Zoom Ball Games for Occupational Therapy

zoom ball

Have you heard of the Zoom Ball?  Is zoom ball games and activities part of your OT Toolbox? This classic activity is a must for elementary school aged children and above.  In this post we will explore ways to play with a zoom ball in occupational therapy, and how a zoom ball supports the development of gross motor coordination, visual convergence, range of motion and other skills.

zoom ball games and activities for therapy

Zoom Ball in OT

With the daily onslaught of new products and technology available for play, it can be challenging to select the best activities for your learners.  My advice?  Stick to the classics.  They are tried and true methods, incorporating multiple skills, for a fraction of the price of high tech options. (Amazon affiliate link) Zoom ball is no exception. For younger learners, Zoom ball will be a novelty and instant winner.  Older learners can take comfort in the familiar activity.

What is Zoom Ball?

Zoomball (or Zoom Ball, Zip-it, Rip-it) is a great two player game. It is best played outdoors or in a large space.  Players pull the handles to send the ball flying to the player on the opposite end.

Tug of war: the harder you pull out, the faster the ball zooms to your opponent. 

Variation – Hydro Zoom ball filled with water balloons that splash, making it a great tool for outdoor sensory play and backyard lawn games.

What skills are addressed using Zoom Ball?

Therapy time is limited. There are a ton of goals to cover in a short amount of time. Picking activities that address multiple skills are an efficient use of therapy time. Zoom Ball is no exception. 

  • Bilateral coordination – both hands, shoulders, sides of the body need to be working at the same time, in order for the ball to shoot correctly.  This may prove challenging for learners with definite one sided weakness.  Hand over hand assist can be provided to compensate, until the learner builds strength or is able to compensate on their own. in this activity, both arms are doing the same thing, in opposite directions.  Coordinating both arms to work at the same time is key to getting the ball all the way down to the partner. The OT Toolbox has an informative post on Bilateral Coordination here.
  • Eye-hand coordination – the eyes must follow the ball in order to prepare for the upcoming turn. This is a fast paced game. If the learner does not send the ball back quickly, it will start to retreat back down the rope.  At this point it will need to be retrieved by one of the learners or a helper.  This is also critical to thwart the element of surprise at being smacked in the hands with an incoming ball. Read more about hand-eye coordination.
  • Visual skills- Visual scanning, tracking, and convergence, play a critical role in this Zoomball game. not only are learners required to watch the ball, there is an amount of depth perception needed to determine how close or far away the ball is to the player.  Convergence and divergence are developed while playing Zoom Ball.
  • Motor planning – Zoomball takes coordination of several muscle groups to be able to make the ball move to the other end. Timing, strength, and coordination need to be planned for smooth movement.  At first, this will be a cognitive effort while the brain and the muscles communicate this intricate dance.  After some practice, the muscles understand what to do, working in sync.  A definite motor plan is developed while navigating all of the movements and steps it takes to coordinate getting the ball down the line and receiving it. For learners with motor planning difficulty, this will be a lengthy process with several stops and starts. Read about motor planning.
  • Strength – it takes a fair amount of shoulder and grip strength to launch the ball the full distance.  core strength, shoulder and wrist stability, head control, balance, and hand strength are all needed for being successful at the Zoom Ball game. You can try shortening the ropes if your learner does not have enough strength.
  • Social function – communicating with a partner, turn taking, problem solving, compliance, attention to detail, patience, and frustration tolerance can all be addressed using a Zoom ball. working together in a group, problem solving, sharing materials and space, turn taking, and cooperation are great social skills developed using the Zoom Ball in therapy.
  • Executive function – following directions, attention, focus, sequencing, planning, task completion are key to success. Executive function, following directions, attention, attention to detail, focus, sequencing, planning, task completion, impulse control, compliance, behavior, and work tolerance are all important skills to learn while doing any activity.
  • Kinesthetic awareness – This means learning by doing. No amount of verbally explaining how the Zoom Ball works can replace getting in there and experiencing it
  • Proprioception – heavy work, bumping and crashing, pulling/pulling/lifting/carrying are all strategies to build proprioceptive skills and awareness. Zoom ball definitely involves bumping and crashing, heavy work, and pulling!
  • Hand strength – it takes a fair amount of grip strength to hang onto the handles while the ball is moving back and forth down the ropes
  • Timing- this goes hand in hand with impulse control. Timing when to pull your arms out to zoom the ball, when to close your arms and hold on tight, how long to hold your arms out, and when to brace for impact.

