Butterfly exercises

butterfly yoga exercises

This week’s occupational therapy theme is all about the butterfly activities. And, these butterfly exercises help with coordination, motor panning, coordination, and add heavy work input. You’ll love the butterfly yoga activities that are fun, motivating, and engaging! Add these butterfly gross motor exercises to your Spring occupational therapy activities.

butterfly yoga exercises

In this free slide deck, you’ll love the heavy work and gross motor coordination activities with a butterfly theme. Butterfly exercises get those kiddos moving and building coordination skills so they can move, play, and develop skills.

Butterfly exercises

Kids will love these gross motor exercises that challenge the following skills in kids:

  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Motor planning
  • Crossing midline
  • Movement changes
  • Sequencing

When kids follow along with the visual images in the slides, they can work on planning out gross motor actions, crossing midline, and building core strength that helps with attention, following directions, and getting much needed proprioceptive and vestibular sensory input.

These are fantastic butterfly gross motor activities for preschool, Pre-K and grade-school kids as a brain break that builds gross motor skills.

Butterfly yoga

In the slide deck are butterfly yoga positions to challenge balance and build strength. These exercises use a variety of yoga positions with a butterfly theme. Some of the activities use the butterfly yoga pose and others have visual images of a butterfly net or other images to make the yoga exercises motivating and fun for kids.

Can they balance on one foot while pretending to catch a butterfly with their net?

Butterfly gross motor activities

You’ll also love the deep breathing exercise in the slide deck to encourage deep breathing. Try using this deep breathing exercise while doing the butterfly yoga!

MORE BUTTERFLY ACTIVITIES

Use the butterfly life cycle heavy work activities in the Heavy Work Cards to work on calming proprioceptive input.

Butterfly Exercises Slide Deck

Want to add these butterfly yoga and butterfly exercises to your therapy toolbox? Enter your email address into the form below to access this slide deck.

Note that if you are using a school system’s email address, the PDF delivery may be blocked by your institution or workplace as a result of your system’s security measures. A personal email address may be better used.

Butterfly Exercises Slide Deck!

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    Spring Fine Motor Kit

    Score Fine Motor Tools and resources and help kids build the skills they need to thrive!

    Developing hand strength, dexterity, dexterity, precision skills, and eye-hand coordination skills that kids need for holding and writing with a pencil, coloring, and manipulating small objects in every day task doesn’t need to be difficult. The Spring Fine Motor Kit includes 100 pages of fine motor activities, worksheets, crafts, and more:

    Spring fine motor kit set of printable fine motor skills worksheets for kids.
    • Lacing cards
    • Sensory bin cards
    • Hole punch activities
    • Pencil control worksheets
    • Play dough mats
    • Write the Room cards
    • Modified paper
    • Sticker activities
    • MUCH MORE

    Click here to add this resource set to your therapy toolbox.

    Spring Fine Motor Kit
    Spring Fine Motor Kit: TONS of resources and tools to build stronger hands.

    Grab your copy of the Spring Fine Motor Kit and build coordination, strength, and endurance in fun and creative activities. Click here to add this resource set to your therapy toolbox.

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

    Flower Balance Activities

    Flower balance activities

    Want to help kids with balance, coordination, strength, and mobility? Need some core strengthening and stability activities to help with balance and vestibular integration? These flower balance activities are fun ways to help kids work on these very areas so they are able to move, play, learn, and function in day to day tasks. And, it’s all packaged up in a free Google slide deck so you can use these balance exercises in therapy sessions, at home, in the classroom, or clinic. These are Spring gross motor activities that really build skills!

    Balance activities slide deck with a flower theme to use in teletherapy sessions.

    Balance Activities

    You’ll find a lot of balance activities and exercises here on The OT Toolbox. We’ve shared balance beams, obstacle courses, brain breaks, prone extension activities, movement activities, and vestibular activities before. you may have even seen this DIY wobble disk made from ice. All of these activities are so great to help kids develop strength, coordination, movement pattern skills, and get them moving through play.

    Core strengthening is just one benefit of these balance activities kids can copy. We’ve talked before about core strength and it’s relationship to handwriting and other functional tasks.

    Flower balance activities for kids

    The free slide deck that I have available today, adds just one more balance tool into your therapy toolbox. It’s a fun way to challenge kids to move while copying visual images of body positioning. These exercises integrate visual processing to see the image and copy the positioning as well as motor skills as kids coordinate their body to move their arms or legs into the correct positioning.

    I’ve tried to use both sides of the body in this flower balance activity, so they can work on left-right discrimination as well.

    Flower balance activities

    When kids incorporate one leg stance, and holding a body position in a squat or lunge, they are adding proprioceptive input, so they gain the calming regulatory benefits, too.

