Mermaid Sandcastle Activity

mermaid sandcastle

Do you know kids that love all things mermaids? Or, are you heading to the beach this summer and want to add a sandcastle activity to your skill building? This mermaid sandcastle is going to be a hit this summer! Kids can decorate the mermaid and build a sandcastle in an interactive slide deck for therapy goals!

Use this mermaid sandcastle activity to work on therapy skills- decorate a mermaid and a sandcastle and then complete the mermaid writing prompts and sandcastle writing prompts.

Mermaid Sand Castle Activity

Did you ever see a kiddo or little girl who loves all things mermaids? Using mermaid themes in therapy activities can be a fun way to engage kids in something that interest them like mermaids.

In this interactive slide deck children can move the pieces to add accessories to create a decorated mermaid.

This mermaid slide deck is mirrored off of our popular disguise a turkey slide deck from Thanksgiving and our fun decorate a gingerbread house from Christmas time. Both free slide decks were really popular during the pandemic when all therapy was virtual. Just like those interactive slides, this mermaid sandcastle activity allows kids the freedom of expression and creativity to decorate a mermaid and a sandcastle with movable pieces right on the slides.

This slide deck is a great summer occupational therapy tool to work on several areas.

Skills like eye hand coordination, visual motor skills, visual memory, visual attention, and visual discrimination can be used to move the different necklaces and crowns for the mermaid.

On the first slide children can select accessories for the mermaid by clicking and dragging on different accessories. They have to work on mouse control or finger isolation to click and drag.

Mermaid Writing Prompts

Next the slides prompt kids to write about what they selected to create their mermaid.

Depending on the child’s individual goals or needs they can work on hand writing and write out the sentence prompts on paper or they can type right on this the scrub slide deck.

The slide asks kids about the accessories they used to decorate their mermaid, so the prompts work on using visual memory and working memory skills as part of executive functioning. Children can try to recall the specific details about the accessories that they selected like the color the shape the form and other details.

This helps with awareness skills and recognition as well as discrimination and visual memory. All of his skills are essential for hand writing when copying materials or writing from memory to form letters and numbers.

Decorate a sandcastle activity

Next the slide deck continues with the sea theme with an interactive decorate a Sandcastle slide. On this slide, children can decorate this the Sandcastle using features such as colorful and fun windows, doors, and flags.

Sandcastle Writing Prompts

Then the next slide continues with a handwriting or typing prompt and asks about details that they selected for their Sandcastle.

Children can again work on working memory skills and attention to detail.

Both of the slide decks both of these slides are fun ways to use a mermaid and sandcastle theme in therapy.

Free mermaid sandcastle slide deck

Would you like to add the slide deck to your therapy Toolbox? Enter your email address into the form below to access the slide deck. You will receive an email with a PDF that you can click to cook to connect the slides to your Google Drive. When used in the edit mode the clickable pieces on the interactive slide deck will be movable. Note please consider using a personal email address as school email addresses and work email addresses may block the delivery of this PDF via email.

FREE Mermaid Sandcastle Slide Deck Activity

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

    Working on building skills this summer? The Summer OT Bundle is for you!

    Summer occupational therapy activities bundle

    Work on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, scissor skills, and much more so that kids can accomplish self-care tasks, learn, and grow through play all summer long.

    This bundle is perfect for the pediatric occupational therapist who needs resources and tools to use in summer therapy sessions, home programs, or extended school year therapy plans.

    This bundle is perfect for parents, grandparents, and caregivers looking to provide developmental fine motor activities designed to help kids build skills.

    • Send kids back to school in the Fall without worrying about the “Summer Slide”.
    • Use these materials to work on areas like hand strength, fine motor development, scissor skills, handwriting, pencil control, pencil grasp, sensory play experiences, and much more. Just pull out the pages or activities you need for your child, and develop skills through play!

    The Summer OT Bundle includes 19 resources that you can print and use over and over again:

    Helping children develop and achieve functional skills this summer was never so easy (or fun!)

    Be sure to grab the Summer OT Bundle, a HUGE resource of therapy tools and activities for all things building skills this summer.

    Grab the Summer OT Bundle here.

    Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

    How to teach number formation

    number formation activities

    Learning to write numbers is a big deal for youngsters and learning number formation correctly is an important handwriting skill to master in the foundation phase of school. As with most of the skills taught at school some children pick it up really quickly while others need a little bit of guidance before they are writing their 1,2,3’s. Much like letter formation activities, there are lots of fun, creative ways to reinforce correct number formations and methods to ensure that forming numbers correctly becomes second nature.

    number formation activities for teaching kids how to correctly form numbers

    Why correct number formation is important

    It’s always rewarding to see a young child start to recognize numbers and to attempt to copy what they see. Is it really that important how they form the numbers?

