids with bilateral integration needed for fine motor tasks like handwriting, scissor use, and other functional skills.

        Bilateral Integration Activities 

        Amazon affiliate links are included in this post.

        First, let’s talk about some ways that coordinated use of the arms and legs are needed for coordinated movements. These are skills and tasks that can easily be performed by some children. Others, who struggle with motor planning, core strength, posture needs, left-right discrimination, visual motor skills, or many other areas can struggle. It’s easy to see that simply addressing some areas won’t fix the issue when an underlying concern is present.

        To promote the skills needed for these tasks, try some of the activities listed below to promote bilateral integration:

        Related Read: Here are are some additional bilateral coordination activities with a winter theme.

        Bilateral Integration Activities for Babies

        Bilateral movements are part of everyday life for baby! From turning, creeping on the floor, rolling, sitting, crawling, cruising on furniture, and taking first steps, babies are developing bilateral integration skills from birth.

        Encourage these bilateral integration activities with babies:

        There are ways to support child development at this stage through age-appropriate play that will support the child’s progression at later stages, too.

        • Provide various toys and objects appropriate for young babies. Include bold colored objects including black, white, and red items or contrasting colors, toys, or pictures on a blanket or play mat during tummy time. This black and white board book can be propped up or used while on an adult’s lap.
        • Provide gentle infant massage during and after bath time, and on all extremities. Here is a resource book on infant massage.
        • Provide toys and age-appropriate objects for reach and grasp. This banana toothbrush teether has molded handles that make it a great teething item for little ones.
        • Provide teething toys as baby brings hands together at their mouth.
        • Provide toys that are appropriate for mouthing that can be held in both hands.
        • Provide hand-held toys while the child is seated in a high chair. This one has a suction cup base to keep it stable, but has a black and white ring at the base that babies can grasp with one hand while manipulating with the other hand.
        • Provide toys of various weights when seated upright to provide resistance against gravity and to promote strengthening of the upper extremities. Blocks, rings, sorting toys, or something like this quality teething toy made of heavier materials can be useful to provide variances in weight, while still allowing the baby to manipulate the item.
        • Provide toys available on a high chair or table surface at various distances to provide opportunities for depth of perception when reaching for toys and bringing them to the mouth.
        • Continue tummy time while playing in prone to promote strength and stability in upper extremities.
        • Use the ideas in our baby play library for more ideas.

        Bilateral Integration Activities for Toddlers

        Provide toys requiring one hand to stabilize a base while the other hands manipulates an object. Shape sorters are great for this.

        Other toys include:

        • Peg Boards
        • Blocks- These press and stay sensory blocks are perfect for encouraging one hand to use as a stabilizer and one hand as a
        • Play Dough
        • Drawing/coloring- Here is more information on the benefits of coloring.
        • Use these crayons for toddlers to support bilateral coordination skills during coloring.

        Bilateral Integration Activities for Preschool

        Preschool is a time for building hand strength, coordination, eye-hand coordination, and improving motor skills needed for the upcoming years. You can find many preschool activities here on our website, but some specific ways to support bilateral integration include:

        • Encourage kids to participate in cooking activities.
        • Use play dough to cut with scissors and roll out play dough snakes or balls of play dough.
        • Age-appropriate crafts and craft sets are great for this age.
        • Play with stickers of various sizes.
        • Make “snow angels” on a carpet or fluffy blanket
        • Simon Says is a great game for encouraging novel and varied motor combinations. Use these Simon Says Commands to get started.
        • Play various song and movement games such as the Hokey Pokey, Farmer in the Dell, etc. Here are movement and song activities that can be used in circle time, warm-ups, centers, or in group activities. All of these move and dance songs promote core strength and stability.
        • Climb on outdoor play areas at playgrounds and in low trees.
        • Add sensory! Try this table top bilateral coordination activity to draw shapes.
        • Draw with both hands! This four leaf clover activity is a powerful one as it covers a variety of skills.

        Bilateral Coordination Activities for School-Aged Kids

        In schools, development of bilateral integration is important for tasks like putting on a coat or jacket and backpack, holding a paper with the supporting hand and writing, and using scissors. There are many other bilateral integration tasks that happen throughout the day.

        Some ways you can support development of these skills include:

        Try these bilateral integration activities and coordination ideas to promote use of both hands together in activities such as handwriting, cutting with scissors and so many other tasks!

        Last thoughts on encouraging bilateral integration

        The best way to encourage and promote integration of both sides of the body? Movement and play! Get the kids active, moving, and experiencing various planes against resistance and with exposure to all types of sensory experiences.

        The combination of proprioceptive input into a play experience that promotes strengthening in a fun way provides all of the benefits kids need to improve bilateral coordination skills. Add personal interests as the child grows. And finally, have fun!

        Use these bilateral coordination activities to promote bilateral integration needed for skills like writing and holding the paper and any activity that uses one hand to manipulate an object while stabilizing with the other hand.

        Matching Uppercase and LowerCase Letters

        uppercase and lowercase letter matching

        This interactive and hands on game to teach matching uppercase and lowercase letters is a fun gross motor game for preschool and kindergarten. Use this interactive letter activity along as an alphabet matching with objects and a sensory-motor learning activity!

        Matching uppercase letters to lowercase letters is a literacy task that supports reading skills, but also challenges visual discrimination skills, form constancy, and visual scanning, all of which are visual processing skills needed for handwriting and reading comprehension. What’s fun about this activity is that it builds these skills in a fun way!

        Be sure to grab our color by letter worksheet to work on letter matching, visual discrimination skills.

