Bilateral Coordination Toys

Bilateral coordination toys

Here we are covering all things bilateral coordination toys. When it comes to bilateral integration, coordinating both sides of the body in play can be a challenge for some children. These bilateral skills impact functional use of the body, motor planning, and bilateral integration as a whole. It’s through play with occupational therapy toys targeting bilateral skills that children can strengthen and develop this essential motor skill. Let’s dissect a few select toys that promote this skill.

Amazon affiliate links are included in this blog post. As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Bilateral Coordination Toys

We’ve previously covered both fine motor toy ideas and gross motor toys. Today’s topic closely mirrors those areas. Today is all about the bilateral integration that goes into motor play. 

First, let’s talk Bilateral Coordination Toys!

Bilateral coordination toys are an occupational therapy intervention that helps children develop essential skills in bilateral integration. Toys that use both hands in a coordinated manner help children with bilateral coordination, crossing midline, and using both hands in tasks. These are essential skills that allow for an integration of both sides of the body, but more than that, bilateral coordination tells us that the brain is communicating effectively and sharing information between sides of the brain.

Today, I’m excited to share bilateral coordination toys and games to help support this essential skill.

Bilateral coordination toys for kids to develop coordination of both sides of the body.

Bilateral integration

Bilateral coordination in functional tasks makes up much of our day! Think of all of the other areas where you are using both hands or both sides of the body at the same time: getting dressed, tying shoes, cooking, typing, holding a book while reading, pouring a glass of water…the list could go on and on!

Read about bilateral integration in the cross crawl exercise resource.

This integrated use of both sides of the body can be developed through play.

Using both sides of the body together is a skill needed for many tasks: writing with a pencil with one hand while stabilizing paper with the other hand is one such activity.

Another bilateral coordination task is cutting with scissors with one hand while holding and manipulating paper with the other hand.

For children with difficulty in crossing midline, or using integrated bilateral skills, using toys in play is an effective way to work on and nurture this skill.

Looking for a toy to work on bilateral coordination to add to your gift giving this holiday season? Today we are covering ways to build bilateral coordination skills using toys and everyday items. We also have another giveaway to share today. This time it’s a fine motor toy that promotes a variety of sills, bilateral integration being one of them. I wanted to highlight this as a toy for building bilateral coordination because as we know, promoting this skill is a valuable building block to other tasks such as handwriting, cutting with scissors, self-care tasks, and more.

Working on bilateral coordination in play is a means and a strategy for building this essential skill. So, why is bilateral coordination so important? And what exactly does bilateral coordination mean?

DIY Bilateral Coordination Toys

We’ve shared quite a few bilateral coordination toys and DIY activities here on this site in the past.

A bilateral coordination lacing plate is a DIY toy and activity that can be used to work on coordinated use of both hands with a variety of themes.

Using puzzles and games that you already have with an extra special addition can be a great way to work on bilateral coordination with puzzles.

Play dough and sensory doughs are fun ways to play while working on skills like bilateral coordination and other motor skills.

Stickers are an easy way to work on bilateral coordination and can be used in the classroom, clinic, or home and in combination with obstacle courses and other motor activities.

Pegboards (both DIY and store-bought versions), are a fantastic way to work on bilateral coordination in play and in developing visual motor skills and coordination.

DIY pick-up sticks are a fun way to address bilateral integration and coordinated use of both hands together.

Making DIY lacing cards are a fun way to work on bilateral coordination. Making the lacing cards is part of the fun.

Miniature rhythm sticks can be a musical and creative way to encourage bilateral coordination.

Lock and keys games like with this DIY lock and key activity makes fine motor development an out of the box way to work on skills kids need for independence and instrumental activities of daily living.

Bilateral Coordination Toys

There are many bilateral coordination toys on the market as well. Let’s take a look at some toys and games that you can add to your therapy toolbox.

Amazon affiliate links are included below.

Pop Tubes Toy for Bilateral Coordination– (affiliate link) Pop tubes can be used in many ways to work on bilateral skills. Use them for a fine motor bilateral coordination task, or use them to work on a large scale or small scale. Wrap one around a wrist and build off of that tube. Or create a chain of tubes. Hold one and drop objects through the tube and into a container. How will you use this bilateral coordination toy?

Bilateral coordination toy for use in bilateral coordination obstacle courses and other occupational therapy interventions.

TruBalance Bilateral Coordination Toy (affiliate link) This toy requires both hands as well as the eyes to challenge balance, coordination, and bimanual skills. Kids can work with this toy while sitting, standing, or in more challenging positions. Try incorporating couch cushions for a balance activity. Use this toy in a bilateral coordination obstacle course. Kids can use the pieces in a scavenger hunt type of activity where the parts are scattered at various levels and positioning, allowing the child to crawl, climb, walk, or squat while balancing the toy. The options go on and on!

Use nuts and bolts activities to help kids develop bilateral coordination.

Nuts and Bolts Bilateral Coordination Toy– (affiliate link) This nuts and bolts activity is great for developing fine motor skills as well as bilateral coordination by requiring the child to use one hand to manipulate the parts while the other hand acts as a stabilizer. This is a nice way to develop skills needed for tasks like handwriting, pouring, stabilizing, cooking, etc.

Zoom ball in therapy can be used to work on bilateral coordination, visual convergence, core strength, shoulder stability, and motor planning.

Zoom Ball– (affiliate link) This classic toy is such a great way to work on many skills: bilateral coordination, core strength, shoulder stability, visual convergence, motor planning, and coordination. Just like the TruBalance toy, a zoom ball can be used in different positions to challenge balance and vestibular input: Try using the zoom ball in sitting, standing, kneeling, standing on couch cushions, a slant…again, the options are limitless! Use our favorite zoom ball games to get started.

Thumbs up is a bilateral coordination game for kids.

Thumbs Up Game– (affiliate link) This bilateral coordination game requires players to place rings on their thumb in a “thumbs up” position while they race to scoop and find the correct combination of colored rings to add to their thumb. It’s a fun racing game that builds visual perceptual skills too: figure ground, visual discrimination, visual memory, as well as the visual processing skill of scanning.

Lacing cards help kids develop bilateral coordination skills.

Lacing Buttons– (affiliate link) There is no doubt about the power of lacing cards when it comes to developing bilateral coordination skills. However, this lacing buttons activity takes it up a notch with the eye-hand coordination and visual processing skills. Kids can lace buttons onto wooden shirt pieces while building bilateral skills, fine motor skills, and eye-hand coordination. However, the set also includes puzzle cards that ask the child to lace on colored buttons in specific order so it matches the cards. What a workout in visual processing skills, too!

use lacing beads to help kids with coordination, fine motor skills, and bimanual skills.

Animal Lacing Beads– (affiliate link) These lacing beads are chunky wooden animals that help kids develop bilateral coordination, eye-hand coordination, fine motor skills, and visual perceptual skills. As an occupational therapist, I am drawn to this toy because of the different animals that could be used in sequencing activities, sensory bins, pretend play, stacking activities, and so much more.

Apple lacing activity for bilateral skills.

Wooden Lacing Apple– (affiliate link) This lacing puzzle challenges bilateral coordination skills and can be used to work on eye-hand coordination, tripod grasp, and motor planning. Use this activity to help with stabilization as well.

Press blocks offer a sensory feedback opportunity for building bilateral coordination.

Press and Stay Blocks– (affiliate link) These building blocks require bilateral coordination with a press so they stay, helping kids to develop bilateral coordination and get proprioceptive input to push them together and then take them apart. Building blocks are a great way to build fine motor skills and visual perceptual skills, and these are a great addition to your therapy toolbox collection.

