Back to School Sensory Activities

back to school sensory activities

It’s that time of year and having a few back to school sensory activities up your sleeve can make all the difference in a stuffy, hot classroom when kids need self-regulation tools after a long summer break. Whether you are looking for classroom sensory diet strategies, or sensory strategies for the school-based OT, putting a back-to-school spin on “sensory” is a hit during the Fall months.

back to school sensory activities

Back-to-School Sensory Activities

The back-to-school season is a prime time to dust off those sensory cobwebs and consider how sensory motor input supports students.

In this blog post, you’ll find a list of ways to support sensory needs using a back-to-school theme. The ideas are great for this time of year when welcoming a new roster of students into the classroom.

  • Our free sensory strategy toolkit is another great resource that supports school-based OTs, educators, and parents of students with sensory needs.
  • You’ll also find many resources, including a printable sensory activity sheet here on this article about calm down strategies for school.
  • These ideas for sensory seekers can be adapted to meet school-based needs (or used in the home for homework time, the after-school period, or homeschooling)

Why Use Back-to-School Sensory Activities?

Heading back into the school year can throw some kids for a spin.  The first few weeks can be a change in routine from the safety of home. For kids who are starting up on a homeschool routine, it can be difficult to pay attention when sensory needs and distractions are in the next room. This can lead to self-regulation needs that support the student’s ability to concentrate and learn after a summer off from the routines of school.

Other reasons for using sensory strategies during the back-to-school season include:

  • Earlier wake-up times after a summer of staying up late and sleeping in. A quick sensory motor brain break can make all the difference.
  • A new routine may throw some students for a loop.
  • The transition period can be a real challenge for some children. It might be the early alarm clock or using time management in the morning that is a challenge. For other kids, moving to a new school, or even just going back to the classroom in general can be a challenge. Try these transition strategies to support these needs.
  • Distractions and Technology: With the prevalence of screen time in kids, and the use of technology/devices, students may find it difficult to focus on schoolwork without being distracted by social media, video games, or other online activities. A quick sensory break can help with attention and distractions.
  • Social-emotional needs: Social emotional dynamics can change over the summer, and students may feel pressure to fit in or establish their social identity when school resumes. This pressure can affect their self-esteem and confidence. The ability to regulate emotions might lead to challenges with learning due to the emotional regulation and executive function connection.

You may have a child of your own that “crashes” after a week of school during this time of year. There is a lot happening that is just exhausting during the return to school. Sometimes, all it takes for an easy transition into the back to school days is a sensory strategy that meets the needs of the sensory child. Let’s explore these ideas below…

  Classroom sensory activities and sensory strategies for back to school or throughout the school year.



back to school sensory ideas and strategies for the classroom that teachers can use with sensory kids.

Back-to-School Sensory Ideas

These sensory activities are ones that can easily be used in the classroom or homeschool room.  They are strategies that can be incorporated into the student’s daily routine within the school environment.  

These school sensory activities are presented in list form for ease and planning, but they can be used in a classroom sensory diet or in various strategies.  

The ideas below are ones that easily allow the child to meet their sensory needs in a natural way, so that it is not an interruption to the classroom or other students.  

Rather, some of these sensory strategies are movement and heavy work-based ideas that can easily be adapted for the whole classroom for brain break type of activities. 

As always, these sensory ideas are ONLY ideas and should be regarded as a reference.  Every child is different and has different sensory needs.

The ideas presented below are not regarded as Occupational Therapy treatment and should only be used in addition to and along with an individualized Occupational Therapy plan made following assessment. 

Sensory Activities for Back to School

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1. Wall Push-Ups- Show the student how to push against the wall while doing “push-ups” from a standing position.  This is a great heavy work activity, or a quick “brain break” activity that provides proprioceptive input for heavy work for improved focus, calming, and self-regulation.

2. Desk Fidget- Use a DIY fidget or a store bought hand fidget toy (affiliate link) to allow the child tactile sensory or proprioceptive input to the hands for improved attention and focus while sitting and performing desk work.

3. Chair Push-Ups- Allow the child to push up from the seat with his arms, keeping the elbows strait.  Pushing up through the arms provides proprioceptive heavy work through the upper body.

4. Move desk/furniture.

5. Erase the chalkboard or dry erase board.

6. Sensory errand- Carry milk crates or plastic bins full of books or supplies from center to center around the classroom or from room to room in the building. Some schools have an “important message” to other classrooms or the office in the form of a folder. Just moving, taking a quick walk through the hallway, to deliver a note or other message can offer a much-needed sensory break. For more heavy work input, add a tote bag filled with books or ask the student to push a cart with materials.

7. Shoe laces fidget-  Add a couple of beads to the child’s shoe laces for a fidget toy that can be used discretely while sitting in floor circle time or during desk work.

