Tracing Letters with Chalk

tracing letters with chalk

Have you heard of rainbow writing? How about chalk rainbow writing? There are many fine motor and visual motor skills that are used when using rainbow writing as a handwriting practice strategy! Let’s break down what rainbow writing is and how this chalk writing activity is a skill-builder for letter formation. Also check out our handwriting library for more ideas.

tracing letters with chalk

Tracing letters with chalk is a handwriting practice strategy that helps to build muscle memory when learning letter formations. You can rainbow write on paper or with different utensils such as crayons, colored pencils, markers, or chalk!

Tracing Letters with Chalk

Tracing letters with chalk is a colorful way to practice letter formation. The strategy builds skills in visual motor and hand eye coordination in order to trace over the lines of a letter.

When you use chalk tracing to practice a letter or a word, the child traces over the letter with each color of the rainbow.

They will end up with 6 or 7 trials in writing over the letter.

Some things to consider with tracing with chalk

Tracing over letters with chalk, crayons, or colored pencils is a powerful strategy when practicing letter formation and the line awareness needed for letter size and line placement.

Read through this resource on tracing sheets to see the pros and cons of tracing with kids.

Some things you’ll want to consider about chalk tracing writing activities:

  • Be sure to watch how the student starts the letters. It can be easy to start a poor muscle memory for writing the letters if they start at the wrong starting point or form the letters incorrectly. This creates an incorrect motor plan in the handwriting process.
  • Make sure the letters don’t progressively get worse as the student traces over the letters when rainbow writing.
  • Some kids tend to make the rainbow letters with colors next to each other like a rainbow rather than tracing on top of each color. Ask the student to make a mixed up rainbow by tracing right on top of each color.

Rainbow Writing with chalk

We did rainbow writing with chalk one day. This was a great way to work on letter formation while outside because there was the added benefit of playing on the ground.

Using chalk to practice letters supports development by adding proprioceptive input through the core, strengthens the shoulder girdle for adding more stability for writing, as well as adding strength and stability to the wrist.

Upper body strength in this way supports distal dexterity and mobility needed for writing.

Chalk Rainbow Writing

This chalk tracing activity was a lot of fun.

We have a big ol’ bucket of chalk that we play with almost everyday.  Our sidewalk and driveway have been know to be very colorful at times!  We took the chalk to our sidewalk squares one day this week and practiced a little letter formation.

Our sidewalk squares were the perfect area to practice forming letters accurately.  I used simple verbal cues to describe the formation of each letter (big line down, little curve around, little line) and we started in the corner of each square as we made the letters. 

I made the letter first and Big Sister and Little Guy watched.  Then we went to work making our letters very colorful!

Tracing the letters over and over again was a great way to practice accurate formation.  Big Sister got into this activity.  Little Guy only wanted to make a few letters that are in his name.

When the child is tracing the letters over and over again, they become more efficient at planning out and executing the movements needed to make a letter accurately.  This activity is great for a new writer because they are given a confined space to practice a letter, and visual cues (and verbal prompts from mom).



Use the activities and ideas in The Handwriting Book for more ways to work on writing skills.

The Handwriting Book is a comprehensive resource created by experienced pediatric OTs and PTs.

The Handwriting Book covers everything you need to know about handwriting, guided by development and focused on function. This digital resource is is the ultimate resource for tips, strategies, suggestions, and information to support handwriting development in kids.

The Handwriting Book breaks down the functional skill of handwriting into developmental areas. These include developmental progression of pre-writing strokes, fine motor skills, gross motor development, sensory considerations, and visual perceptual skills. Each section includes strategies and tips to improve these underlying areas.

  • Strategies to address letter and number formation and reversals
  • Ideas for combining handwriting and play
  • Activities to practice handwriting skills at home
  • Tips and strategies for the reluctant writer
  • Tips to improve pencil grip
  • Tips for sizing, spacing, and alignment with overall improved legibility

Click here to grab your copy of The Handwriting Book today.

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

Nature Table

nature table

Young children love to explore nature, but have you ever really explored and learned through play with a nature table? We all love to learn about the world around us, and a nature table is one way to foster that appreciation! Today, we’re taking the concept of a nature table a bit further and dissecting the skill development that you can also foster with a nature space: fine motor skills, object manipulation, tool use, self-regulation, executive functioning skills, empathy, and more!

Be sure to check out our nature adventure for a starting point.

nature table

What is a Nature Table?

The idea of a nature table is to provide children with a physical connection to the natural world around them and it provides a curated space that represents the local surroundings and seasons. It essentially represents the diversity of life that exists in the local environment and gives hands-on interaction to the natural landscape.

A nature table can be an indoor activity or an outdoor activity.

Essentially, a nature table is a play space that allows children (and adults, any age can explore a nature space, really) to explore nature using primarily their senses of sight, touch.

  • A nature table can be as simple as a picnic table loaded with pinecones, acorns, leaves, twigs, and pebbles!
  • Other spaces can include a large bin and small creatures like potato bugs, caterpillars, or toads and a makeshift environment with leaves and grass (followed by release of the creatures back into the wild.
  • Or, a nature space can be brought indoors to explore and learn through play.

Through this nature examination, children can foster a love for their environment, as well as various skills:

Appreciation for nature: The table can help a child explore what is naturally in their surroundings and it can give them the opportunity to learn respect and admiration for what is found in their local environment. 

Sensory Exploration: They utilize all their senses while engaging with the elements on the table making it a true sensory experience ideal for the therapeutic setting. Nature items bring easy engagement while providing a natural sensory experience while targeting considerations such as tactile discrimination or other aspects of sensory touch.

Beyond the tactile and other sensory inputs that exploring nature up close allows, we know that the research tells us outdoor sensory play has many benefits.

Fine Motor Skill Work: Exploring items from nature is a natural and motivating way to foster fine motor dexterity needed to hold and explore items from nature. Think about the poking, prodding, and manipulation skills needed to manipulate nature objects and materials.

If you add in tools such as tweezers, a magnifying glass, microscopes, scissors, or other items, the motor skills compound.

Social Emotional Skills: This might not be an obvious benefit of playing at a sensory nature space, but if you think about the social and emotional connections, they are huge benefits of nature play! Playing with and exploring nature has calming and self-regulating aspects and this can be monumental when it comes to interacting with others.

Additionally, exploring nature offers opportunity to interact in objects from the world around us, giving a chance to develop empathy and consideration for our environment.

Despite the obvious fun that a nature table brings while exploring the elements, it is a wonderful way for children to begin finding a greater connection to the world they live in and to the environment that surrounds them.

How Do You Create a Nature Table?

