How we Can Tell Time Through Rocks (hands on learning)

Use rocks to make a rock clock

In this activity, we can use rocks to tell time! It’s true…not by shadows and watching the sun as it passes by, but by physically moving and manipulating rocks as a time telling tool. In this rock and learn math activity, we can use rocks found around the home with heavy work input as a clock building time telling activity! This is just one more way to teach kids to tell time through hands on play.

Tell Time Through Rocks

It’s always nice to play and learn with the kids when the supplies are completely free.  Learn and play with rocks from your backyard or natures walks with a few fun ideas to Learn using Rocks!   You might have seen a few of our other rock activities.  (We really have a lot, believe it or not!)    

In this activity, though, we are asking kids to lift rocks that offer heavy work input, or proprioceptive input while learning to tell time using a simple rock.

Learn with rocks, including teaching kids to tell time, math, literacy, fine motor, sensory.

Teach kids for free using rocks!

This post is part of our month-long Learning with Free Materials series where we are sharing learning ideas for homeschoolers and school-extension activities using items that are free or mostly free (i.e. CHEAP or you already have in the home)…and rocks are most certainly free!  

This series is part of the 31 Days of Homeschooling Tips as we blog along with other bloggers with learning at home tips and tools.  We do have affiliate links in this post for your convenience.

While using rocks in clock building not time telling, but to learn the concepts of time is fun, it’s also functional. Kids can play to learn and learn to play with rocks!

Use rocks to tell time

  There are a ton of ways to learn at home, either through homeschooling, or as school-based enrichment activities using rocks from your own backyard. 

Let’s take a look at more ideas for rocks:  

Math with Rocks

  • Count rocks in a line.
  • Add and subtract with rocks.
  • Sort rocks by characteristic.
  • Arrange rocks and pebbles into patterns with AB, ABA, ABBA, ABAB, and more complex patterns.
  • Create charts on the ground using rock markers.
  • Write numbers on rocks as a manipulative in math problems.
  • Tell Time with rocks.
Build a clock with rocks to teach kids to tell time, including minute hands, hour hands, and numbers on the clock.

Teach Time Telling with a Rock Clock

We used smooth rocks to create and build a clock.  Clock building and time telling is a fun and common activity for us recently, so building a clock with rocks was a challenge when the rocks didn’t have numbers written on them.  

Teach kids to position the “3”, “6”, “9”, and ” 12″ rocks first then fill in the other “numbers”.  

You could also write the numbers on the rocks using a (Amazon affiliate link) paint marker.  Use twigs to create the minute and hour hands and work on time telling outdoors with nature.

Use pebbles to teach time with rocks. This is a fun hands on activity for kids learning to tell time.

Use smaller pebbles to teach time with rocks. We found smooth pebbles from a garden that worked well as the numbers on a clock.

Kids can move them around to the correct position on the rock clock face. This is a fun hands on activity for kids learning to tell time.

Engineering with Rocks

Rocks are a great material in STEM for kids:  

  • Build towers.
  • Create bridges using rocks.
  • Explore balance.  How does one rock balance on another.  Will a different rock stay put in the same way?
  • Explore force and movement. How can rocks move items?

Building a small tower of rocks is a great eye-hand coordination and fine motor activity, and you can show kids how to mark shadows from the sun to mark the passing of time.

As the sun moves across the sky and the shadow from the rock tower moves along the ground, kids can associate the passage of time with this visual. Then move the hands on the clock to show how much time has passed.

Use rocks to teach like telling time with rocks.

Rocks in Literacy

  • Use that paint marker like we did here to build letter blends.
  • Use the rocks in a letter sensory bin.
  • Use rocks and pebbles in pretend play and story telling literacy activity by creating story-based small worlds.

  More learning ideas using rocks: Use rocks in sensory play,  pretend play sensory bins,  and fine motor with play dough.

A final note on this rock clock activity

While teaching time isn’t something that is always addressed in occupational therapy, we can support the need to learn time as it relates to time management and functional task completion. After all, if one can’t note the time on the clock, they can’t be out the door to school or an appointment, resulting in many issues.

OTs do support their clients in the educational space, and sometimes telling time is a challenge, especially for those with executive functioning issues, visual perceptual issues, or cognitive impairments. So in theses cases, OT can intervene to support the educational curriculum or to offer alternatives that help the individual to succeed at their goals.

When working with this clock activity, learners or clients can build on educational goals as well as executive functioning skills.

These kids rock ideas develop many skill areas:

  • They can learn clock concepts
  • Participants can manipulate small objects to develop fine motor skills.
  • Clients or students can use the hands-on approach to develop motor planning and eye-hand coordination skills while learning time to the nearest five minutes
  • They can develop and learn relationships between time elements.
  • Participates can learn through play.
  • Students can develop and create, using rock manipulatives as a models to support learning.
  • Participates can develop skills and experience in using symbols in learning, organization, working memory, communication, mathematical skills, and more.

