Use Wind-Up Toys Fine Motor Activity

So, we have a small collection of wind-up toys.  They are one of our favorite ways to play.  There is just something about a chattereing set of teeth that walk that makes a kid smile.  When you add in the fine motor benefits of playing with wind-up toys, it’s a big bonus to those smiles!  Grab a few wind-up toys and start building fine motor skills.

In-hand manipulation activities are a great way to boost fine motor skills needed for tasks like managing clothing fasteners, using a pencil when writing, manipulating items like coins or beads, and more. 

For more ways to build fine motor skills, try this in-hand manipulation puzzle.  

Wind-up toys are a great way to build fine motor skills.  In order to make the toys go, you need to wind a small knob on the side of the toy.  This skill is one type of in-hand manipulation called rotation that is needed for skills like turning a pencil with the tips of your finger.  Read more about the types of in-hand manipulation here. 

Help kids work on fine motor skills using wind-up toys
Affiliate links are included in this post. 

You can use wind-up toys for a fine motor activity by using several different toys.  These are perfect little toys to add to Easter baskets or birthday gifts for kids.  Ours are a collection that we have had for a couple of years now, but there are so many available out there.  These little Spring bunnies and chicks are perfect for the fine motor activity we did.

Use wind up toys to work on fine motor skills

Wind-Up Toys Fine Motor Activity

This activity is so easy and a great way to work on in-hand manipulation and bilateral coordination skills.  Line up a few strands of yard or shoe laces on a table.  Place one wind-up toy in each lane and have a race!  It’s a fun way to encourage fine motor strengthening.

wind up toys fine motor activity
Create a wind-up toy fine motor activity race for kids to work on in-hand manipulation and other fine motor skills

Visual Perception Activity


Following the moving wind-up toys is an activity to develop and strengthen visual tracking, too. 

Kids will love to have races over and over again with this wind-up toy fine motor activity! 

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Use wind-up toys to work on in-hand manipulation and other fine motor skills
Wind up toy fine motor activity races

Fine Motor Spinning Tops

These little DIY spinning tops were a big hit in our house.  These are a different way to work on a few fine motor skills needed for use in functional grasp patterns.  The best thing about these tops is the price.  It takes just a few pennies and some recycled bottle tops to make a set of spinning tops that can be tossed into a therapy bag or used in a home program.  Work on skills such as pincer grasp, in-hand manipulation, arch development, and eye-hand coordination just by spinning a top!

In-hand manipulation activities are a great way to boost fine motor skills needed for tasks like managing clothing fasteners, using a pencil when writing, manipulating items like coins or beads, and more. 

DIY tops for building fine motor skills.


Fine Motor Activity with Spinning Tops

These tops are very easy to make.  It does take a little planning.  You’ll need a handful of recycled bottle caps to make a set of tops.  You can certainly make just one, but what fun is a spinning top battle with just a lone top?

If your family is like mine, you go through a couple of gallon sized containers in a short period of time.  Between milk, juice, iced tea, and water, it doesn’t take long to round up a handful of bottle caps.


You’ll need just a couple of items to make these tops:

Bottle caps
Sharp knife
Pennies

First, clean the bottle caps with warm, soapy water.  Get the kids involved in this step; it’s a great way to practice eye-hand coordination in a sensory medium with the soap and warm water.  Scrubbing with a brush allows kids to engage in heavy work (proprioceptive input).  Given that and the warm water will allow for a calming sensory activity that is purposeful.  Better yet, the kids can practice for washing dishes ūüėČ

Next, use the sharp knife to press strait down into the lid of a bottle cap.  Firmly hold the bottle cap on a cutting board and press the knife strait down to make a slit in the lid.  This is a definite task for adults.

Be sure to make the slit only wide enough for a penny to fit into the slot.  

And that’s it!  Your spinning tops are complete.

Neat pincer grasp with a DIY spinning top for addressing fine motor skills

Spinning tops build fine motor skills:

Tops are a common tool for improving fine motor skills.  When you spin a tip, you are challenging and building in-hand manipulation skills.  When spinning a top, a child is required to rotate the top between the pads of the thumb and pointer finger in order to make the top spin.  This is termed simple rotation and a skill that is needed for manipulating items with in the hand.  When a child writes with a pencil, they need to manipulation and use the pencil with one hand.  Read more about the different types of in-hand manipulation.