As an occupational therapy practitioner, think about a nature similarly to a sensory bin. How many different elements can you add without being overwhelming to the child. If you do not have a free table- top, its ok, just use a tray, a box, a plastic bin, or even a blanket or rubber mats on the floor!

  • This Fall water table added leaves, acorns, and pinecones to water for more exploration.
  • You could even add a dandelion activity or other weeds to a nature sensory table or nature bin.

Basically, a nature table offers a space to learn and explore nature. It is really that easy!

Find items to put on a Nature Table

Want to take a fieldtrip into nature? Summer is the perfect time to take a nature walk and visit some trails in your area! Do not have a trail nearby? That’s ok try finding a park instead.  Just simply get outdoors and start a seek and find activity with kiddos. Go outside and find all the different objects in nature that could help build a nature table for hands-on exploration.

You can even grab a nature scavenger hunt (inside the Member’s Club for Level 2 members) to help guide you in your hunt.

But keep in mind that ANY change in seasons is always a great time to refresh a nature table with new explorative elements. 

Nature Table Tips

  • Nature tables can come in many different forms, but the primary thing to keep in mind is not to overcrowd the table as this creates visual clutter making it visually overwhelming for some children.
  • Place items with good separation and variation.
  • As you feel the need to add items once first presenting the table, replace old items with new ones which will keep the table remaining fresh and open for an inviting appeal to children. It is an invitation to play so to speak.

What Items Do You Include on a Nature Table?

What exactly can you put on a nature table for exploration? If you are like many people building a table with a theme is always fun, but you do not have to do that just go outside and grab what you see to add to the table.

Here are some fun ideas:

  • Rocks
  • Feathers
  • Acorns
  • Tree bark
  • Dirt
  • Empty birds’ nests
  • Seeds
  • Pinecones
  • Pine needles
  • Leaves
  • Moss
  • Branches or twigs
  • Snail shells
  • Grass
  • Hay 
  • Cattails
  • Flowers
  • Flower petals
  • Shells 
  • Sand
  • Clay
  • Plants
  • Seeds
  • Water
  • Mud
  • Snow
  • Icicles
  • Gourds
  • Pumpkins
  • Herbs
  • Chestnuts
  • Fruit/veggies (be aware of any poisonous fillings that a fruit or veggie might have)
  • Live insects in bug catchers or vented jars

Nature tables are a great way to not only explore things with use of the senses, but toss in a few fine motor tools and you’ve provided a fun way to build important hand skills too! 

Nature Table Supplies

The previous was a brief list of natural items you can present on a nature table, but let’s take a look at basic supplies and filler items that you can add with your OT eye that really looks at tools of the trade for our profession:

  • Water droppers
  • Tweezers or tongs for sorting or counting
  • Scissors for cutting petals or cutting leaves
  • Recycled cardboard tubes to create a memory game or just for exploration
  • Paint brushes for painting
  • Magnifying glass to look more closely
  • Recycled egg cartons or ice cube trays for sorting or creating a nature treasure box
  • Paper with pencils and crayons for tracing, drawing, writing, or rubbing
  • Themed craft or prop items (fake plants, toy accessories, etc.)
  • Clips for clipping or picking up items
  • Rubber bands for wrapping around items
  • Sticky tape or glue for table creations in play
  • Cardboard for nature pictures or drawing
  • Essential oils and nature sounds or music to enhance the experience
  • Sticky contact paper for collecting nature
  • Plastic needle and string for pattern threading
  • Hoops or frames for weaving with yarn or string 
  • Containers with different ways to open and close
  • Twist ties and baggies and plastic baggies for storage
  • Play dough or clay for creating fun impressions or building of animals, etc.
  • Spoons, scoopers, spatulas for creative use

How Do You Extend the Use of the Nature Table?

Once items begin to age or it becomes time to change out the table with new elements, consider allowing children to be creative and use some of the items to make fun creations that they can take home or even display in the classroom or therapy clinic.  Look at some of these fun and creative ideas:

These provide kiddos not only a tangible creative product that can be gratifying for them to complete and call their own, but the creations provide for even further skill development such as hand skills, tool use, visual skills, and problem-solving. 

Following play at the nature table or prior to engagement at the nature table or even both, consider having kiddos walk the fun forest sensory path that provides the opportunity for them to perform gross motor, deep breathing, and crossing midline activities with a fall nature-type theme. 

A Final Note About Creating a Nature Table

As a special note or warning, please consider items that may be unsafe for any child to handle or to play with during table exploration. Keep in mind that some items may have pieces that could break off making them unsafe for little ones or even pets. Some items do look like edible food, but they can be dangerous if consumed, please consider this when creating a nature table for kiddos who put things in their mouths. Also, keep an eye out for rotting items like gourds, pumpkins, berries, and more.  Always have children wash their hands following engagement at the table and it is always best to provide adult supervision while children are interacting with the items on the table to be very aware of what each child is doing.

Regina Allen

Regina Parsons-Allen is a school-based certified occupational therapy assistant. She has a pediatrics practice area of emphasis from the NBCOT. She graduated from the OTA program at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson, North Carolina with an A.A.S degree in occupational therapy assistant. She has been practicing occupational therapy in the same school district for 20 years. She loves her children, husband, OT, working with children and teaching Sunday school. She is passionate about engaging, empowering, and enabling children to reach their maximum potential in ALL of their occupations as well assuring them that God loves them!

How to Paint Snow

How to paint snow

Wondering how to paint snow? We’ve got you covered with this fine motor hand strengthening activity. Painting snow is a great winter fine motor activity but also one that builds memories. Use it as a toddler snow activity, a preschool art idea or even painting activities for adults! Painted snow is fun this time of year!

How to paint snow
How to paint snow

How to Paint Snow

Painting snow using spray bottles is right up the occupational therapy provider’s alley, because using snow as a canvas for creative painting builds essential muscles in the hands. Fine motor skills are a developed by squeezing a spray bottle’s handle to paint the snow.

Let’s cover how to paint snow using a simple squeeze bottle…

You’ll need just a few materials to paint snow:

  • Spray bottles
  • Water
  • Food coloring

You could also use diluted paint or watercolor paints.

Paint snow with spray bottles

To make the paint for painting snow:

  1. Fill the spray bottles half way.
  2. Squeeze in a few drops of food coloring.
  3. Put the lid back on the spray bottle.
  4. Shake the bottle to mix the color and the water.
  5. Head outside to some fresh snow.
  6. Start spraying!

The spray bottles came from the dollar store.  When I saw the cute colored tops on the bottles, I grabbed up four of them…I can see lots of fun spray play in our future!