Labyrinth Game (affiliate link) This maze game is a favorite in our house, and a tool for building bilateral coordination and visual perceptual skills too. Kids need to manipulate two knobs at the same time and coordinate visual information with one hand or the other…or both. It’s a brain building challenge that involves both sides of the body. Challenge kids to do this activity in a kneel or while standing on their knees at a low table to challenge balance and offer proprioceptive input as well.

fine motor toy for kids

Octi Buckle Plush Toy with Hook and Loop Straps– (affiliate link) This play toy is a strategy to encourage development of fine motor skills, problem solving, color matching, coordination, and more. This stuffed play buddy is a toy that promotes development of many skills, bilateral coordination being one of them.

Using toys that double as quiet time activities, busy bags, or travel toys…all while working on skills is what makes toys like the buckle plush toy a therapist-approved toy. A buckle toy, with bright colors, shapes, straps, and zipper pouch will provide countless hours of recognition activities, brain building games and development puzzles. Your little one will stay busy counting the number of straps, connecting them together, pulling them apart, and starting over again. Kids can hide small items and treasures in the zip pouch, then unzip it later and get excited over their discovery!

More Bilateral coordination activities

Amazon affiliate links are included below.

Some of the smartest and most creative folks I know are the readers of The OT Toolbox. I asked readers to tell me sensory strategies they personally love and use to address sensory modulation. Scroll through the comments…you might just find some new sensory strategies that will work for you! Hopefully we can learn from one another!

Also, check out these other soy suggestions based on therapeutic development through play.

  1. Fine Motor Toys 
  2. Gross Motor Toys 
  3. Pencil Grasp Toys 
  4. Toys for Reluctant Writers
  5. Toys for Spatial Awareness 
  6. Toys for Visual Tracking 
  7. Toys for Sensory Play 
  8. Bilateral Coordination Toys 
  9. Games for Executive Functioning Skills 
  10. Toys and Tools to Improve Visual Perception 
  11. Toys to Help with Scissors Skills
  12. Toys for Attention and Focus 

Printable List of Toys for Bilateral Coordination

Want a printable copy of our therapist-recommended toys to support bilateral coordination?

As therapy professionals, we LOVE to recommend therapy toys that build skills! This toy list is done for you so you don’t need to recreate the wheel.

Your therapy caseload will love these BILATERAL COORDINATION toy recommendations. (There’s space on this handout for you to write in your own toy suggestions, to meet the client’s individual needs, too!)

Enter your email address into the form below. The OT Toolbox Member’s Club Members can access this handout inside the dashboard, under Educational Handouts. Just be sure to log into your account, first!

Therapist-Recommended
BILATERAL COORDINATION TOYS HANDOUT

    We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

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

    Gross Motor Toys

    gross motor toys

    If you are looking for the best gross motor toys to challenge coordination, balance, motor planning through whole-body movement and heavy work play, then you are in luck with these occupational therapy toys. Each one is designed to develop gross motor skills: strength, coordination, balance, posture, and more.

    PLUS, head to the bottom of this blog post for Day 2 of our therapy toy giveaway. We’re giving away a gross motor kit with agility cones, tossing loops, bean bags, and hula hoops, perfect for gross motor, balance, coordination, and even heavy sensory play through whole body movements.

    We started off the fun with yesterday’s fine motor toy ideas. Today is all about the gross motor play.

    First, let’s talk Gross Motor Toys!

    You’ll also want to check out our blog post on Gross Motor Activities for Preschoolers because many of the gross motor toy ideas listed in this post would be great for the preschool years (and beyond!).

    Amazon affiliate links are included in this blog post. As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases.

    Gross Motor Toys

    Kids need gross motor movement for so many skills. Today, I have gross motor toys to share! Here, you’ll find the best whole body toys and ideas to help kids with balance, core strength, stability, coordination, and endurance.

    These gross motor games and toys support a variety of skill areas and functional tasks. Gross motor toys can be used to strengthen balance, coordination, motor planning, position changes, and other areas.

    And, when you see kids struggling to kick a ball, walk in a line at school, jump, skip, ride a bike…that’s where therapeutic play comes in!

    Scroll on to check out some therapist-approved toys that help gross motor skill development!

    Gross motor toys to help kids develop skills in running, hopping, jumping, skipping, crawling, and more.

    Gross Motor Toy Ideas

    This list of toys for gross motor skills pairs well with our recent list of Fine Motor Toys. Today however, you’ll find toys that develop a few areas that are essential to areas of child development:

    Bilateral Coordination– Kids need bilateral coordination in whole body movements to move their body in a coordinated way. These whole body movements can include coordination of the upper and lower body, or both arms, or both feet, and all of the above! Here are bilateral coordination toys to address this specific area.

    Motor Planning– Motor planning with the whole body allows children to move in a room without crashing into objects or other people. Gross motor motor planning allows children to climb steps, navigate obstacles, or any movement-based task. Here is more information on motor planning and motor planning toys to address this specific sub-area.

    Gross motor coordinationCoordination of gross motor skills is needed for tasks such as kicking or catching a ball, riding a bike, getting dressed, or any task that uses the entire body. Here are hand eye coordination toys to address this particular sub-area.

    Proprioception– Integration of proprioceptive input allows children to know where their body is in space. It tells the body how much effort is needed to pick up and move objects. Proprioception allows us to understand the body’s position as it moves in a coordinated manner.

    Vestibular input- Integration of vestibular input allows children to navigate the world around them as they move. Going up or down steps or bleachers is an example of this. Moving into different positions during tasks is another example of vestibular integration. Movement through different planes requires integration of vestibular input.

    All of these areas work together in functional tasks and all are rooted in gross motor skills.

    Related: This dinosaur gross motor game is a skill builder, as well.

    Toys for Gross Motor Skill Development

    So often, therapists and teachers purchase items to use in their work using their own money. This giveaway offers a chance for you to win an item that will be useful in helping kids thrive.

    And, given that kids are on screens more than ever before with all of the virtual learning and hybrid learning models being incorporated all over the world, therapists are seeing more need for active, physical play.

    These are gross motor toys that you will find in therapy clinics. There is a reason why…because they are gross motor powerhouses! So, if you are looking for toy recommendations that build whole body motor skills, this is it!

    Amazon affiliate links are included below. You can read more about these items by checking out the links.

    Zoom ball is a great gross motor toy for kids.

    Zoom Ball– This classic toy is such a great way to work on many skills. A zoom ball can be used in different positions to challenge balance and vestibular input. Try using the zoom ball games in sitting, standing, kneeling, standing on couch cushions, a slant…again, the options are limitless! Address skills such as:

    • Bilateral coordination
    • Core strength
    • Shoulder stability
    • Visual convergence
    • Motor planning
    • Coordination
    Pop and catch toys can help kids develop gross motor skills.

    Pop and Catch- Use this coordination toy indoors or outdoors to get kids moving. This toy can be played with while the child is standing, sitting, kneeling, or in a half-sit to challenge the core and eye-hand coordination in a variety of planes. Try playing on all fours on the floor for a shoulder girdle stability activity. Another use for this toy is by playing by standing at a table while the child shoots the ball across the table surface as they play like a ping-pong type of game. There are many uses for this pop and catch activity:

    • Eye-hand coordination
    • Motor planning
    • Vestibular input
    • Core strength
    • Stability of core
    • Stability of shoulder girdle
    use bucket stilts to help kids develop gross motor skills.

    Bucket Stilts– These bucket stilts are perfect for helping kids develop gross motor skills. I love this set because there are 6 colored buckets that make a great gross motor obstacle course tool, too. You could use them as stepping stones to challenge balance and coordination, too. Here are gross motor skills that you can work on using these bucket stilts toys:

    • Core strength
    • Vestibular input
    • Motor planning
    • Coordination
    • Balance
    • Endurance
    • Stabilizing
    use agility cones to help kids build gross motor skills in obstacle courses and more.