How will you use this rock clock activity to teach time or time telling skills through play?

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

Teach Kids to Tell Time

tips to teach kids to tell time

For parents, the task teaching kids to tell time is just part of parenting. But when we teach kids to tell time, there are many other skill areas to consider. Concepts such as executive functioning, fine motor skills, size awareness, and even handwriting play into learning about time. Here, we’ll cover how occupational therapy plays a role in learning about telling time.

Teach kids to tell time with these hands-on multisensory strategies that address the impact of other underlying issues related to telling time.

Occupational Therapy and telling Time

In occupational therapy, we work on time management as well as other executive functioning skills. We also address self-care and any occupation that takes up a person’s day. So, when daily occupations need to be accomplished throughout the day, or in preparation to leave the house, time is a big component.

Time management refers to the ability to estimate how much time one has to complete a task. Time management also includes management of the time one has to complete a task in a given time.

Time management impacts occupational performance because one can overestimate how much time they have to complete a task. Or they can underestimate how long a task takes to complete. Both of these scenarios result in poor performance of the task.

Occupational therapists can address time in these ways:

  • The amount of time needed to accomplish a task
  • The amount of time needed to prepare for a task
  • Completing tasks in a given amount of time

Each of these areas relate to executive functioning and time management. There are tools and strategies that can help with these areas, such as timers, apps, calendars, planners, task checklists, visual schedules, and focusing on each of the executive functioning skills in a regimented manner (The Impulse Control Journal breaks this down for skill-building).

Occupational therapists in the schools can work with kids on learning to tell time.

For school-based OT practitioners, there can be an added challenge in the time telling saga. Children learning to tell time are tackling a very abstract concept.

Learning to tell Time and Visual Perception

Students that struggle with visual perception can be challenged by worksheets with faces of clocks. This can lead to difficulties in writing clock times or identifying time on the clock.

Typically, in second grade math, learning to tell time on a clock involves worksheets, packets, and math pages that ask students to match the analog clock to the digital clock.

But in second grade, we may see students on the OT caseload struggling with visual attention, visual memory, visual discrimination, letter and number reversals, form constancy, and other visual processing issues.

The clock face has many visual details that can impact working memory, specifically related to visual discrimination, visual attention, form constancy (many clocks have very different number fonts). Some clocks have Roman numerals that throw another wrench into the learning.

For our learners with visual perception and visual motor integration issues, clock worksheets are a real struggle.

Learning to tell time and Handwriting

Using a pencil to write clock times and minute or hour hands onto clock forms.

Second grade math involves many clock worksheets. The pencil skills needed to write time, mark hour and minute hands on paper clocks, and writing numbers can impact teaching time to kids.

Number formation is a big issue when it comes to completing those clock worksheets, and an area in which the school-based occupational therapists can support the students on their caseload.

Learning tell time and fine motor skills

Fine motors skills involved with moving clock hands on model clocks in the classroom.

Moving the minute hand and hour hand on a clock model helps kids understand how time moves, how much time is in a day, and how to identify sections of time: hours, minutes, seconds, half-hours, quarter hours, and days. These models help kids grasp the concept of time. But for the student with fine motor challenges, understanding clocks and telling time on a model clock is a struggle. To move the clock hands on a model clock, fine motor skills are needed:

  • Finger isolation
  • Separation of the sides of the hand
  • Precision
  • Graded grasp and movements
  • Motor planning

The visual of a model clock can become more challenging when these fine motor issues exist.

Learning to tell time and executive function

Time is a big part of executive function.

Kids learn to tell time, typically in second grade, however, without consistent use of analog clocks, kids lose that ability to tell time. When it comes to the time management aspect of executive functioning skills, there is a lot to be said for watching the minute hands tick around the clock as time passes. The passage of time on a digital clock just doesn’t have the concrete visual impact that the ticking hands has on the face of an analog clock.

Executive functioning skills such as attention, foresight, task completion, and others play a role in telling time and managing time.

We talked about time blindness in our post on adult executive functioning issues. However, time blindness impacts all of us at one time or another, and all ages, too.

Also, the number of minutes in five minute increments and the number of minutes in an hour or quarter hour can be a challenge for those with executive functioning skills to recall. Working memory plays a big part in math skills!

The abstract concept of teaching time on a clock

Kids not exposed to analog clocks. This makes an abstract concept even more abstract! Our kids that need concrete examples and visual cues to learn will struggle with this concept of learning to tell time on a clock.

Other kids need concrete examples in learning. time doesn’t offer that option.

Teaching kids how to tell time can start with the process of discovering the parts of a clock.  

Many of our young learners are exposed to only the digital clock of an Iphone, a microwave clock, stove clock, or the digital time shown on a television cable box, for example.  The important skill of learning to tell time is just not a part of the typical day for many learners.