Big Sister and Little Guy filled the bottles part way with water and squeezed in some liquid food coloring (also from the dollar store…we seriously use this stuff for SO MANY projects.  It lasts forever!!)

The big kids were SO excited to get started!  They went right to work on creating a masterpiece on the front lawn.  If you do this activity, be sure to keep the nozzle on a stream of water.  When it was turned to a spray, the colors did not show up as well in the snow.

How to paint snow
How to paint snow with spray bottles

Benefits of painting snow

We know the benefits of outdoor play, and even in colder temperatures, playing outside has enormous benefits for sensory needs, self-regulation, gross motor skills, and much more.

There is even a winter mindfulness to this activity. Creative expression is very regulating and calming, and that mindful awareness of squeezing the spray bottle, watching the paint as it changes the snow’s colors, and seeing snow patches in different colors is a very present and mindful activity.

Plus, before you can head outside in cold temperatures, you’ll need to dress for the weather. It’s a great time to practice zippers, snaps, and other self-dressing skills. These tips for supporting sensory kids to dress in winter clothing can be a great resource.

That’s where a painted snow activity like this one comes in. Getting kids outside in the winter can be a challenge, but when you pull in a fun activity like painted snow…you have kids that want to stay out until the paint is gone!

Best of all, you can be sure that painting snow with a bottle like this builds other developmental skills, too.

When painting snow with a spray bottle, several things are happening:

  • Fine motor strength to squeeze the spray bottle
  • Visual motor skills to aim at a target
  • Hand-Eye coordination to squeeze and spray
  • Separation of the sides of the hand to squeeze the spray bottle while holding the bottle
  • Heavy work (proprioception) through the hands and whole body as the child walks through the snow
  • Tactile challenges with different textures in the snow
  • Visual processing input seeing a familiar setting in a new light with fresh snow.
Painted snow with spray bottles

Painted Snow Activities

Want to extend the play and develop more skills? Incorporate these painted snow ideas:

  • Make a snow maze. Paint directions in the snow or add fun details with the snow paint.
  • Work on letter identification and visual discrimination skills using magnets. We show you how to use magnets in snow play in a previous blog post. With colorful paint, this is a great outdoor activity for kids!
  • Use the painted snow in a snowball experiment. This is a great winter science activity for kids.
  • For more early math, use the painted snow to make snow patterns.
  • Make a snow kitchen! This is a great activity for young children. Scooping and pouring is a great fine motor workout and you can use that painted snow to make all kinds of fun recipes in a pretend snow restaurant.
  • Incorporate our winter sensory stations printables. You can laminate the pages and take them outside in the snow for self-regulation fun. Place snow on the printables and spray it off. Then, wipe clean with more snow.

Little Guy wanted to shovel blue snow.  ‘Cause that would be awesome!

We mixed a little colors…making orange, purple, bluish-green…and mastered Big Sister’s goal of making brown.  (This girl loooooves to mix paints to get brown. Every.Time.) haha!

Yes, you may paint the bushes…

This was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  If you have snow, go out and do this. 
 So Much Fun!

What if you had themed, NO-PREP activities designed to collect data and can help kids build essential fine motor skills?

Take back your time and start the year off with a bang with these done-for-you fine motor plans to help kids form stronger hands with our Winter Fine Motor Kit. This print-and-go winter fine motor kit includes no-prep fine motor activities to help kids develop functional grasp, dexterity, strength, and endurance. Use fun, winter-themed, fine motor activities so you can help children develop strong fine motor skills in a digital world. 

The Winter Fine Motor Kit includes 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.

Rubber Duck Painting Sensory Activity

Paint rubber ducks

This rubber duck painting activity was a fun creative art idea and sensory play activity using our water table and just water colors. This creative painting activity is a fun one! While using these paint materials won’t permanently paint the rubber duck, it is a great fine motor and sensory play activity for kids! Below you’ll see how to paint a rubber duck while developing skills in kids with a fun summer sensory play activity.

Rubber Duck Painting

This sensory play activity is one we did years ago when my kids were small. While they had fun with the creative painting activity, they didn’t realize that at the same time, they were developing so many skills:

All we used were a few materials for this rubber duck painting activity:

  1. Water table
  2. Water
  3. Paint brushes
  4. Watercolors
  5. Rubber ducks

How to Paint a Rubber Duck

Watercolors are such a fun way to explore color and just have fun!  When the kids ask to paint, it’s usually watercolors that they want. 

Baby Girl has recently been loving to paint with watercolors.  So, when I pulled out the water colors and the water table, there was a little confusion and a lot of intrigue!   

We painted rubber ducks in the water table for a fun twist on creating art and exploring colors.  The best part was, the easy clean up…right in the water table!  

Use watercolors to paint toys in the watertable.  Wash them off when done. So much fun!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.   

Paint rubber ducks on the water table

I pulled out a bunch of our rubber ducks that we have in different sizes and put them in the water table along with watercolors and a few little cups of water. 

How to paint rubber ducks for a sensory activity with kids.

When the kids saw this, they were very excited….and a little confused.  I showed them how to paint the rubber ducks and mix colors on the toys.  The fun began!

Paint rubber ducks with watercolors

  We started out painting some of the rubber ducks all one color, and then mixing in other colors.

How to paint a rubber duck

  Baby Girl painted her rubber ducks her favorite color-purple.

Paint rubber ducks with kids

  This was such a fun way to paint and explore colors on a hot summer day.  These two were pretty serious about their painting.

Rubber duck painting with kids

  Mixing colors on the toys was so much fun!  This rubber duck got a lot of color. 

Rubber duck painting activity with kids

And this one, not so much.  We learned that less water and more paint made the colors stay put on the toys. 

Rubber duck painting is a fun sensory activity for kids using a water table.

  We had a little audience for our painting activity.   The big kids got a kick out of her rubber duckie pajamas that matched.  SO cute!

Rubber duck painting sensory activity for kids

When we were finished with our paining, we gave the ducks a little bath in the containers of water.  Perfect for the water table!

Sensory play to wash the paint off the rubber duck toys

  We left the paints and the toys out on the water table for a while and came back to painting and rinsing all afternoon.

Rubber ducks and watercolor paints
Rubber duck in watercolor water

What other toys can you bring into this painting activity?  I’m thinking we’ll bring this watercolor toy painting activity out again with lots of other toys.   It was a big hit!

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

Homemade Colored Sand

Color sand for sensory play

Have you ever thought about making colored sand? It is possible to color sand, easily, and get the kids involved in the process, too. Here, we are covering how to color sand as a sensory play material for the sandbox, for art, and for homemade colored sand fun!