8. Manual Pencil Sharpener-  Turning and sharpening pencils with a manual pencil sharpener provides proprioception to bilateral upper extremities.  This can be a good task prior to writing tasks.

9. Backpack for carrying supplies from room to room-  Students can carry supplies to other classrooms in a backpack for heavy input.  This can be a calming strategy while walking the hallways to other areas in the school as well, such as while walking to the lunch room or special classes. The hallway can be an overwhelming and high-sensory environment so deep pressure to center the child can be helpful.

10. Stapler heavy work- Staple paper or remove staples from a bulletin board for upper body proprioceptive input.

11. Sensory seat- Air cushion seating such as a wiggle seat cushion (affiliate link) or a frugal, DIY version using a $1 wiggle seat cushion option. Here are more ideas for alternative seating options and even some DIY flexible seating ideas.

12. Place chairs on rugs.  Sliding chairs on classroom floors can lead to auditory overload for some sensory kids.  Try using carpet squares under each individual chair.  When the child pushes his chair out, he can slide the chair right on the carpet square out from the desk.  

13. Hallway March-  Get the whole class involved in a “walk this way” activity.  They can march from the classroom to specials or the lunchroom.  Try other brain break and whole body movements while walking in the line down the hallway, too: Try high knee lifts, toe walking, heel walking, elbows to knees, and patting the knees while walking.

14. Sports bottles for drinking- Sipping water through a long straw or sports bottle (affiliate link) can allow the students to focus and attend given proprioceptive input through the mouth. This is a great whole classroom strategy for helping with attention and self-regulation. Read more about using a water bottle as a sensory tool.

15. Movement breaks in the gym or classroom- A quick brain break can help kids focus during periods of desk work.

16. Push mats in the gym- Moving those big gym mats is a great whole body proprioception activity. Or, ask students to move desks or other equipment that uses the whole body.

17. Auditory support- Headphones for limiting auditory stimulation during center work or times when there is a lot of chatter in the classroom. Here are more tips for auditory sensitivity in the classroom.

18. Visual picture list- Knowing what to expect is a non-traditional sensory strategy. But when you think about it, the visual input is a support when it comes to knowing what is next, how much time is left until lunch, and how much longer the day will last. A visual schedule can be a benefit for the whole classroom.  Try this daily pocket chart schedule. (affiliate link)

19. Simon Says Spelling-  Try practicing spelling words with a movement and vestibular sensory input Simon Says version. Try these Simon Says commands if there are a few extra minutes to use up during the school day or between transitions.

20. Play dough math for proprioceptive input through the hands.  Try a math smash type of activity and use a heavy resistive dough like this DIY proprioception dough. There are many benefits of play dough and sensory input is just one of them!

21. Kneaded eraser for sensory input through the hands- Use a kneaded pencil eraser (affiliate link) for a hand-held fidget that doubles as an eraser with proprioceptive input.

22. Crunchy snack break- Try snacks like pretzels, crackers, kale chips, popcorn, or roasted chickpeas for an alerting snack. Oral motor exercises offer calming or alerting input and using a crunchy (or chewy) snack can support these needs.

23.  Sensory bin for math or sight words-  Create a sight word sensory bin or even use a sensory bin for math or spelling words. This can be a fun and unexpected way to dive back into spelling after the summer break! Add tactile sensory input to learning using a variety of sensory bin fillers.  Ideas include shaving cream, shredded paper, crafting pom poms, among many other ideas.

24. Vibrating pen rainbow writing for sight word or spelling practice-  Proprioceptive input to the hands can be very helpful for many kids, especially if they are writing with too much pencil pressure.

25. Jump/move/hop in hallway- Take a movement and brain break with a hallway movement activity.  Add learning aspect with spelling, facts, or math.

26. Roll a ball on the legs-  Add a vestibular aspect to vocabulary or themed learning, including history, English language arts, or science.  Kids can answer questions and when they answer the question, they roll the ball along their legs by bending down to roll the ball on their thighs.

27. Hopscotch Math-  Add a hopping proprioception activity to the classroom with a hopscotch board created right in the classroom using masking tape.

28.  Graph Paper Writing-  Add a visual sensory twist to handwriting, math, spelling, or any written work by using graph paper.  The added lines can be just the visual spatial prompt needed for kids with visual sensory processing concerns. Here are more sensory based reasons to use graph paper.

29. Make a desk sensory diet box-  Use a dollar store pencil case to create customized sensory diet bins that can fit right into the desk. Items would be used specific to the child’s needs, but might include resistive putty, paper clips for fidgeting, or movable toys (affiliate link). Use these occupational therapy kits for more ideas.

30. Wash desks with spray bottles. Squeezing a spray bottle to wash desks or water plants offers heavy work through the hands.