However, what is important is the concept of time. We all have daily routines that revolve around the passage of time. 

teach Kids to tell time with a multisensory activity

Below, you’ll find resources for time teaching in the classroom or home. School based occupational therapy professionals can use these concepts and hands-on time activities to support time management needs, or to work in a push-in OT session in school-based OT services when children are learning time in school. Or, use these interactive telling time activities to support the child’s educational curriculum.

A few easy ways to make learning about time more interactive AND supporting development of underlying areas is through the fun activities listed here. Try some of these clock activity ideas.

  • Create a rock clock for heavy work input that supports the motor planning work needed for moving clock hands
  • Try a telling time apps that can support time management needs
  • Address time concepts of am and pm to help with executive functioning skills.
  • Use sidewalk chalk to create a large clock. This is a great activity for offering resistive feedback when learning about the hands of the clock
  • Use a timer to focus on time management and the passage of time needed to complete a given task.
  • Use clock puzzles
  • Work on the number of hours on a clock using playdough and a clock playdough mat
  • Young children can learn about size awareness to understand the big hand and the little hand
  • Use a hula hoop to create a large clock to focus on motor planning and gross motor skills.
  • Teach the passage of time by using a dry erase marker to color on the face of a clock. Students can see how the minute hands moves within the estimated time as they perform the task at hand.
  • Create a paper clock and use paper hour hand and minute hand to focus on fine motor skills and bilateral coordination skills
  • Move the hands of a clock and have a dance party. When the clock reaches a certain time, the students can dance.
  • Play tell time games: Ask students what time of day they  might eat breakfast, play outside, get on the school bus, etc.
  • Make a bottle cap clock for movement and learning with time telling (see below)

Teach Time with a Bottle Cap Clock

We practiced time telling with recycled bottle caps for hands on learning while building a clock.

My daughter was taught time telling this past year while in the first grade, but it was fun to work on the parts of a clock and to practice time telling to the minute.  As she heads into second grade, she’ll be learning to tell time to the minute, so we added a minute component to our time telling with the bottle caps.

 
Teach kids how to tell time with hands on learning in this first grade or second grade time telling activity using recycled bottle caps.  Build a clock and practice telling time!
 
 

 

How to teach kids how to tell time: 

This post contains affiliate links.  

We love to use bottle caps in learning activities: stamping sight wordsletter learning, or 10s counters, and are excited to add this activity to this month’s Learning with Free Materials series, part of the 31 Days of Homeschooling Tips as we blog along with other bloggers with learning at home tips and tools.

Teach kids how to tell time with hands on learning in this first grade or second grade time telling activity using recycled bottle caps.  Build a clock and practice telling time!

 To begin this time telling activity, I wrote the numbers 1-12 on bottle caps using a  permanent marker.  Find a large round placemat/charger and have your child work on positioning the numbers as they appear on the clock.  

In this hands-on clock building activity, first show your child how to place the 12, 3, 6, and 9 on the clock face.  This is a good way to teach the concept of quarter hours and half hours, as well as quarter after, quarter to, and half-past.

Show them how the other numbers can fit within the numbers 3, 6, and 9 on the clock. The space left between 12 and 3 can hold the numbers 1 and 2 and so on.

 Use the marker to write the minute numbers on the opposite side of the bottle caps.  So, when they flip over the number one, it will have “5” written on the other side.  Number 2 will have “10” written on the other side.  

Once they’ve built their clock, they can turn over all of the bottle caps and count out the minutes by fives.

Teach kids how to tell time with hands on learning in this first grade or second grade time telling activity using recycled bottle caps.  Build a clock and practice telling time!

 We then used a round glass dish to build the clock.  

Use foam craft sticks like for the minute and hour hand.  Cut one shorter than the other to teach about size awareness of the different hands on the clock.

Be sure to have your child identify the names of the hour hand and minute hand as part of this learning and clock building activity.  

On the glass plate, pour a small amount of water.  The added sensory component of the water is fun for a spin on this clock building task, because the bottle caps and the foam craft sticks will stick to the glass dish with the water.  Practice moving the hands around to tell different times.

Teach kids how to tell time with hands on learning in this first grade or second grade time telling activity using recycled bottle caps.  Build a clock and practice telling time!

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

Rainbow Hundreds Chart Puzzle

In this rainbow math activity, we used popsicle sticks to make a rainbow hundreds chart puzzle that was perfect for my kindergarten and second grade kiddos. (And, it would be a nice hands-on math activity for first grade, too.)  This is a multisensory math idea that combines fine motors skills with the colors of the rainbow to teach kids about groups of tens in a hundreds chart.

Combining numbers into groups of ten and those tens into hundreds is a math concept that is so important for so many math concepts.  We worked on fine motor skills to build the tens columns and combined them into hundreds to work on a few math skills.