    Flower balance exercises

    And, the therapy slide decks use a flower icon in various positions on each slide. So the user can copy the form by placing a pillow, stuffed animal, roll of socks, or bean bag into different places while maintaining balance. This can be a real challenge for some children!

    Flower deep breathing exercise

    There is a fun flower deep breathing exercise in the slide deck as well.

    Free Balance Exercise Slide Deck

    Want to use this free slide deck in teletherapy, in home programs, or in the classroom as a brain break? Just enter your email address into the form below.

    NOTE- Due to an increase in security measures, many readers utilizing a work or school district email address have had difficulty accessing downloads from the delivery email. Consider using a personal email address and forwarding the download to your work account.

    Flower Balance Activities Slide Deck!

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      Spring Fine Motor Kit

      Score Fine Motor Tools and resources and help kids build the skills they need to thrive!

      Developing hand strength, dexterity, dexterity, precision skills, and eye-hand coordination skills that kids need for holding and writing with a pencil, coloring, and manipulating small objects in every day task doesn’t need to be difficult. The Spring Fine Motor Kit includes 100 pages of fine motor activities, worksheets, crafts, and more:

      Spring fine motor kit set of printable fine motor skills worksheets for kids.
      • Lacing cards
      • Sensory bin cards
      • Hole punch activities
      • Pencil control worksheets
      • Play dough mats
      • Write the Room cards
      • Modified paper
      • Sticker activities
      • MUCH MORE

      Click here to add this resource set to your therapy toolbox.

      Spring Fine Motor Kit
      Spring Fine Motor Kit: TONS of resources and tools to build stronger hands.

      Grab your copy of the Spring Fine Motor Kit and build coordination, strength, and endurance in fun and creative activities. Click here to add this resource set to your therapy toolbox.

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

      Free Heavy Work Activities Cards

      Heavy work activity cards Spring themed gross motor tasks

      Today’s free resource in the Spring Week tools are these free Heavy Work activities in printable card version, with a Spring theme! These are just the thing to get kids moving and adding much-needed gross motor movement into the classroom, home, or occupational therapy session. I modeled these printable exercise cards off our heavy work teletherapy activities freebie, so these are the perfect addition to your therapy toolbox.

      Heavy work activities with a Spring theme to add gross motor exercise and brain breaks as well as sensory processing input.

      Heavy Work Activities

      Heavy work activities help kids to incorporate balance, endurance, and motor planning into functional activities. By integrating the proprioceptive sense and vestibular sense, or balance, equilibrium, position in space, and movement, kids are able to better move their body with awareness of how their body moves. This body awareness is needed for most every activity.

      Adding resistance, or heavy work activates the muscles and joints in the body and “wakes them up”. Proprioception and calming vestibular work can have an organizing effect on kids. This enables a ready state for completing tasks.

      Getting kids to incorporate the whole-body movements that they need to regulate and develop strong, healthy bodies isn’t always easier, now more than ever. That’s where the Spring Gross Motor activities come into play. These are whole body activity, Spring-themed activities that make fun brain breaks.

      Functional Heavy Work

      Many heavy work activities can be incorporated right into the daily tasks. Things like pushing a vacuum, moving furniture, carrying a laundry basket are day-to-day chores that add a ton of heavy work input.

      Other heavy work tasks can integrate these senses as well.

      Tasks like using a moldable eraser, coloring with crayons vs. markers, or pulling on socks offer heavy work just as well, on a smaller scale.

      These are all strategies that play into a sensory lifestyle, or a sensory diet that is well ingrained into the day-to-day tasks. You can learn more about creating a sensory lifestyle into every day activities in my book, The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook.

      Heavy Work and Gross Motor Skills

      There’s more about heavy work than just sensory processing benefits.

      Heavy work tasks improve balance, core strength, motor planning, equilibrium needed for movement changes, stability, coordination, and movement patterns. All of these skills require equilibrium of the vestibular system for movement and changes in planes. They also require position in space changes. Heavy work has so many benefits!

      There’s more: Heavy work input also incorporates areas such as range of motion, flexibility, motor planning, crossing midline, muscle tone, and core stability.

      Free Heavy Work Activity Cards

      Would you like to get your hands on a set of free heavy work printable activities? This is a free download you can print off and use in therapy sessions, in home programs, as classroom brain breaks, and to just get those kids moving.

      To grab this free resource, enter your email address into the form below.

      FREE Spring Heavy Work Cards

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        More heavy work brain breaks and Spring activities

        You can find more Spring brain breaks and heavy work activities in the Spring Occupational Therapy Activities Pack. Right now, it’s a BONUS add-on to our newly released Spring Fine Motor Kit!

        Spring Fine Motor Kit

        Score Fine Motor Tools and resources and help kids build the skills they need to thrive!

