Ice Cube Jump and Smash

Image has colorful ice on a cutting board. A child's hands are holding a hammer and smashing ice. Text reads "sensory ice smash"

This ice cube jump and smash is a great ice play activity with major sensory benefits. The heavy work built through smashing ice cubes or jumping on ice cubes is huge! Plus, kids love the novelty of this sensory motor activity. Let’s break this activity down…

This was originally an activity we did during the cold winter months, BUT we also love adding a fun sensory ice smashing activity to our Summer occupational therapy idea list. Why? because during the hot summer months, smashing ice with a hammer is a fun activity to get kids moving.

Plus, this is a heavy work activity that supports emotional and behavioral regulation. You could even use colored ice that matches the colors of the Zones of Regulation.

Image has colorful ice on a cutting board. A child's hands are holding a hammer and smashing ice. Text reads "sensory ice smash"

Smashing ice with a hammer is a fun sensory activity for kids.

Ice Cube Jump and Smash

We’ve been sharing some fun sensory play activities recently, part of our January Occupational Therapy calendar.  The proprioception and vestibular activities linked up in the free calendar are sure to provide sensory experiences and input that will keep your child moving all winter long.  Hey, you can do most of these activities in warmer weather too, so be sure to save this one for hot summer days!  


This Ice Cube Proprioception Jump and Smash activity will provide proprioceptive input through movement and heavy work that can help with regulation of sensory seekers.  It’s also a great way to incorporate body awareness through proprioception. This happens when holding and moving that hammer to hit a target (the colorful ice cube!)

Try making these bright and vividly colored ice cubes and playing with sensory input today!

When you add hopping or jumping to smash the ice, like my kids did, you get the bonus benefit of the movement of jumping and hopping adds a vestibular activity component to this fun activity.

Another benefit is the eye hand coordination work from holding hitting with the hammer.

Ice Cube Proprioception and Vestibular Activity for kids that need sensory input. This is fun for typically developing children (and the adults) too!
 

 

 

Proprioception Activity with Ice Cubes

Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  
 
I used a couple of mini muffin tin to make colored ice cubes.  
Fill the tins with water and then add one or two drops of liquid food coloring to each section.  Kids love this activity and it is a real experiment of color mixing.
 
Use a toothpick to mix the colors and try to achieve various shades of color by mixing more or less food coloring.
 
Once the ice cubes are frozen, turn the muffin tin
over in the sink and run warm water.  The ice cubes will pop out after a moment.  
 
Place the colored ice cubes in a bowl or on a large cutting board and take them outside.  This is a messy activity and it will stain your floors, so take big precautions if you decide to do this one inside!
 
We kept the ice cubes on the cutting board and used a hammer to smash the colored ice cubes.
 
This activity was a huge hit with my preschooler.  She loved lining up the hammer and smashing the ice cubes into chunks.  
 
Using the hammer is heavy work for a child and she needed to use two hands to hold and use the hammer, but she was able to smash the ice easily.  
 
While smashing ice cubes, my daughter remembered a similar proprioception and strengthening activity we did last year using peanut shells.  It’s another messy, yet fun activity that is worth trying!
 
Be sure to clean up any ice pieces before they melt because the liquid food coloring will dye any surface.  You may want to do this activity in the grass. NOTE: For a mess-free option, use liquid watercolors to dye the water. The colors will wash away with soap and water.
 
Related Read: Find out more about proprioception here.
 
Ice Cube Proprioception and Vestibular Activity for kids that need sensory input. This is fun for typically developing children (and the adults) too!
Ice Cube Proprioception and Vestibular Activity for kids that need sensory input. This is fun for typically developing children (and the adults) too!
 

Ice Cube Jumping

Get the kids moving with this outdoor vestibular activity.  Take the ice cubes outside and place them in the grass. Be sure to keep them away from sidewalks and driveways because the food dye will stain the surface until the rain and weather has cleared the dye away! 
 
Kids can jump on or over the ice cubes.  Ask them to jump up high with both knees bent.  For other vestibular challenges, have the child side jump or skip over and around the ice cubes.  
 
Ice Cube Proprioception and Vestibular Activity for kids that need sensory input. This is fun for typically developing children (and the adults) too!
 
Be sure to stop over and see the January Calendar for more sensory activities to do with the kids this winter! You can get it and all of our free resources by joining our newsletter subscriber list, found in the upper corner of this website.

