The Incredible Power of Play

child development through play

Did you ever stop and think about the power of play? There are so many ways child development progresses through every day play. We know as occupational therapists that play is the primary work of the child, but it is also through play that essential skills are developed and refined.

Play Development

We’ve covered the development of play in various places across this website, breaking areas down by age:

As well as play activities by skill area:

From independent play to parallel play to organized games, play exists along a continuum that development can exist at various ages.

The Power of Play

Play is the essence of childhood and it’s the means for children to develop and grow! The incredible power of play is a tool and a means to children development.

It’s through play that kids learn. Kids delight in games, toys, and creative play while developing skills like fine and gross motor development. They learn to self-regulate. They learn to communicate, manage their emotions, and gain valuable sensory input. Play is powerful for kids!

Let’s go over the importance of children’s play

Here are 5 ways play builds child development in gross motor skills, fine motor skills, executive functioning, self-confidence, and sensory processing.

The Power of Play

Not long ago, I was asked by Radio Flyer to represent occupational therapy as an Expert Play Panelist. Such fun! As occupational therapists, we KNOW the power of play. We KNOW that kids need to move, climb, run, and experience all of their senses in order to grow and develop. Play is the means. Play is very simply, what kids do. It’s their job to play, and play is the way they develop skills they need throughout their life.

Play is powerful!

You can read the blog post over at Radio Flyer that describes the impact that play has on child development.

In that blog post, I discussed the power of play on fine motor skills, gross motor skills, self-confidence, sensory processing, and executive functioning skills. All of these areas (and more!) areas by play.

This play meme is perfect for sharing the immense power of play through getting dirty, playing inthe mud, jumping in puddles, and outdoor sensory play.

Play is a learning tool. Play-based learning is one way that children can learn valuable lessons through play, however it’s more than that. It’s through play that children learn about the world around them.

Kids learn how things work, move, and interact through play. Movement-based learning offers kids an opportunity to learn through gross and fine motor activities, but while they are moving, they are learning how their body works, too. They develop motor skills at the same time.

Play Development

Here’s the thing. Children develop play skills as they grow. But play also develops skills! It’s a win-win situation.

Play Develops Gross Motor Skills

Gross motor skills occur during play as kids innately practice moving in a variety of positions. Gross motor coordination, balance development, endurance, motor planning, proximal stability, and visual motor skills are all developed through play.

Whole body movements begin to develop from birth, through tummy time and play supports that. But as a baby begins to explore the world around them, they crawl, stand, and walk and all of this is rooted in play. These early gross motor milestones support development of later skills, too.

Play Develops Fine Motor Skills

Play develops fine motor skills through tool use, manipulating toys and pretend materials, and engaging in play activities. Take a look at this fine motor milestones list and see how many of the developmental milestones are rooted in play and exploration of the world using the hands and fingers.

Children can gain strength and precision in their hands through play so that coordinated and efficient use of a pencil or scissors becomes fluid and natural.

Play develops core strength and stability, refined precision skills, and endurance in the hands for managing clothing fasteners and other everyday items.

Play Develops Executive Functioning

By playing with new activities, games, or acting out pretend play situations, children can try new things, practice tasks they’ve observed grownups doing, and explore, gaining self-confidence and resilience.

Play offers experiences for developing executive functioning skills such as:

  • impulse control
  • coping skills
  • organization
  • problem solving
  • attention
  • planning and prioritization
  • task completion
  • working memory

Play is a way to practice jobs, too. Think about the child that plays house, construction worker, race car driver, or shopping. All of these occupations require executive functioning skills to plan the activity, carry out tasks, and complete the play sequence. This pretend play is a huge role in development of skills.

Play Develops Sensory Processing

Through play, children understand how their body works as they learn and integrate sensory information.

Dr. A. Jean Ayres, an occupational therapist, psychologist, and neuroscientist, developed her Ayres sensory integration theory and practice in the mid 1970s. She recognized that a child’s sensory system can greatly impact how they perceive and interact with the world around them, through play.

Play allows kids to become aware of their body awareness and body movement as they jump, roll, spin, and tumble upside down.

Play that offers a variety of movements and heavy work opportunities offer proprioceptive and vestibular input that impacts self-regulation. These sensory systems, through play are related to interoception, or internal awareness of the body’s functions.

Play also develops the visual motor system as children move through space and coordinate hand and eye information.

Play Develops Self-Confidence

By playing with new activities, games, or acting out pretend play situations, children can try new things, practice tasks they’ve observed grownups doing, and explore, gaining self-confidence and resilience.

Self-confidence allows us to try new things.

