STEM Fine Motor Activities

Fine motor STEM activities

Occupational therapists work with fine motor development as a cornerstone of treatment.  With the current trend toward STEM education, it makes sense to blend the two into fine motor STEM activities and treatment in order to be more efficient and effective.

Fine motor STEM activities

What is STEM?

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing at 24%, while other occupations are growing at 4%.  Children in the United States score lower on science and math than students in other countries. 

The push for STEM curriculum helps bridge the gap between genders and races, that are sometimes found in science and math fields.  Students with special needs also lag in these academic areas. Research shows there are not enough students pursuing science, technology, engineering, or mathematic degrees, as compared to the available jobs.

According to the National Science Foundation, “In the 21st century, scientific and technological innovations have become increasingly important as we face the benefits and challenges of both globalization and a knowledge-based economy. To succeed in this new information-based and highly technological society, students need to develop their capabilities in STEM to levels much beyond what was considered acceptable in the past.”

Why Fine Motor and STEM?

Science, technology, electronics and mathematics do not just involve cognitive ability. Fine motor skills are needed for STEM careers that involve typing, building, writing, solving equations, experimenting, research, surgery, as well as everyday function. 

STEM fine motor activities are going to be much more important to build these important skills. As technology gets more scientific and advanced, so too will the need for precise fine motor skills.  Surgeries are much more advanced than 100 years ago.  Engineers are working on tiny circuits and micro computers.

I saw a BMW prototype last week that morphs from a car to a plane that can soar over traffic!  Imagine the dexterity it takes to build that kind of machine!

When should I start working on STEM fine motor activities?  

Caregivers start addressing fine motor skills in babyhood. Encouraging a passion for science and technology can start at the same time.

Selecting a few fine motor toys for young learners that address fine motor skills while developing STEM education. 

For example, check out this super cute (Amazon affiliate link) Frog Balancing Game that can be modified for many different levels of learners. This one game involves:

  • math – counting, sorting, adding, number recognition
  • science -measuring weight, comparison
  • fine motor skills – pick up and manipulate the small objects, hold the cards
  • visual motor skills – read the cards and process the information

How do I make this transition to fine motor STEM?

Change is hard. Especially for seasoned therapists who have used a certain system for a long time, or feel that what they are doing works.  The good news is, you have already been doing STEM fine motor activities with your learners. 

Check out this link on Amazon (affiliate link) to toys/activities that address STEM fine motor activities and skills.

On The OT Toolbox, we share tons of fine motor activity ideas to incorporate STEM into fine motor treatment. Occupational therapists do not usually correlate these activities with STEM, but they fit into both categories.  

Remember pegboard Geo Boards?  This classic game builds fine motor strength, following directions, coordination, motor planning, visual motor skills, visual perception, frustration tolerance, and executive function.  It ALSO addresses math using measurement, shape recognition and patterns; science learning about rubber bands and tension; and engineering to create patterns from a picture.

Fine motor STEM and Lego  

Legos are another classic toy. Use activity analysis to break this game down into its fine motor components, as well as incorporating math, engineering, or technology. 

There is more to LEGO bricks than being able to follow a diagram to make a Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle (love this by the way!).  Speaking of the Hogwarts castle, there was definitely math, engineering, AND fine motor skills needed to build that superstructure. 

Learners can also make graphs of their LEGO, use them for adding/subtracting, use engineering to create items with moving parts, and that is just the beginning. 

By thinking outside the box, learners with special needs can find their special ability using Legos also.

classic toys for STEM fine motor activities

The lists of (Amazon affiliate link) classic toys occupational therapists incorporate into treatment plans is endless.  Take another look at these classics to see how they fit into science, technology, engineering or math.  

  • Peg boards
  • Lacing cards
  • Magnets
  • Measuring tape
  • Swings
  • Pop the Pig, Connect 4, Trouble, Candy Land
  • Lincoln Logs, Connex, Erector Set
  • Baking
  • Slime

Fine motor and STEM activities do not have to include experiments, games, and hands-on activities.  Worksheets serve the purpose of addressing both categories very well. 