How to use the Zoom Ball in Occupational Therapy

Not only do occupational therapy providers like to have fun in therapy, it is important that the activities support the development of new skills.  Play is the function of a child, therefore play based therapy is important in teaching learners new skills. 

The Zoom Ball, while used to develop and practice skills, is definitely a fun game, once both participants get the hang of it.  The Zoom Ball game is of course not limited to occupational therapy providers…  It is great for physical therapists, speech language pathologists, caregivers, teachers, PE teachers, and more. 

Therapists love activities that address multiple skills at once.  It makes our job easier and much more efficient than planning 47 activities for an hour-long session.

  • Traditional method – two people stand opposite each other with the rope taught between them.  The first person spreads their arms wide enough to launch the ball at their partner.  Once it reaches their partner, they repeat the motion of opening their arms wide.  The wider, faster, and more forceful the movement, the better the ball will move.  There is a big learning curve to get the ball to go far enough to reach the other end.  Usually it ends up stuck in the middle somewhere until your learners get the hang of it
  • Ramp – play Zoom Ball on an incline.  The stronger player will be launching uphill, while the less strong/younger/poorly coordinated learner will be at the top, flowing downhill. This is a great challenge for targeting balance activities.
  • Experiment – talk about problem solving and demonstrate what happens if your learner goes too slow, uses one arm more than another, does not pay attention, pulls their arms fast and hard, etc.
  • Use the Zoom Ball in a Single Direction – If there are only two of you, and your learner needs significant help, tie one end onto a tree or post.  Provide hand over hand assistance to launch the Zoom Ball, then manually retrieve and reset it.
  • Add a communication/cognitive element – have learners count while launching the ball, say a letter of the alphabet each time they launch, play categories yelling out a word in the category until someone is not fast enough to name something, do math facts, listen to a set of numbers/letters/items and repeat them while playing.

How to Play with a Zoom Ball

Directions for use: 

  • Players pull the handles to send the ball hurling toward the other player
  • For 2 players
  • The line between the players must be taut in order for the ball to zoom across 
  • The harder the players pull while spreading their arms apart, the faster and harder the ball will go
  • There is definitely a learning curve to this activity, with a lot of fetching the ball  stuck in the middle along the way

If your learner is fearful of the ball crashing into their hands, you can add “bumpers” using clay, polymer, or pieces of foam that is attached to the string.

Zoom Ball Games

In addition to changing the type of Zoom Ball as highlighted above, changing the way it is played can also add to the challenge.  There are some great ways to make the task more challenging.

Try these variations of zoom ball games:

  • Kneel while doing the Zoom Ball – kneeling on both knees or on one knee at a time changes the element of balance and increases the need for core strength
  • Standing on a foam cushion – standing on an uneven surface such as a wiggle cushion, foam block, or Bosu ball can increase the level of challenge
  • Stand on one foot – now there is an added challenge of balance while playing
  • Change arm movements – what about chomping up and down like an alligator while moving the ball
  • Categories – yell out an item in a category each time the ball touches the player’s hands
  • Math facts – yell out a math fact for students to answer when it is their turn
  • Counting – count the number of passes between students before they make a mistake
  • Spelling – shout out spelling words as the ball zooms back and forth

More Resources:

The OT Toolbox has an Outdoor Lawn Games  post to add to your outdoor fun.

How about some more information on Upper Body Strength?

Types of Zoom Balls

There are several different variations of the classic Zoom Ball. While the classic stands the test of time, there may be reasons to mix it up once in a while.

