Preschool Occupational Therapy

preschool occupational therapy

For parents of preschool children that require occupational therapy services, there can be a lot of questions. Here, we’ll try to cover preschool occupational therapy services. OT for preschoolers and early intervention occupational therapy services can be a whole new world for parents of preschoolers!

Preschool occupational therapy information, including what OT looks like in preschool settings, and early intervention occupational therapy

Preschool Occupational Therapy

From 3-5, children are developing in so many ways. From motor skills to cognition, to language…the preschool age is a time of massive changes. Be sure to check out these preschool activities for hands-on strategies to impact learning and development during the preschool years.

For the youngest of learners, classroom concerns tend to be centered around achieving developmental milestones, learning proper social practices, and creating an environment that all children can learn and grow in.

What does OT Look Like in the Preschool?

Occupational therapists can work with teachers to improve and sustain an environment that will support the growth during this very important time in childhood.

What they learn in preschool partially determines their future success – particularly when it comes to social, emotional, and cognitive skills. In fact, studies over the years continue to show that socio-emotional intelligence in preschool and kindergarten is a great predictor of future academic success (Rhoadesa et al., 2011).

Early Intervention Occupational therapy

Typically early intervention is a service that works with children aged 3 and under. For some states in the United States, early intervention continues through age 5. For children in those states, early intervention occupational therapy can occur in preschool settings.

Early intervention occupational therapists focus on functional participation of tasks at home, in the school, and in naturally occurring environments such as daycares.

An occupational therapist working with a preschool may:

  • Complete assessments of skills of ability to achieve age-appropriate levels, developmental progression, etc.
  • Support parents, teachers, and the family unit of the child through a family-centered model.
  • Set-up the overall environment for occupational success.
  • Offer recommendations for sensory play to boost sensory integration skills.
  • Offer developmentally appropriate activities.
  • Create a library of books that promote the development of social and emotional skills.
  • Work collaboratively with preschool teachers to support the preschooler’s needs and offer support and suggestions to meet student’s needs
  • Adapt daily activities to support development.
  • Create a self-calming area and visuals such as class schedule, individual schedule, or task schedules within the home or classroom, or school-wide environment.
  • Encourage use of transition tools to help preschoolers move from one task to another.
  • Build a fine motor “gym” where students can develop fine motor skills while they play.
  • Recommend sensory deprivation materials like a tent, headphones, or sunglasses to calm an overwhelmed student. 
  • Or develop a program to boost core strength and trunk stability – both very important for sitting at a desk throughout the day.  

OT Assessments in Preschool

In preschools, occupational therapists may ask parents and teachers to complete a quick check list (with space to add comments). They will complete an evaluation and document observations made during the evaluation. They may complete a sensory profile either preschool or via a caregiver form. Evaluation may occur at the preschool, in the home, or in various locations within the school, home, or other natural settings such as daycare.

A play-based assessment will be completed to note the preschoolers abilities and levels using a variety of toys and items. Some common preschool OT assessments include the Peabody Developmental Motor Scales (PDMS–2), the Developmental Assessment of Young Children-2 (DAYC-2), the Miller Function and Participation Scales, and the Battelle Developmental Inventory, Second Edition (BDI-2).

Occupational therapy evaluations in preschool assess areas such as:

  • Reflexes- A child’s ability to automatically react to environmental events.
  • Functional Skills- A child’s ability to complete daily tasks required in the home and school as well as identify the amount of assistance the child needs.
  • Positioning, balance, posture- A child’s ability to sustain control of his or her body within its center of gravity and retain equilibrium.
  • Sensory Processing- Sensory processing abilities, baselines, and regulation during activities in the home, classroom, or other natural setting.
  • Social Emotional Development- A child’s ability to regulate emotions and behaviors in tasks and learning at age-appropriate abilities. This can include peer interaction, adult interaction, and family interaction.
  • Locomotion- A child’s ability to move from one place to another. The actions measured include crawling, walking, running, hopping, and jumping forward.
  • Object Manipulation- A child’s ability to hold and manipulate objects, toys, and materials of various sizes. Examples of the actions measured include catching, throwing, and kicking.
  • Grasping- A child’s ability to use his or her hands.
  • Visual-Motor Integration- A child’s ability to use his or her visual perceptual skills to perform complex eye-hand coordination tasks such as reaching and grasping for an object, building with blocks, and copying designs.