    Surely if a 5 looks like a 5 it doesn’t have to be formed in a specific way? It does seem very prescriptive to insist on forming the numbers one way. But it is important to teach correct formations when children begin to write their own numbers.

    Teaching number formation with the correct staring points and the correct path to follow when forming a number allows a motor memory to be effectively laid down in the brain. You can read about motor planning and motor planning’s impact on handwriting in previous posts.

    Following the same pattern each time you form the number allows this motor memory to become strengthened more quickly and the child’s ability to form the number automatically develops. This frees up their brain to focus more on the content of what they are working on as opposed to using brainpower to figure out how to make the number.

    How to teach number formation

    There are a few tips that will really help when teaching number formation. These include:

    • using correct starting points
    • incorporating sensory input
    • repetition
    • rhythm / song

    Number formation starting points

    The most important idea for me to get across to children learning to form numbers is that they must start from the correct place.

    We call this the starting point or the starting spot. I tell the children when we are learning to write numbers that we are always going to drive the same way on the “number road’’ of whichever number we are learning to write. We will always start at the same place and drive the same way – no reversing, changing direction or starting in the wrong spot!

    All of the numbers start at the top so we make sure that we always start ‘up there’. I have permission from the children to tickle their feet if I catch them starting any numbers from the bottom!

    Then I use a visual cue to show the children where we are going to start. This visual cue could be a sticker, smiley face, star, small picture, anything that is going to remind them of the correct place to start that number. Below is a picture of how to use round stickers to demonstrate where to start the number. You can also add arrows to indicate the direction you must travel from the starting point.

    • In the early stages of number formations allow children to trace over numbers or dotted lines making up the numbers.
    • Work on numbers 1 to 5 first and once we are feeling confident and happy about starting in the right spot we move on to number 6 to 10.

    Using sensory input for number formation

    Once children have started grasping the concept of how to form the numbers correctly you can use sensory input to pin down the map of how the number is formed.

    I have found movement and tactile inputs a sure fire way to reinforce correct number formations. Movement often involves forming large numbers on a blackboard or white board or ‘drawing’ these numbers in the air with your hand.

    Painting– Forming numbers in paint on an easel or drawing large numbers on the driveway are also ways to incorporate movement when learning number formations.

    Air Writing– By virtue of the big bold movements performed by the arm and hand more parts of the brain are activated in the process of laying down the motor pattern for that number. Children can get a real feel of how the numbers should be formed when their whole body and arm moves to make the number.

    Writing Trays– Tactile input is an equally powerful tool when it comes to reinforcing number formations. Forming numbers in sand trays and sensory bags reinforces the correct way the number should be written and makes learning numbers lots of fun. Try these writing tray ideas to work on number formation.

    Here are more ways to incorporate sensory input into formation of letters and numbers.

    Using repetition in writing numbers

    Like so many things that we learn practice makes perfect. And number formations are no different. A huge part of achieving success with number formations is repetition repetition repetition. Look for fun ways to encourage the repetition of the number you are working on.

    • Select a number to practice. Use a dice to see how many of that specific number you need to draw
    • Draw rows of each number
    • Draw the number on a chalk board, wipe it clean with a sponge and repeat
    • Turn each number into a rainbow number. There are some lovely ideas on rainbow writing that can be adapted for numbers.

    Rhythm and Songs for teaching how to write numbers

    Nothing sticks in your head like a catchy tune and using rhythm and song can be an effective way of cementing number formations in your brain. A simple example of a number formation is given below.  

    Here is more information on using rhythm in handwriting skills.

    e.g. Whoa its high up here but down I go. I’m number one I told you so (video 1)

    Here are a few ideas of number formation songs from youtube. I did notice quite a few sites form their zero in a clockwise direction. I always encourage anti-clockwise circles to prevent letter reversals with children start writing.

    It’s important for the child’s school, therapist and parent to use the same number formation stories to increase the effectiveness of the story being committed to memory.

    For more resources on number formation, grab a copy of The Handwriting Book, a comprehensive resource on development of handwriting, and specific strategies to promote legible and effective handwriting.

    Now you know your 1,2,3’s next time you can write with me!

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

    Kindergarten Learning and Play Activities

    kindergarten activities

    Below are kindergarten activities that promote development of skills needed during the kindergarten year. These are great activities to use for kindergarten readiness and to help preschool and Pre-K children build the motor skills in order to succeed in their kindergarten year. You’ll find kindergarten letter activities, Kinder math, fine motor skills to build stronger pencil grasps when kindergarteners start to write with a pencil and cut with scissors. You’ll also find kindergarten sight word activities for when that time of the Kinder year comes around. Let’s have some fun with 5-6 year old activities!