    Agility Cones– Sports cones are such an open-ended gross motor toy that can be used to develop so many skills: hopping, jumping, skipping, running, climbing, crawling…the options are endless. Use these agility cones in therapy obstacle courses, challenges, drills, and more. I chose these particular cones because they can go very nicely with a Zones of Regulation activity! Use cones to support these areas:

    • Motor planning
    • Vestibular input
    • Coordination
    • Core strength
    • Endurance
    Use carpet markers to build gross motor skills with gross motor obstacle courses, motor planning, and more.

    Carpet Markers– These carpet markers are an occupational therapist’s dream toy! Use the colored marker spots to help kids work on so many movement skills in obstacle courses, visual perceptual skill activities, direction following, sensory movement breaks, positioning guides, and so much more. The arrows are perfect for addressing directionality. Use them to work on crawling, hopping, jumping, stopping on a point. Just some of the areas that these carpet spots support:

    • Core strength
    • Shoulder stability
    • Motor planning
    • Coordination
    • Endurance
    • Proprioception
    A parachute is a great gross motor toy for kids.

    Parachute– A parachute is another open-ended gross motor toy that the kids just LOVE. This one is small enough for small groups, but builds motor skills in a big way. Use the parachute to help kids develop:

    • Core stability
    • Arm strength
    • Motor planning
    • Endurance
    • Bilateral coordination
    • Proprioceptive input

    Toys for Core Strength

    Toys that develop core strength get kids moving in a variety of positions. These toys support and challenge the vestibular and proprioceptive systems so they can be calming activities as well. Strength and stability in the core is needed for almost all functional tasks. Challenge kids with these core strengthening toys by getting them moving, on the floor in floor play or strengthening the core muscles through movement and balance coordination. Some ideas for developing and strengthening core strength include:

    Toys for balance

    Toys that challenge movement changes, stepping from high to low and low to high, and movement with vestibular input offer opportunities to challenge and develop balance and coordination skills.

    Gross Motor Coordination Toys

    Encourage movement, whole body play, and gross motor coordination with throwing, tossing, and hand-eye coordination or foot-eye coordination skills with these gross motor coordination ideas:

    Obstacle Course Toys

    All of the gross motor toys listed above could be used in obstacle courses…and what a great way to encourage so many skills! These are perfect additions to your obstacle course ideas, and challenge balance, coordination, motor planning, and add sensory input. Use these obstacle course toys to vary movement and encourage the specific skills kids need:

    Want to add these toys to your home, classroom, or therapy practice? I am SO happy to fill your toolbox so you can help kids thrive and build and develop the skills they need!

    More therapy Toys

    Check out the other therapy toy recommendations in the list below:

    1. Fine Motor Toys
    2. Gross Motor Toys
    3. Pencil Grasp Toys
    4. Toys for Reluctant Writers
    5. Toys for Spatial Awareness
    6. Toys for Visual Tracking
    7. Toys for Sensory Play
    8. Bilateral Coordination Toys
    9. Games for Executive Functioning Skills
    10. Toys and Tools to Improve Visual Perception 
    11. Toys to Help with Scissors Skills 
    12. Toys for Attention and Focus 

    PRINTABLE LIST OF TOYS FOR GROSS MOTOR

    Want a printable copy of our therapist-recommended toys to support gross motor development?

    As therapy professionals, we LOVE to recommend therapy toys that build skills! This toy list is done for you so you don’t need to recreate the wheel.

    Your therapy caseload will love these GROSS MOTOR toy recommendations. (There’s space on this handout for you to write in your own toy suggestions, to meet the client’s individual needs, too!)

    Enter your email address into the form below. The OT Toolbox Member’s Club Members can access this handout inside the dashboard, under Educational Handouts. Just be sure to log into your account, first!

    Therapist-Recommended
    GROSS MOTOR TOYS HANDOUT

      We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

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

      Enter all the giveaways here:

      Check out the blog comments below to see tips and ideas from readers telling us which gross motor toys they would love to use with the kids they work with and love. Have other gross motor favorites that aren’t listed here? Tell us about them!

      Finger Dexterity Exercises

      Hand holding coins by the fingertips and dropping one at a time into a stack of coins. Text reads "finger dexterity"

      Fine motor skills are a complex thing, but one thing that plays a major role in fine motor coordination is finger dexterity. The precision movements and endurance in small motor activities is driven by the ability to maneuver fingers and isolate the joints in holding and manipulating small objects. Let’s explore the role of manual dexterity in fine motor skills.

      The finger dexterity activities and exercises in this post can be used along with manual dexterity goals to support functional tasks.

      finger dexterity

      Fine Motor Dexterity

      Fine Motor Skills in kids are so important for independence in self care tasks.  Children need to develop the ability to manipulate their fingers in a coordinated manner in order to skillfully maneuver buttons, zippers, shoe laces, pencils…and the tools of learning and play…TOYS! 

      Dexterous movements are used in everyday activities throughout our day.

      What is finger dexterity?

      Finger dexterity refers to the ability to use coordination and manipulation of objects in the hands with precision. Dexterous motor skills can be broken down into areas: grasp and release, coordination with in the hand (in-hand manipulation), and proprioception (knowing how much effort is needed to manipulate objects without dropping them). There are many other contributions that impact finger dexterity and we list these below.

      Together, these precision skills enable us to pick up an object with the right amount of pressure and motor dexterity so you can grasp the object accurately taking eye-hand coordination skills into consideration.

      After grasping the object without overshooting or missing the item, it is necessary to position or rotate the object within the hand. Isolation of the joints of the fingers and thumb allow for precise movements and coordination when manipulating objects in functional tasks.

      The nine hole peg test is a good way to assess for finger dexterity.

       

      Finger Dexterity Examples

       
      Fine motor dexterity also looks like:
      • manipulating coins
      • picking up small beads
      • opening a tube of toothpaste
      • threading a needle
      • holding items in the palm of the hand and putting them down one at a time
      • crafts with small objects
      • peeling stickers off a page
      • opening or closing a clasp on a necklace
      • tying shoes
      • opening a bread tie
      • putting a pony tail holder in hair
      • braiding hair
      • maneuvering a pencil within the hand (rotating the pencil, erasing a small spot on the page)
      • turning a pencil in a handheld pencil sharpener
      • zippering– inserting a zipper into the zipper carriage
      • buttoning a shirt
      • lacing up shoes
      • stacking coins
      • holding playing cards in your hands
      • any other task that requires small motor tasks
       
       
      We’ve got lots of posts dedicated to fine motor skills.  Finger Dexterity is a necessary step in development of fine motor skills
       
       

       

       
      Kids will love to play this finger dexterity activity to work on fine motor skills.

       

      Skills needed for Finger Dexterity

      Children develop their hand skills from infancy. Hand strength develops from the time a small baby is placed in tummy time. You’ll start to see finger dexterity in action when a baby picks up cereal pieces using a pincer grasp.
       
      Finger dexterity requires components such as: 
       
      The terms that make up finger dexterity are explained in each of the blog posts in the list.
       
      There are developmental milestones for fine motor development that are necessary for independence each stage of childhood. When kids struggle with handwriting, manipulating small objects, hand fatigue in small motor tasks, finger dexterity and the underlying contributions should be considered.
       
      Children also need to demonstrate dexterity in order to manipulate objects.  They need to maneuver their fingers independently of one another (this is called finger isolation) and with separation of the two sides of the hand
       
      Without these skills, modifications or adjustments are often made by the child. We’ll cover more specifics about the relationship of finger dexterity and these components below.


      Finger Dexterity and Separation of the two sides of the hand

      When using the small muscles of the hands in dexterity tasks, one uses the side of the thumb-side of the hand. 
       
      The precision side of the hand is the thumb, pointer finger, and middle finger.  These are the fingers needed for dexterity tasks and fine motor skills. 
       
      The ring finger and pinkie finger are involved in providing stability during precision tasks.  When the index and thumb are involved in a small motor activity, the ring finger and pinkie finger are tucked into the palm and proved a support during handwriting and shoe tying
       
      They also provide power during grip and the force behind a gross grasp
       
      So when will you see the two sides of the hand separated during activities?? Tying shoes, pulling a zipper, fastening a button, and manipulating small pegs into a pegboard are some examples of separation of the two sides of the hand.