        Uppercase and lowercase letter match activity

        Matching Uppercase and Lowercase Letters

        Learning letters and matching upper and lower case letters is a Kindergarten skill that can be tricky for some kids.  We made this easy prep letter identification activity using items you probably already have in the house.  If you’ve seen our blog posts over the last few days, you’ve noticed we’re on a learning theme using free (or mostly free) items you probably already have.  

        We’re sharing 31 days of learning at home with free materials this month along with 25 other bloggers in the 31 days of homeschooling tips series.  

        Today’s easy letter learning activity can use any letters you have around the house or magnetic letters and coffee filters.

        Matching upper and lower case letters and alphabet letter identification can be difficult for kindergarteners.  Use this letter matching game to prepare for kindergarten skills and gross motor play along with visual scanning. Uses magnetic letters and coffee filters for easy prep and set-up.  Great letter matching ideas and activities here!


        While this activity is almost free if you’ve got the items at home already, we’re sharing the affiliate links for the items in this post.

        Matching upper and lower case letters and alphabet letter identification can be difficult for kindergarteners.  Use this letter matching game to prepare for kindergarten skills and gross motor play along with visual scanning. Uses magnetic letters and coffee filters for easy prep and set-up.  Great letter matching ideas and activities here!

        How to play this interactive letter matching activity

        You’ll need just a few items for this letter matching activity:

        • Magnetic letters
        • marker
        • coffee filters (but paper towels or recycled paper would work as well.

        To set up the activity, there are just a few steps:

        1. Grab the magnetic letters from the fridge and 26 coffee filters.
        2. Use a permanent marker to write one lower case letter of the alphabet on each coffee filter.
        3. With your child, match the magnetic letters to the lowercase letters on the coffee filters.
        4. Ask the child to help you crumble each letter inside the coffee filter that has its matching lowercase letter.
        5. Continue the play!
        Matching upper and lower case letters and alphabet letter identification can be difficult for kindergarteners.  Use this letter matching game to prepare for kindergarten skills and gross motor play along with visual scanning. Uses magnetic letters and coffee filters for easy prep and set-up.  Great letter matching ideas and activities here!

        More ways to match uppercase and lowercase letters

        By matching the magnetic uppercase letter to the lowercase letter on the coffee filter, kids get a chance to incorporate whole body movements and gross motor activity while looking for matching letters.

        With your child, first match up each lower case coffee filter letter to the upper case magnetic letter.  

        You can spread the filters out to encourage visual scanning and involve movement in the activity, OR you can stack the coffee filters in a pile and one by one match up the letters.  This technique requires the child to visually scan for the upper case magnet letters.  

        Try both ways for more upper/lower case letter practice!

        We then wrapped the coffee filters around the magnets in a little bundle.  There are so many games you can play with these upper and lower case letters:

        • Match the same letter– match uppercase letters to uppercase letters and lowercase letters to lowercase letters.
        • Alphabet matching with objects– Match an object that starts with the letter of the alphabet. Use small objects inside the coffee filter and match it to lowercase letters written in the coffee filter with uppercase magnet letters.
        • Match the picture with the letter– Print off pictures of words that start with each letter of the alphabet. Then match the picture with letters of the alphabet using lowercase letters written on the filter and uppercase letters in magnetic letter form.
        • Play a letter memory game– Hide letters around the room and challenge kids to find the letters in order to match the uppercase letter to the lowercase letters.
        • Letter sound matching– Make a letter sound and challenge kids to find the letter that makes that sound.
        • Letter Hide and Seek- Hide the bundled up letters around the room while your child hides his eyes.  Send him off to find the letters and ask him to open the bundle and identify the letter.
        • Letter Toss Activity- Toss the coffee filter bundles into a bucket or bin.  Any letters that make it into the bin are winners!
        • Name the letters- Unwrap the bundles and name the letters.  Spread the coffee filters out around the room.  Toss magnetic letters onto the matching lower case letter.  
        • Letter toss game- Toss a bean bag onto the coffee filters.  The child can identify the lower case letter, then go to the pile of magnetic letters and find the matching upper case letter.  
        Matching upper and lower case letters and alphabet letter identification can be difficult for kindergarteners.  Use this letter matching game to prepare for kindergarten skills and gross motor play along with visual scanning. Uses magnetic letters and coffee filters for easy prep and set-up.  Great letter matching ideas and activities here!

        Can you think of any more ways to work on upper and lower case letter matching with coffee filters and magnetic letters? 

        Matching Big and Small Letters

        The nice thing about this activity is that you can teach the concepts of big and small letters. When we say “big letters” and “small letters”, we are showing the concept of letters that touch the top and bottom lines, or the upper case letters.

        And teaching children the difference between those big letters and the small letters which touch just the middle point are part of the visual discrimination process that is needed for handwriting on the lines, or line awareness skills.

        You will enjoy more alphabet posts from our archives:
         
         
         

        Looking for more interactive letter activities to match uppercase and lowercase letters? The Letters! Fine Motor Kit is for you!

        Letters Fine Motor Kit
        Letter Kit for fine motor, visual motor, and sensory motor play.

        This 100 page printable packet includes everything you need for hands-on letter learning and multisensory handwriting!

        This digital and printable packet includes these multisensory handwriting and letter formation materials:

        • A-Z Multisensory Writing Pages
        • Alphabet Fine Motor Clip Cards
        • Cut and place Fine Motor Mazes
        • A-Z Cotton Swab Cards
        • A-Z Pattern Block Cards
        • Fine Motor Letter Geo-Cards
        • A-Z Color and Cut Letter Memory Cards
        • Color By Size Sheets
        • A-Z Building Block Cards
        • A-Z Play Dough Letter Formation Cards
        • Graded Lines Box Writing Sheets
        • Alphabet Roll and Write Sheets
        • Pencil Control Letter Scan
        • Color and Cut Puzzles