 

Kinesthetic Learning Activities for Outside

This blog post about kinesthetic learning is an older blog post from March 2017 that we updated in March 2024 to add more information on what kinesthetic learning means and what it looks like for kids. Check out our suggestions and strategies below.

The thing about kinesthetic learning is that it’s happening all day long. We know the power of play and how play drives learning in children. After all, we OT practitioners preach about play being the primary “work” in children!

We’ll explain a little more about kinesthetic learning below. The thing is that there is incredible opportunities for movement and learning through movement when exploring in the outdoors, so this older blog post focused a lot on outdoor experiences as a medium for kinesthetic opportunities.

kinesthetic learning activities

What is Kinesthetic Learning?

Kinesthetic learning refers to a style of learning where individuals learn through physical and movement activities. This sounds a lot like tactile learning, right? It’s actually a lot like a term you have probably heard in recent years: multisensory learning.

Kinesthetic learners prefer to engage in the learning process by moving, doing, and touching. This allows them to use their body to explore and the sense of touch to explore and learn about the world around them. For those that have a strong sensory touch, this is great! This approach is grounded in the belief that students learn more effectively when they are physically active or involved in the learning process.

The thing about kinesthetic learning is that there is the added benefit of proprioceptive input and heavy work through the hands as the child learns and explores.

Tactile learners and kinesthetic learners are a lot alike.  

Kinesthetic learners need to move their bodies, manipulate materials, and really interact with learning materials.  These children tend to fidget, wiggle, slouch, or get up out of their seats when in the classroom setting.  This site has a lot of great information on kinesthetic learning. 

Kinesthetic Learning Activities

Kinesthetic learning activities are powerful for some kids. It can mean the difference between paying attention and grasping a concept and missing it all together. Some of my favorite kinesthetic learning ideas include those that involve gross motor work and the senses.

Some kinesthetic learning ideas include:

  • Clipping clothes pins marked with letters onto the edge of paper and then writing the letters. Here are more clothes pin activities.
  • Counting paperclips in groups of ten
  • Sorting colored beads into different containers.
  • Creating alphabet shapes with playdough.
  • Using a hopscotch grid to learn numbers or math operations.
  • Themed sensory bins
  • Building geometric shapes with toothpicks and marshmallows.
  • Tracing letters or numbers in a sand tray. Here’s what you need to know about writing trays.
  • Assembling puzzles that correlate with lesson themes.
  • Conducting a scavenger hunt to find objects related to the lesson.
  • Using a ball to pass around for answering questions or storytelling.
  • Walking along a tape line to improve balance while discussing a topic.
  • Playing charades to act out vocabulary words or historical figures.
  • Matching socks to teach pairs, colors, or patterns.
  • Using body movements to represent mathematical operations (e.g., jumping for addition).
  • Organizing classroom objects by size, color, or type.

More ideas for kinesthetic learning include:

Physical Manipulatives: Using physical objects to teach concepts can be particularly effective in subjects like math and science. For example, using block activities are so much fun for some kids and it’s great to teach mathematical operations.

Interactive Notebooks: My daughter has an ELA notebook full of cut outs and interactive activities. They cut out worksheets and glue the pieces into a regular lined notebook. The act of cutting, pasting, drawing, and writing helps all of the vocab and spelling words to “stick”. It’s funny because she can flip through the notebook and find a random vocabulary word because she remembers the cut outs that she did and where they are pasted into the book. It’s fascinating to watch!

Movement-Based Games: We LOVE board games! There are so many board games that can be used to learn concepts and they are so much fun for learning through play. Games that require movement can be used to teach various concepts.

Building and Construction: Tasks that involve building or constructing models can enhance understanding, especially in subjects like engineering, physics, and geometry.

Outdoor Learning: See below for more info. The thing about taking the learning outside the classroom is that kids gain so many vestibular and proprioceptive input through learning . This could include nature walks, geological expeditions, or physical education activities.

Dance and Music: Incorporating dance and music to explain concepts, especially in younger classrooms, can be an effective kinesthetic learning strategy. For example, creating a dance routine to explain the water cycle.

I recently shared a post on tactile learning with a sight word sensory tray. I talked a little bit about kinesthetic learning and how some kids just seek tactile input in their learning.  