The OT Toolbox has great fine motor kits for each season that incorporate math and science along with addressing those needed fine motor skills. 

More ideas from the OT Toolbox

As a seasoned therapist myself, I may dig my heels in at the idea of changing the way I do treatment, or learning a new method. I give a heavy sigh of relief knowing I have been doing STEM all along. I just didn’t call it that. 

Even though occupational therapists are providing the right activities to work on goal achievement, they may be running into students with lack of motivation, refusal, and general dislike of many of the treatment ideas asked of them. 

Teachers and therapists need to help bridge this gap early on, and find a way to teach all learners a respect for STEM and fine motor education.

You are doing a great job incorporating what you already know, into something new!

Victoria Wood

Victoria Wood, OTR/L has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.

Use these Fine Motor Kits for hands-on activity kits to develop fine motor skills, strength, dexterity, and manipulation. Kids LOVE these fine motor kits for the motivating activities. Therapists love them because it’s fresh, fun ways to work on pinch, grip, manipulation skills, and much more. Try some of these themed therapy kits:

Fall Ten Frames

Fall ten frames

These Fall ten frames are a fun math leaf activity. All you need is a few leaves from the yard and a hole punch to work on math skills, and the sensory benefits of heavy work through the hands. It’s a fun way to teach math through play with sensory math!

Fall Ten Frames

This time of year, we are on leaf overload.  Just playing in the yard, we have piles and piles of leaves in of all the Fall colors.  I love getting outside with my kids and playing in the piles of leaves each year.  It is such a sensory and just plain old fun way to experience the season of Fall. 
 
We used some of those colorful leaves in a fun Math Ten Frame activity that combined fine motor strengthening for a powerful fine motor punch.  
 
Make fall ten frames with real leaves
 

This post contains affiliate links.

How to make Fall Ten Frames

Gather your materials:

  • Leaves
  • Black marker
  • Hole punch
  • Die or dice

That’s it! Next, get started on creating the leaf ten frames.

First step: Go out and gather those leaves! Nature hunts rock, and the crunchy, cool weather of Fall makes memories.  
 
Gather pretty leaves along your way and bring them on home.  
 
Note: You will want leaves that are not crunchy. Those dried up leaves are perfect for a different sensory activity- working on auditory processing skills with leaves
 
For this activity, you’ll want to gather colorful, freshly fallen leaves or leaves still on the tree will work best for this activity.
 
Next: Grab a Black Marker and draw a ten frame on the leaf.  You’ll need a Hole Punch for the math, and a die.  
 
Draw ten frames and punch holes in leaves with a hole punch

 

Using Ten Frames with Older Kids

This fall math activity can be used with older kids, too on a variety of math skills.
 
Roll the die and have your kiddo count the dots.  They can then use the Hole Punch to mark off the correct number of dots on the ten frame.  
 
By rolling the die, kids can practice their ability to subsidize. 
 
Subsitizing refers to the math skill of knowing the number of dots on the dice by just glancing is a skill of subsidizing in math. and will help kids as they get older with math. Subsitizing helps a child advance to more advanced addition and subtraction, and allows for number sense in math.
 
Older kids can benefit from this activity, too.  I still use ten frames with my second grader.  They are a powerful way to introduce groups and multiplication concepts.  
 
Usually, I have my second grader roll the die twice or tree times and add the total before filling in the ten frame.  Ten frames also are a way to hone base ten concepts.  
 
How can you get a number to a base ten by “borrowing” from another number.  A math strategy like this is a good way to work on regrouping in addition.
 
You can grade this activity for older kids by using two dice.  Have them add the dots of both dice and punch holes from two leaves.  
 
Practice adding both numbers together. Ask them how to combine the numbers from both dice to form a full ten frame.  
 
Ask them to figure out how many holes are left over from the total.
 