And trying new things (and trying the hard things!) is important for kids.

Self-confidence is an aspect of emotional intelligence. It’s part of social emotional skills that allow us to participate in tasks, interact with others, understand and recognize emotions, and essentially function!

All of these areas: motor skills, cognitive skills, social emotional skills, sensory processing skills…they are all founded in childhood, established at a young age through the very fun occupation of PLAY! What’s cool is we are lead as humans to do meaningful and motivating tasks, and play is just that! It makes us WANT to participate so we can learn and develop!

Play meme: Play has an extremely powerful role in child development.

The Role of Play in Child Development

Ok, you might be thinking, “Right. Kids play. That’s nothing new.”

And you’re right. Play is so natural. Some of your earliest and best memories may be of play situations in your own childhood. Play happens instinctively. But the thing is that play is suffering in kids. If you’re in an educational setting or an occupational therapist, you might be nodding your head right now. Kids are different than they were in the past. And play is at the root, once again.

Play's powerful role in child development.

But Play has Changed.

Times change. We know this. Technology advances, knowledge progresses, and the world transforms. However, play being the root of child development, learning, and pediatric skill acquisition doesn’t change.

Here are a few ways that play has changed and how that may look in kids today:

Almost all creativity involves purposeful play. Quote by Abraham Maslow on the power of play.

Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning. A great play quote by Mr. Rogers.

Less Time for Kids in Nature

Kids spend less time outdoors- Do you remember playing outdoors for the entire day and coming home when the streetlights came on? Kids are spending more time indoors. After school hours aren’t spent outdoors or in free-play. They are spent indoors, at child care centers, or after-school programs. Sometimes, it’s the fact that kids need to complete their homework so they can dart off to sports practices or appointments. Other times, it’s not safe for children to play outside in the yard on their own. Kids miss out on the free running space, climbing, running, rolling, and motor development.

Kids are spending more time in the car, running back and forth to organized activities- There are wonderful benefits to spending time on a team or learning an instrument.

However, for children now, they are a member of several sports teams, participating in various activities, clubs, and other organized activities. Sports teams sometimes have more than one practice or game per week. Kids are being run to and from sports practices, instrument lessons, clubs, appointments, and more. All of that time spent in the car limits free and creative play.

This isn’t’ to say that sports and clubs aren’t good for kids! It’s just a point of awareness that time spent in these organized tasks limits free play, outdoor experiences, and growth in learning through the senses and motor experiences.

There are so many benefits to nature play!

Less recess time- Are you seeing this too? Kids in my district are limited in outdoor recess time by the weather. So, when it’s cold or raining, they don’t get to go outdoors to play. And that lack of monkey bar time at recess can be an issue with the afternoon learning. Students in the older grades don’t even get recess in our district.

From grades 4-6, there is a limited time for recess. In fact, recess and lunch time is shared. So if children need extra time to eat, they miss out on recess. Not cool for our kids that are “big kids”!

Kids need that outdoor play.

Are you seeing less recess time at your schools?

Play sparks learning, communication, discovery, motor development, insight, and jowy. And that's just the beginning.

Kids are spending more time on technology- The screens are taking over! So often, a child has a phone or tablet screen in front of them rather than spending time playing games, playing with friends, they are playing digital games or watching videos. They are limiting themselves in motor and sensory experiences. Movement and creative play are impacted.

Don’t take this the wrong way: Technology is awesome! It’s a way of life. We are lucky to be alive during this time of knowledge and awareness granted by technological advancements. Kids can learn from devices…some of them know more about technology than their adults. The point is that being aware of time spent in a head-down position holding that phone limits interaction with the world around them. Awareness of this time is key.

There are more changes that we’ve been seeing in kids today. This is just a short list but one to be aware of as practitioners, parents, and teachers. As the adults in the room, we need to make the change that kids need.

We need to be vigilant in making play available to kids…the power of play is essential to child development!

We need to guide children to play.

Because, the organized sports and scheduled activities are fun. It’s fun to play on a team with friends. It’s easy to fall into the day-to-day-life that daily schedules require. It’s fun and exciting to watch YouTube videos and play games with friends online.

It’s our job as parents, teachers, therapists…adults to see the impact these life changes are having on our kids.

Our kids deserve it!

Learning Through Play Quotes

In this blog post, we covered more than just the power of play. You’ll also fine learning through play quotes and memes about play. These quotes about play are just one way to advocate on the power of play.

I’m sharing great social media graphics about play that you can share online. These are importance of sensory play quotes, quotes about play, and play development memes. (Just link to this page as your source!) I’m also talking about the incredible benefits of play in kids.

