Movement Activities Monster OT Slides

Recently, I’ve been sharing some occupational therapy slide decks with you. These slide decks are OT activities that can be used in teletherapy sessions as part of distance OT or distance learning. Today, I’ve got movement activities with a monster theme to share. These are monster themed occupational therapy activities that cover a variety of areas. When you access the OT slide deck, use in to work on OT activities like a therapy warm-up, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, visual perceptual skills, visual motor skills, and finally, a self-regulation check-in. Each activity in the collection involves movement activities that build specific skills. Scroll to the bottom of this post to enter your email to access the latest free occupational therapy slide deck.

Movement activities for occupational therapy sessions with a free OT slide deck that incorporates fine motor, gross motor, coordination, visual motor skills, regulation and other movement in monster theme activities.

Movement activities

As always, my mission here at The OT Toolbox is to help you help kids thrive through the use of easily accessible tools and resources.

try these monster activities for a lesson plan for writing, letter identification through movement.

The slides included in this set are acceptable movement activities for preschoolers because they use letters, helping preschoolers to recognize and identify letters. The slides would also work as a movement activity for kids in older grades as well, using the handwriting and visual motor activities to build specific skills like visual motor skills needed for handwriting tasks, copying lists of words, and visual perceptual skills needed for reading.

Monster Movement Activities for Kids

The slide deck promotes movement activities for kids in several ways. These are the slides and an agenda of activities to use in therapy sessions:

Warm-Up– Use the gross motor movement activities as a warm up to help with body awareness and a sensory tool to add proprioceptive and vestibular input. Kids can copy the body positioning to challenge balance and coordination, as well as motor planning. I’ve added a visual perceptual component to the warm-up movement slides by asking children to identify a partially hidden letter as they do the whole-body movements. This challenges visual perceptual skills including visual discrimination, visual figure-ground, visual closure, form constancy, and visual memory. Read more about these skills that are needed to complete hidden pictures activities, for example.

Monster activity with movement activities for preschool and movement activities for kids of all ages.

Writing- The writing slides in this slide deck ask kids to identify the month they are born and the first letter of their name to create a wacky monster name. They can write this word phrase to practice handwriting. The visual scanning and tracking involved in this activity really challenges the visual processing skills and visual efficiency of the eyes. The movement activity of writing their name incorporates a functional task that they may be working on in their OT goals.

Kids will love to work on handwriting with this monster name activity.

Fine Motor- The fine motor portion of this movement activity slide deck involves tearing paper into small pieces. By ripping paper, kids are building hand strength, bilateral coordination, eye-hand coordination, and efficiency of grasp. I’ve added a visual motor component to this activity by asking the child to use those paper scraps in shaping and copying specific shapes. The whole fine motor activity adds much-needed fine motor movement and eye-hand coordination to a shape building activity.

Visual- The visual portion of this occupational therapy slide deck is a favorite for some kids (My own kids included!) Use the slides to work on visual perceptual skills as they find matching shadows for the monster figures in a series of three slides. After the child completes each slide, ask them to jump and and cheer!

A monster visual perception activity for ot sessions.

Calm Down/Check-In- Lastly, you’ll find a calm down slide that incorporates the colors of the Zones of Regulation program. Children can complete the calm down movement activities shown on the slides and then choose a color to check in for their state of feelings.

Work on self-regulation activities with a monster theme.
Use the zones of regulation with a monster theme

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    HERE ARE MORE Movement ACTIVITIES TO USE IN VIRTUAL OT SESSIONS

    Heavy work movement activity cards

    Monthly movement activities

    Teletherapy activities for kids

    Work on fine motor skills in teletherapy

    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.

    Pumpkin activity kit
    Pumpkin Fine Motor Kit

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

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

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

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

    Upper Body Strength

    upper body strength

    In occupational therapy, addressing upper body strength can iffy for some. All OT interventions must be functional and based on daily tasks that make up a person’s day. OT is occupation! So when it comes to upper body strengthening, the question can arise whether the strengthen is functional. BUT, when you think about functional tasks, upper body strength is a must. When upper body strength results in less function of daily occupations, upper body exercises relate back to the functional task, making skilled strengthening activities part of the OT treatment plan. Let’s look at upper body strength and upper body strengthening activities that are used in occupational therapy sessions.

    Upper body strength activities for kids that develop upper body strengthening through play.

    These upper extremity activities for toddlers can get you started on some ideas for strengthening the upper body through play.

    Upper Body Strength

    The other day I was working on hand strength with a young child in one of my therapy sessions and I noticed how difficult it was for him to keep his arm in position while he was trying to complete the activity. I was reminded once again of how important upper body strength is when we are working towards improving fine motor skills.