Make tops with recycled bottle caps and pennies.

These tops are a real fine motor power tool with the small flat surface that the penny provides for spinning.  This is a great way to encourage a neat pincer grasp and dexterity.

Spinning tops with bottle caps and pennies

How to use these tops to increase fine motor skills:

  • Spin several of the tops at once.  Try to keep all of the tops spinning.  When one starts to stop, spin it to catch up with the other tops.
  • Draw a square on a large piece of paper.  Try to keep the spinning tops inside the square.
  • Spin a top on a large platter.  Walk across the room without allowing the top to fall.
  • Challenge another child to a top spinning challenge.  Each child can spin 2-3 tops of a single color.  When a top stops spinning, that top is out.  The child with the last spinning top is the winner. 

One warning about these tops:  Be sure to use them under strict observation. Pennies are a choking hazard and these tops should be used only under supervision.

Spinning tops made with bottle caps for addressing in-hand manipulation

More in-hand manipulation activities that you will like: 

In-hand manipulation skills for functional tasks


In-hand manipulation play


In-hand manipulation with letter puzzles


In-hand manipulation and coins

In Hand Manipulation Letter Puzzle Activity

In hand manipulation activities are one of my kids favorite ways to play. ¬†The thing is, they have no clue what “in hand manipulation” means. ¬†I mean, could you picture it? Hey MOM! Can we please please PLEASE do an in hand manipulation thing? It’s so much fuuuuuun!” ¬†That’s kind of funny to think about and totally a meme you might see in an Occupational Therapy conference. ¬†(hmmm. Time to start on the OT meme¬†business…) ¬†


Kids just have no clue about the¬†technical terms for the fine motor development that they go through. ¬†And that is normal and completely ok. ¬†Parents typically don’t even know what exactly is happening when¬†their¬†child picks up a handful of coins and as they squirrel them¬†away in their chubby little palm before dropping them one by one into a piggy bank. ¬†All that matters is that the child is manipulating items, working their fine motor development, and having fun.


In-hand manipulation activities are a great way to boost fine motor skills needed for tasks like managing clothing fasteners, using a pencil when writing, manipulating items like coins or beads, and more. 


This in-hand manipulation activity meets the fun expectation and works on so many fine motor skills. We practiced letter identification and made the activity work for my Toddler, too. 

Work on fine motor skills like in-hand manipulation with a wooden letter puzzle.  You can do this with any puzzle and work on things like letter identification, letter formation, numbers, animals, or shapes. Perfect for preschool or toddler activities.

In-hand Manipulation Activity with Puzzles

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We came up with a similar idea a few months back. It worked for today’s activity with a slight¬†twist. In-hand manipulation is a powerful fine motor skill that¬†that kids use for tasks like manipulating a pencil in writing activities, managing buttons and zippers, manipulating shoe laces, and holding and managing small items such as coins or beads. ¬†You can read much more about in-hand manipulation here. ¬†


To use puzzles in a fine motor activity like this one, you’ll need a small item such as dry split peas. ¬†Dry beans or field corn would also work for this type of activity. ¬†You’ll also need a wooden puzzle with edges.¬†

Use dry peas in sensory play or fine motor activities.


For today’s activity, we used a Melissa and Doug wooden See Inside puzzle. This was perfect for our activity because the pictures hidden behind the split peas played peek-a-boo with us as we added the peas. ¬†My preschooler worked on her in-hand manipulation skills to fill up the letters by naming the letters and filling the letter space in proper-ish letter formation. ¬†I tried to show her how to fill in the letters with dry peas in the same order she would use to write the letter. ¬†This worked for most of the letters. ¬†If you are working on letter formation with your little one, show them how to fill in the top of the letters as they sprinkle in the beans or peas a little at a time.

Work on fine motor skills like in-hand manipulation with a wooden letter puzzle.  You can do this with any puzzle and work on things like letter identification, letter formation, numbers, animals, or shapes. Perfect for preschool or toddler activities.

 

An upper and lower case letter puzzle would be great for older kids who are working on forming lower case letters. 