We have been playing outside so much recently.  Our sandbox is right outside and the kids are in there daily. We added a little color to some of the sand this week and have been having fun with our colored sand!

Color sand for a sensory play experience with many therapy benefits.

Color Sand for Developing Skills

Kids love to color sand, and the process is a fun motor and sensory activity to support development of a variety of skill areas, too:

  • Eye-hand coordination to pour and scoop the sand
  • Bilateral coordination to pour sand into a bag or container
  • Gross motor skills, heavy work, proprioception, and motor planning skills to shake the containers of sand and paint
  • Executive functioning skills to mix and color the sand
  • Tactile sensory play to manipulate the mixed textures of dry sand and wet paint.
  • Fine motor skills to pinch the crumbled dry clumps of colored sand
using food coloring to make colored sand

How to Color Sand

We made a simple batch of colored sand very easily.  This simple recipe is a great activity for kids to make as a cognitive and direction-following activity. Read on for directions on how to make colored sand…

Big Sister helped me with this and we had fun while the little kids were napping.   So how did we make our colored sand?  

  1. Scoop a little sand into plastic baggies.
  2. Add around 10-15 drops of food coloring.
  3. Seal the baggie and shake it up. (great for some gross motor play!!)  
  4. Let the sand dry and have fun playing.  

We left our sand right in the open baggies and let it dry overnight.  If you wanted to play right away, you could spread the sand out on a tray and it would dry much sooner.

Color sand for sensory play
add food coloring to baggies of sand

Color Sand Activities

Once you have mixed a batch of colorful sand, you can use it in various sensory and motor activities.

Make Color Sand Pictures

So the next day, we spread the sand out on a tray and played!  She loves making pictures in the sand and telling stories (like Nina on Sprout!)  This was such a fun activity.  

Practice Writing Letters with Colored Sand

We spread out the sand onto a low tray and used it as a writing tray. My preschooler told me all kinds of stories, made words, and we practiced some lower case letter formation.

Big Sister is knows how to make most lowercase letters and can copy all of the letters.  This is a great activity for letter formation and practicing handwriting.  

Use Colored Sand for Pre-Writing Skills

For kids that are still working on diagonals, crossed lines, and shapes, a sand sensory writing tray is a great tool to work on pre-writing skills. The tactile feedback offers muscle memory for forming lines and shapes.

The sand adds a sensory aspect to letter formation. Using a large tray like this one adds whole arm movements which are perfect for the young child who is just learning letter formation.  I love the contrast that the white tray adds to the colored sand.  

We played for a long time with this (again during Little Kid nap time).

colored sand on tray for child to form letters

Of course, when you have bags of colored sand, you have to mix the colors together to see what happens 🙂  

Color sand for a sensory tray.

Grade the colored sand activity for therapy

How can you grade this activity for different aged children? There are many ways to color sand and use one batch with several ages. This is especially good for families with children at various ages. Consider the contamination aspect when using a batch of colored sand in the therapy setting.

  • Toddlers would love to explore the colors and sensation of the sand on their fingers.
  • Pre-writers can copy and trace shapes, zig-zag and intersecting lines
  • Early writers can trace upper case letters.
  • Older hand-writers can copy a word from a card positioned off to the side. 
  • Practice spelling words with school-aged kids.

    We saved our bags of colored sand and will be using them again.  Have you done any projects with colored sand? 

Finally, after playing with your homemade colored sand, use the opportunity to add this tactile sensory play experience to your toolbox of handwashing activities!

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

Working on other fine motor skills through play? Grab one of our Fine Motor Kits to get started!

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!

Tag Games To Develop Motor SKills

Tag games for kids

The thing about playing tag games is that you can take a classic lawn game and make rules to change the game a thousand different ways and never play the same game twice! Chase games are a fun way to get kids moving and outside with movement, balance challenges, development of the visual system, and heavy work. Best of all? Tag activities can support developmental needs on all levels and abilities. Add these tag games to our massive list of outdoor lawn games to get kids moving, running, jumping, and building motor skills!

These tag games are powerful ways to help kids develop skills. Use the creative tag games in therapy or in summer camp activities.

Tag games

There are so many reasons why tag games are a must for summer time fun. Let’s break it down:

  • Tag games are great ways to add motor movement to kids, to get them off the screens, and outside. Running and playing tag supports gross motor coordination.
  • Tag also is a powerful way to play together as a family, adding a chance for connection and creating memories. What better way to spend some time together as a family than playing a game of tag that offers heavy work, sensory input, in the great outdoors?
  • Tag games are also great running games for physical education.
  • Tag is a fun way to support therapy goals with a small group. Use the tag games in a group therapy setting, in PE planning, or in summer camp activities.
  • Playing tag at summer camp offers a break between activities, adds heavy work, and can get kids moving and building skills. Best of all- you can modify the tag game to meet any theme or topic!

The options are limitless! Here are more summer camp ideas that tag can fit well into with therapeutic and team-building benefits.

There are many therapeutic benefits of playing tag. Use these tag games in therapy or summer camps to help kids with child development and have fun too!

Therapeutics benefits of playing tag

When kids are running, stopping, turning course, running around obstacles, there are many developmental benefits.

Let’s break down games of tags for their therapeutic benefits:

Running- running in short bursts offers cardio input that gets the blood pumping. When kids run and stop in short bursts, they are gaining heavy work input through their legs and core.

The short intervals involved in tag games build muscle strength, and allow for running at various speeds. As opposed to longer distance running, kids can be successful in running in short bursts.

This is also a great way to “reset” after being indoors for a while, on a long car ride, in the classroom all day, or on screen devices for a long period of time. We talked here about the benefits of treadmills and wellbeing, but for shorter bursts of running, the mindfulness benefits definitely exist!

Stopping and Starting- When we run and then stop abruptly or stop and turn, there are so many motor components occurring at one time.

The muscles that are actively engaged need to stop abruptly, adding heavy work input through those muscles and joints. Then the opposing muscles and core need to activate to maintain posture. The whole body is engaged in this action. Kids often play tag in a yard or park where there are trees or other stationary structures.

These provide a need to move around targets and slow running speed. This requires the visual processing system to interact with the motor tasks. When kids are running around other tag players, they are running around moving targets, which further engages muscles and visual processing system.

Stopping and starting motor skills are a challenge for:

  • Proprioception
  • Vestibular input
  • Motor planning
  • Body awareness
  • Depth perception
  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Postural control

Tagging others- Tag is such a great way to interact with others in an appropriate way. You may have had a school yard experience where you were pushed down in a game of tag. When others tag you and it occurs unexpectedly or with too much force, a fall can happen!

