Fun Dinosaur Activities for Building Skills

dinosaur activities

Do you know a child that is obsessed with dinosaurs? If so, these dinosaur activities are perfect for developing skills through play. Or, use the dino activities to teach dinosaurs to preschoolers, kindergarteners, and older students learning about the dinosaur age. If your kiddos are anything like mine, then dinosaurs are a year round theme that never disappoints! Finding new and engaging activities to meet that “just right” challenge, while staying on-theme, can be quite the task. We have collected a variety of free dinosaur-themed activities to add to your repertoire for all the aspiring paleontologists in your life. Use these to satisfy fine motor, gross motor, handwriting, vision, and sensory integration interventions. 

These fun dinosaur activities develop fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and more.

Best of all, when kids are interested in learning about dinosaurs, these ideas can use these ideas to encourage multi-sensory play through learning! Add these movement and play activities to introduce a dinosaur theme in the classroom or home.

Dinosaur FINE MOTOR ACTIVITIES

For kids that love all thing dinosaurs, these dinosaur fine motor activities develop motor skill dexterity and coordination through play. Whether it’s tracing dinosaurs, creating a dinosaur craft, or handling tools in a dinosaur dig, these fine motor activities are fun!

Here’s the thing: fine motor skills are used every single day! They are integral to just about every occupation and a big part of what occupational therapists work on in their treatment sessions. Use the activities below to increase skills like handwriting, buttoning, zipping, typing, and more! Why NOT incorporate dinosaur fun into fine motor development?!

Dinosaur GROSS MOTOR ACTIVITIES

Stomping like brontosaurus, crashing like a T-Rex, and running like a velociraptor means that dinosaur gross motor skills encourage coordination, balance, endurance, and motor planning skills! 

Gross motor movements are made by the “big” muscles in the body. Gross motor control allows for walking, running, bending, stooping, balance, and many other skills that we use every day. Not only are these movements great for a child’s development of strength and coordination, but they also strengthen the connection between the brain and the body – so, get those bodies moving with dinosaur fun! 

  • Use these ideas to have Dinosaur Brain Break. This activity encourages various gross motor movements: stomping, crashing, jumping, balancing, and more.
  • Develop your own movements, or use the options provided, to meet therapy goals in a Dinosaur Movement Game. These free printables can be used in so many ways to develop gross motor skills.
  • Use dinosaur feet to stomp, sneak, crawl, or tiptoe! Draw dinosaur feet onto paper. Place them around the room to create a dinosaur footprints path where kids can look for the next prehistoric footprint. They can hop, crawl, creep, or tiptoe along the dino footprint path!
  • Change up your wording for these exercises to dinosaur-themed ones:
    • Tight-rope walking → Velociraptor Tip Toe 
    • Boat Pose → Fallen Over T-Rex 
    • Frog Jumps → Dinosaur Jumps 
    • Flamingo/tree pose → Flying Pterodactyl 
    • Bear Crawl → Creeping Stegosaurus

Dinosaur Crafts

The beauty of dinosaur crafts is that they build fine motor skills, bilateral coordination, eye-hand coordination, motor planning, executive functioning skills, visual motor skills, and more. All of these skills are developed through the process of creating. Best of all, when a child prefers dinosaurs as an interest, they have ownership and a sense of self-confidence with a dinosaur craft that they are proud of!

Try adding these ideas to your dinosaur theme:

  • Make a cupcake liner dinosaur craft. Fold the cupcake liner in half. Then use it as a dinosaur head or back. Cut out smaller pieces of paper to add details like legs, scales, a long neck, or a long tail.
  • Draw dinosaur feet. Cut them out and trace onto paper. Then, you can use those dinosaur feet to make a path for gross motor play such as a balance beam.
  • Make a handprint dinosaur craft. Press the hand into green paint. Press the handprint onto paper. Then add details like an eye, long legs, a long neck, and googly eyes.
  • Make a dinosaur paper plate craft. Cut a paper plate in half to make a dinosaur’s back. Then add legs and triangles along the back. Add a small face and tail and you’ve got a stegosaurus craft that develops scissor skills.

Dinosaur HANDWRITING Activities

For older kids, a dinosaur theme still works! There are many ways to incorporate dinosaur literacy activities, dino letter recognition, and letter formation into handwriting tasks. Some of these include dinosaur worksheets, but others do not. That’s the beauty of these ideas: you can use what you’ve got on hand to meet the individual needs of a child or classroom. 

Handwriting is one of the most important skills of a child. Legible handwriting is integral to the success of a student, as so much of their work is presented through written material. Occupational therapists in the schools often assist students and teachers on this subject, including working on visual and motor skills to perfect the skill of handwriting. 

  • To develop visual discrimination skills and letter form constancy, check out this Dinosaur Letter Tracing activity idea – so cute!
    • Form constancy is one skill that is necessary to understand letters and use them to write words and sentences (and to read!). Form constancy is the idea that any given letter or shape continues to be the same even when written in another environment or at an angle. For example, the letter “A” is still the letter “A” when written in a different font, on a piece of paper, or on the chalkboard. 
  • Matching uppercase to lowercase letters is a great way to assess a child’s understanding in preparation for writing with the correct letter case. It can be hard to remember – especially for letters that aren’t obvious. These Dinosaurs can help make the hard work fun!  
  • This on-theme printable handwriting book gives kids the opportunity to trace, copy, and independently write upper and lower case letters. 

Dinosaur VISION Activities

When it comes to adding dinosaur visual perceptual skills to play, the theme can go many ways. Use one of our dino worksheets, OR create a table-top vision activity using toy dinosaurs. These ideas are open-ended!

Vision is a highly complex skill –  it is not just about if you need to wear glasses or not! Visual processing is the connection between the brain and the visual environment. Sometimes the way that the brain processes that visual information is not very clear, that’s where an OT can step in! Use these activities to challenge visual processing skills.

Dinosaur SENSORY Activities

Dinosaur sensory bins, messy fossil digs, dino small world play, and sculpting dinosaur eggs…these sensory play ideas build skills!

Sensory processing skills are used to define the world around us – we explore our environment through sight, feel, taste, smell, and our body position. Increasing sensory awareness can improve body awareness and understanding of our environment, which can in turn help us adjust and feel comfortable. Below are some great options to explore our senses!

