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 馃檪

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!

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. 聽

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. 聽

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. 聽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. 聽



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, we focused on the farm animals and how they move and work to help our friend, the little blue truck. 聽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, we meet each of the farm animals that say a friendly “hello” to the little blue truck. 聽When he ends up stuck in the mud, the animals are the one that come to help their truck friend. 聽

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. 聽What a great way to look at the way the class works together to make changes. 聽

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

We decided to use the movements of the animals in Little Blue Truck to create gross motor, movement-based brain breaks. 聽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.聽 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.聽 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.聽
  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.聽
  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.聽
  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.聽

  1. Select one of the farm brain break cards.聽
  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:聽

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



Cow Walk: Stand on you hands and knees. 聽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. 聽Inch yourself forward in a slow and steady crawl.


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


Horse Gallop: 聽Stand on your feet. 聽Gallop across the room with one foot leading. 聽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. 聽Flap your wings as you strut across the room.


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


Duck Waddle: Place your heels together with your toes apart. 聽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 push against the little blue truck to help their friend out of the mud.聽


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

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

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?聽

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

  • 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

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

    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:

    • Wrist stability
    • Slight wrist extension
    • Intrinsic development of the arches of the hand
    • Finger flexion in a stable position
    • Possible rotation of the thumb (depending on the grasp and the object being manipulated)
    • Possible finger and thumb opposition

    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聽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.聽

    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. 聽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. 聽A common term for this grasp is gross grasp. 聽You can find more information on gross grasp development and strengthening with objects that we’ve done in the past. 聽


    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. 聽The thumb is positioned in flexion and abduction. 聽A cylindrical grasp is needed in order to hold a broom handle, baseball bat, and ice cream cone.

    Cylindrical Grasp Development聽



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

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

    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. 聽

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

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


    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. 聽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. 聽Cut the cardstock into different sizes and then roll it into a tube. 聽We found that packing tape worked well to maintain the shape of the tube.聽

    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

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

    The聽interossei聽include the palmer聽interossei聽and the dorsal聽interossei. 聽

    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.聽



    Spherical and cylindrical grasp development with KORXX cork building blocks

    Spherical Grasp Development


    Spherical grasp develops beginning at around 18 months. 聽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. 聽This block set is unique in it’s varying sphere sizes. 聽Placing the spheres on the paper cones allowed for precision of this grasp pattern.


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

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

    Using them to boost developmental skills through play is super easy, too. 聽(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:

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

    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:

    FREE Spherical Grasp and Cylindrical
    Grasp Handouts

      We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

      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.

      Toilet Paper Roll Stamp

      toilet paper roll stamp

      This toilet paper roll stamp art is a fun creative painting activity we’ve had on the website for many years. Kids love the messy sensory fun of painting with a toilet paper roll. Therapy providers love using the recycled materials in building skills like bilateral coordination, motor planning, and more!

      toilet paper roll stamp

      toilet paper roll stamp

      Therapy materials are expensive, so using items that you typically throw away are wonderful! That’s where this toilet paper roll stamp comes into play. All you need are a few toilet paper rolls or paper towel tubes and some foam stickers to get started.

      We’ve painted paper rolls and used toilet paper tubes in crafts before but have you ever painted with a toilet paper tube?

      How to make a toilet paper roll stamp

      To use a paper tube into a stamp, you’ll need just a few items:

      • Recycled paper tube (toilet paper roll or the inside of a paper towel roll)
      • Foam stickers
      • Paint
      • Paper
      • Paint brush- this item isn’t necessary unless you want to paint the foam stickers to extend fine motor skill work.

      To set up the painting with stamps activity, ask your child to help you stick the foam stickers all around the paper roll. There are so many benefits of playing with stickers and this part of the activity is another skill-builder.

      Why?

      Because when kids position stickers on a paper tube, they are building several motor areas:

      After positioning the stickers onto the paper roll, pour some paint onto scrap paper or in a low tray.