Work on fine motor skills like in-hand manipulation with a wooden letter puzzle.  You can do this with any puzzle and work on things like letter identification, letter formation, numbers, animals, or shapes. Perfect for preschool or toddler activities.

 

Work on fine motor skills like in-hand manipulation with a wooden letter puzzle.  You can do this with any puzzle and work on things like letter identification, letter formation, numbers, animals, or shapes. Perfect for preschool or toddler activities.

We did end up doing the same activity with my Toddler’s chunky pets animal puzzle. This graded activity was great for her in-hand manipulation development too and she got to work on animal identification and animal sounds as she filled up each animal space in the puzzle.¬†


You’ll love these puzzle activities that a few of our friends developed:

Work on fine motor skills like in-hand manipulation with a wooden letter puzzle.  You can do this with any puzzle and work on things like letter identification, letter formation, numbers, animals, or shapes. Perfect for preschool or toddler activities.

Are you working on in-hand manipulation for functional skill development?  Here are a few more creative ideas that you will love: 

 

In-Hand Manipulation and Money

Moving the pencil within the tips of the fingers to switch from writing to erasing.


Passing small beads from the palm of the hand to the finger tips.


Holding a stack of coins in the palm while counting out the amount needed to pay for an item.


These are all in-hand manipulation tasks, and can be a problem when it comes to performing functional tasks related to these fine motor tasks.   Sometimes a child appears clumsy with their small motor movements.  They use two hands for tasks that normally require just one. Today, I’ve got a fun way to help with these difficulties by working on in-hand manipulation skills using coins.

Try these in-hand manipulation activities using coins to work on the fine motor skills needed to write with a pencil, manipulate small items like coins and beads, and manage fasteners like buttons and shoe laces.  Great ideas for kids from an Occupational Therapist on this blog!
This post contains affiliate links.


The Three types on In-hand Manipulation


There are three types or components of in-hand manipulation. 

Translation is using your fingers to moving a little item from your palm to your finger tips (or your fingertips to squirrel the item into the palm). When you hold a coin in your palm and manipulate it to your finger tips to push it into a piggy bank or vending machine, you are demonstrating palm-to-finger translation.   
Shift is moving an object using the pads of your fingers…adjusting the pencil grip is demonstrating finger shift.  Another example might be manipulating a button or a zipper with the finger tips.

Rotation is rolling an object using the fingertips.  Examples of rotation are rolling a pencil in your fingertips, turning a pencil over to use the eraser, or opening a bottle top by rotating the lid on your finger tips.

These fine motor skills are needed for functional tasks like managing a pencil or crayon during handwriting, opening containers, managing coins or small items, manipulating a spoon/knife/fork, adjusting the paper when cutting with scissors, and fastening buttons or shoe laces.

How to use coins to work on in-hand manipulation:
  • Rotate the coins between the pads of the thumb and pointer finger/middle finger.
  • Grab a handful of coins and place them into a slotted container.
  • Pick up coins one at a time and “squirrel away” into the palm.
  • Push coins into a piggy bank or slotted lid (Slice a hole in a recycled plastic container like a yogurt container)
  • Slice a slit in a piece of cardboard like we did below.  Using a small piece of cardboard allows you to hold the cardboard when pushing the coin through the slot.  Read on:

Try these in-hand manipulation activities using coins to work on the fine motor skills needed to write with a pencil, manipulate small items like coins and beads, and manage fasteners like buttons and shoe laces.  Great ideas for kids from an Occupational Therapist on this blog!

In-Hand Manipulation Activity with Coins

I grabbed a piece of cardboard from a pizza box lid.  Cut the cardboard into a manageable sized rectangle and use a sharp knife to cut a slit.  Make sure the slit is vertical as this is similar to a coin machine and encourages efficient positioning of the wrist and fingers for functional use. 





To work on in-hand manipulation needed for functional tasks, use play money to press the money through the slot.  Ask your child to grab up a handful of the coins and push them through the slot one at a time.  Using the non-dominant hand to hold the cardboard is an exercise in bilateral hand coordination, making this a great pre-handwriting exercise. (Use this activity as a writing warm-up exercise!) 



When a person writes, they need to hold the paper steady with their non-dominant hand while manipulating the pencil with only their dominant hand.  They need to adjust the pencil motions, twirl it around to erase, pinch and “crawl” up the pencil to adjust small movements in the hand as they write on the paper.  Holding the cardboard in the non-dominant hand prevents the child from managing the money with both hands.
While pressing the coins into the cardboard, work on money and change making skills like we shared here.