  • Add heavy work for body awareness, self-regulation, attention, and whole body movements with these dinosaur proprioception activities. They are great for sensory seekers and addressing interoception needs.
  • These Egg Carton Dinosaurs use bumpy muffin cups, smooth googly eyes, soft and sharp pipe cleaners, and of course, an egg carton (so many different textures possible here) to give a multi-textured experience while defining fine motor skills. 
  • Make a paper mache dinosaur egg- Mix up messy, textural paper mache with paper, flower, and water and sculpt an egg around a balloon. Let it dry and then pop the balloon. Now you can decorate your dinosaur egg!
  • Have dinosaur figures, or mini dino toys? Use them to create a dinosaur small world for pretend play, self-confidence, self-talk, and problem solving.
  • Tearing paper has always been one of my go-to activities to address fine motor and sensory concerns. This easy Tissue Paper Dinosaur activity can increase texture tolerance in a way your dinosaur-lover will appreciate.  
  • Make a dinosaur sensory bin on a train table, or in a large bin. Add materials like dry beans, corn, or shredded paper. Or add messy wet materials like slime, water beads, water, or shaving cream.
  • Use a fossil dig activity for dry sensory play. Kids can chisel and chip away at a chalky substance to find dinosaur bones. Then, use the pieces to trace and make their own fossils for more fine motor, sensory fun.
  • Can’t forget the sensorimotor activities! Dinosaur dance parties, dinosaur stomping, dinosaur copycat, the options are endless. 
https://www.amazon.com/Dinosaurs-Are-Different-Sydney-Laurel/dp/B09HG58QDV?dchild=1&keywords=dinosaurs+are+different&qid=1633626263&s=books&sr=1-7&linkCode=ll1&tag=sugaun-20&linkId=dd1a7f4156a98354c65ad540aa9b4b57&language=en_US&ref_=as_li_ss_tl

Dinosaur Self-Awareness Activities

Some of the previously highlighted activities incorporate a sense of self-awareness, including the heavy work activities, and sensory play ideas. But to take self-awareness and celebrating the differences among us, is this book, Dinosaurs are Different.

The book is a silly take that celebrates all of our differences and can be a fun dinosaur tool to address skills such as self-awareness, body awareness, internal differences and external differences in all of us.

Use this book to incorporate into mindfulness with kids, grounding techniques, discussions on emotional awareness, social skill development, and responsibility exercises with kids.

Dinosaur Books

I always love to include books in our themed activities, as a way to encourage an early love of reading, but also to further develop the understanding of our topic. As you can imagine, there are TONS of dinosaur books available to further explore your dinosaur theme. 

Here are some dinosaur books and related activities to get started:

Sydney Thorson, OTR/L, is a new occupational therapist working in school-based therapy. Her
background is in Human Development and Family Studies, and she is passionate about
providing individualized and meaningful treatment for each child and their family. Sydney is also
a children’s author and illustrator and is always working on new and exciting projects.

Scoop, Pour, Transfer Activities

scooping, pouring, transferring activities

Scooping and pouring.  Toddlers pour, and dump toys (or cereal, a cup of water, a bin of diapers…) as soon as they discover that they can. It’s a developmentally appropriate skill that happens as mobility develops.  When little ones pick up a bowl or cup and turn out the contents on the floor, it may be frustrating to a mama that’s just picked up all of the toys in the house for the third time, but it is such a great function that is the occupation of play.  

Today, we’re exploring how scooping, pouring, and transferring materials benefits toddlers and preschoolers, in big ways. You can use this fun fine motor and visual perceptual motor activity with children at the toddler, preschooler, and school-aged levels to improve the precision of skills, practice math, and discover skills, all through scooping, pouring, and transferring small items.  

Use these scooping, pouring, and transferring activities to help preschoolers, toddlers, and older kids develop skills.

Scooping Activities for Toddlers

There are so many benefits to scooping, pouring, and transferring materials. These scooping activities for toddlers are an easy way to help to build motor skills in toddlers and preschoolers, at just the right stage of development. It’s during the toddler years that children develop more motor control, stronger eye-hand coordination skills. They are starting to gain more control of their arms in a coordinated manner, especially when manipulating tools like scoops, spoons, cups, and bowls. It’s through play and the weight of sensory materials that the benefits of scooping, pouring, and transferring of materials builds motor control, more refined movements, and tolerance of a variety of sensory materials.

But, you don’t need to stop at the toddler years. Manipulating tools and sensory materials to pour, scoop, and transfer is great for preschoolers, too!

Ice is a great scooping activity for toddlers to work on coordination and fine motor skills.

Benefits of Scooping, Pouring, and Transfering

Fine Motor Benefits of Scooping and Pouring– By manipulating sensory materials, cups, scoops, and bowls, toddlers and preschoolers refine and build motor experience in fine motor skills. Areas of development include: pincer grasp, precise wrist movements, arch development, wrist extension, and separation of the wrist from the elbow. Development of these areas promotes a more distal motor control while using the proximal arm (shoulder and elbow) to stabilize and support the movements of the distal arm (wrist, hand, thumb, and fingers).

This separation of the proximal stability from the distal mobility is a needed motor development for coloring with the hand and fingers instead of using the whole arm to move the crayon.

Work on hand dominance and fine motor skills with scooping, pouring, and transferring activiites.

You can show a child of this age how to dump the dry cereal from the scoop into a large tray.  Kids in the Toddler range would benefit from scooping and pouring using larger scoops or small cups.

 In order to scoop food when eating or scooping like in this play activity, kids need precision of very small wrist motions.  

Moving the wrist from side to side is called radial deviation (moving the wrist towards the thumb side) and ulner deviation (moving the wrist towards the pinkie finger side).  

In addition, slight wrist extension (the wrist slightly bent back in the direction of the back of the hand) is needed to accurately and efficiently scoop and pour.

Simply holding the scoop is an activity for grasp development by refining the arches of the hands and intrinsic muscles.

Other areas of fine motor development include

Hand dominance with Scooping, pouring, transferring Hand dominance is an area that they can be working on, depending on their age. It takes experience, or muscle memory through activities to refine and establish a dominant hand or side of the body. By scooping, pouring kids can hold the container, bin, cups, or bowls with their non-dominant hand while scooping and pouring using a spoon, cup, or bowl with their dominant hand.

As children establish a hand dominance, this refined motor coordination becomes easier to control. Toddlers can start with larger objects and larger scoops. Progressing to more fluid or smaller materials like smaller pellets, flour, or liquids can help preschoolers further refine coordination and manipulation of materials.

Self-Awareness Benefits of Scooping and Pouring– Pouring and dumping is discovery and exploration of gravity, weight, muscle control, cause and effect, and self-awareness. Not only are toddlers discover what they can do by pouring, they are learning about their environment while working on so many skills.

Motor Skills Benefits of Scooping and Pouring– Scooping small items is important in development and refinement of motions needed for managing utensils during self-feeding.  This is an important independence step in the Toddler range. The establishment of visual input and motor output results in eye-hand coordination skills.

Also needed is the muscle memory or “experience” in pouring materials. You’ll see this in action when pouring a liquid or something that really “flows”. You don’t want to pick up a pitcher of milk and pour with speed. The liquid will splash out of the cup and onto the floor. It takes motor skill development and experience to know that pouring different materials, liquids, and containers take different amount of force, accuracy, and controlled movements. 

Learning by Scooping and Pouring- Adding in learning objectives makes this play activity a bonus. You can add themed materials, counting cards, letter cards, or sensory bin cards. Add math and reading activities by counting or using sight words. Add sensory bin cards. the options are limitless when making pouring and scooping activities educational.

Scoop and Pour for Bilateral Coordination Skills- When pouring and manipulating containers, a development of bilateral coordination skills occurs naturally. A weighted material is in one hand, while the non-dominant hand stabilizes. This transfers to bilateral coordination tasks such as holding the paper while coloring or writing, using two hands in clothing fasteners, cutting with scissors and holding the paper, and the very functional task of pouring materials in cooking!