      1. Show users how to roll the paper tube into the paint. This is a great exercises in graded pressure, or proprioception. If they press too hard, paint covers the whole paper tube. If they don’t press hard enough, paint will not evenly cover the foam stickers. This awareness carries over to pencil pressure when writing.
      2. Or, paint the foam stickers with a paint brush. This is a great way to work on pencil grasp with extended wrist, which pulls the muscles of the hand and wrist into an optimal position for pencil grasp through a play activity.
      3. Then, roll the paper tube onto paper. This again supports awareness of proprioception as well as bilateral awareness. If they press too hard, the paint images are squished and you can’t tell what the stamp is. If pressed too lightly, the paint doesn’t transfer to the paper. Using both hands together with equal pressure is a bilateral coordination skill that transfers to functional tasks.
      We love any painting play in this house.聽 Big Sister was really into this project.
      We stuck foam stickers onto an empty paper roll and she got聽busy painting them.
      (I love her concentration here…)




      After the foam stickers are painted, roll away!
      Pretty Prints!
      An easy and fun little painting craft!

      Working on fine motor skills? Grab one of our Therapy Kits for printable activities that build dexterity, fine motor strength, and coordination needed for tasks like using scissors or pencil grasp.

      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!

      Dinosaur Game Kids Love

      dinosaur 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!

      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.

      Dinosaur game

      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.

      This dinosaur game is great for kids who love dinosaurs!

      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:

      • Eye-hand coordination
      • Balance
      • Whole body coordination
      • Crossing midline
      • Position changes
      • Heavy work input
      • Proprioceptive input
      • Vestibular input
      • Visual scanning and visual processing skills

      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聽Dinosaur聽game. 聽 聽

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

      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. 聽We had to make a movement gross motor game to go along with the book! 聽

      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.

      聽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. 聽 聽
      2. These went onto a game spinner that I made on 聽card stock. 聽
      3. We used dinosaur figures for part of our movement game. 聽These ones are a great deal! 聽
      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聽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.聽Make your game board and ensure the arrow spins using a聽brass fastener.
      2. One player hides the聽dinosaur figures聽around the room or outdoor play area. 聽
      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
      Kids can spin the wheel on the dinosaur game to build gross motor skills.

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

      Spin the wheel on the dinosaur game to support fine motor skills.
      Spin the wheel on the dinosaur game to support fine motor skill development, too.

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

      Move like a dinosaur with this dinosaur game for kids

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

      Dinosaur gross motor movement game based on the book, Dinosaurumpus!

       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.

      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.

      Level 2 members get access to all of our downloads, exclusive new resources each month, PLUS additional, premium content each month: therapy kits, screening tools, games, therapy packets, and much more. AND, level 2 members get ad-free content across the entire OT Toolbox website.

      Join the Member’s Club today!

      Free Dinosaur Game

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        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.

        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.

        Dramatic Play Benefits

        dramatic play benefits

        We know the power of play as a learning tool, and today we are focusing on the many dramatic play benefits when it comes to pretend play in children. Occupational therapy play is a tool to drive skills, and there is a good reason why…play is the occupation of the child, and pretend play benefits the development of so many skills!

        These dramatic play ideas are fun ways to support so many areas of child development using creative small world play. Check out the dramatic play ideas below! Dramatic play is a developmental part of the play age and stages that children progress through.

        Dramatic play is important at each stage of child development. First, let’s cover what we mean by dramatic play.

        pretend play benefits

        What is Dramatic Play

        Dramatic play, also known as pretend play or imaginative play, refers to a form of play where children engage in make-believe scenarios. The child can pretend to be part of a scene or world, or pretend to be a different person. The child takes on different roles in a dramatic play scenario and uses their imagination to create and act out stories, situations, and interactions.

        Dramatic play involves the use of small toys, pretend play props, costumes, and the transformation of ordinary objects into symbolic representations. This might include:

        • dress up clothes
        • pretend play sets (kitchen toys or a post office play set)
        • Mini figures like dinosaur figures
        • Manipulative toys like blocks, building toys, etc.
        • Pretending to feed a baby
        • Playing school
        • SO much more!

        Dramatic play benefits include allowing the child to explore and experiment with various roles, emotions, and social dynamics, fostering cognitive, language, social, emotional, and physical development. It encourages creativity, problem-solving, language skills, and the development of social and emotional competence. Through dramatic play, children develop a deeper understanding of themselves, others, and the world around them while having fun and actively participating in their own learning process.