      Finger Dexterity and Finger Isolation

      Finger isolation is a key part of finer dexterity and begins when an infant begins to point at objects with one finger. 
       
      Using the fingers independent of one another is needed for tasks like turning a page in a book, typing, molding dough, sign language, and finger plays (“where is Thumbkin” and other fingerplay songs are great ways to practice finger isolation and dexterity!) 
       
      Kids can identify colors by playing this fine motor game.

       

      Finger dexterity Activity

       
      This finger strength exercise is actually a game, which makes it a great activity for developing precision in those little muscles of the hands, isolating fingers, and separating the two sides of the hand…all SO important in independence and play.
       
      Try this activity to work on separating the two sides of the hand with a fun activity for kids. 

      This post contains affiliate links.

      Our finger dexterity activity began with a little prep work.  We used acrylic paints to paint circles on the back of bubble wrap paper. 

      Kids will explore colors in this finger dexterity game.

       

      I painted the back side of large bubble wrap with different colors.   We let these dry (and it was slightly difficult to remain patient!!)

      Kids will love to play "Twister" in this fine motor exercise.

       

      Once our paints were dry, we got our fingers ready to play some finger dexterity games!  I had Little Guy get his fingers ready by making “legs”. 

      This is a great way to encourage use of the two sides of the hand.  He tucked his pinkie and ring fingers into the palm of his hand and got his pointer and middle finger busy as they “walked” around.

      Fun fine motor game for kids.

       

      We played a color matching game with the colored bubbles.  I called out a color and he had to “walk” his fingers to the color and pop the color.  He was working on color awareness at the same time as we practiced finger dexterity.

      kids can work on fine motor skills needed for independence in many tasks.

       

      As I called out different colors, he had to “walk” his fingers around to the different colors.  He really worked on those finger isolation skills as he searched for a bubble that was not yet popped. 

      Other ways to work on finger isolation and separation of the two sides of the hand include using small objects in manipulation like crafting pom poms.

      The index, middle finger, and thumb are needed to manipulate items in fine motor tasks. This activity is a great way to encourage dexterity in kids.

       

      Even Baby Girl wanted to get in on the fun!  This finger dexterity exercise is a great way to “warm up” the hands before a handwriting or typing task for older children. Using handwriting warm ups prepares the hands for tasks like writing with a pencil.

      When there is weakness in the small muscles of the hands, it is often times, difficult for children to write, color, or type with appropriate grasp and positioning of the fingers and wrist. 

      A dexterity exercise like this one is a fun way to play and get those muscles of the hand moving and strengthened in order to improve endurance and positioning.

      Manual Dexterity Activities

      Looking for more fun ways to practice manual dexterity of the fingers?  These are some fun games and activities you may want to try:

      Finger dexterity exercises

      Using the activities listed above are great ways to build fine motor skills. You can also improve manual dexterity with the following exercises:

      • Pinch putty or playdough 10 times, with 3 repetitions (find more reps in our theraputty exercises blog post)
      • Place pegs into a pegboard- time the student to see how many they can place in 30 seconds. Try to beat that time.
      • Hand gripper workouts to improve proximal stability
      • Stack 10 coins or game tokens into a pile. Then pick them up one at a time and place them into the palm of the hand
      • Deal a deck of cards
      • Creating a fine motor home exercise program
      • Using the exercises described in the Weekly Fine Motor Program
      • Finger aerobics shown in the video below.

      Working on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, or scissor skills? Our Fine Motor Kits cover all of these areas and more.

      Check out the seasonal Fine Motor Kits that kids love:

      Or, grab one of our themed Fine Motor Kits to target skills with fun themes:

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

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

      What is Finger Isolation?

      finger isolation

      Today’s post is all about finger isolation: what does finger isolation mean, why this fine motor skill is important, and even finger isolation exercises and activities to support precision and dexterity in the fingers. As children develop dexterity in fine motor skills, more precision and refined movements allow for coordinated skill work. It’s through this motor skill that one can do specific tasks that use only one finger or several fingers.

      Finger isolation is needed for daily tasks, and finger games are just one way to build this skill.

      You may have heard of finger isolation as a component of fine motor skills that kids need for dexterity and precision. Today, we’re discussing this important motor skill, how finger isolation impacts function, and activities to build finger dexterity. So, what is this motor skill that allows us to point, hold up a single finger, or make fingerprints? Let’s discuss!

      What is finger isolation? 

      Finger isolation is the ability to isolate and use the fingers one at a time in functional tasks. The fine motor skill of finger isolation is the development of being able to “isolate” or individually use each finger of the hand. Counting one finger at a time, tying shoes, typing on a screen or computer keyboard, finger games like “Where is Thumbkin?”, and opposing one finger to the thumb are examples of finger isolation. One way to target this is using typing programs to improve finger isolation.

      When children are developing they begin to use each finger individually; as infants, children tend to use the hand as one solid unit. Finger isolation is one of the first important developmental milestones that leads to children’s ability to write well with a pencil, type on a keyboard, play a musical instrument, tie shoes ect!

      If you’re wondering how to see if your child has good finger isolation, you can ask yourself:  

      • Does your preschooler or kindergartner avoid pointing?
      • Do they tend to gesture in the direction of an object instead of pointing?
      • Do they use their whole hand to grasp objects rather than one or two fingers when that makes more sense for the size of the object?
      • Do they struggle to manipulate coins, turn a page of a book, tie shoes, or other task requiring refined movements?

      Then adding a few finger isolation activities and games might be helpful for your child!

      Development of finger isolation

      Finger isolation typically develops in the baby at around 6 months of age as they begin to pick up small pieces of cereal. It progresses to pointing, and then separation of the two sides of the hand with in-hand manipulation. Finger isolation is so important in fine motor dexterity in every task that the hands perform.

      There are other components of fine motor skills that contribute to the precision of isolating fingers in activities:

      • Separation of the sides of the hand- Separating the sides of the hand isolates the precision side of the hand from the power side of the hand allows for, and requires isolation of fingers and joints during motor tasks.
      • In-hand manipulation- In hand manipulation includes moving objects within the hand and refined isolation of digits and joints on the fingers contribute to this skill.
      • Arch development This hand strength allows for fingers to move in isolation of one another.
      • Opposition- Finger and thumb opposition of the thumb to the fingers also plays a role in finger isolation. This ability to oppose the thumb to a single digit allows for more refined and precise grasps on objects.
      • Open thumb web space- Similarly, to oppose the thumb to the fingertips, an open thumb web space is necessary.

      Finger Isolation and Screens (apps and games)

      From a very young age, many small children are efficient at using tablets and phone apps with finger isolation to point, swipe, and move through images on the screen. However, when kids are scrolling the screen, and using their finger in isolation on a tablet, they typically use only one finger (the index finger OR the middle finger) and do not exert strength on the screen.  

      They are not receiving feedback through the muscles and joints of the hand (proprioception) to build motor plans for fine motor tasks. They are not establishing a “store” of fine motor experiences.

      You then may see that single finger is stronger and more dominant in tasks such as pencil grasp or tying shoes. This concept is similar to the dominance of a hand or side of the body. Equally of interest is this post on deciphering the difference between dominance and ambidextrous. It’s all related, and to the occupational therapy professional, so interesting to read about the connections!

      Read here for more symptoms of too much screen time.

      Finger isolation is a fine motor skill kids need for dexterity and precision. Here are ccupational therpay activities to work on fine motor skills.

      Development of fine motor skills includes finger isolation. Here is more information on finger isolation for dexterity and motor control.

      Finger Isolation Activities

      So, how can you build and develop finger isolation?  There are many ways to build finger isolation skills. You’ll also find more finger isolation activities along with a craft that can help kids become more aware of this fine motor skill. Below are small motor tools to help with development. Add these finger strength exercises to your therapy plans or home programs.