Mindfulness Benefits of Scooping and Pouring- There is a mindfulness component to sensory play too. Have you ever tried using a zen garden to rake or manipulate sand using a sand tray? If so, then you know the power of mindfully manipulating sensory materials. This mindfulness activity works with children too. Many children find a scooping and pouring activity fun and relaxing. Use the scooping and pouring activity as a heavy work activity that adds calming proprioceptive input with visual attention. Help kids to focus on the sensory material as it slowly pours from the hands or from a cup to another cup.

If kids are moving too quickly or if they become overly excited with the sensory material, add slow movement, a calm environment, a set of “rules” before beginning the scooping and pouring activity, and a broom to clean up!

Sensory Benefits of Scooping and Pouring Activities– By experimenting with pouring, scooping, and transferring materials, children gain sensory benefits. This occurs through the proprioceptive input from manipulating the materials, as well as tactile sensory input.

I’ve found pouring and scooping activities to be very calming for children.  They love to watch the beads as they fill the scoop and watch them fall into the bowl as they pour.  Other children can become overly excited by the visual stimulation of scooping beads and soon the beads will scatter all over the table.  You can eliminate mess by doing this activity in a large bin like an under the bed storage bin.  

Scooping and Pouring Activities

This post contains affiliate links, but you can use items that you already have in your home.  We used plastic scoops found in food like cocoa powder, coffee, or iced tea mixes.  For the scooping, we used plastic beads that we already had, however, this activity will work with any small item such as rice, dry beans, field corn, pebbles, or sand.  Use what you’ve got on hand to make this activity free!

Materials for this scooping and transferring activity include:

  • Recycled plastic scoops (We do love our recycled materials activities around here!)
  • Small Plastic beads OR other materials to pour and scoop (Toddler-aged kids can use dry cereal or edible items. See below.)

This activity is very easy to set up.  

  1. Simple set out a bowl or tray of beads and scoops in different sizes.  
  2. Show your child how to scoop, transfer, and pour the beads into another bowl.
  3. Play!  

Precautions for Pouring and Scooping Activities with Toddlers

Just be sure to keep a close eye on your little one. Materials like dry cereal are great for starting out. However, if you try scooping activities with other materials like beads, toys, corn, dry beans, etc, it can be easy for them to forget they are scooping beads and not cereal!  

As with any activity found on this blog, use your best judgement with your children.  This activity, while beneficial developmentally, is especially a choking hazard for young children.  Always stay within hands-reach of young children with a developmental activity like this one.

If you are concerned with your child placing beads in their mouth, simply don’t do this one and put it on hold for a few weeks of months.  

Development of Scooping and Pouring skills in Toddlers

Note: Use edible materials for this activity with Toddlers.  Dry baby cereal or broken up finger foods (like Cheerios) are great.  For Toddlers, they will be focusing on simply scooping and pouring with accuracy.    

Grasping pellets (bead-sized items) is a fine motor skill that typically develops around 11 months.  Children at that age can grasp small pellets with their thumb and the pad of their pointer finger, with their arm positioned off the table.  Holding a scoop with either the dominant or non-dominant hand typically develops around 13 months of age.  

Toddlers will use an exaggerated elbow motion when they first begin an activity like this one and until those small wrist motions are developed.  

At around 15 months, Toddlers will be able to scoop and pour from a small scooping tool, although as soon as 13 months, many children are able to complete this activity.  

Managing a spoon during self-feeding happens around this age, as well, as children scoop food and bring it to their mouth.  It is messy, but they are able to get food to their mouth.

Using a scoop to move beads or spoon to eat develops with more accuracy at 15-18 months.

At around 12-13 months, children will begin to develop unilaterality in hand dominance.  They will begin to show a preferred hand that manipulates as the other, non-dominant hand assists in holding the bowl or tray.  

(Other kids don’t define a hand dominance until later.  You can use this activity in the preschool years to work on hand dominance!) You will want to use a wide tray or large bowl for improved accuracy in both scooping and pouring.  Try using a spoon for scooping the cereal pellets, too.  

Scooping, pouring, transferring beads and developing fine motor skills and hand dominance in Toddlers, Preschoolers, and school-aged kids. Plus learning ideas to use in scooping activities.  From an Occupational Therapist.

Scooping and Pouring Preschool Activity

In the preschool years, sensory bin play with a concentration on scooping, pouring, and transferring is very powerful. It’s at the preschool age that motor skills become more refined. The dominant hand becomes stronger in preparation of pencil grasp and handwriting. The muscles of the hands are used in coloring and cutting activities.

Preschoolers can use scooping, pouring, and transferring activities for functional tasks and learning activities, but also development of motor skills needed for tool use like pencils, scissors, crayons, etc.

Helping kids establish a hand dominance can be a pivotal moment for addressing fine motor skill development concerns. Kids can refine motor actions by using a preferred hand consistently.

Preschool aged children can refine their scooping and pouring activity using beads.

there are many benefits of scooping, pouring, and transferring. Include scooping activities for toddlers and preschool.

Hand preference in Preschool

While Toddlers begin to show a hand preference, a true hand dominance doesn’t typically develop until 2 to 3 1/2 years.  That is such a huge age range!  That is because while a toddler can show a hand preference, hand usage is experimented with during different activities throughout the Toddler and Preschool years.  

There is typically variability in hand preference as toddlers and young preschoolers poke, pick up, throw, color, and play.  Another consideration is that often times, kids of this age are influenced in which hand they choose by position of toy, location of the adult or playmate, method materials are presented, and sitting position of the child.  True hand dominance may not be completely integrated in the child until around 8 or 9 years of age.   

Knowing all of this, use this activity to practice and play while working on a hand preference.  If your child shows a preferred hand, set up the activity to work on scooping with the typically used hand.  If your kiddo uses their right hand most of they time in natural situations (You will want to watch how they do things on a normal day and in a variety of activities.), then set the bowl of beads on the left side of the child and the scoop on the right side.  

When using pouring and scooping activities in preschool, try these strategies:

  • Show them how to scoop from left to right.  A set up like this one also encourages the left-to-right motion of reading and writing.
  • Use a variety of materials: dry beans, rice, beads, dry cereal, flour, sand, shaving cream, water, etc.
  • Use a variety of scoops: spoons, coops, small bowls, cups, pitchers, mixing cups, measuring cups, etc.
Use beads, scoops, spoons, and bowls to work on scooping for toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarten to develop fine motor skills.
Scoop words for a multi-sensory learning activity that uses scooping and pouring in kindergarten.

Kindergarten Scooping, Pouring, and Transferring Activities

For children in kindergarten and older, scooping, pouring, and transferring activities are powerful as well! You can use this pouring and scooping activity in math, learning, and sensory play-based learning.  