        Dramatic play includes two types of play:

        • Structured Play: Structured play involves rules in games or guided play. This includes setting up a play scenario with props, dress-up costumes, printable themed resources, and toys.
        • Unstructured Play: Unstructured play is a creative and open-ended play scenario. The child leads the play. This includes using blocks as a pretend phone, or using toys in a way not traditionally intended.

        Either version of dramatic play can include parallel play at various ages.

        Dramatic play can look like:

        pretend play benefits

        Dramatic Play Benefits

        Dramatic play, also known as pretend play or imaginative play, plays a crucial role in supporting child development in various domains.

        For example, by participating in dramatic play, benefits exist in physical, cognitive, sensory participation, and even executive functioning skills….and more!

        Here are several ways in which dramatic play benefits children:

        1. Cognitive Development: Dramatic play enhances children’s cognitive skills. When engaging in pretend play, children create and manipulate imaginary scenarios, which helps develop their problem-solving abilities, critical thinking skills, and creativity. They learn to think flexibly, plan and organize their ideas, and make decisions within the context of their play. Problem solving activities for preschoolers often times involve dramatic play.
        2. Language Development: Pretend play provides children with opportunities to practice and develop their language skills. As children engage in dramatic play, they create dialogue, negotiate roles and scenarios, and communicate with their playmates. This process promotes receptive language, vocabulary expansion, sentence structure, and conversational skills. Children also learn to express their thoughts, ideas, and emotions effectively.
        3. Social and Emotional Development: Through dramatic play, children develop social and emotional competence and social emotional learning. They learn to take on different roles, empathize with others, and understand different perspectives. Pretend play encourages cooperation, collaboration, and turn-taking, helping children build social skills and develop positive relationships. Additionally, dramatic play allows children to explore and express their emotions, experiment with different behaviors, and develop self-regulation skills.
        4. Self-Care Skills: Pretend play benefits include the ability to practice self-care skills. When children dress up in dress up clothing, they have the opportunity to practice putting on and taking off clothing, manipulating buttons, zippers, snaps, etc.
        5. Fine Motor Skill Development: While engaging in dramatic play, children often engage in fine motor skills challenging grasp, strength, object manipulation, and tool use. Whether they are pretending to be a chef, a firefighter, or a superhero, they use their bodies to imitate and enact various roles. This physical engagement supports the development of precision skills, fine motor skills, coordination, and spatial awareness.
        6. Gross Motor Skill Development: Dramatic play benefits includes exploring different motor plans that challenge balance, coordination, movement, manipulating objects, force modulation and more.
        7. Self-Confidence- Participating in dramatic play has the benefit of a stress-free environment for children to practice skills, act out their imagination, and use toys to do a “job”. The play environment can be an opportunity to gain confidence in how their body moves and areas like manipulating objects or using language. This is a powerful tool for the young child to practice skills through play!
        8. Imagination and Creativity: Dramatic play fosters children’s imagination and creativity. It allows them to create and explore new worlds, situations, and possibilities. By using their imagination, children can transform ordinary objects into props and invent imaginative storylines. This imaginative thinking supports their ability to generate new ideas, think outside the box, and approach problems with creativity.
        9. Cultural and Social Understanding: Pretend play often involves children imitating and reenacting real-life situations they observe in their environment. Through dramatic play, children can explore different cultural practices, societal roles, and community dynamics. This process promotes cultural awareness, understanding of social norms, and appreciation for diversity.
        10. Planning and Organization: Engaging in dramatic play requires children to plan and organize their play scenarios. They need to decide on roles, create a storyline, gather props, and coordinate with their playmates. This process develops their ability to think ahead, set goals, and create a structure for their play. Through practice, children learn to plan and organize their actions, which is essential for future tasks and activities.
        11. Problem-Solving: Pretend play often involves obstacles or challenges that children encounter within their play scenarios. They need to use their problem-solving skills to find creative solutions and overcome these challenges. Whether it’s figuring out how to rescue a pretend character or deciding how to handle a pretend conflict, children engage in critical thinking and develop their problem-solving abilities during dramatic play.
        12. Cognitive Flexibility: Dramatic play encourages children to think flexibly and adapt to different roles and scenarios. They need to switch between different characters, adjust their behaviors, and respond to unexpected situations. This cognitive flexibility helps children develop mental agility, adaptability, and the ability to consider multiple perspectives. All of this is part of the development of attention skills that carry over to everyday tasks.
        13. Inhibitory Control: Pretend play involves children pretending to be someone else or engaging in imaginary situations. This requires them to regulate their impulse control and control their behaviors. For example, a child pretending to be a teacher needs to control their natural inclination to act like a student. By practicing inhibitory control during dramatic play, children develop their ability to regulate their actions and emotions in real-life situations.
        14. Working Memory: Dramatic play benefits also includes working memory skills. This occurs through remembering and recalling details, such as the roles, storylines, and actions within the play scenario. Children need to hold this information in their working memory as they engage in play and make decisions. This practice strengthens their working memory skills, which are crucial for learning and problem-solving.
        15. Self-Regulation: Engaging in dramatic play provides children with opportunities to regulate their emotions and behaviors. They learn to take on different roles, manage conflicts, and control their impulses. As they navigate various scenarios, children develop self-regulation skills, including emotional regulation, impulse control, and the ability to modulate their behavior based on the demands of the play.