Punch Holes in Leaves

Using a Hole Punch provides huge proprioceptive input to little hands, which is such a good way to “wake up” hands before a writing activity. This input through the hands offers heavy work input that can “wake up” the hands. The great thing about proprioception tasks like this one is that heavy work can also be used to “calm down” the nervous system.
 
Similarly, we used scissors to cut real leaves along lines and develop fine motor skills, scissor skills, and eye-hand coordination, which also offered sensory motor feedback through the hands. 
 
Combine math, handwriting, and literacy by counting out numbers on the leaves, writing numbers on paper, and creating sentences based on the numbers.  You can also tally number of the different colored leaves and write down the results on paper.
 
You might have seen a recent post about gross grasp and why kids need to work on this area for development.  
 
A hole punch is a fabulous way to work on gross grasp and other fine motor strengthening, like thumb stability and motion needed for scissor use.  
 
Plus when you have all of the holes punched out from the leaves, you can use pincer grasp to pick up and sort the leaf circles. This is a great precision grasp and release activity to develop dexterity in fine motor skills.
 
Draw ten frames on leaves for fall math

 

Use this activity all Fall long for math, proprioception, and fine motor strengthening!  And enjoy those crunchy Fall colors before they are gone!
 

Looking for more hands-on, playful math activities?  These are some of our favorites: 

 Commutative Property of Addition  How to Add with Regrouping  Use play dough in math  Bottle caps in first grade math
 

More fine motor fun…

Use these Fine Motor Kits for hands-on activity kits to develop fine motor skills, strength, dexterity, and manipulation. Kids LOVE these fine motor kits for the motivating activities. Therapists love them because it’s fresh, fun ways to work on pinch, grip, manipulation skills, and much more. Try some of these themed therapy kits:

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.

Doubles and Near Doubles

doubles and near doubles craft

If you have a second grader, than you may be familiar with doubles and near doubles. This form of math facts with doubles numbers (adding two numbers that are the same) and near doubles (adding two numbers that are almost the same), can help kids quickly learn math facts with a brain trick. We created a spider activity that was a fun way to practice doubles and near doubles!

Adding Doubles and Near Doubles in Second Grade Math up to 20, with a hands-on math, spider theme.

What are Doubles and Near Doubles?

We explained this a bit, but let’s expand on these math definitions.

You might be thinking, “What!?” I have to admit, adding near doubles is a concept that I learned along with my oldest when she went through second grade.

What is Doubles and Near Doubles in Second grade math?  

Doubles are the addends that are exactly the same.  These are addition facts that second graders need to know to add within 20.

Near Doubles are those addends that are almost a double fact. So, 4+5 is very close to 4+4.  Students can easily recall that the double fact for 4+4=8 and by adding one more, they quickly know that 4+5=9.  These are math fact tools that can help second graders add within 20.

Doubles Math Facts

Doubles math facts include:

  • 0+0=0
  • 1+1=2
  • 2=2+4
  • 3+3=6
  • 4+4=8
  • 5+5=10
  • 6+6=12
  • 7+7=14
  • 8+8=16
  • 9+9=18
  • 10+10=20

Near Doubles Facts

Near doubles facts depend on the doubles that the numbers are near.

  • 0+0=0
    • 1+0=1
    • 0+1=1
  • 1+1=2
    • 2+1=3
    • 1+2=3
    • 0+1=1
    • 1+0=1
  • 2+2=4
    • 3+2=5
    • 2+3=5
    • 1+2=3
    • 2+1=3
  • 3+3=6
    • 4+3=7
    • 3+4=7
    • 2+3=5
    • 3+2=5
  • 4+4=8
    • 5+4=9
    • 4+5=9
    • 3+4=7
    • 4+3=7
  • 5+5=10
    • 6+5=11
    • 5+6=11
    • 4+5=9
    • 5+4=9
  • 6+6=12
    • 7+6=13
    • 6+7=13
    • 5+6=11
    • 6+5=11
  • 7+7=14
    • 8+7=15
    • 7+8=15
    • 6+7=13
    • 7+6=13
  • 8+8=16
    • 9+8=17
    • 8+9=17
    • 7+8=15
    • 8+7=15
  • 9+9=18
    • 10+9=19
    • 9+10=19
    • 8+9=17
    • 9+8=17
  • 10+10=20
    • 11+10=21
    • 10+11=21
    • 9+10=19
    • 10+9=19

You can see how learning just a handful of doubles facts builds a bigger repertoire of math facts. This is a particularly good path strategy for learning tricky addition facts that kids often struggle with, especially with adding the higher 6’s, 7’s, 8’s, and 9’s.