  • Work on measurement
  • Work on reading, spelling, and letter awareness. This sight word scooping activity is a great multisensory reading activity for kindergarten.
  • Use scooping in math to add or subtract scoops
  • Count the number of scoops it takes to fill a container
  • Use letter or word cards in reading or handwriting activities
  • Work on prediction- Ask them to predict how many scoops it will take to fill different sized cups and bowls. They can count the number of scoops and see if their prediction was correct.  
  • Incorporate addition and subtraction as they move scoops of beads from one container to another.  
  • Address motor skill development- Scooping works on important skills like bilateral hand coordination, including using the non-dominant hand to assist as they would in holding the paper in writing, coloring, and cutting with scissors.
Work on hand dominance, bilateral coordination, motor skills, and more by scooping, pouring, and transferring activities.

Pouring, Scooping and Transferring Activities

Try these various pouring scooping and transferring activities with each age range to develop specific skill areas depending on the individual child:

Use a variety of materials for scooping besides beads to work on fine motor control and dexterity.  Other ideas include wet sand (heavier and great for coordination and strength) and a light material like foam pillow filler (for more coordination and dexterity).

Water Sensory Bin Ideas– Use a bin and water, along with some scoops and other materials to work on motor skills, coordination, and refined movements. Scooping water takes precision and control, but it’s a great functional task for children.

Scoop Nuts– Use seeds or nuts to scoop and work on scooping different sizes, different weights. This is a great activity for graded precision, sorting, and eye-hand coordination.

Scoop Ice– This simple scooping and pouring activity uses just ice, water, and scoops. Children can work on eye-hand coordination skills to scoop up ice within a bin of water to work on controlled motor skills, utensil use, visual tracking, and more.

Scoop, pour, and transfer dry corn– Grab some un-popped popcorn and some bins or spoons to transfer materials from one container to another. This simple scooping and pouring activity is easy to set up and works for all ages.

More fine motor activities you will love

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

Pinwheel Painting is Sensory Painting

pinwheel painting

This pinwheel painting is a sensory painting art activity is one that we actually did YEARS ago.  It was such a fun messy, creative art activity and a fun one to add to your summer painting ideas, and I wanted to be sure to show you all!  My kids still talk about painting with pinwheels, so we’ll be doing this one again soon, especially now that the weather has warmed and we can get back outside for sensory play with the kids!

Pinwheel Painting

Pinwheel painting is a creative art painting experience with kids!  This is a cute art project for a letter "P" preschool theme and a great sensory painting activity for summer.

This post contains affiliate links.  

Kids love this painting with pinwheels messy art activity for sensory painting fun.

Painting with pinwheels is such a simple and fun outdoor painting activity for summer.  Or, if you’re looking for a “letter P” theme for preschoolers, painting with pinwheels would be perfect!

You can definitely take this painting activity indoors, with paper spread over the table surface.

To paint with pinwheels, there is just steps to set up this sensory painting activity:

  1. Set the stage- Find a space to work in the grass or on a table which can be wiped down. This is a messy sensory painting activity! Consider using a wipeable plastic table cloth.
  2. Pour a little washable paint into bowls. (Click here for our favorite paint for it’s bright colors that don’t fade as they dry.)
  3. Prepare your paper or canvas. We used a giant roll of paper for big art.
  4. Dip the pin the pinwheels into the paint.
  5. Roll, blow, spin, and tap the pinwheels onto the paper with color mixing. This is such a fun and creative painting activity!  

Sensory Painting Activity

The paint coated pinwheels make the paint spray, especially as kids start getting more into the activity and discover that blowing the pinwheels makes paint spray in super artistic ways!    

Pinwheel painting is a great activity to add to a summer of sensory play!

There are many sensory benefits to this Sensory painting activity:

Oral motor benefits- When children blow out through their mouth with concentrated effort, they are gaining proprioceptive input through their mouth. This is a calming and regulating sensory input that can help to organize and calm down. Read here about the development of oral motor skills. And, check out these oral motor activities for summer play.

Visual Convergence benefits- When we visually track an object as it nears our eyes (such as a pinwheel), and then track it as it moves away from the eyes, visual convergence is occurring. This visual processing skill is needed for functional tasks that we do throughout the day. Here is more information on convergence insufficiency and here are more activities to promote visual convergence skills.

Painting with Pinwheels Art activity for sensory painting.

 Let us know if you do this Pinwheel Painting art with your kids or your class.   More creative sensory painting techniques you may enjoy: 

Working on building skills this summer? The Summer OT Bundle is for you!

Summer occupational therapy activities bundle

Work on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, scissor skills, and much more so that kids can accomplish self-care tasks, learn, and grow through play all summer long.

This bundle is perfect for the pediatric occupational therapist who needs resources and tools to use in summer therapy sessions, home programs, or extended school year therapy plans.

This bundle is perfect for parents, grandparents, and caregivers looking to provide developmental fine motor activities designed to help kids build skills.

  • Send kids back to school in the Fall without worrying about the “Summer Slide”.
  • Use these materials to work on areas like hand strength, fine motor development, scissor skills, handwriting, pencil control, pencil grasp, sensory play experiences, and much more. Just pull out the pages or activities you need for your child, and develop skills through play!

The Summer OT Bundle includes 19 resources that you can print and use over and over again:

Helping children develop and achieve functional skills this summer was never so easy (or fun!)

Be sure to grab the Summer OT Bundle, a HUGE resource of therapy tools and activities for all things building skills this summer.

Grab the Summer OT Bundle here.

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

Summer Occupational Therapy Activities

Summer occupational therapy activities

Working on building skills this summer? The Summer OT Bundle is for you!

Summer occupational therapy activities bundle

Work on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, scissor skills, and much more so that kids can accomplish self-care tasks, learn, and grow through play all summer long.

This bundle is perfect for the pediatric occupational therapist who needs resources and tools to use in summer therapy sessions, home programs, or extended school year therapy plans.

This bundle is perfect for parents, grandparents, and caregivers looking to provide developmental fine motor activities designed to help kids build skills.

  • Send kids back to school in the Fall without worrying about the “Summer Slide”.
  • Use these materials to work on areas like hand strength, fine motor development, scissor skills, handwriting, pencil control, pencil grasp, sensory play experiences, and much more. Just pull out the pages or activities you need for your child, and develop skills through play!

The Summer OT Bundle includes 19 resources that you can print and use over and over again:

Helping children develop and achieve functional skills this summer was never so easy (or fun!)

Be sure to grab the Summer OT Bundle, a HUGE resource of therapy tools and activities for all things building skills this summer.

Grab the Summer OT Bundle here.

Looking for summer occupational therapy activities or ideas to use in home programs for the summer? This year’s 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. 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!

Check the summer activities for kids of all ages listed below!

In the bundle, there is the 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:

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 Resources

~ 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.

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

St. Patrick’s Day Theme

St. Patrick's Day activities

Looking to work on skills in therapy sessions that use a St. Patrick’s day theme? Here, you’ll find four leaf clover activities, rainbow activities, St. Patrick’s Day crafts, snacks, and more. Use these ideas to foster child development of functional skills using a fun theme.

 
How is it March already?? We’ve got lion-like weather yet again around here, but spring, rainbows, and lamb-weather are on the horizon, Yay for warmer weather! These St. Patrick’s Day theme activities and ideas are great for planning therapy sessions based on four leaf clovers, shamrocks, leprechauns, and pot of gold fun. It’s time to get in a spring-like mood and a fun little themed play date or preschool party sounds like just the thing  Check out the ideas below for green-themed party ideas for the kids.