31. Cut classroom decorations from oaktag. Heavy input through the hands by cutting thicker paper is a great way to add a quick and functional movement break. Students will love to see their handiwork on the walls, too.

32. Create a calm down corner in the classroom This can include fidgets, mindfulness centers, books, and many more sensory tools. Plus try these other calm down strategies for school.

33. Try a sensory swing- Sensory swings for modulation can be used when applicable and recommended by an occupational therapy provider. Sometimes, you’ll see these in a sensory room or in a therapy room in the school. Here is more information on types of sensory swings.

34. Use the playground! Getting those students outside can make a great sensory movement break. Check out how to use the playground for sensory input and read this resource on sensory diets at the playground.

All of these ideas support sensory needs and are great activities to use during the back-to-school time. We love that they are fun, functional, and the whole classroom can benefit!

Want more ideas to support sensory needs at school? Grab a free copy of our Classroom Sensory Strategy Packet.

Free Classroom Sensory Strategies Toolkit

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    Related resources include our blog post on Ayres Sensory Integration. This is a great place to start with gathering information on the sensory processing systems and the related behavioral, emotional, physical, and cognitive responses that we see.

    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

    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.

    Sensory Strategies for Road Trips

    road trips for sensory kids

    To the child with sensory sensitivities, a family road trip can mean sensory overload. Summer break brings long car rides as the family road trip is an essential during the summer months. But how do you prevent sensory dysregulation on a long car ride? In this blog post, you’ll find sensory strategies for road trips including ideas for road trip tips for kids with sensory issues and an oral motor sensory break that helps with sensory needs during car rides.

    Get ready for your next road trip while addressing sensory needs!

    sensory strategies for family road trips

    Sensory Strategies for Family Road Trips

    Surviving a long family road trip when a member of the family has sensory sensitivities can make a long car ride challenging. For those with sensory processing disorder, Autism, ADHD or other neurodiversities, sensory sensitivities can make long car rides difficult.

    Preparing in advance to support the sensory sensitive individual can make all the difference! In fact, the sensory strategies listed below can support any individual, as we all have differing sensory needs.

    These sensory activities for car rides can be used for any age. This is a plan to have in place to prepare for the long car ride when sensory processing needs impact the ability to sit in the car to get to the destination.

    • Create a sensory story to talk about the trip in advance. Use the travel sensory story to guide use of sensory tools during the road trip.
    • Pack preferred sensory tools. These items can be placed in the vehicle or alongside the child while travelling so they can access the sensory tools during the roadtrip. 
    • Movement breaks! Stopping in advance of breakdowns is critical. Plan out stops in advance so you know when the next stop is. If possible, plan out stops according to location. Use local playgrounds as areas to run and play during road trip stops.
    • Chew on a straw
    • Plan on brain breaks at stops
    • Blow through a straw
    • Play car games such as I Spy, or find items in the scenery and make a story.
    • Create a sensory lifestyle with built-in sensory breaks based on motivation and meaningful activities (outlined in our Sensory Lifestyle Handbook)
    • Eat crunchy snacks like pretzels
    • Offer chewy snacks like beef jerky, dry raisins/cranberries, or fruit leather
    • Drink a smoothie through a sippy cup with a straw-type top
    • Make a DIY road trip busy bag.
    • Use a “crazy straw” in a cup.  The smaller opening is great for oral motor input.
    • Make a sensory kit with fidgets or other sensory tools
    • Play “Simon Says” with mouth exercises: Suck cheeks in/puff cheeks out/Make a big “O” shape/Stretch out the tongue. You’ll find many on our Simon Says commands blog post.
    • Chew gum
    • Create a sensory diet specifically for the trip
    • Use a straw to suck and pick up pieces of paper.  Transfer them carefully to a cup using only the straw.
    • Weighted blanket or throw
    • Make a chewy snack holder (below) along with the kids to plan for sensory needs during the long car ride.
    • Use a partially deflated beach ball as a sensory cushion on the floor. The individual can move their feet on the wiggle cushion.
    sensory strategies for road trips.

    Oral motor sensory break for road trips

    If you’ve ever taken a road trip with kids then you know how nerve wracking a long trip can be for the kids and the parents.  Long road trips with the family are definitely fun.  They are certainly stressful and chaotic times with sibling love and revelry, but definitely memory-making.  Whether you have one child or 6, a road trip involves planning, especially when sensory needs are at play.

    You prepare the books, the activities, the snacks, the music, or videos.  You can prep it all, but no matter what, there will be craziness that only kids can bring. There are the potty emergencies that happen 20 minutes after you left the rest stop.  There are the drink spills that saturate the car seats.  There are spilled toys and fights that break out among sisters.  But through it all, you’re plowing 65 miles an hour to memories.  