    Upper body strength is made up of the muscles in the upper chest, muscles in the upper back and muscles attached to the shoulder joint. All of these muscles work together to create stability at the shoulder joint. This shoulder girdle stability is essential for establishing a solid anchor for the rest of the arm. Without this anchor it is difficult to develop good control in the lower arm, hands and fingers. In therapy-speak we talk about developing proximal stability before we can achieve distal control. 

    The stronger body enables functional performance in purposeful activities.

    Development of upper body strength

    Upper body strength emerges as young toddlers and children engage in movement activities. In the first few months of life babies push up on their arms when lying on their tummies.

    This early weight-bearing leads to strengthening and allows them to progress to four-point kneeling and eventually crawling. Upper body strength is very important as babies pull themselves into standing and begin to cruise along the couch or coffee table. This upper body strength continues to develop as children learn to climb jungle gyms, hold on to swings and learn to ride bicycles. The importance of play and movement in the early years reinforces the need for parents and caregivers to provide opportunities for young children to move and grow.

    Read more about the power of play and the impact that the occupation of play has on strength development in kids.

    Upper body strength remains vital in school-aged children as they tackle the challenge of refining their fine motor skills. 

    How to develop upper body strength

    When focusing on developing upper body strength in children the vertical surface will become your new best friend!   

    Working on a vertical surface places extra demands on the upper body as these muscles have to move against gravity to complete the task. Working on a vertical surface has the added bonus of placing the wrist and fingers in a good position for drawing or writing.

    A vertical surface can be a wall, a door, a mirror, a blackboard or a white board.

    Have a look at the following activities (and purposeful, functional tasks) that you can complete on a vertical surface:

    1. Draw or color pictures

    Use tape to stick a piece of paper or picture on the wall. Use chalk, crayons, pastels or pencil crayons to draw a picture or color a picture in. When working for upper body strength try to encourage big movements that incorporate a wide range of movement for the shoulder muscles. Big bold rainbows and large lazy eights work very well.

    Remember that the physical demands of working on a vertical surface are much greater than working at a table or a desk so give your child a chance to build up stamina and endurance. 

    Read more about coloring as a functional occupation and the development of coloring skills.

    1.  Playdough press

    I like to use a mirror or white board for vertical playdough activities. Playdough lends itself to endless creative outcomes and working against a vertical surface adds a new fun dimension. Playdough pieces can be used to fill in outlines of pictures or playdough creations can be stuck onto the white board. A large piece of playdough can be stuck onto the vertical surface and impressions can be made using everyday objects e.g. spoon, pencil. We have even had fun making handprint and footprint impressions.

    Also try these play dough activities for improving upper body strength through play. 

    1. Stickers 

    There are many reasons why stickers improve skills. Using stickers adds some refined pincer grip control, pinch strength, eye-hand coordination, wrist stability, shoulder girdle strengthening, and more. Place a page or picture on a vertical surface and use stickers to decorate. You can give verbal instructions to add listening skills and spatial concepts to the task e.g. place the blue sticker next to the cat. 

    1. Painting

    Painting is another functional task that improves hand and upper body strength. Occupational performance includes leisure activities such as painting and art. Painting is a great functional way to improve upper body strength. Complete your painting activity on an easel or vertical surface.  

    1.  Shaving cream on a mirror

    This fun, messy activity is a firm favorite with children. Spray a dollop of shaving cream into their hands and encourage them to spread it across the mirror to create a shaving cream drawing board. Draw pictures, shapes and patterns across the mirror. 

    1. Whiteboard activities

    Use whiteboard and white board markers to practice letter or number formations. To improve hand and upper body strength, use the whiteboard to play games like tic tac toe, word searches, and more.

    1. Tearing and sticking

    Stick the outline of a picture or shape on the wall. Tear small pieces of paper from a magazine and use a glue stick to paste the pieces onto the shape to fill the shape. Tearing paper strengthens the hand, wrist, shoulder girdle, and upper body. To make this a functional task, try using junk mail as a paper tearing activity.

    1. Body shapes

    This works well on a mirror. Ask the child to stand with their back up against the mirror. Use a Koki to trace the outline of the child. Encourage the child to add in the facial detail and clothing in order to complete the picture.

    1. Race tracks 

    Draw a race track on a chalkboard or on a large piece of paper stuck to the wall. Drive a small car along the race track. Older children can draw their own race tracks. Try this race track activity using wikki stix. Playing on the floor strengthens the upper body, core, shoulder girdle, and wrist. Using wikki stix to pinch and peel on the floor while incorporating upper body support is a great way to build upper body strength through play.