 

Use a St. Patrick's day theme in planning therapy activities with kids.

 

St. Patrick’s Day Theme in therapy 

Having a weekly theme in your therapy sessions makes planning much easier. Each St Patricks Day activity can be adjusted to meet different levels and functional goal area depending on the kids that therapists are serving.

Check out all of the St. Patrick’s Day theme activities below. You’ll find resources for teletherapy, fine motor, gross motor, crafts, and more. If St. Patrick’s Day ideas for kindergarten, preschool, or specific age groups are what you’re looking for, you are in luck. 

St. Patrick’s Day theme therapy slide decks

Try these St. Patrick’s Day therapy activities in the format of a free Google slide deck. Therapists can go through the slides with the clients on their caseload and foster development of goal areas.

St. Patrick’s Day Write and Sign slide deck– Work on handwriting with these writing prompt activities. Then use ASL to sign the words, building fine motor dexterity, coordination, finger isolation, and motor planning.

Shamrock Visual Perception slide deck– This slide deck includes 7 different visual perception activities. Kids can move the pieces on the slide decks to work on areas such as visual discrimination, visual attention, visual scanning, and much more.

Four Leaf Clover Balance Exercises– Go through the slides and follow the exercises as kids are challenged to balance a pillow or beanbag in different ways (a stuffed animal or roll of socks works too!). Encourage coordination, motor planning, core strength, proprioceptive input, and more.

Rainbow Gross Motor/ Pre-Writing Lines slide deck– Kids can “air write” and copy pre-writing rainbow lines.

Rainbow Emotions Spot It Game slide deck– Work on social emotional skills and visual discrimination and other visual perceptual skills with a matching game.

Rainbow Visual Motor Activities slide deck– Working on handwriting, but the underlying issue of copying forms and visual motor integration is an issue? Kids can copy simple-to-complex rainbow forms and work on pencil control, eye-hand coordination, and more.

St. Patrick’s Day Fine Motor Activities 

Use these St. Patrick’s day theme ideas in working on fine motor skills with kids. Amazon links included below.

6 Fine Motor Activities Using Gold Coins– This printable handout on 6 fine motor activities using coins strengthens those fine motor skills using just a handful of coins. We used plastic gold coins in our activity, but you could use pennies as well.

Shamrock Balance Beam– Cut out shamrocks from paper and use them to make a balance beam to incorporate core strength, coordination, vestibular input, and more.

Finger Isolation Clover Fingerprints Got paint? Use it to make fun fingerprint 4 leaf clovers and work on finger isolation, separation of the sides of the hand, eye-hand coordination, and more. This would be fun with homemade puffy paints, too (just need flour & water).

Bilateral Coordination Clover Activity– Stick a piece of paper to the wall and draw symmetrical clovers to work on bilateral coordination, visual tracking, visual motor integration, and more.

Four Leaf Clover Deep Breathing Exercise & Coloring Page– Take mindful coloring to the next level with this deep breathing exercise. Kids can color and then use the printout as a deep breathing exercise over and over again.

 

More St. Patrick’s day Ideas

St. Patrick’s Day Party Snacks for Kids

Every play date needs some snacks.  3 Boys and a Dog has six St. Patrick’s Day treats that are fun and festive. To really build fine motor skills and executive functioning in kids, have them make these healthy rainbow snacks. There is a lot of skill-building to happen in the kitchen.

St. Patrick’s Day Songs for Kids

Get the party started with some Leprechaun Songs for St. Patrick’s Day from Let’s Play Music.  Wouldn’t these be fun songs to sit the kids in a circle for a preschool sing-a-long?

St. Patrick’s Day Printable Pages for Kids

Set up a little table with some print outs to keep the kids busy and having fun with friends.  These St. Patrick’s Day Coloring Pages from 3 Boys and a Dog would be perfect!  Scatter a box of crayons and a pile of printable sheets on a little picnic table are all you need.

Cutting strips of paper or foam craft sheets are great fine motor work for beginner scissor users. If you are looking for St. Patrick’s Day activities for kindergarten and preschool ages, have kids cut strips of colorful paper like we did in this rainbow window activity.

St. Patrick’s Day Games and Activities for Kids

Kids will love a few St. Patrick’s Day games and activities.  Try this Clover Tic Tac Toe game from The Mamade Diaries. 

If sensory play is your thing, this green rice sensory bin from Little Bins for Little Hands looks like so much fun…throw a sheet down on the floor (or a baby pool set up indoors would work, too!) and let the kids in on the sensory fun with 3 Rainbow Sensory Bins!


 

 

 
Colors Handwriting Kit

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

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

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

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

Valentine’s Day Occupational Therapy Activities

Here, you’ll find Valentine’s Day Occupational Therapy Activities that you can use this time of year to help kids develop skills. This is the time of year that red and pink hearts are everywhere, so why not use the theme of love and friendship in therapy interventions? Add these heart crafts, and love ideas to your therapy toolbox to work on things like fine motor skills, regulation, scissor skills, and more, all with a Valentine’s Day theme!

Use these valentine's day occupational therapy activities in therapy planning, classroom activites, and to work on skills like handwriting, fine motor skills, scissor skills and other developmental areas.

Valentine’s Day Occupational Therapy Activities

There are so many love and heart themed activities here on The OT Toolbox. Over the years, we’ve done a lot of fun activities that double as a skill building strategy. Check out these ideas and pick a few to add to your therapy line up and plans over the next few weeks. Some of these hear crafts and sensory ideas or games would make great additions to a Valentine’s Day party that builds skills, too!

If you are needing occupational therapy teletherapy resources, check out these ideas:

Valentine’s Day Gross Motor Slide Deck

Valentine’s Day Match-Up and Handwriting Slide Deck

Valentine’s Day Sensory Activities

From sensory bottles, to discovery activities, to heart painting and more, these sensory play activities can be a fun way to help kids develop skills through the senses.

Valentines day sensory bottle for self regulation and sensory processing or visual processing

Valentine’s Day Sensory Bottle– Use this sensory bottle activity as a way to build fine motor skills while kids help to create the sensory bottle and add materials. Then use it in self-regulation, sensory processing needs as a calm down bottle. Sensory bottles are fantastic to work on visual processing skills like visual discrimination, figure-ground, and other visual perceptual skills.

Olive You Thumbprint CraftFingerprint art is a great way to work on finger isolation, an essential fine motor skill that kids need to manipulate items and improve pencil grasp. Here is more information on how fingerprint art improves fine motor skills. Add this artwork to a card or Valentine’s Day craft for fine motor fun.

Valentines Day play dough to build fine motor skills

Valentine’s Day Play Dough Activity Use a recycled chocolates box in a play dough activity that builds skills like strengthening of the intrinsic muscles and arches of the hands. This is a fun Valentine’s Day activity that can be used in classroom parties or in the therapy room to build skills.