      One great way to develop precision in a single digit of the hand is to instruct the individual to tap each finger to their thumb (give them a demonstration so they can mirror you!),

      Isolation of the individual fingers really develops with hand strength and coordination through the use of hand clapping games and finger rhyming songs. Show the individual finger and hand games such as “Where is Thumbkin?”, “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, and other rhyming games that involve hand motions.  

      Overall, fingerplay songs are a powerful tool to support the development of finger isolation!

      • Pop bubbles
      • Play “I spy” with items around the house and encourage your child to point
      • Counting on fingers one at a time
      • “Itsy Bitsy Spider” (this is a great beginner motor plan with easy finger isolation hand motion)
      • Shadow hand puppets using a flashlight
      • Dampen fingers to pick up small items such as glitter, confetti, other small items
      • Teaching common finger expressions such as “A okay”, thumbs up, finger guns etc
      • “Lizard fingers”: this is one of my favorites that really makes kids laugh, stick small pieces of tape on each finger and have kids pretend to be a lizard and see what they can pick up around the room! (Make sure to have small items that can actually be picked up, we’ve had a couple failures with this activity!)

      Other finger isolation ideas here on The OT Toolbox:

      What is finger isolation? Use these button rings to work on using fingers one at a time in fine motor activities with kids!

      Finger Isolation Crafts

      • Make and play with finger puppets
      • Finger painting
      • Using a pointer finger to trace shapes in foam, slime, various sensory mediums
      • Make “spaghetti” strings by rolling play-doh between the index finger and thumb
      • Make a “finger soccer board” by folding up a small piece of paper into a triangular shape and have your child “flick” the “ball” into the goal

      If there is ever an easy craft that you and the kids make, this is it.  These button rings are as cute as they are effective in developing the skills needed for tasks like maintaining a pencil grasp, shoe tying, and managing clothing fasteners.

      This post contains affiliate links.

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


      These super cute button rings are a craft that my kids loved making.  They wore these rings every day for a while there. (This mom did, too!)

      What is finger isolation? Use these button rings to work on using fingers one at a time in fine motor activities with kids!

       

      1. To make the rings, cut the pipe cleaners into small pieces.  You’ll want them small enough to fit little fingers, but a little longer in order to add the buttons.
      2. Thread the buttons onto one end of the pipe cleaner.  
      3. Twist the two ends together and tuck the end of the pipe cleaner on the outside of the ring (so it won’t rub up against the skin).
      4. You can add extra buttons and layer different colored buttons for fun rings. 

      Finger isolation activity with rings

      • When wearing the rings, incorporate finger isolation by placing rings on different fingers.  
      • Ask your child to hold up the finger with a specific colored button or pipe cleaner.  
      • Try tapping fingers with the rings one at a time by calling out a colored ring and asking your child to play a “SIMON” type of memory game.
      What is finger isolation? Use these button rings to work on using fingers one at a time in fine motor activities with kids!

        You’ll love these fine motor activities, too:

      Working on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, or scissor skills? Our Fine Motor Kits cover all of these areas and more.

      Check out the seasonal Fine Motor Kits that kids love:

      Or, grab one of our themed Fine Motor Kits to target skills with fun themes:

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

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

      Body Awareness Activities Using Proprioception

      Body awareness activities

      Let’s talk body awareness activities using proprioception, or heavy work to bring awareness to where the body is, how the body moves, and awareness of self. Proprioception is one of the senses that is involved with everything we do. This sensory system plays a major role in body awareness. Below you’ll find body awareness occupational therapy activities to support this motor concept.

      Be sure to check out a related resource, our self awareness games blog post for activities to support overall awareness of self.

      Take a quick moment to stop and consider the position you are in right now.  Are you lounging back on a couch?  Sitting at a desk?  Bouncing on a city bus as you glance at your mobile device?  Are you perched in an office chair with your legs folded under you? Are you hanging out at the playground and glancing at your phone while your kids run in circles?

      What is Body Awareness?

      The definition of body awareness is this…
      Body awareness refers to being aware of the body’s position in space at rest and during movement. This concept can be broken down into having an awareness of body parts by name, movement, discrimination of sides of the body, and movement throughout space.

      Related, are the concepts of dominance and mixed dominance vs. ambidexterity.

      How does body awareness work?

      Let’s break it down:

      Being aware of our body position is something that happens automatically and naturally.  That body awareness occurs naturally.  The proprioceptive sense allows us to position our bodies just so in order to enable our hands, eyes, ears, and other parts to perform actions or jobs at any given moment. Proprioception activities help with body awareness.

      The proprioceptive sense sends information about our body’s position to the brain so that we inherently know that our foot is tapping the ground as we wait on the bus or that our leg is curled under the other on the couch even while we do other actions or tasks.


      This awareness allows us to walk around objects in our path, to move a spoon to our mouth without looking at it, and to stand far enough away from others while waiting in a line at the grocery store.  It enables a student to write without pressing too hard or too lightly on their pencil when writing, and it helps us to brush our hair with just the right amount of pressure.


      Proprioception is essential for everything we do!


      Sometimes, the proprioceptive system does not do it’s job.


      When the proprioceptive system isn’t functioning properly, body awareness and motor planning can be a problem.

      Kids need heavy work and propriocpetion to help with body awareness needed for skills like standing in line, motor control, and spatial awareness in school and in the community.

      When a child needs to pay attention to where their body is in space at all times, they can not attend to other important information like what is happening in their world around them.  He or she can not automatically adjust to environmental changes.  The child then needs to visually compensate in order to adjust his or her body.  This can result in a child being clumsy, fearful, are even scared in certain situations.

      Examples of Body awareness



      Below are two situations that describe a child with proprioception challenges.  In both, imagine a child who struggles to know where their body is in space.


      Body awareness navigating bleachers- Imagine you are sitting on a set of bleachers in a crowd of wiggly, moving, and LOUD students.  There is a lot going on around you, whether you are at a sporting event or in a gymnasium.  

      But, you also notice the bleachers don’t have a bottom to the steps; that is, you can see directly down to the ground below you.  Kids are standing up, sitting down, jumping, roughhousing, and you are SCARED.  

      Your body doesn’t know how to position itself in a safe manner. You don’t know what action will come next and you don’t know where to look. You don’t know where your feet are or if your hands are supporting you.

      Climbing up and down the bleachers is downright terrifying! For the child with proprioceptive struggles, just sitting on a set of bleachers can be challenging and overwhelming.


      Body awareness sitting at a classroom desk- Now think about the child who is sitting at their desk and is required to write a journal entry.  For the child with proprioceptive challenges, this can be a task with many “self-checks”.

      They need to look at their feet to make sure they are under their desk so they don’t get in trouble for almost tripping someone between the desk aisles.  They need to make sure they are sitting upright in their chair and that their back is touching the chair’s backrest.  

      They need to hold the paper and the pencil like they were taught.  They need to align the paper and the words and then think about how hard to press on the paper, how to make the lines for individual letters, and how to string together letters to make words.  

      What a workout it is just to get settled in and started on a writing task!  By now they might have lost several minutes of the writing time and they still don’t know what they are even writing about!


      Both of these situations happen on an every day basis.  

      For the child with proprioception difficulties, the ability to be aware of their body in space and plan out motor actions is very much a struggle.  These kids might appear fidgety, unsure, overwhelmed, clumsy, awkward, uncoordinated, or lazy.



      Body awareness is related to visual spatial relations.

      How to use proprioception activities to help with body awareness

      Body Awareness Goals in Occupational Therapy

      When children or adults struggle with awareness of body positioning or movement patterns during activities, functional tasks can be a struggle. Every day tasks are difficult or impaired.

      Occupational therapists work with individuals of all ages on functional tasks that occur in all aspects of daily living. Movement is part of the daily task completion, so it is likely that if body awareness is an issue, there are functional impairments at play.