Make this hundreds chart puzzle with rainbow popsicle sticks for multisensory math and hands on learning for kids.

This was such a fun rainbow activity for the season, but this activity could definitely be used year-round.


Hundreds Chart Puzzle

Amazon links are included below. You’ll need a few materials for this rainbow hundreds chart puzzle:

A punch like this one is perfect for building gross hand grasp strength. BUT, if you want this crafting project to move by faster than a snail’s pace, use a 3 Hole Punch. It’s perfect for working proprioception to the arms.  Fold paper into columns and slide it into the punch to get a bunch of holes punched at once.

Make a hundreds chart puzzle using rainbow popsicle sticks for multisensory math for kids.

To make the rainbow puzzle:
Punch a ton of holes from the white paper.

Sort the popsicle sticks into rainbow order on the table surface. Kids can work on visual scanning and visual perceptual skills for this task as they look for colors of the rainbow.

Next, Swipe the glue along the craft sticks and count out ten holes from the white paper. This is a super counting activity for kids to practice counting ones and grouping into tens.  

The fine motor work going on here is fantastic, too. Picking up those itty bitty paper holes is a precision grasp workout.

Punch extra holes from the colored construction paper.  

A rainbow popsicle stick hundreds chart puzzle is a fine motor math activity that kids can make.

 

And, you’re done!  Practice counting the numbers using the tens craft sticks.  Arrange them into groups of ten sticks to create a hundreds chart.  

Use this rainbow math hundreds chart to work on building tens and hundreds into a hands-on math hundreds chart activity, perfect for working on important math concepts and fine motor skills with kindergarten, first grade, and second grade!
Use this rainbow math hundreds chart puzzle to work on building tens and hundreds into a hands-on math hundreds chart activity, perfect for working on important math concepts and fine motor skills with kindergarten, first grade, and second grade!

Multisensory Math activities

Use this rainbow hundreds chart puzzle for a variety of hands-on math activities:

  • Sort the popsicle sticks into rainbow order.
  • Count the dots by tens
  • Add up all of the colors that are the same, being sure to count by tens.
  • Build two and three digit numbers
  • Practice addition with and without regrouping using the manipulatives as counters.
  • Practice subtraction with and without regrouping using the craft stick manipulatives.
  • Build a two or three digit number and ask your child to name the number.
  • Ask your child to name a number and then build a two or three digit number.

Looking for more ways to learn with rainbows?  

Rainbow learning activities for kids

 

Use this rainbow math hundreds chart to work on building tens and hundreds into a hands-on math hundreds chart activity, perfect for working on important math concepts and fine motor skills with kindergarten, first grade, and second grade!

Our favorite multisensory math activities:


Regrouping double digit math

Outer Space Regrouping Maze


Regrouping Tips and Tricks

How would you play and learn with this rainbow hundreds chart puzzle and math popsicle stick hundreds chart?

Take multisensory learning further with the rainbow theme. Try our new Colors Handwriting Kit. It now includes a bonus pack of fine motor, visual motor, and directionality pencil control activities.

Colors Handwriting Kit

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

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

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

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

Fish learning activity

We had some fish learning activities based on a penguin theme going on for a while around here.  Penguin activities are so much fun for learning and play!  This fish learning activity was a fun way to explore letters, words, and numbers AND incorporate our penguin theme.  We did this learning and counting activity one day after we made our penguin themed snacks. Add it to the penguin yoga activity and penguin deep breathing activities to round out full-body movement and learning.

Use these fish learning activities to work on sight words, math, letter identification, or spelling words with whole body learning.

Fish learning activity

Penguin math is fun when it comes to catching fish for penguin food! Use these ideas for a polar bear theme, too.

We used sheets of scrapbook paper and construction paper to make fish shapes. Kids can cut these out to work on scissor skills.

Make a fish learning activity and kids can fish for words or fish for math problems. Great for kinesthetic learning.

Next, we drew a pond on a large sheet of crafting paper.  I wrote words, letters, or numbers on the fish. On some, I attached a paperclip or clip. We used a net (from a Bug Net toy) or a fishing pole from a puzzle set
to scoop up the fish like a penguin would. 

fish learning activities for math, sight words, numbers, or letter identification.

You could also use a magnetic fishing pole from a puzzle set to catch the fish with clips on them. We scooped them in numerical order or in alphabetical order and then in random order too. 

How fun would this be to read a few fun penguin books and then do some fishy counting to continue the penguin theme?

 

 

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

Polar Bear Game

polar bear math game

Today, I have a hands on learning activity for second grade using a polar bear game. This number line games for 2nd grade could actually be used in any age or grade level math, however, the polar bear craft that we used for a second grade math game turned out to be a fun way to work on base ten operations and adding 10’s and 100’s to two and three digit numbers. In second grade, adding two digits is a big deal! This polar bear activity is a fun two digit addition games for 2nd grade (and other grades).