Bilateral coordination activity for valentines day

Bilateral Coordination Heart Sensory Tray Use sand, rice, or other sensory bin material to create a bilateral coordination and visual motor activity for kids. They can work on eye-hand coordination, motor planning, and other skills. The point of the activity is to establish direction and orientation relative to the child’s body.  The movement activity addresses hand-eye coordination in different visual fields, promotes spatial awareness and visual discrimination, addresses left and right awareness, improves peripheral vision, promotes body awareness and coordination with specialization of the hands and eyes, and works on gross motor movement skills.

Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Activities

Try these Valentine’s Day fine motor activities in your occupational therapy interventions or home programs. The activities here are fun ways to help kids develop hand strength, dexterity, precision, grasp development, and motor control.

Be sure to check out the Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Kit. In the 25 activity printable kit, you’ll fine hands-on activities to build fine motor skills. Activities include coloring and cutting cards, pencil control sheets, heart crafts, Valentine’s Day write the room activities, hole punching exercises, and so much more. Grab the Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Kit here.

Visual perception activity and heart maze for valentines day

DIY Heart Maze- Look out visual motor skills…this heart maze is one you can make and print off for your whole caseload. Adjust the use according to your kiddos. Children can place objects like paper hearts, mini erasers, etc. on the hearts in the maze to double down on fine motor work, or color in the hearts to work on pencil control. This maze is a visual processing powerhouse. Find more information on visual processing here.

Fine motor heart activity

Teeny Tiny Sprinkle Heart Activity– This is a fine motor activity that builds precision and dexterity in the hands. It’s a fine motor workout kids can use to build hand strength and endurance for fine motor tasks. Use it in math centers to work on one-to-one correspondence and counting or sorting.

Heart fine motor and eye hand coordination activity

Heart Eye-Hand Coordination Activity– Work on eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills tongs and heart s cut from cardboard. If you are like me, you have a ton of delivery boxes coming to the house. Use those boxes in a fine motor skills building activity. Write numbers or letters on the hearts to make it a sorting, math, or spelling activity.

heart keychain made with salt dough

Salt Dough Keychain– This is a fun heart craft that goes along with the children’s book, “The Kissing Hand”. Use it to help kids work on fine motor skills, and hand strengthening. This keychain craft makes a great Valentine’s Day gift idea too!

Valentines Day crafts

One Zillion Valentines Book and Craft– Pairing a book with therapy or when working on skills with kids is a fun way to open up conversation, problem solving, and strategizing to create a project or activity based on the book. This Valentine’s Day book for kids is just that. One Zillion Valentines is one children’s book that pairs nicely with a fine motor craft for kids.   Kids can work on fine motor skills, motor lanning, direction following, and executive functioning skills while folding and making paper airplanes, and the cotton clouds in this fun craft idea.

Valentines day handprint art

I Love Ewe Handprint Craft– Use a handprint art activity as a tactile sensory experience. Pair scissor skills, pencil control, direction following, and copying skills to work on various areas needed for handwriting and school tasks. Pls, this makes a great Valentine’s Day craft or addition to a card!

Valentines Day activities to build skills for kids
valentines day color sorting fine motor activity

Valentines Day Color Sorting Fine Motor Activity– Grab a couple of cookie cutters and some beads. This is a fine motor activity that kids can use to build skills like in-hand manipulation, separation of the sides of the hand, finger isolation, open thumb webspace, and more.

love bugs valentines day crafts

Love Bugs Crafts– Work on fine motor skills, scissor skills, direction-following, eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, and more with these cute bug crafts for kids.

valentines day sensory bin

Valentine’s Day Sensory Bin– There are so many benefits to using a sensory bin in building fine motor skills. Pour, scoop, and stir with the hands for a tactile sensory experience. Using a sensory bin can be a great way to work on visual perceptual skills like figure-ground, visual discrimination, and other essential visual processing areas. Find and ovate objects or add a learning component by writing sight words or math problems on hearts. This is an open-ended activity that can be used in so many ways.

valentines day books

I Love You Books for Kids– These Valentine’s Day books for kids are a fun way to combine books with crafts or love themed activities. Use them to work on copying words or sentences for handwriting practice. The options are limitless. What love and heart themed books would you add to this list?

Valentines day activities to build fine motor skills
heart play dough

Valentine’s Day Crayon Play Dough– Use play dough to work on so many areas: hand strength, arch development, separation of the sides of the hand, endurance, eye-hand coordination…But have you ever had trouble getting a a really vivid red play dough when using food coloring? The answer to the red play dough problem is using vivid crayons! Here is our crayon play dough recipe that gives you the brightest colors, perfect for using in Valentine’s Day play dough activities!

heart craft to work on fine motor skills like scissor skills

Heart Bookmark Craft– This is such a fun and easy Valentine’s Day craft to use when working on scissor skills with kids. The strait lines of the bookmark and curved lines of the heart make it a great activity for kids just working on the basics of scissor skills.

Valentines day craft for kids

Heart Butterfly Craft- Work on scissor skills, handwriting, and fine motor skills to make this fun card. The directions to make this Valentine’s Day craft are over here on a guest post we did for Hands On as We Grow. Use this fun craft with a group. It’s a great Valentine’s Day party idea!

Valentines Day craft for kids to work on fine motor skills and scissor skills

Valentine’s Day Tea Craft– This Valentine’s Day craft is a fun way to work on scissor skills, handwriting, and fine motor skills. Kids can make this craft as a gift for friends or parents and work on skill development, too.

More Valentines’ Day Activities

Try some of these other ideas:

Valentine’s Day Sensory Bin with Fine Motor Paper

Valentine’s Day Snacks for Kids

Valentine’s Day Goop Painting

Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Sparkle Craft

Crunchy (Sensory Diet!) Heart Tortilla Snack

Teach Buttoning with Heart Buttons

So, what are your favorite ways to work on skills with a holiday theme? Try some of these heart activities at Valentine’s Day parties, at home when making cards for loved ones, or in therapy planning! Have fun!

Want to add more Valentine’s Day activities and movement tools to your skill-building?

he Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Kit is here! This printable kit is 25 pages of hands-on activity sheets designed to build skills in pinch and grasp strength, endurance, eye-hand coordination, precision, dexterity, pencil control, handwriting, scissor skills, coloring, and more.

When you grab the Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Kit now, you’ll get a free BONUS activity: 1-10 clip cards so you can challenge hand strength and endurance with a counting eye-hand coordination activity.

Valentines Day fine motor kit

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

Tactile Defensiveness

Tactile defensiveness and what you need to know about tactile sensitivities

Today, I have an update on a very old blog post for a specific reason. This fake snow messy sensory play activity is a valuable tool in addressing tactile defensiveness, or tactile sensitivity. In general descriptions, this simply means an over-sensitivity to touch, or over-responsiveness to touch sensations. For kids with sensory issues, this can be a very big deal. Tactile defensiveness can mean poor tolerance to certain clothing, textures, food sensitivities, closeness of others, wearing socks or the feel of seams or clothing. Sensitivity to these touch sensations can look like many different things! Today we are discussing all about tactile sensitivity, what that looks like in children, and a sensory challenge that can be used for tactile sensitivity.

If you are looking for more information on sensory processing, start here with our free sensory processing information booklet.

tactile sensitivity sensory challenge with fake snow

What is Tactile Defensiveness

I briefly explained the meaning of tactile defensiveness above, but let’s break this down further.