    Kindergarten activities and kindergarten readiness activities

    Kindergarten Activities

     What you’ll notice is missing from this massive list of Kindergarten activities, is handwriting, writing letters, and even writing names. (And writing letters in a sensory bin falls into this category too! Before kindergarten, children should not be copying letters into a sensory bin. You’ll see letters formed incorrectly, letters formed from bottom to top, and letters formed in “chunks”. The same rule applies to tracing letters and words and even “multisensory strategies” for writing. It’s just too early. Unfortunately, we see a lot of preschools and standards doing the exact opposite. You’ll even find online sites sharing preschool and Pre-K writing that is just in poor advice.
     
    Here’s why: prior to kindergarten age, kids are not developmentally ready for holding a pencil, writing with a pencil, and writing words. Their muscles are not developed, and asking them to write letters, copy words, and trace with a pencil is setting them up for improper letter formation, poor pencil grasp, and weak hands. 
     
    What children aged 5 and under DO need is play! They need exposure to sensory experiences, sensory play, coloring, cutting with scissors (even if it’s just snipping), puzzles, games, beads, blocks, stamps…there are SO many ways to help pre-K kids and preschool children develop the skills they need for kindergarten and beyond.
     
    Kindergarten is such a fun age.  Kids in kindergarten strive when they are given the chance to learn through play and hands-on activities.  These are our favorite Kindergarten activities that we’ve shared on the site, with Kindergarten math, reading and letter awareness, Kindergarten Crafts, and Kindergarten Play.   
     
     

     

    Kindergarten Functional Tasks

    Kindergarten is the stage when children go off to school for perhaps the first time. That’s why prior to kindergarten, it’s great to “practice” a lot of the functional tasks that children will need to do once they go to kindergarten. Some of these may include:

    Now…not all of these functional skills will be established for every kindergarten child…and that’s OK! Kindergarten can be the year to practice these tasks in the school environment. 

    Kindergarten Letter Activities

    Kindergarten is all about letters, upper case and lower case letters, and sounds.  They learn how letters go with sounds and work on decodable reading.  These letter learning activities will help your kindergarten student with identification, sounds, and beginning reading skills.

    Kindergarten Letter activities for letter learning
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     


    Kindergarten Math Activities

    Kindergarten students work with manipulating items to discover and explore numbers and patterns.  They solve simple addition and subtraction problems, more or less, comparing amounts, and shapes.
     
    These Kindergarten math ideas will be a fun way to discover math ideas with playful learning.
    Kindergarten Math ideas

     

     
     
     
     
     
         
     




       
     
     
       
     
     
      
     
     
        
     

    Kindergarten Sight Words and Reading:

    Kindergarten students learn sight words throughout the school year. These sight word activities are fun ways to learn with play while reinforcing sight word skills.
      
     
       
     
     
       
     
     

    Sight Words Manipulatives | Outdoor Pre-Reading Letter Hunt

    Kindergarten Books and Activities

    Extending book ideas with crafts and activities are a fun way for Kindergarten students to become engaged with reading.  Listening to an adult read is a powerful tool for pre-readers.  They learn language, speech, articulation, volume, and tone of voice.  These book related activities will extend popular stories and engage your Kindergartner.

    Book ideas activities for Kindergarten
     
     
     
      
     
     
     

     
     
     

     

     

    Kindergarten Fine Motor Play

    Fine motor skills in Kindergarten students are essential for effective pencil control and handwriting, scissor use, and clothing and tool manipulation.  Kindergartners may have little experience with tools like scissors, pencils, hole punches, staplers, and pencil sharpeners. In fact, there are MANY fine motor skills needed at school. All of these items require dexterity and strength.  
     
    In-Hand manipulation play for fine motor skills: We had so much fun with water beads.  This post shares two ideas for improving in-hand manipulation skills which are so important for dexterity in self-care, handwriting, coin manipulation…and so much more!
     
    Finger isolation, tripod grasp, eye-hand coordination, bilateral hand coordination…Fine Motor Play with Crafting Pom Poms has got it all!  We even worked on color identification and sorting with this easy fine motor play activity.
     

    What play ideas can you come up with using common tools? These items are GREAT ways to build hand strength and dexterity that will be needed in kindergarten for pencil grasp development and endurance in handwriting. 

    • tweezers
    • tongs
    • beads
    • toothpicks
    • hole puncher
    • peg boards
    • lacing cards

     

    These fine motor activities will engage your student in fine motor skills for effective hand use in functional school tasks.
     
