Toys to Improve Pencil Grasp

Pencil grasp toys

Have you ever used pencil grasp toys to support development of handwriting? Helping kids with pencil grasp can be a challenge, so using motivating and fun activities to support the underlying skill areas is essential. Today, we’re going over the best occupational therapy toys that target pencil grasp development. Pencil grasp toys to challenge precision, dexterity, endurance, separation of the sides of the hand, and other skills needed for a functional pencil grasp. All of this can happen through play using toys to support stronger hands by focusing on grasp pattern development through play!

Amazon affiliate links are included in this blog post. As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases.

The best pencil grasp toys to support the fine motor skills needed for a better pencil grip.

Recently, we shared fine motor toy ideas and then gross motor toys. Both of these areas are closely related to a functional pencil grasp, so be sure to check out those toy suggestions, too.

Pencil Grasp Toys

We love coming up with fun play and craft activities designed to work on the development of an efficient grasp.  Being the season of gifting to others, we thought it would be fun to bring you our top recommended toys to work on tripod grasp, intrinsic muscle strength, rotation of the pencil while handwriting, and an open thumb web space

Children who have difficulty with handwriting may completely HATE to work on letter formation and pencil grip.  Why not gift them with a fun toy this holiday that will work on the developmental skills necessary to improve their grip on the pencil?  Make the exercise fun as they PLAY their way to a better pencil grasp!

Handwriting is more than just pencil grasp! Manipulating a pencil to write letters and numbers has a lot to do with visual perceptual skills. You’ll find easy and fun ways to work on visual perceptual skills through play here. 


You will also love these Games to Improve Pencil Grasp

Best Toys to Improve Pencil Grasp

Toys that will help improve pencil grasp

{Note: This post contains affiliate links.}

Toys That Improve Pencil Grasp

Coming up with this list, we thought about the skills needed for an appropriate pencil grasp and age-appropriate handwriting.  This toy gift guide is broken down into toys that will help with different sets of problem areas when it comes to a poor pencil grasp.

Let’s take a closer look at toy suggestions for these areas:

  • Toys for Tripod Grasp
  • Toys for an Open Thumb Web Space
  • Toys for Hand Strength
  • Toys for Extended Wrist

Toys for Tripod Grasp

Tripod grasp: The most efficient way to hold the pencil when writing is with a dynamic tripod grasp. While not necessary…a functional grasp works, too…a tripod grasp is a term we’ve probably all heard described before.  So WHAT is a tripod grasp

A Tripod grasp starts with a nice round circle made with the thumb and index finger.  The pencil is pinched with the tips of the thumb and index finger and held close to the point of the pencil.  The pencil is resting on and assisted by the middle finger.  The ring finger and pinky fingers are tucked into the palm.  All movement should happen with the fingers and thumb.  The wrist and arm should not move while writing, coloring, or drawing. 

Often times, new pencil and crayon users will hold the writing utensil in a different way.  You might see four fingers opposing the thumb to hold the pencil.  You might see the pencil positioned in the knuckles between the index and middle fingers.  Maybe they hold the pencil away from the tip where the lead is and instead hold it in the middle of the pencil shaft.  There are SO many variations of awkward and inefficient pencil grasps.  If your little hand writer is showing some version that affects their letter formation and pencil control, try a few of these fun toys…

A few toys that help to encourage a tripod grasp:

Light Brite: (affiliate link) Picking up and manipulating those little colored pegs encourage a tripod grasp.  Pushing them through the paper and into the holes is a great resistive exercise…disguised as FUN! 

We have this Lite Brite Flatscreen – Red (affiliate link) from Hasbro and love making pictures with the pegs!  When the child holds the pegs in his hand, it’s a great way to encourage the ring finger and pinkie finger in a tucked position.  Show your child how to pick up a handful of pegs and “squirrel them away” in their palm while they push one peg into the board.  What a great fine motor exercise!  Not to mention, the dots of the guide paper is a great visual motor activity…so important in handwriting!

Lacing Cards: (affiliate link) Lacing cards are a great way to encourage a tripod grasp.  This set of Lacing Shapes (affiliate link) from Patch Products come in simple shapes with bold colors. The child must hold the tip of the string in a dynamic tripod grasp to push through the holes of the card.  If your child has their thumb squashed up against their index finger while threading the cards, be sure to show them how to make a nice round circle for an easier time.

Peg Boards: (affiliate link) Grasping pegs encourage a tripod grasp especially while pushing them into the holes of a peg board.  Here are homemade pegboard ideas and even a precision pegboard you can make using perler beads (see below).

This Lauri Tall-Stacker Pegs Building Set (affiliate link) from Lauri is great for building peg towers while learning colors and shapes. 

Older kids might love Fusion Beads like the Perler Beads 6,000 Count Bucket-Multi Mix (affiliate link) from Perler.

Spike the Fine Motor Hedge Hog– (affiliate link) This fine motor toy builds a stronger tripod grasp, and when positioned appropriately, can place the wrist into an extended position, too. This helps to further refine precision movements for accuracy and dexterity. These are great skills to carry over to pencil control and pencil movements during handwriting tasks.

Learning Resources 3 Prong Tong– (affiliate link) This tong tool promotes a better grasp on objects…but only if the hand is positioned correctly. If you allow kids to just pick up the 3 prong tongs and start using them, they likely will position the tong into their hand with a gross grasp, or by using all of the fingers along the length of the prong. This can actually strengthen the wrong muscles, and promote an ineffective motor plan that becomes muscle memory when writing with a pencil.

When kids use these tongs, they should have their hand positioned almost under the tongs, as if it were a pencil. When used this way, the tongs can strengthen the intrinsic muscles and promote a tripod grasp. These 3 prong tongs can work well when used correctly, but be sure to work along side a child with this one.

Toys for Open Thumb Web Space

Sometimes you will see a child who is holding their pencil with a closed web space.  This happens when the thumb web space is the area between the thumb and the index finger.  If the thumb is squashed up against the side of their index finger, they are not able to manipulate the pencil with small movements.  They might move their whole arm to make letters instead of just the hand.  A closed web space is an inefficient way to grasp the pencil and will lead to poor handwriting.  This type of positioning requires activities that strengthen and stabilize the thumb.

A few toys that help encourage an open web space:

Tweezer Games:  Tweezer activities promote an open web space and stabilization of the thumb.  This Avalanche Fruit Stand (affiliate link) from Learning Resources is a colorful way to encourage an open web space.  The vertical surface is perfect for encouraging an extended wrist.

Bead Sets: (affiliate link) Stringing beads is a good way to encourage an open web space.  The child must hold the bead and string between their thumb and index fingers.  Collapsing of the thumb web space will happen when the child demonstrates weakness in the muscles of the thumb.  Beading is a repetitive activity and promotes strength. 

This Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Stringing Beads with over 200 beads (affiliate link) from Melissa & Doug has over 200 beads in different colors and shapes, and even letters!  You could even form sentences for the child to copy and practice their improved pencil grasp!

Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots: (affiliate link) Often times, a child will wrap their thumb around the index finger when they are writing with a pencil.. This indicates instability in the thumb and the muscles that allow for smooth pencil motions. 

Pushing down on the buttons of the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em ROBOTS Game (affiliate link) from Mattel really strengthens the muscles of the thumb and allows for more stability leading to an open web space and ultimately more fluid motions of the pencil in letter formation.  Plus, this game is just plain old FUN for kids of all ages!

Toys for Hand Strength

Hand Strength:  If a child has weakness in their hands, they may complain that their hand is tired when they write or color.  Then, to compensate for muscle fatigue, they resort to an inefficient hand grasp.  They may grip the pencil with four fingers or with their whole palm.  many times, a child will start off with a nice tripod grasp and then switch to a less efficient grasp…or even switch hands!  Do they complain that their hand is tired or that it hurts?  These kiddos need to work on hand strength.  To allow for increased endurance when writing and coloring, this child would benefit from strengthening exercises.

A few toys that help encourage hand strength:

Pop Beads:  (affiliate link) Pushing pop beads together is a perfect way to strengthen the intrinsic muscles of the hands including the arches of the hands. 

Pop beads are such a fun toy that can be used to make patterns, different lengths, bracelets, necklaces, and even shapes. This Pop Beads (affiliate link) from ConstructivePlaythings are unique in their shape, color, sizes, and textures. A twist on the classic bead, this set will excite girls and boys of all ages.  Be sure to shop for size-appropriate beads for your child’s hands.

Play-Doh: (affiliate link) Play dough is the ultimate open-ended toy for hand strengthening.  There are unlimited ways to play all the while encouraging hand development. 

We love this Play-Doh 24-Pack of Colors(affiliate link) for lots of creative play!  Hide coins, beans, or beads in the dough and allow the child to find the items.  Roll small balls of dough using just the thumb, index, and middle fingers. 

Roll a play dough snake with the dough and have the child pinch the dough between their thumb and index finger.  Just get creative and make some things with your play dough.  Most of all, have fun!

Tissue Paper Art: (affiliate link) There is possible no better art project for hand strengthening than tissue paper art!  Crumbling little bits of tissue paper is perfect for strengthening the small muscles of the hand. 

