Snowy Farm Sensory Bin

farm sensory bin

Welcome to a winter wonderland on the farm! In today’s blog post, we’re diving into the magical world of sensory play with a snowy farm sensory bin. This delightful activity combines the charm of a farm theme with the sensory joys of winter, creating an engaging and therapeutic experience for children. This is one of our favorite winter sensory bins because you can focus on so many different underlying skills through play.

Farm sensory bin

Whether you’re a parent looking for creative winter activities or a therapist seeking effective tools for skill development, this farm sensory bin is tailored to captivate young minds while addressing various therapeutic areas. Read all about sensory bins in general as a therapy tool to support skill development.

Farm Sensory Bin

We love a great occupational therapy sensory activity because cold winter temps and less daylight hours mean you might not have a chance to get little ones outside as often as you might like. Plus, a farm sensory bin goes great with a Farm theme in preschool or in occupational therapy sessions.

This farm sensory bin has a winter theme, but you could actually set up a farm sensory bin any time of year. In fact, we loved this play dough farm activity that goes along with a farm theme and supports fine motor skills as well as sensory input.

The base of shredded paper sets the stage for a snowy landscape, providing a tactile experience that stimulates sensory exploration and fine motor skills.

This winter-themed sensory bin features a collection of farm toys and mini figures, turning the snowy setting into a farm scene ready for imaginative play.

Farm Animal Sensory Bin

The farm animal sensory bin takes the excitement a step further, introducing miniature figures of beloved farm animals. As children dive into the bin, they engage in hands-on exploration, feeling the textures of the shredded paper, maneuvering the farm toys, and creating their own farm stories.

This sensory-rich experience enhances tactile input, encouraging self-confidence as children express themselves through play.

Farm Theme Sensory Bin Setup

Setting up the farm theme sensory bin is a breeze:

  1. Begin with a large container filled with shredded paper to create a snowy base. You could also use other sensory bin base materials if you don’t have shredded paper on hand.
  2. Add farm toys such as barns, tractors, and mini figures of animals to bring the farm to life.
  3. Encourage creativity by incorporating small props like faux trees or fences. This simple yet effective setup provides a canvas for endless imaginative scenarios.

Before this weekend, we’ve had a super cool spring.  With a handful of days where it snowed.  We are ready for outside play in short sleeves, running in the yard, and grass stained knees.

But, we have been loving this fun play activity too 🙂

We had a boat load of shredded paper from doing taxes recently.  It came in pretty handy for a small world snowy farm scene!

We put some farm animals, the Little People barn, and of course, Little Guy’s construction vehicles.

(how else can the farmer move allll that snow??)

Little Guy went to farm-town with imagination stories and pretend play.

Baby Girl loves to make the animal sounds and had a blast finding them in the shredded paper.

Why This Farm Sensory Bin Helps Development


Beyond simply playing in the sensory bin, this farm sensory bin serves as a therapeutic tool to foster development in various areas.

You can target areas in:

Fine motor skills are particularly important in early childhood development, as they lay the foundation for more complex tasks in the future. 

Tactile discrimination, exploration, and sensory desensitization are effectively addressed with sensory bins as they are playful and present in a non-threatening way. The playful nature of sensory bins allows children to control their tactile experiences, fostering confidence in their interactions with materials and gradually increasing their comfort with different sensations. 

The hands-on nature of the activity promotes fine motor skills as children manipulate the farm toys and engage with the sensory materials. Communication skills blossom as they create farm narratives, fostering language development.

In addition, occupational therapy providers love sensory bins because they can offer a unique and enjoyable way to engage reluctant children who may initially be hesitant about engaging in the sensory elements of tactile defensiveness challenges.

Tactile input and sensory exploration contribute to a holistic sensory experience, supporting overall sensory processing.

 

 
 
 
 
My fun-loving Baby Girl instigated this little incident…
 
she just couldn’t help herself 🙂
 
 
What are we learning through play?

Imagination Play

Pretend Play

Learning Animals

Animal Sounds

Visual Scanning

Sensory Play

 

Farm Sensory Bin Ideas

You can pair this farm sensory bin with other therapy ideas, too. Use some of these tools and resources to support skills like gross motor skills, coordination, brain breaks, and more:

  • These Farm Brain Breaks can add movement and gross motor input to a child’s day and fit in great with a farm animal theme. Print off the cards and use them in the classroom or home.
  • These heavy work cards includes a set of 8 farm themed heavy work activities that can be used as a brain break or added proprioceptive input.
  • Free Farm Scissor Skills Packet
  • This barn craft is fun because kids can make a barn and use it in the farm animal sensory bin.
  • This Farm Fingerprint art activity supports visual closure, visual tracking, and visual scanning activity, too.
  • The Farm Therapy Kit has a bunch or activities to support sensory needs, handwriting, motor skills, dexterity, and more.

Get your copy of the Farm Therapy 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.

Fine Motor Play with Tissue Paper

Colorful tissue paper squares crumbled up and placed in two plastic water bottles. Text reads Crumbling paper activity and lists the fine motor benefits of crumbling paper.

Today we have a tissue paper crumpling activity (or paper crumbling!) that builds many fine motor skills, including hand strength. In this easy tissue paper fine motor activity, we are working on pinching and crumbling paper is an excellent fine motor exercise for children.  It is an activity that works the small muscles of the hand and really strengthens the arches of the hands

Colorful tissue paper squares crumbled up and placed in two plastic water bottles. Text reads Crumbling paper activity and lists the fine motor benefits of crumbling paper.

There are many fine motor benefits of crumpling paper into small pieces!

Paper Crumpling

Paper crumpling (or paper crumbling) is a great way to play with paper that builds fine motor skills in the hands.

If a child has weak muscles in their hands and the arches are not defined, you may see them holding a pencil or small items between their thumb and the side of their index finger.  The arches of their hand may not be defined and nice and round.  You may also see them holding their hands close to their chest as they attempt to gain stabilization of their arms to do the small motor task.

To really work those muscles, you could have your child first tear the bits of tissue paper before they crumble them up.

Defined arches are very important in shoe tying, handwriting, and managing clothing like buttons and snaps.

You can see how to incorporate tearing paper into this activity using the video below. Towards the end of the video, you’ll see ways to build fine motor strength and finger dexterity using crumbled paper pieces. The tissue paper squares that we are using in our activity today can be used like shown in the video for more finger strengthening exercises.

Working on fine motor skill development through play supports functional tasks, plus it’s fun!

Paper Crumpling Activity

We came up with this tissue paper crumbling activity many years ago, and it still stands as a great way to work on skills:

We’ve talked about the benefits of tearing paper before, and this activity expands on the skills a bit, because after you tear the tissue paper, you can have your student crumble the paper and then push it into the mouth of a water bottle.

While this is a really simple fine motor activity, it’s great because you build so many skills, and kids typically enjoy this simple task.

Tissue Paper Crumbling Activity

For this activity, you really can use items you have on hand. We used empty plastic water bottles, and colorful tissue paper squares.

  1. Cut tissue paper into small squares.
  2. Remove labels from plastic water bottles.

To increase the fine motor work, you could have the student rip pieces of the tissue paper to really increase grip strength work.

Ask the student to take one piece of tissue paper, and crumble it up with their finger tips.

Then, they should push the crumpled tissue paper into the empty water bottle.

You can make this activity a game by asking them to roll a dice and place that many squares of tissue paper into the bottle. Or you could have them sort colors by filling each water bottle with a single color.

 

plastic water bottles full of crumbled tissue paper and tissue paper squares on a table
 
This was an easy and fun little activity to throw together.
We have a bunch of little tissue paper squares in our craft supplies.  Put them next to a couple of empty plastic bottles, and the kids know what to do!
 