        Developing hand strength, dexterity, dexterity, precision skills, and eye-hand coordination skills that kids need for holding and writing with a pencil, coloring, and manipulating small objects in every day task doesn’t need to be difficult. The Spring Fine Motor Kit includes 100 pages of fine motor activities, worksheets, crafts, and more:

        Spring fine motor kit set of printable fine motor skills worksheets for kids.
        • Lacing cards
        • Sensory bin cards
        • Hole punch activities
        • Pencil control worksheets
        • Play dough mats
        • Write the Room cards
        • Modified paper
        • Sticker activities
        • MUCH MORE

        Click here to add this resource set to your therapy toolbox.

        Spring Fine Motor Kit
        Spring Fine Motor Kit: TONS of resources and tools to build stronger hands.

        Grab your copy of the Spring Fine Motor Kit and build coordination, strength, and endurance in fun and creative activities. Click here to add this resource set to your therapy toolbox.

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

        Heavy Work in Teletherapy Slide Deck

        Spring heavy work activities for teletherapy

        Offering sensory, heavy work in teletherapy doesn’t need to be difficult. Wondering how to support sensory kids virtually? Need ideas to help with attention or focus in the classroom? This free teletherapy slide deck covers an area that is much needed for many children. We know that kids today need to move more. But did you know the part that heavy work plays into development and self-regulation strategies in kids?

        We see it all the time: kids in teletherapy or in the virtual classroom that just can’t sit still or pay attention. And there’s a lot going on when screens are involved. The research on screen time is telling. But other times, kids are just being kids and movement is needed! Brain breaks and movement breaks are as necessary as hydration and eating healthy meals when it comes to learning.

        What is Heavy Work?

        Heavy work is a sensory strategy that helps children regulate so they are at a calm-ready state of learning and participation in tasks. For kids, heavy work helps them know where their body is in space by using the proprioceptive sensory system.

        When deep heavy input is offered, the child challenges their proprioceptive system. Input in the child’s muscles and joints lets their brain know about body position, weight, pressure, stretch, movement and changes in position in space.  Then, the body is able to grade and coordinate movements based on the way muscles move, stretch, and contract. In this way, the proprioceptive system allows us to apply more or less pressure and force in a task.

        Proprioception and that heavy work input occurs when we lift, jump, pull, carry, hug, snuggle, crash, climb, push, etc. All of these movements incorporate the muscles and joints and offer “heavy work” input.
        Kids who may benefit from heavy work input might do some of these things:

        • Appear clumsy
        • Fidget when asked to sit quietly.
        • Show an increased activity level or arousal level.
        • Seek intense proprioceptive input by “crashing and bashing” into anything.
        • Slap their feet when walking.
        • Flap hands.
        • Use too much or too little force on pencils, scissors, objects, and people.
        • “No fear” when jumping or walking down stairs.
        • Or, are overly fearful of walking down steps/jumping.
        • Look at their body parts (hands/feet) when completing simple tasks.
        • Sit down too hard or miss chairs when sitting.
        • Fall out of their seat.
        • Fluctuates between over-reacting and under-reacting in response to stimulation.
        • Constantly on the move.

        Heavy work is a huge part of sensory diets that are created to help kids organize their sensory systems and regulate those sensory needs.

        Occupational therapists recommend heavy work to calm and help kids pay attention. And, if there were any time that heavy work was more needed, it might be during virtual learning.

        For more heavy work ideas that cover a variety of themes, grab a copy of the Heavy Work Movement cards.

        Spring activities that offer heavy work sensor input

        Heavy Work Teletherapy Activity

        So how do you incorporate heavy work and all the benefits of proprioceptive sensory input into a teletherapy or virtual learning environment?

        That’s where this heavy work virtual therapy slide deck comes into play. I created this slide deck as part of our free slides here on the site, as a support for therapists working with kids in virtual environments. We know that kids need movement to support learning and development of motor skills. They need to move and get that heavy work feedback so they can pay attention, focus, and learn.

        This heavy work activity does just that.

        Therapists (or teachers, or parents) can use this heavy work activity to help kids get the deep resistive input that they need.

        Kids can go through the slide deck and complete each activity. The slides use Spring images and concepts to incorporate proprioception and to offer FUN ways to add heavy work and help kids calm or regulate their sensory needs.

        Spring heavy work activities for teletherapy include crawling like a bear that is waking up from hibernation.

        Spring heavy work activities in the slide include:

        • Digging in dirt
        • Pushing a wheelbarrow
        • Crawling like a bear coming out of hibernation
        • Waddling like a duckling
        • MORE!

        Users can act out each heavy work activity on the slides and work on motor planning, coordination, bilateral coordination, gross motor skills, AND gain the benefits of heavy work input!

        Free heavy work slide deck

        Want this slide deck in your therapy toolbox? Enter your email address into the form below to access this free slide on your Google drive.