    But, when all of this chaos is happening, you can take mini-sensory breaks that will give the kids a chance to calm down the fidgets and the wiggles.  

    As an occupational therapist in the school-based setting, I often times made recommendations to parents and teachers for kids who needed to move during the span of a class or school-day.  

    Unfortunately, when you are travelling long distances in a car on a road trip, you can’t always stop and get out to move and stretch.  There are definitely times that a rest stop is needed and those are the perfect times for kids to get out of the car and run a bit.  

    But, when you are stuck in a van or car for a while, sometimes kids just need to have a sensory break.  This is true for typical kids or kids with sensory processing disorders (and parents, too)!

    We made these snack bottles to help with calming sensory input using Twizzlers Twists.  

    Sensory Processing Disorder (and types of sensory needs, outlined in our Sensory Lifestyle Handbook) in children can present with many different sensory needs due to difficulties with modulating sensory input.  

    The long car ride of a family vacation can cause sensory overload or a lack of sensory input to kids who need help regulating input. Whether a child with sensory processing disorder is sensory seeking, under-responsive to sensory input, or sensory defensive, oral motor sensory integration activities like chewy beef jerky sticks, twizzlers, licorice chews, or fruit leather can help.  

    The repetition of chewing a licorice twist can help to calm and regulate sensory needs.  

    Related, please check out our resource on Ayres Sensory Integration for an understanding on the theory of what is happening in our sensory systems.

    Oral motor sensory input for kids with sensory processing disorder or typical kids who need a sensory break and proprioceptive input during long car rides.

    How To make a Road Trip Sensory Snack

    With kids, a road trip almost guarantees a messy car with crumbs and spills.  We wanted to create a container that would hold our Twizzlers  or licorice twists and keep the mess on the lower end.  A cute container is bonus, so we pulled out the ribbons and glue gun.  

    These snack holders will keep our Twizzlers or fruit chews ready for kids (and the parents) that need a quick sensory break during a long trip:

    Oral motor sensory input for kids with sensory processing disorder or typical kids who need a sensory break and proprioceptive input during long car rides.


    Gather a few tall plastic jars from the recycle bin.  We used recycled peanut jars and loved that the lids coordinated with our Twizzlers Twists!  

    Grab a strand of ribbon and the glue gun to make these jars something special.

    Oral motor sensory input for kids with sensory processing disorder or typical kids who need a sensory break and proprioceptive input during long car rides.
    Cut the ribbon to fit around the jar.  Using the hot glue gun, attach the ribbon.  You can layer on colors, or get the kids involved in decorating by using decorative tape or even permanent markers to decorate the snack containers.
    Now you’ll need Twizzlers candy.  We grabbed our Twizzlers Twists and  Twizzlers Pull N Peels along with all of the other must-haves for our vacation.
    Oral motor sensory input for kids with sensory processing disorder or typical kids who need a sensory break and proprioceptive input during long car rides.
    Fill the containers with Twizzlers Twists and Twizzlers Pull N Peels.  They are ready to grab and go on your next road trip with the family!
    Oral motor sensory input for kids with sensory processing disorder or typical kids who need a sensory break and proprioceptive input during long car rides.
    Oral motor sensory input for kids with sensory processing disorder or typical kids who need a sensory break and proprioceptive input during long car rides.

    More Sensory Strategies for Road Trips

    You’ll find more tools to survive Summer road trips with a sensory sensitive child that meet the interests of the child in our book, The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook. The book supports interests and motivating activities that occur naturally during the day to day tasks like a long car ride!


    The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is a comprehensive resource offering a strategy guide to create sensory diets and turn them into a lifestyle of sensory success!

    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

    Oral Motor Activities for Summer

    summer oral motor activities for kids

    Sometimes the kids need an outdoor challenge to get moving and add active play to their day. I’m really excited to add a new activity challenge here on The OT Toolbox website. It’s a fun summer activity for the whole family and can be used to help kids stay active and build skills. This list of oral motor activities for summer is actually a fun way to add calming activities and alerting activities to sensory diets for kids. In fact, this page is part of a series of backyard sensory activities for kids.

    Summer oral motor activities for kids to address oral sensory processing needs.

    This is such a fun list of Oral Sensory Processing activities that can be done at home right in the backyard this summer.  If you are new to this blog, you might know that I’ve put together a lot of sensory activities here on the website. In particular, you will want to check out all of the summer occupational therapy activities here on The OT Toolbox! 

    Today, I’m sharing one part of that backyard sensory play list and outdoor activity challenge. These oral sensory processing activities can be done frugally and right in your backyard.  Getting the kids outside to play is important with all of the research out there telling us that kids are not playing outdoors as much as they used to.  These backyard sensory ideas are sure to bring smiles to your kids’ faces while sneaking in some sensory input.