Try these in-hand manipulation activities using coins to work on the fine motor skills needed to write with a pencil, manipulate small items like coins and beads, and manage fasteners like buttons and shoe laces.  Great ideas for kids from an Occupational Therapist on this blog!

Try these in-hand manipulation activities using coins to work on the fine motor skills needed to write with a pencil, manipulate small items like coins and beads, and manage fasteners like buttons and shoe laces.  Great ideas for kids from an Occupational Therapist on this blog!

Try these in-hand manipulation activities using coins to work on the fine motor skills needed to write with a pencil, manipulate small items like coins and beads, and manage fasteners like buttons and shoe laces.  Great ideas for kids from an Occupational Therapist on this blog!
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Try these in-hand manipulation activities using coins to work on the fine motor skills needed to write with a pencil, manipulate small items like coins and beads, and manage fasteners like buttons and shoe laces.  Great ideas for kids from an Occupational Therapist on this blog!
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More Fine Motor activities you will LOVE for working on handwriting, pencil grasp, and manipulating small items: 

 Pencil Grasp Exercise Thumb opposition activity

In-hand Manipulation for Functional Tasks and a Letter Activity

Kids require a lot of skills to write with a pencil, button a coat, zipper a shirt, and manage a handful of coins.  Today we’re sharing ideas to help your child with in-hand manipulation.  This skill is important for moving that pencil, erasing mistakes, and fine motor tasks like managing buttons and zippers, coins, small items that fit in the hand, and pretty much a ton of functional tasks. SO what is in-hand manipulation and what can you do to improve all of these skills in kids?  Here are a few ideas for you!  This fun and easy activity is part of our 31 Day series of Occupational Therapy series where each post this month are functional and creative activities that can be done in Occupational Therapy treatment or in activities for kids who might need to work on certain skills through play.  All materials are free or items that might be found in your home.

Toys and tools for working on in-hand manipulation skills in kids, perfect for handwriting, pencil use, buttoning, scissor use, zippering, and more from an Occupational Therapist.



In-hand manipulation activity for kids learning letters

This post contains affiliate links.  This easy play activity was a fun one to set up for my four year old.  She is practicing letter recognition and letter sounds so we practiced identifying letters with this foam puzzle that we have.  We found ours at a garage sale, but you can get one in dollar stores or 

a similar puzzle here.  Simply grab a pile of whatever you’ve got on hand to fill the letters.  We used beads, but you could use dry beans, corn kernals, dry split peas, or any other small item.

Toys and tools for working on in-hand manipulation skills in kids, perfect for handwriting, pencil use, buttoning, scissor use, zippering, and more from an Occupational Therapist.


Letter Recognition Activity for Preschool

To practice letter recognition, I called out a letter and my preschooler filled that letter with beads.  It was a great way for her to work on letter identification.  We also did a little phonetic awareness and I named a letter’s sound.  She then filled the letter that makes that sound.  She enjoyed testing me, too.  “I’m filling a letter that sounds like this: /mmmmm/.  What letter is that, Mom?”

Toys and tools for working on in-hand manipulation skills in kids, perfect for handwriting, pencil use, buttoning, scissor use, zippering, and more from an Occupational Therapist.


In-hand Manipulation 

So are you still thinking, “Ok, cool. I like it.  But what the heck is in-hand manipu-what”?

In-hand manipulation is essentially is the ability to move small objects around in your hand without using the other hand to help.  This skill is essential for managinfg small items within the hand for accomplishment of tasks. There are three parts to In-hand manipulation…translation, shift, and rotation.  We shared two fun activities to work on these skills here.  

In-hand manipualtion begins to develop around 18 months, with the greatest skill development occuring between 2 and 2 1/2 years old.  

Toys and tools for working on in-hand manipulation skills in kids, perfect for handwriting, pencil use, buttoning, scissor use, zippering, and more from an Occupational Therapist.

Parts of In-hand Manipulation

Finger-to-Palm Translation: Movement of an object from the fingers to the palm i.e. picking up a coin and moving it to the palm.