There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. Outdoor play is so essential for child development!
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”
A fresh mindset about kids and how play impacts their development.
“A fresh start is not a place, it’s a mindset.”

We can take a fresh start on offering play opportunities for our kids. Let’s expose them to the power of play!

Kids are growing up in a world where play is restricted or limited. We can change that!
“I wouldn’t change you for the world. But I would change the world for you.”

We as parents, educators, and therapy professionals have the opportunity to take a stand on making the power of play more powerful! Let’s change current practices of limited recess time, lack of outside play opportunities, and busyness! Let’s change the world and its expectations and perspectives so we can promote the power of play as a means for supporting child development.

In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. Quote by Mary Poppins
“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.”

This quote from the Mary Poppins book and movies equates with the through of play being the work of the child, but it’s through play that development happens and is practiced. Not only can we play to support development, we can make the process therapeutic and fun! It’s all connected!

Play and therapy looks like just playing, but it's so much more! Play is learning, growint, building skills, gaining confidence, obtaining strategies.
“Yes, we play in therapy. No, we are not just playing. We are becoming independent, growing stronger, building skills, learning, gaining confidence, obtaining coping strategies, transforming lives…”

This play quote by Colleen Beck, OTR/L at The OT Toolbox shares why play is so powerful and benefits development in children. Play offers tools that a child will use throughout their lives.

Almost all creativity involves purposeful play. quote about kids.
“Almost all creativity involves purposeful play.”

Creativity is play and play is creativity. Both are interconnected but also a way to support play development.

Childhood is a journey, not a race.
“Childhood is a journey. Not a race.”

That childhood journey involves much development; cognitively, physically, emotionally…This is a process and it’s through play that the child has the opportunity to learn and practice essential skills.

Occupational therapy goals can be accomplished with various ball pit activities, and you’ll often see this therapy tool in OT clinics.

Occupational therapy uses play in practice to build essential skills.
“I play with shaving cream, toys, and a ball pit at work. I am an occupational therapist.”

Play is the work of the child, and for the pediatric occupational therapist, play is a tool to support development.

It seems that play is one of the most valuable tools for learning.
“It seems that play is one of the MOST valuable tools for learning.”

This is one of my favorites of the learning through play quotes. Learning happens through all aspects of play.

Play builds skills that kids need to build skills.
“Children have a superpower. It’s this morphing ability to take on amazing powers. If we tell them they are capable, they become capable. If we tell them they are kind, they become kind. Let’s power our kids with the tools they need!”

This play based learning quote is so powerful. We can support the development of kids through play and we can guide them to develop the skills they need!

child development through play

Free Handout on The Power of Play

Being that we as therapy professionals, teachers, or parents have this knowledge on play and child development, we can be advocates for our kids. Not only that, but by promoting play as a tool for child development, we serve other children as well. It’s an enormous ripple effect that has the power to impact a generation and generations following.

That’s why I wanted to put the information in this blog post into handout form.

Let’s share what we know about the power of play to teach others how play supports essential child development skills.

Print off this handout in either black and white, printer-friendly version or the color copy. They can be used as educational handouts to teach others on the power play has on child development skills.

To get your copy, just enter your email into the form below.

This handout set is also available in our OT Toolbox Member’s Club. Current Membership Club members can log into your account and head to the dashboard toolbox labeled “Educational Handouts“. Print off the handouts without the need to enter an email address.

Want to add this resource to your therapy toolbox so you can help kids thrive? Enter your email into the form below to access this printable tool.

This resource is just one of the many tools available in The OT Toolbox Member’s Club. Each month, members get instant access to downloadable activities, handouts, worksheets, and printable tools to support development. Members can log into their dashboard and access all of our free downloads in one place. Plus, you’ll find exclusive materials and premium level materials.

Level 1 members gain instant access to all of the downloads available on the site, without enter your email each time PLUS exclusive new resources each month.

Level 2 members get access to all of our downloads, exclusive new resources each month, PLUS additional, premium content each month: therapy kits, screening tools, games, therapy packets, and much more. AND, level 2 members get ad-free content across the entire OT Toolbox website.

Join the Member’s Club today!

FREE Handout: The Power of Play on Child Development

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    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.

    Summer Occupational Therapy Activities

    Summer occupational therapy activities

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

    Summer Occupational Therapy Activities

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

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

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

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

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

    Summer Occupational Therapy Activities 

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

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

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

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

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

    You might be a therapist putting together summer home programs.

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

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

    Summer Occupational Therapy Activity Ideas

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

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

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

    Try adding these OT activities to your summer bucket list:

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

    Need even more summer ideas?