Check out some of the variations below (Amazon affiliate links):

Classic Zoom Ball is made of a plastic hollow football, with two sets of handles on each end of a long cord.  The slogan is “zip it to rip it”.  There are several variations on this classic model:

Hydro Zoom Ball – fill the ball with a water balloon that explodes when it reaches one of the ends.  This adds the element of surprise, as you never know when the balloon will pop!

Foam Zip Ball – this features a softer ball and shorter ropes for use with children ages five and up or those with lower range of motion or strength.

Homemade Zoom Ball – Make your own Zoom Ball!  All you need is string/cord, a two liter bottle, and some duct tape. Cut the bottoms off two plastic water bottles and duct tape the open bottoms together. Thread the string through the tops of both water bottles and then play.

Other Great Resources from the OT Toolbox to Develop Coordination Skills:

While there is a push out there to include electronics, technology, and gaming to everything children do, don’t forget to teach classic activities and games like Zoom Ball that their parents and grandparents grew up playing.  There is a good reason these activities have withstood the test of time to become classic games. 

Victoria Wood

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

Cross Crawl Exercises

cross crawls

This article covers cross crawl exercises as a brain break tool and a bilateral coordination strategy to add sensory movement. Have you heard the term cross crawl and wondered what that meant? As parents, educators, and therapists, we are always looking for ways to help promote overall development of the children in our lives. One way to build connections in the brain and body is through meaningful exercise. In this post, we will focus in on a super important type of exercise: the cross-crawl.

Related: Butterfly Balance and Coordination Exercises 

What is a Cross Crawl

What is cross-crawl?

Cross crawl is defined as movements or cross lateral actions that are exercises that describe a category of movement – not just one exercise. Cross-crawl exercises are movements that involve crossing the midline of the body, which is an imaginary line that divides the body into left and right halves. You may have heard of the phrase bilateral coordination and crossing midline used with cross-crawls, too. 

The movement utilizes both hemispheres of the brain in a whole-brain activity by bringing self-awareness to the body (body awareness) as well as the physical coordination needed to create the physical, cross-lateral movements.

Cross Crawl exercises are specific cross lateral (one side of the body crosses, or reaches over to the other side of the body) movements designed to activate both sides of the brain and improve coordination, balance, and motor skills using a set number or repetitions.

Cross-crawl exercises can be as simple as marching or as complex as dancing, but they all involve movements that require the left and right sides of the body to work together while completing opposing actions. This might include: yoga, crunches with oblique rotation, standing and touching the right hand to the left foot/left hand to the right foot, standing and touching one elbow to the opposite knee, etc.

Pretty cool, right? 

Benefits of cross crawls

What do Cross Crawl Exercises do?

What are the benefits of cross-crawl exercises?

Cross-crawl exercises offer a wide range of benefits for children of all ages. 

Here are some of the most important benefits of cross-crawl exercises:

Improved coordination: Cross-crawl exercises help to improve coordination between the left and right sides of the body, which can lead to better balance and overall coordination. The cognitive coordination is visible as the child thinks about the action needed to complete the exercise and then works through the motor plan to complete the movements. 

As that action becomes more fluid, the movements occur in a more rhythmic way.

Increased brain activity: These exercises activate both sides of the brain and often challenge it to coordinate new motor plans. This can improve cognitive function and help children learn and remember new information.

Brain development occurs through a variety of movements, sensory stimulation, experiences, and learning opportunities. The cross-crawl technique is a tool to add to the sensory movement toolbox as completing the cross-pattern movements moves from slow and intentional to ingrained and automatic. This is fluid movement happening.

Better motor skillsCross-crawl exercises can help children develop gross motor strength and coordination. They may be able to jump higher, fall less, run faster, climb to the top… you get the idea!

Some of the motor skills that can improve include:

Improved reading and writing skills: Crossing the midline is required during reading and writing. Practicing cross-crawl exercises has been shown to improve these skills by helping children develop better eye-tracking (visual tracking) and hand-eye coordination. These can be a great classroom brain break for academic work.

Add the cross crawl activity to your list of ways to add movement to the classroom!

Reduced stress and anxiety: Cross-crawl exercises can help to reduce stress and anxiety by promoting relaxation and mindfulness. This occurs because the nervous system’s responses play a huge role in how we think, behave, and respond to a given situation. We cover this in more detail in our blog post on the limbic system.