Encourage your child to use just their finger tips to crumble the bits of tissue paper rather than two hands to crumble.  This ALEX® Toys – Early Learning Tissue Paper Art -Little Hands 521W (affiliate link) from Alex Toys is bold, colorful and just plain fun art!  Even better for the intrinsic muscles of the hands is tearing bits of paper before crumbling.

Squeeze Toys:(affiliate link) a gross grasp is using the whole hand to squeeze and flex into a grip. 

What a great way to strengthen the muscles of the hands!  This Melissa & Doug Louie Lobster Claw Catcher (affiliate link) from Melissa and Doug is a fun way to encourage hand strength and endurance for coloring and writing.

Geoboard Activities– (affiliate link) Using a geoboard supports hand strength to enable endurance in handwriting. Manipulating the rubber bands promotes finger isolation, open thumb web-space, and and extended wrist.

Learning Resources Helping Hands Fine Motor Tool Set Toy– (affiliate link) This set of fine motor tools includes an eye-dropper, scissor scoops, and tongs. The sensory bin scoops and tools support hand strength through manipulating small objects or water.

These tools are a great way to strengthen the exact muscles needed for a functional pencil grasp.

Toys for Extended Wrist

Extended Wrist:  An Extended wrist is a slightly bent back wrist.  When a child’s hand is bent forward toward the palm, they typically exhibit inefficient grasp on the pencil and weakness in the hand. A slight bend in the wrist towards the back of the hand (bent up toward the ceiling when writing) allows for better movement and flow of the fingers when forming letters.  Often times a child with a poor handwriting demonstrates a “hooked wrist” or a flat wrist and it leads back to inefficient control of the pencil and messy handwriting. 

A few toys that help encourage an Extended Wrist:

Easel: (affiliate link) An easel can be used in so many ways while encouraging an extended wrist.  Paint, draw, color, or write on the elevated surface.  We love taping contact paper to our easel and sticking all kinds of craft supplies. 

This really encourages an extended wrist while using a tripod grasp or tip to tip grasp to manipulate little items (think tissue paper, sequins, foil squares…the possibilities are endless!) This Easel (affiliate link) is great for extended wrist activities.  And, it even folds down to reveal a desk surface.  It’s the perfect gift to promote improved handwriting!

Ker Plunk: (affiliate link) The Ker Plunk Game (affiliate link) from Mattel encourages an extended wrist as the child pushes the sticks into the holes of the game.  They are encouraged to use a tripod grasp to hold the sticks as well.  Rotating the sticks encourages two types of in-hand manipulation.

Take this game a step further in handwriting exercise for strengthening and play laying down on the floor, propped up on your elbows.  Getting down on the floor to play will activate the large muscles of the back and the shoulder girdle to improve precision in pencil grasp.

Montessori Boards-(affiliate link) Precision and dexterity activities are needed for pencil grasp and when you add in dexterity tasks and manipulation of tongs, spoons, or tweezers to move and place objects, it’s a win-win.

This precision Montessori board (affiliate link) builds the skills needed for pencil grasp: a stabile wrist, in-hand manipulation, open thumb web space, and dexterity.

Best toys and ideas to help kids improve their pencil grasp

Looking for a few activities to improve handwriting skills? Check out our round-up of the best handwriting activities from our blog and these other toy suggestions:

More Therapy Toy Ideas

Want to find more therapy recommended toys to help kids develop specific skills? Check out the list of skill areas below.

  1. Fine Motor Toys 
  2. Gross Motor Toys 
  3. Pencil Grasp Toys
  4. Toys for Reluctant Writers
  5. Toys for Spatial Awareness
  6. Toys for Visual Tracking
  7. Toys for Sensory Play 
  8. Bilateral Coordination Toys 
  9. Games for Executive Functioning Skills
  10. Toys and Tools to Improve Visual Perception
  11. Toys to Help with Scissors Skills
  12. Toys for Attention and Focus

Printable List of Toys for Pencil Grasp

Want a printable copy of our therapist-recommended toys to support pencil grasp?

As therapy professionals, we LOVE to recommend therapy toys that build skills! This toy list is done for you so you don’t need to recreate the wheel.

Your therapy caseload will love these PENCIL GRASP toy recommendations. (There’s space on this handout for you to write in your own toy suggestions, to meet the client’s individual needs, too!)

Enter your email address into the form below. The OT Toolbox Member’s Club Members can access this handout inside the dashboard, under Educational Handouts. Just be sure to log into your account, first!

peg board building toy with text reading " pencil grasp toy"

Pencil Grasp Toy Giveaway

Today’s toy item is a (affiliate link) Peg Board Set.

As we discussed before with handwriting skills, children may strongly dislike working on their pencil grip if they struggle with handwriting. Therefore, activities need to be meaningful and motivating to keep the child engaged! With the Peg Board Building Set, children have the chance to be creative and build pegboard towers while also working on their pencil grasp without even realizing it! Grasping the pegs will encourage them to use a tripod grasp, especially when pushing them into the holes of the peg board! With 100 pegs in this set, the creations are endless!

Want to enter our Therapy Toys and Tools Giveaway for a chance to win a pencil grasp toy? Enter your email address into the form below. You’ll also get a free printable list of pencil grasp toys.

This giveaway runs from 12-5-23 through 12-5-23. A winner will be chosen on 12-6-2023.

Pencil Grasp Toy Giveaway

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    Enter all the giveaways here:

    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.

    Visual Tracking Tips and Tools for Treatment

    Here we are covering all things visual tracking, including what visual tracking means, how to improve visual tracking skills, and visual tracking toys to support development of this visual processing skill.

    Amazon affiliate links are included in this blog post. As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases.

    Visual Tracking toys and tools to improve visual fixation, visual tracking, visual saccades, in handwriting, reading, and so many functional daily tasks and skills in kids.

    What is Visual Tracking

    Visual tracking is typically defined as the ability to efficiently move the eyes from left to right (or right to left, up and down, and circular motions) OR focusing on an object as it moves across a person’s visual field.

    This skill is important for almost all daily activities, including reading, writing, cutting with scissors, drawing, and playing.  According to typical development of visual processing, the ability to visually track objects emerges in children around the age of five.  

    Reading a paragraph without losing their place, copying a list of homework from the chalkboard, misalignment of vertical and horizontal numbers in math problems, confusion in interpreting written direction, mixing up left/right, persistent letter reversals…Does any of this sound familiar? It’s all visual tracking!  

    Vision and visual tracking are tasks that happen without us even realizing.  The brain and it’s jobs is an amazing thing and our eyes are moving, tracking, scanning, focusing, pursuing, and accommodating without us even realizing.     There are many ways to work on visual perception in playful and creative ways.

    Related is the visual figure ground piece, which allows us to pull visual information from a busy background, and track that visual input.  

    visual tracking exercises

    Visual Tracking Exercises

    Using visual tracking exercises like the one described below can be a powerful way to use eye exercises to improve vision in kids. These are the visual skills needed not for visual acuity, but rather, those unseen visual problems that impact visual processing skills.

    Visual tracking exercises can include vision therapy activities that improve areas such as visual saccades or smooth visual pursuit.

    Difficulties in Visual Tracking

    You might see problems with these tasks if a child has difficulty with visual tracking:

    • Losing place when reading.  Re-reads or skips words or lines.  
    • Omits, substitutes, repeats, or confuses similar words when reading.
    • Must use finger to keep place when reading.
    • Poor reading comprehension.
    • Short attention span.
    • Difficulty comprehending or remembering what is read.
    • Confusion with interpreting or following written directions.
    • Writing on a slant, up or down hill, spacing letters and words irregularly.
    • Confusion with left/right directions.
    • Persistent reversals of letters (b, d, p, q) when naming letters.
    • Reverses letters when writing (persistent reversals after 2nd grade.)
    • Errors when copying from a chalkboard or book to paper.
    • Misalignment of horizontal and vertical series’ of numbers in math problems.

    Also related to visual tracking and very similar while being involved in many of these problem areas, is visual scanning.  

    It is important to note that not all of these difficulties indicate a true visual tracking and or visual scanning problem.  For example, many children demonstrate poor reading comprehension and may show a short attention span while not having visual scanning problems.  

    All children should be evaluated by a pediatric physician, behavioral optometrist, and occupational therapist to determine true visual processing and visual tracking or visual scanning deficits.  These recommendations are meant to be a resource.    

    Visual Tracking toys and tools to improve visual fixation, visual tracking, visual saccades, in handwriting, reading, and so many functional daily tasks and skills in kids.

    Visual Tracking Activities

    Today, I’m sharing an easy visual tracking activity that will help kids with many functional difficulties.  This post is part of our new series where we are sharing 31 days of Occupational Therapy using mostly free or inexpensive materials.

    Today’s activity should cost you at most $2 unless you already have these items in your craft cupboard or office supplies.  Add this activity to your treatment bag for multiple activities.  Read on:

    Amazon affiliate links below.