    Kindergarten Fine Motor activities
     
     
     
       
     
     
       
     
     
       
     
     
     
     
     
      
     
     

    Kindergarten Play:

    Play in Kindergarten is essential for so many areas.  Kindergartners are young students who need brain breaks from desk work.  Not only for that reason, but for turn-taking, language, social interaction, self-confidence, problem-solving, and interaction, play is an important part of your Kindergarten student’s daily lives.  

    Play builds skills! Check out this post on the incredible power of play. Play helps kids learn and develop cognitive experiences and the neural connections that impact their educational career, beginning right now! Occupational therapists know that play is the primary occupation of children, but what’s more is that play builds the very skills that kids need to learn and develop.

    Kindergarteners can gain valuable input through play:

    • Cognition
    • Problem Solving
    • Executive Functioning Skills
    • Attention
    • Strength
    • Balance
    • Visual Motor Integration
    • Visual Processing
    • Sensory Integration
    • Self Regulation
    • Language Development
    • Self-Confidence
    • Fine Motor Skills
    • Gross Motor Skills
    • Social Emotional Development
    • Stress Relief
    • Behavior
    • Imagination
    • Creativity

    Try these play ideas in the classroom or at home for fun learning (through play)!

       
     
     
     
     
       
     

    Kindergarten Crafts

    Crafts in Kindergarten are a great tool for so many areas.  Students can work on direction following, order, patterns, task completion, scissor skills, fine motor dexterity, tool use, and more by completing crafts in Kindergarten.  

    Kindergarten crafts can have one or more of the areas listed here to help and build skills:

    • Scissor practice (placing on hand and opening/closing the scissors)
    • Exposure to different textures and art supplies
    • Practice with using a glue stick and bottle of squeeze glue
    • Practice cutting strait lines and stopping at point
    • Practice cutting simple shapes
    • Practice cutting complex shapes
    • Coloring
    • Painting with finger paints and paint brushes
    • Experience washing hands after crafting
    • Opportunities for creative expression
    • Opportunities for rule-following and direction following
    • Multi-step directions
    • Experience copying a model for visual motor benefits

    Try a few (or all!) of these Kindergarten crafts for fun arts and play with your student. 

    Kindergarten Craft ideas
     
     
     
     

     

    Grand Old Duke of York Craft | Process Art Monster Cupcake Liner craft | Shoe Charm craft | Caterpillar Math Craft

     
     
     
    We’ll be adding more to this resource soon, so stop back to find more Kindergarten learning ideas.  

    Camping Writing Activity

    camping writing

    Going camping this summer? This free therapy slide deck is a camping writing activity that kids can use to work on handwriting skills this summer. Use the camping activity as a tool to work on handwriting skills in therapy sessions or at home this summer.

    Use this camping writing slide deck to work on handwriting skills this summer, with a camping theme.

    Camping Writing

    When you think of camping and writing, you might think about writing letters home from a summer camp. Or, maybe you think of writing out packing lists before you head off to tent in the woods for the weekend.

    Both are actually really great natural writing tasks that kids can use to put pencil to paper this summer and work on writing skills without the boring rote practice that thoughts of handwriting typically bring.

    However, to expand on that theme a bit, this camping writing slide deck is great for building specific writing skills over the summer months.

    You can use this slide deck in teletherapy sessions, in home programs, in extended school year, or at home to work on writing skills such as:

    • copying skills
    • letter formation
    • size awareness
    • line use
    • visual motor skills

    The camping activities include visual forms that children can copy without admitting details so that they are working on visual perceptual skills such as form constancy, visual discrimination, visual closure, and other areas.

    There are several simple camping images that build up to more complex camping images that kids can copy to build visual motor skills and attention to detail.

    There’s also a part of the activity where kids can copy specific terms related to tenting and camping.

    Kids can copy these words right onto the screen using an Google Jamboard or they can copy the words onto paper. Several slides have lined portions where kids can copy the words onto the screen. You’ll find a link to access this resource once you access the file in the form at the bottom of this post.

    When kids copy words they need to work on they are using visual perceptual skills such as visual scanning, visual attention, visual memory, and visual shift. These tasks this skills are important for tasks such as copying written material from a chalkboard or smart board in the classroom.

    This handwriting active activity can also be expanded to ask kids to copy the words into alphabetical order or to expand the activity by asking them to write a sentence including the words.

    Free Camping Writing Slide Deck

    Would you like to add this camping hand writing activity to your therapy tool box? Enter your email address into the form below to access this free therapy slide deck.

    FREE Camping Writing Activity

      We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

      More Ideas for Summer

      Want more ways to play and build skills while camping or with a camping theme in therapy sessions or at home? Check out these fun ideas:

      Working on building skills this summer? The Summer OT Bundle is for you!