Palm-to-Finger Translation: Movement of an object from the palm to the finger tips.  (i.e. moving a coin from the palm to the fingertips to insert into a vending machine.)

Shift: Slight adjustment of an object on or by the finger pads. (i.e. adjusting a pencil up and down in your hand.)

Simple Rotation: Turning or rolling an object 90 degrees or less with the fingers moving as a unit. (i.e. unscrewing a toothpaste lid)

Complex Rotation: Turning an object more than 90 degrees using isolated finger and thumb movements. (i.e. Turning a paper clip)

Each of the above skills can occur with items “squirreled away in the palm using the pinkey finger and ring finger.  This is called “with stabilization”.  If other items are not pocketed away in the palm while in-hand manipulation occurs, it is called “without stabilization”.  Stabilization typically occurs around 2 years of age.
Toys and tools for working on in-hand manipulation skills in kids, perfect for handwriting, pencil use, buttoning, scissor use, zippering, and more from an Occupational Therapist.
Toys and tools for working on in-hand manipulation skills in kids, perfect for handwriting, pencil use, buttoning, scissor use, zippering, and more from an Occupational Therapist.
Activities to work on in-hand manipulation using (almost) free materials.  These a few of my favorite activities from my Occupational Therapy treatment bag and ones that should be pretty easy (and inexpensive!) to set up:
  • Roll play dough into small balls using only the fingertips.
  • Tear newspaper into strips, crumble it, and stuff an art project.
  • Use tweezers to pick up small items.  This works on the intrinsic muscles of the hands.
  • Lacing activities.
  • Eye Droppers to drop water into recycled lids.
  • Coin or button matching, sorting, and stacking.  We loved playing with coins for fine motor fun.
  • Small pegboards, tucking extra pegs into the palm of the hand.  You can use cut up straws and play dough, too.
  • Dropping small items into bottles with a small opening like we did here.
  • Pick up beads from the floor and drop into ice cube trays.
  • Push coins into a piggy bank.
  • Press buttons into a slit cut in the lid of a plastic tub.
  • Pick-up sticks.
  • Games with small chips.
  • Beading.
  • Twisting lids on/off water bottles.



In-Hand Manipulation Toys and Tools for Fine Motor Skills

Toys and tools for working on in-hand manipulation skills in kids, perfect for handwriting, pencil use, buttoning, scissor use, zippering, and more from an Occupational Therapist.
These are some fine motor tools that kids will love.  While they are definitely not free, they are additional ideas for in-hand manipulation play and learning.  These are toys that will help with handwriting, buttoning, zippering, managing snaps and shoe-tying, among other functional skills, and all through play.  

Lite Brite
is a classic art creating activity that works on fine motor skills, and especially in-hand manipulation. Prop the board up on a on angle and you’re getting excellent wrist extension which helps with translation from fingers to palm and vice versa.



 Lacing & Tracing Dinosaurs can help kids with lacing, managing strings, threading, bilateral hand coordination, and strength.  It’s a great activity to work on in-hand manipulation.  Try these Lacing & Tracing Sea Life cards, too.


HABA Color Peg is a fun creating activity to work on in-hand manipulation to translate the small pegs into the slots. 


 This Peg Board with 1000 Pegs
was one of my absolute favorite treatment tools in pediatric Occupational Therapy. I love the small size of the pegs that allow children to manipulate and manage the tools within their hands. The key to working on in-hand manipulation is to use items that are smaller than the child’s hand and these colorful pegs work on so many other skills besides the vital in-hand manipulation. 



 Manipulating coins is such a great way to work on in-hand manipulation. This Coinasaurus Bank
is a fun bank to practice with! 



 Spinning tops is a nice way to work on rotation. These Standard Tops
are fun! 



 The game, Ker Plunk Game
is an in-hand manipulation powerhouse. Handle the marbles to work on translation, and rotate the sticks with the thumb and the pointer finger. This is a game that will work on so many fine motor skills.

Toys and tools for working on in-hand manipulation skills in kids, perfect for handwriting, pencil use, buttoning, scissor use, zippering, and more from an Occupational Therapist.
Toys and tools for working on in-hand manipulation skills in kids, perfect for handwriting, pencil use, buttoning, scissor use, zippering, and more from an Occupational Therapist.