    ~Add these hula hoop activities to therapy sessions.

    ~Use sidewalk chalk to support fine motor skills.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ~ Use sidewalk chalk to boost fine motor skills.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Grab the Spring Occupational Therapy Activities Packet HERE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Summer activities for kids

    Powerful Action Rhymes and Nursery Rhymes with Actions

    nursery rhymes with actions

    Kids love finger plays and action rhymes.  You know the ones, right?  Here, we’re sharing nursery rhymes with actions that support development including gross motor coordination, bilateral coordination, and body awareness. These movement and rhyme phrases and songs that fill every childhood, preschool classroom, and library story time are a classic  part of childhood. 

    Rhymes with action movements inspire rhythm and rhyming skills, but there is more than that: They are engaging, fun, and repetitive ways to work on motor development.

    These nursery rhyme actions are great additions to nursery rhyme crafts!

    nursery rhymes with actions


    But, did you know that action rhymes help with childhood development? Childhood development and action rhymes go hand-in-hand so to speak.  Kids learn and grow by moving and repeating and then independently saying and singing rhymes that many kids could sing along to.  

    What are some ways that childhood development and action rhymes help a child grow?

    Action rhymes are a great way to address skills such as:

    Use these creative and powerful nursery rhymes with actions to develop skills in OT sessions.




    This post contains affiliate links.




    Looking for brain break videos for the classroom or home? Here are the best brain break videos on YouTube.

    What are action rhymes?

    Action rhymes are movement songs or nursery rhymes with movement.  

    They might be gross motor activities like “I’m a Little Teapot” or “Duck, Duck, Goose”. Or, they might be a fine motor activity like “Eensy Weensy Spider” or “Where is Thumbkin”.  

    There are so many nursery rhymes with actions out there that preschool classrooms are using or even making up to suit their needs, but one thing is common with all action rhymes; They have sing-song phrases and involve movement.  

    Fine Motor Action Rhymes:

    1. Where is Thumbkin?
    2. Creep Them, Creep Them
    3. Bringing Home a Baby Bumble Bee
    4. 5 in the Bed
    5. Eensy Weensy Spider

    Gross Motor Action Rhymes:

    1. Wheels on the Bus
    2. I’m a Little Teapot
    3. Duck, Duck, Goose
    4. Farmer in the Dell
    5. If You’re Happy and You Know It
    6. Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
    7. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
    8. 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed
    9. Grand Old Duke of York

    How to use nursery rhymes with actions to build childhood development?
    Action rhymes and finger plays are perfect for the 18-24 month age range and the preschool years when so much development is occurring.  

    Consider all the ways a toddler or preschooler are developing: fine and gross motor skills, language, cognitive, social-emotional…these years are full of natural progression with development going through the roof!

    Childhood Development and Action Rhymes

    There are so many ways that nursery rhymes with actions help to build childhood development in a healthy way:

    • Fine Motor Skills– Use the fingers and hands to build dexterity, eye-hand coordination, and finger isolation through movement. Encourage kids to follow along with the fine motor action rhymes listed above to improve dexterity and fine motor control.
    • Gross Motor Skills– Using the trunk, legs, and shoulders builds strength in the limbs and core muscle strength needed for attention and focus. Read more developing core strength through movement rhymes here.
    • Social/Emotional Development– Striving for independence, asserting ones independence, engaging with peers, and an emerging awareness of ones own body and a sense of awareness of others is developing and growing in the toddler and preschool years.  Action rhymes in a group setting promote all of these areas. Encourage kids to connect with other children and adults by pairing up kids to perform action rhymes in small groups of kids.
    • Speech and Language Development– The toddler and preschool age sets are flourishing in language skills.  There is a huge opportunity for developing and building skills through repetitive action rhymes.  Children can be encouraged to develop these skills when encouraged to participate in verbal exchanges.  Further promote communication skills by asking questions about the rhymes.
    • Spatial Concepts– Important for awareness of ones self and position in space, as well as in visual motor integration tasks like handwriting, action rhymes allow children to explore position in space through movement. Encourage development and understanding of front/back, over/under, top/bottom, etc. Try this action rhyme trick: when a spatial term is mentioned in an action rhyme, try pointing in the direction instead of saying the words or phrases.
    • Attention Span– Action rhymes allow kids to focus for a period of time on a teacher as well as peers individual and group action rhyme activities. Encourage longer attention by increasing time spent singing action rhymes. Lead into a group activity with action rhymes or use them as a tool to take a break during seated tasks or classroom activities that require focus and attention. 
    • Cognitive Development– Using action rhymes, children are introduced to concepts such as numbers, colors, shapes, sizes, names, letters, and more. Concrete concepts of the toddler and preschool years can be enhanced to more abstract ideas through cognitive development using sensori-motor components of action rhymes.  Movement and learning are very well connected and action rhymes add a sing-song rhyming component as well. Additionally, concepts such as patterning, sequencing, and cause-effect are addressed through action rhymes.
    • Self-Concept– Action rhymes provide an opportunity to learn about body parts. Encourage kids to learn about their body parts with action rhymes like, “If You’re Happy and You Know It”
    • Behavior Development– Action rhymes promote movement and an appropriate opportunity for students to get wiggles and fidgets out in a classroom setting.  Following the rhyme actions, kids can discover how they can move their body in purposeful ways.
    Use these creative and powerful ideas to boost and build childhood development with action rhymes and finger plays with toddler and preschool kids in the classroom, home, or Occupational Therapy clinic.