        Dramatic Play Ideas

        Dramatic play is a meaningful and motivating way to play with kids. Dramatic play can include:

        • Pretend kitchen sets
        • Construction worker costumes
        • Pizza shop pretend play
        • Pretending to be a doctor and using a doctor’s kit
        • Pretending to fix things
        • Playing vet
        • Playing post office
        • Pretend shopping with a shopping cart toy

        There are many ways to foster and support all of the benefits of dramatic play. Some items to have on hand include:

        1. Dress-Up Clothes: Costumes and dress-up clothes are fantastic for encouraging dramatic play. Items like hats, capes, princess dresses, doctor’s coats, or firefighter uniforms allow children to transform into different characters and bring their pretend scenarios to life.
        2. Props and Play Sets: Having a variety of props and play sets can enhance dramatic play experiences. Examples include toy food and kitchen utensils for a pretend kitchen, dolls or action figures for creative storytelling, toy tools for a pretend workshop, or a toy cash register for playing store.
        3. Play Tents or Forts: Play tents or forts create a designated space for imaginative play. Children can turn these areas into houses, castles, or secret hideouts, allowing their imagination to take flight as they create and act out different scenarios.
        4. Puppets and Puppet Theater: Puppets are excellent tools for dramatic play. Hand or finger puppets allow children to bring characters to life and engage in storytelling. A puppet theater can further enhance the experience by providing a stage for children to perform their puppet shows.
        5. Open-Ended Toys: Open-ended toys with multiple uses and possibilities can stimulate imaginative play. Examples include building blocks, LEGO sets, magnetic tiles, or play dough. These items can be transformed into anything a child imagines, supporting creativity and problem-solving skills.
        6. Play Kitchen or Workbench: Play kitchens and workbenches provide children with a space to pretend to cook, clean, fix things, or engage in other adult roles. These props can spark imaginative play and allow children to imitate real-life activities.
        7. Writing and Drawing Materials: Writing materials such as paper, pencils, markers, and crayons can be incorporated into dramatic play. Children can create signs, menus, or tickets, adding an additional layer of authenticity to their play scenarios.
        8. Costumes and Accessories: Alongside dress-up clothes, accessories like masks, hats, wigs, and jewelry can add excitement and creativity to dramatic play. These items can help children fully immerse themselves in their chosen roles and characters.
        9. Manipulative items like figurines, small toys, glass gems, seashells, etc. These items can be used in sensory bins and small world activities to gain all the benefits of dramatic play in kids.

        Sensory Bins: Sensory bins are containers filled with a base material like rice, sand, water beads, or sensory-friendly materials such as kinetic sand or cloud dough.

        These bins can be themed based on children’s interests or specific play scenarios. For example, a beach-themed sensory bin might include sand, seashells, toy sea animals, and small buckets and shovels. Sensory bins allow children to explore textures, engage their senses, and create imaginary worlds. They can use the materials to build landscapes, dig for hidden treasures, or simulate real-world experiences.

        Small World Activities: Small world activities involve creating a miniature representation of a specific environment or theme. This could include setting up a farm with toy animals, a city with toy cars and buildings, or a jungle with plastic trees and animal figures.