    This Visual tracking activity is easy to set up.  Gather recycled bottle caps.  I used round dot labels (affiliate link) from our office supplies to color the inside of each cap.  You could also use a marker or paint to color the bottle caps.  Use what you’ve got on hand to make this treatment activity free or almost free!   Next, gather matching crafting pom poms. (affiliate link)  These can be found at the dollar store for and inexpensive treatment item.    

    visual tracking activities

    Skills Related to Visual Tracking

    It’s important to mention that there are several skills related to visual tracking. These sub-areas should be identified as a piece of the overall puzzle. Areas related to visual tracking play a role in the eyes ability to fixate on an object and follow it as it moves. These skills include:

    • Visual fixation
    • Peripheral tracking
    • Visual pursuit

    Visual Fixation Activity: (Maintaining vision on an item in the visual field) Work one eye at a time.  

    1. Have your child close one eye and place a colored crafting pom pom onto a matching bottle cap.  They need to use one hand to place the pom pom into the corresponding bottle cap and not move bottle caps around on the table.
    2. After the child has filled all of the bottle caps using one eye, repeat the task with the other eye.  
    3. Then complete the activity using both eyes.    
    4. You can also do this activity by placing the label dots on a paper. Match the bottle caps onto the dots. 

    Visual Stare Activity (the amount of time the eyes can fixate on an object without eye movements)

    1. Hold up one bottle cap on your nose.
    2. Ask your child to sit about 18 inches from you and stare at the bottle cap.  Note their eye movements as they stare.  
    3. Keep track of time that the child can stare at the target without visual saccades (eye movements).

    Peripheral Tracking Activity (visually tracking from the peripheral visual fields)

    1. Arrange the bottle caps on the table.  
    2. Place a pom pom in the center of the table, with the bottle caps all around it.  
    3. Ask your child to stare at the pom pom. While keeping their head still and only moving their eyes, ask them to quickly find a bottle cap with the same color.  
    4. Ask them to scan to another bottle cap of the same color until they’ve found all of the caps with that color.  
    5. You can add a level to this task by writing letters or numbers in the bottle caps and asking the child to find letters in order or numbers in order.

    Visual Tracking Pursuit Activity (watching and tracking a moving object)

    1. Set one bottle cap on the right side of the table.  
    2. Place another at the left side.  
    3. The adult should blow a crafting pom pom from the right to the left and ask the child to follow the pom with his eyes, without moving their head.
    4. Repeat by blowing the pom pom from the left to the right, front to back, and back to front in front of the child.

    Visual Tracking Tracing Lines (Watching a pencil line as it is formed, and following the line with eye-hand coordination to trace with a pencil or marker)

    1. Set one vertical row of bottle cap on the left side of the child.  
    2. Place another vertical row on the right side.
    3. The adult should draw a line from one bottle cap on the left side to a matching bottle cap on the right side.  
    4. Instruct the child to follow the pencil as you draw.  Nest, trace the line with your finger.  
    5. Ask the child to trace the line with their finger.  
    6. They can then trace the lines with a pencil or marker.
    Visual Tracking toys and tools to improve visual fixation, visual tracking, visual saccades, in handwriting, reading, and so many functional daily tasks and skills in kids.

    More eye tracking Strategies

    • Complete mazes
    • Do puzzles.
    • Use a newspaper or magazine article.  Ask your child to highlight all of the letter “a’s”.
    • Draw or paint pictures.
    • Place a marble in a pie pan.  Rotate the pan around and watch the ball as it rolls. Don’t move your head, only your eyes!
    • Find as many things shaped like a a square in the room.  Repeat the activity, finding all of the circular shaped items in the room.
    • Play “I Spy.”
    • Dot-to-dot pictures.
    • Play balloon toss.
    • Use tracing paper to trace and color pictures.
    • Trace letters with chalk.
    • Play flashlight tag on walls and ceilings. The adult an child each holds a flashlight. As the adult shines the light on walls, the child keeps their light superimposed on top of yours. Start with simple strait lines.  Then add curved lines, then a circle.  Tell them what you are drawing next.  Advance the activity by drawing shapes without telling them what you are doing next.
    • Play with wind-up cars.
    • Create a race track on the floor. Follow cars with your eyes.
    • Roll a ball between you and the child.  Roll from left-right, right-left, front-back, back-front, and toss the ball.

    Visual Tracking toys and tools to improve visual fixation, visual tracking, visual saccades, in handwriting, reading, and so many functional daily tasks and skills in kids.

    Visual tracking Toys

    Looking for more tools to improve visual tracking?  The toys below are great for improving visual tracking and visual scanning in fun ways.  These toys, games, and ideas may be a great gift idea for little ones who have visual perceptual difficulties or problems with visual tracking and handwriting, body awareness in space, letter reversals, detail awareness, or maintaining place while reading.  

    SO, save these ideas for grandparents and friends who might ask for gift ideas for birthdays and holidays.  These are some powerhouse visual tracking ideas!

    Use Pattern Blocks and Boards (affiliate link) to work on visual fixation of shapes and sizes of shapes. 

    This Wooden Tangram Puzzle (affiliate link) has many different shapes and forms that can be copied from instructions. Copying from a diagram is a great way to practice visual tracking.

    For younger kids, this Wooden Stacking Toy encourages tracking for color sorting.  Try some of our pom pom activities that we discussed above!

    Mazes are excellent for fostering and building on visual tracking skills. Particularly those that involve a moving ball such as a Marble Run (affiliate link)
    or a labrynth (affiliate link).

    Watching a ball or moving object that is thrown around a room (like a balloon) is a great way to work on tracking in a big area. These Sportime Sensory Balls SloMo Balls (affiliate link) are lightweight and move more slowly than a typical ball, allowing kids to visually track the bright color. These are very cool for games of toss and rolling in all planes and directions. Use them to address peripheral tracking as well. 


    A flashlight can be used in so many visual tracking activities. Shine the light on words or letters taped to walls. Play “I Spy” in a dark room, shine shapes like this flashlight (affiliate link)can for visual tracking and form tracking.

    More visual Tracking Toys

    These visual tracking toys are Amazon affiliate links.

    Also check out these other top occupational therapy toys:

    1. Fine Motor Toys   
    2. Gross Motor Toys 
    3. Pencil Grasp Toys 
    4. Toys for Reluctant Writers 
    5. Toys for Spatial Awareness 
    6. Toys for Visual Tracking 
    7. Toys for Sensory Play 
    8. Bilateral Coordination Toys 
    9. Games for Executive Functioning Skills 
    10. Toys and Tools to Improve Visual Perception 
    11. Toys to Help with Scissors Skills 
    12. Toys for Attention and Focus 

    Printable List of Toys for VISUAL TRACKING

    Want a printable copy of our therapist-recommended toys to support visual tracking skills?

    As therapy professionals, we LOVE to recommend therapy toys that build skills! This toy list is done for you so you don’t need to recreate the wheel.

    Your therapy caseload will love these VISUAL TRACKING toy recommendations. (There’s space on this handout for you to write in your own toy suggestions, to meet the client’s individual needs, too!)

    Enter your email address into the form below. The OT Toolbox Member’s Club Members can access this handout inside the dashboard, under Educational Handouts. Just be sure to log into your account, first!

    Therapist-Recommended
    VISUAL TRACKING TOYS HANDOUT

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      Visual Tracking toys and tools to improve visual fixation, visual tracking, visual saccades, in handwriting, reading, and so many functional daily tasks and skills in kids.

      Rainbow Writing Letter Formation Activity

      Colorful letter As and lowercase a's with overlapping colors. Text reads "rainbow writing"

      This quick and easy rainbow writing activity is an easy handwriting activity to working on letter formation and letter construction.  Rainbow writing handwriting is a strategy to work on letter formation as a multisensory learning activity for kids. This handwriting activity is an Easy Handwriting strategy that can be so helpful in teaching letter formation and pencil control. 

      rainbow writing

      You can practice letters with rainbow writing using different utensils. We used rainbow writing with chalk before too.

      What is Rainbow Writing

      Rainbow writing might be a handwriting activity that you’ve heard of before. Many times, we see rainbow writing as an option for practicing sight words or high frequency words, especially as a multi-sensory learning options.

      Typically, you’ll see rainbow writing as one way that kids can practice writing words and letters: They are asked to write the words in a color of the rainbow and then trace over those letters with another color, thus making a rainbow of letters.

      Rainbow writing is a great strategy for practicing handwriting! Kids get multiple attempts at forming letters, working on motor planning, pencil placement, and repetition (practice) that very much plays a part in handwriting legibility.

      Things to Watch for with Rainbow Writing

      Color mixing rainbow writing activity for helping kids with letter formation

      When tracing, there are some things to consider. Especially with rainbow writing, kids can develop bad letter formation habits. Read through this resource on tracing sheets to see the pros and cons of tracing with kids.

      Some things you’ll want to consider about rainbow writing activities:

      • Be sure to watch how the student starts the letters when they rainbow write. It can be easy to start a poor muscle memory for writing the letters if they start at the wrong starting point or form the letters incorrectly. When they rainbow write each letter and it progressively gets worse, this can create an incorrect motor plan in the handwriting process.
      • Make sure the child that is using rainbow writing to practice letters don’t progressively move their pencil in bigger and bigger strokes as they include each color.
      • Some kids tend to make the rainbow letters with colors next to each other like a rainbow rather than tracing on top of each color. Ask the student to make a mixed up rainbow by tracing right on top of each color.

      How to use Rainbow Writing for handwriting

      Rainbow writing is a way to work on legibility of written work.