Adding Doubles and Near Doubles 

Adding doubles is a math fact memorization technique.  It is easier for kids to remember that 2+2=4, 6+6=12, 7+7=14, 9+9=18, etc.  

Kids can first memorize the doubles facts. Once they’ve got those addition facts down pat, recognizing that the near doubles facts are just one off from the double makes learning a whole new set of numbers easy.

For example:

First the student would memorize the near double of 6+6=12.

Then, when that becomes a math fact they know by sight, they can look at the math problem 6+5 and recognize that the addend 5 is just one less than the doubles fact for 6. They can know the number sense that the problem 6+5 is one less than 6+6 and easily identify the answer of 11.

Similarly, if the student is presented with the near doubles problem of 6+7, they can recognize that the addend 7 is one more than the doubles fact for 6. They can identify by number sense that the answer for 6+7 is one more than 6+6 and that the answer is 13.

Near doubles assist students with adding one more or one less than the doubles facts.

By this, we mean that once a student knows the doubles fact of 6+6=12, they then also know:

  • 6+5=11
  • 5+6=11
  • 6+7=13
  • 7+6=13

You can see how the doubles and near doubles concept builds number sense and allows students to become much more fluent and efficient at math problems.


Doubles and Near Doubles Activity

We made this near doubles activity to help with second grade math concepts, specifically in adding Doubles and adding Near Doubles., using a fun spider craft. The OT in me loves that it works on quite a few fine motor skills and scissor skills too!

I wanted to create a hands-on math activity using the doubles and Near Doubles addition facts with a spider theme.  

It’s an easy and quick activity to set up, that will help second graders realize how to quickly figure out more addition facts quite easily.  This is a math skill appropriate for Common Core Standards CCSS 2.0A.1 and CCSS 2.0A.2.  You can see those Common Core standards here.

To make your Near Doubles Spider Activity

Cut out paper strips to write doubles and near doubles addition facts.

You’ll need just a few materials for this doubles and near doubles practice activity:

  • Black construction paper
  • White colored pencil
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Googly eyes

To make this doubles and near doubles craft, complete these steps:

  1. Cut out 8 strips of black construction paper.  These will become the spider’s legs.
  2. Using a white colored pencil, write out doubles facts on one side of the black paper strips. You’ll need to write the following doubles facts on the paper strips:
    • 2+2=__
    • 3+3=__
    • 4+4=__
    • 5+5=__
    • 6+6=__
    • 7+7=__
    • 8+8=__
    • 9+9=__
  3. On the other side of each spider leg paper strip, write with your white colored pencil:
    • 2+3=__
    • 3+4=__
    • 4+5=__
    • 5+6=__
    • 6+7=__
    • 7+8=__
    • 8+9=__
    • 9+8=__
  4. Cut out a circle out of the black paper for the head.
  5. Glue googly eyes onto the spider’s head.  
  6. Glue the legs to the spider head so the Doubles are all on one side and the Near Doubles are all on the other side.  

Kids can flip the legs over to see how closely the doubles are to the Near Doubles and how knowing the Doubles facts can quickly help them figure out the Near Double facts.

You can make multiple versions of these numbers, using the commutative property of addition

Spider craft to work on doubles and near doubles facts.

Adding Doubles and Near Doubles in Second Grade Math up to 20, with a hands-on math, spider theme.

More Hands-On Math Activities you will love:

 
 Commutative Property of Addition  How to Add with Regrouping  Use play dough in math  Bottle caps in first grade math

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

How 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.