        Small world play encourages children to use their imagination to create stories, interact with the characters and props, and engage in pretend scenarios within the miniature world. It promotes narrative skills, problem-solving, and creativity.

        The importance of dramatic play is vast, as we’ve covered in the lists above. Dramatic play provides a holistic learning experience for children, encompassing cognitive, language, social, emotional, and physical development. It helps them build a foundation for future learning, problem-solving, and social interactions, while also fostering their innate creativity, imagination, and joy of play. These skills carryover to functional performance of daily activities, and uses the child’s primary occupation as the means and the tool!

        So, how can you gain all of the benefits of dramatic play in meaningful and motivating play set-ups?

        Try some of the dramatic play ideas below!

         
         
         
         
        Puppet-theatre from Kids Play Space-Re-use a box to create your own puppet theatre, ready for show time!
         
         
         Kids Activities Blog-Uses paper bags and paints to create a small world play area for dolls, we will be doing this one for sure!
         
         
        Leaf-puppet-craft from All Things With a Purpose- A perfect fall time craft for dramatic play!
         
         
        Egg carton dragon puppet from Life With Moore Babies- This creative puppet is adorable!
         
         
        Itsy-bitsy-spider sticky wall from Fantastic Fun and Learning- Love the use of contact paper and foam sheets to have the story stick to the wall.
         
        Native American small world craft from Crayon Box Chronicles- Perfect for small world play for this time of year with Thanksgiving coming!
         
         

        Light-Bright Toy Fun!

        lite brite toy in occupational therapy

        In occupational therapy, we target the occupation of play in kids, making toys one of the main tools like a Lite Brite toy to support and drive development. Pediatric OTs love to foster development through innovative and meaningful activities in therapy interventions, and the Light Bright toy is one fun toy that sparks creativity and sensory motor skills.

        Today, we shine a spotlight on an iconic toy that has captured the imagination of generations: the (Amazon affiliate link) Light Brite. Known for its mesmerizing glow and colorful pegs, this beloved occupational therapy toy has found a special place in occupational therapy practices as an effective tool for enhancing fine motor skills, visual motor skills, and dexterity in individuals of all ages.

        lite brite toy for occupational therapy

        Using a Lite Brite Toy in Therapy

        In this blog post, we will explore the Light Brite toy and unveil how its simple yet engaging design can be leveraged by occupational therapists to promote development and foster therapeutic progress. We will explore the unique qualities of Light Brite that make it a valuable asset in the pursuit of improved motor skills and coordination.

        From the manipulation of the pegs to the coordination of visual input and fine motor control, Light Brite offers a multifaceted approach to therapeutic intervention.

        Many therapy providers have a Lite Brite in the therapy closet, but did you ever consider all of the ways to use this toy to foster development?

        Light Bright Activities

        There are many ways to use a Lite Brite toy to target specific skills.

        1. Free Design Play: Encourage creativity by letting individuals create their own unique designs using the pegs and create vibrant, personalized artwork.
        2. Shape Recognition: Use templates or stencils to guide individuals in creating specific shapes, helping them develop shape recognition skills. This is an actiity that fosters visual discrimination.
        3. Sort the pegs: Sort the pegs by color and practice grouping them together on the Lite Brite board, enhancing color recognition abilities. This is a great sorting colors activity for preschoolers and toddlers.
        4. Fine Motor Skill Development: Manipulating the small pegs and inserting them into the board helps develop and refine fine motor skills. You can foster fine motor milestone achievement by targeting various levels of fine motor development by grading activities with the pegs.
        5. Hand-Eye Coordination: Practicing precise peg placement on the Lite Brite board enhances hand-eye coordination as individuals align their movements with visual targets.
        6. Pattern Replication: Introduce patterns or designs for individuals to replicate on the Lite Brite board, fostering pattern recognition and visual-motor coordination.
        7. Letter and Number Formation: Create educational activities by using Lite Brite templates to guide individuals in forming letters and numbers. Integrate the activities into other letter formation strategies.
        8. Spatial Skills: Explore spatial awareness concepts by creating designs with varying levels of complexity, promoting spatial understanding and manipulation skills.
        9. Counting and Math Skills: Use Lite Brite templates with numerical symbols or dots to engage individuals in counting, basic math operations, and number recognition. Fine motor and math are connected skills.
        10. Storytelling Tool: Use the Lite Brite board as a visual aid to accompany creative storytelling activities, allowing individuals to bring their stories to life through illuminated scenes.
        11. Graded precision: Utilize the pegs as a tool for various occupational therapy exercises, such as picking up and placing pegs to improve dexterity and finger strength. The pegs are a powerful tool in supporting graded grasp and release in dexterity.
        12. Sensory Exploration: Engage individuals with sensory processing needs by incorporating different textured materials onto the Lite Brite board, providing tactile stimulation.
        13. Pre-Writing Skills: Practice tracing shapes or letters on the Lite Brite board to promote pre-writing skills and hand control. One of the main pre-writing skills many kids don’t achieve is the fine motor aspect.
        14. Collaborative Projects: Foster teamwork and social interaction by engaging multiple individuals in creating a larger-scale Lite Brite design together, promoting cooperation and communication. This can be a fun activity for group OT sessions or across a whole caseload.