 
 
Pushing the tissue paper into the spout of the water bottle is great for encouraging a tripod grasp (using the thumb, index, and middle finger).
 
Holding the bottle with the non-dominant hand allows the child to work on their bilateral hand coordination (using both hands together in a coordinated manner…kids need this when they begin shoe tying and managing the zipper on their coat).
 
When you ask kids to crumble paper using just the tips of their fingers, you really isolate thumb IP joint flexion as they bend the tips of the fingers. This is needed for dexterity and precision skills in functional tasks such as writing with a pencil.
 
collage of child placing crumpled tissue paper into an empty plastic bottle, child holding plastic water bottle full of crumbled tissue paper, and water bottle and tissue paper squares
 
…And everyone loved the cool crunchy sound the bottle made when you squashed it!
 
Child holding a plastic water bottle full of  colorful tissue paper
 

 

There are so many ways to build skills with this simple tissue paper crumpling activity!

More fine motor fun…

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.

Dinosaur Game Kids Love

dinosaur game spinner and toy dinosaurs on white background with text that says "dinosaur gross motor game"

If you have kids, you probably have heard of the dinosaur game on Google where a click of a button sends a T-Rex running across the screen. However, we have a dinosaur game that challenged active movement, balance, and gross motor skills. This dinosaur game is a huge hit among kids. It’s a movement-based dinosaur activity that kids of all ages love. If you are looking for creative dinosaur games to use in therapy, at home, or in the classroom, then be sure to add this dinosaur game for kids to your list!

dinosaur game spinner and toy dinosaurs on white background with text that says "dinosaur gross motor game"

Use the dinosaur game below along with these dinosaur exercises and other dinosaur themed activities in therapy sessions. You can even incorporate handwriting and visual motor skills into dinosaur games with this printable dinosaur visual perception worksheet.

toy dinosaurs beside game spinner. Text reads "dinosaur game"

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Dinosaur Game

The dinosaur game described below is an older blog post here on the website, but it’s a gross motor activity that is well-loved for many reasons.

There is just something about the stomping and roaring of a dinosaur game that takes me back to my own kids at their preschool ages! This is an older post here on The OT Toolbox, but one that is one of my absolute favorites.

Plastic toy dinosaurs laying on white table with game spinner. Text reads "dinosaur movement game"

We read the dinosaur book, Dinosaurumpus by Tony Mitton…and created a fun dino game that the kids loved! Our dinosaur movement game inspired tons of giggles and wiggles as we moved our way through this book with a gross motor activity!  

The gross motor coordination tasks and motor planning skills make this dinosaur game the perfect addition to dinosaur physical therapy and dinosaur occupational therapy themes.

When kids play this dinosaur movement game, they build skills in areas such as:

The specific activities in the game allow kids to develop skills such as hopping, jumping, twisting, stomping, and other gross motor tasks.

How to Play the Dinosaur Game:

We’ve included Amazon affiliate links in this post for the book and items you’ll need to create the DIY Dinosaur game.    

Have you read the book, Dinosaurumpus!?  (affiliate link) This is a book that is sure to get the kids moving with it’s loud and active rhymes as the dinosaurs dance an irresistible romp. 

Using this book and the game you’ll find here together is a great dinosaur game for toddlers and preschoolers to address listening skills, comprehension, and regulation through movement and play.

My kids couldn’t help but move and groove as I read them the story.  We had to make a movement gross motor game to go along with the book!  

We talked about the fact that dinosaurs have big feet and big bodies that sometimes move too fast in the space around them.

This is a great lesson on body awareness that kids can relate to while developing balance and motor planning skills!

 

Dinosaur movement game for kids. This gross motor game is based on Dinosaurumpus the book and is a great activity for auditory and visual recall in kids.

 How to make the Dinosaur Game

You’ll need just a few items to prepare the dino game for use in therapy or at home:

  • Dinosaur printable below
  • Cardstock or cardboard
  • Brad to attach the spinner
  • Mini dinosaur figures

To make the spinner for the dinosaur game:

  1. Make this game easily using our free printable for the game board. We listed out the dinosaurs in the book and the actions they did.    
  2. These went onto a game spinner that I made on  card stock. (affiliate link)
  3. We used dinosaur figures for part of our movement game.  These ones (affiliate link) are a great deal!  
Free dinosaur game printable

Dinosaur Game Printable

To play the dinosaur movement game:

This is a dinosaur movement activity for preschool and older aged kids. Use in in the classroom or home as part of a story and reading activity, or use it as a dinosaur brain break in the classroom. 

First print out the free printable.  You’ll also want the game rules for easy play and the spinner piece.  

  1. Print your printable on card stock (affiliate link) OR you can use regular printer paper for the game board, but the arrow won’t spin as well. You may want to print the game spinner on paper and then glue to cardboard for more sturdiness during (active) play. Make your game board and ensure the arrow spins using a brass fastener (affiliate link).
  2. One player hides the dinosaur figures (affiliate link) around the room or outdoor play area.  
  3. The first player spins the arrow and reads the action.  He or she then races off to find one of the hidden dinosaurs.  
  4. When she finds a dinosaur, she races back and performs the action.  

Hide dinosaur figurines and use them in the dinosaur game for preschoolers and toddlers to develop motor skills.

There will be shakes, stomps, jumps, and TONS of giggles with this gross motor activity!   

We loved this game activity for it’s gross motor action.  It would be a great activity for rainy day fun or indoor play when the kids need to get the wiggles out.  Racing off and remembering the action they must perform requires a child to recall auditory and visual information necessary for so many functional skills.  

Dinosaur game rules for kids
Child's hand spinning a game spinner  for a dinosaur game with words for gross motor skills: stomp, shake, run, dance.

  We hid the dinosaurs in all sorts of fun spaces in the house.  

Child spinning a game spinner with words like dive, jump, twist, spin, shake, stomp like dinosaurs.
Spin the wheel on the dinosaur game to support fine motor skill development, too.

The dinosaurs in the book, Dinosaurumpus! (affiliate link) move a lot!  Get ready for stomping, shaking, diving, dancing, running, jumping, twisting, and spinning!  

Child jumping in a living room

My kids love any kind of scavenger hunt game and this one, with its movement portion, was a HUGE hit!

Three plastic dinosaur toys beside dinosaur game spinner

 Gross motor skills are important to develop through play.  It’s essential for attention and focus to build core body strength.    

More Gross Motor Games

Looking for more ways to work on gross motor skills like core strength and proximal stability for improved attention and distal mobility?

Some more of our favorite gross motor activities that you will love:  

.

If you are looking for more dinosaur activities for kids, be sure to check out our Dinosaur Jacks activity to promote more motor skills, and our Dinosaur visual perception worksheet to work on visual perceptual skills.

Dinosaur game for kids that is a great preschool dinosaur activity for gross motor skills.

dinosaur gross motor activities

Want to use our dinosaur games in your therapy sessions with a dinosaur theme? We’ve pulled together a few dinosaur gross motor activities that you can use to target gross motor skills and development of skills.

Here are some dinosaur-themed gross motor activities that kids will love…In The Member’s Club, you’ll find a dinosaur therapy theme, with printable handouts, worksheets, crafts, and writing pages. Use them along with these ideas!