    Oral sensory processing activities that can be done at home this summer right in the backyard with the whole family, great for self-regulation, sensory input, attention, and focus.

    Understanding development of oral motor skills is a great place to start when it comes to oral sensory processing concerns. Oral sensory input or challenges with oral motor skills can impact self-regulation in kids as well as improving attention, focus, and adding a calming component to slow down a sensory seeking child. Adding simple oral motor sensory breaks throughout the day can make a big impact in a sensory diet for kids.

    Oral Motor Skills and sensory Activities

    Try these backyard oral sensory processing activities this summer:

    RELATED READ: Animal Cracker Oral Sensory Activity

    Affiliate links are included below.

    Dandelion Race-  Pick several dandelions and place them into two piles.  Kids can race another child to blow all of the seeds from the dandelions one at a time.  Blowing dandelions is a proprioceptive activity that provides calming sensory input through the mouth.

    Balloon Bin-  Help your child blow up a bunch of balloons and place them into a large bin.  An under the bed storage bin works well for this activity. Once the bin is full of  balloons, spray in a bottle of shaving cream.  Mix the balloons and shaving cream around to coat the balloons.  Ask kids to scrape off the shaving cream with their hands to reveal the color of the balloon. This is a tactile sensory activity as well as an oral sensory activity.

    Smelly Bubbles- Most kids agree that there is nothing more fun or summery than bubbles.  Try adding a scented component by using scented bubbles.  Blowing bubbles is an oral sensory calming activity for kids.

    Kazoo Parade- Gather kids from the neighborhood and pass out a bunch of kazoos. Blowing a kazoo is a sensory activity that provides proprioceptive input through the mouth.  This is a calming activity and can be used for self-regulating or improved focus.  

    Hot and Cold Taste Test- Alternate between hot and cold taste sensations in a taste testing game.  Prepare cold foods like ice cubes, chunks of popsicles, and frozen vegetables alongside a hot foods tray like warm applesauce, warm sun tea, and toasted bread.  Set up a roadside stand for taste testing and create a “most liked” survey.

    Oral sensory processing activities that can be done at home this summer right in the backyard with the whole family, great for self-regulation, sensory input, attention, and focus.

    RELATED READ: Plastic Egg Boats Oral Sensory Activity

    more backyard sensory ideas for summer

    The Summer OT Bundle is a collection of handouts, activities, and more that build skills this summer. You’ll find everything you need to keep the kids active, learning, and building skills this summer.

    You’ll find ideas to use in virtual therapy sessions and to send home as home activities that build skills and power development with a fun, summer theme. Kids will love the Summer Spot It! game, the puzzles, handouts, and movement activities. Therapists will love the teletherapy slide deck and the easy, ready-to-go activities to slot into OT sessions.

    The BONUS is that there is a special added bonus item with the Summer Activities Kit right now. Grab the packet of activities now and get the Summer Sensory Activities Guide to keep the kids moving with the senses all summer long.

    More outdoor activity challenges

    Bookmark this page for the summer fun. Be sure to check out some of the other backyard sensory activities in this challenge for kids:

    More oral motor activities you will love:

    Oral motor activities are perfect for addressing self-regulation, focus, attention, coping, and sensory input needs by adding a calming effect or alerting effect. Try some of these oral motor activities:

    Halloween Smoothie Recipe for Kids

    This green Halloween smoothie is a fun occupational therapy activity for Halloween…kids love it and making the smoothie is part of the fun.

    Halloween Green Smoothie

    Halloween is a holiday of sweets and treats.  Sometimes, you need a healthy Halloween snack for the kids that doesn’t involve chocolate, processed ingredients, or high calories. That’s where this Halloween smoothie recipe comes in.

    Halloween recipes that double as a fun and cute healthy snack is almost as much of a hit with kids as the sugary candy is.  We make a lot of smoothie recipes, so my kids are used to the blender chopping up foods into smoothies, so it was not difficult to think of this smoothie recipe for kids to enjoy!

    Skip the sweets and serve up fruits and veggies with this fun Halloween green smoothie recipe

    Frankenstein cup craft and green smoothie recipe for a fun Halloween snack for kids. Make these at a Halloween party for a healthy alternative to sweet drinks!



    Halloween Smoothie Recipe

    We’ll start by making a Frankenstein face on the cup. This detail is not only cute, it’s a fun Halloween craft for kids!

    Frankenstein cup craft and green smoothie recipe for a fun Halloween snack for kids. Make these at a Halloween party for a healthy alternative to sweet drinks!


    So, we are a big smoothie family over here. We love smoothie recipes made with a variety of fruits and veggies.

    Frankenstein Face

    This Halloween smoothie was a spur of the moment idea though. We started by making a Frankenstein craft with a simple glass.  