    Kids also love this garage door activity where we used magnetic letters on the garage door. What a great activity for using a vertical surface to strengthen the upper body through play.

    1. Tic Tac Toe

    This can be played on a vertical surface.  Encourage your child to draw the grid before playing the game. Engaging in these activities on a vertical surface will contribute to the development of upper body strength. Many of the games and activities that you have at home or in the classroom can be adapted to ‘vertical’ activities with a bit of tape or prestik. 

    For more functional upper extremity exercises using functional activities to strengthen the upper body for pencil grasp, scissor use, dressing, clothing fasteners, and more, be sure to grab our seasonal Fine Motor Kits. Each one includes resources for upper body strengthening but can be used on vertical surfaces for shoulder and core strengthening.

    These Heavy Work Activity Cards promote full body movement and strengthening through play. Add them to your therapy toolkit.

    Contributor to The OT Toolbox: Janet Potterton is an occupational therapist working predominantly in school-based settings and I love, love, love my job. I have two children (if you don’t count my husband!), two dogs, one cat, two guinea pigs and one fish. When I am not with my family or at work I try to spend time in nature. The beach is my happy place.

    Playground Balance Activities

    playground balance activities

    Today I have a fun activity for kids…playground balance activities! This virtual playground activity has various movement and coordination tasks that challenge kids to work on posture, position changes, coordination, core strength, and much more. While playing at the playground is the way to go to develop gross motor skills, sometimes getting outdoors is just not possible. That’s where this playground therapy slide deck comes in!

    Playground balance activities for sensory play and coordination when going to the playground isn't possible. Use these in a playground theme in therapy activities.

    Playground Balance Activities

    When you think about playing at the playground, you think climbing, stooping, sliding, and balancing, right? There are so many ways that playing on playground equipment is such a powerful way to develop gross motor skills, balance, coordination, and overall strength.

    But, sometimes it’s just not possible to get out to the playground. Things like weather can impact playground use. Other times, limitations in using public spaces impacts use of the playground in the school setting. And, for therapists running therapy sessions, sometimes you want to incorporate all of the fun of a playground setting in the therapy clinic!

    When you access this playground balance activity slide deck, you get to pretend you are at the playground no matter what setting you are in. Then, by following the commands on each slide, children can get all of the benefits of stooping, crawling, balancing, and changing postures.

    Each slide on this free slide deck asks kids to follow the visual cue. There are visuals for different playground task. Things like:

    • Balancing on one leg by monkey bars
    • Stooping to pick up a ball
    • Kicking a ball
    • Squatting to play in the sandbox
    • Climbing on playground equiptment
    • Throwing a ball
    • Climbing on a merry-go-round
    • Jumping rope
    • Reaching up for monkey bars.

    Playground theme therapy

    By going through the playground exercises, kids work on a variety of areas:

    • Bilateral coordination
    • Motor planning
    • Core strength
    • Stabiliyt
    • Position changes
    • Sequencing
    • Motor control
    • Graded positioning
    • Posture
    • Balance
    • Direction-following

    These skills impact daily functioning in kids! Why not use a playground theme to work on these skill areas?

    When kids follow the directions on each slide, they are also gaining whole-body movements and heavy work input that can be calming as a regulation tool.

    If creating a weekly therapy theme works for your plans, then this playground theme is one you’ll want to add to your line up of occupational therapy activities and PT activities. You can use these playground balance exercises in therapy sessions to incorporate a therapy theme.

    1. Try using these visual playground strategies in between other tasks in a therapy session. Work on handwriting, scissor skills, and other functional tasks. And then come back to the balance activity. Then do another task and come back to the balance activity.
    2. Kids can work through the slides and try to remember all of the movements.
    3. Call out a piece of playground equipment and the child can recall the specific balance exercise. This is a great way to work on working memory and attention to detail.
    4. Incorporate handwriting: Ask students to list out all of the playground equipment. Work on letter formation, legibility, spacing, and line use. Then they can go through the slides and do the balance exercises.
    5. Add these activities to a sensory diet that helps kids regulate sensory input. Our outdoor sensory diet cards are the perfect combination to a playground theme!

    Free Playground Balance Activities Slide Deck

    Want to access this free therapy resource? It’s just one of the many free slides here on the website. All you need to do is enter your email address into the form below. You’ll receive a PDF containing a link to a Google slide deck. Copy it onto your drive and you are good to go! Start playing on the playground no matter where you are!

    Playground Balance Activities

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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.