  1. Dinosaur Stomp: Have children pretend to be dinosaurs and stomp around like mighty T-rexes or long-necked sauropods. They can make dinosaur noises and use their arms and legs to imitate the movements of different types of dinosaurs.
  2. Dino Obstacle Course: Set up an obstacle course with dinosaur-themed challenges. Children can crawl under “dinosaur caves” (tables or chairs), jump over “lava pits” (hula hoops or cushions), and navigate through “swamps” (pools of pillows or cushions).
  3. Fossil Hunt: Hide dinosaur-themed toys or fossil replicas around a designated area. Children can search for the fossils, using their gross motor skills to move around, crawl, and reach for hidden treasures.
  4. Dino Dance Party: Play lively dinosaur-themed music and encourage children to dance and move their bodies like dinosaurs. They can stomp, sway, and wiggle to the rhythm, pretending to be different types of dinosaurs.
  5. Dino Relay Race: Divide children into teams and set up a relay race. Each team member can carry a toy dinosaur or a picture of a dinosaur as they run or hop from one point to another, passing the dinosaur to the next teammate.
  6. Dinosaur Yoga: Incorporate dinosaur-themed yoga poses into a session. Children can try poses like “T-rex stretch” (standing with arms extended out like T-rex arms), “Dino Egg” (curling up into a ball on the floor), or “Stegosaurus Balance” (standing on one foot with arms extended out for balance).
  7. Dino Limbo: Set up a limbo stick or a dinosaur-themed rope and have children take turns bending backward to go under it, pretending to be dinosaurs crouching or ducking under obstacles.
  8. Dino Footprints: Place large cutouts or drawings of dinosaur footprints on the floor. Children can follow the footprints, jumping from one to another, and imitating the movements of different types of dinosaurs.
  9. Dino Toss: Set up targets with dinosaur pictures or cutouts and have children throw soft dinosaur toys or bean bags at the targets, aiming for accuracy and coordination.
  10. Dino Parade: Lead a dinosaur parade where children can march or walk around, following a designated path, while carrying or wearing dinosaur-themed props or costumes.

We wanted to touch on the skills that you can develop by playing a version of this dinosaur game, depending on the individual needs of the child you are working with in therapy sessions, or at home.

Dinosaurs have captivated the imagination of children and adults alike for generations…and many kids are fascinated by dinos of all types! That’s what makes this dinosaur therapy game a hit. You can develop specific skills with a fun dinosaur activity.

Let’s take a look at how you can target enhancement of gross motor skills, balance, visual scanning, endurance, and coordination.

Our featured dinosaur game provides an immersive experience that not only thrills young players but also becomes a valuable tool in the hands of therapists. Let’s delve into the therapeutic benefits it brings to the table.

Dinosarur game Gross Motor Skills

In the world of dinosaurs, movement is key. Players are prompted to engage in activities that encourage reaching, stretching, and crawling, promoting the development of essential gross motor skills.

These movements are fundamental for a child’s overall physical development, making the game a dynamic tool for therapists targeting this aspect.

Mastering Balance

Surviving in the dinosaur era requires a keen sense of balance, right? Kids can play this dinosaur game and challenge skills like balancing on one foot, staying in one position, freeze dancing, and balancing on their tip toes.

The game incorporates elements that challenge players to maintain equilibrium, fostering the improvement of balance skills.

Therapists can leverage these challenges to enhance a child’s ability to control their body’s position, a skill crucial for everyday activities.

Work on grading skills and challenging balance development by targeting more difficult tasks like:

  1. Single Leg Stance:
    • Description: Standing on one foot.
    • Purpose: Enhances static balance and weight-bearing control.
  2. Tree Pose:
    • Description: A yoga pose involving standing on one leg with the other foot resting on the inner thigh of the supporting leg.
    • Purpose: Challenges static balance and encourages weight shifting and offers proprioceptive input.
  3. Tip-Toe Standing:
    • Description: Rising onto the balls of the feet.
    • Purpose: Strengthens the muscles in the lower extremities and promotes ankle stability during daily activities.
  4. Half Kneel Position:
    • Description: Kneeling on one knee while keeping the other foot flat on the ground.
    • Purpose: Improves dynamic stability and challenges core strength during functional tasks.
  5. Squats:
    • Description: Bending the knees and lowering the body as if sitting back into a chair.
    • Purpose: Targets lower body strength and stability to build base of support and stability during functional mobility.

These activities are tailored to address different aspects of balance and can be adapted based on individual needs and progress. When implementing these exercises, it’s crucial to consider the client’s abilities and gradually progress the difficulty of the activities as their balance improves.

Enhance Visual Scanning

Dinosaurs are not always easy to spot when it comes to pre-historic land! But dinos aren’t the only ones that need to scan their environment.

Visual scanning skills impact learning, reading, social and emotional skills, and practically everything we do throughout our day.

This dinosaur activity supports the development of visual scanning skills as players to search for items, dinosaurs, or clues.

This element contributes significantly to the development of visual attention and scanning skills, addressing therapeutic goals for children with specific needs in this area.

Endurance Skills with Dinosaur theme

Roaming the prehistoric landscape demands stamina just like a T-Rex or Brontosaurus. Certain activities within the game encourage continuous physical activity, contributing to the development of endurance.

This aspect is particularly beneficial for children undergoing endurance training, aligning the game with therapeutic goals for enhanced stamina and managing deferent surfaces.

Try adding an unstable surface during the dinosaur game tasks:

Here are other balance beam ideas to incorporate.

Dinosaur Coordination Skills

Navigating the dinosaur world requires precision. The game’s mechanics challenge players with obstacles and control requirements, promoting precise movements and coordination.

Therapists can use these aspects to target coordination skills, crucial for a child’s ability to execute controlled and purposeful movements.

In conclusion, our dinosaur game transcends the realms of entertainment to become a valuable therapeutic tool. By incorporating elements that support the development of gross motor skills, balance, visual scanning, endurance, and coordination, therapists can harness the excitement of dinosaurs to achieve therapeutic goals.

Free Dinosaur Game Printable

Want to play this dino game with kids you work with in therapy or in the classroom? Print off the game pieces using the free printable. Simply enter your email address into the form below to access.

Want to add this resource to your therapy toolbox so you can help kids thrive? Enter your email into the form below to access this printable tool.

This resource is just one of the many tools available in The OT Toolbox Member’s Club. Each month, members get instant access to downloadable activities, handouts, worksheets, and printable tools to support development. Members can log into their dashboard and access all of our free downloads in one place. Plus, you’ll find exclusive materials and premium level materials.

Level 1 members gain instant access to all of the downloads available on the site, without enter your email each time PLUS exclusive new resources each month.

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Free Dinosaur Game

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

    Easy No-Sew Felt Christmas Cookies

    felt Christmas cookies on a baking tray

    This holiday season, why not incorporate no sew felt crafts with a set of felt Christmas cookies? Many years ago, we created these felt Christmas cookies as a holiday dramatic play activity with pretend Christmas cookies. Not only is this a fun Christmas dramatic play idea, it’s also a way to build skills this time of year…making it a fun Christmas activity for occupational therapy!

    felt Christmas cookies on a cookie tray with kitchen utensils

    Felt Christmas Cookies

    In this blog post, we will explore the world of no-sew felt crafts, delve into the realm of Christmas cookie dramatic play, and understand how these activities contribute to the development of essential skills in children, including fine motor, bilateral coordination, and eye-hand coordination.

    There are so many dramatic play benefits, and these felt Christmas cookies fit the bill!

    No Sew Felt Craft

    No-sew felt crafts like the felt Christmas cookies that we made are a tool for creating imaginative and interactive projects. Felt is a great tool because it is a soft and pliable fabric, and wonderful for fine motor skill work.

    For parents, educators, and occupational therapists alike, no-sew felt crafts offer a chance to engage children in a hands-on, mess-free activity that stimulates creativity and fine motor skills.

    Christmas Cookie Dramatic Play

    These felt holiday cookies are perfect for a Christmas cookie dramatic play, where children get to experience the magic of the holiday season through imaginative scenarios.

    This pretend play activity involves crafting felt cookies that look remarkably real, providing a multisensory experience for children. From rolling out felt dough to “baking” and decorating cookies, this activity fosters creativity, social skills, and cognitive development.