    We started by cutting out the paper pieces to put a Frankenstein face on the cup. This can make a green smoothie more appetizing, especially for kids who may not want to drink up a tall green smoothie!

    (Affiliate links are being included in this post.)  


    The materials you’ll need for your Frankenstein face craft include:

     Amazon affiliate links:

    To make the Frankenstein face craft:

    1. Cut a strip of black cardstock (affiliate link) and cut a jagged line along one edge.  Tape this onto the top of the glass or cup.  Stick the sticky back googly eyes onto the face of the Frankenstein.  

    2. Cut small rectangles of the green Cardstock (affiliate link) and tape them at the ear.  Bend the cardstock so the rectangles stick out.

    3. Cut a jagged mouth and tape it into place.  

    It’s that easy!  This would be such a fun craft for kids to make at a Halloween party. You could use a green plastic cup and fill it with treats, or you could make the Frankenstein face on a cup that is used to hold pencils and other school supplies.

    Green Monster Drink

    Frankenstein cup craft and green smoothie recipe for a fun Halloween snack for kids. Make these at a Halloween party for a healthy alternative to sweet drinks!
    Next, get your kids in on the cooking activity by making a green smoothie together.  The nice thing about this recipe is that you can use whatever fruits or vegetables you’ve got on hand.  
    We made our green smoothie using baby spinach, strawberries, and milk.  
    Other ingredients might include frozen (or fresh) bananas, blueberries, raspberries, mango, kiwi, blackberries, cherries, pears, apples, peaches, or any fruits.  For the green color you could substitute kale or other leafy green vegetable.  

    Smoothies for Kids

    To make the Halloween green smoothie…

    1. Toss 1 cup of baby leaf spinach into a blender.  Pour in 1 cup of milk.  
    2. Blend this together on a high speed until the spinach is pulverized and liquid.  
    3. Add 1 and 1/2 cup fresh or frozen strawberries. Blend again until the fruit is well blended.  
    4. You could use other liquids for your smoothie instead of the milk.  Try juice, almond milk, water, or coconut milk. Also consider adding ice cubes for a frozen drink.
    5. As you can see, there is a lot of room for substitution with this recipe.  Pour the green smoothie into the Frankenstein cups and have fun with your Halloween treat!
    Frankenstein cup craft and green smoothie recipe for a fun Halloween snack for kids. Make these at a Halloween party for a healthy alternative to sweet drinks!
    Play around with different combinations for a healthy and fun snack for the kids!


    What are some other ways you could make a Halloween smoothie with a little creativity?

    Use a glass cup and draw a face on the outside of the cup using a dry erase marker.

    Make a purple monster drink using berries to make a monster smoothie for Halloween breakfast. 

    Make a mango and strawberry smoothie and make it into a pumpkin for a smoothie recipe kids will love.

    Sensory Benefits of Smoothies

    Ok…This Frankenstein green smoothie has been on The OT Toolbox for yeeeaarsss and I totally forgot about it!

    Actually, drinking a smoothie has a lot of sensory benefits. The oral motor skills required to drink a smoothie through a straw offers heavy, proprioceptive input and feedback.  “Sucking is also a calming and organizing activity which requires closing the lips, lip strength and the ability to hold the jaw in a stable position” (Yack, Aquilla and Sutton, 2015). 

    When kids need a calm down moment or a chance to chill after a day at school, a smoothie can make all the difference. We talk about the sensory oral motor benefits to the mouth and jaw in our blog post on using a sports water bottle for sensory input. You could double down on the sensory input by drinking the smoothie through a straw.

    Check out some other Halloween occupational therapy activities that can be incorporated into this time of year while boosting skills and areas kids nee.

    How fun for a group activity…talk about the calming effects of sipping a smoothing through a straw, self-regulation, and coping strategies like the heavy “work” that a smoothie offers!


    This would be GREAT “homework” for kiddos to do with the family. You could totally do a purple monster spin on this recipe and go for berries ? instead of the leafy greens ? that we used to make this one. ✌? 

    Halloween Foods for Kids

    Frankenstein cup craft and green smoothie recipe for a fun Halloween snack for kids. Make these at a Halloween party for a healthy alternative to sweet drinks!


    Tell me…Have you made a Halloween smoothie for a Halloween breakfast? 


    Yack, E., Aquilla, P. and Sutton, S. (2015) Building Bridges Through Sensory Integration (Third Edition).

    Pumpkin activity kit
    Pumpkin Fine Motor Kit

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

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

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

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

    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

    December Sensory Processing Activities

    These December Sensory Processing Activities are designed to provide sensory opportunities, Christmas themed sensory prompts, accommodations to holiday activities, and sensory challenges with a Christmas and winter theme.  For more Christmas themed developmental activities for Occupational Therapists, parents, and teachers, grab try this free Christmas Occupational Therapy activities printable calendar.