      Paper Plate Activities

      Paper plate activities and paper plate crafts for occupational therapy

      In occupational therapy, paper plate activities are one of those OT intervention tools that are low-cost and can be used in a multitude of ways to support many different developmental skills. From paper plate interactive activities, to scissor activities, to fine motor development, paper plate crafts and sensory activities can be used to promote many skill areas in occupational therapy interventions or at home and in the classroom.

      Paper plate activities and paper plate crafts to develop skills like fine motor skills, social emotional skills, and gross motor skills.

      Paper Plate Activities

      I get really excited when I talk about the next subject – paper plate activities! Paper plate crafts and activities are so fun and often require very little materials with the end result being so wonderful for kids! 

      Paper plates can easily be used for arts and crafts, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, subject or topic learning, visual motor and perceptual skills, emotions and self-regulation as well as a myriad of games.

      Paper plates can be a go-to when you need a quick activity in any setting or on those cold, rainy days when you need something to keep the kids busy. They are a great motivator for kids and can help build important skills that a child needs to continue to learn and to grow. 

      Paper plates are a thrifty tool for therapy to build those motor and perceptual skills while providing a fun activity that any child will want to engage in during sessions. The use of paper plates in the classroom can be for exploring emotions and self-regulation, creating after reading a book and lots of subject and topic learning fun. Their use in the home can include arts and crafts, instrument making, and games that result in some fantastic family entertainment.

      Paper plates will give you the variety you need to help many kiddos on your caseload, in your classroom, or in your household. So, the next time you’re at the store, grab some plain or even festive paper plates and see what fun you can create with kids and you may find that you enjoy the fun too! 

      Use these paper plate crafts to work on scissor skills, hand strength, dexterity, eye-hand coordination, and more.

      Paper Plate Crafts

      In occupational therapy interventions, we often use crafts as a medium for developing skills (taking us back to our roots of our profession!) These paper plate crafts are great for developing fine motor skills, scissor skills, bilateral coordination, motor planning, executive functioning skills, and more.

      • Mini Beach– Work on hand strength, utensil use, and more to make a paper plate beach craft.
      • Paper Bowl Scarecrow Craft– Use this paper plate craft to work on fine motor skills like precision, dexterity, and mixed medium use. Add in emotional learning to make the scarecrow personalized. Kids can take this craft and add their own unique twists for a multi-sensory craft with open-ended results.
      • Paper Plate Snail Craft– Work on precision, in-hand manipulation, arch development, and other fine motor skills with this paper plate snail craft.
      • Paper Plate Cars This craft is great for addressing scissor skills.
      • Paper Plate Baseball Craft– Improve scissor skills with this paper plate baseball craft.
      • Paper Plate Bubble Gum Machine Craft– Work on eye-hand coordination skills.
      • Thanksgiving Feast Plate – Use this craft to work on functional tasks such as meal skills and utensil use, as well as hand strength.
      • Tin Foil Moon– This is a great craft for working on graded hand strength and bilateral coordination skills.

      Paper Plate Activities for Emotions and Self- Regulation

      The best thing about occupational therapy professionals is that they can use ANY material to work on a variety of skill areas. Use paper plates to address social emotional learning and self-regulation skills!

      Paper Plate Fine Motor Activities

      Paper plates are a great fine motor activity to support hand strengthening, scissor skills, bilateral coordination, and more.

      Paper Plate Gross Motor Activities

      Paper plates can be used in therapy to support gross motor skills, too.

      Paper Plate Learning Activities

      Use these activities to work on functional tasks and executive functioning skills needed in daily occupations such as learning, math, using a phone, telling time, name writing, and more.

      Paper Plate Auditory Processing with Paper Plate Instruments

      You can use paper plates to work on auditory processing, too.

      Paper Plate Visual Motor Activities

      Paper plates are a great tool to use in therapy to address visual motor skills.

      Now, what are you waiting for? Go grab some paper plates and pick an activity!!

      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!

      Sports Gross Motor Exercises

      sports gross motor exercises and sports motor planning activities

      Working on gross motor skills, motor planning, or self-regulation? These sports gross motor exercises are perfect for kids that love all things sports! Use the football, baseball, hockey, and other sports activities to add athletic themed brain breaks and whole body movement.

      Sports gross motor exercises and motor planning activities for kids

      Sports Gross Motor Exercises

      These sports gross motor activities are a free therapy slide deck to use in virtual therapy sessions or in face-to-face sessions with an outline of activities.