    We love this activity because it builds skills through play.

    Engaging in felt Christmas cookie activities is more than just play; it’s a learning experience that targets key developmental areas in children.

    1. Fine Motor Skills: The intricate nature of crafting felt cookies requires children to use their fingers with precision. Cutting, shaping, and decorating felt pieces contribute to the refinement of fine motor skills, essential for tasks such as writing, buttoning, and tying shoelaces.

    Manipulating felt pieces during play can contribute to the refinement of fine motor skills. Studies have indicated that engaging in fine motor activities positively impacts hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity in children.

    2. Bilateral Coordination: Rolling out felt dough, cutting shapes, and assembling cookies involve the use of both hands in a coordinated manner. This promotes bilateral coordination, crucial for activities like tying shoelaces, using scissors, and participating in sports.

    3. Eye-Hand Coordination: The process of crafting felt Christmas cookies encourages children to visually guide their hands as they manipulate the felt pieces. This enhances eye-hand coordination, a fundamental skill for tasks such as handwriting, drawing, and playing musical instruments.

    4. Social and Emotional Skill Development: Collaborative felt play, where children work together on projects, can contribute to social and emotional development. Research suggests that cooperative play helps children develop interpersonal skills, including communication, negotiation, and teamwork (Guralnick, 2011).

    These skills are listed on our social skills checklist resource.

    Incorporating felt Christmas cookies into your child’s playtime not only adds a festive touch to the holiday season but also promotes skill development in a fun and engaging manner. Through no-sew felt crafts and Christmas cookie dramatic play, children can explore their creativity, refine motor skills, and lay the foundation for future cognitive and social success.

    How to make Felt Christmas Cookies

    This was the play invitation I had set up for Big Sister today.  It was so easy to make these No-Sew Felt cookies…15 minutes tops.  And, with an hour+ of imaginative play time, I think it was a good investment!

     

     

     
    Christmas Cookie Pretend Play No Sew Felt Food. By Sugar Aunts
     
     
     
    I had the felt here at the house, but I’ve seen packs of multi-colored (Amazon affiliate link) felt sheets at the dollar store.  You could make a bunch of these little cookies for less than a buck.
     
    Christmas Cookie Pretend Play No Sew Felt Food. By Sugar Aunts
     
    I don’t have any pictures of the process of making the cookies, because it seriously was so easy to make…
     
    1. Trace the (Amazon affiliate link) cookie cutters onto the felt sheet.
    2. Cut the shape just inside of your pen mark.
    3. Trace another of the same shape on the “icing” color.
    4. Cut the “icing” color about 1/2 inch smaller than your pen mark.
    Done!
     
    Add some of your (Amazon affiliate links) whisk, spatula, cookie sheet, oven mitt, and get ready for some cheers in your house 🙂
     
     
     
    Mixing up a little gingerbread dough with the whisk requires bilateral hand coordination to hold the bowl and stir the whisk.
     
     
    After mixing, you cut out the shapes with the cookie cutters.
     
     
     
     
    Then, “spread” on the icing!
     
     
     
    These cookies were perfect for pretend play, multi-step direction following, child-led play, bilateral hand coordination, and imagination.
     
     
     
    Big Sister had so much fun making cookies for Baby Girl and me…adding sprinkles, matching the icing shape to the cookie shape.  It’s a new addition to the play kitchen food.  I’m ready for lots of yummy fuzzy cookies 😉
     
     

     

    UPDATE to this post: We’ve been playing with these felt cookies all year long and they are still staples in the kitchen pretend play.  We’ve been enjoying fuzzy cookies all year long!

    Looking for more Christmas-themed play? Try scented snowman playdoh!

    Looking for done-for you therapy activities this holiday season?

    This print-and-go Christmas Therapy Kit includes no-prep, fine motor, gross motor, self-regulation, visual perceptual activities…and much more… to help kids develop functional grasp, dexterity, strength, and endurance. Use fun, Christmas-themed, motor activities so you can help children develop the skills they need.

    This 100 page no-prep packet includes everything you need to guide fine motor skills in face-to-face AND virtual learning. You’ll find Christmas-themed activities for hand strength, pinch and grip, dexterity, eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, endurance, finger isolation, and more. 

    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.

    Halloween Math Activities

    Halloween math activities

    What if you could take the excitement and fun of Halloween and combine it with writing numbers, counting, and all things math? These Halloween math activities are a great way to use fine motor math with all that this time of year offers. We’ve shared Halloween occupational therapy activities before, but these ideas are designed to boost math through play! Spooky learning ideas, ghost math, pumpkin adding…there is a lot of fun to be had!  What a fun way to learn and play!  

    Halloween Math activities

    Halloween math activities are a fun way to build math skills leading up to Halloween!

    Halloween Math Activities

    We’ve included Halloween Math Activities to target a variety of skills:

    • fine motor math
    • pumpkin math
    • ghost counting
    • spider addition
    • scarecrow place value activity

    However, we wanted to share a few other ideas that support math skills…

    Combine these activities with a group therapy session, push in therapy, or even a Classroom Halloween party for building skills AND learning this month.

    Gather a few items for Halloween math…

    • pumpkin seeds
    • Halloween mini erasers
    • mini plastic pumpkins or cauldrons
    • tongs, tweezers, etc.
    • candy corn
    • spider rings
    • bat stickers
    • glow in the dark stars
    • candy wrappers
    • monster eyes (googly eyes)

    Each of these items can be used to count, do math, use in number lines, fraction activities, and much more.

    Fine Motor Halloween Math

    There is much research telling us that fine motor skills predict math skills in kids, so why not add the fun of Halloween with fine motor activities? Studies show that motor skills are significantly related to their mathematical ability.

    Here are Halloween fine motor activities that double as math activities for counting, sorting, patterns, and more.

    Halloween math activities to work on addition, subtraction, fact families, near doubles, and other math skills with a Halloween theme.

    Pumpkin Math

    In this fine motor pumpkin sticker activity, we made our own pumpkin stickers, and used them in a Halloween literacy activity. But, they are perfect pumpkins for math skills too. Use the small pumpkins to count, add, work on place value, and to sort into arrays for multiplication and division.

    This is a great Halloween math activity for pushing into the classroom or to use in home occupational therapy via OT teletherapy sessions. Kids will need only three materials:

    • Orange construction paper
    • Hole puncher
    • Pencil or marker

    Ask kids to use the hole punch to punch orange circles onto their desk surface. They can use their pencil or marker to add a small stem to each pumpkin. Then, it’s time to sort, count, add, subtract, and arrange into piles of ten.

    fine motor pumpkin stickers to count and build motor skills for math

    Ghost Counting

    This ghost craft is one of my favorite Halloween crafts here on the site. Save up a handful of bread ties and use them for math activities, sorting, counting, and adding/subtracting. The cute spooky manipulative is fun and not scary!

    You’ll need just one material for this, but you can add them to any sensory tray like we did, using dry black beans:

    • White bread ties

    Slide them onto pipe cleaners to count and sort by groups for counting and multiplying.

    ghost counting activity

    Spider Addition

    Use this spider math craft to work on adding, subtracting, and fact families. You’ll need just a couple of materials:

    • Black construction paper
    • Scissors
    • White chalk, crayon, or colored pencil

    Make the spider by following the directions in the spider math craft tutorial and then work on the math skills that your child needs to address. We used the creepy crawly craft to work on near doubles, but you could use this for any math facts!

    Spider math craft

    Scarecrow Place Value Activity

    This scarecrow math activity is one way to work on place value math, but you could use it to build skills in understanding any addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division skills. Work on fact families, or writing numbers in different forms on each strand of the scarecrow’s hair. The options are pretty limitless! Be sure to check out the scarecrow craft tutorial for this activity.