If polar bear crafts and activities are right up your ally this winter, try some of these other polar bear activities, including a polar bear slide deck for distance learning or virtual therapy brain breaks, and this cute polar bear self-regulation activity.

polar bear math game for teaching second grade place value and two digit addition with hands on learning.

Polar Bear Craft

You’ll need a few materials for the polar bear craft. Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

White crafting pom poms
(1 inch) White crafting pom poms
(1/4 inch) Black crafting pom pom
(1/8 inch) Mini googly eyes
Crafting glue

Polar bear craft

To make the polar bear craft, glue the small white crafting pom poms to the white pom pom. These will become the polar bear’s ears.  Glue the black pom pom to the bear’s face. This will become the nose.  Add the googly eyes and your polar bear craft is done.

There are a lot of fine motor skills being addressed in the making of this polar bear craft: pincer grasp, eye-hand coordination, in-hand manipulation, bilateral coordination, and separation of the sides of the hand.

Polar bear craft made with pom poms or cotton balls.

This polar bear craft would pair nicely with our snowball math activity, designed to inspire hands-on learning with gross motor skills. The polar bear math activity described here would also go well with our Winter Fine Motor Kit, which is loaded with polar bear themed fine motor activities and crafts designed to target and strengthen specific fine motor skills.

Polar bear math game for second grade base ten operations concepts like adding 10s and 100s to two and three digit numbers for hands on fun and creative learning with a fun polar bear craft!

Polar Bear Game

We played a polar bear game to boost second grade math skills by working on adding 10’s and 100’s to numbers along the number line.  I showed my daughter how to use a straw to blow the craft pom pom polar bear craft across the table and along the number line.  

We started the bear at zero and tried to see how far she could get the bear to go down the number line.  I then asked her a few questions that I had written out on cards:

  • What is your digit?
  • Is your digit even or odd?
  • What is 10 more?
  • What is 10 less?
  • What is 100 more?

We played a few times and then tried a few different extension ideas for this activity.

  • Starting at where the polar bear lands, count on by 2’s, 5’s, 10’s, and 100’s.
  • Start out by saying “We’ll add 100 to the number where your bear lands.” Then, practice counting backwards by 2’s, 5’s, 10’s, and 100’s.
  • Use two polar bear crafts to practice single and double digit adding and subtracting.
Make a polar bear craft with craft pom poms and use it in a polar bear game in therapy interventions or the classroom.

This polar bear game would be a great way to work on aspects of numbers with a hands-on approach to learning. Use it along with this Snowman Math-Composing and Decomposing Numbers activity.

Polar Bear Sensory Activity

This activity doubles as a polar bear sensory activity as it offers oral motor skills work. By blowing the straw to move the craft pom poms, children experience proprioceptive input through their mouth and cheeks. This sensory input is calming and can be a regulating tool to help kids focus following the heavy work through their mouth.

Using the straw to blow the polar bear across the table requires some “oomph” because of the weight of the crafting pom poms.  Blowing through a straw is a great way to provide proprioception through a winter-themed oral motor activity. This is a fun activity for sensory seekers, kids who seek out oral motor input, and children who tend to fidget during learning or homework.  

Check out our January Occupational Therapy calendar for more winter-themed sensory activities. 

Challenge oral motor skills with proprioceptive input through the mouth using this straw and cotton ball polar bear craft.

Polar Bear Therapy Activities

If blowing the straw requires too much effort for your child, or you would like to try a fine motor activity, practice flicking the polar bear across the table. Keeping the bear on the table requires precision of fine motor skills, making it another way to use the polar bear craft in therapy and hands-on learning.

Additional polar bear therapy ideas include:

Use this polar bear gross motor activity to work on balance, motor planning, movement changes, and strengthening.

This polar bear science activity challenges fine motor skills.

Use polar bear crafts, pencil control sheets, scissor skills challenges, and more in the Winter Fine Motor Kit.

This Polar Bear Food Chains activity focuses on handwriting.

This Polar Animals Facts Game and this Polar Animals True or False? activity challenges executive functioning skills and scissor skills. 

This Polar Bear Footprint Multiplication activity builds hand strength, arch development, grasp, and coordination.

This Polar Animal Pattern Activity for First Grade focuses on visual perceptual skills. 

This Arctic Animals Sight Words Game develops visual perceptual skills.

For some penguin fun, this Penguin Art Project inspires fine motor development with a penguin craft. This Penguin Addition to 100 with Hundreds Chart builds eye hand coordination and fine motor skills.