      Summer occupational therapy activities bundle

      Work on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, scissor skills, and much more so that kids can accomplish self-care tasks, learn, and grow through play all summer long.

      This bundle is perfect for the pediatric occupational therapist who needs resources and tools to use in summer therapy sessions, home programs, or extended school year therapy plans.

      This bundle is perfect for parents, grandparents, and caregivers looking to provide developmental fine motor activities designed to help kids build skills.

      • Send kids back to school in the Fall without worrying about the “Summer Slide”.
      • Use these materials to work on areas like hand strength, fine motor development, scissor skills, handwriting, pencil control, pencil grasp, sensory play experiences, and much more. Just pull out the pages or activities you need for your child, and develop skills through play!

      The Summer OT Bundle includes 19 resources that you can print and use over and over again:

      Helping children develop and achieve functional skills this summer was never so easy (or fun!)

      Be sure to grab the Summer OT Bundle, a HUGE resource of therapy tools and activities for all things building skills this summer.

      Grab the Summer OT Bundle here.

      Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Handwriting Quick Check Self-Assessment List

      handwriting self assessment checklist

      This handwriting checklist is a great handwriting assessment for kids to use when writing. Many times working on handwriting skills leads to frustration when kids struggle to carryover writing skills from occupational therapy sessions. This writing self-assessment can help!

      When kids have been introduced to different techniques for beating their handwriting blahs, been provided with accommodations for handwriting difficulties, and even provided with modifications to written work requirements, a quick check can help with legibility.  A child can use this quick check list to self-monitor and self-check their handwriting for neatness.  

      This activity is part of our month-long handwriting series where we are sharing creative and easy ways to address common handwriting issues in our 30 Easy Quick Fixes for Better Handwriting series.  

      You’ll also want to join the Sweet Ideas for Handwriting Help Facebook group where you can find support and resources for handwriting.   

      Handwriting Self-Assessment Checklist

      A self-checklist should have questions to monitor letter formation, size, spacing, line awareness, upper case and lower case letter formation/size, letter positioning, speed, neatness, and legibility.   

      Self-analysis involves retrospection and an awareness of self, as well as the actions that one performs. This handwriting analysis observations post explains a bit more.

      Print this checklist out for classroom use.  It is available as an 8x 10 inch Free printable here.

      This is a printable that can be printed and laminated for use at the student’s desk. Allow them to use a dry erase marker and check off each item after a handwriting task. Use the printable with the whole classroom, too!

       
      Kids can self-monitor their handwriting with this quick self-checklist for home and in the classroom.
       

      You can find all of our handwriting posts here.

      You’ll also love this cursive handwriting assessment checklist.

      Handwriting Self-Assessment Quick Tip:
      Print off the printable in a sized down format to create a smaller, wallet sized check list that can be stored in pencil boxes or in the front of a binder.

      Fine Motor Quick Tip:
      Encourage kids to use both hands when writing! The dominant hand should always be the pencil holder, BUT that other hand has a job too. Holding and moving the paper with the non-dominant hand has an important job in written work. Read more about paper placement and using the helper hand during written work.

      handwriting self assessment checklist

      Free Handwriting Assessment Checklist

      Handwriting checklists can include questions the student asks themselves after a writing task. They can look back over their work and self-assess the writing. Handwriting checklists can include questions such as:

      • Am I writing my letters like we practiced?
      • Am I writing on the lines?
      • Am I spacing between letters and words?
      • Are my upper case letters bigger than my lower case letters?
      • Do my tall letters touch the top line?
      • Do my tail letters fall below the bottom line?
      • Am I taking my time?
      • Can I read my writing?
      • Did I start at the left margin an stop at the right margin?

      For another version of a handwriting assessment that is used as a handwriting checklist when completing written work, grab this printable resource in our Handwriting Printables series. The printable handout is great for using with kids to work on self-assessment of written work.

      Join our Handwriting printables series to access this and five other handwriting worksheets.

      handwriting handouts

      Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Fix Spacing in Handwriting (Free Handout)

      spacing in handwriting handout

      Working to fix spacing in handwriting so the kids you serve can write legibly? Spatial awareness is a huge means to improving legible written work. Sometimes having a few strategies to actually improve the spacing between letters and words is so beneficial for accuracy and carryover in handwriting.

      Today, I have another free handwriting handout as part of our handwriting tips and tricks series. If you’ve already signed up for this series, you have the free worksheet in your inbox. This is the space to access more spacing in handwriting resources and tools to help with spacing between letters and words for legible written work.

      Free spacing in handwriting handout that includes tips for improving spacing between words and letters in written work.