For more resources and tools on preschool occupational therapy and early intervention, check out this resource on OT Early Intervention.

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

Scoop, Pour, Transfer Activities

scooping, pouring, transferring activities

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

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

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

Scooping Activities for Toddlers

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

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

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

Benefits of Scooping, Pouring, and Transfering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other areas of fine motor development include

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scooping and Pouring Activities

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

Materials for this scooping and transferring activity include:

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

This activity is very easy to set up.  

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

Precautions for Pouring and Scooping Activities with Toddlers

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

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

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

Development of Scooping and Pouring skills in Toddlers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scooping and Pouring Preschool Activity

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

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

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

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

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

Hand preference in Preschool

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

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

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

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

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

Kindergarten Scooping, Pouring, and Transferring Activities

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

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

Pouring, Scooping and Transferring Activities

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

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

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

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

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

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

More fine motor activities you will love

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

Rainbow Sort Color Activity

rainbow sort fine motor activity

This rainbow sort activity is a fine motor skills idea to help kids sort colors while developing dexterity and precision and learning colors. By sorting the colors of the rainbow into small containers, a rainbow fine motor activity is a colorful way to help kids develop fine motor skills. Add this idea to your rainbow theme in therapy interventions, or home activities for developing motor skills.

Rainbow sort activity for fine motor skills in kids
Rainbow sort activity to help kids develop fine motor skills with a rainbow theme


Rainbow Sort

We have been on a rainbow kick recently and have a ton of rainbow projects going on right now.  This color sorting activity was a fun one that the big kids and my toddler really got into. 

This rainbow sort activity is easy to set up. All you need is colorful craft pom poms and an ice tray or two. The ice trays are the perfect size for the crafting pom poms.


Rainbow sort activity for kids to develop fine motor skills
Kids can sort the colors of the rainbow to work on fine motor skills


Preschool Rainbow Activities

This color sorting activity is great for toddlers to develop fine motor skills in the preschool and toddler years. Baby Girl (17 months) got right in there.
In the preschool years, fine motor skills are a precursor for handwriting and pencil grasp. This pre-writing activity is perfect for preschool aged children. 
Add this rainbow fine motor activity to the preschool classroom or home by adding tongs, tweezers, or scoops to help kids develop the precision, motor coordination, and eye-hand coordination skills kids need at the preschool age. 
Plus, this rainbow sort activity is a great way to teach preschoolers colors, too.
To work on pre-writing skills in other ways, try this rainbow prewriting activity available on a free slide deck. 
Tongs are a powerful fine motor tool to use in occupational therapy activities that develop fine motor skills. To elevate this fine motor activity, ask kids to make their own craft stick tongs to manipulate these colorful craft poms. Preschool children can sort the colors using different colored tongs that are easy to make.
Rainbow sorting fine motor activity for preschool
 She is ALWAYS watching the big kids and copies everything!
Look at that concentration.  And that cute little baby belly!   


Rainbow activity for fine motor skills in toddlers
I can’t stand the cuteness!
Toddler fine motor skills


Rainbow sort color learning activity for kids


Rainbow fine motor skills activity
Colors Handwriting Kit

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

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

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

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

Play Tunnel Activities

Play tunnels are one of the best tools for therapy as you can work on so many skills if you just put a little creativity into it. Tunnel activities simply invite kiddo fun and engagement while working on very important skill development across a spectrum of areas. You can use fabric tunnels or nylon, pop-up tunnels depending on the skills you want to address with tunnel play. With a little imagination you can build your own DIY tunnels too! Keep reading to get some play tunnel ideas using different materials. For home-based therapists, DIY tunnels are a great tool for families to use in the home environment providing an opportunity for a fun and easy to implement home-based program. Some of these tunnel activities for babies and tunnel activities for toddlers can be used to address specific needs through play.

Play tunnel activities using a sensory tunnel
Tunnel activity for sensory input

Play Tunnels and Sensory

During tunnel play, not only do therapists want to work on the obvious gross motor skills such as crawling, bilateral coordination, motor planning, core/neck/upper extremity strength, and body awareness. They also like to use tunnels for sensory needs such as vestibular and proprioceptive input. In the simplest of terms, the vestibular sense is known as the movement sense telling us where our body is in space, while the proprioceptive sense is known as the deep pressure sense telling us the direction, speed, and extent of our body movement in space. These senses are important to help a child develop balance, body awareness, understand the position of their body in space as well as knowing how much speed and pressure their bodies are exerting when completing an activity or moving within their environment.