      There are so many ways you can use these sports movement activities to promote development of gross motor skills:

      • Copy the athlete to work on motor planning
      • Go through several slides to encourage sequencing and memory skills
      • Use the sports activities as heavy work in sports themed brain breaks
      • Copy the athletes on each slide to work on bilateral coordination, crossing midline, and segmenting the body.
      • Address posture, position changes, coordination, balance, and endurance
      • Use these sports exercises in a sports themed therapy session and encourage functional tasks like ball catching and throwing
      • Ask students to copy the words and work on handwriting with a sports related brain break between each word
      • How would you use these sports exercises in therapy?

      Sports Exercises Slide Deck

      This resource is a free Google slide deck that you can download and add to your Google drive. Open the slide deck in your Google classroom or right on your computer/device to encourage gross motor activities.

      This is a great addition to other free slides that we’ve shared here on the website, and a fun weekly therapy theme when you’ve got a sports fan on your caseload.

      To access this free therapy slide deck, enter your email address into the form below. You’ll receive an email containing a download. Save that PDF so you can use this again and again! Then click the link on the PDF and copy the exercises to your Google drive. Then get ready to lead therapy kiddos through motor planning and gross motor exercises that build skills!

      FREE Sports Gross Motor Exercises

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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.

        What are Visual Spatial Relations

        spatial relations activities

        Visual Spatial Relations is an important visual perceptual skill that is important for many functional tasks.  Spatial relations allows the organization of the body in relation to objects or spatial awareness.  This is an important part of spatial awareness in handwriting and many other movement-based activities.  An important part of visual spatial relations includes laterality and directionality. In general, these spatial relationship terms refer to left-right body awareness and the ability to perceive left/right relationship of objects. 

        Spatial Relations is being aware of oneself in space. It involves positioning items in relation to oneself, such as reaching for items without overshooting or missing the object. Most of us realize as we walk through a doorway that we need to space ourselves through the middle of the door.

        Some with poor visual spatial skills may walk to closely to the sides and bump the wall. It also involves the fine motor tasks of coordinating handwriting with writing in spaces allowed on paper, placing letters within an area (lines), and forming letters in the correct direction.

        What are spatial relations?

        Spatial relations, or visual spatial awareness, refers to an organization of visual information and an awareness of position in space so the body can move and perform tasks. Spatial relations are needed for completing physical actions, moving in a crowded space, and even handwriting.

        More examples of spatial relations

        Knowing which shoe to put on which foot.  Understanding that a “b” has a bump on the right side.  Putting homework on the left side of the take home folder before putting books into a locker beside the gym bag.  Visual spatial relations are everywhere!

        Here are more everyday examples of spatial relations at work:

        • Letter formation and number formation
        • Writing letters without reversal
        • Reading letters without reversal
        • Sports
        • Completing puzzles
        • Walking in a crowded hallway without running into others
        • Standing in line without bumping into others
        • Left/right awareness
        • Understanding spatial reasoning concepts such as beside/under/next to/etc
        • Reading without losing one’s place
        • Copying written work with appropriate spatial awareness
        • Reading maps  

        Visual spatial skills in occupational therapy activities are an important skill.  

        Visual Spatial Skills and Handwriting

        Spatial relations, and the ability to organize physical movements related to visual information impacts handwriting.

        You might be thinking: “Movement and handwriting!? What?? I want my kiddo to sit still and copy his homework into his planner without wiggling all over the desk!”

        Ok, ok. Here is the thing: We are asking our kids to write way to early. Preschoolers are being given paper with lines and are asked to write their name with correct letter formation. Kids are being thrown into the classroom environment with expectations for legible written work an they are missing the necessary basics.

        When kids are not developing the skills they need to hold a pencil, establish visual perceptual skills, and organize themselves, they are going to have struggles in handwriting.

        NOTE: There are a few other baseline tools that kids need in order to establish a base for better handwriting. Fine motor experiences, positioning, attention are just a few of these areas.

        Here are a few easy hands-on strategies to help with spatial relations in written work:

        1. Read this resource on hand dominance and laterality.
        2. Then check out this post on what you need to know about writing with both hands.
        3. Finally, check out this movement activity for direction following that involves spatial relations.

        These resources are all connected and can impact spatial relations skills!

        Another resource is this post on Hand Aerobics and Fine Motor Skills Needed in the Classroom

        You can find all of our handwriting posts here.

        Spatial Relations Quick Tip:
        Write a letter on the student’s back using a finger or a pencil eraser. Ask the student guess what letter it is. Then, ask the child to air write the letter. (While holding a pencil, with large motion, whole arm motions AND very small with just the fingers!) Finally have him write the letter on paper.

        • These activities all require the ability to perceive an object in space.  The way they interpret position in space to their body and to other objects in the environment impacts motor skills.    
        • Spacing pieces of a puzzle amongst the others and writing in relation to the lines is one way to work on this skill.