We talk about the mind-body connections of movement as a self-regulation tool to impact stress, worries, frustration, and anxiety in our resources on anxiety and sensory coping skills

An opportunity to recharge through movement is a great tool to have on hand for a real stress buster! 

In addition, there are significant social-emotional benefits to supporting stress and anxiety through movement.

Improved Confidence: When you are able to accomplish new things, like riding a bike, passing the swimming test, or compete in a high level of your sport, confidence soars! 

How to do a cross crawl exercise

How to do a Cross Crawl Exercise

A cross crawl is a simple, yet effective way to build skills. You’ll see below that development of cross-lateral skills occurs naturally through play in each age range. So what does a cross-crawl exercise look like?

How to complete a cross crawl exercise:

  1. When standing, bend the left knee to lift the left foot up off the floor. 
  2. Bend and rotate slightly at the waist to touch your right elbow to your left knee.
  3. Then stand back up straight again.
  4. Next, bend the right knee and bring the right foot up off the floor. 
  5. Bend and rotate slightly at the waist to touch your left elbow to your right knee.
  6. Then stand back up straight again.

Essentially, in cross lateral exercises, we are physically moving to connect the left side of the body with the right side of the body. This engages both the right hemisphere of the brain (with one action) to the left hemisphere of the brain (with a different action). Both sides of your brain are engaged and active through the movements.

There are many ways to connect the right leg to the left arm and the left leg to the right arm. Adding upper and lower body movements, plus rotation, to left and right sides of the body occurs naturally throughout the day in daily tasks. 

Let’s do a simple activity analysis of a daily task like washing clothes. Think about pulling a load of laundry out of a washing machine. 

  • You might need to bend at the waist and place your left hand into a washing machine, reaching down towards your right side. You see rotation at work, as well as reaching across the body. 
  • You pull heavy, wet clothing out of the washer and pull it across your body to place it into a dryer. 
  • Then, your right hand reaches across your body and down to push the wet laundry into the dryer. 

This is just looking at two simple actions in the whole task, and presenting one layout. This daily task can incorporate cross lateral movements in many different ways. What we see though, is that these actions occur naturally.

This simple exercise can be expanded on in many ways. We cover different ways to incorporate opposite sides of the body work in age-appropriate manners below.

Cross crawl exercises

Cross Crawl Exercises

It’s important to present kids with age-appropriate cross-crawl exercises for children as a tool that supports the areas needed for each individual.

Here is a list of cross crawl exercises that can be incorporated into obstacle courses, brain breaks, exercise sequences, etc. These can be modified to meet the needs of individuals of all ages. Find age-appropriate and play based cross crawl activities that occur naturally in daily tasks and interests listed below.

  1. Standing cross crawl- Stand on the right foot. Raise the left foot and touch the left knee to the right elbow. Hold the pose. Then raise the right foot and touch the right knee to the left elbow. Hold the pose. Try to maintain balance without falling.
  2. Seated cross crawl- Sit on a chair, bench, or surface without a back support. Repeat the directions from #1 in a seated position.
  3. Laying cross crawl- Lie down on the floor on your back. Bend at the waist and touch the right elbow to the left knee. Return to lying flat on the floor. Then, bend the left elbow and to touch the right knee. Repeat with trunk rotation for crunches with oblique muscle involvement.
  4. Bug exercise- Lie down on the floor with your arms above your head on the floor and your legs straight. Keep your right arm straight and raise it up as you raise your left leg straight up to touch your right hand to your left foot. Repeat on the other side.
  5. Standing cross crawl on an unstable surface- Repeat the directions from #1 while standing on an unstable surface such as a pillow, a foam exercise mat, at slanted surface, or a low step.
  6. Standing toe touch- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your arms stretched overhead. Bend and reach your right hand down to touch your left foot. Stand back up and repeat on the other side.
  7. Bridge cross crawl- Position in a crawling position with belly lifted up off the ground. Bring one knee up and touch the opposite elbow to the knee. Repeat on the other side.
  8. Plank cross crawl- Position in a raised plank position. Carefully lift one hand and reach down to touch the opposite hip. Return the hand to the plank position. Repeat on the other side. Then try touching the hand to the opposite knee.
  9. Plank leg raise- Position in a raised plank position. Bring one knee up and touch the knee with the opposite hand. Repeat on the other side.
  10. Seated toe touch- Sit on the floor with legs spread wide. Reach across the body and touch the right hand to the left toes. Hold. Then repeat on the opposite side.