    December Sensory Processing Activities
    December is a time of holiday fun,
    hustle, and bustle.  Families have added
    activities, winter parties, and distant family to visit.  This time of year brings with it unusual holiday
    songs and bells, lights, different foods to smell and taste, and crowded
    stores.  For the child with sensory processing concerns, it can be a very difficult time.  

    The holiday rush brings with it, added and unusual sounds, sights, smells, visitors, scratchy holiday sweaters, and schedule changes. The holiday season can be downright debilitating for the child with sensory challenges. 
    The time leading up to Christmas
    can be a month-long time of sensory overload for children with sensory
    issues.  It can be confusing for sensory
    systems!  The overwhelming feelings of
    sensory uncertainty can add a whole new meaning to holiday stress.  This time of year, when even the most intentional
    parents and teachers can still cause over-stimulation or under-stimulation to
    the child who is already struggling with sensory issues. 
    There can be a need for additional calming
    sensory input or changes to sensory diet, additional modifications, and added
    sensory down-time.  

    When it comes to preparing for the holidays and all the adjustments it brings, a plan can help. An understanding of the sensory system and how the senses are processed can help parents, teachers, and caregivers to cope with the added sensory stress for children with sensory issues.

    Having a kit of ideas and coping strategies can be a helpful tool to prepare the child with sensory processing difficulties for the holiday season. 

    A list of sensory activities that can be added to the day…WITH a holiday theme can make all the difference in creating a holiday that the whole family will remember, all while keeping the sensory systems in mind. 

    Below, you’ll see a packet of sensory activities that has been on this site for a little over two years. This packet of Christmas Sensory Activities are bound to help families of those with sensory processing challenges to thrive this holiday season. 

    There are coping strategies for dealing with all of the added and new sensory input. 

    There are activity challenges that hit on the big sensory systems, allowing for calming or stimulating sensory input with a Christmas theme. 

    There are Christmas and holiday themed activities that can be incorporated into an established or new sensory diet, making a valuable tool for the child who is overwhelmed or underwhelmed by all that the holidays bring.

    Read more about what’s included in the Christmas Sensory Processing Activity Packet…

    Included in the Christmas Sensory Processing Activity Packet:

    • Each of the sensory systems are addressed in the 31 sensory activities.

    • There is a detailed description of the sensory system and sensory processing included in this packet.

    • Information is included on sensory diets and how they are needed during the holiday season. Sensory activities with a holiday theme can be added to sensory diets depending on individual sensory needs. 
    • Sensory challenges and modifications that can be added into daily routines this time of year.

    • A comprehensive list of sensory coping strategies is included for handling holiday stress and over- or under-responsiveness related to holiday travel, holiday visitors, and changes in routines over the Christmas season.

    ON SALE for 25% OFF NOVEMBER 24-27, 2017! Just click the link to access the reduced price of $3.75!

    Add these activities to your
    therapy plans this month.  The activity list
    is perfect for passing on to parents as a home program.  Parents and teachers can use these activities
    as part of an individualized plan that meets the child’s needs. 
    The activities are
    outlined in an easy to follow therapy plan, however as parents and therapists
    know, a day that involves children does not always go as planned.  The activities can be shifted around to suit
    the needs of the child and the family.  

    Does this sound like a resource that might help your client, child, or student? If the holidays make you want to curl up in a blanket because of the added stress and sensory challenges, this might just be the tool for you and your family! 

    St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock Chocolate Pops Treats

    This St. Patrick’s Day, surprise someone special (or a whole crowd) with these easy miniature Shamrock chocolate lollipop treats.  These little treats are quick to put together and a big hit.  Sometimes, my kids receive treats that are huge and then the sugar rush is a little out of control.  These small sized lollipops are the perfect little snack for St. Patrick’s Day preschool, play dates, or parade crews!

    Miniature Shamrock Chocolate Lollipop treats for St. Patrick's Day

    This post contains affiliate links.  See our full disclosure policy.

    St. Patrick’s Day chocolate lollipop treats:

    We started with a handful of lollipop sticks.  I used a steak knife to cut the sticks into thirds.  You will have a ton of lollipop sticks left over, but don’t worry.  You can dye the lollipop sticks and use them for learning activities like shape building activities.

    Pull out a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil.  Arrange green chocolate chips into groups of four.   Pop them into a preheated oven set at 250 degrees F.
    Miniature Shamrock Chocolate Lollipop treats for St. Patrick's Day
    Keep a close eye on the chocolate chips.  It will only take a minute or two for the chips to soften.  You want them to just start to melt, but not too much.  I used a toothpick to pull the tips into the center of the four chocolate chips.  Place the lollipop sticks on the chocolate and slightly twist it so the stick is covered in chocolate.