    There are a lot of fine motor skills happening with this Halloween craft, too!

    scarecrow craft for a farm activities theme

    More Halloween Learning Activities

    Looking for more fun Halloween math activities? Check out the activities from other bloggers in the list below.

    halloween learning activities for preschool and toddlers. Math, science, literacy activities with a fall or Halloween theme.

    Here are more Halloween learning ideas that build skills, including monster math, candy corn counting, fall math, and more!

    Pumpkin Hunt Math– Make a Halloween scavenger hunt that adds visual memory, visual attention, and working memory skills. These are underlying skill areas that can impact math.

    Monster Math is a fun math and fine motor activity. I love counting googly eyes to match the number of dots on a monster, especially because neat precision skills are needed to pick up small items like googly eyes in a craft activity.


    Candy Corn Literacy Games has some fun Halloween learning ideas, too. I love the candy corn cones that are a great tool for gross motor work like balance, coordination, and other motor planning tasks.


    Pumpkin Name Game uses mini pumpkins to work on letter recognition and skills like visual figure ground, visual discrimination, and visual memory. These are great tools to have in your toolbelt when it comes to math and reading.


    Candy Corn Math is a fun Halloween math activity that works on visual attention and visual memory skills. Plus, occupational therapy practitioners LOVE using puzzles in OT sessions for all of the visual perceptual skills that impact learning.


    Fall Counting Activities involves hands-on one-to-one correspondence with a fine motor math component. There are so many ways to expand this activity to build sensory motor skills needed for writing with a pencil.


    Fall Tree Number Matching builds the visual perceptual skills needed for number recognition with a fun Halloween or Fall theme.

    fun Halloween math activities

    Fun Halloween math activities don’t need to involve a themed worksheet! You can definitely support the underlying skills needed for math, using a pencil to complete math problems, and the visual perceptual skills that impact math skills with learning.

    Use manipulatives like:

    • pumpkin mini erasers
    • pumpkin seeds
    • candies
    • small Halloween pumpkins to sort and count
    • pumpkin or Halloween play dough mats

    All of these items can be used to work on fine motor math skills with a fun Halloween theme!

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

    Pumpkin activity kit
    Pumpkin Fine Motor Kit

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

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

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

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

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

    Indoor Balance Beam Ideas for a Rainy Day

    DIY balance beams

    Some of our favorite ways to work on gross motor skills are with a simple balance beam, and having indoor balance beam ideas on hand is key to throwing together a therapy plan or movement activity on the go. With the start of cooler weather, the kids may not get a chance to be outdoors so this is when gross motor coordination tasks is a must for self-regulation and movement needs. 

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    We have many balance activities here on The OT Toolbox, and one of our favorites is a DIY balance beam that targets interests to making things meaningful and motivating through play.

    You’ll also want to check out our outdoor balance beam ideas for more information and inspiration.

    However, sometimes, it’s impossible to get outside when the weather is rainy.  Other times, kids need a break from very hot temperatures.  It’s a great idea to work those core muscles as well as balance with sensory vestibular input through play with balance beam play weather the kids are playing indoors or out. These ideas would work for rainy indoor days, too!

    You’ll want to check out our blog post on crossing midline for preschoolers because the balance beam can be a tool for supporting sensory motor needs and abilities such as maneuvering over a balance beam.

    Indoor Balance Beam Ideas

    Kids love balance beams!  There is a good reason to promote them, too. Balance, core strength, and bilateral coordination are all addressed with just a simple balance beam.  You can find out more about these areas in our How Balance Beams Help Kids.

    One thing to be aware of is how balance develops. For younger children a balance beam may be more difficult than it is beneficial in building strength or coordination.

    If you are looking for more information on how core strength helps with attention in kids, read this Core Strength and Attention activity that we did previously.

    Related, this Brain Gym Bilateral Coordination activity is a great way to get both sides of the body moving in a coordinated manner through play. 

    Balance beams are a great activity for preschool because of the development happening at this age. You can start with a floor balance beam and then move on to a raised beam. A 2×4 wooden beam is all it takes. Read about indoor gross motor activities for preschool for more ideas and information.

    Indoor balance beam ideas for a rainy day

     

    Indoor Balance Beam Ideas for a Rainy Day

    Indoor balance beams are a great way to encourage vestibular and proprioceptive movement through play and gross motor work. 

    This post contains affiliate links. 

    Cut paper or cardboard into shapes. You could also use pieces of contact paper that sticks to the floor or shelf liner paper so the targets won’t slip when stepped on.

    Kids can cut out these shapes and tape them to the floor to create an indoor balance beam on a rainy day.  

    Some of these ideas would work:

    Another idea is to use the theme of a playground balance beam in an indoor setting. Our playground balance beam therapy slide deck does just that and it’s great for indoor play or in a virtual therapy setting, too.

    Rainy day ideas including indoor balance beams for kids
     

    Let’s take a look at some DIY balance beams…these are great indoor balance beam ideas!

    Some of our favorite DIY balance beams use items found around the home.

    DIY balance beam ideas

    There are so many DIY balance beam ideas that you can use indoors or even outdoors.

    One tip is to consider the space between steps that a child has to make. You can move the surface that they are walking on closer together or further apart.

    Mix up the surfaces. Use pillows or foam mixed with hard surfaces like cardboard or a wooden board.

    Encourage students to bend, crouch, or swing their feet along the side of the balance beam to encourage the user to challenge more balance and gross motor work.

    • Make a DIY balance beam using foam cutouts like these flowers.
    • Stick painters’ tape to the floor in a balance beam, using zig zag lines.
    • Rope balance beam- Use a jump rope on the floor. Balance along the jump rope. You can also use thread, twine, yarn, or other forms of string.
    • Paper plates- Tape them down so they don’t slide, or use them on a carpet for a sliding balance beam challenge!
    • Pillow Balance Beam- Place a line of pillows across the floor. You can easily grade this by using bigger pillows or smaller pillows. Even couch cushions would work.
    • Use a Sheet- Make a path using a sheet for a wide balance beam. Fold a bed sheet into a long strip and use to to walk across the floor.
    • Roll up a blanket or sheet as a balance beam like this Gross Motor Apple Tree Balance Beam.
    • Use a 2 by 4 piece of wood. You can place this right on the ground for a low DIY balance beam, or raise it up by using two other small pieces of wood.
    • Make a chalk balance beam outside on the driveway or on the sidewalk. Here are more ideas for an outdoor sensory diet using a driveway.
    • Get creative and make a Wikki Stix obstacle course like we did with our wikki stix race car path. While this is not the traditional balance beam, it is a huge skill-builder because crawling on the floor on all fours or on three points (two knees and one arm as the child pushes a car along a path) develops core strength and stability.
    • Pool Noodle Balance Beam:
      1. Cut pool noodles in half lengthwise.
      2. Place the pool noodle halves in a straight line on the ground.
      3. Duct tape them together to form a stable balance beam.
    • Cardboard Box Balance Beam:
      1. Cut cardboard boxes into strips or squares.
      2. Tape the cardboard pieces together to make a path along the floor.
    balance beam toys

    Balance beam toys are another way to develop core strength, stability, and balance, and they can be graded to meet the needs of each child.

    Balance Beam Toys

    Other balance beam toys are out there on the market, that are inexpensive tools for developing balance, coordination, visual convergence, body scheme, crossing midline, and more.

    These skills can be challenged by changing the balance surface, encouraging stepping down and up from the balance beam toy, or using a variety of different balancing toys in a series.

    Occupational therapy obstacle courses do this really well.