Try these kinesthetic learning activities for outside to help kids who need to move while learning.


Kinesthetic Learning Activities for Outside

Taking the learning outside can make a big difference.  As the weather warms up, it can be hard to keep the attention in the classroom.  The birds are chirping, trees are blossoming, and the muddy lawns are calling!  So, when kids want to be nothing more than outside playing, how do you keep them focused and learning?  

Try taking the learning outside!  These kinesthetic learning activities are perfect for the outside play this time of year and all year long.  Add some movement and outdoor play and facts are sure to stick when kids are out of the classroom and outdoors!
Try taking the learning outside to really get some space and movement into the learning experiences.  You could try these activities when practicing math facts, spelling words, vocabulary, memorization, or many other areas.  

Outdoor Learning Activities that Use Kinesthetic Movement

There are several kinesthetic activities that allow for learning while outdoors.

  • Balance Beam Adventure-  Use a jump rope or a board to create a balance beam maze on a driveway or sidewalk.  With sidewalk chalk, draw fish in a pond.  Kids can walk on the balance beam without falling into the “water”.  When they are on the balance beam, ask kids to hop while stating facts or other learning tasks.  Try a bean bag toss game when on the balance beam.  Kids can toss a bean bag into a target while spelling words. Here are more outdoor balance beam activities.
  • No Peeking Simon Says- Play Simon Says outside in the backyard.  This version requires kids to keep their eyes closed when they perform the actions.  As they play, ask them questions.  You might ask them to touch their nose for “true” facts or to touch their shoulders for “false” facts.  Get creative with movement and learning with this one! Simon Says commands can incorporate movement and learning for practically any subject.
  • Backyard maze- Create a maze in the backyard by placing obstacles around the lawn.  Kids can look at the simple maze and then walk with their eyes closed as another person “guides” them with verbal directions around the obstacles.  Set up stations around the obstacle course where they need to answer questions.  This can be as simple as a printed out sheet of questions.  They just may recall the answers later by thinking about where they were in the obstacle course when they learned about those facts!

       This pre-reading obstacle course is perfect for kinesthetic learners. 

  • Backyard Yoga- Try yoga in the outdoors with kid-friendly yoga games like found in this book (Amazon affiliate link)  Try having your child close their eyes during yoga moves to incorporate position of body in space.  Add deep breath spelling or math facts while breathing in and out for several counts.
  • Hopscotch Math-  Practice math facts like addition or multiplication with a hopscotch game on the driveway.
  • Sidewalk Chalk Learning- Kids can use sidewalk chalk in so many ways!  Write out spelling words.  Do math homework on the driveway.  Write out vocabulary words.  Use patio pads or bricks to work on perimeter, area, or geometry.  What would you add?
  • Take a Walk-  Go on a stroll while reviewing information.  What a great way to learn in nature!

Try some of these outdoor lawn games with the kids. 

How can you add learning and movement to the backyard to better serve your kinesthetic learners?

outside activities for kinesthetic learning for kids

How to incorporate sensory and motor play into playing outside

Sensory diet activities can be specific to sensory system like these vestibular sensory diet activities. Sensory activities can be prescribed according to need along with environment in order to maximize sensory input within a child’s day such as within the school day. Using authentic sensory input within the child’s environment plays into the whole child that we must understand when focusing on any goal toward improved functional independence. 

Many sensory diet activities can naturally be found outdoors. In fact, outdoor sensory diet activities are a fun way to encourage sensory input in a child’s environment and without fancy therapy equipment or tools. 


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.

That’s where the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards and Sensory Challenge Cards come into play.

They are a 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!

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.

We also love the learning opportunities in our Fine Motor Kits!

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!

Baking Soda Paints

baking soda paint

Many years ago (July 28, 2015 to be exact…this post has been updated!) we made this set of baking soda paints. It was a fun outdoor, creative painting activity and we painted on the driveway. I wanted to come back to this sensory painting idea again, because it’s such a fun way to be creative with kids. Plus, kids can mix up paints of their own and work on scooping and pouring with the ingredients and support those fine motor skills. I think it’s a fun idea you’ll want to check out!

baking soda paint

Baking Soda Paint

The amazement of watching a child’s face light up when science and discovery happens is like watching a light turn on.  