        using pegs for fine motor skills

        One of the main ways to support fine motor skills with a Lite Brite is by using the pegs.

        Picking up and manipulating the pegs offers strategies for skill development:

        • Eye-hand coordination- picking up the desired colored peg
        • Graded grasp and release- Aiming the hand and fingers to select a peg and placing it into a hole with the correct aim and force
        • In-hand manipulation- Moving pegs from the fingertips to the palm to hold the pegs. Then, moving one peg at a time to the fingertips to place the pegs into the holes of the Lite Brite board
        • Separation of the sides of the hand- Using the fingers on the thumb side of the hand (radial side) while using the fingers on the pinky finger side of the hand (ulnar side) to stabilize the hand for precision
        • Finger isolation- Moving use one finger to isolate a single peg in picking up the peg or placing it into the board.

        fine motor peg activities

        Some fine motor peg activities that use the Lite Brite pegs include:

        1. Counting Game: Use three different colored pegs to play a counting game. Assign a specific number to each color, for example, red for one, blue for two, and yellow for three. Ask individuals to insert the pegs into the Lite Brite board, counting aloud as they go. They can create patterns or designs while practicing their counting skills.
        2. Force Modulation- work on the amount of pressure needed to press the peg into the Lite Brite board by using different grades of paper. Consider tissue paper or construction paper. Each type of paper requires more force to push the peg through the paper. Or, you can add more resistance by laying an additional piece of paper on the Lite Brite board.
        3. Color Patterns: Create a simple color pattern activity using three pegs. Start a pattern sequence using the three colors, such as red, blue, yellow, red, blue, yellow. Individuals can continue the pattern by inserting the corresponding colored pegs into the Lite Brite board. This activity helps develop pattern recognition and sequencing skills.

        LIGHT BRIGHT FOR TODDLERS

        While the small pegs of a Lite Brite toy might not be a great way to use this toy with toddlers, you can use the toy to foster development with young children.

        We AGAIN used the dishwasher box that has been sitting in our living room.

        (One cardboard box is so much better than a whole storage bin of toys! Consider DIY cardboard bricks!)

        This box has been everything from a rocket ship to a barn in their imaginary play.  It has been a corn cardboard sensory box, to a light tunnel for a Twinkle Twinkle little star party.  

        We’ve covered it with blankets to make a bear cave, and put it on it’s end, cutting a door and window into one side for a house.  

        After we cut the door into it, Baby Girl loved opening and shutting the door over and over and over again!

        We used the Lite Brite in the cardboard box (without adding the pegs). It was a great sensory light that fostered many skills:

        • Crawling
        • Reach
        • Visual scanning
        • Intended reach (aiming)
        • Fine motor skills- making shadow puppets
        • Gross motor skills
        • Crossing midline
        • Tactile sensory play
        • Visual processing sensory play

        This was one of Baby Girl‘s favorite games to play in the box.  We took the Light Bright toy inside and had a blast checking out the lights, putting her hand over the light screen, touching the circle lights on the wall…

        What a great sensory experience!

         
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
        We’ll definitely be using the light bright again for sensory play.  Poor box has seen the end of it’s time in our living room…There was a liiiiittttle rough play that destroyed it.  Don’t worry, though. It will be used for some great art projects before it makes its way into the recycle bin!
         
        ~Colleen  

        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.