However, by playing tag, kids get that experience with proprioceptive input, vestibular input, and visual motor skills.

  • How much force must they exert to tag without pushing over a playmate?
  • How far do they need to reach out to tag a friend without hitting their face?

All of this experience in movement is powerful! It helps kids learn about how their body moves in space, body awareness skills, visual perceptual skills, spatial awareness, and eye-hand coordination skills.

Spatial awareness- Expanding further on the spatial awareness skills, or spatial relations, body awareness, posture exercises for kids, and position in space, all of these body concepts are able to be carried over to other functional tasks.

This experience allows kids to use this knowledge when walking in crowded hallways without bumping into others, spatial awareness in handwriting on a page, moving while carrying plates or heavy items. All of these experiences can be integrated for functional movement.

Executive functioning skills- Playing a simple game of tag can build executive functioning skills, too! Think about it: when you play tag, there is working memory to recall movements that allowed you to escape in a previous game or trial.

If you’re playing a fun tag game version, you need to recall specific words or phrases that were already used. Other executive functioning skills that are used in tag include planning, prioritization of movements, impulse control, task completion, initiation, processing speed, self-monitoring, foresight, mindset, and cognitive shift. What a powerful game tag is in building cognitive skills!

Motor planning- Moving, making motor plans, running around obstacles and other children…what a great game tag is to build motor planning skills.

There’s more: tag is a fast-paced game. So those motor planning sequences and movements need to happen quickly. The good news is that a game of tag offers many trials and repetitions to build motor plans and muscle memory.

Visual Processing Skills- Visual processing skills is an umbrella of visual skills and tag addresses many of these areas through play. And playing tag requires many visual processing skills under that umbrella!

Take a look at all of the visual skills needed for tag:

What a powerful game tag is!

So, now that we know the massive therapeutic benefits of tag, let’s take a look at some fun tag games for kids.

Play these creative tag games to add a twist to the classic tag game.

Fun Tag Games

Classic tag

Someone is it and chases the others in the group. When they touch someone else, that person is now “it”. The game continues.

TV Tag

One person is “it”. When they approach another person, the player yells the name of a TV show and drops to the ground. They are then safe and the person that is “it” needs to run and tag another person. This type of tag can be adjusted to call out music, songs, YouTube shows, games, sports, favorite foods, animals, etc.

Flashlight Tag

Play tag in the early evening hours with flashlights. When you shine your flashlight on a fellow tag player, that player is tagged and they are now “it”. This is a great activity for challenging visual scanning skills, visual discrimination, visual figure ground, and visual tracking skills.

Sharks and Minnows Tag

One person is the shark and the others are the minnows. When the shark touches another player, that person then turns into a shark. Now there are two sharks. Play until all of the minnows turn into sharks.

Freeze Tag-

When a person is tagged, they need to freeze in place until another player touches them to “unfreeze” them.

Cops and Robbers Tag-

A group splits into either “cops” or “robbers”. The cops chase the robbers and once tagged, they need to sit in “jail” until another robber tags them and releases them.

Pizza Tag-

One person is “it” and chases the others.  Players run from “it” and can stay safe from being tagged by naming pizza toppings and touching the ground.

Animal Walk Tag-

Players can assume an animal walk (crab walks, hop like a bunny, waddle like a penguin, sway like an elephant, etc.) and play tag!

Social Distance Tag Games

No-Touch Tag Games-

Tag games can be modified to any theme which is great for social distancing. One person is “it”. When they near another child, that person yells out a word or phrase, or completes an action like hopping, squatting, acting like an animal, touching the ground, dabbing, or completing any physical action. Tag could take any action or theme in this way.

Shadow Tag-

Play classic tag but tag one another by stepping on the shadow of others. This is a great social distancing version of tag, as well.

Social Distancing Tag-

This tag game is another way to play with others, gain the benefits of tag, and play in a socially distanced form. Simply play tag in the classic version (or use any of the fun tag versions described here) and when “it” is within 6 feet of another person, they have tagged the other player. This is a nice way to work on spatial awareness and scanning at a distance, too.

Tag Games for Different Themes

The cool thing about a classic game of tag…or any of the versions listed above, is that you can adjust the theme to fit a weekly therapy theme, a summer camp theme, or a learning theme at school. Different types of tag games can be played using all one theme to add different movement opportunities and motor planning challenges.

  • Have an ocean summer camp? Play ocean animals tag (kids call out ocean animals and drop to the ground to stay safe.)
  • Planning a space camp? Play space tag. Kids can call out planets when the “it” person is near and stay safe.
  • Creating a Pirates theme summer camp? Modify sharks and minnows tag to meet your theme.
  • Coming up with a handwriting camp to work on handwriting skills? Encourage heavy work through the arms by adding crawling, hopping, or heavy work animal walks.

What do you think? Have you played any of these tag games before? Let’s get those kids moving!

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

Benefits of Nature Play

benefits of nature play

Research has a lot to say about nature play. When it comes to outdoor play, there is a lot that can be discussed too. Occupational therapy professionals encourage a lot of open-ended play, outdoor games, and outdoor play. There is a natural sensory aspect to outdoor play, which supports self-regulation, emotional regulation, attention, and learning, all through just playing outside! Today we are talking all about what the research has to say about outdoor sensory diet activities and outdoor play.

Benefits of nature play in developing skills in kids and adults of all ages.

Benefits of Nature Play

Taking sensory diet strategies outside is nothing new. But, doing so may just be a meaningful way to create the “just right” state of alertness and calming nature that, well, nature provides! But to take it a step further, did you know there are benefits of outdoor games? Did you know that the outdoors support executive functioning skills, self-regulation, and motor skill development…all through playing outside?

Use this information when explaining about what a sensory diet is and what a sensory diet looks like for kids with sensory needs. 

There are quite a few benefits to sensory experiences in the outdoors:

Children have a large opportunity for sensory input through playground play. But, in recent times, children experience playgrounds that are more safe, allowing for less risky play. Encouraging specific activities such as a playground sensory diet on playground equipment can be beneficial to sensory needs. 

Another item to consider is the aspect of applying sensory diet strategies within the classroom or home environments as a fix for sensory processing needs. The specific and prescribed sensory diet activities for a particular child can be very helpful in addressing specific sensory-related behaviors.

However, the use of a sensory tool such as an alternative seating system within the classroom provides only one type of vestibular and/or proprioceptive input, such as up and down vestibular input. The child who plays outdoors encounters a wide variety of sensory input across all sensory systems! 

You might even call sensory tools used to address specific needs a sensory band-aide. What if we as therapists could encourage authentic sensory input in the outdoors (or indoors, as indicated) that addresses all of the sensory systems. Using meaningful play experiences not only provide all the benefits of play. They encourage healthy development through the senses. 