      Occupational therapy professionals will focus body awareness goals on the functional task that is impaired.

      OT goals for body awareness can be specifically focused on improving body awareness during those functional tasks. Activities that address those goals can include heavy work, attention to task, motor planning, fine or gross motor skills, sensory input in the way of organizing proprioceptive input or vestibular input, visual cues and prompts. There are many ways this skill area can be addressed and these goals will be individualized for the child or adult.

      Additionally, OT goals for body awareness may focus on motor planning. Proprioception is very closely aligned with body awareness and motor planning.

      Need more information on proprioception and the other sensory systems and how they impact independence? Grab this free sensory processing disorder information booklet and free email series on sensory processing. 

      CLICK HERE to get the free sensory processing information booklet.

      Body Awareness Activities

      In this blog post, we are specifically discussing how to use proprioception activities to help with body awareness.

      The proprioceptive system is alerted through heavy work activities that involve heavy pressure, firm sensations, large, forceful motor movements, and pushing or pulling activities. These actions can be calming and organizing.

      Try these proprioception activities to help with body awareness at home, in the classroom, or in play.

      Proprioception activities at home

      • Carry full laundry baskets to the laundry area
      • Empty wet clothes into the dryer
      • Change sheets
      • Pull weeds
      • Pull garbage cans to and from the curve
      • Carry in grocery bags
      • Carry donations to the car
      • Wash windows
      • Scrub carpets
      • Shovel snow
      • Rake leaves
      • Mop floors
      • Vacuum
      • Rearrange furniture

      Proprioception activities in the classroom

      • Carry piles of books
      • Rearrange furniture
      • Help gym teacher move mats
      • Carry bin of lunchboxes to/from the lunch room
      • Wall push-ups
      • Chair push-ups
      • Clap erasers
      • Stack books in the library
      • Place chairs on desks at the end of the day, pull them down again in the morning

      Proprioception games and actions

      Looking for more ways to add proprioception activities into play and therapy? Try the ideas below. Just click on the images to read more. 

      proprioception sensory dough marshmallow   Snowball Shot Put Sensory Play for Kids
       
       
      DIY Ice Wobble Balance Disk for Proprioceptive and Vestibular Sensory Play  After school brain breaks and activities for kids 
       
       
      Travel Sensory Diet Proprioception and Handwriting 
       
      Fine Motor Proprioception Play Dough Rocks Frozen Play Dough

      In the Sensory Lifestyle Handbook, we cover motor planning and body awareness concepts as they are deeply related to sensory processing. Much like the body awareness activities listed in this blog post, the book discusses how to integrate functional tasks within the day that offer organizing and regulating input through functional activities.

      Not only are these activities regulation tools, they are also activities that support development of body position in space and awareness of the body’s movements.

      Click here to get your copy of the Sensory Lifestyle Handbook.

      The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook walks you through sensory processing information, each step of creating a meaningful and motivating sensory diet, that is guided by the individual’s personal interests and preferences.

      The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is not just about creating a sensory diet to meet sensory processing needs. This handbook is your key to creating an active and thriving lifestyle based on a deep understanding of sensory processing.

      Body Scheme and Body Awareness

      Another way that you may have heard body awareness phrased is “body scheme”. This is just another way to explain the awareness one has of their body and the various parts of the body. Body scheme allows us to be aware of the spatial relationships of where the body is in space in a given activity.

      Body scheme involves proprioceptive awareness so that we can move and interact in the world around us.

      We can define body scheme as the awareness of body parts and the position of the body and it’s parts in relation to themselves and to the objects in the environment.

      When there are deficits in body scheme, we may see certain difficulties:

      • challenges with apraxia, or difficulty with purposeful movement in relation to sensory input, movement, and coordination.
      • The individual might not recognize body parts or the relationship between them. This is especially observed in neuromuscular disturbances such as a CVA (stroke)
      • Movements may be considered unsafe. We might see difficulties with intentional movement and problems navigating busy hallways, stadium steps, bleachers, etc.

      There are typically related deficits related to body scheme or body awareness difficulties. These may include:

      • Body awareness challenges like moving and utilizing the body without looking at or thinking about how the body needs to move. This awareness of the body in space results in functional and efficient movements with coordination.
      • Right/left disorientation or poor left/right discrimination in activities
      • Trouble identifying body parts. Try this body part identification activity to support this awareness.

      Challenges with body scheme may be a cause of brain damage or brain injury such as a neuromuscular impairment. However, difficulties with body scheme may be a result of other deficits as well, including visual-spatial deficits, sensory processing challenges, verbal, or conceptual considerations.

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

      Playground Balance Activities

      playground balance activities

      Today I have a fun activity for kids…playground themed balance activities! This virtual playground activity has various movement and coordination tasks that challenge kids to work on posture, position changes, coordination, core strength, and much more. While playing at the playground is the way to go to develop gross motor skills, sometimes getting outdoors is just not possible. That’s where this playground therapy slide deck comes in!

      For more information on playground therapy, check out our previous post.

      Add these playground themed gross motor coordination stretches, movements, and poses to your therapy obstacle courses, brain breaks, and transition activities.

      Playground balance activities for sensory play and coordination when going to the playground isn't possible. Use these in a playground theme in therapy activities.

      Playground Balance Activities

      When you think about playing at the playground, you think climbing, stooping, sliding, and balancing, right? There are so many ways that playing on playground equipment is such a powerful way to develop gross motor skills, balance, coordination, and overall strength.

      But, sometimes it’s just not possible to get out to the playground. Things like weather can impact playground use. Other times, limitations in using public spaces impacts use of the playground in the school setting. And, for therapists running therapy sessions, sometimes you want to incorporate all of the fun of a playground setting in the therapy clinic!

      When you access this playground balance activity slide deck, you get to pretend you are at the playground no matter what setting you are in. Then, by following the commands on each slide, children can get all of the benefits of stooping, crawling, balancing, and changing postures.

      Each slide on this free slide deck asks kids to follow the visual cue. There are visuals for different playground task. Things like:

      • Balancing on one leg by monkey bars
      • Stooping to pick up a ball
      • Kicking a ball
      • Squatting to play in the sandbox
      • Climbing on playground equiptment
      • Throwing a ball
      • Climbing on a merry-go-round
      • Jumping rope
      • Reaching up for monkey bars.

      There are many types of playground equipment that can challenge balance and coordination, including:

      1. Balance beams: These narrow beams require children to maintain their balance as they walk across.
      2. Wobble bridges: These bridges are designed to wobble and move as children walk across, challenging their balance and coordination.
      3. Swinging steps: These are sets of steps that swing and move as children step on them, requiring them to maintain their balance and adjust their movements.
      4. Climbing nets: Climbing nets require children to use their balance and coordination to navigate the ropes and reach the top.
      5. Rope bridges: These bridges are made of ropes that sway and move as children cross, challenging their balance and coordination.
      6. Stepping stones: These are sets of raised platforms that require children to step from one to the other, using their balance to keep from falling off.
      7. Monkey bars: These require children to swing from bar to bar using their arms and legs, while also maintaining their balance.
      8. Rocking platforms: Similar in nature to the sensory benefits of a platform swing, these playground surfaces are large, flat platforms that rock back and forth, challenging children to maintain their balance while standing or walking. If you can find a playground with an actual platform swing, that’s even better!

      We used various images to challenge all of these movements!

      Playground theme therapy

      By going through the playground exercises, kids work on a variety of areas:

      • Bilateral coordination
      • Motor planning
      • Core strength
      • Stabiliyt
      • Position changes
      • Sequencing
      • Motor control
      • Visual figure ground
      • Graded positioning
      • Posture
      • Balance
      • Direction-following

      These skills impact daily functioning in kids! Why not use a playground theme to work on these skill areas?

      When kids follow the directions on each slide, they are also gaining whole-body movements and heavy work input that can be calming as a regulation tool.