This baking soda and vinegar paint experiment is a creative painting and sensory way to explore science through painting.  My kids had so much fun exploring the chemical reaction of baking soda and vinegar with our bright and bold homemade paints. We ended up with vivid paintings and had a great time creating.

Be sure to read our article on why kids need messy play…this activity sure does support those needs!

And, this activity is a great one for adding to a messy playdate with friends. As an OT, I LOVE using this activity for so many goal areas!

STEAM Activity

One fun benefit of this activity is that it’s a STEAM activity. we’ve covered the benefits of fine motor STEM activities, but the creative painting aspect of using the baking soda paints adds an art component to the science, technology, engineering, art, and math.

We’ve use STEM activities before, including with our baking powder boats.

You might want to check out our baking soda snowmen sensory activity for another fun science activity.

Baking Soda and Vinegar Paints

This post contains affiliate links.  This post is part of our Learning with Free Materials series where we are sharing learning ideas for homeschoolers and school-extension activities using items that are free or mostly free (i.e. CHEAP or you already have in the home), and is part of the 31 Days of Homeschooling Tips as we blog along with other bloggers with learning at home tips and tools.

You’ll need just three ingredients to make these paints:

  • baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Washable Poster Paint (This is my favorite brand of paint!)
  • Mini Muffin Tin (any containers will work, but you’ll want all of the paints near each other and enough compartments so that you can see the different shades made by slightly adjusting the amount of paint you add. 
  • Paper 
  • Popsicle sticks for mixing the paint and baking soda
  • Water 
  • Paint Brushes

How To make Baking Soda Paint

Ok, now that you’ve got your materials gathered, actually making the baking soda paint is really easy! This process is fun for kids to be involved with as well.

  1. First, mix together baking soda and water to create a thick paste.  You want it to be stir-able and moist.  Use the popsicle sticks to mix it together.
  2. Scoop the paste into the sections of the muffin tin with a spoon.  
  3. Add drops, globs, and dabs of different colored poster paint.  Adjust the amounts in the different sections so that you get a nice variety of shades.  
  4. Stir the paint into the paste.
  5. Next, pour off any excess water from the tops of the paste.  You want a nice, thick paste to remain.  

Then you are ready to paint! You can either start painting right away, OR you can let the paints harden. Allow the muffin tin paints to sit overnight. This will create a hard, tub of dried paint, almost like dry watercolors.

Baking soda and paint makes a great colorful painting mixture. We added a bit of vinegar to get a lovely fizz and pop to our paints!

This is such a fun way to explore the vinegar reaction with the baking soda paint.

Baking Soda Painting

Child mixing vinegar into baking soda paint with colorful painting on a driveway.

When you are ready to paint, you’ll need to prepare the vinegar.

Pour a small amount of vinegar into cups.  Use paint brushes to dab vinegar into the dried paints.  Watch the science reaction happen as you paint!

Mix baking soda, poster paints, and water to make baking soda paint

Adding more vinegar to the tubs of paint will give you a brighter hue as you paint.  You can get even more vivid colors by swiping chunks of moistened baking soda across the page.  And, what a textured piece of art this will be!

Child mixing vinegar in a cup with baking soda paint in a mini muffin tin

What is especially neat about these paints are that if you work quickly enough, you can see the bubbly reaction right on your art work.  Simply swipe the paint brush into the vinegar and then into the baking soda paints.  Quickly paint and your bubbles will dry onto the paper.

Child painting with baking soda paint on an easel

We taped a piece of paper onto an easel and painted on the vertical surface. This is a great activity for developing wrist stability and core strength.

Baking Soda Painting

How gorgeous is this work of art? The baking soda paint made vivid colors!

 
 
Make your own Baking Soda Vinegar reaction paints for bold and bright colored creative art for kids.
 
Use a mini muffin tin to make a whole set of baking soda paints. The colors are so vivid!


Looking for more baking soda experiments?  These are a few of our favorites:

 
 

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.

Tracing Letters with Chalk

chalk lines overlapping to make letter z in several colors of chalk. Text reads "chalk tracing"

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. It’s also a great way to focus on wrist range of motion exercises in a fun way.

Upper body strength in this way supports distal finger 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 contact@theottoolbox.com.

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 (affiliate link) 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 contact@theottoolbox.com.



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 contact@theottoolbox.com.

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 contact@theottoolbox.com.