      Fix Spacing in Handwriting

      Spatial awareness is a powerhouse when it comes to legibility in written work. The child who forms letters with award formation no matter how many times you teach them that letters start at the top can increase overall legibility by spacing out words on the lines.

      However, spacing between letters and words can be difficult when visual motor integration is an issue. Modifications and adaptations can help.

      For those kiddos who have zero awareness of organization on the page and start at the middle of the paper or don’t seem not notice space constraints on a worksheet will definitely benefit from spatial awareness tips and tricks.

      Here are a few easy ways to fix spacing in handwriting:

      1. Use graph paper
      2. Use a highlighter for writing words
      3. Use a small dot (colored pencil) to space between words
      4. Use a spacing tool. Kids can make their own (check out the spacing tools listed below) to help with carryover and use.
      5. Highlight margins
      6. Use boxes for words or letters. This blog post shows how to set up boxes for spacing between letters and words.
      7. Encourage the child to use a “finger space” between words and physically place their finger on the paper. This incorporates bilateral coordination and holding the paper when writing.
      8. Use stickers placed along the right margin of to cue the student that they are nearing the edge of paper when writing.
      9. Draw a red stop sign at the right margin.
      10. Graph paper Try 1/2 inch wide rule first.
      11. Raised line paper
      12. Slant board
      13. Try smaller width of lines instead of primary paper.
      14. RediSpace paper has a green line along the left margin and a red line along the right margin.

      Fix Spacing between words with a spacing tool

      There are many spacing tools on the market, but when kids are involved in the creation process, they are likely to use the item in handwriting tasks. We’ve made several spacing tool crafts here. Try these ideas:

      Why Spacing between words is important

      Spacing between letters and words is one of the easiest ways to improve overall legibility in written work. Why? There are a few reasons…

      When letter formation is difficult for children, letters can appear sloppy or hard to discriminate from one another. This can make reading back written work difficult for children. Spacing between words can create white space that makes it easier to read sloppy or poorly formed letters. Those that struggle with handwriting challenges such as dysgraphia or dyslexia, fine motor challenges, sensory issues, motor planning challenges, correct formation of letters can be quite difficult. Spacing between words helps to improve overall legibility.

      Spacing helps when line use is a challenge. Some children struggle with the visual perceptual skills needed to write on lines. Other contributors to poor line use may include pencil control challenges, motor planning issues, fine motor skill development, or difficulties visual motor skills. When any of these challenges exist, placing letters correctly on the lines, below the lines can impact legibility. Addressing spacing between letters and words can help with readability of written work.

      Spacing helps with letter size issues. Similarly to the concept of line use, sizing of letters is important. When sizing is incorrect or inconsistent, children may fill the entire space with their letters. They may make all of the letters the same size or use quick writing speed which impacts legibility and results in large letters. Adding more space between words can help with reading this written material.

      Addressing spacing issues allows others to read one’s handwriting. Teachers and parents can agree that when handwriting is illegible, there are difficulties with learning. Kids struggle to read their notes or homework list. Others might not be able to read back over what they’ve written making studying for quizzes and tests a challenge. Students may miss questions on exams or homework assignments when legibility is an issue. All of these issues can impact learning of information and grades.

      For more information, you’ll want to check out all of our handwriting posts here.

      Spatial Awareness Quick Tip:

      Make a spacing tool that can be used while your child is writing words and sentences. It can be as easy as a popsicle stick or even the child’s finger. Show them how to place the spacing tool between words and sideways between letters.

      Fine Motor Quick Tip:

      Help kids to develop and strengthen the skills needed for improved pencil grasp with fine motor experiences. Encourage flexion of the thumb IP joint (bending the tip of the thumb). Thumb IP joint motion during handwriting helps with pencil control and positioning in the hand. Check out this resource on improving pencil grasp through play, or this massive Pencil Grasp Bundle for activities and tools to impact pencil grasp, motor planning, and fine motor skills.

      Spacing in Handwriting Handout

      Want tips and tricks to work on spacing in handwriting in a handout form? This free resource is a spacing worksheet that can be used to develop spacing awareness skills in written work. Use the handwriting strategies listed on the handout in educating parents, teachers, or other therapists on the needs of a child.

      This free spacing worksheet lists the strategies we covered above and can be a great addition when making suggestions for specific spacing needs. To access this free handout, join the Handwriting Tips and Tricks series…5 days of free handouts and information on all things legible written work!

      Head to Handwriting Occupational Therapy Tips and Tricks to sign up. You’ll receive 5 free handwriting handouts related to aspects of written work: spacing, sizing, line use, letter formation, and more. Each day for 5 days, a free handwriting printable is delivered to your inbox.

      handwriting handouts

      Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Line Awareness Activities

      alinement in handwriting and writing lines activities

      Here, you will discover line alignment resources and line awareness activities to promote accurate use of writing lines. Line awareness is a handwriting skill occupational therapists often address to promote functional written work and legibility in handwriting, by offering raised line paper and other handwriting strategies. Let’s talk line use!