      If creating a weekly therapy theme works for your plans, then this playground theme is one you’ll want to add to your line up of occupational therapy activities and PT activities. You can use these playground balance exercises in therapy sessions to incorporate a therapy theme.

      1. Try using these visual playground strategies in between other tasks in a therapy session. Work on handwriting, scissor skills, and other functional tasks. And then come back to the balance activity. Then do another task and come back to the balance activity.
      2. Kids can work through the slides and try to remember all of the movements.
      3. Call out a piece of playground equipment and the child can recall the specific balance exercise. This is a great way to work on working memory and attention to detail.
      4. Incorporate handwriting: Ask students to list out all of the playground equipment. Work on letter formation, legibility, spacing, and line use. Then they can go through the slides and do the balance exercises.
      5. Add these activities to a sensory diet that helps kids regulate sensory input. Our outdoor sensory diet cards are the perfect combination to a playground theme!

      Free Playground Balance Activities Slide Deck

      Want to access this free therapy resource? It’s just one of the many free slides here on the website. All you need to do is enter your email address into the form below. You’ll receive a PDF containing a link to a Google slide deck. Copy it onto your drive and you are good to go! Start playing on the playground no matter where you are!

      Playground Balance Activities

        We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

        Why use this playground pretend activity?

        We know the value that play has for children. When children play, they are developing skills. Occupational therapy and play go hand in hand because of the value and importance of play as a primary role for children.

        Through pretend play, or copying the poses in this playground slide deck, kids can pretend to move through playground equipment, while challenging the motor skills, coordination, and balance needed to perform playground activities. The pretend play is a valuable tool to support preschoolers, school aged children, and all ages because it offers a no-risk opportunity to build motor plans. The ability to practice skills in a stress-free environment such as a home, classroom, or therapy clinic can support the young child to prepare them for maneuvering over, under, and around that playground equipment.

        Have fun!

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

        Tear Paper for Fine Motor Skills

        Tear paper fine motor activity

        Did you know you can tear paper to improve fine motor skills using materials you already have in your home? I have an incredibly easy fine motor activity to share: tearing paper! When kids tear paper, they are developing fine motor skills like grasp, hand strength, eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, and more. So often, parents are looking for easy ways to help kids develop fine motor skills, and the very material that can improve all of these areas is found right in the home. Let’s break down tearing paper as an amazing fine motor activity for kids.

        Tear paper to build fine motor skills and to use in occupational therapy activities like improving coordination, visual motor skills, and more.

        Did you know that a fine motor activity where a child tears up paper builds hand strength, motor planning, and so much more?

        Tearing Paper for Fine Motor Skills

        Tearing paper a simple fine motor activity that requires only scrap paper and your hands. In fact, tearing paper actually helps children develop so many essential skills: hand strength, hand eye coordination, precision, refined movements, bilateral coordination…

        When a child tears a piece of paper, they improve hand strength and endurance in the small muscles in the hand.  

        The intrinsic muscles are used to tear up paper and these set of muscles located within the hand are important in so many fine motor skills, including those important to handwriting and coloring, managing buttons and zippers, manipulating pegs, and more.  

        When paper is torn, the hands assume a great tripod grasp which is effective and a mature grasp for writing and coloring.  

        To hold the paper, the non-dominant hand is assisting in the tearing and encourages appropriate assistance for tasks like holding the paper while writing, and managing paper while cutting with scissors.

        Then, to tear a piece of paper, the dominant hand does the majority of the “work” to tear with precision and force, but also along a “line” while tearing.

        Just look at the skills kids develop with a tearing paper activity:

        Other benefits of tearing paper

        Not only is ripping paper as a fine motor strategy, tearing off pieces of paper can support sensory needs, coordination, and visual motor skills. When you tear a pieces of paper, so many skills are being developed…

        Hand dominance- Holding paper with stability using a non-dominant hand to support the paper, and a dominant hand to make refined tears supports development of bilateral coordination skills. Depending on the intricacy of the paper tear line, more refined motor movements are used. This is a strategy to support graded precision skills.

        Sensory Processing- To rip paper, strength and coordination is needed. This process offers heavy work through the finger joints, wrist as a stabile joint, and coordination and stability in the shoulder girdle. Heavy work, or proprioception allows us to know where our body is in space. But the benefits of heavy work can be calming and organizing. Ripping paper can be a sensory diet tool for some individuals.

        Visual Motor Skills- To tear paper, visual motor integration is a required part of the puzzle. This includes eye-hand coordination, visual tracking, visual attention, and other areas of visual processing.

        Tearing paper is an amazing fine motor activity for kids to build coordination and hand strength.

        Tear a piece of paper to build sensory motor skills with an inexpensive therapy tool.

        Paper Tearing Activities

        In this paper tearing activity, we use recycled artwork to create Torn Paper Art that would look great on any gallery (or family dining room) wall! All you need to do is rip paper to develop skills.

        Tearing strips of paper is especially a great fine motor task.  To work those fine motor skills, start with some junk mail or recycled paper materials and practice tearing.

        Tear paper into strips- To tear a long sheet of paper, you need to grasp the paper with an effective, yet not too strong grasp.  Tear too fast, and the paper is torn diagonally and not into strips.

        Make slow tears in the paper- Tearing the paper slowly while focusing on strait torn lines really encourages a workout of those intrinsic muscles.  

        Tear different weights of paper- Paper comes in different thicknesses, or weights. Practicing tearing different thicknesses really hones in on precision skills. We tore an 9×11 piece of painted printer paper into long strips, lengthwise.  The thin paper isn’t too difficult to tear, but requires motor control. Thicker paper like cardstock or cardboard requires more strength to grip the paper. The thicker paper also requires a bit more strength to tear with accuracy and precision. Tearing paper that is thicker like cardstock, index cards, or construction paper adds heavy input through the hands. This proprioceptive input can be very calming and allow kids to regulate or focus while adding the sensory input they need.

        Tear paper into shapes– Use the paper to create simple shapes like a circle, square, etc. You can make this task easier by drawing pencil lines and ripping paper along the lines. This is a fantastic way to build motor planning skills. Or, work on visual perceptual skills and try ripping paper into shapes without a template.

        Vary the texture of the paper– You can add a sensory component and use different textures of paper. Try painted or colored paper. Try printed paper or a rough paper like last year’s paper calendar. Try ripping cardstock or textured crepe paper. Or, use graph paper as a thinner grade to address a different resistance. We cover all the ways to use graph paper in therapy goals and tearing paper is just one idea.

        Work on tearing paper fringes- Tearing into the edge of the page, and stopping at a certain point requires refined motor work. It’s easy to tear right across the page, but requires precision and coordination to stop tearing at a certain point. To grade this activity easier, try marking the stopping point with a pencil mark.

        Ripping paper has so many benefits! Did you know that when you tear a piece of paper so much work is being done?

        Tearing Paper Exercises

        There’s more to tearing paper than just making a mess…Occupational therapy practitioners use this fine motor tool as a way to improve hand strength and other underlying skills that we’ve talked about in this blog post.

        But once you have the paper torn into pieces, did you know that you can use those torn paper pieces in fine motor work?

        Check out our video on tearing paper. In it, we cover what happens when you tear paper (why occupational therapy providers love paper tearing as a fine motor tool), and then you’ll see specific finger strength exercises and finger dexterity activities you can do with the paper pieces.

        tearing paper is a fine motor skills workout for kids.

        Types of paper to use in tearing paper activities

        There are many benefits to using different textures and types of paper. Let’s take a look at some of the possible types of paper. These are materials that you may already have in your home.

        Varying the paper type in torn paper activities can help to grade an activity, or make it easier or more difficult. These are great ways to vary the amount of fine motor strength and precision needed, thereby improving fine motor skills and visual motor skills.