The tactile system is one of our 8 sensory systems: touch, taste, smell, sight, hearing, proprioception, vestibular, and interoception. The sense of touch is a very big piece of the whole picture.

The Tactile Sensory System is one of the earliest developed
senses of the body, with studies telling us this sensory system begins to develop at around 8 weeks in utero. The sense of touch completes its development at around 30 weeks in utero when pain, temperature, and pressure sensations are developed.

Types of touch

The skin performs unique duties for the body, based on different types of touch input, and tactile sensitivity can be considered to occur in the various aspects of touch. These types of touch include: light touch, pressure, discrimitive touch, pain, temperature.

Most importantly for our ancient ancestors, especially, the skin protects and alerts us to danger and discriminates sensation with regard to location and identification. This is important because touch sensations alerts us to both discrimination and danger. These two levels of sensation work together yet are distinctively important. And furthermore, the skin is the largest and the most prevalent organ.


Touch discrimination- Discrimination of touch allows us to sense where on our body and what is touching us. With discrimination, we are able to
discern a fly that lands on our arm. We are able to sense and use our fingertips in fine motor tasks. We are able to touch and discern temperatures, vibrations, mount of pressure, and textures and shapes of objects.

Danger perception– The second level of the tactile system alerts us to danger. It allows us to jump in response to the “fight or flight” response
when we perceive a spider crawling on our arm. With this aspect of touch, we are able to discern temperature to ensure skin isn’t too hot or cold. We can quickly identify this temperature or sharpness of an object and quickly move away to avoid burning, freezing, or sharp objects.

When either of these levels of sensation are disrupted, tactile
dysfunction can result. This presents in many ways, including
hypersensitivity to tags in clothing, a dislike of messy play,
difficulty with fine motor tasks, a fear of being touched by
someone without seeing that touch, a high tolerance of pain, or a
need to touch everything and everyone.

Sensitivity to touch can mean over responding to touch input in the form of textures, temperatures, or pressure. Touch sensitivities mean that the body perceives input as “too much” in a dangerous way. The touch receptors that perceive input are prioritized because the brain believes we are in danger. The body moves into a state of defensiveness, or safe-mode in order to stay safe from this perceived danger. This is tactile defensiveness.

What does Tactile Defensiveness looks like?

Hyper-responsiveness of the tactile sense may include a variety of things:

  • Overly sensitivity to temperature including air, food, water, or
  • objects
  • Withdrawing when touched
  • Avoids certain food clothing textures or fabrics
  • Dislikes wearing pants or restrictive clothing around the legs
  • Refusing certain food textures
  • Dislike of having face or hair washed
  • Dislikes hair cuts
  • Dislikes having fingernails cut
  • Dislike seams in clothing
  • Excessively ticklish
  • Avoidance to messy play or getting one’s hands dirty
  • Avoidance of finger painting, dirt, sand, bare feet on grass, etc.
  • Avoids touching certain textures
  • Clothing preferences and avoidances such as resisting shoes
  • Resistance to nail clipping, face washing
  • Resists haircuts, hair brushing
  • Dislikes or resists teeth brushing
  • Overreacts to accidental or surprising light touches from
  • others
  • Avoids affectionate touch such as hugs
  • Dislikes closeness of other people

As a result of this avoidance, development in certain areas can be delayed, in a way that functional performance of daily tasks is impacted. What you see in as a result of a poorly integrated tactile sensory system:

  • Delayed fine motor skills
  • Rigid clothing preferences
  • Behavioral responses to tasks such as putting on shoes or coat
  • Impaired personal boundaries
  • Avoids tactile sensory activities
  • Poor body scheme
  • Difficulty with praxis
  • Poor hand skill development

More information on sensory processing of each of the sensory systems and how that impacts daily life can be found in The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook. You’ll also find practical strategies for integrating sensory diets into each part of every day life, in motivating and meaningful ways. Check out The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook for moving from sensory dysfunction to sensory function!

How to help with tactile sensitivity

There are ways to help address these areas, so that the child is safe and can function and perform tasks in their daily life. While addressing tactile sensitivities doesn’t mean changing the child’s preferences, it can mean understanding what is going on, what the child does and does not prefer in the way of sensory processing, and it can mean providing tools and resources to help the child.

This should involve an occupational therapist who can take a look at sensory processing and integration and make specific recommendations.

Some strategies that can impact tactile sensitivity include:

  • Understanding the child’s sensory systems, and integration in the daily life of the child. Grab the Sensory Lifestyle Handbook to read more on sensory diets that are meaningful and motivating. These are sensory activities that can be integrated right into tasks like baths, tooth brushing, hair brushing, dentist visits, clothing changes, etc.
  • Take a look at clothing sensitivity red flags for areas of sensitivity to clothing that stand out for the individual child.
  • Read more on proprioception and the connection of heavy work input as a calming and regulatory tool for sensitivities.
  • Work on touch discrimination with activities at the level of the child.
  • Provide verbal input to warn the child prior to light touch
  • Provide visual cues and schedules for tasks that must be completed such as tooth brushing or hair brushing.
  • Trial tactile experiences at a graded level, introducing various sensory experiences in a “safe space” at a just right level for the child.

Tactile Defensiveness Sensory Activity

That’s where this messy sensory play activity comes in. By taking out the “messy” part of this sensory experience, children who dislike messy play or touching certain textures can explore the sensory activity and challenge tactile exposure. In this way, they are experiencing a new and novel texture (temperature and squishy, messy experiences), but at a safe level, or “just right” level for them.

This snow sensory play activity has the opportunity for tactile challenges, but it uses a plastic bag to contain the actual mess, allowing for a mess-free sensory experience, at different grades of texture exposure.

Fake snow for sensory play

Fake Snow Recipe

We made fake snow one recent weekend, when we had a big cousin sleep over.  There were six kids aged five and under staying overnight at our house.  I had this activity planned for us to do together, (because I procrastinated ) and had to get it together to take to a Winter Festival at our church the next day.  It was a fun messy play idea for indoor snow.

We’ve made this fake snow before and I have the recipe listed on our Messy Play Day post.  

This fake snow is easy, because it includes only 2 ingredients:

  • Toilet paper
  • Ivory soap

With these two ingredients, there are many opportunities for tactile sensitivity challenges, and each child can experience sensory exploration at a level that suits their preferences. Some children may enjoy experiencing the dry texture of the toilet paper. (See the kids below…they sure enjoyed this texture.)

Other children may prefer (or avoid) the tactile experience of touching and manipulating the squishy, warm soap texture.

Others may tolerate mixing the two textures together.

Still others, may prefer none of these textures. In this case, move to the last level of this tactile experience, which is placing the fake snow into the plastic baggie. Then, they can squeeze and touch the sensory fake snow with a barrier in place. they will still experience the warm temperature and firm, heavy work of squeezing through their hands, but they will experience this sensory input in a “safe” level with that plastic bag barrier.

Fake Snow Dry sensory Bin

Step 1: Tear the toilet paper into shreds. Keep this in a bin or large container. We used an under-the bed storage bin because I was making a large quantity of fake snow for our Winter Festival.