      Helping kids write letters with correct letter formation is essential for legibility, especially as kids get older and are required to produce more written work at a faster rate.  Consider the high school student that needs to rapidly jot down notes.  If letters are formed from bottom to top or in sections, their speed and legibility will drastically drop. Sometimes it is speed OR legibility  that suffers when a child needs to produce more amounts of written work in a specific period of time (i.e. copying down notes as a teacher rattles off details.    

      The younger student will be affected by inaccuracies in letter formation as well. Around the third grade, students are responsible for jotting down their homework assignments into a planner.  

      When the child is bombarded by classroom sensory input (pencil sharpeners, students, desk chairs moving, hallway distractions, coughing classmates…) difficulties with letter formation can result in illegible homework lists and trouble with re-reading the assignment list when the student attempts to start on homework.  

      Rainbow Writing Color Changing Activity

      There’s more to rainbow writing than incorporating colors and sensory experiences into handwriting. Color Mixing Rainbow Writing is a creative way to help kids learn the right way to actually form letters, because the task allows children to self-correct their written work right in the moment.

      They can see where their letter formation has veered into poor letter size or placement. Rainbow writing then becomes a strategy to improve motor planning in handwriting and pencil control as well.    

      Affiliate links are included below.

      In the handwriting activity shared here, we are taking rainbow writing a step further.

      This letter formation activity is really simple and a LOT of fun.  Kids can work on typical motor pattern of letters by exploring color mixing.  

      MATERIALS for Rainbow Writing

      When you rainbow write, a student can use different colors of crayons, markers, colored pencils, or even chalk. You can use colors of the rainbow, or if you want to work on color changing, use just a couple of the colors.

      • You’ll need just three markers for this activity.   
      • Red, Yellow and Blue markers  are all you need to work on letter formation with color mixing.  We used dollar store markers, but also tried these washable markers (affiliate link- As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases.) and the activity worked too. 

      How to rainbow write with color changing

      1. For this activity, you’ll need to first write the letters that you are working on in one color. Then, using another color, trace over the letters to create a new color.  

      2. Mixing the yellow and red made orange letters and mixing the yellow and blue markers made green letters.  

      Kids can work on letter formation but experience the color changing of the markers when they write over letters in different colors.

      Some different options to try with this rainbow writing activity:

      • Use just 2 colors so kids can try mixing two primary colors to see what the colors make
      • Not when the colors do not change: did they marker lines go off the lines? Can letters be written again or can the student try again to make the colors change?
      • Some kids may benefit from a model that is written in one color by the teacher, therapist, or parent. Then, the student can try to keep their letters on the lines to ensure proper size, spacing, and formation
      • Try making color coded messages to one another using the color changing activity
      • Work on phonetic awareness, by making vowels or phenomes one color and consonants or letter blends another color.
      Rainbow Writing Activity with Color mixing for handwriting.

       

      Tips for Rainbow Writing

      Because kids can develop bad habits with rainbow writing, here are some things to keep in mind.

      1. Work on letter formation with this activity by providing kids with the amount of assistance they need to form letters correctly.  At first, they may need verbal, physical, and visual cues to form letters correctly.
      2. Encourage students to form the letters from top to bottom and in the correct way.  When they re-trace the letters with a second color, be sure they are forming and tracing the letters correctly.    
      3. When kids trace over the colors, they will be forming letters slowly in order to trace over the letters and ensuring the colors mix.  
      4. By tracing over the lines to form letters, they are building the typical motor patterns needed to write the letters correctly and efficiently.  

      We worked on cursive letters with this activity, but it would work very well with printed letters, particularly letters that are typically reversed or confused like b and d reversals.  

      Here is more information on letter reversals to consider.

      Color mixing rainbow writing activity for helping kids with letter formation

       Looking for more creative ways to work on handwriting?  Check out these creative ways to help kids work on their written work:  

      Functional Handwriting Practice Ideas

      What is Visual Spacing

      Visual Tracking Tips and Tools

      Handwriting Spacing Tool and Spatial Awareness Tips and Tools

      DIY Dry Erase Board Handwriting Travel Kit

      Colors Handwriting Kit

      Rainbow Handwriting Kit– This resource pack includes handwriting sheets, write the room cards, color worksheets, visual motor activities, and so much more. The handwriting kit includes:

      • Write the Room, Color Names: Lowercase Letters
      • Write the Room, Color Names: Uppercase Letters
      • Write the Room, Color Names: Cursive Writing
      • Copy/Draw/Color/Cut Color Worksheets
      • Colors Roll & Write Page
      • Color Names Letter Size Puzzle Pages
      • Flip and Fill A-Z Letter Pages
      • Colors Pre-Writing Lines Pencil Control Mazes
      • This handwriting kit now includes a bonus pack of pencil control worksheets, 1-10 fine motor clip cards, visual discrimination maze for directionality, handwriting sheets, and working memory/direction following sheet! Valued at $5, this bonus kit triples the goal areas you can work on in each therapy session or home program.

      Click here to get your copy of the Colors Handwriting Kit.

      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.

      Tracing Letters with Chalk

      chalk lines overlapping to make letter z in several colors of chalk. Text reads "chalk tracing"

      Have you heard of rainbow writing? How about chalk rainbow writing? There are many fine motor and visual motor skills that are used when using rainbow writing as a handwriting practice strategy! Let’s break down what rainbow writing is and how this chalk writing activity is a skill-builder for letter formation. Also check out our handwriting library for more ideas.

      tracing letters with chalk

      Tracing letters with chalk is a handwriting practice strategy that helps to build muscle memory when learning letter formations. You can rainbow write on paper or with different utensils such as crayons, colored pencils, markers, or chalk!

      Tracing Letters with Chalk

      Tracing letters with chalk is a colorful way to practice letter formation. The strategy builds skills in visual motor and hand eye coordination in order to trace over the lines of a letter.

      When you use chalk tracing to practice a letter or a word, the child traces over the letter with each color of the rainbow.

      They will end up with 6 or 7 trials in writing over the letter.

      Some things to consider with tracing with chalk

      Tracing over letters with chalk, crayons, or colored pencils is a powerful strategy when practicing letter formation and the line awareness needed for letter size and line placement.

      Read through this resource on tracing sheets to see the pros and cons of tracing with kids.

      Some things you’ll want to consider about chalk tracing writing activities:

      • Be sure to watch how the student starts the letters. It can be easy to start a poor muscle memory for writing the letters if they start at the wrong starting point or form the letters incorrectly. This creates an incorrect motor plan in the handwriting process.
      • Make sure the letters don’t progressively get worse as the student traces over the letters when rainbow writing.
      • Some kids tend to make the rainbow letters with colors next to each other like a rainbow rather than tracing on top of each color. Ask the student to make a mixed up rainbow by tracing right on top of each color.

      Rainbow Writing with chalk

      We did rainbow writing with chalk one day. This was a great way to work on letter formation while outside because there was the added benefit of playing on the ground.

      Using chalk to practice letters supports development by adding proprioceptive input through the core, strengthens the shoulder girdle for adding more stability for writing, as well as adding strength and stability to the wrist. It’s also a great way to focus on wrist range of motion exercises in a fun way.

      Upper body strength in this way supports distal finger dexterity and mobility needed for writing.

      Chalk Rainbow Writing

      This chalk tracing activity was a lot of fun.

      We have a big ol’ bucket of chalk that we play with almost everyday.  Our sidewalk and driveway have been know to be very colorful at times!  We took the chalk to our sidewalk squares one day this week and practiced a little letter formation.

      Our sidewalk squares were the perfect area to practice forming letters accurately.  I used simple verbal cues to describe the formation of each letter (big line down, little curve around, little line) and we started in the corner of each square as we made the letters. 

      I made the letter first and Big Sister and Little Guy watched.  Then we went to work making our letters very colorful!

      Tracing the letters over and over again was a great way to practice accurate formation.  Big Sister got into this activity.  Little Guy only wanted to make a few letters that are in his name.

      When the child is tracing the letters over and over again, they become more efficient at planning out and executing the movements needed to make a letter accurately.  This activity is great for a new writer because they are given a confined space to practice a letter, and visual cues (and verbal prompts from mom).

       

       
       
       

      Use the activities and ideas in The Handwriting Book for more ways to work on writing skills.

      The Handwriting Book is a comprehensive resource created by experienced pediatric OTs and PTs.

      The Handwriting Book covers everything you need to know about handwriting, guided by development and focused on function. This digital resource is is the ultimate resource for tips, strategies, suggestions, and information to support handwriting development in kids.

      The Handwriting Book breaks down the functional skill of handwriting into developmental areas. These include developmental progression of pre-writing strokes, fine motor skills, gross motor development, sensory considerations, and visual perceptual skills. Each section includes strategies and tips to improve these underlying areas.

      • Strategies to address letter and number formation and reversals
      • Ideas for combining handwriting and play
      • Activities to practice handwriting skills at home
      • Tips and strategies for the reluctant writer
      • Tips to improve pencil grip
      • Tips for sizing, spacing, and alignment with overall improved legibility

      Click here to grab your copy of The Handwriting Book today.

      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.