        Types of paper to use in tearing paper activities:

        • Junk mail
        • Old phone books
        • Recycled newspapers
        • Magazines
        • Flyers from school or the community
        • Printer paper
        • Notebook paper
        • Cardboard
        • Recycled food boxes (cereal boxes, tissue boxes, etc.)
        • Paper bags
        • Tissue paper
        • Crepe paper
        • Toilet paper
        • Paper towels
        • Napkins
        • Paper plates
        • Recycled artwork
        • Used coloring books
        • Cardboard tubes (toilet paper tubes, paper towel rolls)
        • Old calendars
        This torn paper art is a paper tearing activity for kids that uses recycled artwork to build fine motor skills and motor control while tearing paper.

        Tear up pieces of recycled artwork to create a new art medium.

        Torn paper art  

        This ripped paper art is a craft that is so simple, yet such a fun way to create art while working on fine motor skills.  

        Tear paper into strips to work on fine motor skills with kids.

        You’ll need just a few materials for ripped paper art:

        • Paper (Any type or texture will do…old crafts, kids artwork, or paper that has been painted)
        • Glue
        • Paper to cardstock to use as a base
        • Your hands!

        We all have piles of kids’ artwork that is gorgeous…yet abundant.  You keep the ones that mean the most, but what do you do with those piles of painted paper, scribbled sheets, and crafty pages?  You sure can’t keep it all or your house will become covered in paper, paint, and glitter.  We used a great blue page to make our torn paper art.

        Making the torn paper art is very simple. It’s a process art activity that will look different no matter how many times you do the activity.

        How to create torn paper art:

        There is more to this therapy tool than just tearing a piece of paper…Use these tips.

        1. Select a variety of paper colors, materials, and textures.
        2. Tear a sheet into long strips.  This will become the sky of our artwork.
        3. Use white paper to create cloud shapes. Tear the paper into shapes.
        4. Use green cardstock or other material to create grass. Tear small strips into the paper but not through to the edge. Create a fringe with the paper.
        5. Glue the torn paper onto the base page in layers.
        6. Use your imagination and have fun!

        A few tips for creating torn paper art

        Have a variety of paper types, colors, and textures available. Some ideas include using junk mail, recycled artwork, cardstock, construction paper, printer paper, crepe paper, cardboard, cereal boxes, etc.

        Use your imagination. You can start with an idea to create or you can go with the flow of the art creation and start without an idea.

        If you have trouble coming up with an idea for your torn paper art, try some of these:

        • Create a torn paper landscape
        • Create an object from ripped paper textures
        • Make a torn paper abstract artwork
        • Copy real life objects and make representational art
        • Create a ripped paper still life
        • Use all one color of paper in different textures to make a monochromatic artwork
        • Make abstract portraits
        • Tear the paper into shapes to make geometric artwork
        • Explore art concepts such as size, shape, color, lines, form, space, texture
        • Explore multimedia: Incorporate printed paper, painted paper, glossy paper, cardboard in different textures, crayon colored paper, etc.
        Tear paper into strips of ripped paper to work on eye-hand coordination in an occupational therapy activity with recycled materials.
        Tearing paper builds fine motor skills and endurance in fine motor precision, making it a fine motor workout!
        Ripping paper is a fine motor activity for kids in occupational therapy or working on fine motor skills at home.

         More paper activities

        Tear and paste activity with blue paper and green cardstock to create a torn paper collage.

        We used one of the long strips of green cardstock to create grass by making small tears.  Be careful not to tear the whole way across the strip!  What a workout this is for those hand muscles.  

        Use recycled art like painted paper to create torn art collage while building fine motor skills in kids.

         Next glue the blue strips onto a background piece of paper.  Tear white scrap paper into cloud shapes.  They can be any shape, just like clouds in the sky!

        Tear paper to help kids strengthen fine motor skills.

         Grab a piece of yellow cardstock and create a sun.  This is another fabulous fine motor workout.  Tearing a circle-ish shape and creating small tears really works those muscles in the hands.

        Tearing paper activity for kids

         Glue the sun onto the sky and enjoy the art.  

        More paper activities that build skills:

        Working on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, or scissor skills? Our Fine Motor Kits cover all of these areas and more.

        Check out the seasonal Fine Motor Kits that kids love:

        Or, grab one of our themed Fine Motor Kits to target skills with fun themes:

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

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

        Superhero Gross Motor Activities

        superhero gross motor activities slide deck

        Today, I have a fun therapy slide deck to share: Superhero Gross Motor Activities! These superhero exercises are movement activities that challenge motor planning, balance, core strength, and crossing midline. When kids move through the superhero movement activities, they can build and develop many areas. Grab this gross motor activity set and start building those motor skills!

        Superhero Gross motor activities for kids

        Superhero Gross Motor Activities

        I wanted to create a gross motor activity set to go along with our superhero writing activity deck, so be sure to grab that free resource as well. This is just one of the free teletherapy slides for OT and PT that are available on the site.

        The gross motor activity set includes 24 different slides and superhero exercises that challenges users to complete different movement patterns. Users can go through the exercises in order and work on various gross motor skills that can be a challenge to incorporate into teletherapy sessions, sometimes.

        By following along with the different superhero gross motor positions, kids can challenge and build:

        These various gross motor skills can help children with self-regulation, attention, and other areas.

        Add these other superhero activities for more skill-building:

        Free Superhero Gross Motor Slide Deck

        Want to add this slide deck to your therapy toolbox? Enter your email address below and you will receive a PDF containing a link to copy the slide deck onto your Google drive. Save that PDF file, because you can come back to it again and again and send it to the kids on your caseload (or classroom) so they can make their own copy on their Google drive.

        Note- You many need to use a personal email address in this form due to increased difficulties with sending deliverables to school district emails, organizations, and those with high security networks.

        Free Superhero Gross Motor Therapy Slide Deck!

          We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

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

          Unicorn Yoga

          Unicorn Yoga

          If you’ve got a little one who is a big fan of unicorns, than this Unicorn Yoga is a sure win. I’ve had this unicorn craft on the site for years and wanted to add a few other unicorn activities to go with the craft. That’s where these stretches and gross motor exercises come into play.

          Unicorn Yoga

          Unicorn Yoga

          Just in time for Unicorn Day (yep, that’s actually a thing! Unicorn Day is on April 9th), these unicorn yoga exercises are a great addition to your therapy toolbox.

          The exercises are a free slide deck that can be used in teletherapy, or as a brain break activity to incorporate into a functional sensory diet or self-regulation strategy.

          Kids that love all things unicorns will find these unicorn yoga poses a fun way to incorporate their interests into a meaningful and motivating sensory and gross motor exercise.

          In each slide deck, kids can follow along with the unicorn yoga pose to challenge core strength, stability, strengthening, motor planning, crossing midline.

          Other benefits of yoga exercises for kids include:

          • mindfulness
          • proprioceptive input
          • vestibular input
          • calming input
          • self-regulation.

          Unicorn fitness was never so much fun…or cute!

          Also included in this slide deck is a deep breathing activity. The unicorn image shows children how to take in deep breaths for the sensory and regulating benefits. Kids can use these deep breathing strategies while completing each unicorn yoga pose throughout the slide deck.

          Unicorn Yoga Slide Deck

          To incorporate these slides into your therapy practice, you’ll access the slides via the form below. Then, you can pull up the slide deck onto your Google drive. Go through each yoga pose with children in your virtual therapy sessions, at home, or in the classroom. Kids can copy the positioning with your verbal cues, and correct any body positioning, depending on spatial awareness and body awareness needs.

          Parents, teachers, and therapists may want to follow along with the cute unicorns on each slide, too!

          Want to add this free therapy slide deck to your toolbox? Enter your email address below and the exercises will be delivered to your inbox.

          NOTE: Please consider using a personal email address rather than a work or school district email. Due to recent changes with network security measures, the email delivering the resource may be blocked by your work institution.

          FREE Unicorn Yoga Slide Deck

            We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

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