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    • This Folding Beam (affiliate link) is great for storage concerns. Add creative balance beam activities like transferring items from a bucket at one end to a bucket at the other end.
    • Balance Pods (affiliate link) can be positioned in any room or activity. Encourage big and little steps by spacing them closely and further apart.
    • Stepping Buckets Balance (affiliate link) challenge motor planning. Place obstacles in between the buckets for more visual tracking while working on vestibular sensory integration.
    • The BSN Gymnastics Curve-A-Beam (affiliate link) can be reconfigured in many patterns and directions.
    • Gonge Riverstones (affiliate link) are a great challenge to the vestibular system with various sloped sides.
    • Connected Balance Beams– (affiliate link) This balance beam toy encourages different balance motor plans, including stepping across an open space.
    • Balance Pods (affiliate link) can be used in many different ways. Position them close together to make a beam, or space them apart to challenge the child with a more difficult balance path.

    Looking for more ways to move and play indoors?  Try these ideas:

    Indoor Tee Pee

    3 Ingredient Kinetic Sand

    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.

    Identify Emotions with Pumpkin Emotion Faces

    pumpkin emotions

    This pumpkin feelings activity is an OLD one here on the site. But there is just something fun about pumpkin emotion faces that little ones love! It’s a social emotional activity for preschoolers and toddlers that foster emotional development…with fun and interactive pumpkin feelings!

    This fun Fall activity helps with learning to identify emotions using pumpkin emotion faces! It’s a great emotional development activity for toddlers and preschoolers. Kids love moving the faces on the pumpkins and practicing different facial expressions is a bonus.

    pumpkin feelings

    Pumpkin Emotions Activity

    You can use interactive felt pieces to create pumpkin emotions, or facial expressions on pumpkins to create different feelings on the pumpkins. This is a great way for toddlers and preschoolers to play with facial expressions, practice emotions, and put a word to the emotion.

    You’ll need just a few items for this activity:

    • Orange poster board
    • Green paint or green marker
    • Black paper
    • Tape

    Time needed: 10 minutes

    How to Make a Pumpkin Emotions Activity for Preschoolers

    1. Cut out a Pumpkin Shape

      Use orange poster board and cut out a large pumpkin shape. Add a few lines with a black marker for more pumpkin details if you like.

    2. Paint the stem green.

      You could use green paint or a green marker. Or, use green paper and glue the green paper over the stem area.

    3. Cut out face pieces from black paper.

      Cut out circle eyes, a triangle nose, and different smiles. You can create angry eyes, surprised eyes, a circle mouth, a frown, a smile, etc.

    4. Add tape to the back of each pumpkin emotions piece.

      Roll the tape into a donut and stick to the back of each facial expression. You could also use sticky tack.

    Identification of Emotions

    The tricky part of developing self regulation in preschoolers is the development of an essential skill that impacts self-regulation in later years. Giving young children the words, or the emotion vocabulary, to explain how they feel by identifying emotion faces is the perfect starting point!

    That’s where these pumpkin emotion faces come into play!

    Young children often have difficulty expressing their emotions.  Recently my 18 month old son has reverted to hitting, screaming, and throwing things, which is part of typical development.

    I was trying to think of a way to help him learn how to express himself in a calmer more acceptable manner and that’s how this pumpkin faces emotions activity came to life.  With all the fall fine motor OT activities and Fall-inspired posts lately, I got to thinking about decorating a pumpkin…

    First, let’s break down the identification of emotions aspect. 

    This is an important developmental process in toddlers and preschoolers. Emotional intelligence is a skill that needs practice to develop, and is essential for social situations, communicating with others, and self-regulation of emotions and feelings. Identifying emotions is one of the first steps for young children.

    One way to do this would be to pair the pumpkin feelings activity with a feelings check in. Children could identify their own feelings and match it to the pumpkin facial expressions.

    There are ways to support emotions identification in preschoolers, toddlers, and older children:

    • Use this social emotional learning worksheet to help kids match emotions to behaviors and coping strategies.
    • Put words to feelings. Do you feel sad? Are you unhappy? You feel mad. I am happy.
    • Point out facial expressions and emotions in books. Picture books are a great way to talk about emotions and see facial expressions in the context of a story.
    • Another fantastic resource that can help develop social and emotional skills is the activity book, Exploring Books Through Play.

    pumpkin emotion faces with a paper pumpkin activity
     
     
    Paper pumpkin with a happy face
     
     
     
    Preschool pumpkin emotion activity, child places paper pieces on a pumpkin to make a smile

     

     

    Identifying and Expressing Emotions with pumpkin Faces

     My 4 year old helped cut out the shapes of the eyes, nose, and mouths. The different shapes and the sturdy paper (we used cardstock) makes this a great scissor skills activity for preschoolers.

    After the pumpkin emotion pieces were cut out, we started identifying emotions. Happy, sad, angry, etc. We have a great resource on emotional vocabulary that helps to teach preschoolers about identifying emotions.

    Then, we talked about the shapes and what those mouths looked like. We talked about positive and not so positive ways to express our feelings. “When I get sad, it is not OK to hit”. 

    At the preschool age it is important for her to be able to express her feelings with words and associate them with how her actions make others feel.  Learning about feelings helps with her social emotional development.

    Preschool pumpkin emotions activity using a paper pumpkin
    Paper pumpkin with facial expressions
    Use a cardstock paper to make a pumpkin and facial expressions for a preschool activity


    “This one has a mustache!”

    Sad pumpkin face for preschoolers

    “This guy is sad because his sister took away his toy.”

    Paper pumpkin fine motor activity

    Toddler Pumpkin Emotion Activity 

    This is also a great activity for helping toddlers build emotional development skills. Toddler play is where all of the development happens, and this activity is a powerhouse.

    Toddlers can use the activity for several skills:

    • Spatial relations activities
    • Fine motor skills
    • Working on a vertical surface to develop eye-hand coordination, fine motor work, and core strength
    • Social emotional development

    We also had fun lining up the shapes. We had a row of triangles, circles, and ovals.

    Another great emotions activity for toddlers and preschoolers are our emotions playdough mats to support naming and identifying emotion names and facial expressions to match the emotion name.

    Toddler playing with pumpkin face pieces on a refrigerator.

     For little guy we placed the pumpkin on the refrigerator with a magnet and tape on the back of the shapes.  He had a blast making the pumpkin fall down…over…and over…and over again!  

    Toddler copying pumpkin facial expressions playing on a fridge with magnet pieces.

      I would help him put a different shape mouth on the pumpkin and mimic the face. He thought I was pretty silly, but I think he started catching on 🙂

    Toddler copying a surprised pumpkin face

      Surprised face!  

    Toddler placing pumpkin facial expression magnets on a fridge.

      This also helps with learning spatial relations and where a nose, mouth, and eyes belong on a face.  He was trying to put the mouth where the nose goes…he will learn eventually!

    Toddler moving pumpkin face pieces to make a smile

      We all know that babies and toddlers have feeling just as we as adults do, they just need a little help trying to figure out what they are feeling!  Hopefully this will help my little guy learn to deal with his frustrations a little better…I will keep you posted!

    Pumpkins

    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.

    Farm Brain Breaks

    farm brain breaks

    Today we have a fun addition to our brain break collection here at The OT Toolbox: Farm Brain Breaks! Brain breaks are such a useful tool for boosting attention and focus in the classroom. This is just one of the farm activities that we love as a therapy tool for building skills in kids. So, check out the Farm Brain Break activities below, along with the fun ways to use these movement activities in farm obstacle courses, farm stations, and more!

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    farm brain breaks

    Farm Brain Breaks

    We love this printable set of farm themed brain breaks because a farm theme is great for this time of year. Kids LOVE cows, chicken, roosters, pigs, and so adding a twist to the regular brain break activities makes the skill-building fun and engaging.

    You can probably think of a dozen or more animal walks, but having a set of farm animal brain breaks all in one place is perfect as a therapy tool for supporting self-regulation and heavy work needs.