        Fine Motor Quick Tip:
        Encourage pinching activities. So many kids are exposed to screen technology from a young age. Screen interaction uses the pointer finger in isolation or just the thumb. These digits become strong and a dynamic pencil grasp is limited. Promote strengthening of the intrinsic muscles by pinching clay or tearing and crumbling small bits of paper. Read more about intrinsic muscle strengthening here.

        What are visual spatial relations and how are visual relationships and visual concepts needed for functional tasks?

        Spatial Relations Activities

        Try these movement-based spatial relations activities to work on the visual spatial skills needed for writing and completing everyday tasks:

        • Create a paper obstacle course. Draw obstacles on paper and have your child make his /her pencil go through the obstacles.
        • Draw circles, holes, mud pits, and mountains for them to draw lines as their pencil “climbs”, “jumps”, “rolls”, and even erases!
        • Create an obstacle course using couch cushions, chairs, blankets, pillows to teach left/right/over/under.
        • Write words and letters on graph paper. The lines will work as a guide and also a good spacing activity.
        • Use stickers placed along the right margin of to cue the student that they are nearing the edge of paper when writing.
        • Highlight writing lines on worksheets.
        • Draw boxes for words on worksheets for them to write within.
        • Play Simon Says.
        • Practice directions. Draw arrows on a paper pointing up, down, left, and right. Ask your child to point to the direction the arrow is pointing. The child can say the direction the arrows are pointing. Then create actions for each arrow. Up may be jumping. Down may be squatting. The Left arrow might be side sliding to the left, and the Right arrow might be a right high kick. Next, draw more rows of arrows in random order. Ask your child to go through the motions and try to go faster and faster.
         
         
        This map activity is great for building and developing spatial concepts and higher level thinking right in the backyard, using a map and lights to develop spatial relations. Teaching Spatial Concepts to Preschoolers and Toddlers through play. Over, under, around, and through and their need in functional tasks like shoe tying and handwriting. Visual Perception and spatial awareness in kids.  What is Spatial awareness and why do kids have trouble with spacing between letters and words, reversing letters, and all things vision.  Great tips here from an Occupational Therapist, including tips and tools to help kids with spacing in handwriting. What is spatial awareness?  Tips and tools for handwriting, reading, scissors, and all functional skills in kids and adults, from an Occupational Therapist.
         
         

        Other activities to incorporate spatial relations include:

        Try these other activities that challenge visual spatial relations:

        Movement and spatial relations worksheet to improve spatial awareness in kids

        Free Movement and Handwriting Worksheet

        Today’s free printable shares movement based activities to help kids improve their spatial relations. These are the skills kids need to write legibly. It includes tips and activities to improve spatial relations, that were mentioned above. This free handout is a great resource to add to your occupational therapy toolbox.

        You will receive this handout when you join the Handwriting Tips and Tricks series. Each day over the course of 5 days, you’ll receive a free handwriting worksheet to use in addressing common handwriting issues.

        Join the free handwriting series!

        handwriting handouts

        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.

        Tag Games

        Tag games for kids

        The thing about playing tag is that you can take this classic lawn game and make rules to change the game a thousand different ways and never play the same game twice! What a fun way to get kids moving and outside with movement, balance challenges, development of the visual system, and heavy work. Add these tag games to our massive list of outdoor lawn games to get kids moving, running, jumping, and building motor skills!

        These tag games are powerful ways to help kids develop skills. Use the creative tag games in therapy or in summer camp activities.

        Tag games

        The tag games listed in this post are great ways to add motor movement to kids, to get them off the screens, and outside. Tag also is a powerful way to play together as a family, adding a chance for connection and creating memories.

        What better way to spend some time together as a family than playing a game of tag that offers heavy work, sensory input, in the great outdoors?

        These tag games are also great running games for physical education. Use the tag games in a group therapy setting, in PE planning, or in summer camp activities.

        The nice thing about using a simple game of tag in summer camp activities is that you can modify the tag game to meet any theme or topic!

        • Have an ocean summer camp? Play ocean animals tag (kids call out ocean animals and drop to the ground to stay safe.)
        • Planning a space camp? Play space tag. Kids can call out planets when the “it” person is near and stay safe.
        • Creating a Pirates theme summer camp? Modify sharks and minnows tag to meet your theme.
        • Coming up with a handwriting camp to work on handwriting skills? Encourage heavy work through the arms by adding crawling, hopping, or heavy work animal walks.

        The options are limitless! Here are more summer camp ideas that tag can fit well into with therapeutic and team-building benefits.