      What are some favorite action rhymes in your classroom, home, or clinic?  

    More movement and development ideas you will love: 

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

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

    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.

    Beaded Feather Fine Motor Activity

    beaded feathers fine motor activity

    This beaded feather activity is a fine motor task that we created YEARS ago. WE love it because beads and feathers are common craft materials found in many pediatric occupational therapy professionals’ therapy toolbox. In fact OTs love crafts as a fine motor strategy and this feather bead activity is a powerhouse!

    Beaded Feather Activity

    If you need a quick and easy little activity for the kids while you are making dinner, or just something fun for the kids to keep practice a few fine motor skills, then this is a great activity for you.  Simple to set up and easy to clean up, this one will get those little muscles going and moving with fine motor dexterity!
     
    This can be a great skill-building task to add to a STEAM activity or a STEM fine motor activity.
     


    Beading with feathers

    This activity works on several grasps, color awareness, counting, sorting, visual scanning, and eye-hand-coordination.  How can you beat such an easy activity with so many benefits??  

     

     
    Fine motor activity for kids using beads and feathers.
     
     
     
    This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
     
    You’ll need just two craft materials for this fine motor activity:
     

     

     
     
    Preschoolers and Toddlers can match beads to feathers to learn colors.
     
    Get your feathers and some coordinating beads and lay them out on the table.  I started a few feathers to show the kids what we were doing and had the invitation to start ready to go. 
     
    They came over to check it out and would bead a bit here and there throughout the day.  It was kind of like a therapeutic little break from bouncing off of couch cushions and each other. 
     
    Their little bodies needed a chance to slow down and re-group before getting back into the routine of regularly scheduled chaos.
     
    But maybe that’s just my kids?
      
    Sorting colored beads to match colored feathers is a fun way to learn colors.

     

    Pincer Grasp Activity With Beads and Feathers

    You could also put out a big old tray of all kinds of beads with different colors, shapes, sizes to work with. 
     
    This slightly makes the activity just a little more difficult as the child has to visually scan for the colors needed and pick out the beads that they want with a neat pincer grasp
     
    Using the tips of the index finger and the thumb in a precision grasp to manipulate beads from a big tray of colors is great for eye-hand coordination
     
    Want more ideas to work on neat pincer grasp or eye hand coordination?  We’ve got plenty!
     
    Threading colored beads on feathers is a great way for prechoolers and toddlers to work on colors and fine motor skills.

     

    Beading Feathers Bilateral Coordination Activity

    Holding the feather and the beads requires two hands to work together in a coordinated way (bilateral hand coordination). 
     
    This is a great way to practice pre-writing skills and those requirements needed for self- care like managing buttons, zippers, shoe-tying, and scissor skills.
     
    Beads and feathers are a fun way to practice colors and fine motor skills with kids.

     

    Bead Feathers to learn colors

    Younger children (Baby Girl is just getting this!)  can learn colors and practice naming colors as they pick out the beads and match to the color of the feather. 

    How many other ways can you think of to make this a learning opportunity? 

    Patterns, sorting, counting…this is a fun learning op and a great way to get those little hands moving!

                                    Kids can work on fine motor skills and color matching awareness while beading feathers.

    Fine motor activity for kids using beads and feathers.
     
     
    More Fine Motor activities you will love:
     
     

     

    The beaded feather activity and the other fine motor tasks listed above are a great addition to our popular 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!

    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.

    St. Patrick’s Day Activities for Building Skills

    St. Patrick's Day activities

    Looking for St. Patrick’s Day activities 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.