Adding a play tunnel into sensory diet activities to meet a variety of needs. It’s an easy way to encourage sensory input in the school environment, home, or clinic.

Tunnel activities using pool noodles

So, you may be asking, how can children gather vestibular input from tunnel time activities? You can have children roll within the tunnel, perform various body movements such as forward and backward crawling, balancing on all fours while simply crawling through the tunnel, slither on their backs, or have them crawl in the tunnel placed on top of cushions and pillows.

Fabric tunnel for proprioceptive input.

Proprioceptive input can be obtained while the child is bearing weight on the upper and lower extremities during crawling providing input to the joints and muscles. They can push objects through the tunnel such as large therapy balls or large pillows, army crawl through the tunnel, and shaking the tunnel while child is inside can provide valuable proprioceptive input.

By using a play tunnel to address proprioception to improve body awareness, the proprioceptive sense allows us to position our bodies just so in order to enable our hands, eyes, ears, and other parts to perform actions or jobs at any given moment. Proprioception activities help with body awareness. Using a fabric tunnel that is snug against the body can provide good input which can also have a calming effect for some children.

DIY tunnel activity using cardboard boxes
Use these play tunnel activities to improve motor skills and sensory activities.

Play tunnel activities

When using a tunnel, you can work on other skills that address multiple areas for children. Try some of these fun tunnel time activities:

  1. Play Connect Four with pieces on one end and the game played on the other end.
  2. Assemble puzzles with pieces on one end and then transported through the tunnel to the other end.
  3. Clothespins attached on end to transport and place on the other end. You can use clothespins with letters to spell words.
  4. Push a large ball or pillow through the tunnel.
  5. Crawl backwards from one end to the other.
  6. Slither through the tunnel (rocking body left and right) to get from one end to the other.
  7. Scoot through the tunnel using hands and feet or even crab walk through the tunnel.
  8. Recall letters, shapes, or words from one end and highlight on paper at the other end.
  9. Recall a series of steps to complete a task at the other end.
  10. Blow a cotton ball or pom-pom ball through the tunnel. Kids love this to see how many they can blow in a timed fashion.
  11. With pennies on one end, have child transport them to the other end to insert into a bank. You can even give them the pennies at end of the session if you want.
  12. Push a car through the tunnel to drive it and park it at the other end.
  13. Build a Lego structure by obtaining blocks at one end of the tunnel and transporting to the other end to build.
  14. Intermittently crawl through the tunnel and lie within one end to work on a drawing or handwriting activity. This is just a different and motivating way to encourage handwriting practice.
  15. Crawl over pillows or cushions placed inside or outside of the tunnel.
  16. Use a flashlight and crawl through the tunnel gathering specific beads that have been placed inside to string at the other end of the tunnel. You could work on spelling words with letter beads or simply just string regular beads.
  17. Place Mat Man body pieces at one end and have child obtain pieces per verbal directive and then crawl through the tunnel to build at the other end.
DIY tunnel activity

DIY Play TUnnel Ideas

So, as mentioned previously, what if you don’t have a tunnel or you want to create one within a home for developing a home-based program? Well, make one! How can you do this? Read on for a few fun ideas.

  1. Create a tunnel by crawling under tables or chairs.
  2. Create a tunnel in the hallway with use of pool noodles. Bend them over in an arch to fit or simply cut them down to size to slide directly between the walls.
  3. Use large foam connecting mats and assemble a tunnel.
  4. Use tape or yarn and string to alternating walls down a hallway to crawl under.
  5. Use sturdy pieces of foam board positioned or connected together to make a tunnel.
  6. Use an elongated cardboard box. Sometimes you can get large boxes at an appliance, hardware, or retail store.
  7. Stretch a sheet or blanket over furniture and crawl.
  8. Simply place a sheet or blanket on the floor and have child crawl under it (a heavier blanket works well).
  9. Place a therapy mat inside a series of hula hoops.
  10. Use PVC pipe to build a tunnel. Add sensory items to the PVC frame to create a fun sensory element to the crawling experience. One such tunnel was built by my wonderful fieldwork student, Huldah Queen, COTA/L in 2016.  See the picture below.
  11. Sew a fabric tunnel (if you have that skill).
  12. Use pop up clothes hampers connected together after cutting out the bottoms.
  13. Simulate tunnel crawling with simple animal walks or moves.