Here are some age-appropriate variations of cross-crawl exercises that children of all ages can enjoy:

Infants (birth -1 year): Before they are able to crawl (my favorite cross-crawl exercise!) you can teach your baby the motions while they lay on their back. 

Make it fun with a song or silly sounds and gently move the arm down and across the body while the opposite leg moves up and in – just how it would look if they were crawling

  • Use floor play activities
  • Use toys to encourage crawling
  • Place a bin or basket to one side and balls, toys, or blocks the child can place into the basket on the other side to to encourage rotation and reaching across the midline

Toddlers (ages 1-3): Toddlers can benefit from simplified cross-crawl exercises, such as crawling, rolling, and clapping. 

Encourage your toddler to crawl across the room (or  over furniture or your legs for an extra challenge!), roll from side to side, and complete high fives across all directions. They’ll love being able to play like this with you! 

  • Use a target like a blow up inner tube and encourage crawling and reaching across the body to sort colors like in this hand eye coordination activities for toddlers task.
  • Play follow the leader, simon says activities to encourage various movements
  • Climbing toys and activities
  • Hokey pokey games

Preschoolers (ages 3-5): Preschoolers can enjoy more complex cross-crawl exercises, such as hopping on one foot, skipping, and dancing. 

Play music and encourage your preschooler to dance around the room, hop on one foot, and skip across the yard.

  • All of the ideas listed above, plus…
  • Freeze dance
  • Follow the leader
  • Simon Says commands that target crossing midline
  • Yoga poses
  • Standing cross crawl exercises

Elementary school-age children (ages 6-12): Elementary school-age children can enjoy a variety of cross-crawl exercises, such as crab walks, mountain climbers, and yoga. These movements can be added to brain break games like Simon Says, Follow the Leader, and Charades.

Encourage your child to try new activities and find ones that they enjoy. This is a great break activity for the classroom or for an after school brain break before doing homework!

  • More complex yoga activities
  • Quadruped cross crawl exercises
  • Twister game
  • Complex charade games
  • Gymnastics
  • Martial arts
  • Basketball
  • Soccer
  • Riding a bike
  • Climbing trees
  • Swimming
  • Climbing walls
  • Ribbon dancing

Teens (ages 13-18): Teens can benefit from more challenging cross-crawl exercises, such as martial arts, structured dance, and team sports. High school occupational therapy can support this age with various tools to encourage mental health, coping strategies, and learning. Encourage your teen to try new activities and find ones that challenge them both mentally and physically.

Use the complex movements in brain breaks for high school or middle school brain breaks depending on the age.

  • All of the activities listed above plus…
  • Complex yoga sequences
  • Horseback riding
  • Track and field activities like Discus/Shot put/javelin
  • Cross training activities for sports
  • Kickboxing
  • Weightlifting
  • Cooking
  • Tai chi
  • Sports like basketball, football, basketball, kickboxing, martial arts, dance, etc.

For more exercise ideas, check out the Motor Skills Exercise Wheel. You can also have a great time challenging yourself and the kids with an OT Obstacle Course! 

It’s clear that cross-crawl exercises are an important aspect of the complex brain and a part of childhood development that should not be overlooked. All ages can enjoy and benefit from cross crawls! 

By incorporating these intentional cross-lateral activity exercises into your child’s daily routine, you can help them improve their coordination, balance, motor skills, cognitive function, and overall well-being. So, let’s get moving!

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook walks you through sensory processing information, each step of creating a meaningful and motivating sensory diet, that is guided by the individual’s personal interests and preferences.