    Miniature Shamrock Chocolate Lollipop treats for St. Patrick's Day

    Miniature Shamrock Chocolate Lollipop treats for St. Patrick's Day

    Miniature Shamrock Chocolate Lollipop treats for St. Patrick's Day
    These two were Big fans of our Little shamrock treats!

    Need a quick shamrock activity to go along with your shamrock chocolate pops?  Try making this shamrock thumbprint art.

    The Mixed-Up Chameleon Snack Mix

    Mixed up Chameleon activity

    Many years ago, we made a mixed up snack mix to go along with some “The Mixed Up Chameleon” activities that we were doing with a group of preschoolers. It’s a fun way to engage little minds using a colorful snack, and is inspired by Eric Carle’s beloved book, “The Mixed-Up Chameleon”. Whether you’re exploring chameleon activities for preschoolers or simply looking for a creative way to engage kids in snack time, this mix is sure to be a hit.

    The Mixed Up Chameleon Activity

    Just like the mixed-up chameleon changes its colors to blend in with its surroundings, our snack mix offers a variety of flavors and textures to tantalize young taste buds. From crunchy to chewy, sweet to savory, every bite is a delightful surprise!

    You’ll want to check out all of our cooking with kids recipes and all of the benefits of getting kids involved in the kitchen. A cooking task as simple as this mixed up recipe is great for little ones!

    We have been loving this Preschool Book Club Series!  This week’s book is The Mixed Up Chameleon by Eric Carle (affiliate link) and one of our favorites.  We decided to make a mixed up snack mix to go along with the story.  And what a fun time this was! 




    Mixed-Up Chameleon Snack



    To create your own Mixed-Up Chameleon Snack Mix, gather an assortment of colorful ingredients. Think vibrant green pretzel sticks, golden cereal squares, red and blue dried fruit, and perhaps even some chocolate candies for an extra treat. Encourage your little ones to mix and match the ingredients just like the chameleon mixes up its appearance.

    You could actually use any ingredients that you prefer or have on hand. This could be fruit to make a mixed-up fruit cup, or a trail mix type of snack.

    As you prepare the snack mix together, take the opportunity to engage in some mixed-up chameleon activities. Discuss the chameleon’s unique ability to change colors and blend in with its surroundings. Encourage your children to use their imaginations and pretend to be chameleons, adapting to different environments as they munch on their colorful snack mix.

    For added fun, consider incorporating story time into your snack session by reading “The Mixed-Up Chameleon” aloud. As you enjoy the story together, point out how the chameleon’s adventures parallel the mixing and matching of ingredients in your snack mix.

    This post contains affiliate links.



    Have you read The Mixed-Up Chameleon (Amazon affiliate link)
    by Eric Carle?   We love this story, just like we love all of Eric Carle books.  This was a great book to read with a little snack.   First, we needed to do a little cooking with the kids.
     Our snack mix used all of the colors for the different animals in the book.  As the chameleon decides he wants to be a different animal, we added the ingredient to go along with that animal, and mixed it up, of course…with a mixing spoon!



    In the book, first the Chameleon wants to be like the Polar Bear.  We added coconut flakes to our bowl to represent the polar bear’s fur.  Not a fan of coconut?  Try marshmallows.



    Next the Chameleon wants to be like the Flamingo.  We added pink sprinkles.  Because sprinkles make everyone happy 🙂


    Next the Chameleon wants to be like the Fox, so we added red M&Ms.

    Goldfish crackers are for the goldfish, of course.


    When the Chameleon wanted to be like the Deer, we added pretzels for antlers.


    For the Giraffe’s long neck, we used our imagination and added pretzel sticks to the snack mix.


    Green Fruit Loops represented the Turtle in the book.

    Next, the Chameleon wants to be like the Elephant and again we used our imagination to use dried banana chips for elephant ears.  It was a little stretch, but worked for us.  And was a tasty addition to our snack mix!

    The Chameleon decides he wants to be like the seal and at that point, we added raisins to represent the seal’s flippers.



    The final addition to our snack mix was the umbrellas for the people. 


    The snack mix was stirred up and all done!  Ready to eat, while we read the book.  Again!


    Have fun with your snack mix and the Mixed-Up Chameleon!

    Mixed Up Chameleon Book Activities

    We had so much fun creating this Mixed up Chameleon activity! 
    Be sure to stop by the other bloggers in this series to see how they are playing and crafting with the Mixed-Up Chameleon:


    Home Grown Friends Mixed Up Creatures 
    Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails Sensory Bin 
    Mama. Papa. Bubba. Camouflaged Chameleon Hunt



    Here are more kids crafts based on children’s books.

    This activity is one of our favorite ways to explore books through play! There are many more ideas in our resource: Exploring Books Through Play.
    social emotional activities for 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