      Cursive Writing Order to Teach Cursive Letters

      order to teach cursive letters

      Did you know there is a specific order to teach cursive letters to promote cursive writing legibility and carryover of cursive handwriting? Occupational therapy providers work with the occupation of handwriting and cursive letters are part of that process. In this post, you’ll learn about cursive writing order to teach letters of the alphabet, including the Handwriting Without Tears letter order for teaching cursive. The order that kids should learn the cursive alphabet, including print letter patterns that are directly transferable to cursive alphabet letters.

      order to teach cursive letters

      Using a developmental approach to teaching cursive letters supports children and sets them up for success.

      order to teach cursive letters


      The order that cursive letters are taught is based on development of skills. Just like the order to teach printed letter formation is based on development of pencil control skills, visual motor skills, cursive letter order is also taught developmentally.

      This means that letters are grouped into similar pencil strokes, or letter families.

      Learning to write the alphabet in cursive, writing one’s name in cursive, and writing words in cursive is something that many kids want to do around the second grade.

      It’s around second grade, or 7-8 years of age that fine motor skills develop in such a way that pencil control and graded precision are developed to enable greater in-hand manipulation, and movement through the range of mobility in the thumb and intrinsic muscles within the hand.

      This enables pencil movements to become more mobile and fluid, which are pre-requisites for cursive writing skills.

      Prior to this skill achievement, handwriting is taught based on pencil strokes, including uppercase letters before lowercase letters because of the developmental aspect of learning letter formations.  

      Cursive seems like a “grown up” style of communication that kids see adults or older students using and they try to make swoopy writing on their own.  

      Some children can be very motivated to learn to write the alphabet in cursive and use it in their written work.

      Cursive writing alphabet and how to teach kids cursive handwriting with correct cursive letter order.



      However, one tip for teaching children to write in cursive is to go through the letters in an order that makes sense according to the pencil movements needed to create the letters.

      Writing cursive letters in a group of similar pencil strokes is helpful for carryover of pencil control practice and letter formation. Here is more information on teaching groups of similar cursive letters together in a chunk, or cursive letter families.


      Once kids have a start on cursive letter formation, they can practice in creative ways like on the window.


      Other children who may not be exposed to cursive written work might have their first exposure to cursive in the classroom.  Still other students might be in a public or private classroom where cursive handwriting has been dropped from the curriculum.  These kids may need extra practice at home or might need to learn cursive handwriting from the very beginning.


      But where to start when teaching kids (or adults!) the cursive writing alphabet and how to form words in cursive?  Read on for tips and strategies to get started on learning cursive letters.




      Cursive Letters Order



      We’ve touched on cursive handwriting in previous posts, include a small piece about starting to teach cursive letters.  This strategy will outline the alphabet and the letter order to make learning cursive more easy, based on learning letters in a developmental and progressive order.

      RELATED READ: Practice letters in a Cursive Writing Journal.


      There are print letter patterns that are directly transferable to cursive letters.


      These are cursive letters that are formed similarly to their printed letter counterparts. The muscle movements of the hands that are used to form some printed letters are directly related to the same letters.  For this reason, it’s a good idea to start with these letters when learning the cursive writing alphabet.


      The printed letter patterns that make up some letters will transfer directly to cursive, and when formed with a few subskills, cursive letter formation will easily follow (in most cases):

      • Left-to-right strokes
      • Good starting points
      • Direction of movement
      • Consistent stopping points
      • Control of downstrokes
      • Smooth rhythm

      Given the subskills noted above, cursive letter formation will lend to more legible letter formation.  Often times, learning correct letter formation and motor practice will help with legibility and ease of cursive writing into a viable form of written communication.

      Cursive Letter Order Patterns

      If you take a look at cursive letters, you might see a pattern that is similar among the letters. This is part of why we use a cursive pre-writing lines approach when teaching cursive for the first time.

      You’ll see pencil and paper activities that support this pencil movement with different pencil strokes:

      • Upswing (the line to start a cursive i or t)
      • Downswing (the line to start a cursive c or a)

      Both of these movements can transfer to different starting lines for the other letters. The muscles used to make these lines can then transfer to the other starting movements. Check out our blog post on cursive beginning lines for more information on this concept.

      Heling kids to start off with confidence in pencil control to make these beginning strokes supports confidence when learning cursive letters from the start!

      When teaching the cursive alphabet, where to begin?

      These letters have print patterns that are directly transferable to their cursive letters. This is related to the pencil strokes that are used to form the cursive letters. For this reason, there is a different order to teach cursive lowercase letters compared to their uppercase letter counterpart.

      When we consider printed letters, we can directly translate the pencil strokes to some of the cursive letter counterparts. This means that learning the cursive letter form of the letter should be easier based on knowledge of the printed letter’s form.

      Having letter recognition skills for printed letters supports the ability to learn cursive letters. For example, there are printed letters which directly translate to the pencil strokes in cursive:

      • t, i, and u and w transfer to their cursive letter counterparts.
      • e and l transfer to their cursive letter counterparts.
      • n, m, p, and h transfer to their cursive letter counterparts.
      • a, c, d, q, and o transfer to their cursive letter counterparts.
      • j and g transfer to their cursive letter counterparts.

      This means that the remaining letters are the only ones that need to be taught as a new handwriting motor plan in mind. Those letters include:

      • b, f, k, r, s, v, x, y, and z

      We can help learners with this group by calling them cousins or relatives to their printed letter counterpart because they are similar, but different.

      Lowercase Cursive Letters

      The following letters transfer directly to their cursive letter forms: c, a, d, g, o, q, i, t, u, j, e, l, f, h, p, n, and m.

      Knowing that there are letters that use similar motor plans as a starting point, it is recommended to follow an order when teaching lowercase cursive letters:

      • c, a, d, g, q – These letters can be considered “wave letters” because of the beginning stroke.
      • i, t, p, u, w, j – These letters can be considered the “tree letters” because of the beginning line to swing up.
        e, l, f, h – These letters can be considered the “loop letters” because of the loop that the pencil makes.
      • k, r, s
      • b, o, v – These letters can be considered the “tow truck letters” because of the ending connection.
      • m, n, y, x, z – These letters can be considered the “bump letters” because of the beginning pencil stroke.

      Uppercase cursive letters

      Upper case cursive letters should be presented in a specific order as well:

      A, C, O, U, V, W, X, Y, Z, P, R, B, H, K, N, M, I, J, E, L, I, J, Q


      This letter order uses a combination of research-based strategies and focuses on movement based patterns as well as common letter formations, i.e. the way the letters connect to form words. Read about how to connect cursive letters for specifics.

      In general, it’s considered that the baseline connecting letters are taught prior to the middle line connecting letters. This isn’t accurate for the Learning Without Tears program (Handwriting Without Tears cursive letter order) when it comes to letter w which is taught near the beginning, due to it’s direct translation from the printed version of letter w.

      This upper case cursive letter order (or cursive capital letters) order teaches upper case letters that are similar to lower case letters first.  Always teach lower case cursive letters before upper case letters.

      Print out the Free printable version for the classroom or home.

      Cursive writing alphabet and how to teach kids cursive handwriting with correct cursive letter order.

      Affiliate links are included below.

      WOrk on Cursive Letter Order with these Ideas:

      Here, you’ll find More creative ways to work on learning cursive writing:

      Cursive Writing Order

      Looking for more information on how to teach cursive writing? You’ll love our 31 day series on How to Teach Cursive Writing.  

      The Handwriting Book breaks down the functional skill of handwriting into developmental areas. These include developmental progression of pre-writing strokes, fine motor skills, gross motor development, sensory considerations, and visual perceptual skills. Each section includes strategies and tips to improve these underlying areas.

      • Strategies to address letter and number formation and reversals
      • Ideas for combining handwriting and play
      • Activities to practice handwriting skills at home
      • Tips and strategies for the reluctant writer
      • Tips to improve pencil grip
      • Tips for sizing, spacing, and alignment with overall improved legibility

      A final note on teaching cursive letters

      Sometimes, cursive letters are taught as a writing format for children that struggle with the motor plan to form and use legible printed handwriting. This might be the case for several reasons:

      • The motor plan to form printed letters is choppy and difficult to recall the different pencil strokes for each letter.
      • Cursive letters use a smoother flow to form letters. The continuous hand movements can be easier for some students because it involves fewer stops and starts compared to print writing.
      • The challenge of letter reversals and letter confusion that occurs with dysgraphia can mean that cursive writing may be easier to learn and use than printed handwriting. This is because cursive letters connect with continuous pencil strokes, leading to less letter reversals and other common writing errors associated with dysgraphia.

      Just like printed handwriting, cursive letters are one form of written expression however, there are differences when it comes to legibility. Perfect formation and pencil strokes are not always necessary!

      Cursive Letters Tips

      We have many blog posts here on The OT Toolbox that support cursive letter writing. Explore these activities and tools to teach the cursive alphabet.

      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.

      Pencil Control Worksheets

      pencil control worksheets

      Part of handwriting legibility is the visual motor skills needed for pencil control and one tool in our toolbox are pencil control worksheets. Pencil control in isolation isn’t always addressed, but actually focusing on the refined pencil strokes and controlled movements of the pencil makes a huge difference in overall legibility. In this blog post, you’ll find many pencil control worksheet ideas and even have the ability to access a few of our favorites.

      pencil control worksheets

      Pencil Control Worksheets

      Pencil control worksheets, or printable PDFs that target specific visual motor skills needed to move the pencil with precision and refined movements are tools that support handwriting.