      Line Awareness Activities

      Line awareness refers to placement of the letters accuratley on the writing lines. When we form letters, there are differnet letter sizes that are placed in different positions within the lines of the paper:

      • Letters that touch the top and bottom lines (b, d, f, h, k, l, t, and all upper case letters)
      • Letters that touch the bottom line (all upper case and all lower case letters)
      • Letters that cross the bottom line (g, j, p, q, y)
      • Letters that touch the middle line (or middle space if using single rule paper: a, c, e, g, i, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z)

      Line use allows for proper letter sizing and formation. Together these three aspects play an important role in legibility of written work.

      Other aspects of line use refers to margin awareness or stopping writing before reaching the edge of the paper or writing area, and use of the left margin, or writing lists.

      Typically, difficulties with line awareness are a result of visual processing problems. Visual processing skills that impact line use include: visual scanning, visual closure, visual discrimination, form constancy, eye-hand coordination, and visual motor integration.

      Poor use of Writing Lines

      Line awareness is a common struggle for many kids. You might know a child who writes with letters floating up over the lines, shows little regard to lines, or is inconsistent with line use. They might make letters of various sizes and write letters super big so that written work looks completely illegible and sloppy. Writing on the lines and using appropriate size awareness is an issue when visual motor integration skills are difficult for a child.

      Perceiving visual information such as lines and available writing areas and then coordinating the motor movement needed to place letters accurately can lead to a lot of areas for legibility breakdown.  

      A child turns in an assignment and the letters are written all over the paper. They started out writing pretty neatly. But then, as they thought out their creative writing prompt, you see the words and letters dropping below the lines. Some of the letters are too big and even are scooting up into the letters on the line above. All of these are examples of poor line awareness.

      Many times, kids are working on neatness in handwriting due to letters being written all over the page with little regard to placement on the lines.  You might see kids writing with sloped arrangement as the words drift down over the lines or you might see younger kids who are making lower case letters the same size as the tall or upper case letters.  

      They might write as if they don’t even see the lines on the paper.    

      For older kids, they might not be able to go back over notes and understand what they’ve written in class.   

      Line awareness is often times an area that kids need to work on when there are difficulties with legibility in handwriting.   

      How can a child write neatly on lines of lined paper or worksheets when the letters drop below the lines?  As teachers and parents, it can become difficult to read their writing.  

      How to Improve line awareness

      There are many modifications that can be made to help with legibility due to trouble maintaining line awareness.  Kids can build the visual perceptual skills needed for line awareness with activities designed to help the child attend to the lines.   

      Line use is closely related to spatial awareness that was discussed in yesterday’s email. Try using the tips and strategies in combination.   Here are a few easy hands-on strategies to help with line awareness and visual motor integration:

      Here are a few easy hands-on strategies to help with line awareness and visual motor integration:

      Use Beads to Help with Line Awareness

      Motor Control in Handwriting

      Line Awareness Quick Tip:
      Work on letter formation before requiring students to address line awareness. Children are not developmentally ready to write on lines until between ages 5 and 6.

      Fine Motor Quick Tip:
      Help kids to improve pencil grasp and pencil control when writing on lines by separating the two sides of the hand. When writing, we NEED a stable base to support the fingers that hold and move the pencil.

      Encourage creative play activities that separate the two sides of the hands by tucking a cotton ball into the palm when playing with toys like beads. Here is more info about motoric separation of the two sides of the hand and fun ideas for play.

      Activities for Writing Lines

      Below, you’ll find fun activities to promote use of writing lines for overall legibility of written work.

       

       
      Creative activities to work on line awareness in handwriting
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      More Ways to adjust Handwriting Lines:

      • Highlight the base line.
      • Provide bolded lines.
      • Try paper with raised lines.  This is the type I love for Kindergarten and first grade students. This type is recommended for second grade and older.
      • Try using graph paper.
      • For children who need more space on the page, this colored raised lined paper may help.
      • Use a movable baseline that provides a physical “stop” such as a ruler or index card.
      • Use paper designed to address placement on the lines like earth paper.
      • Highlight the bottom half of writing space
      • Trace baseline with bright colored crayon
      • Trace baseline with white crayon for waxy stopping
      • point
      • Marker on the bottom and top lines
      • Bold single lined paper
      • Low Vision Writing Paper
      • High visual contrast bold lined paper
      • Bold raised lined paper (in single space or double space
      • forms)
      • Adjust line height to fit the student’s handwriting
      • Raised Line Paper
      • Use a serrated tracing wheel to create DIY tactile paper
      • Make a stencil from a cereal box
      Writing lines activities for occupational therapy handwriting sessions, to improve line awareness.