    St. Patrick’s Day Activities for Therapy

     
    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 PDFs

    Feeling lucky for some last minute St. Patty’s day treats? These materials are all click and go. You can download the St. patrick’s Day PDFs, print them off, and start using to develop fine motor skills, visual perception, handwriting, and more. 
     
     
    You’ll find shamrocks, clovers, and rainbow activities that kids will love:
     
     
    There are more free St. Patrick’s Day activities and downloads below, too. We’ve sorted these out by free slide decks, and activity areas. 
     

    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

     

    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 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.

    Visual Tracking Games

    toys for visual tracking

    Visual Tracking is an important part of everything we do and visual tracking games can be a valuable resource to improving visual tracking skills! For tasks such as reading and writing, however, the ability to track visually across a line of written text is essential for reading and fluency in reading.

    When kids read across a line of text in a book, they are using visual tracking skills to follow the line from word to work. When they follow a finger along lines in a book they are using visual tracking skills. When they shift their vision from one point to another, they use a combination of visual scanning and visual tracking skills. Visual tracking is a multi-faceted topic and you can read more about visual tracking and all that it entails in functional tasks here on the website.

    These visual tracking games will be a useful tool in helping kids with visual tracking needs to read, write, visually scan and complete other visual motor tasks, using fun tracking games and visual tools that kids will love to use in occupational therapy activities or as part of a therapy home program for visual tracking!
     

    Visual Tracking Games and Visual Tracking Activities for Kids

    So when visual tracking is such an important part of function and skills, how do you address this skill area? There are adaptations that can be put into place to help, such as prompting, cues, physical assists, and other tools. One way to work on visual tracking needed for functional tasks is to use visual tracking games in play and activities.

    Visual tracking games and activities can be a valuable asset for increasing this skill area in kids with visual tracking skill deficits or needs.

    Read on to find out more about visual tracking games and activities that may help  kids improve their visual tracking skills.

    But first,

    What does a Visual Tracking Problem Look Like?

    The games and activities listed below are important for kids who struggle with tracking of words and letters when reading, writing, or completing math. Visual Tracking problems may also present as difficulty with sports or coordination. Visual tracking may be evident in learning. There are many ways that a visual tracking concern can become evident. If one of these areas or functional abilities is a problem for your child, student, or client, then a visual screening can be very useful in identifying specific needs.

    Need help addressing visual problems in the classroom? Here are classroom accommodations for visual impairments

    Occupational Therapy Vision Screening Tool

    Occupational Therapists screen for visual problems in order to determine how they may impact functional tasks. Visual screening can occur in the classroom setting, in inpatient settings, in outpatient therapy, and in early intervention or home care.
     
    This visual screening tool was created by an occupational therapist and provides information on visual terms, frequently asked questions regarding visual problems, a variety of visual screening techniques, and other tools that therapists will find valuable in visual screenings.
     
    This is a digital file. Upon purchase, you will be able to access the 10 page file and print off to use over and over again in vision screenings and in educating therapists, teachers, parents, and other child advocates or caregivers.
     
     
     

    Visual Tracking Games for Kids

    Kids can play visual tracking games that are free or are fun games out on the market to address this skill area and improve visual tracking skills so that reading and writing are easier.

    Try some of these fun visual tracking games to help kids improve their visual tracking skills and they won’t even know they are “working”!

    Amazon affiliate links are included below.

    Badminton Game – Physical games and gross motor games like this one can help promote visual tracking across all visual fields including peripheral and in all directions (horizontal, vertical, circular, and diagonal).

    Pop and Catch Game – Combining fine motor skills like this Pop and Catch game can bring the target close to the body to challenge convergence in kids with visual tracking needs in a visual tracking activity that the whole family can enjoy.  

    Velcro Ball and Mitt – This visual tracking game combines gross motor and sensory components with resistive work that kids can use to challenge upper body strength while playing. Follow the target ball as it sails toward and away to challenge convergence of the eyes. This activity can easily be modified to meet various needs by using a brightly colored ball or moving closer or farther away. is a game kids can play indoors or outdoors while working on their visual tracking skills.

    Scoop ball -Try to scoop the ball while moving, while seated or while in a variety of positions and planes to add a graded component to this visual tracking game.

    Wham-O Track Ball -This classic visual tracking game is traditionally an outdoor lawn game for kids or adults, but it makes an awesome visual tracking game! When kids struggle with visual tracking skills, they can benefit from watching a moving target and challenges in visual tracking across various fields of vision. Play this visual tracking game indoors or outdoors. Why not add a prone component by playing while crawling or laying on the floor or while on a scooter board?