Grab the Winter Fine Motor Kit, with 100 pages of done-for-you therapy activities, including polar bear themes. Grab it now before January 9th and you get a bonus of 3 fine motor slide deck activities.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE WINTER FINE MOTOR KIT.

winter fine motor kit

These reproducible activity pages include: pencil control strips, scissor skills strips, simple and complex cutting shapes, lacing cards, toothpick precision art, crumble hand strengthening crafts, memory cards, coloring activities, and so much more.

Play Dough Roll Mats- Use the 6 play dough mats to develop fine motor skills and hand strength needed for tasks like coloring with endurance, manipulating small items, and holding a pencil. Kids can roll small balls of play dough with just their fingertips to strengthen the intrinsic muscles.

Pinch and Grip Strength Activities- Challenge fine motor skills with polar bear and winter themed glue skills page, tong/tweezer activities, lacing cards, finger puppets, 1-10 counting clip cards, 10 toothpick art pages, find & color page, 5 crumble art pages. 

Pencil Control Worksheets- Connect the arctic animals or winter items and stay on the pencil path lines while mastering pencil control.

Arctic Animal Cutting Strips and Scissor Skills Sheets- Work on scissor skills to cut along lines to reach the arctic animal friends or snowflakes, snowmen, and mittens. This is a great way to strengthen the motor and visual skills needed for cutting with scissors.  

Handwriting Sensory Bin Materials- You and the kiddos will love these A-Z uppercase and lowercase tracing cards with directional arrows, 1-10 tracing cards with directional arrows, 1-10 counting cards. 

“I Spy” Modified Paper- Includes: Color and find objects in two themes: winter items and arctic animals; 3 styles of modified paper for each theme: single rule bold lines, double rule bold lines, highlighted double rule. 

Fine Motor Handwriting Sheets- Try the 4 Find/Color/Copy pages in different styles of modified paper, rainbow writing pages in 3 styles of modified paper.

Write the Room Activities- Using a winter theme, these Write the Room cards includes: 5 lowercase copy cards, 5 uppercase copy cards, 5 lowercase tracing cards, 5 uppercase copy cards, 6 cursive writing copy cards, 2 styles of writing pages.

Get the Winter Fine Motor Kit Here.

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

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

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.

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

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 from Still Playing School
Monster Math and Science from Artsy Momma
Candy Corn Literacy Games from Growing Book By Book
Pumpkin Name Game from Fantastic Fun and Learning
Candy Corn Math from From ABCs to ACTs
Fall Counting Activities from Preschool Inspirations
Fall Tree Number Matching from Mom Inspired Life

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

Kindergarten Readiness and Executive Functioning Skills

Kindergarten readiness and developing executive functioning skills in kindergarten

Many parents of preschoolers have questions about preparing for kindergarten. There are kindergarten checklists and loads of resources online designed to address kindergarten readiness. One area that parents might miss when getting ready for kindergarten is the concept of executive functioning skills. Executive functioning skills develop from very early in childhood! These skills can easily be developed
through fun, age-appropriate play. Sound familiar? Combining learning and play in kindergarten is essential to build skills with an age appropriate awareness and at developmental levels. This is the exact way that children should be preparing for kindergarten!

Kindergarten readiness and developing executive functioning skills in kindergarten

Kindergarten Readiness

There is immense amount of pressure for children to be ready for the academic demands of
school, even from kindergarten. From the moment they walk in the door, most kindergartners
are pushed to be “little sponges” of the academic content to meet standards. However, most of us
recognize that this may not be the most appropriate approach to take. Finding engaging executive functioning activities can be tricky. The ideas here should be a great start to add to your kindergarten lesson plans or use in kindergarten preparations.


However, there are more child-friendly things that parents can do to help their children get ready
for kindergarten. Provide children with opportunities to be independent! Teach them the steps to
wash their hands (initiation, working memory, shifting, monitoring), how to blow their nose
(initiation, working memory, and monitoring), and letter recognition (working memory). Teach
them how to follow directions (impulse control, working memory, and shifting).

PREPARING FOR KINDERGARTEN WITH EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING SKILLS

Working on some kindergarten prep through play can involved executive functioning skills at the same time. Start here to understand exactly what executive functioning skills entail, but when it comes to kindergarten aged children, here are some of the executive functioning skills that can be addressed through play as well as tasks that will help them prepare for kindergarten:

Kindergarten lesson plans can include these reading and writing activities that build executive functioning skills

Reading, Writing, and Executive Functioning

Amazon affiliate links are included below.


There are many ways to integrate reading and writing preparation into play. Have your child
match uppercase and lowercase letters in games or at the store. This encourages working
memory (what letter they need to look for). Games like Zingo are great for teaching sight words
in a fun way while also requiring a child to use their impulse control, shifting, and working
memory.