      When we use pencil control worksheets, it’s more than just moving the pencil to make marks.

      Pencil skills worksheets can target many aspects of writing with a pencil:

      • Making small lines within a given space
      • Moving the pencil within a given space on a paper with presence of finger dexterity
      • Writing a letter on a small space, such as on our code breaker worksheets
      • Tracing over lines (Read here about the benefits of tracing lines)
      • Using precise movements in order to re-trace over letters when forming the alphabet correctly (letters like h, m, n, and r have re-trace where the pencil moves over an already formed pencil line).
      • Erasing the pencil marks
      • Writing with an appropriate and legible pencil pressure
      • Fluid and coordinated pencil strokes

      Using worksheets to target specific skills like practicing letter formation isn’t always ideal. The occupational therapy practitioners may actually sway away from rote handwriting practice.

      We’ve all seen it: A child is copying letters on a worksheet and the letters progressively get worse as they go across the page…or the margin creeps in as the child writes down the paper.

      That is not to say that all letter formation worksheets are bad! In fact, we LOVE to target specific skills using letter writing practice on printable PDFs.

      The OT trick is to facilitate the underlying skills, special themes that make the worksheet fun and engaging, and even using interactive worksheets that support skills in games or play-based learning.

      The multisensory aspect is what turns an ordinary writing worksheet into a therapy tool!

      All of these reasons are why using pencil control worksheets are great ways to target specific skills leading to handwriting legibility and functional writing skills.

      Below, you’ll find ideas to make DIY pencil control worksheets, and then some of our favorite pencil control sheets. You can also grab a printable pencil control worksheets pdf at the very bottom of the page.

      DIY pencil control worksheets

      DIY Pencil Control Worksheets

      The ideas below are some of our favorite ways to create your own DIY pencil control worksheets.

      Does your school-aged child have difficulty with line awareness, pencil control, or letter formation?  Is your preschooler just learning to control the pencil while making straight lines, the diagonal lines of an “X” or the angled, connecting lines of shapes like a square, rectangle, or triangle? Do you know a child who is learning to control the “wobble” of the pencil while making a circle that connects the start to the finish?

      All of these are pencil control skills!

      It is easy to make fun worksheets that apply to your child’s needs/age-appropriate level/skills…and interests!

      To make your own worksheets, you need just a few items:

      • plain paper
      • lined paper
      • graph paper
      • marker or highlighter
      • markers
      • pencil
      • stickers
      • dice

      You don’t need to use all of these items…the activities below can be created over the course of several days or weeks. Pick and choose an activity and then go from there!

       
      We shared one of our favorite pencil control exercises previously.
       
      Use that idea along with these other worksheet ideas for more visual motor and fine motor work.
       
      These are some easy handwriting exercises that can be done at home, or in the classroom. However, going from personal experience, the school-based OT doesn’t always have a ton of supplies on them. Depending on the setting and schedule, you may only have a marker, a pencil, and some paper in your possession. That’s where these DIY pencil and paper worksheets come into play.
       
       
       
      Pencil control worksheet with stickers
       

      DIY Pencil Control Sheet with Stickers

       
      This worksheet activity is great because it targets pencil skills with a motivation factor. Using fun stickers makes it engaging for the user. Plus, you can factor in the benefits of playing with stickers by asking the child to place the sticker at one end of the lines.
       
      Try to find some stickers that work with your therapy theme of the week or just are fun and motivating for the child’s interests.
       
      Don’t have stickers? It’s not a big deal. Draw a small smiley face, simple car for the child that loves vehicles, or even colors of the rainbow. You can easily factor in so many personal interests to make this activity motivating with a simple drawing.
       
      To make this pencil control activity:
      1. Use a highlighter to make straight, angled, and curvy lines going across the page…or add different twists and turns for your older child to trace along. 
      2. Grade the activity with the line width. Use thicker lines for a new writer and the school-aged child can work on very thin lines.
      3. Add a sticker at one end of the line. You can also add another sticker at the other end of the line if you like. 
       
      Ask the child to keep the pencil lines inside of the yellow guide.  Fun stickers at the end of the lines always help 🙂
       
       
      DIY pencil control worksheet

       

      Graded Pencil Control Activity

      This handwriting activity can be “graded” (adjusted to start out very easy for the child and then changed just slightly to make it more and more challenging).  Grading an activity is helpful for the learner because it allows the child to feel success and gain confidence during a task, but also builds success with more difficult  levels.
       
       Ideas to grade these pencil worksheets:
       
      • Consider orientation: By changing the direction of the lines, you can target different skills.
      • Lines that start at the top of the page and go down toward the child’s body are easiest. Start there. Consider placing this style of worksheet activity on a slant board or vertical surface for strengthening, support, or upper body positioning. 
      • Lines that go from left to right across the page cross the midline. This is a need for many children and can also target visual scanning skills. Also check out our blog post on crossing midline activities for preschoolers for the younger ages.
      • Consider using all curved lines or all angled lines, depending on the needs of the individual.
      ((I love Little Guy’s knight costume sleeve in this picture.  He rocks the knight costume at lease once a day  haha!))
       
       
       

      DIY Pencil Control Sheets- Shapes

       
      For the preschool child who is just learning to control the writing utensil, requiring them to write letters or write their name is beyond the scope of their development. We cover this in our resource on what happens when preschoolers are asked to write.
       
      The pre-writing skills preschoolers actually need involve lines, shapes, coloring, and of course, fine motor play! We can target these skills using a pencil control sheet on shapes.
       
      Think of it this way: To make a letter “A”, a child needs to create diagonal lines, which are two separate pencil strokes. The pencil needs to be placed at the correct point as the second line is created. The diagonal lines are further down the line-up, developmentally. Then, the middle line needs to connect two diagonal lines. For the child with an “A” in their name, asking them to make these marks before typical developmentally ready, you may end up with curved lines, shaky pencil marks, and misaligned connecting lines.
       
      Practicing these skills in preschool over and over again leads to a motor plan for a poor letter formation.
       
      That’s where pre-writing lines pencil control tasks are key.
       
      We can foster the line markings of letters by making shapes and lines that ARE developmentally appropriate.
       
      Pre-writing skills that can be targeted with pencil control shapes include: 
      • Straight lines
      • Starting the pencil at a certain point
      • Stopping the pencil at a certain point
      • Diagonal lines of an “X”
      • The angled, connecting lines of shapes like a square, rectangle, or triangle (making a sharp corner)
      • Smooth pencil strokes to create a curved line of a circle
      • Connecting shapes completely to close the shape
      • Hand strength and endurance to color in the shapes
      • Lifting the pencil and placing it on a specific point (Like adding a triangle to the top of a square to create a house, which is a skill needed to form some letters like adding the middle line to an “A”)
       
       
      This DIY worksheet is similar to the one described above. Simply draw shapes using a marker. Create thicker or thinner lines. Then ask the child to trace over the lines.
       
      You can then ask the child to color in the shapes using a crayon. We explained the skills behind this task in our pencil control activity which used colored pencils to fill in circles. 
       
       


      DIY Pencil Control WORKSHEET with Line Awareness

      The next worksheet idea focuses on spatial awareness skills in handwriting. This is also a pencil control technique.
       
      1. Use a blank piece of paper and using a marker, draw a shape such as a square.
      2. Draw a square around it. 
      3. Take turns with your child to make larger and larger shapes.

      This activity is an easy way to work on pencil control skills using pre-writing shapes, but also focuses on the sharp angle of lines as they turn a corner. 

      When the child makes the shape around your shape, they can work on pencil control for evenly spaced pencil strokes.

       
      It’s a lot like doodling you did in your notebooks or while talking on the phone, right?
       
       
      Taking turns with your little handwriting student helps them to see an accurate shape right next to the lines that they are drawing…with sharp edges and straight lines.
       
       
       

       


      DIce Pencil Control Worksheet

      Big Sister LOVED doing this one.  She filled out the whole sheet and had so much fun!  She would roll the dice, count the dots, and draw the dots (in the correct arrangement) in the squares on the page.
       
      To create this DIY worksheet, you’ll need:
      • Blank paper
      • Marker
      • Dice
      • Pencil, crayon, or marker

      You can work on so many skills with this activity. Counting, Copying, and Drawing with accurate spacing all work on her visual perceptual skills and spatial awareness.  

      Set this activity up by:

      1. Draw lines to create a large grid on the paper. 
      2. Roll a dice. We used a large dice but a regular game dice would work too.
      3. Count the dots on the dice using the point of the pencil. Touch each dot. (A GREAT activity for targeting graded precision skills with the pencil)
      4. Then draw the dots on the paper in one of the spaces. Draw the dots exactly as they are on the dice.
       
      These skills are essential for forming letters on lines, placing letters close enough to others in a word, and when copying lists of words. It’s a great beginner activity for near point copying skills.
       

       
       
       
       
      Make early handwriting fun and your preschooler will have success…and love it!
       