    Light Up Bouncy Ball – While any ball could potentially be used as a visual tracking tool, this light up ball can be used in a dark room or at night for a visual tracking game that kids can’t resist! Play a slow rolling game of catch or try to invoke spontaneous visual tracking skills by bouncing the ball against a wall in a darkened room. What fun!

    Glow in the Dark Ring Toss – This is another glow in the dark game that kids can play in a darkened space. The room doesn’t need to be completely dark to encourage visual tracking with this glowing game. Just close the blinds or play at night with a low light on and the glowing visual tracking can still happen! Ask the child to watch as the ring is tossed away from them. They child can also position themselves on the sidelines when they are waiting for their turn while others play, allowing for visual tracking across planes.

    Zoom Ball – This is a great therapy tool because the child can control and feel when the moving target is moving toward them and away from them. Zoom ball games can target visual tracking because the toy requires convergence as the child watches the target move between them and another player.

    Rocket Launch – There are many rocket launch toys on the market and any would work as a visual tracking tool. But this one is nice because it has the ability to change the angle so the rocket can be sent higher or at different angles. Kids can watch the brightly colored rocket as it sails through the air into unpredictable tracks and various fields of vision, including the peripheral.

    Slingshot Creatures – These fun creatures can be sent at targets or at any plane as a visual tracking tool. Kids will love shooting these creatures or watching them sail across the room!

    Parachute Toy – Parachute toys, flying discs, and other flying target toys are great for addressing visual tracking skills. Kids can toss them up or watch as they drop while following the target. This set includes lots of fun extras!

    Glowing Finger Slingshots – Flinger slingshots are a fun tool for targeting visual tracking skills. This visual tracking activity is one kids will love to engage with! Try them in a darkened room to encourage visual tracking as the glowing toy flies across the room!

    Flying slingshot copter – This is another slingshot activity that kids can shoot themselves while visual tracking as the target soars. Play indoors or outdoors. Visual tracking tools like this are motivating and a fun addition to goody bags or as a small gift idea.

    Handheld helicopter drone – This indoor or outdoor drone is a nice visual tracking tool that kids will love to send up and watch as it soars.  

    Need a resource to address visual tracking or need to know where to start with identifying visual tracking concerns?

    The Visual Tracking Screening Tool can help therapists screen for and identify visual problems that interfere with visual tracking, convergence, and other visual skills.

    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.

    Fingerplay songs for ot

    finger play songs

    This post is highlighting Fingerplay Songs as an excellent developmental tool. An important skill in child development, is the ability to use the fingers individually and together, and finger games are one way to just that! When holding a pencil, pick up cheerios, button, zip, or cut with scissors, you are using two or three fingers, and tucking the rest away! When typing on a keyboard, all of your fingers and thumbs must move individually, but at the same time, in order to type efficiently. Pay attention to what your hands and fingers do in a day, and you may be surprised!

    These fingerplay songs are perfect occupational therapy activities for developing fine motor skills.

    FINGERPLAY SONGS

    Finger skills development is essential to the preschool age, however play starts with babies! Check out this article on The OT Toolbox about Baby Play.

    There are many ways to encourage this fine motor development, but one of my favorites that doesn’t get enough attention (in my opinion, of course) is fingerplay songs! I do these silly finger plays all the time with my preschoolers during their OT time, or with any of my other students who wants to have fun.

    They won’t even know they are developing important motor skills while doing these finger play rhymes. Let’s break down the skills used in the most popular finger play song: Pat-A-Cake.

    Fingerplay Songs and Fine Motor Skills

    This is a classic finger play rhyming activity for thumb and index finger isolation! The term “finger isolation” will come up a few times in this article, so why is it important?

    When babies are born, their fingers all move together as one unit, and one hand tends to copy each other! The body of an infant can be seen as one moving piece, in comparison the movement as we develop, which is a complex system of moving pieces. In order to develop skills as we age, it is important to learn to isolate the movements of our hands and fingers from each other. 

    Activities that use the hands to complete motor tasks, sequencing of movements, and dexterous games include other fine motor skills too, including:

    You can see why fingerplay songs support child development!

    Pat-a-cake fingerplay song

    First, motor plan a pattern of movement. Add motor planning and bilateral coordination skills by alternating movements of patting hands on lap and clapping hands while chanting the words:

    • Pat-a-cake pat-a-cake baker’s man,   
    • Bake me a cake as fast as you can.  
    • Roll it. (rolling hands one over the other)
    • And pat it. (patting hands to lap)
    • And mark it with a B. (Index finger isolation to draw a B with your finger)
    • Put it in the oven for Baby and me! (reaching forwards with both arms)

    There are many ways to develop fine motor skills through play in addition to these fingerplay activity songs. Check out this post on Hands on Preschool Activities

    WHERE IS THUMBKIN Fingerplay song for preschoolers

    Where Is Thumbkin? | Songs For Kids | Sing Along With Tobee 

    This video does a great job of explaining the motions to this simple, easy to learn fingerplay rhyming song. The song starts at about marker one minute and thirty (1:30) seconds. 