        There are many therapeutic benefits of playing tag. Use these tag games in therapy or summer camps to help kids with child development and have fun too!

        Therapeutics benefits of playing tag

        When kids are running, stopping, turning course, running around obstacles, there are many developmental benefits.

        Let’s break down games of tags for their therapeutic benefits:

        Running- running in short bursts offers cardio input that gets the blood pumping. When kids run and stop in short bursts, they are gaining heavy work input through their legs and core. The short intervals involved in tag games build muscle strength, and allow for running at various speeds. As opposed to longer distance running, kids can be successful in running in short bursts. This is also a great way to “reset” after being indoors for a while, on a long car ride, in the classroom all day, or on screen devices for a long period of time. We talked here about the benefits of treadmills and wellbeing, but for shorter bursts of running, the mindfulness benefits definitely exist!

        Stopping and Starting- When we run and then stop abruptly or stop and turn, there are so many motor components occurring at one time. The muscles that are actively engaged need to stop abruptly, adding heavy work input through those muscles and joints. Then the opposing muscles and core need to activate to maintain posture. The whole body is engaged in this action. Kids often play tag in a yard or park where there are trees or other stationary structures. These provide a need to move around targets and slow running speed. This requires the visual processing system to interact with the motor tasks. When kids are running around other tag players, they are running around moving targets, which further engages muscles and visual processing system.

        Tagging others- Tag is such a great way to interact with others in an appropriate way. You may have had a school yard experience where you were pushed down in a game of tag. When others tag you and it occurs unexpectedly or with too much force, a fall can happen! However, by playing tag, kids get that experience with proprioceptive input, vestibular input, and visual motor skills. How much force must they exert to tag without pushing over a playmate? How far do they need to reach out to tag a friend without hitting their face? All of this experience in movement is powerful! It helps kids learn about how their body moves in space, spatial awareness, and eye-hand coordination skills.

        Spatial awareness- Expanding further on the spatial awareness skills, body awareness, and position in space, all of these body concepts are able to be carried over to other functional tasks. This experience allows kids to use this knowledge when walking in crowded hallways without bumping into others, spatial awareness in handwriting on a page, moving while carrying plates or heavy items. All of these experiences can be integrated for functional movement.

        Executive functioning skills- Playing a simple game of tag can build executive functioning skills, too! Think about it: when you play tag, there is working memory to recall movements that allowed you to escape in a previous game or trial. If you’re playing a fun tag game version, you need to recall specific words or phrases that were already used. Other executive functioning skills that are used in tag include planning, prioritization of movements, impulse control, task completion, initiation, processing speed, self-monitoring, foresight, mindset, and cognitive shift. What a powerful game tag is in building cognitive skills!

        Motor planning- Moving, making motor plans, running around obstacles and other children…what a great game tag is to build motor planning skills. There’s more: tag is a fast-paced game. So those motor planning sequences and movements need to happen quickly. The good news is that a game of tag offers many trials and repetitions to build motor plans and muscle memory.

        Visual Processing Skills- Visual processing skills is an umbrella of visual skills and tag addresses many of these areas through play. And playing tag requires many visual processing skills under that umbrella! Take a look at all of the visual skills needed for tag: eye-hand coordination, visual motor skills, visual scanning, visual tracking, visual convergence, visual discrimination, form constancy, visual figure ground, peripheral vision, visual efficiency, and visual acuity…what a powerful game tag is!

        So, now that we know the massive therapeutic benefits of tag, let’s take a look at some fun tag games for kids.

        Play these creative tag games to add a twist to the classic tag game.

        Fun Tag Games

        1. Classic tag– Someone is it and chases the others in the group. When they touch someone else, that person is now “it”. The game continues.

        2. TV Tag– One person is “it”. When they approach another person, the player yells the name of a TV show and drops to the ground. They are then safe and the person that is “it” needs to run and tag another person. This type of tag can be adjusted to call out music, songs, YouTube shows, games, sports, favorite foods, animals, etc.

        3. Flashlight Tag– Play tag in the early evening hours with flashlights.

        4. Sharks and Minnows Tag– One person is the shark and the others are the minnows. When the shark touches another player, that person then turns into a shark. Now there are two sharks. Play until all of the minnows turn into sharks.

        5. Freeze Tag- When a person is tagged, they need to freeze in place until another player touches them to “unfreeze” them.

        6. Cops and Robbers Tag- A group splits into either “cops” or “robbers”. The cops chase the robbers and once tagged, they need to sit in “jail” until another robber tags them and releases them.

        7. Pizza Tag- One person is “it” and chases the others.  Players run from “it” and can stay safe from being tagged by naming pizza toppings and touching the ground.