       

      Printable Pencil Control Worksheets 

      Printable pencil control PDFs are an easy way to work on skills in therapy. You can print off a handful of the worksheets for your therapy caseload and use them in a variety of ways to target different OT goals and by grading the activities.

      In The OT Toolbox Membership Club, we have over 130 printable pencil control worksheets (along with a thousand+ other skill-building activities and PDFs!). Membership Club members can log in and then head to our Pencil Control Skill to access them all.

      Some of our favorites include:

      • Pencil control mazes
      • Dot games
      • Simple line printables
      • Eraser skill PDFs
      • Pencil control roads
      • Mazes
      • Connect the dot PDFs
      • Pre-writing pencil mazes
      • Pencil shading worksheets
      • Pencil line drawing activities like adding textures, dot features, or symmetry activities
      • Word search printables
      • Connect the matching items
      • So many more!
      free pencil control worksheets

      20 Free Pencil Control Worksheets

      To get some printable pencil control worksheets, head to these blog posts. Each one addresses various aspects of handwriting skills, but in them, you can get a free printable pencil control PDF.

      To get these printable worksheets, simply go to the bottom of the blog post and enter your email address into the form. (Each printable is also found in Level 1 of our membership, where are all “freebies” can be found. Level 2 members also get this benefit as well).

      1. Pencil Control Exercise– Copy pre-writing lines and shapes in a given space, between writing lines
      2. OT Coloring Pages– target hand strength and coloring in the lines
      3. Copy OT Words onto lines
      4. Mitten I Spy and Writing Pages– Color the shapes with a colored pencil and then write the words on the lines
      5. Number Formation Worksheet– Trace numbers on the shaded numbers
      6. Winter Color By Number– Color in the given space with controlled pencil/crayon motions
      7. New Years Maze– Keep your pencil in the path of the lines
      8. Number Road Playmats– Great for pencil control when making numbers
      9. Blank Word Search– Place letters inside the squares of the wordsearch grid
      10. 100 Snowballs Worksheet– Place numbers inside the circles
      11. Snowball Letter Practice– Trace letters on snowballs
      12. Holiday Lights Letter Tracing worksheet
      13. Hannukah Word Scramble– write the letters in the boxes
      14. Christmas Word Match– write the letters in the boxes
      15. Arctic Animal Word Search– circle single letters or the words to work on pencil skills
      16. Shadow Matching Worksheet– Connect the matching animals with pencil lines
      17. Dinosaur Worksheet– Connect the matching dinos with lines
      18. Owl Directed Drawing– Use pencil lines to create a simple owl
      19. Cotton Swab Art PDF– Break a cotton swab in half and use it to dot the lines
      20. Fine Motor Writing Sheets– Place play dough or small objects in the dots…or mark each dot with an X to fill the picture. Then write on the lines

      For more resources, check out our library of letter formation worksheets. These printables are free and can be used to target a variety of skills.

      The OT Toolbox membership club

      Get all of the items listed above when you join The OT Toolbox Member’s Club! Free printables are available in our Level 1 membership and the freebies PLUS 1500+ more printable tools are available in our Level 2 membership!

      Join The OT Toolbox Member’s Club today!

      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.

      Back to School Writing Prompts

      Back to school writing prompts

      Looking for first day of school writing prompts? The free back to school writing prompts in this blog post is a great addition to your back-to-school occupational therapy ideas. Grab the printables below and let’s head into the new school year with tools to support students!

      First Day of School Writing Prompts

      It’s that time of year! Getting back into the classroom means switching from summer fun mode to handwriting, reading, writing, and learning. These Back to School Writing Prompts are a fun way to get to know new students and get those pencils moving.

      Handwriting can be an overwhelming topic to dive into at the start of the school year, so let’s make it easy and low-stress. Print off these free back to school writing ideas and start the school year off right (or write)!

      Free back to school writing prompts for first day of school writing ideas

      Back to School Writing Prompts

      Sometimes you need some back to school activities and specifically, ideas for back to school writing that are “no brainer” for the student. In other words, kids can struggle with getting back into routines of the classroom. They might not have picked up a pencil all summer long, in some cases! That’s where these back to school writing activities come into play.

      There are several ways you can use these free writing prompts with kids this school year:

      First day of school writing Prompts

      The first day of school is all about learning the classroom, setting up expectations, getting to know the building, the schedule, and getting to know the teacher and peers. But what about easing into handwriting and writing tasks?

      Setting up a first day of school writing activity that is low-key, fun, and all about the student is the way to go. Use these first day of school writing prompts to get kids back into the routine of a daily writing prompt.

      First day of school writing prompts may include:

      • Favorite things
      • All about me info (Use these All About Me PDFs)
      • Things done over the summer months
      • Favorite vacation
      • Goals for the new school year

      Another resource for first day of school writing are these middle school journal prompts for older kids.

      Writing prompt of the day

      Continuing with the thought that returning to school after a summer break means a few days of getting used to classroom rules and schedules, you can use these writing cards for the first week or more.

      Print off the cards and randomly select a card each day of the first week of school. This is a great way to get to know students and incorporate handwriting into each day of the first week of school.

      Give the student a choice

      Handwriting can be like pulling teeth for some kids. It’s just hard. Whether their hand hurts when they hold the pencil, or handwriting is hard to read, it can be a real challenge for some kids. Offering a choice can give the student some say in the matter. Allow them to select a card randomly and then they can write out their response to the writing prompt. Or, give them a choice between two writing prompts.

      Play a writing game

      Use these printable writing prompts in a game! Print off the writing prompt cards and then allow the students to pick one card. They can use that card as their back to school writing topic. It’s a great way to get to know the students in the classroom or on your therapy caseload while getting an idea of their current handwriting levels and abilities.

      So, how will you use these back to school writing prompts?

      Print off these back to school writing prompts for a writing prompt of the day the first week of school.

      To grab your copy of this free resource, just enter your email address into the form below. Print them off and get ready to start the school year off on the right foot!

      FREE Back-to-School Writing Prompts

        We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

        More Back to School Writing ideas

        Add these writing prompt cards to your back-to-school line up of activities:

        First, be sure to check out our back to school sensory activities for meeting self-regulation needs in the classroom.

        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.

        Letter Learning with Bottle Caps

        Bottle caps with lowercase letters on them sitting on each letter of the uppercase alphabet Text reads bottle cap letters

        In this older blog post, we shared how to make your own bottle cap letters for multisensory learning and fine motor play. Creating DIY instructional materials can be both educational and fun. One creative idea is to make bottle cap alphabet letters.

        Bottle Cap Letters

        By collecting various bottle caps and adding individual letters to them, you can create a unique set of bottle cap letters. This homemade alphabet set can be used for matching big and small letters, helping children learn the alphabet in an engaging way. Kids can enjoy the tactile experience of sorting and matching the big and small bottle cap letters, making it a hands-on learning activity that enhances their letter recognition skills!

         
         
        This Letter Learning game was something I made for Big Sister a couple of years ago.  We have played with the letter bottle caps so many times and in a ton of ways.
         

         

        How to make bottle cap letters

        You’ll need just a few materials:

        • 26 bottle caps (one for each letter of the alphabet)
        • Label paper
        • Marker
        • Cardboard for a play mat
         
        The cardboard has upper case letters and the bottle caps are used to match the letters. 
         
        It doesn’t matter what size bottle caps you use because you cut the label paper to fit the caps. If you use a lot of milk in your home, or have access to a bunch of bottle caps in the same size, use those.
         
        In our case, we had a case or two of Gatorade bottles and used those bottle caps to make our letters.
         
         
        1. I used a sheet of label paper to make the lower case letters.
        2. Trace a bunch of circles in the correct size.
        3. Cut out the circles.
        4. Write the letters.
        5. Stick them to the bottle caps.  Easy!
         
         
         

        How to use alphabet bottle caps

        Our homemade bottle cap letters are a great DIY instructional material to use in learning and play. 
         
        • We’ve also played with the bottle caps in play dough,
        • Use them to spell names and words.
        • Move the bottle cap alphabet to label objects with it’s starting letter.
        • Work on learning which direction the “p”, “b”, and “d” should go. This is a great hands-on activity to target letter reversals!
        • They are so great to manipulate and play with in a sensory bin filled with corn, too.
        • Or, pair the letter bottle caps with our alphabet exercises to target fine motor and gross motor skills. 
         
        How else can we play with these bottle caps??
         
        bottle cap letters
         

         

        Working on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, or scissor skills? Our Fine Motor Kits cover all of these areas and more.

        Check out the seasonal Fine Motor Kits that kids love:

        Or, grab one of our themed Fine Motor Kits to target skills with fun themes:

        Want access to all of these kits…and more being added each month? Join The OT Toolbox Member’s Club!

        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.

        Writing Trays for Handwriting

        Child's fingertips drawing a letter S in sand. Text reads sand writing tray

        Writing trays are a fantastic way to help kids work on handwriting, letter formation, and pre-writing skills.  There are so many benefits to a sand tray (or other sensory writing materials) in helping with letter formation and handwriting. There is a reason that writing trays are a popular way to encourage fine motor skills and an introduction to handwriting; They use a tactile sensory strategy to encourage movement in learning in a multi-sensory way.  Writing Trays make letter formation fun and meaningful in a play-based manner.


        Try this easy rice writing tray for a simple sensory writing experience.