    Why Farm Brain Breaks?

    Here’s the thing: Taking a sensory-based movement break in between learning tasks is a great way to help kids with sensory needs and without re-group and attend to classroom work.  

    Brain breaks are a great gross motor coordination activity, too. For the child that needs to work on skills such as the ones listed below, these farm gross motor activities do the job!

    • Balance
    • Standing on one foot
    • Hopping
    • Skipping
    • Squatting and standing back up
    • Building core strength
    • Balance in a dynamic position

    This month in the Virtual Book Club for Kids series, we read the fun book, Little Blue Truck and created farm animal themed brain breaks that are perfect for movement and sensory needs like vestibular activities in the classroom.

    Sometimes creative movement can be just the movement and gross motor exercise that kids can use as a sensory tool for effectively addressing needs in the classroom.  

    Brain Breaks use vestibular and proprioceptive input to address the sensory needs that can help kids with their attention and focus during classroom tasks. This can also support body awareness.

    Kids that need to boost their level of alertness with fast movements.  Those kids that seem to droop and lose attention during classroom work may benefit from a vestibular sensory movement activity that uses the whole body.

    Children that need to calm their body’s movements and regulate their sensory system may benefit from slow, rocking movements using the vestibular sensory system or heavy work gross motor activities that utilize the body’s proprioception system.  

     

    farm brain breaks

     

    Little Blue Truck and farm themed brain breaks for attention, focus and sensory needs in the classroom based on farm animals.

     

     

    Little Blue Truck Farm Themed Brain Breaks

    We came up with the brain break ideas in our farm theme based on the book, Little Blue Truck. This is a fun way to explore books in occupational therapy sessions to keep things fun and engaging.

    This post contains affiliate links.

    With the animals in Little Blue Truck (affiliate link), we focused on the farm animals and how they move and work to help our friend, the little blue truck.  There are many ways that kids can use the typical movements of farm animals to address sensory and attention needs in the classroom.

     

     Little Blue Truck book activity



    In the book, Little Blue Truck (affiliate link), we meet each of the farm animals that say a friendly “hello” to the little blue truck.  When he ends up stuck in the mud, the animals are the one that come to help their truck friend.  

    This book is such a fun way to look at the way friends can work together in small ways to help make big things happen.  What a great way to look at the way the class works together to make changes.  

    A group of classroom students that each do their part to pay attention and focus can make the whole classroom a better place. 

    We decided to use the movements of the animals in Little Blue Truck (affiliate link) to create gross motor, movement-based brain breaks.  These are activities that can be done in conjunction with the book and used all year long for attention and focus in the classroom.

     
    Little Blue Truck and farm themed brain breaks for attention, focus and sensory needs in the classroom based on farm animals.


    How to use Farm themed Brain Breaks

    Print off your brain break printable sheet.  The form is at the bottom of this blog post. Simply enter your email address and the printable will arrive in your inbox.

    Then, cut out the cards and start to play! These animal brain break cards can be used to add movement within the classroom.  They can be used at home or in therapy sessions. We love to use these along with other farm activities and crafts.

    Some fun ways to use these farm brain breaks are below:

    Farm Obstacle Course

    One way to support gross motor skills is with a Farm obstacle course:

    1. Place the farm brain break cards in an obstacle course. 
    2. Ask the child to go through the course by crawling as they push a tractor or pretend to be a tractor, doing animal walks, or moving on a floor scooter.
    3. When they get to a brain break, they should stand up and complete the brain break action. 
    4. They can then move onto the next activity.

    Farm Stations

    Set up stations around the room using the farm brain break cards. Here’s what this entails:

    1. Place the brain break activities in various places around the room. These will be the farm stations.
    2. The child can go to the first farm station and pick up the brain break card. They can collect a small farm animal figure in their hand.
    3. Ask them to copy the name of the animal onto paper.
    4. Then they should complete the gross motor farm animal action.
    5. If it’s an animal walk, they can use that farm animal walk to move to the next station. 
    6. Ask them to take the animal figure with them to encourage in hand manipulation as they collect more and more animal figures.
    7. At the end of all of the farm stations, the child can then place the animal figures into play dough like we did in our farm play dough sensory bin.

    Farm Writing Prompts

    Use the brain breaks as a warm up for handwriting. 

    1. Select one of the farm brain break cards. 
    2. Then ask the child to follow the directions to complete the brain break action.
    3. Next, use that card as a farm writing prompt. They can write a sentence or two about the animal such as their favorite thing about that animal, the role it plays on a farm, etc.
    4. Or grade the activity down by simply asking the child to write the name of the animal as the farm writing prompt.

    Little Blue Truck Activities

    Use these brain break activities based on the animals in the book (Amazon affiliate links) Little Blue Truck (affiliate link):

     
    Little Blue Truck book activity with gross motor movement brain breaks based on animal movements.



    Cow Walk: Stand on you hands and knees.  Walk across the room while shaking your head from side to side and up and down like eating grass.


    Sheep Crawl: Lie on the floor with your feet and arms tucked under you.  Inch yourself forward in a slow and steady crawl.


    Frog Hop: Hop like a from across the room.  Hop back again.


    Horse Gallop:  Stand on your feet.  Gallop across the room with one foot leading.  Gallop back with the other foot leading.


    Pig Roll: Lay on the floor and roll like a pig in the mud.


    Hen Flap: Tuck your hands under your arms to make wings like a hen.  Flap your wings as you strut across the room.


    Goat Kick: Stand on your feet and place your hands on the floor.  Walk across the room as you kick out your heels.


    Duck Waddle: Place your heels together with your toes apart.  Place your hands at your sides and waddle across the room.


    Print out your printable animal brain break cards.


    Add heavy work to these activities by pushing against the wall like the animals in the book (affiliate link) push against the little blue truck to help their friend out of the mud. 


     These farm animal themed brain breaks would work for any of these farm book. 

    Looking for more movement and learning brain breaks?  You’ll love this dinosaur version based on the book, Dinosaurumpus! (affiliate link)

    Little Blue Truck and farm themed brain breaks for attention, focus and sensory needs in the classroom based on farm animals.

    Looking for more farm themed activities? 

    These Farm brain breaks go very well with our Farm Therapy Kit! It has 93 pages of farm activities and therapy resources: 

    • Farm connect the dot pages
    • Farm crafts
    • Farm visual motor activities using bales of hay
    • Farm sensory motor movement tasks
    • Farm handwriting activities
    • Farm visual discrimination tasks
    • Farm executive functioning tasks
    • Farm letter cards
    • And much more!

    Get your copy of the Farm Therapy Kit here!

     

    Free Farm Brain Breaks

    Print off the farm brain breaks page and get started with gross motor activities! This item is also found in our membership under Level 1 along with all of the other free printables on our site. It’s also found in Level 2 under Farm Theme.

    Not a member yet? Join us today!

    FREE Farm Brain Breaks

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

      Cylindrical and Spherical Grasp Development

      cylindrical grasp and spherical grasp development and activities

      A cylindrical grasp and a spherical grasp are important parts of grasp pattern development, and are functional grasps needed for many daily tasks. In this blog post, we’re covering everything you need to know about cylindrical grasp development and spherical grasp development. You’ll also find spherical grasp activities and cylindrical grasp activities. Let’s get started with these fine motor skills that play a pivotal role in functional grasp!

      cylindrical grasp and spherical grasp activities and development

      Cylindrical Grasp and Spherical Grasp

      In everyday activities, we use our hands in myriad ways. From holding a toothbrush, to turning a key in a door, to typing, tying shoes, jotting down a note, or pouring our morning coffee…all of these tasks involve grasping objects in a variety of dynamic patterns. Fine motor skills are necessary for every task that a child completes.