Research says outdoor sensory play is beneficial in the development of children. Use these outdoor sensory diet activities to inspire outdoor activities that boost skills like motor development, attention, regulation, and more.

Research on Outdoor Play

There are many benefits of outdoor play.

There have been decades of research on the benefits of play in kids. The information below depicts how outdoor play impacts sensory needs in kids. This is not an exhausted review of the literature, simply a smattering of research available on the topic. 

Research shows us that some of the developmental and primary tasks that children must achieve can be effectively improved through outdoor play.

These benefits of outdoor play include:

  • exploring
  • risk-taking
  • fine and gross motor development
  • absorption of basic knowledge
  • social skills
  • self-confidence
  • attention
  • language skills

Wow! Playing outside has a bigger impact than we may have thought!

Other research has shown an increase in communication, along with more observed emotions, and increased interactions in children with autism when more time was spent outdoors. 

Studies have found that dynamic and varied outdoor play offers opportunities for decision making that stimulate problem solving and creative thinking, opportunities that aren’t as easily found in the more static indoor environment.

Still other research supports the many health benefits:

  • reducing stress
  • decreasing symptoms of ADHD
  • protecting against myopia
  • boost the immune system

Outdoor Nature Play and Attention

One study found a sensory diet in outdoor play along with sensory integration therapy resulted in better functional behavior of kids with ADHD (Sahoo & Senapati). 

Using sensory activities that are specific in time and quality such as those in a sensory diet should be done in an authentic and meaningful manner in a child’s life. In this way, sensory input is motivating to the child in that it goes along with interests and the environment in which the child lives.

It’s a fact that kids are spending less time playing outdoors. From after-school schedules to two working parents, to unsafe conditions, to increased digital screen time, to less outdoor recess time…kids just get less natural play in the outdoors. 

Some therapists have connected the dots between less outdoor play and increased sensory struggles and attention difficulties in learning.

Knowing this, it can be powerful to have a list of outdoor sensory diet activities that can be recommended as therapy home programing and family activities that meet underlying needs.

From an occupational therapy perspective, nature play offers supports for underlying skill development. Children have the opportunity to develop motor skills, visual perceptual skills, confidence, executive functioning skills, and self-regulation that enables them to feel confident in their abilities. These areas of development support functioning and independence!

When heading outdoors, you can put on a coat, boots, or jacket and work on self-dressing skills. You can experience all of the motor rich opportunities for movement in the outdoors. Navigating the environment (whether in the woods or the city) offers visual perception, motor planning, and eye-hand coordination opportunities.

Just going outside for a walk is an exercise in skill-building!

Research says outdoor sensory play is beneficial in the development of children. Use these outdoor sensory diet activities to inspire outdoor activities that boost skills like motor development, attention, regulation, and more.

Outdoor Sensory Play Ideas

Knowing the benefits of outdoor games and free play, let’s cover some fun ways to offer the movement, regulation, and input from the outdoors. Here are some outdoor play ideas that tick all of the boxes.

Need some outdoor sensory play ideas? Try these outdoor backyard sensory diet activities that inspire free play in the outdoors while encouraging sensory input of all kinds! 

Sensory diets and specific sensory input or sensory challenges are a big part of addressing sensory needs of children who struggle with sensory processing issues. Incorporating a schedule of sensory input (sensory diet) into a lifestyle of naturally occuring and meaningful activities is so very valuable for the child with sensory needs. 

Sensory diets and specific sensory input or sensory challenges are a big part of addressing sensory needs of children who struggle with sensory processing issues. Incorporating a schedule of sensory input (sensory diet) into a lifestyle of naturally occurring and meaningful activities is so very valuable for the child with sensory needs.    That’s why I’ve worked to create a book on creating an authentic and meaningful sensory lifestyle that addresses sensory needs. The book is now released as a digital e-book or softcover print book, available on Amazon.    The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook walks you through sensory diet creation, set-up, and carry through. Not only that, but the book helps you take a sensory diet and weave it into a sensory lifestyle that supports the needs of a child with sensory processing challenges and the whole family.   Get The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook here.

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is a resource for creating sensory diets and turning them into a lifestyle of sensory success through meaningful and motivating sensory enrichment.

That’s where the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards and Sensory Challenge Cards come into play.   They are printable resource that encourages sensory diet strategies in the outdoors. In the printable packet, there are 90 outdoor sensory diet activities, 60 outdoor recess sensory diet activities, 30 blank sensory diet cards, and 6 sensory challenge cards. They can be used based on preference and interest of the child, encouraging motivation and carryover, all while providing much-needed sensory input.  

Here’s a little more information about the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards

  • 90 outdoor sensory diet activities
  • 60 outdoor recess sensory diet activities
  • 30 blank sensory diet cards, and 6 sensory challenge cards
  • They can be used based on preference and interest of the child, encouraging motivation and carryover, all while providing much-needed sensory input. 
  • Research tells us that outdoor play improves attention and provides an ideal environment for a calm and alert state, perfect for integration of sensory input.
  • Outdoor play provides input from all the senses, allows for movement in all planes, and provides a variety of strengthening components including eccentric, concentric, and isometric muscle contractions. 
  • Great tool for parents, teachers, AND therapists!

Be sure to grab the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards and use them with a child (or adult) with sensory processing needs!  

Benefits of Nature Play References:

  • Frost, J. & Sutterby, J. (2017). Our Proud Heritage: Outdoor Play Is Essential to Whole Child Development. Retrieved from: from:
  • Hanscom, A (2017, October). The decline of play outdoors and the rise in sensory issues., Article 3990. Retrieved from
  • Moore, R. (2014). Nature Play & Learning Places. Creating and managing places where children engage with nature. Raleigh, NC: Natural
  • Learning Initiative and Reston, VA: National Wildlife Federation
  • Version 1.2.
  • Von Kampen, M. (2011). The Effect of Outdoor Environment on Attention and Self-Regulation Behaviors on a Child with Autism.  Retrieved from:
  • Sahoo, S. & Senapati, A. Effect of sensory diet through outdoor play on functional behavior in children with ADHD. The Indian Journal of Occupational Therapy. Vol. 46, (2 ) 49-54.

What are your favorite outdoor play ideas?

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

Summer Occupational Therapy Activities

Summer occupational therapy activities

Looking for summer occupational therapy activities to support skill building or developmental areas with a summer OT theme? Today, we have a spin on our traditional occupational therapy activities to bring you Summer occupational therapy strategies that can be used in summer sessions or in home programs for the summer.