        Writing trays are sensory activities to teach handwriting

        Amazon affiliate links are included in this blog post. As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases.

        What is a writing tray?

        I’ve used writing trays in my occupational therapy interventions and with my own kids for years. Writing trays are such a powerful tool to add a multi-sensory component and moveemnt to learning to write.

        Writing trays are a dry or wet sensory material in a low tray or bin type of container. Children can use their finger or a tool such as a pencil, paint brush, or other item to draw, write letters, or form numbers into the sensory material.

        Writing Trays are a creative way to help kids learn to write letters, numbers, shapes, and pre-writing strokes.  There are a ton of different ways that writing trays can be set up and used in letter formation. Essentially, a writing tray uses a low container (or TRAY) and a medium that can be moved and shifted for writing.

        Sensory writing trays can contain sensory fillers of any type. If you are able to move the material in a way that letters can be drawn in the tray, then the sensory writing tray is a success. With a sensory writing tray, children can write letters independently or copy letters from a visual letter card.

        You can find them used in schools, clinics, preschools, early learning centers, and homeschool dinging rooms.  

        Writing trays are one tool to support development of Near point copy skills skills.

        Writing tray sensory filler ideas for handwriting

        Writing Tray Sensory Filler Material

        Affiliate links are included in this post.

        What is in a Writing Tray? (Writing Tray Fillers)

        Writing Trays are filled with a filler that us manipulated and shifted so that letters or writing lines are visible.  Some ideas for filling a writing tray include the sensory materials listed below.

        Sand (affiliate link)
        Colored Sand (affiliate link)
        Rice
        Dyed Rice
        Salt
        Dyed Rice
        Play Dough (affiliate link)
        Other Doughs
        Sugar
        Flour
        Cornmeal
        Slime (Check out the fun we had with slime in a writing tray!)
        Spices (affiliate link)
        Crushed Chalk (affiliate link)


        While sometimes, a child can use their finger to form the lines in their writing tray, a writing tool is typically recommended. (More on that below.)
        Use writing trays for handwriting and letter formation

        Sensory Writing Tray Benefits

        Kids can use writing trays to practice letter formation, or pencil control and stroke sequence in writing letters.  
         
        Typically, they will be provided with a visual cue or cue card for copying the letters/numbers/shapes.  
         
        Other times, kids can form the letter/number/shape independently when prompted to make a specific letter. This is a great way to work on visual memory and independent letter formation.
         
        Be sure to verbally prompt children to form letters or build letters with correct stroke sequence.  This is essential for carryover of accuracy with letter formation in handwriting.  
         
        Otherwise, the child is simply playing in the sensory tray and not effectively using the writing tray as a tool for improved handwriting.  
         
        Encouraging the child who is learning pre-writing strokes and beginning letter formation can use a writing tray as a base for forming letters independently. Try using visual and verbal cues to promote correct letter construction.
         
        A few more must-dos when using a writing tray for addressing letter formation:
        • Make sure letters are not formed in parts.  In other words, don’t allow kids to make a circle and then a line to form an “a”. 
        • Make sure letters are formed from top to bottom. 
        • Realize that the motor plan to form letters with your finger is different than the motor plan to form letters with a pencil or other pencil-like writing tool.

        The nice thing about writing trays is that they are very versatile. Students of all ages can use writing trays to work on different levels of handwriting. Some ways to work on handwriting include:

        • Copying pre-writing lines
        • Copying shapes 
        • Letter identification
        • Uppercase letter formation
        • Lowercase letter formation
        • Letter copying
        • Letter writing from memory
        • Cursive letter formation
        • Cursive letter writing from memory
        • Word copying
        • Sight word writing
        • Spelling word writing
        Writing trays for handwriting, letter formation, and fine motor skills.

         

        Fine Motor Skills and Writing Trays

        A writing tray can be an effective tool in boosting fine motor skills.  Kids can use their finger to form lines and letters while strengthening finger isolation and separation of the two sides of the hand, including an opportunity for the ulnar side fingers to tuck into the palm for a more effective pencil grasp when writing.
         
        Children can also use a tool to form letters in a writing tray.  This can be an opportunity to develop pencil grasp.  
         
        However.  There are a few items that should be mentioned about using a writing tray to address pencil grasp and appropriate motor plan for letter formation.
         
        Writing Trays are a common tool.  But if you just place a writing tray in front of a child, you will likely see an inefficient writing activity.  You will probably see most kids forming letters with an awkward grasp on the writing tool, a flexed and deviated wrist, an abducted shoulder, and generally ineffective positioning.  


        Positioning absolutely carries over to letter formation and handwriting.
         
        A writing tray can be used to address pencil grasp and handwriting needs.  However, it is essential to use the tray in a proper manner.  There are a few ways to do this:
        • Place the writing tray on a slight slant. Try using a DIY slant board.
        • Use a low edged tray.
        • Use verbal, physical, and visual cues for appropriate positioning. 
        • Position the writing tool in your child’s hand with an appropriate tripod or modified tripod grasp.
        • Show the child how to hold the tool at the end of the tool as if they were holding a pencil.
        Once you’ve got your writing tray set up and positioning taken care of, it’s on to the fun stuff…making a writing tray!
         
         

        How to make a Writing Tray

        Making a writing tray to gain benefits of teaching sensory handwriting is easy. You can use materials found around the home.

        The options are limitless when it comes to writing tray combinations! You can create a writing tray in any theme or to meet any need. You’ll need just a few items: a container, a filler, a tool, and letter cards.

        Writing Tray Ideas

        First, you’ll need a low tray, basket, bin, or other container. We’ve used a variety of containers in our sensory writing trays. You’ll want a container that will hold the sensory writing material within its edges.

        In some cases, you can even scatter the sensory material on a flat surface like a table or a plastic table cloth on the floor. For example, we used dyed rice right on the kiddie picnic table for a pre-writing and hand strengthening activity.

        Kids will be using a tool or their hands to write letters and the sensory material can scatter. Some specific ideas include:

        • Kitchen baking trays (jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with edges)
        • Food storage containers
        • Melissa and Doug wooden puzzle boxes
        • Cardboard boxes cut low on the sides
        • 9×11 cake pan
        • Shirt box
        • Tray
        • Low basket

        Writing Tray Tools

        Next, you’ll need a tool to use to write the letters. This can be items found in the home as well.  Some writing tray tools include:

        • Finger
        • Eraser end of a pencil
        • Paint brush
        • Feather
        • Straw
        • Pointer stick
        • Stick from a tree
        • Craft stick
        • Chopsticks
        • Toothpick (Incorporate our toothpick holder activity to further fine motor skills!)
        • Craft pom pom attached to a clothes pin

        Writing Tray Letter Cards

        Next, an important part of a writing tray is the letter model. As mentioned above, writing trays are great for copying pre-writing lines, shapes, letters, numbers, and words. 

        Cards can be used as a visual model for forming letters or words. Some cards include direction arrows. Others might include a sight word or spelling word for the child to copy. These cards can be positioned in different positions to address different needs. 

        • Position the letter cards right in the tray for near-point copying.
        • Position the writing tray cards in a vertical position near the writing tray to challenge vision shift. 
        • Hang the writing cards on a wall for far point copying to work on visual shift, visual attention, visual memory, and copying from a distance. 

        Writing Tray Fillers

        You’ll also need a sensory material to act as a filler. This is the material that the child will actually “write” in. When we say “write”, they are using the tool to form letters as the sensory filler moves in the tray. They will not actually write a letter with a pencil or other marking device. Sensory filler material can be as creative as you let it. Some writing tray fillers include these materials:

        Click each link for ideas on how to set up these creative writing trays.

         
         
         
         
        Dyed Rice
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
          
         
        As you can see, the ideas are limitless when it comes to sensory handwriting! Use a theme or materials that meet the needs of your child or client and are motivating and fun!
         

        More sensory Handwriting Activities

        Sensory Writing Bag

        Sensory Handwriting Camp at Home

        Teach letters with sensory textures

        Pencil pressure activities

         

         
         
         

         

        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.

        Sand Writing Tray

        One very easy way to create a sand writing tray is to use a child’s picnic table placed either outside in a sandbox or over a tarp (or outdoor space where it’s ok that sand goes into the ground and lawn).

        We loved using our kid’s picnic table in this way to make a sand writing tray.

        sand writing tray

        For this sand writing tray, we made it super simple and just dumped a thin layer of sand onto our (Amazon link) Little Tykes picnic table. Then, I invited the kids to all sit down and draw in the sand using their fingertips. This is a great exercise in finger isolation.

        sand writing tray

        Practicing letters in a sensory surface like writing and drawing in sand on a picnic table surface is a motivating and fun activity for kids because it’s not something they typically do.

        Kids learn new skills well with a multisensory learning experience and a sand writing tray is a great, inexpensive way to do just that.

        To encourage vocabulary and verbal expression, tell stories on the table surface and ask questions that extend the story further. Then, while practicing lines and drawing shapes and figures, gently smooth the sand with the palm of your hand and start over again!

        sand writing tray for preschool

        Preschoolers can practice pre-handwriting lines, while older kids can form letters and numbers in the sand. They can also copy and trace letters to improve their penmanship skills.