More reading and writing for kindergarten:

Alphabet Discovery Bottle

Magnetic Letter Handwriting Game

Name Soup Writing Your Name 

Fizzy Dough Letters 

Handwriting Cookie Cutters

Kindergarten lesson plans can include these math activities to develop executive functioning skills to prepare for kindergarten

Math, Science, and Executive Functioning

Early math and science skills can be fun and easy to integrate into play! If the weather is
conducive, try hopscotch, saying the numbers out loud as you jump! For mental flexibility,
change the rules of how they go through the series: hop on one foot, jump on two feet, switch
feet, and so on. For older children or those who know their evens and odds, have them only jump
on the odds or only on evens.


For science, create simple science experiments, like vinegar and baking soda volcanos! This
requires initiation, monitoring, impulse control, shifting, and planning/organizing.

More kindergarten math activities to build executive function:

Caterpillar Math Craft 

Math with Checkers 

Cardboard Tangrams 

Play Dough Math 

Counting Nature 

Play and Executive Functioning

Play is critical, but with the push to be ready for academics, play is getting pushed to the side
However, without play, children suffer. They lack the ability to find joy in learning.

Outdoor play provides the opportunity for children to develop their executive functioning while
participating in child-led adventures! Taking a bike ride or a walk around the community, or
even playing basketball in a driveway, requires a child to demonstrate strong impulse control and
monitoring skills for safety. Red light, green light is also a great opportunity to work on impulse
control.

Outdoor play also encourages children to take risks while being aware of their surroundings.
Whether determining if cars are coming, stranger danger, or appropriate clothing to wear outside,
this is an incredible opportunity to encourage executive functioning development!


Can’t play outside? Build a fort! Planning/organizing, initiation, shifting, time management, and
working memory are critical for this.

Kindergarten play ideas to build executive function

Teaching Spatial Concepts 

Bugs and Beans Sensory Play 

Outdoor Small World Play 

Painting Toys in the Water Table 

Sticks and Stones Simple Sensory Play

Use these executive functioning games in kindergarten lesson plans and to prepare for kindergarten

Games and Activities to build executive functioning skills in kindergarten


Some family-friendly games include Outfoxed (initiation, working memory, monitoring,
planning/organizing, and impulse control) and Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game.

For less structured activities, think about making something in the kitchen, like baked goods. Making slime with a slime kit is another engaging way to build executive functioning skills.

For a less structured executive functioning activity, try making a bracelet from a bracelet kit that involves patterns or low-level direction-following.

For kindergarten readiness, focus on fun! This is a time of extensive growth, including in the
area of executive functioning.

For more executive functioning activities, grab this Executive Functioning Activity Guide. It’s full of strategies to address common executive functioning areas that impact working memory, attention, impulse control, organization, and more.

executive functioning skills activity guide The OT Toolbox

Place Value Scarecrow Craft

Scarecrow craft to help with math skills

Need a math craft idea that is perfect for this time of year? Look no further. This scarecrow craft can be used for any grade or age. Kids can be resistant to practicing extra math facts and practicing skills that they’ve learned in school or homeschool.  But often times, math skills like adding and composing numbers up to 1000 in this second grade math activity NEED additional practicing at home.  So how do you get that extra practice in without pulling teeth (or pulling out your own hair!)??  Playful Math activities make learning and practicing skills fun. We made this Math Scarecrow Craft to practice second grade math, including place value and composing numbers…but you can make it age-appropriate for preschool on up through elementary-aged kids.

 

Make this Scarecrow craft this Fall and practice math facts and addition or subtraction.  This is perfect for second grade math or any preschool or elementary age student, and a fantastic scissor skill exercise for kids.
 
 


Scarecrow Craft

 
This post contains affiliate links.  
 
To make this scarecrow craft, you’ll need a few materials:
Ivory Cardstock
scissors (THESE are my favorite brand and what I always recommended as a school-based OT!)
glue
Goldenrod cardstock
orange cardstock
Buttons, paper scraps, ribbons, etc.
Brown Paper Bag
 
Make this Scarecrow craft this Fall and practice math facts and addition or subtraction.  This is perfect for second grade math or any preschool or elementary age student, and a fantastic scissor skill exercise for kids.
 
To make the scarecrow craft (and totally sneak math into this Fall craft):


Scarecrow Craft for Kids

First, snip the Goldenrod cardstock into long strips about 1/2 inch wide.  Cutting the cardstock in long cutting lines is an excellent exercise in scissor skills.  The cardstock provides a thicker resistance than construction or printer paper.  This added resistance provides feedback to kids who are working on line awareness and smooth cutting lines.  
 
You can draw lines on the cardstock with a pencil/pen, or if the child needs more assistance with scissor skills, make the lines with a thick marker.  Cutting the long strips of cardstock require the child to open/shut the scissors with smooth cutting strokes as they cut along the lines.  Cutting all of the hair straw strands for the scarecrow craft is quite an exercise in scissor skills!
 