        DIY Light Box for Tracing

        DIY light table for tracing

        This DIY light box for tracing is an easy light box we put together in minutes. All you need is an under the bed storage container and a string of lights to make a tracing tool that kids will love. There are benefits to tracing and this tool is a fun way to build fine motor skills and visual motor skills as a visual motor skill leading to better handwriting.

        DIY light box for tracing

        A light box is a fun activity, and one you see in preschool classrooms, as it’s intended for hands-on play and exploring the senses. But did you know there are many benefits to using a light box for tracing (and other exploring play)?

        How to Make a DIY Light Table for Tracing

        This DIY Light Box was something I’ve seen around Pinterest and have wanted to try for a while…Once we had our Christmas lights outside, I thought we would definitely be doing this project after we pulled all of the lights back in.  So, after we brought the Christmas lights in from the outside bushes, this was easy to put together for a cold evening’s play!

        You need just two items to make a DIY light table:

        (Amazon affiliate links)

        1. Strand of white Christmas lights
        2. Clear, plastic under-the-bed storage bin

        Important: The under the bed storage bin needs to be made of clear plastic or have just a slight opaque color to the plastic. Also, the top should be smooth. Many storage bins have textured surface or a white surface. The flat, smooth lid is important for sensory play as well as tracing with paper on the DIY light table. This brand is a good one to use.

        Instructions to make a DIY light box:

        1. Plug in the lights.
        2. Place them into the bin.
        3. Either cut a hole in the base of the bin for the lights to go through or cut a small notch into the lid so the strand of lights can go under the lid.

        To make this homemade light box safer and not use plug in lights, you can use battery operated button lights inside the storage bin. Or, there are many battery operated LED lights available now too. These are a great idea because many of them have a color-changing capability and can be operated from an app on your phone.

        IMPORTANT: This homemade light box project should always be done under the supervision of an adult. The lights can get warm inside the bin and they should be unplugged periodically.

        This is not a project that should be set up and forgotten about. The OT Toolbox is not responsible for any harm, injury, or situation caused by this activity. It is for educational purposes only. Always use caution and consider the environment and individualized situation, including with this activity. Your use of this idea is your acceptance of this disclaimer.

        I put all of the (already bundled-up) strands of Christmas lights …seriously, this does not get much easier…into an under-the-bed storage bin, connected the strands, and plugged in!

         

        DIY light box for tracing

        A DIY light box made with Christmas lights
         

        Once you put the top on, it is perfect for tracing pictures!
         
        Tracing on a DIY light box
         
         

        Tracing pictures on a light table

         
        This is so great for new (or seasoned) hand-writers.  They are working on pencil control, line awareness, hand-eye coordination…and end up with a super cool horse picture they can be proud of!
         
        Use printable coloring pages and encourage bilateral coordination to hold the paper down. You can modify the activity by taping the coloring page onto the plastic bin lid. 
         
        Tracing a picture on a DIY light table
         
         Big Sister LOOOOVED doing this!  And, I have to say, that she was doing the tracing thing for so long, that we had to turn the lights off because the bin was getting warm. 
         
         
         
        trace letters on a light table
         

        Other ways to use a DIY Light Table

         
        We went around the house looking for cool things to place on top of the bin.  Magnetic letters looked really neat with the light glowing through…Baby Girl had a lot of fun playing with this.
         
        You can add many different items onto the DIY light table:
        • Magnetic letters (the light shines through them slightly)
        • Sand for a tracing table- We cover how to use a sand writing tray in another blog post and all the benefits of tracing in a sensory medium. With the lights under the tracing area, this adds another multisensory component to the learning.
        • Shapes (Magnatiles would work well)
        • Feathers
        • Coins
        • Blocks
        • A marble run
         
        letters on a light table
         
        What a great learning tool…Shapes:
         
         
        Letter Identification, spelling words:
         

         Color and sensory discrimination:
         
         
         
        …All in a new and fun manner!  We had a lot of fun with this, but have since put our Christmas lights back up into the attic.  We will be sure to do this one again next year, once the lights come back out again 馃檪
         

        Please: if you do make one of these light boxes, keep an adult eye on it, as the box did warm up…not to burning warmth, but I would worry about the lights becoming over heated.  This is NOT something that kids should play with unsupervised!

        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.

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