Tunnel activities can facilitate child engagement while providing an optimal skill development setting.  Tunnel time can address gross motor and sensory needs while also incorporating other activities making tunnel time a skill building powerhouse tool. Incorporate fun fine motor and visual motor activities to make tunnel time a “want to do” activity every time!


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

Development of Eye-Hand Coordination

Development of eye hand coordination

Eye-hand coordination development typically occurs through movement, beginning at a very young age. The visual components of oculomotor skills (how the eyes move) include visual fixation, visual tracking (or smooth pursuits), and visual scanning. These beginning stages of child development play a big part down the road in taking in visual information and using it to perform motor tasks. 

Eye hand coordination develops from a very young age! Here is information about the development of visual motor skills, specifically eye hand coordination in babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.

Eye Hand Coordination Development

{These are general guidelines of development based on approximate development of the visual motor skills needed for play, motor skills, and visual motor development.}
Holding and talking to baby in the very young ages plays such an important part in the puzzle of visual motor skills. 

Additionally, tummy time and as the baby gains head strength and control, they eyes become stronger in their ability to fixate, track, and scan from the prone position. This is why we place toys around a baby on a baby blanket and encourage reach. That pivotal stage when baby begins to roll is a social media-worthy time in the parent’s life. But there is more to celebrate than baby’s new rolling skills. Control of the eyes with movement is a big accomplishment and something that baby strengthens with movement. 

Hand and Eye Coordination

These skill areas are broken down by months, all the way up through the preschool years. 

Disclaimer: Amazon affiliate links are included in this post.

     Tracking a rattle while lying on back                                    
     Tracking a rattle to the side                
     Infant regards their own hands
     Tracks a ball side to side as it rolls across a table left to right and right to left.
     Tracks a rattle while lying on back side to side
     Extends hands to reach for a rattle/toy while lying on back
     Reaches to midline for a rattle/toy while lying on back
     While lying on back, the infant touches both hands together.

Crawling on the hands and knees plays a vital role in eye hand coordination, too. When baby positions themselves up on all fours, they are gaining awesome proprioceptive input, strength in the shoulder girdle, core, and neck. When crawling, baby is gaining mobility, but also using targeted movement toward a goal they visually process. Research shows that hands-and-knees and walker-assisted locomotor experience facilitate spatial search performance. Spatial awareness and visual skill development is needed for coordinated use of the hands in motor tasks.

In fact, crawling improves so many areas needed for refined eye-hand coordination, including the fine motor skills, gross motor skills, balance, and strength needed for tasks like precision of in-hand manipulation, positioning in activities, and sustained endurance.

Eye hand coordination develops from infancy! Playing with baby in tummy time is a crucial element to eye hand coordination development.

     Brings hands together to grasp a block/toy while sitting supported on an adult’s lap
     Extends arm to reach up for a toy while laying on back
     Transfers a block/toy from one hand to the other while sitting supported on an adult’s lap.
     Touches a cereal piece with index finger
     Bangs a toy on a table surface while sitting supported on an adult’s lap

     Claps hands together

     Removes loose pegs from a Peg Board

     Removes socks
     Releases a cereal bit onto table surface
     Places blocks into a cup

A lot of eye hand coordination development occurs in the toddler years. Here are developmental milestones for eye hand coordination from 1-3 years.

Development of Eye Hand Coordination for Toddlers

     Turns pages in a board book
     Imitates stirring a spoon in a cup

     Imitates tapping a spoon on a cup
     Begins to places large puzzle pieces in a beginner puzzle

     Scribbles on paper

     Imitates building a tower of 2-3 blocks

     Builds a block tower, stacking 4-5 blocks

     Imitates copying vertical lines

     Removes a screw top lid on a bottle
     Stacks 8 blocks
     Begins to snip with scissors

     Imitates horizontal strokes with a marker
     Strings 2 Beads
     Imitates folding a piece of paper (bending the paper and making a crease, not aligning the edges)

     Imitates building a train with blocks
     Strings 3-4 Beads
     Stacks 10 blocks

     Builds a “bridge” with three blocks

     Copies a circle

     Builds a “wall” with four blocks

Eye hand development continues in the preschool years. Here are ways that eye hand coordination develops in preschool and how to improve these visual motor skills.

Eye hand Coordination in Preschoolers

     Cuts a paper in half with scissors

     Lace 2-3 holes with string on Lacing Shapes
     Copies a cross

     Cuts within 1/2 inch of a strait line.
     Traces a horizontal line

     Copies a square
     Cuts a circle within 1/2 inch of the line
     Build “steps” with blocks

     Connects two dots to make a horizontal line.
     Cuts a square within 1/2 inch of the line
     Builds a “pyramid” with blocks

     Folds a piece of paper in half with the edges parallel
     Colors within lines

There is so much happening through regular play, interaction with babies and toddlers at each stage. What’s important to know is that the development doesn’t stop there! 

Studies have shown that eye-hand coordination impacts learning, communication, social-emotional skills, attention, and focus. Wow! 

Coordination Skills

Here are some ideas to work on eye-hand coordination for preschooler kids and older: 
This Letter Eye Hand Coordination Activity helps with bilateral coordination and the visual processing skills needed for reading and so many other skills. 

Try this scooping and pouring eye-hand coordination activity that can be adjusted to meet the needs of many ages and abilities.

More visual processing activities

For even MORE information on eye-hand coordination and activities to use in your occupational therapy practice, you will want to join our free visual processing lab email series. It’s a 3-day series of emails that covers EVERYthing about visual processing. We take a closer look at visual skills and break things down, as well as covering the big picture of visual needs.

In the visual processing lab, you will discover how oculomotor skills like smooth pursuits make a big difference in higher level skills like learning and executive function. The best thing about this lab (besides all of the awesome info) is that it has a fun “lab” theme. I might have had too much fun with this one 🙂

Join us in visual processing Lab! Where you won’t need Bunsen burners or safety goggles!

Click here to learn more about Visual Processing Lab and to sign up.

Free visual processing email lab to learn about visual skills needed in learning and reading.
Work on eye-hand coordination with preschoolers by building with blocks!
Try activities like geoboards, pegboards, and lacing beads to improve eye hand coordination development in kids.

Kermoian, Rosanne & Campos, Joseph. (1988). Locomotor Experience: A Facilitator of Spatial Cognitive Development. Child development. 59. 908-17. 10.2307/1130258. 

Christmas Activities for Preschoolers

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, so many of us occupational therapists, teachers, and parents are looking for fun and easy holiday activities for preschoolers. You’ve probably seen the Christmas excitement as kids get amped up for Santa, Christmas trees, candy canes, presents, and the upcoming holiday!  

Why not mix therapy and learning with a Christmas theme and build on that excitement?

With the Christmas activities for preschoolers listed below, you’ll be able to add some learning or therapy work into holiday activities, all while getting into the Christmas spirit in the preschool classroom!

This collection of preschool activities with a Christmas theme is part of this week’s Christmas Activities week here on The OT Toolbox. Each day this week, we’re rounding up collections of holiday themed activities, crafts, games, and ideas to fill your therapy toolbox. 

If you missed the previous collections this week, check out Monday’s post on Christmas Activities for Toddlers and Tuesday’s Christmas Crafts for Kids.

Be sure to stop back each day this week to catch all of the holiday fun! 



These Christmas Activites for Preschoolers are perfect for adding festive holiday fun in the preschool classroom or at home to help preschoolers work on skills like fine motor skills and other areas of development.


Christmas Activities for Preschoolers

Now on to today’s collection of activities that preschoolers will love all while working on the skills your kids need!

Use this icicle scissor skills craft to help preschoolers work on scissor skills in a fun Christmas activity that preschool aged kids will love!



Work on Scissor Skills- Preschoolers are just getting the hang of managing scissors in one hand and the paper in another, all while snipping along a line. This Icicle Scissor Skills Craft is perfect for the preschool age range. It’s got simple lines that can be adjusted in width to meet the child’s needs and can be a huge help in teaching preschoolers to manage and turn paper to cut angles. Then, hang those icicles in the window and your preschooler will feel so proud of their work! 



Use this threading activity to help preschool kids work on fine motor skills in a fun Christmas activity that preschoolers will love.