    Fingerplay songs for fine motor

    Of course fine motor development comes from more than just fingerplay songs and rhymes, here is an article on developing Fine Motor Skills.

    FIVE LITTLE DUCKS interactive finger play song

    Here is a fingerplay song where the individual and cohesive movement of fingers really get to shine.  This video demonstrates the hand, finger, and arm movements to be used while singing. I find it best to sing to your child once you know the song, instead of playing the video for them. Make sure to show your child how it’s done by doing it with them! This is true for all of the preschool songs and fingerplays we share. 

    Five Little Ducks | Kids Songs & Nursery Rhymes | Learn to Count the Little Ducks

    While you watch the video and learn the movements, notice:

    • Finger isolation while counting,
    • Cohesive movement for the “quack, quack, quack”
    • Wiggling of the fingers as the ducks waddle away

    There are many books written to correspond to this song. Here is one I tend to reach for: Five Little Ducks. This one is “interactive” with little doors on the page that require a pincer grasp to pull open. This is another way to encourage important fine motor skills! 

    More fine motor resources for preschool

    If you are looking for more interactive books, to develop fine motor skill development, the OT Toolbox has you covered!

    Exploring Books Through Play: 50 Activities for developing finger and hand development

    ITSY-BITSY SPIDER silly fingerplay for preschoolers

    This is preschool fingerplay activity is by-far my favorite way to increase finger isolation and motor patterns in reluctant kids. In the video below, check out the wrist movements, wiggling fingers, and more, while interacting with a well recognized song! 

    The Itsy Bitsy Spider | Nursery Rhymes from Caitie’s Classroom

    Many young children, especially those with delayed fine motor control, are not able to motor plan the spider moving up the spout as shown in the video. However, they will adapt and create their own way, using the movement of only two or three fingers, while the rest are tucked away. This pattern is the building block for mature grasps. Sometimes, I teach the spider as the index fingers and thumbs touching in a circular pattern, instead of the L shape in the video. This adaptation may be less confusing for some. See what makes your child most successful! 

    boosting childhood development with action rhymes:

    Boosting Child Development with Action Rhymes and Fingerplay Songs

    OPEN AND SHUT THEM fingerplay chanting rhyme

    “Open and Shut Them” is a song I have used for years to keep babies occupied while I change their diapers. I knew a kindergarten teacher who used it to help transition her students to carpet time. This fingerplay song is useful for many different purposes, not just fine motor development and rhyming. It is a perfect addition to this list. There are many different versions of this song you can find online, but here is a video that clearly demonstrates the many different actions the hands and fingers can do!

    Open Shut Them Song| Circle Time Songs for Kids | Jack Hartmann Nursery Rhymes

    Did you notice the pinky finger isolation? What about the movement of two fingers, with the rest tucked away? These are advanced movements that are motivating and fun! 

    You may have noticed all of these fingerplay preschool songs are repetitive. This is perfect for increasing opportunities to practice and learn a new skill. They integrate movement of both hands and fingers in a particular sequence, which teaches and enhances motor planning. Additionally, singing songs such as these familiar preschool finger play rhymes in a group, or one-on-one develops social skills, and can build rapport with one another. It’s a win-win method to teaching important skills.

    If you are interested in teaching more fine motor skills, check out these resources from the OT Toolbox:

    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!

    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.

    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.  

    These scooping and pouring activities can also help with questions of being ambidextrous or simply having a mixed dominance present.

    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

    Spoon Scooping Activities

    When kids have trouble with holding a spoon to eat, you can try targeting functional grasp patterns so the child can feed themselves. This is possible with spoon scooping activities that target specific grasp patterns. While this can be accomplished through play and scooping play materials, it’s a great transfer of skills to scooping foods.

    Check out our video below that shows different activities to support the development of scooping with a spoon. This video is also available on YouTube- Using a Spoon: 3 Activities to Target Grasp Patterns.

    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. One idea we love is using water beads like in our purple sensory bin.

    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. Use crayons based on development, as we covered in a resource on the best crayons for young children.

    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

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

    Check out the seasonal Fine Motor Kits that kids love:

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

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

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