Summer Occupational Therapy Activities

Summer OT activities may look a little different than previous years. In years past, therapists may have been gearing up for an end of another school year and a break from in-person OT sessions. In recent years, you may be seeing more pencil grasp needs, self-regulation needs, handwriting issues, and fine motor skill needs.

What hasn’t changed about the end of a school year is the carefree days of summer that are ahead. As an OT, I love the feeling of the start of summer. There is just something about back-to-the-basics play of summer. Running around the backyard, hopping on bikes, sidewalk chalk, sprinklers and water play…summer play is a goldmine of motor and sensory activities that can boost those underlying skills kids NEED.

Because of this, I wanted to put together a resource on summer occupational therapy activities that can be implemented today. These are strategies to use for your own child to boost development and challenge skills. These are ideas to use in teletherapy or in home programs. These are play ideas that help kids with the balance of screens and active play. Use the summer resources for parents, teachers, and therapists to develop underlying skills in very fun ways! These are AWESOME summer occupational therapy activities!

Let’s help kids struggling from a year of mega-screen overload meet the goals they need to thrive. Plus…take more time for you this summer by using done-for-you resources!

Occupational therapists can use these summer occupational therapy activities when planning OT home programs for for summer programs.

Summer Occupational Therapy Activities 

In many areas, schools are winding down for the year. You may have a few weeks or a few days left. The daily countdown of number of remaining school days is dwindling.

You might be wondering how to balance work-from home and making summer days count.

You might be wondering how to keep the kids busy this summer without breaking the bank.

You might be a clinician thinking about summer programming and need a few fresh ideas.

You might be thinking about summer plans and ways to encourage development in fun ways the whole family can enjoy.

You might be a therapist putting together summer home programs.

You might be a teacher who is READY for the final bell to ring this school year 🙂

I wanted to put together a list of resources for summer activities that can boost the skills kids need. The “summer slide” can happen in handwriting and other school-based therapy goal areas, too!

Summer Occupational Therapy Activity Ideas

Occupational therapy practitioners often use movement and sensory experiences in therapy sessions to challenge motor planning, motor skill development, and incorporate sensory motor activity through the primary occupation of childhood: PLAY.

Because of this, sensory motor rich activity is recommended as supplemental and everyday activity for kids of all ages to support development of skill growth. Many of the OT activity ideas listed below also support executive functioning skills, problem solving, and other cognitive aspects of functional tasks.

First, grab this summer sensory path printable packet. It’s a free sensory path printable with a summer theme. Use it in therapy clinics, home OT sessions, or in summer sensory camps!

Try adding these OT activities to your summer bucket list:

  • Make our 3 ingredient kinetic sand– Making kinetic sand offers heavy work through the hands as a self-regulation tool and offers a tactile sensory experience.
  • Make a kite craft to develop fine motor skills, visual motor skills, eye-hand coordination, and scissor skills.
  • Play TV tag (or one of these tag games)- Tag is a great gross motor activity to develop endurance, motor planning, coordination, balance, and visual motor skills while adding proprioceptive and vestibular input to regulate the system.
  • Make an ice cream craft to support hand strength and fine motor skills. This craft is great for developing scissor skills too.
  • Play sidewalk hopscotch– Use sidewalk chalk to draw a hopscotch board. Then play using rocks or bean bags. Hopscotch is a great tool to add heavy work, vestibular and proprioceptive input, and to challenge motor planning, balance, and other gross motor skills. Hopscotch is a way to teach skipping skills, too.
  • Paint rocks- This sensory experience challenges tactile input and offers a fine motor activity. Use finger paints or a paint brush to incorporate tool use and more fine motor work.
  • Wheelbarrow walk– This exercise is a heavy work exercise that helps kids with motor planning, movement, and endurance through play while adding heavy work. Use wheelbarrow walks in relay races or in obstacle courses.
  • Make a flower craft– Go on a nature walk as a motor and sensory experience. Then use the nature hunt findings to make a fine motor flower craft. There will be no two crafts alike with this fine motor activity.
  • Plant seeds- There are so many sensory benefits to gardening. Read more about sensory gardening with kids.
  • Wrap sticks in string- This simple activity is big on bilateral coordination, fine motor skills, precision, eye-hand coordination, and executive functioning skills. Go out in the yard and gather some small twigs. Then, tie a knot with the string and wrap around the stick. Switch out colors to make colorful designs and patterns. Can you cross different colored strings or yarn together to make a pretty wrapped stick? You can see how we wrapped craft sticks in string here.
  • Make lemonade- Making food with kids is a huge fine motor, sensory motor, and executive functioning tool to develop many skills with kids of all ages. Check out our cooking with kids page for tons more cooking ideas and recipes for kids as well as why each recipe supports development of skills.
  • Make a bug catcher– This fine motor activity is a huge hit with kids, and you can use the materials you have on hand. Just raid the recycle bin or grab some boxes and containers before they go into the trash can. Then, head outside to catch some bugs. This is a challenging activity that supports fine motor, visual motor, and sensory development.
  • Visit a playground- Playing at the playground has many sensory integration benefits and there are so many ways to use regular playground equipment to develop motor and sensory skill sin kids. If self-regulation is a challenge, then the playground is a wonderful summer haven for supporting specific needs.
  • Play tug of war- This heavy work game offers strengthening, balance, motor planning, and proprioceptive input that can be calming to support self-regulation needs.
  • Play in the sprinkler- A hallmark of hot summer days is playing in the hose or sprinkler. Children can practice putting on their swimming suit, applying sunscreen, and work on hopping, jumping, skipping, and moving through the sprinkler. And, don’t forget about involving the child in setting up and removing the sprinkler and hose, too. Pulling a hose is an opportunity for proprioceptive input that can be very calming.
  • Pick flowers- Go on a sensory nature walk with the family along a trail or in a park. Picking flowers supports development of visual perceptual skills, working memory, visual processing, fine motor, and self-regulation skills. Getting outside in nature can be a great overall activity that supports development and is a reset for the whole family.
  • Make lunch for your family- Develop fine motor skills, sensory experiences, executive functioning skills, and functional participation development by making lunch or dinner. Here are all of our cooking with kids recipes where you’ll find specific recipe ideas that support development, all from the perspective of an occupational therapist.
  • Chalk line obstacle course- Work on balance, motor planning, gross motor skill coordination through play using sidewalk chalk to create a driveway obstacle course. Can you hop on lily pads, tiptoe along a bridge, and animal walk on a wavy line?
  • Make DIY musical instruments- Making musical instruments are a fun way to build fine motor skills and address auditory processing skills too. Ideas include:
  • Climb a tree- Climbing on trees and limbs are a wonderful way to offer proprioceptive input, vestibular input, visual processing skills with depth perception, visual scanning, and eye-hand coordination. Holding on to a branch, pulling oneself up and over limbs, crossing midline, and bilateral coordination are developed through play. When finished, this is a powerful confidence booster!
  • Write a letter to a friend- (or a post card or email!)- Work on letter formation and other handwriting skills by writing a short letter or card to a friend this summer. It’s a very functional handwriting task that kids will be proud of!
  • Make a fairy garden- Use materials found around the home to support development of fine motor skills. The pretend play is a fun way to develop social emotional skills, too.
  • Wash the car (or a bike)- Support gross motor development by using a sponge, soapy water, and the hose to add proprioceptive input.
  • Watch and draw birds- Look for birds outdoors, in the yard, or from the windows. Address visual scanning, working memory, and pencil skills.
  • Go on a rainbow nature hunt- Use a piece of contact paper and find items of different colors of the rainbow to make a rainbow nature hunt craft. This is a great activity for fine motor, visual processing, and heavy work input.
  • Trace a friend with chalk on a driveway or sidewalk- Use sidewalk chalk to trace a friend on the driveway or sidewalk. This is a great activity to develop fine motor skills, and can support development of interoception by drawing internal organs and talking about how the body works inside and out!
  • Make bubble wands with pipe cleaners- use pipe cleaners and beads to develop fine motor skills to make a bubble wand. Then support oral motor skill development by blowing bubbles.
  • Play Red Rover- Lawn games like red Rover develop gross motor skills, visual motor skills, and executive functioning as well as adding proprioceptive and vestibular input.
  • Write the alphabet with chalk- Writing letters with sidewalk chalk supports the motor plan to create each letter and offers great proprioceptive feedback through kinesthetic learning. Writing letters with chalk or names and words can be a fun summer activity. Then spray the letters and words off with the hose or a spray bottle for more motor skill development!
  • Find shapes and images in the clouds- Look up to work on visual canning, memory, attention, and visual motor skill by finding shapes and outlines in the clouds.
  • Bake cookies
  • FInger paints
  • Fly a kite
  • Splash pad or water park
  • Write in a journal
  • Call a friend
  • Start a kickball game
  • Make leaf rubbings
  • Play hide and seek
  • Catch fireflies
  • Tie dye
  • Play cards
  • Build a fort
  • Have a sleepover
  • Play with glow bracelets at night in the yard
  • Read a book outside
  • Have a family game night
  • Draw self-portraits
  • Walk a pet