      Want these writing lines tips in printable format? You can get this list in a handout to use in therapy. Just join our 5 day series on Handwriting Tips Printables to access this along with 4 other free handwriting handouts.

      Join here, on the Handwriting Tips and Tricks printables series!

      handwriting handouts
      Creative activities to work on line awareness in handwriting

      Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Letter Formation Handout

      Letter formation handout

      This blog post is DAY 1 in our Free Handwriting Handouts series. Here, you’ll find all of the information you need to educate others on letter formation. To access the free printable letter formation handout (and all of the other handwriting handouts in this series), be sure to sign up for the Occupational Therapy Handwriting Handouts where you will receive tons of resources and information related to occupational therapy handwriting interventions and handwriting instruction for helping children write legibly.

      letter formation handout for helping kids with handwriting skills

      You’ll also find many resources and writing strategies related to writing letters accurately and legibly on our letter formation resource page.

      Letter Formation Handout

      Letter formation can be a great challenge for children of all ages. Beginning with pre-writing strokes, preschoolers

      Sometimes, when teaching kids how to make letters, it is helpful to add creative and different methods to the good old fashioned, paper and pencil letter making practice. Here are some creative ways to work on letter formation using the senses:
      Foam Strip Letter Formation
      Letter Formation Resistive Surface
      Sensory Letter Formation

      You can find all of our handwriting posts here.

      Now, let’s move onto the details on letter formation. We’re going to cover a few concepts: tracing letters, letter formation development,

      Tracing Letters

      Tracing has it’s time and place. And like all things (especially chocolate chip cookies in my case), moderation is key.

      Tracing letters is not an ideal format for teaching letter formation and here’s why: When children trace letters, they can become overly focused on the immediate line strokes under their pencil. It’s harder to create a motor plan for the letter in it’s entirety.

      Also, tracing letters can set kids up for establishing a poor motor plan for letter formation. This is especially true if children are given a tracing worksheet with no cues or prompts to start letters at the top and to form letters in proper formation sequence. Often times, you’ll see children start letters at the bottom when tracing, or segmentally, jumping from piece to piece of the letter. This can be a recipe for disaster!

      However, practicing letter tracing can be a good activity, too.

      Tips for Tracing letters

      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, visual cues, and verbal prompts.

      To make the most of tracing, be sure to ensure the child is tracing letters correctly. You’ll want to watch for a few things and show the child the correct way to trace if they are forming the letter incorrectly.

      • Make sure they trace starting at the top
      • Make sure the child retraces lines when appropriate
      • Make sure they form the letter in correct sequence (don’t picking their pencil up to trace the last part of the letter first, for example)

      Tracing Letter Strategies

      Some ways to effectively use tracing as a method for working on letter formation:

      1. Write the letter in highlighted lines and ask the child to trace in a different colored marker to get a color-changing effect. This marker rainbow writing activity is one great example.
      2. Use a tracing font that has numbers and arrows so kids know where to start and how to sequence the letter formation. These A-Z letter formation worksheets are a great resource for teaching letter formation of upper case and lower case letters segmentally to establish a motor plan. They are great for sensory handwriting techniques, too.
      3. Use this letter construction method to work on forming letters correctly.

      Letter formation development

      So often, handwriting is impacted by fine motor development and resulting endurance, strength, and therefore pencil grasp. Read here about fine motor skills.

      Try this quick tip to address fine motor skills:

      • Provide tons of opportunities that open up the thumb web space. Many times, children with poor handwriting have their thumb squashed up against the pencil, the pointer finger wrapped around the pencil, or the thumb wrapped or tucked against the pencil.
      • Try to encourage your student or child to open up the space around the pencil. Read more about an open thumb web space and find a lot of creative activities to address this need HERE.
      • Pencil grasp isn’t a make-or-break deal when it comes to letter formation. Read this resource on things an OT wants you to know about pencil grasp and handwriting.

      One final note: While functional handwriting is key, letters need to be formed in a manner that is readable and mostly accurate. By that I mean sometimes we need to follow the “beggars can’t be choosers” mindset. If a child is struggling with composing written work, building sentences, and putting their thoughts on paper, then a functional style of letter formation can be A-OK.

      Need more Handwriting Help? If you landed here and want in on the full Handwriting Handouts series (and access 6 free handwriting resources for legible written work, head to Handwriting Occupational Therapy Tips and Tricks to sign up.

      handwriting handouts

      Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.