We shredded the toilet paper and the kids had a BLAST! It started out so neat and kind.  Tearing the toilet paper is a fantastic fine motor activity for those hands, too. It offers heavy work input through the hands which can have a regulating, calming impact on the joints of the hands. This can be a nice “warm up” exercise for the tactile challenge of exploring and manipulating the dry toilet paper texture.

For kids with tactile sensitivities, this might be “too much” for them to handle. Try using tongs and ask them to explore the toilet paper shredding sensory bin to find hidden items. Some of the paper cards and winter words in our Winter Fine Motor Kit are great additions to this sensory bin.

How to make fake snow using toilet paper for a fun sensory challenge to the hands.
Kids can make fake snow for a tactile sensory experience.

 And then turned in to this.  

Use toilet paper in a dry sensory bin for tactile sensitivity and fine motor strengthening.

  And this.  

Slightly off-course in our sensory bin, but of course it did.   Why wouldn’t it when you have 6 cousins together?  ((Ok, that part of this post was NOT mess-free…the end result is mess-free. I promise.)) So, then we popped the Ivory soap into the microwave…

Fake Snow Wet Sensory Experience

Step 2 in the tactile sensory experience is the wet fake snow portion. Following the fake snow recipe, we popped a bar of ivory soap into the microwave and ended up with a cloud of sensory material.

Ivory soap in the microwave for a tactile defensiveness sensory challenge and to use in making fake snow.

Children can touch and explore this sensory material for a warm, sensory experience.

Step 3 in the tactile challenge is mixing the dry material with the wet material. This can definitely be a challenge for those with tactile defensiveness or touch sensitivities.

If it is too much of a sensory challenge, invite the child to mix with a large spoon or to touch with a finger tip.

Other children may enjoy this part of making fake snow. The melted soap can be mixed with the toilet paper…to make fake snow!    

How to make fake snow with ivory soap and toilet paper

 

Fake Snow Sensory Play for Tactile Sensitivities

THIS is the mess-free part that many children with tactile defensiveness may enjoy. 🙂

Simply place some of the fake snow material into a zip top plastic bag. You can tape the top shut to keep the material in the bag.

By manipulating the fake snow in a safe sensory manner, kids get exposure to a calming warm temperature. This is one low-level challenge to the tactile system. The warm temperature is a calming, regulating aspect that can be powerful in self-regulation.

Children can also squeeze, manipulate, pound, and spread the fake snow within the plastic baggie. This offers heavy work input through the hands and upper body in a way that is calming and regulating.

By placing the fake snow into a bag for sensory play, kids are exposed to tactile experinces in a way that may help with tactile discrimination by incorporating the proprioceptive sense.

Challenge motor skills further by adding items such as foam snowflake stickers, glass gems, and glitter.  This was so much fun for my crew of kids and nieces/nephews and I hope it’s a tactile experience you get to play with as well!

Make fake snow for a mess free sensory experience that kids with tactile defensiveness will enjoy
Fine motor sensory experience with fake snow.

 

Products mentioned in this post:

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is your strategy guide for turning sensory diets and sensory activities into a sensory lifestyle.

A Sensory Diet Strategy Guide The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is a strategy guide for sensory processing needs. With valuable insight to the sensory system and the whole child, the book details how sensory diets can be incorporated into a lifestyle of sensory success. The thoughtful tools in this book provide intervention strategies to support and challenge the sensory systems through meaningful and authentic sensory diet tactics based on the environment, interests, and sensory needs of each individual child.

winter fine motor kit

The Winter Fine Motor Kit Done-for-you fine motor plans to help kids form stronger hands.

This print-and-go winter fine motor kit includes no-prep fine motor activities to help kids develop functional grasp, dexterity, strength, and endurance. This 100 page no-prep packet includes everything you need to guide fine motor skills in face-to-face AND virtual learning. Includes winter themed activities for hand strength, pinch and grip, dexterity, eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, endurance, finger isolation, and more. 

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

Bear Brain Breaks

bear brain breaks

These bear brain breaks are perfect for winter time movement, or using in a bear theme in school or in therapy. Sometimes, brain breaks are the perfect tool to can help with movement or sensory needs in the classroom.  We used a favorite childhood book to come up with bear themed brain breaks that can be used alongside the book in a movement and learning activity or in a bear-themed classroom activities.  Not long ago, we shared more brain break ideas that you might like to add to your classroom.



bear brain breaks

Bear Brain Breaks

Looking for brain break videos for the classroom or home? Here are the best brain break videos on YouTube.
 
Bear brain breaks for movement and learning in the classroom setting with a bear theme

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Have you read the book, “Time for Sleep” by Denise Fleming? My kids loved to hear about all of the animals as they prepared for sleep over the winter.  We decided to try a few bear gross motor moves based on the book.

Bear Theme Brain Breaks

Stretches and whole-body movements that happen in a calm manner are a great way to prepare for sleep, so these activities went along nicely with the bear in the book as well as the getting ready for sleep theme.

If fidgeting, wiggling, or just a break from screens is needed, try these movement breaks to help. 

We created these themed brain breaks to go along with the book, Time to Sleep, but they are perfect for any day (or when paired with other bear books)!

If you are looking for resources for sleep or bedtime stretches, we shared some based on another children’s book.

Time for Sleep by Denise Fleming and bear themed brain breaks for a bear activity.
 
This is such a fun book to read with kids.  It would go along perfectly with a bear theme in your classroom.  Try adding some gross motor movement activities based on the book.
 
Kids can then use the bear themed brain breaks throughout their day when it seems the classroom or individual students need a movement break. 
 
                                        
 
Below, you can enter your email to access the free brain break printable that would go along perfectly for teaching the classroom about these bear brain breaks.  They can be cut up and laminated for the children to pull out of a cup.  Or, add them to a key ring for bear themed movement activities.
  
 
Using these bear brain breaks, kids can stretch, roll, reach, climb, and crawl like a bear.  There are eight bear themed movement activities included that allow kids to move with a bear theme.  
 
Read the book Time for Sleep and try the movement activities!
 
Bear brain break ideas for kids
 

Bear Activities

Looking for more bear themed activities?  Try these hands-on ways to play with a bear theme based on bear books like “Time for Sleep”.

Polar Bear Gross Motor Ideas

Bear Craft

Fun and Therapeutic Polar bear Activities

Polar Bear Therapy Slide Deck– Free! Perfect for virtual therapy sessions

Polar Bear Self-Regulation Deep Breathing Activity

Bear Says Thanks Fine Motor Activity

Bear Oral Motor Exercise

LiTERACY BEAR THEMED ACTIVITIES

NUMERACY BEAR THEMED ACTIVITIES

BEAR THEMED RECIPES

BEAR CRAFTS AND IDEAS FOR PLAY

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    These brain breaks would be a great addition to our Winter Fine Motor Kit, loaded with winter theme and bear activities! It’s got all things fine motor in print-and-go activities. You’ll find lacing cards, modified handwriting sheets, pencil control strips, cutting activities, crafts, coloring exercises, and MUCH MORE!

    Get the Winter Fine Motor Kit HERE.

    winter fine motor kit