Next, you’ll have the child cut a large circle from the Ivory Cardstock.  We used a bowl and traced a circle, but you could also have the child draw their own circle.  This will become the face of the scarecrow.  Cutting a circle with smooth cutting strokes is a more difficult task for children than cutting strait lines.  Kids may need verbal and physical prompts to cut along the curved line with accuracy.
 
You can draw a hat-ish shape from the brown paper bag.  I say hat-ISH because a scarecrow often has a floppy and battered hat on his head, so a hat shape that looks mostly like a hat is just about perfect for this scarecrow craft!  
 
Kids can cut the hat shape and may require more assistance with this part.  Cutting a material like a brown paper bag is more difficult than cutting regular printer paper, so the flimsy-ness of the paper requires more skill and accuracy with scissor control and line awareness.  
 
Jagged lines make this scarecrow look authentic, though, so feel free to add more snips and cuts into the hat, too!
 
Make this Scarecrow craft this Fall and practice math facts and addition or subtraction.  This is perfect for second grade math or any preschool or elementary age student, and a fantastic scissor skill exercise for kids.
 
Next, you will crumble up the paper hat shape.  My daughter really got into this part. “Crumble up this paper?? Awwww Yeah!”
 
Crumbling paper is a great fine motor strengthening exercise for children.  They really strengthen the intrinsic muscles of their hands with paper crumpling.  What a workout this scarecrow craft is!
 
Glue the hat in place on the scarecrow’s head.

 

Make this Scarecrow craft this Fall and practice math facts and addition or subtraction.  This is perfect for second grade math or any preschool or elementary age student, and a fantastic scissor skill exercise for kids.
 

Scarecrow Math Craft

 
To make the hair of the scarecrow, glue the goldenrod strips on the head and along the hat.  Cut a triangle from the orange cardstock for the scarecrow’s nose.  Use buttons, paper scraps, and ribbons to dress up your scarecrow, adding eyes, mouth, and any other decorations.  We received the buttons we used to make the eyes from our pals at www.craftprojectideas.com.  Add a smile and your scarecrow is ready to decorate walls and doorways this Fall!
 
But wait!  Make this cute scarecrow into a Math activity that the kids will Fall in love with.  Yep, I went there.
 


Place Value Craft

To incorporate math into this scarecrow craft, use those paper strips.  We made this activity perfect for practicing second grade addition skills.  
 
My second grader has been working on building numbers up to 1000.  On the strips, I wrote a three digit number on the end of many of the paper strips.  She then chose different ways to describe that number.  She wrote out the number in words on some strips.  
 
On other strips, she built the three digit number using Common Core strategies.  For example, I wrote the number 421 on one strip.  She demonstrated how to “build” that number by writing “400 + 20 + 1”.  This technique helped her practice skills she’s learned at school while understanding what makes up a three digit number.  She was able to identify the hundreds, tens, and ones in a three digit number.  Work on and discuss place value and number order with this activity.
 

The nice thing about this scarecrow craft is that you can adjust the math to fit any age…or just make the craft without the math facts for a super cute Fall Scarecrow!

 
Make this Scarecrow craft this Fall and practice math facts and addition or subtraction.  This is perfect for second grade math or any preschool or elementary age student, and a fantastic scissor skill exercise for kids.
 

Scarecrow Math Tips

How can you make this Math Scarecrow Craft work for your child’s needs?  Try these ideas:
 
  • Adjust the activity slightly by working on math facts.  Write a number on the end of the strip and ask your child to write the addition or subtraction problem on the length of the hair.
  • Write the SAME number on the end of each strip.  Ask your child to write each strip with different math addition problems that make up different ways to reach the number.  For example, write the number 16 on each strip.  Your child can write 8+8 on one strip, and other strips with 10+6, 12+4, 20-4, etc.

More Scarecrow Activities

Looking for more scarecrow activities? Below are scarecrow activities for kids that cover a variety of areas: math, language arts, art, and more. 
 
Stop by and see what our friends have come up with using this week’s Scarecrow theme:

Free Scarecrow Expanded Form Memory Game – Work on more scarecrow math with this activity and game from Life Over C’s. 
 
Scarecrow Syllables for Second Grade – Use a scarecrow activity to help with early literacy skills in this creative scarecrow activity from Look! We’re Learning! 
  
Scarecrow Measures – Another scarecrow math activity, this one from Crafty Kids at Home is a fun addition to a Fall themed learning plan. 
 
Scarecrow Silhouette Art Project – A Scarecrow craft that the kids will love is fun to add to your therapy plan. Use this idea from School Time Snippets. 
 
Scarecrow Compound Word Match Game – Work on more literacy using this idea from Creative Family Fun.
 
Scarecrow Craft with Landscape Another scarecrow craft the kids will love, use this one from Sallie Borrink Learning to work on scissor skills, too.
 
 

More of our Creative Math ideas: