Monthly Movement Activities

October movement activities for preschool and toddler development.

Looking for ways to keep the kids moving and active? Maybe you need some indoor play ideas. Perhaps you are looking for movement activities for children when getting out of the house just isn’t possible. Kids just aren’t moving like they used to. Need a few ways to add movement activities into each and every day? Adding extra movement breaks or brain breaks into the classroom or just daily play can be a helpful tool for improving the underlying skills kids need for strengthening or just getting the sensory input they crave and need to develop. Sometimes, it’s as simple as coming up with creative movement ideas. Other times, kids play the same favorite gross motor games over and over again. These monthly sensory movement activities provide the sensory input and gross motor movement that kids need! 

Monthly movement activities for kids
Use these sensory movement ideas for kids to add movement and play into activities for kids all year long! They are perfect for play and occupational therapy activities.

Monthly Movement Activities

Add a few of the occupational therapy activities in this post into your therapy line-up. Having a few monthly themed activities for therapy can make the routines less boring and a great way to throw a wrench at the burnout machine.

Use the lists below to inspire therapy plans for the month or weeks ahead. Simply add the theme into your occupational therapy activities for the week. Then, use specific graded activities to meet the needs of each child on your caseload. This strategy can help in planning OT activities in the clinic or school-based interventions. (And, having a theme set up for the week totally helps with carting items from place to place in that trunk of yours, too!)

Monthly Movement Activities for Kids

Kids love a fresh occupational therapy activity, too. Adding a fresh and fun new game or activity can make a rainy indoor day more fun or can bring a little something different to a sunny afternoon outdoors. The best thing about these movement and play ideas is that they provide all of the right kind of sensory movement input that kids need to pay better attention, calm down, or self-regulate. Use these activity ideas as movement activities for preschoolers in planning lessons that meet movement needs. 

The movement activities listed below are play ideas that promote proprioceptive input, vestibular input, gross motor skills, body awareness, fine motor skills, visual motor integration, bilateral coordination, crossing midline, core strengthening, motor planning, and so much more. Best of all, they are FUN! 

Movement activities for Preschoolers

In the preschool setting, there is often an emphasis on writing letters. However, there is a much more important area that needs addressing…movement! Adding movement activities for preschoolers in learning builds the underlying skills that are many times, lacking in preschool-aged kids, and beyond. By adding movement activities to the preschool classroom, kids can learn letters, colors, numbers, and more through movement, and really gain that kinesthetic learning component.

Given that so many kids are spending more time on screens and have less opportunities to play outside, I wanted to provide a big old list of movement pay ideas that can be incorporated into every day of the year! These ideas cover each month and have themes but can be expanded on so that every day of every month is covered. 

occupational therapy games and activity list

Therapists will love to use these movement activities as home programs or as part of therapy interventions. Adding themed activities is a fun way to work on specific skills or goals using occupational therapy games with this activity list.

Teachers could sneak some of these movement ideas into the school day as brain breaks, indoor recess activities, or movement breaks to improve attention. 

The list below separates each month into themed sets of activities that can be used in handwriting, gross motor games, fine motor activities, sensory movement activities, movement breaks, and more.

Parents will love adding these activities into everyday of the year to get the kid active and moving both indoors and outdoors! 

A Year of Sensory Play
This year of movement activity list is part of our A Year of Sensory Play packet. It’s a printable packet of TONS of themed activities that will last the whole year long. Each activity is designed to promote movement and sensory processing through sensory challenges and play activities. There are 67 pages in the Year of Sensory Play Packet  and the activities cover every season. The packet also includes 12 months of sensory planning sheets, and the monthly movement activities listed below. There are also monthly sensory bin filler ideas so that every month of the year is covered when it comes to gross motor and fine motor sensory play. 


The Year of Sensory Play packet is a resource for planning out and actually USING the sensory ideas that provide sensory input kids need to develop the skills they require for attention, focus, regulation, handwriting, learning, managing clothing fasteners, and overall functioning as a thriving kiddo! 


Now onto the sensory play ideas! 


Monthly Sensory Movement Activities

The ideas listed below are movement-based activities. Each sensory activity doubles as a gross motor or fine motor movement activity that builds on sensory based activities. These are fun ways to get the kids learning through play and are activities for toddlers to gain skills like balance, eye-hand coordination, fine motor development, and core strength. 

When intending to improve various skills in preschool-aged kids, use these sensory movement activities for preschoolers, as well.

Try incorporating these ideas into each month for a year of movement and fun!

January Movement Activity Ideas

January movement activities for preschoolers, toddlers, and sensory learning.
Jumping Jacks
Indoor Yoga
“Snowman Says”
Indoor Tag
Build a couch fort
Hide and Seek
Burpees
Push-Ups
Brain Break YouTube Videos
Build with blocks
Indoor parade
Packing peanuts
Blanket tug-of-war
Bean bag toss
Hop on paper snowflakes


February Movement Activity Ideas

February movement activities for preschoolers, toddlers, and sensory play.
Heart hopscotch
Obstacle course
Masking tape maze
Paper plate ice skating
Slide on cardboard on carpet
Indoor snowball fight (paper)
Draw on windows-dry erase marker
Scrub floors with soapy water
Build with cardboard boxes
Gross motor Uno
Bedsheet parachute play
Crawl through tunnels
Movement scavenger hunt
Marching games
Wash walls


March Movement Activity Ideas

March movement activities for learning, play, brain breaks, and sensory learning.
Indoor trampoline

“Leprechaun Says”
Therapy ball
Sit and spin
Charades
Tumbling
Dance party
Balloon ball toss

Shamrock balance beam
Hoola hoop
Dribble a basketball
Plastic Easter egg race on spoons
Animal walks
Roll down hills
Easter egg hunt

April Movement Activity Ideas

April movement activities for occupational therapy games and activities.
Playground tour
Jump in puddles
Bear walks
Dig in dirt
Plant flowers
Sidewalk chalk race
Trace shadows with chalk
Bounce ball on wall
Flutter like a butterfly
Grow like a flower
Pick flowers
Fill a recycle bin
Wheelbarrow walks
Crawl like a bug
Draw big flowers with both hands

 

May Movement Activity Ideas

May movement activities for kids.
Leaf balance beam
Hula hoop race
Beach ball toss
Ride bikes
Mother May I
Use a bike pump
Outdoor yoga
Swim relay
Bouncing ball tic tac toe
Lawn games
Jungle gym
Hike
Outdoor picnic
Bounce a ball on a line
Collect sticks





June Movement Activity Ideas

June movement activities for occupational therapy activity planning.
Swimming
Craw walks
Log balance beam
“King of the Mountain”
Kick a ball course
Throw paper airplanes
Hammer golf tees into ground
Climb trees
Play catch
TV Tag
Limbo
Ride scooters
Collect nature
Walk a dog
Toy scavenger hunt



July Movement Activity Ideas

July movement activities for preschoolers and toddlers learning and play.
Fly like a bee
Jump waves
Creep like a caterpillar
Catch fireflies
Jump rope balance beam
Leap frog
Waterguns
Freeze tag
Shadow puppets
Put up a tent
Water balloon race
Pull a wagon
Pillow fight
Cartwheels
Blow bubbles




August Movement Activities Ideas

August movement activities for kids
Slither like a snake
Hop like a frog
August Sensory Bin
Catch bugs
Gallop like a horse
Sort seeds
Small toys frozen in ice
Finger paints
Hang clothes on a clothes line
Hunt for sounds
Walk with a ball between legs
Hit a kickball with tennis racket
Run through sprinkler
Pick fruit or berries
Water table play



September Movement Activity Ideas

September movement activities for occupational therapy games.
Write on sandpaper
Pool noodle balance beam
Balance board
Hop on leaves
Scurry like a squirrel
Fall hike
Bob for apples
Roll like a pumpkin
Fall leaf hunt
Collect acorns
Family walk
Bike parade
Wash the car
Donkey kicks
Waddle like a duck





October Movement Activity Ideas

October movement activities for preschool and toddler development.
Spin like a spider
Carve a pumpkin
Stretch spider web netting
Punch holes in leaves
Cut leaves
Football toss
Farmer in the Dell
Jump in pillows
Paper football
“Scarecrow Says”
Autumn art projects with leaves
Wash apples
Chair push-ups
Make applesauce





November Movement Activity Ideas

November movement activities for brain breaks, and classroom movement and learning.
Jump in leaves
Rake leaves
Catch falling leaves
Waddle like a turkey
“Turkey Pokey”
Thread beads on feathers
Flashlight Tag
Thanksgiving Charades
Crumble and stomp on leaves
Trace leaves
Turkey hunt
Roll a pumpkin
Run in place
Cut feathers
Blow a feather with a straw





 December Movement Activity Ideas

December movement activities for preschoolers, toddler learning, and occupational therapy activity planning.
Christmas themed yoga
Wrap presents
“Santa Says”
Prance like a reindeer
Shovel relay race 
Decorate a tree
Roll and knead dough
Pull a sled
Crunchy walk on ice or snow
Holiday themed charades
Holiday march
Jingle Bell Catch
Relay with gift bow on a spoon
Stocking guessing game
Push boxes


Looking for more ideas to add movement throughout the day? Check out The Sensory Lifestyle handbook to add sensory input throughout daily activities to create a lifestyle of sensory success! 

I’ve worked to create a book on creating an authentic and meaningful sensory lifestyle that addresses sensory needs. The book is now released as a digital e-book or softcover print book, available on Amazon. 
 
The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook walks you through sensory diet creation, set-up, and carry through. Not only that, but the book helps you take a sensory diet and weave it into a sensory lifestyle that supports the needs of a child with sensory processing challenges and the whole family.
 
 
The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is a resource for creating sensory diets and turning them into a lifestyle of sensory success through meaningful and motivating sensory enrichment.
 
Use these monthly movement activities to encourage sensory input or gross motor play all year long.






Halloween Occupational Therapy Activities

It’s that time of year! Halloween is just around the corner and so in your therapy clinic or school-based OT sessions, or even OT teletherapy, you may be thinking up Halloween occupational therapy activities that work on specific functional goals. Here, you’ll find a collection of Halloween fine motor activities, pumpkin occupational therapy activities, Halloween sensory play, and more. Use all of these ideas to help kids work on a variety of OT goals using a Halloween craft or ghost activity. This pumpkin deep breathing exercise is just one idea!

For activities and ideas to address all needs, check out these occupational therapy activities.

Here are occupational therapy themes that we’ve covered so far. Use them to make therapy planning a breeze…and make your life easier!

These halloween occupational therapy activities are great for working on skills in OT like fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, scissor use, and more!

Halloween Occupational Therapy Activities

We LOVE to create and come up with fun crafts and activities that double as a tool for addressing specific skills!

Here you will find a variety of Fall and Halloween activities that can address skills such as fine motor, visual motor, visual perception, scissor skills, hand strength, dexterity, core stability and strength, executive functioning, and so much more.

Check out the variety of ghost crafts, pumpkin art, Halloween games, and other ideas. It just might be the perfect addition to your therapy plans this month!

One of our favorite activities for this time of year is our pumpkin deep breathing exercise. I love using this in every therapy session as a self regulation tool and warm up activity!

Ghost Occupational Therapy Activities

We’ve come up with some fun ghost activities here on The OT Toolbox! Try some of these ideas in your therapy clinic or as a home program recommendation this Fall. I love that these ideas can be done on an individual basis or as a small group. Use them in a classroom Halloween party planning or as a fun Fall fest activity.

This ghost craft is an easy way to work on scissor skills. Kids can also address skills such as bilateral coordination, hand strength with a simple halloween craft that uses just paper, crayon, scissors, and a hole punch. Use these ghosts to decorate for Halloween and monitor scissor skills.

This ghost craft for sensory play is a fun one for kids to make but also use in sensory bins or fine motor activities.

This ghost craft uses recycled materials and can be a tool for working on dexterity, precision of grasp, in-hand manipulation, bilateral coordination, hand strength, and more! These ghosts would make a fun addition to the therapy clinic, OT doorway, or even a bulletin board decoration.

This gross motor ghost game can be played over and over again while working on eye-hand coordination, visual tracking, visual convergence, core stability, reach, and other skills. Kids will participate in vestibular and proprioceptive input with a ghost theme!

Bat Occupational Therapy Activities

These bat activities will be an easy way to work on specific skills while making Halloween fun and not spooky for kids.

This bat Halloween craft is a fun on skills like scissor skills, bilateral coordination, fine motor skills, sensory input, and letter formation.

Looking to pair a Halloween book and activity for a party or small group? This Stellaluna activity can help kids with specific and purposeful skills such as sight word recognition or math skills while working on visual scanning, visual tracking, visual discrimination, figure-ground, bilateral coordination, crossing midline, and more.

Pumpkin occupational therapy activities for kids to build skills in fine motor skills, gross motor skills, sensory exploration, and mindfulness, using a pumpkin theme.

Pumpkin Occupational Therapy Activities

Be sure to check out the many pumpkin activities are to be found here on The OT Toolbox! Use these fall ideas all season long from Halloween through Thanksgiving!

The Pumpkin Activity Kit covers tons of fine motor skills, visual motor skills, coordination, and more.

Kids can make pumpkin stamp art using a paper tube while working on bilateral coordination, crossing midline, eye-hand coordination, visual motor skills, visual perception, and fine motor grasp. You can also make pumpkin stamps with a foam curler or other stamp.

Pushing into the classroom? Work on English Language Arts, math, or other classroom lessons by using small pumpkin stickers right in the classroom. This pumpkin activity can be a big boost to fine motor skills, visual scanning, eye-hand coordination, precision, distal mobility, and more.

We know how awesome carving a pumpkin is for fine motor, gross motor, and sensory needs. Once you carve that pumpkin, use the pumpkin seed in sensory play by dying the pumpkin seeds. It’s a great addition to Halloween sensory bins, fall fine motor activities, and other seasonal activities.

Love Halloween sensory bins? Make a set of pumpkins from an egg carton to work on fine motor skills. We’ve used these pumpkins in so many ways over the years.

Spider Occupational Therapy Activities

Spiders don’t need to be spooky! These spider activities and games can be a powerful way to work in some much-needed skills!

Work on bilateral coordination, motor planning, fine motor work, heavy work, vestibular input, and gross motor strengthening with this giant spider web activity.

Make a spider craft using recycled materials to work on fine motor skills such as hand strength, in-hand manipulation, separation of the sides of the hand, pincer grasp, and scissor skills.

Helping out with math or other classroom lessons? This math spider craft that we did addresses doubles and near doubles but you could use it to work on any math facts or ELA lessons. Sneak in bilateral coordination, scissor skills and more with this fun spider activity.

Make a noodle spider craft and help kids with fine motor skills such as in-hand manipulation, separation of the sides of the hand, and more.

Halloween Sensory ACTIVITIES

Recommending a sensory task for kids at home as part of a home program? This Frankenstein smoothie recipe is an awesome way to encourage calming proprioceptive input through oral motor work. Kids can get in on the recipe creation action to sneak in a few executive functioning skills, too.

Halloween Fine Motor Activities

So many of the activities we shared above work on and strengthen fine motor skills. Here are more Fall fine motor activities that use items such as fall leaves, scarecrows, or other Harvest items.

We’ve included many Halloween fine motor activities in this blog post. They are great for building hand strength.

Support finger strength by using bat mini erasers in theraputty exercises. Include some Halloween dexterity activities like the fingerer yoga activities we show in the video below. The Halloween dexterity exercises are fun as a handwriting warm up or as a fun way to get those fingers moving. Check out our video below…or you can catch it over on YouTube.

These Halloween fine motor exercises would be a great warm up to a writing task or gross motor activity.

Fall Sensory Activities

We’ve shared a lot of Fall sensory activities here on The OT Toolbox! You can find all of the posts here:

Choosing Wisely Occupational Therapy Activities

Remember that the craft or activity is the means to working on specific underlying areas, but also, so often kids really struggle with completing aspects of play or crafts. Addressing certain skills right in the craft can make it meaningful and purposeful. When we talk about “Choosing Wisely“, we are occupation-based activities. AOTA has guided us in Choosing Wisely recommendations that we can consider when coming up with OT activities and ideas. Using scissors to work on a Halloween craft with kids is something they need help to become more independence (scissor use) via a fun activity that they are proud to complete and show off (a ghost craft for example). Consider the occupational performance components in crafts and activities that meet the specific needs of the child or individual.

In that way, using a craft in occupational therapy can address a variety of different skills, with different levels of accommodation or modification, input, cues, or difficulty, based on the specific needs as determined by the occupational therapy professional.

Use a Halloween occupational therapy activity in therapy planning in October with a ghost craft, spider activity, or pumpkin centers!

Halloween Activities for Occupational Therapy

What are your favorite Halloween Occupational Therapy activities? Is there something you do each year with the kids you work with? Let us know in the comments below!

Halloween Cutting Activities

Many times, occupational therapy practitioners work on the functional skill of cutting with scissors.

Snipping paper, cutting shapes, and making crafts require cutting straight lines and multi-angular shapes with scissors. We can use the Halloween cutting activities in occupational therapy sessions to work on this motor skill:

  • You’ll LOVE these free pumpkin scissor skills pages that allow kids to “cut the pumpkin” and work on line awareness, cutting curved and angled lines, and even coloring. It’s free to print and go!
  • Use this ghost craft to work on scissor skills this time of year.
  • Or, snip strips of paper to make a spider, pumpkin sensory bin filler, or squares of paper to fill a pumpkin template.

PUMPKIN ACTIVITIES KIT

For more pumpkin fun this Fall, grab the Pumpkin Fine Motor Kit!

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

  • 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
Pumpkin activity kit
Pumpkin Fine Motor Kit– perfect for building skills with a pumpkin theme!

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

Following Direction Activities

These following direction activities are directionality activities that can help kids learn directions or spatial concepts such as left, right, up, down, and compass directions (north, south, east, and west) with a motor component. This hands-on learning activity really gets the kiddos moving and learning! 


We’ve shared directionality activities before that help kids navigate and use maps with movement. 

Following Direction Activity

These direction following activities can help kids learn directionality such as left/right awareness, laterality, and directions needed for navigating.

Teaching kids to follow the directions they need to physically move right, left, up, down requires development of spatial concepts such as spatial reasoning. This can be a real challenge for some kids! 


Following directions and understanding of spatial concepts is a foundation for understanding and utilizing compass directions or the cardinal directions of north, south, east, and west, and the use of maps. 

Left Right Confusion Direction Challenges

It can be a real challenge for some kids who struggle with the spatial understanding of following directions, or understanding their left from right in a subconscious manner. 


Have you come across the child who is told to raise their right and and they take a five second count to stop, think, and then raise their hand? They might hesitate when raising one hand or the other and still be uncertain whether or not they have held up the correct hand. Then, when the teacher, parent, or anyone else really, says the inevitable, “Your other right hand…”, the child feels a sense of discouragement and self-consciousness that doesn’t drive in the underlying need to really know the right from left! 


That’s where a directionality activity or following direction activity can come into play. Adding a physical component to learning directions and the difference between right, left, up, and down and what that looks like in relation to the child’s body can be such a helpful force in driving home this concept. 

Why work on directions with kids?

Working on the ability for kids to follow directions and spatial concepts is so important for kids. The direction/spatial relationship/preposition words that tell you where something is related to something else (beside, in front of, behind, over, under, around,  through, last, etc.) are very important when teaching math and handwriting concepts. Directionality and the ability for kids to follow physical directions is important for discovering where their bodies are in relationship to objects. This translates to following directions when getting from place to place by following a map or the cardinal directions.


When kids picture a scene in their mind’s eye and use that image to draw a map on paper, they are using higher thinking skills and spatial reasoning.

Directionality Activities

Amazon affiliate links are included below. 


The fun idea below comes from a new kids’ activity book that we’re devouring. It’s the new Playful Learning Lab for Kids, by the occupational therapist and physical therapist team at The Inspired Treehouse. It’s a book full of whole-body and sensory activities that enhance focus, engagement, and learning through movement and interaction.

Playful learning Lab activities for kids to learn through whole body movements



We used just a few materials to create this following directions activity:


Playful Learning Lab for Kids Book
Cardstock
Marker
Scissors

Use arrows to work on following directions and learning directions or directionality.



This is a simple activity (perfect for the classroom or homeschool when teaching directions!). First, draw and cut out large arrows from the cardstock. 


Next, place them along the floor in a path and start playing! 

Teach kids about directions and left right awareness or directionality through whole body movements with arrows!



There are so many ways to use these arrows to work on following directions and directionality:

1. Place the arrows on the floor for a fun brain break or sensory walk that uses directions as the kids work on following directions to stand in the direction the arrows are pointing. 

Direction following activities with arrows are a fun way to teach kids directionality and teach left and right with movement.



2. Name a cardinal direction or spatial direction and ask the child to point to the corresponding arrow. 


3. Place the arrows in a compass rose on the floor and ask kids to “step into a map” on the floor as they move north, south, east, and west.

Teach spatial concepts and spatial reasoning with arrows.

4. Stick the arrows to a wall using tape. Ask the students to write out a list of words that describe the directions the arrows are pointing (left, right, up, and down).


5. Hold up a sequence of arrows pointing in different directions. As the child to remember the pattern or order as they complete a series of side steps, front steps, or backward steps to follow the directions they see. 


6. Work on left/right directionality by holding up an arrow pointing in either the left or right directions. Kids should call out “Left!” or “Right!” when they see the direction the arrow is pointing. 

Teach kids directions and north, south, east, west using arrows and directionality concepts.



All of these following direction activities are ones that can be completed as on an individual basis or with a whole group. It’s a great mini brain break for the classroom and can be incorporated into the classroom curriculum by working on cardinal directions. 



Want to grab more movement-based learning ideas that you can start on today? You will love the bright pictures, sensory-based activities, and whole-body activities in Playful Learning Lab for Kids


It’s available now and is the perfect way to add movement to learning to improve attention, focus, brain function, remembering and learning!


This book will shift your entire mindset so you can begin to replace sedentary, one-dimensional lessons and worksheets with whole-body, multi-sensory activities that can instantly create a classroom or house full of active, engaged learners.


Playful Learning Lab for Kids is available on Amazon.

Upper Extremity Activities for Toddlers

Upper extremity hand strength isn’t just about strong hands! Kids need upper extremity strength for tasks such as handwriting, coloring, managing clothing fasteners, and more! The thing is, upper extremity strengthening begins at a very young age. In fact, activities for toddlers can be loaded with the strengthening and dexterity activities that strengthen the upper extremities for improved endurance and coordination down the road. All of these components work together fluidly for strong upper extremities. Check out the upper extremity activities for toddlers to find out how and where to begin with upper extremity strength!  

 

 

Upper extremity activities for toddlers

 
Working on upper extremity strength is a key factor in being
able to have the endurance for handwriting. Working on the shoulder muscle strength and flexibility will help to improve the coordination needed for drawing and handwriting. 
 
We covered some of the best crayons for toddlers with focus on the strength and motor skills that develops during the toddler years. Check out that blog post for information based on strength development during ages 1-3 years.

 

These upper extremity activities for toddlers will help improve the strength and stability needed for endurance and coordination in handwriting and other tasks.

 

 

Importance of upper extremity activities for strength

 
Why is this important? If a child does not have adequate
shoulder strength and core body strength it will be difficult for them to have controlled hand movements.
You may notice that when handwriting or coloring that they position their
shoulder abducted and wrist will be flexed instead of in extension.  Build muscle strength proximal to distal
because if you don’t have strength in your shoulders, back, traps etc. then
your distal function (example handwriting) will not be as controlled.
 
 Below are two easy activities
that can be done at school, in a clinic or at home with a child to address
upper extremity strength. Also try these activities to promote wrist extension.
Use these arm and hand strength activities for toddlers to improve upper body strength for better coordination and endurance in handwriting and other fine motor activities for toddlers.

Upper extremity strength activities for toddlers

These are upper extremity activities for toddlers and kids who would benefit from strength and endurance in the upper body.

Gravity Resistive Sticker Activity

 
Have the child lay on the ground under a table. I will
usually place a pillow or blanket to make it more comfortable. Tape a large
piece of paper under the table and have the child, while laying on their back,
place stickers on the paper.
 
I have drawn circles for the child to place stickers in or
had a background theme. For example, a nature background and use stickers such as birds, trees, etc. The other activity I have done is had the child place stickers randomly all over the paper and then then have to use a marker to circle the shapes. Works great if you are working on a child’s pre-writing skills.
They could also put a square, triangle or make an X on the shapes.
 

Crayon Rubbing on a Vertical Surface

I remember when I was younger I really enjoyed taking coins,
placing paper over them and then using a crayon to rub the print onto the
paper. I also did this with leaves in the fall. How exciting to see the print
come out on the paper!
 
One fun way to keep a child engaged with this great upper extremity activity for toddlers, is to tape crayon rubbing plates on the wall, place a large sheet of paper over them and then give the child crayons to rub the paper until they see the print.

 

Use wall crayon rubbings to help kids strengthen the upper extremities in this upper extremity activity for toddlers.
 
Having a child color on a vertical surface is a great
activity in itself for shoulder stability and flexibility and it puts the wrist
in extension which helps encourage a better pencil/crayon grasp.
I have used crayon rubbing plates with animal pictures on
them and  girls love to color the fashion
plates. To keep the child engaged I won’t let the child see what plates I am
using. That way they continue to color on the vertical surface to see what pictures
they get.
 
This activity also
works on teaching children how to apply more pressure when writing/coloring, as
you need to press hard to have the print come through and softer if the print
is blurred because of how hard the child pushed on the crayon.

 

Looking for more upper extremity activities for toddlers?

This crayon rubbing activity uses sight words to work on strength and pressure in handwriting.

 
Want some other fun ideas to work on a vertical surface? Check out learning ideas on windows and glass doors!

 

 
Stickers are an awesome fine motor tool. Here are 10 ways to use stickers to help with fine motor skills.
 
Read more about the many benefits of coloring with crayons.
 
Read more about working on a resistive surface to build strength and stability.
 
Another great under the table activity is beading! Use resistance and gravity to strengthen and boost skills by beading under a table.
 
 
About Christina:
Christina Komaniecki is a school based Occupational Therapist. I graduated from Governors State University with a master’s in occupational therapy.   I have been working in the pediatric setting for almost 6 years and have worked in early intervention, outpatient pediatrics, inpatient pediatrics, day rehab, private clinic and schools. My passion is working with children and I love to see them learn new things and grow. I love my two little girls, family, yoga and going on long walks.

 

Therapy Band Exercise Program for Kids

So often, we see kids with weakness. They struggle with climbing monkey bars, maintaining grasp on a pencil, coloring with endurance, maintaining posture with a strong core, manipulating snaps and buttons, and so much more. A consistent home strengthening program can help with these skills. 
A therapy band is such a power tool in providing needed and calming proprioceptive sensory input, too. Many times, therapists will add therapy band exercises to a sensory diet. There’s a reason why! Slowly pulling and maintaining a position on an expanded therapy band creates resistance, providing proprioceptive input that kids need.
Use these tips for creating a therapy band exercise program that kids want to do!

Why use a Therapy Band Exercise Programs with Kids?

There are several motivating reasons to incorporate a therapy band exercise program into home programs and therapy regimens: 
  • Use as a movement break for alerting input or calming input
  • Exercise for increased attention
  • A tool for coordination and strength
  • On-the-go therapy tool that can go anywhere a school-based OT or home therapist goes
  • Easily incorporated into home programs
  • Can be easily modified for use by a large caseload
  • Can be used with individuals or in a group setting

THerapy band exercise program for kids to boost strength, core strength, and sensory needs.

Therapy Band Exercise Program for Kids

There are a few things that a great therapy band exercise program has when it comes to strengthening programs or exercises for kids. 
Here are a few MUST-Haves when it comes to a motivating therapy band exercise program for kids:
FUN- A therapy exercise program for kids must be more than a simple handout copy of exercises. That exercise sheet is sure to land on the top of your therapy clients refrigerator. A therapy program that has bright colors, fun characters, games, and interactive components is a win!
Creative- A therapy exercise program that uses animals, monsters, creatures, and fun characters is one way to get kids moving and coming back to try out those exercises again and again.
Easy- A home program that kids can (and want) to do themselves is one way to ensure carryover. 
Engaging- A bright and colorful exercise program with fun fonts, hands-on flip cards, and creative characters who get in on the exercise action are all part of a exercise plan geared to create healthy habits.
Motivating- Checklists that kids can mark, erase, and rewrite, fun stickers, and a game make therapy band exercise programs fun and not boring…a plan that kids want to do!
The Handee Band therapy band exercise program is perfect for adding fun fitness for kids.

Handee Band Therapy Band Exercise Program

Affiliate links are included below. 
When Francesca Avelli, MS, OTR/L approached me about a therapy exercise program that she created, I was excited learn more. Handee Band is a therapist-created collection of fitness exercises for boosting core strength and upper body strength…and it meets all of the requirements listed above! 
We tried out the Handee Band Exercise Kit and the Handee Band Exercise Cards, and had an absolute BLAST. All while exercising! 
Make exercise a game for better carryover and excitement in kids when they use this therapy band exercise program, Handee Band.
This exercise kit is definitely a product created by an occupational therapist. As my daughter was trying out the spinner board game and looking through the flip book for matching characters, that thought was on my mind. 
Make exercise a game for better carryover and excitement in kids when they use this therapy band exercise program, Handee Band.
All of the underlying skill areas that go into using this kit and playing the game are such a boost for kids. 
Wen playing the game, kids spin a spinner board and need to match up characters to the exercise kit or flip cards. The visual scanning, form constancy, visual tracking, visual discrimination, visual memory, and visual closure was really being used for this game. 
Make exercise a game for better carryover and excitement in kids when they use this therapy band exercise program, Handee Band.
Then, my four year old flipped through the cards, strengthening her finger isolation and other fine motor skills until she found the matching character. Once she did the exercise, she used more fine motor skills to peel off a sticker…but it had to be the matching sticker, resulting in more visual perceptual skills! 
Make exercise a game for better carryover and excitement in kids when they use this therapy band exercise program, Handee Band.
THEN, I asked my daughter to mark off the exercise on our checklist, using more fine motor work while boosting pencil control skills and pre-writing strokes as she formed a vertical line in the given box, but not over the lines! 
What a workout! 
But, all of this doesn’t even tough on the real strengthening we did with the Handee Band. 
Make exercise a game for better carryover and excitement in kids when they use this therapy band exercise program, Handee Band.
There are so many exercises in the Handee Band kit and exercise cards. There are 15 to be exact, and they each have a corresponding character showing how to do the therapy band exercise. These handheld cards are perfect for the therapist that needs to tote supplies from building to building!
We left the Handee Band kit cards and band out on a table for a few days and there were countless times I saw my kids stopping over to do an exercise or two. The Handee Band program is just too irresistible! 
Make exercise a game for better carryover and excitement in kids when they use this therapy band exercise program, Handee Band.
If you are a therapist in a clinic looking for a therapy band exercise program that kids WANT to do, then the Handee Band is for you. 
If you are a school-based therapist looking for strengthening exercises or proprioceptive input that calms, alerts, and adds to a sensory diet, then the Handee Band is for you. 
If you are a home therapists, working with kids (or adults!) in the home and need exercises that can tuck into a tote bag, then the Handee Band is for you.
If you are a parent looking for creative and motivating ways to get the kids moving and focused on fitness, then the Handee Band is for you. 

Check out the Handee Band website for more information.

Disclosure: We received a Handee Band exercise kit and exercise cards, but all opinions are our own.

Positioning When Writing in Cursive

positioning for cursive writing letters

Have you been working on cursive writing with a student? Are you concerned about how to teach cursive writing to students? Are you a therapist who is looking for strategies and creative ideas to help students improve cursive writing as a means of functional and legible handwriting? The handwriting ideas below are for you! Below, you’ll find ways to teach cursive writing by assessing and promoting proper posture in cursive writing. 


  This post and the posts you’ll see here over the next month are part of our 31 day series on teaching cursive. You’ll want to check out the How to Teach Cursive Writing page where you can find all of the posts in this series.

For more ways to address the underlying skills needed for handwriting, check out the handwriting drop-down tab at the top of this site.  

For resources in handwriting, join us in the Sweet Ideas for Handwriting Help Facebook group.  

Use these tips and strategies to help kids writing in cursive by addressing positioning at a desk, environmental concerns with cursive writing, and paper positioning with cursive writing.

Positioning During Cursive Writing

    When we write in cursive it’s really no different than sitting at a desk to write and print it work.

Proper positioning can make a big difference however, between sloppy cursive writing and legible cursive writing. Here are a few a few key points to remember when positioning a child for cursive writing success.

Positioning at a desk when during cursive handwriting

The child must be seated seated comfortably and upright. They should be well-balanced and straight at the midline with 90° flexion posture at the knees, feet, and hips.   

A proper sized desk and chair is essential for cursive handwriting as well as printed writing. The writing arm should be slightly abducted at the shoulder with the elbow flexed. The elbows should be even with the desk surface.   

It’s essential that a child is not sitting at a desk that is too tall for the child. This is a common factor when it comes to positioning for any student in the classroom.   

Paper positioning on a desk for left handed writers and right handed writers when learning to write in cursive.

Environmental positioning issues when writing

When a child is learning to write in cursive or is practicing handwriting there should be sufficient light.

Especially when writing in cursive, a hand can get in the way so that little kids cannot see how they are forming letters. If their shadows reflecting onto the written work, it can interfere with self assessment of formation.

A sloped writing surface such as an easel or a three ring binder can help with extended wrist and with copying letters from a source like an overhead board or a SmartBoard.

Paper positioning for cursive handwriting

When a child is writing they should be able to move their hand and arm freely to position the paper. When writing in cursive, right-handed children should position the paper slightly to left side of the desk.

Left-handed children should position the paper slightly to the right side of the desk. This is especially true for the left-handed writer whose arm crosses over their body in front of them on the desk.

They can’t see what the letters have been formed and the amount of writing space that is available as they head towards the right margin of the page.   The top of the paper should be parallel with the child’s dominant hand and at a 45 degree angle on the desk.   

The tilt of the paper can help with slant of cursive letters. Left-handed writers will want to slant the paper about 20% to the right. The right lower corner of the paper should be pointing toward the child’s right armpit.   

Right-handed writers will want to slant the paper about 20% toward the left. The left lower corner of the paper should point to the child’s left armpit.

Poorly positioned paper on the desk can result in cramped motions of letter formation and specifically reduced dexterity in the distal fingers.

Providing enough room and space on the desk and placement of the paper can allow for flow in rhythm in cursive writing.   Here, you will read more about paper positioning when writing and find an easy desk modification that can be used in the classroom.   

Posture and positioning make a big difference in legibility of cursive handwriting. Be sure to start each cursive writing practice session with a quick posture check and environmental check.   

Stop back tomorrow for another cursive writing strategy or check them all out on our How to Teach Cursive Writing master page.    

Use these tips and strategies to help kids writing in cursive by addressing positioning at a desk, environmental concerns with cursive writing, and paper positioning with cursive writing.
 
 

Squirrel Brain Breaks

squirrel brain breaks for a squirrel themed activity for kids

We’ve been sharing a bunch of brain break ideas here on The OT Toolbox recently. You may have seen our recent Best Brain Breaks on YouTube post or some printable brain break activities like the themed activities including these apple themed brain breaks, and bear brain breaks.

Each of these links includes a free printable sheet so you can grab and use these brain break ideas over and over again. Scroll on down and you’ll find a few more printable sheet ideas to incorporate movement into learning and play with special themes.

Use the squirrel brain breaks with a squirrel and acorn theme or with Fall occupational therapy activities this time of year.

Squirrel Brain Breaks

Movement breaks have been shown to improve academic achievements, attention, and more. They are a great self regulation strategy to support self regulation needs. Plus, this activity is perfect for individual needs, a sensory break, transition, in therapy sessions. And, brain breaks like the squirrel themed movements below can be used as self regulation group activities, too.

They would make a great class activity after coming in from recess or during afternoon classwork.

Squirrel brain breaks might include:

  • Scamper across the room like a squirrel
  • Race around a tree trunk
  • Reach up high for an acorn
  • Walk with your knees bent like a squirrel
  • Bend and pretend to dig to bury a nut

 

squirrel brain breaks for a squirrel themed activity for kids

Squirrel brain breaks for a brain break themed activity that promotes movement for kids in the classroom or home this Fall while improving focus and attention through movement.
 

Today, you’ll find squirrel brain break ideas to use during the Autumn months when the leaves are falling and squirrels are running around finding and hiding acorns and other nuts to stock up for the winter.

Many times, the Fall months mean squirrel and leaf books and learning in the classroom or at home. These squirrel brain breaks can be the perfect accompaniment for a Fall theme.

Affiliate links are included in this post.

We read the children’s book, Scaredy Squirrel by and were inspired to come up with squirrel themed brain breaks to go along with the book.

Print the Squirrel Brain Breaks and use them today. Don’t forget to read the book, too!

 

Squirrel Brain Breaks – Ideas for the Classroom

One of the Squirrel Brain Breaks on the printable sheet includes the action song,
I’m an Acorn Small and Round”. It’s one of our favorite songs to sing during the autumn months. This action song is a fun one!

 

Squirrel and Acorn Themed Activities

Other squirrel and acorn activities we have here on The OT Toolbox include: 

  • Use real acorns to manipulate with tongs or tweezers
  • Play the Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel game– Enhance executive functioning skills visual attention, visual memory, strategic thinking, hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills through this captivating and fast-paced kids’ board game.
  • Paint acorns and then sort the colorful acorns into containers
  • Read the book, Scaredy Squirrel  and make a squirrel craft.
  • Follow directions with the song, I’m an Acorn Small and Round (see below). This is a great gross motor activity.
  • Cut out paper acorns from brown construction paper.

 

Squirrel Activities

Squirrel brain breaks for a brain break themed activity that promotes movement for kids in the classroom or home this Fall while improving focus and attention through movement.

 

https://www.theottoolbox.com/2017/09/apple-theme-brain-breaks.html

 

One fun Fall brain break that goes with the squirrel theme is a little song and dance about being an acorn.

Lyrics to I’m an Acorn Small and Round

I’m an acorn, small and round (hold hands into a small ball)
Lying on the cold, cold ground (Lay down on the floor)
Everybody steps on me (Stomp foot)
That is why I’m cracked you see (Hold hands above eyes like binoculars)

[Chorus]
I’m a nut! (Dance)
(Click, click with tongue)
I’m a nut! (Dance)
(Click, click with tongue)
I’m a nut I’m a nut I’m a nut (Dance)
(Click, click with tongue)

Free Squirrel Brain Breaks

Want to print off the squirrel brain break cards to use in the classroom or therapy sessions? Enter your email address into the form below.

This resource is also available inside The OT Toolbox Member’s Club. We have a whole theme with squirrel and acorn activities to use in squirrel themed therapy sessions this Fall season.

Free Squirrel Brain Breaks

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

    Ideas to Incorporate Movement into the Classroom

    Children today are experiencing less and less physical activity and more and more sedentary lifestyles that limit participation in many motor experiences. Children are spending more time in front of screens and less time climbing trees, rolling down hills, and in general less time outdoors.  Physical activity is a vital part of health but for the student, movement in the classroom can have a big impact on learning.  Gross motor games and activities can help. 





    There is much evidence of the link between movement and learning.  For some students, movement breaks in the classroom are an essential part of regulation of sensory needs.  Most students need a quick energizer to beat lethargy in a long school day at some point and brain breaks are a great answer to meet that need.   


    Below, you’ll find easy ways to incorporate movement into the classroom.  


    These are easy strategies that can be added at little cost.  As much as most teachers and school based professionals would love extensive equipment or alternative seating and cushions in their classroom, these ideas are not always feasible.  For these and other reasons, I’ve put together this list of ideas to add movement into the classroom environment.

    These are great ideas for how to incorporate movement into the classroom for movement and learning, perfect ideas for teachers to help kids with attention or sensory needs, and any student who needs more movement in the classroom and throughout the school day.


    Easy Ideas to Add Movement into the Classroom


    You may have seen this video depicting movement in the classroom floating around on Facebook. Check it out. Does this sound familiar?

     

     

     
     





    Add movement into learning- Incorporate gross motor movement into math when repeating math facts by incorporating whole-body games such as Simon Says (Students can perform specific motions when math facts are true, and perform other motor tasks when math facts are false.)


    Daily Stretches


    Afternoon Yoga Stretches


    Dance Party Breaks




    Brain break videos- Here are the best brain break videos on YouTube.


    Themed Brain Breaks- Some ideas are these Bear Brain Breaks or these Farm Brain Breaks


    Role Play Activities for history, science, geometry, etc.


    Large item manipulatives- Use creative items such as large cardboard boxes, printer paper boxes filled with newspapers, old phone books, etc.


    Add in walks during the day.


    Incorporate action rhymes into the morning routine or circle time. 


    Try these sensory motor activities for the classroom.


    As students to move around the room to learn about specific items.  Fall back on those places by asking the students to recall the part of the room they were in when they learned about that particular topic.


    Move books or other items from the desk to a different part of the room so that students need to get up and walk to the back of the room to get their math workbook.


    Try inexpensive seating tools such as this DIY sensory seating idea


    Utilize extra recess as a reward.


    Create a fidget toolbox in the classroom for movement needs while sitting at desks. 


    Try a ball toss game with partners when working on learning facts or spelling. 


    Ask students to perform jumping jacks, clapping, running in place, or hopping when spelling words as a group.


    Add movement requirements within a multi-step project- Students can complete a worksheet, then get up and place it in a bin across the room, then walk to another center to gather materials needed for their next assignment, then return to their desk.


    Ask students to assist in handing out materials and papers.


    Place a math problem at each student’s desk.  Each child can copy the problem to another sheet of paper and complete the problem.  Then, they can move to the next desk and complete that problem.  Ask them to move to each desk until they have solved all of the problems.


    Students can place their chairs on their desks at the end of each day and remove them at the beginning of each day.


    When walking from classroom to classroom, students can all walk on their toes.  Other ideas: walk toe to heel (for short trips down the hall), penguin waddle, walk with extra large steps, or other creative movement ideas.


    Students can carry bins of materials needed for each day from their cubby to their desk.


    Borrow a swivel seat from the computer lab or office.  Use the seat as an alternative seat for different students throughout the day.


    Try Indoor Ice Skating before a learning task- In the classroom, use a sheet of paper under each foot as students “skate” in the classroom for 5 minutes. 


    Raise the desks and allow students to stand for reading/writing/worksheets/learning activities.


    Use easels in the classroom.


    Encourage wall writing by taking paper to the walls and asking students to write at the wall.


    Allow prone writing and reading (lay on stomach on the floor).


    Use a therapy ball as a seat or as a movement area in the classroom.


    What are your favorite ways to add movement to the classroom?

    You may also be interested in the free printable packet, The Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit.

    The Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit is a printable packet of resources and handouts that can be used by teachers, parents, and therapists. Whether you are looking for a handout to explain sensory strategies, or a tool for advocating for your child, the Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit has got you covered.


    And it’s free for you to print off and use again and again.


    In the Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit, you’ll find:


    • Fidgeting Tools for the Classroom
    • Adapted Seating Strategies for the Classroom
    • Self-Regulation in the Classroom
    • 105 Calm-down Strategies for the Classroom
    • Chewing Tools for Classroom Needs
    • 45 Organizing Tools for Classroom Needs
    • Indoor Recess Sensory Diet Cards
     
    Sensory Strategies for the Classroom
     

    Free Classroom Sensory Strategies Toolkit

      We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

      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.

      The Floor is Lava Games

      As kids, we used to hop from couch to couch and make a flying leap across the living room to the corner chair.  We would hop from one surface to another with one thing on our minds…

      The living room floor had turned into boiling hot lava!
      When my kids started hopping around from pillow to pillow and landing with a roll onto the couch with claims of the floor turning to lava, I had to smile. 
      The Floor is Lava is Back!


      What is so cool about the floor being lava (besides the nostalgic sentiments from parents?)  A great game of The Floor is Lava has some major motor movements and sensory play components!
      From jumping, leaping, hopping, rolling, and crashing, The Floor is Lava is a fun and creative way to encourage movement and sensory motor play, both indoors and out!
      Play these The Floor is Lava Games with your kids to build development of skills like motor control, sensory input, motor planning, gross motor skills, core strength, and balance.

      The Floor is Lava Games

      Here are some fun ways to use The Floor is Lava Games to promote sensory input and motor movements:
      • Place pillows and couch cushions on the floor.  Kids can hop from pillow to pillow on one foot or two.  Move the pillows further and further apart to promote movement coordination and motor planning.  Don’t touch the carpet, it’s lava!
      • Place paper plates in a line on the floor.  Use them as a balance beam to address vestibular sensory input.  Hop from plate to plate without touching the ground, it’s burning up!
      • Play a stop and go game that promotes auditory processing skills like auditory figure-ground discrimination.  Call out, “The floor is lava!” and everyone has to hop off the ground onto something besides the hot, hot ground!
      • Use boxes like milk crates, stools, or dining room chairs to add height components to The Floor is Lava game.
      • Add a learning component by asking kids questions when they land on a safe space.  Think about incorporating spelling words, math facts, or memorization facts.
      • Play The Floor is Lava at the playground to add vestibular sensory components to the game. Don’t touch the ground, it’s hot!  Read more about the sensory benefits of the playground.
      • Make a Safe Island when playing a lava game.  Use a hula hoop and all kids can hop in the hoop to stay safe from that burning hot lava.  Don’t hop out of the other side of the hoop to stay safe and to work on motor control.

      Develop Skills While Playing The Floor is Lava

      When playing these lava games, kids are developing and building so many skills!
      • Gross motor coordination
      • Core strength
      • Eye-body coordination
      • Visual motor skills
      • Motor planning
      • Balance
      • Attention
      • Vestibular sensory tolerance 
      • Proprioceptive sensory tolerance
      • Impulse control
      Do your kids play The Floor is Lava?  Did you play as a child?  Introduce your kids to some of these versions of the lava game and boost movement and development skills at the same time!
      Play these The Floor is Lava Games with your kids to build development of skills like motor control, sensory input, motor planning, gross motor skills, core strength, and balance.