Need even more summer ideas?

~Add these hula hoop activities to therapy sessions.

~Use sidewalk chalk to support fine motor skills.

~ Print off and send home this list of 100 things to do this Summer. It’s a therapist-approved list of Summer activities!

~Print off these Summer Writing Lists to work on handwriting skills.

~Grab some of the materials in The OT Toolbox Member’s Club. There is something for everyone and Summer themed activities to support all skill levels.

~ Do some or all of the activities listed here in this Sensory Summer Camp at Home plan. All of the activities and ideas are free and use items you probably already have.

~ Sneak in handwriting practice while traveling with these motivating and authentic ideas. HERE are a few MORE natural writing experiences for summer that keep those pencils moving.

~ Try some of the activities in this Summer Activity Guide designed to encourage play and creativity in activities for the whole family.

~ Practice the motor planning and fine motor skills needed for handwriting and with a sensory twist using the ideas outlined in this Sensory Handwriting Backyard Summer Camp.

~ Try these Backyard Vestibular Activities for Summer to encourage movement and sensory experiences right in the backyard.

~ Print off this June Occupational Therapy Calendar for ideas to last the whole month. (It’s from a couple of years back so the dates are off, but the activities still work!)

~ These no-prep, basically free summer activities won’t break the bank and boost the underlying skills kids NEED, in fun ways.

~ Use sidewalk chalk to boost fine motor skills.  

~Make a summer time capsule with the whole family and create memories that can be looked back on years from now.   

~Create a summer kick-off bucket filled with toys and items for months of sensory play.     

~The kids will love these frozen fruit kabob snacks. It’s a great alerting sensory snack that doubles as a healthy summer treat.

One tool to support Summer OT home programs, OT tutoring sessions, or occupational therapy summer camps is our Summer Occupational Therapy Activities Packet.

It’s a collection of 14 items that guide summer programming at home, at school, and in therapy sessions. The summer activities bundle covers handwriting, visual perceptual skills and visual motor skills, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, regulation, and more.

You’ll find ideas to use in virtual therapy sessions and to send home as home activities that build skills and power development with a fun, summer theme. Kids will love the Summer Spot It! game, the puzzles, handouts, and movement activities. Therapists will love the teletherapy slide deck and the easy, ready-to-go activities to slot into OT sessions. The packet is only $10.00 and can be used over and over again for every student/client!

Grab the Spring Occupational Therapy Activities Packet HERE.

NEW RESOURCE: The Summer Fine Motor Kit– This 90 page packet it specifically designed to build the motor skills kids have been limited in over the past year or so: handwriting, cutting with scissors, small motor manipulation, arch development and hand endurance, strength, pinch, and coloring. The Summer Fine Motor Kit includes different tools and materials than our other fine motor kits, but has some of the most-requested favorites in fun summer themes:

  • Summer Play Dough/Handwriting Mats (3 writing paper styles: single rule, double rule, and highlighted lines)
  • Lacing cards
  • Color and cut sensory bin cards
  • Sea Creature, Summer Play, & Summer Treats Silly Paths (great for pencil control and eye-hand coordination)
  • Tracing mazes/ Fine motor mazes
  • Symmetry drawing page
  • Fine Motor Flip Pages (flip a coin or small object and place them along a path)
  • Glue skills pages
  • Prewriting shapes sheets
  • Toothpick art activities
  • Pencil control worksheets/Fine motor placement paths
  • Scissor skills activities (simple and complex shapes)
  • Sensory bin cards

NEW RESOURCE: The Summer OT Bundle– Want to cover all your bases this summer? This bundle has everything you need for therapy planning, home programs, summer camps, Grandma’s house, or extended school year programs so you can just print and go. The bundle is $20 and includes:

The ideas listed above should help you create therapy home programs, and keep the kids loaded up on creative, open-ended, and movement-based PLAY that their little bodies NEED!

Use these summer occupational therapy activities when planning sensory activities, fine motor, and gross motor developmental ideas for kids.

Want to take summer play to the next level? Be sure to grab your copy of the Summer OT Activities Bundle!

Summer activities for kids