Work on Bilateral Coordination- Kids in preschool are just learning to manage clothing, tools, and other tasks that require coordinated movement of both hands with greater precision. Tasks like buttoning and zippering clothing require bilateral coordination with fine motor work. This Recycled Lid Ornament Garland is a power tool in promoting bilateral coordination and refined dexterity in order to thread and create ornaments. This Christmas activity is another that a preschooler will be proud of. Hang the garland on a tree or across a window sill.

Need Christmas activities for preschoolers? Combine a marble run with jingle bells to promote fine motor skills and visual processing skills with a Christmas theme.


Work on Visual Tracking Skills- Visual tracking is a necessary skill for reading and writing. While preschoolers aren’t at this stage yet, they soon will be! That makes a marble run a fantastic visual processing tool for building a base n the skills kids need down the road. Add a Christmas twist with jingle bells on the marble run! It’s perfect on the floor or in a sensory table and is a fun activity preschoolers will love this season.
Preschoolers will love this Christmas Tree Activity that helps improve scissor skills.


Work on Scissor Skills with a Christmas Tree Craft- Just like the icicle craft listed above, this Christmas Tree Scissor Skills Activity is perfect for preschoolers who are developing and refining their scissor skills. Use thicker paper like cardstock (or even green paper plates!) for younger kids who are still learning to work those scissors! You can encourage preschoolers to cut through to the edge instead of turning the paper when first learning to cut angled lines. 


Use these Christmas activities to help preschoolers work on areas like scissor skills, pre-writing skills, and more.
Encourage Sensory Play- The preschool age is the perfect time to encourage sensory play with sensory bins. You can use any sensory bin fillers and create a sensory bin based on infinite themes! Here are lots of Christmas Carol Sensory Bin ideas. Use them to promote visual motor skills like scooping and pouring through tactile sensory play. This Away in a Manger Sensory Bin is just one of the ideas.


This Christmas activity for preschoolers is a fun way to work on fine motor skills.
Build Shoulder and Wrist Stability on a Vertical Surface- Working on a vertical surface like an easel is a powerful way to strengthen the shoulder and wrist. This Christmas Tree Sensory Activity combines scissor work with fine motor skills and sensory play.
Promote Hand Strength with a Counting Activity- This Christmas Counting Activity is a DIY activity that uses clothespins and fun Christmas decorations to work on fine motor skills and early math. 
Work on Pre-Writing Skills- Working on pre-writing lines is a powerful early writing skill for preschoolers. These Christmas Pre-Writing Activities can give preschoolers the tools they need to form letters. Teaching horizontal and vertical lines, crosses, curved lines, diagonal lines, “X”s, and simple shapes can be completed with a Christmas theme to make things fun this time of year. 
This Christmas craft for preschool kids is easy to make in the preschool classroom and is a fun DIY gift tag or DIY wrapping paper kids can make.
Work on Direction Following- This Christmas Tree Stamp Art is a process art craft that preschoolers can make as a gift tags or DIY wrapping paper for family! Stamp Christmas trees, while working on fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination to dot on paint decorations with a cotton swab. This stamp art is a hit with kids! 

Looking for more Christmas activities? Stop back the rest of this week for more holiday ideas that boost development through movement and play.

Preschool activities with a Christmas theme
Need Christmas theme activities for preschoolers? Here are a ton of ideas!

Christmas Writing Activity

In preschool, children it is developmentally appropriate to work on letter recognition, saying letters, singing letters, and fine motor play with letters. So often, we see kiddos who are being asked to write letters or even words before they have developed the fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination to even manage a pencil. It happens very often, and it can lead to kids who struggle down the road with pencil grasp, visual motor skills in writing, letter formation, and other concerns. 

I wanted to include in this post a link to Christmas paper for older kids. Note that the lined paper below is not recommended for the preschool age set. Even the pre-k kiddos who are 5 who may be working on letter formation, writing numbers, and name writing, shouldn’t be given the Christmas paper below. THe lines and spacing is just too much for this age. 

I did want to include the paper here for our older kids. Many times therapists and parents are seeking out resources that fit a variety of needs in age ranges. The modified lined paper is Christmas and winter-themed for writing with awareness of spacing and lines. Remember that these lined paper resources shouldn’t be used with preschoolers, just school-aged kids on up!


Christmas modified paper for holiday handwriting for kids

SALE! Save 25% on Modified Christmas Paper NOW THROUGH CYBER MONDAY.

Coupon code is HOLIDAY25

Use the Christmas modified paper handwriting pack to work on handwriting, letter size, letter formation, and legibility with meaningful and motivating activities:

  • Letters to Santa
  • Wish List
  • Holiday To-Do List
  • Shopping List
  • Thank You Notes
  • Recipe Sharing
  • Winter Writing Prompts

Click here to get your packet.

Checkers Math Pre Coding without an App

Today we’re sharing how we use an every day game and household item like checkers in math for preschoolers and a pre-coding activity.  Coding for kids is a new and very important skill. You can swing by our coding for kids Pinterest board for more ideas.  Checkers are a basic manipulative that can be counted, patterned, sorted, and used in step-by-step tasks for pre-requisites to coding without a computer or app. 

This post is part of our month-long Learning with Free Materials series, part of the 31 Days of Homeschooling Tips as we blog along with other bloggers with learning at home tips and tools.
Using checkers in math and pre- coding activities for preschoolers and kids. Coding ideas without using a a computer or app

Math for Kids using checkers

This post contains affiliate links.  

We play a game of checkers
a few times a week. It’s always a hit when we need a little down time or quiet game. We’ve been using my husband’s old checkerboard from his younger days, so it’s a game that we’ve always had around the house.  Recently, we’ve been using the game pieces in math activities with my preschoolers and school-aged kids.

The bright and bold colors of the checkers pieces makes them a great patterning tool.  Preschool-aged kids can practice AB, ABA, ABB, BAA, and more complicated patterns.  Patterning is a skill needed in coding, so this is a great beginning skill to develop.

Ask your preschoolers to sort the colors into stacks and piles of red and black chips.  Manipulating the chips really can be challenging to a child’s fine motor skills.  Be sure to read up on our manipulating coins fine motor post for information on in-hand manipulation, translation, stacking with coins and chips.

Work on counting with the chips.  Count them out into columns of tens.  Practice counting by base ten and and adding ones to get double digits.  Remove single chips to practice subtraction from double digits. 

Pre-Coding Activity for Kids with Checkers

A big part of coding (at least what I understand from my husband) is the task of getting from one point to another in a problem while thinking out the process before it happens.  We love to play a game of “Shifting Pyramids” with our checkers board.  

To play Shifting Pyramids:
Use the pieces to form a pyramid with ten red chips on one side of the checkerboard and a pyramid with ten black chips on the opposite side of the checkerboard.  Only black squares are used for the game.  Players move their men forward, either by single spaces or by jumping their own or their opponents’ men in a single jump or a series of jumps.  Men that are jumped are not removed from the board.  The winner is the player who re-forms his pyramid on the opposite side of the checker board.  
Playing Shifting Pyramids requires a player to think ahead as they attempt to flip their pyramid to the other side of the checkerboard.  We typically play with only one pyramid to begin with (all red or all black pieces) to work out the steps of flipping the pyramid.  Often times, a pattern of chip movements develops. Further the activity by using the red and black chips as symbols and create a message with the “code”.

To work on more pre-coding skills, stop by and visit our coding for kids Pinterest board.  You’ll find activities related to patterns, strep-by-step thought processes, abstract thinking, using symbols, and more.

Using checkers in math and pre- coding activities for preschoolers and kids. Coding ideas without using a a computer or app

Using checkers in math and pre- coding activities for preschoolers and kids. Coding ideas without using a a computer or app
Looking for more coding games and activities?  Try some of these pre-coding games for kids:

Robot Turtles Game
Color Code
LightUp Edison Kit 
Dash & Dot Robot

Rainbow Play: Foam sheets on the window!

We have had a fun little activity going on here alllll week. 
We cut foam sheets into strips and gold coins.
But didn’t have a black foam sheet for the pot of gold. 
What could be used…oh, a take out container would work!
This was on the little table and I put it by the door:
Foam strips, foam gold coins, foam black pot, and a little bowl of water.
Everyone had so much fun with this!  They played for a looong time.
And ever since, when a piece falls down, they will go into the bathroom and wet the piece under the sink and put it back up. 

 Baby Girl loved this activity!  It took a whole 15 minutes before she drank the water in the bowl.  I was surprised it took that long. 🙂
We have been doing so many fun Rainbow play activities this week.  Little Guy has a new line when we say the colors of the rainbow:  “Don’t forget the indigo and violet, Mom”.