      Today, we’re talking about cylindrical grasp and spherical grasp.

      Both of these grips require and utilize underlying skills:

      From play, self-care, to managing clothing fasteners, and coloring, motor skills like spherical positioning of the hands and cylindrical positioning development is needed for every aspect.

      Grasp skill development is essential to pencil grasp and handwriting. Fine motor skills make up a huge part of learning and the school day (Read about the various fine motor skills needed at school.)

      Fostering development ensures functional use on objects such as hair brush, toothbrush, holding a spoon and fork or other food utensils, managing food, toys, and many other objects, including those used in play.

      For example, building and stacking with regular blocks is an exercise in fine motor development. Manipulating blocks uses these grasp movements. However, typical building blocks do not provide the unique grasp development of the cylindrical grasp of the hand. 

      When I saw my kids using the Cork Sphere Stacking Tower to make some pretend ice cream cones, I was inspired to encourage fine motor skills like cylindrical and spherical grasp development.  If you are looking for creative ways to encourage development of grasp, then read on!


       
      Spherical and cylindrical grasp development with KORXX cork building blocks

       

      Help kids develp their Spherical and cylindrical grasp with KORXX cork building blocks
       

       

      This post contains affiliate links.
       
      cylindrical grasp

      What is a cylindrical Grasp?

      A cylindrical grasp is one in which the whole hand is in contact with an object, and curved with thumb opposition.  A common term for this grasp is gross grasp.  You can find more information on gross grasp development and strengthening with objects that we’ve done in the past.  

      When a cylindrical grasp pattern is used, the entire palmar surface of the hand and fingers grasps a cylindrical object, such as a can of soda, or a cup. the thumb is rotated and opposed around the curve of the object. 

      Without the thumb’s involvement in the cylindrical grasp, the object would fall to the ground. Unlike in a hook grasp, where the thumb may or may not be involved, the fingers require pressure against the thumb to hold a cylindrical shaped object.


      A cylindrical grasp requires use and strength of the extrinsic muscles and intrinsic muscles of the hand in order to flex the fingers around curved objects.  The thumb is positioned in flexion and abduction.  A cylindrical grasp is needed in order to hold a broom handle, baseball bat, and ice cream cone.

      Cylindrical Grasp Development 



      Typically, the cylindrical grasp develops early in childhood, beginning with the palmer grasp at around 12 months of age.  This grasp is precursor to fine motor development and is an early pre-writing grasp.  

      This grasp pattern evolves into the cylindrical grasp with thumb abduction and fluctuations in finger abduction. 

      Cylindrical Grasp Activities

      Encouraging development of the cylindrical grasp is easy with fun activities:

      • Use a paper tube! Roll a piece of paper (or cardstock for a more sturdy tool) into a tube. Tape the edges and use it to hold a ball
      • The spheres in the Limbo var C KORXX cork building blocks set are perfect for helping kids develop fine motor skills.
      • Stack paper tubes in a fine motor STEM activity.
      Spherical and cylindrical grasp development with KORXX cork building blocks

      The KORXX cork building block set that we have has small cylinder shapes and we were able to encourage promotion of this grasp pattern by using them AND by creating paper tubes.  

      This is a perfect extension of my kids’ imagination as we used them to make colorful ice cream cones with the KORXX spheres.  

      Holding the paper tubes allows further development of the cylindrical grasp from a power grip to one of precision.  In order to hold the paper tube, one can not squeeze with all of their strength.  Otherwise, the paper will crush in their hands.  The same is true when holding a cake-type ice cream cone or a paper cup.  If precision of the cylindrical grasp is not developed, the cone or cup will crush in a child’s hands.  


      NOTE: There is a difference between holding a cake type ice cream cone which is a tube shape and a sugar ice cream cone which would be conical in shape.  These are different grasp patterns.


      We used the paper tubes to stack, build, and create lots of ice cream cones of various sizes.


      To make the paper cones, simply use colored cardstock and tape.  Cut the cardstock into different sizes and then roll it into a tube.  We found that packing tape worked well to maintain the shape of the tube. 

      Spherical grasp

      What is a Spherical Grasp?

      A spherical grasp is one in which the hand curves to hold a round or sphere-shaped object. This grasp is used to hold round items in the palm of the hand. Other examples include:

      • Holding a ball in the palm of the hand
      • Curving the hand to hold water in the palm
      • Holding an apple, orange, or other round fruit
      • Turning a doorknob

      A spherical grasp changes in relation to the size of the spherical object. Holding a ball depends on the size of the curve of the ball. A baseball would require more precision and curvature of the palm than the grasp required to hold a basketball.

      The intrinsic muscles of the hands play a big part in this grasp.  In order for the hand to curve, the metacarpal phalangeal joints need to abduct.  Involved in this action are the interossei muscles and the hypothenar eminence.  

      The interossei include the palmer interossei and the dorsal interossei.  

      Spherical and cylindrical grasp development with KORXX cork building blocks

       

      These allow the fingers to abduct and adduct in order to grasp smaller and larger sphere shaped objects.

      The hypothenar eminence includes three intrinsic muscles that allows the pinkie side of the hand to flex, rotate to oppose the thumb, and create the bulk of the pinkie side of the palm when curving around shapes like spheres. 



      Spherical and cylindrical grasp development with KORXX cork building blocks

       

      Spherical Grasp Development

       

      Spherical grasp develops beginning at around 18 months.  Smaller objects require a smaller curved palm with opposition and larger objects such as an apple require increased adduction of the metacarpal phalangeal joints.

       

      Spherical Grasp Activities

      We used our KORXX cork building blocks to practice various grasp and release of the spheres.  This block set is unique in it’s varying sphere sizes.  Placing the spheres on the paper cones allowed for precision of this grasp pattern.


      How fun is this building activity.  The spheres and cups of the Limbo var C KORXX cork building set inspires stacking to new heights with balance.  

      • Building and creating towers using balls of various size is such a powerful way to encourage precision, grasp, and control of small motor movements of the hands.

      • This balls in a muffin tin activity is a fun way to foster spherical grasp development. Ask the child to hold the ball in the palm of their hand.

      KORXX cork building blocks

      We love our KORXX cork building blocks.  They are right there in the bin of blocks and have quickly become a favorite go-to toy.  I love them for all of the open-ended play ideas that my kids have been creating with them.  

      Using them to boost developmental skills through play is super easy, too.  (See how we used them to work on visual motor integration development recently.)

       
      • KORXX building blocks are made from natural cork harvested without harming the trees.
      • They are soft and silent, stable and safe, and light cork blocks.
      • KORXX’s blocks are a natural material free of any harmful contaminants. The cork material provides excellent stability without slippage. Unlike typical cork used for other products, it is also safe for even the smallest of children.
      • KORXX pressed Cork contains no harmful substances (phthalates, dioxins, formaldehyde) and has no other sensory emissions. The product adheres to the guidelines for children’s toys (under 3 years) and the harmonized standard DIN EN 71.
       
      Cylindrical and spherical grasp development and KORXX blocks

       

      More activities to foster fine motor development, including spherical and cylindrical grasps:

      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:

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      cylindrical grasp and spherical grasp handouts

      Spherical Grasp and Cylindrical Grasp Handout

      Would you like a printable version of this blog post to use in educating parents on the benefits of targeting the fine motor skills needed for a cylindrical grasp and spherical grasp? We have you covered! You can grab a printable handout that covers these areas by entering your email address into the form below.

      This printable is also available inside the Member’s Club, along with thousands of other printable tools, including handouts and educational materials. Plus, you’ll love the printable activities and Therapy Kits designed to foster development of grasp skills and fine motor strength. (All of the Therapy Kits listed above are in the Member’s Club, for example!)

      Enter your email address here for the printable handout:

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      Grasp Handouts

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