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is not just about creating a sensory diet to meet sensory processing needs. This handbook is your key to creating an active and thriving lifestyle based on a deep understanding of sensory processing.

Sydney Thorson, OTR/L, is a new occupational therapist working in school-based therapy. Her
background is in Human Development and Family Studies, and she is passionate about
providing individualized and meaningful treatment for each child and their family. Sydney is also
a children’s author and illustrator and is always working on new and exciting projects.

Hand Eye Coordination Activities for Toddlers

hand eye coordination activities for toddlers

If you are looking for fun ways to help toddlers develop skills through play, then this hand eye coordination activities for toddlers is for you. During the toddler years, there is much development happening. Whether you need fun ways to help little ones build gross or fine motor skills, this hand eye coordination activity will support the cognitive and physical development the young child can use for learning and play.

hand eye coordination activities for toddlers

Hand Eye Coordination Activities for Toddlers

Hand eye coordination refers to the coordination between visual input through the eyes and physical motor movements through an integration of the visual and motor systems in order to use the hands and arms.

These early years have many fine motor milestones that support functional skills and self-care. Additionally, the visual motor development of this age is huge!

Hand Eye coordination for toddlers is necessary for play, self-feeding, and increasing independence in young children.

This is a developmental skill that begins at a young age and progresses in skill and precision.

Examples of Hand Eye Coordination in Toddlers

Toddlers gain precision and accuracy in motor skills at a rapid rate. You’ll notice this as they become more and more refined in motor skills. Some examples of activities that require hand-eye coordination during the toddler years includes:

  • Throwing a ball
  • Catching a ball
  • Drawing with a crayon (Read about the best crayons for toddlers)
  • Stacking blocks
  • Age-appropriate toys like dolls or figures
  • Taking off socks/putting on socks
  • Taking off clothing (shirts/pants) and putting on clothing
  • Putting toys into containers, bags, purses
  • Participating in pretend play
  • Self-feeding using feeding utensils (Read here for tips on how to hold a spoon to encourage self-feeding skills
  • Drinking from an open cup

All of these functional areas of day to day activities for toddlers build skills through actually participating in the task. However, you can definitley foster the underlying skills needed to support independence through play! For example, we love using play based learning or a craft for 2 year olds and all ranges of toddlerhood!

Why build hand eye coordination in toddlers?

There are many benefits to encouraging hand eye coordination activities in toddlers. Through play, you can create opportunities for young children to gain the type of play that the young child needs. This includes fine motor play, gross motor play, and not screen use!

Some benefits for toddlers to participate in hand eye coordination tasks includes:

Toddler Hand Eye Coordination Activities

Hand eye coordination activities for toddlers can be simple, yet fun. Some ideas include:

Try the hand eye coordination activity we did using an inner tube. This is a great color activity for young children.

This was a fun little play activity for the Toddlers.  Nephew (19 months) was with us one day and LOVED doing this.  

I put the blue inner tube and a little basketful of balls out on the dining room floor.  I put one ball into the center of the inner tube and he was INTO it!  Little nephew went crazy putting the balls in the center, taking them out, putting them back into the basket.  This was FUN!

What are we learning with this activity?

  • Eye-Hand Coordination
  • Toddler Visual-motor skills
  • Cause and effect (if I throw this ball into the center, it might bounce out…)
  • Learning colors
  • Gross Motor Skills (throwing, rolling, bouncing)

We’ve been on a BLUE kick around here these days.
This was a fun little play activity for the Toddlers.  Nephew (19 months) was with us one day and LOVED doing this.  

This little (and EASY…seriously, it does not get much easier than this…) game will be coming out again.  This Aunt can clean up the breakfast mess when something like this is going on!


Tips for Toddler Hand eye coordination skills

When setting up activities for toddlers, some tips include following the child’s lead. Offer support when needed, but allow the young child to participate in the process. Sometimes working and playing along side the toddler offers a model that the young child can copy if they like, but they won’t feel pressured and they still have the autonomy that gives them a sense of success.

Most of all, have fun!

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

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 games 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 


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!


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

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

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

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