        8. Animal Walk Tag- Players can assume an animal walk (crab walks, hop like a bunny, waddle like a penguin, sway like an elephant, etc.) and play tag!

        Social Distance Tag Games

        9. No-Touch Tag Games- Tag games can be modified to any theme which is great for social distancing. One person is “it”. When they near another child, that person yells out a word or phrase, or completes an action like hopping, squatting, acting like an animal, touching the ground, dabbing, or completing any physical action. Tag could take any action or theme in this way.

        10. Shadow Tag- Play classic tag but tag one another by stepping on the shadow of others. This is a great social distancing version of tag, as well.

        11. Social Distancing Tag- This tag game is another way to play with others, gain the benefits of tag, and play in a socially distanced form. Simply play tag in the classic version (or use any of the fun tag versions described here) and when “it” is within 6 feet of another person, they have tagged the other player. This is a nice way to work on spatial awareness and scanning at a distance, too.

        What do you think? Have you played any of these tag games before? Let’s get those kids moving!

        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.

        Virtual Picnic Therapy Activities

        virtual picnic therapy slide deck

        This week’s free slide decks are fun virtual picnic therapy activities that can be used to encourage motor skills in therapy sessions. I love the picnic theme for the upcoming warmer weather this summer, but also as a fun way to spend the last few weeks of the school year. Kids will love this virtual picnic in therapy or at home! Also be sure to grab this left right discrimination picnic theme slide deck.

        Virtual picnic therapy activities for building gross motor skills and handwriting activities in therapy sessions or home therapy programs.

        Virtual Picnic

        When you use this virtual picnic to facilitate gross motor skills, kids can move, strengthen core stability, work on bilateral coordination, crossing midline, motor planning, eye-hand coordination, body awareness, muscle memory, and many other skills.

        Plus, the virtual picnic activities includes a visual perceptual skills activities, and picnic handwriting activities.

        These virtual picnic activities go hand-in-hand with picnic crafts, fine motor activities, mindfulness activities, making a full week of camping themed or picnic themed fun for kids.

        Combine the picnic therapy activities on this slide deck to some other, hands-on picnic themed activities to round out the therapy theme:

        And, when you have a picnic, making picnic foods with kids is a must…further building fine motor skills, cognitive skills like planning, preparation, impulse control, and other executive functioning skills, and independence in daily tasks! Try these cooking with kids activities that help to build skills, but are GREAT picnic foods for kids to make:

        Kids can participate in the virtual picnic by making one of these cooking activities (as long as they have a helper at home for their cooking activities) or, make pretend food and work on direction following, sequencing, planning, and task completion.

        So, you can use these ideas to combine therapy recommendations for the home OR use these ideas in therapy sessions to create picnic themed therapy activities!

        Want to add virtual picnic activities to your sessions or home programming? This week’s free slide deck covers several different occupational therapy intervention areas (and are great for physical therapy sessions, too.)

        Picnic Gross Motor Activities

        The first part of the slide deck includes picnic gross motor activities.

        Kids can look at the image on the slide deck and pick out one piece of visual information in order to act out the picnic scene. Each picnic scene includes several people that are in various gross motor positions to challenge core strength, coordinatin, midline crossing, bilateral coordinaiton, motor planning, and more.

        Kids can also work on visual perceptual skills such as visual discrimination, visual figure ground, visual closure, etc.

        Children can then use this part of the slide deck to foster muscle memory, visual memory, and sequencing. You could go through this part of the slide deck several times and work on recalling physical motor sequences or play a memory game. The slides are pretty open-ended to facilitate a number of goal areas when it comes to gross motor skill, coordination, visual skills, etc.

        Picnic Handwriting Activities

        The next several slides in the slide deck are open-ended picnic writing prompts. There are more picnic scenes that include a variety of picnic items.

        Children can scan the image and pull out words to write on paper, or they can use the list on the slide deck to copy and then find the hidden items in the picture.

        To grade this activity, ask kids to compose a sentence using the picnic words on the slide. Or, ask children to circle the items on the slide using a shape feature on Google slides. These activities challenge the visual perceptual skills and visual motor skills needed for handwriting and copying written work.

        Use these picnic handwriting activities to focus on letter formation, spacing, sizing, and overall neatness in handwriting skills.

        Free Virtual Picnic Slide Deck

        Want to add this virtual picnic slide deck to your therapy toolbox? Enter your email address into the form below to access this slide deck. Don’t forget to check out all of the Free Slides that we have available for teletherapy and for facilitating therapy sessions with kids!

        Free Virtual Picnic Therapy Activities Slide Deck

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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.