        Heavy Work Activities Slide Deck!

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

          heavy work cards for regulation, attention, and themed brain breaks
          Heavy Work Movement Activity Cards

          Friendship Skills- Personal Space

          friendship skills for personal space and body awareness with a free therapy slide deck for teletherapy

          Part of building friendship skills is teaching kids to have an awareness of personal space with those around them. Body awareness is a big part of this, especially when social distancing is something to consider. Friendship skills involve a variety of pieces of the bigger social emotional skills picture and a component of that is personal space. Read more about the part that personal space plays in friendship skills, including personal space/body awareness activities. You’ll also find a free therapy slide deck to help children with the friendship skill of personal space and body awareness. If strategies to address friendship skills is needed for your clients, also try this writing about friendship slide deck.

          Friendship skills for personal space and body awareness using gross motor activities in a free therapy slide deck.

          Children who struggle with social and emotional development, and those with specific sensory preferences may show personal space issues that could be related to body awareness needs. For these needs, occupational therapists can offer several suggestions and interventions.

          Occupational therapists have the ability to play a role in social skills training in children. Included in this support is activities designed to improve social and emotional skills.

          One study indicated that children who participated in a friendship skills group in occupational therapy. The researchers found that children receiving the social skills training group showed improved friendship skills and quality of friendship as reported by the children’s parents.

          Personal Space and Body Awareness

          Some strategies to address personal space and body awareness can include:

          • Develop strategies specific to the child to address the individual’s preferences
          • Offer strategies for self-regulation
          • Offer strategies for controlling inhibitions
          • Focusing on spatial relations
          • Teach self-regulation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, self-awareness, and mindfulness, to decrease anxiety while improving body awareness
          • Incorporate play into spatial concepts such as over, under, around, and through
          • Body drawing activities
          • Body part naming activities
          • Obstacle courses
          • Proprioceptive activities
          • Coach the child to state their preferences for personal space in a given situation
          • Map activities for teaching spatial concepts
          • Set up a small social skills group for a low-stress social gathering
          • Offer instruction in sensory tactics that can help to calm or regulate sensory needs such as deep breathing exercises, heavy work input, or deep pressure
          • Sensory integration occupational therapy interventions
          • Practice social skills interactions that may come up in a given situation
          • Work on working memory so the individual can pull from past successful situations
          • Work on foresight so the individual can think ahead of tools they might need in a given situation
          • Incorporate dance and music
          • Body awareness games and activities such as Simon Says, Twister, and the Hokey Pokey
          • Body awareness positioning activities

          Because of the need many children have with developing an awareness of personal space, and the part that plays into friendship skills, I wanted to create a free Google slide deck to work on these skills.

          You’ll see that the therapy slide deck pairs friendship with body awareness activities so that kids can practice various gross motor body positioning challenges.

          These free slides offer movement activities to incorporate proprioceptive and vestibular input, as well as motor planning challenges. All of these activities challenge movement changes and body awareness.

          Friendship skills gross motor activity for body awareness and personal space awareness.

          Users can go through the slides and visually track from left to right as they complete each gross motor activity. There is an interactive portion of the slide deck when used in “edit mode” in Google slides. Kids can slide the round dot along the arrow to complete each gross motor activity in sequence.

          This motor planning activity challenges body awareness needed for personal space awareness as a friendship skill. Kids can challenge themselves in movement, motor planning, bilateral coordination, core strength, and movement changes for addressing personal space considerations as they learn how their body moves through space.

          Free Body Awareness Slide Deck

          Want to get a free Google slide deck to help kids with personal space and body awareness? This friendship theme activity deck is a fun way to get kids moving and gaining an awareness of their body and how it moves through space.

          Enter your email into the form below. You will be emailed a PDF so you can access this slide deck at any time.

          Before clicking the button on your PDF, be sure you are logged into your Google account. Make a copy and share the slide deck with anyone on your therapy caseload.

          FREE Friendship Skills Body Awareness Activities Slide Deck

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            MORE SOCIAL Skills RESOURCES

            Want to help kids explore social and emotional learning through play? Exploring Books Through Play inspires social and emotional development though play based on children’s books. The specifically chosen books explore concepts such as differences, acceptance, empathy, and friendship.

            Exploring Books Through Play: 50 Activities Based on Books About Friendship, Acceptance and Empathy is filled with hands-on activities rooted in interactive, hands-on, sensory play that focus on creating a well-rounded early childhood education supporting growth in literacy, mathematics, science, emotional and social development, artistic expression, sensory exploration, gross motor development and fine motor skills. Kids can explore books while building specific skills in therapy sessions, as part of home programs, or in the home.

            Click here to explore acceptance, empathy, and friendship through play.

            social emotional activities for kids

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

            Gross Motor Toys

            Gross motor toys

            Kids need gross motor movement for so many skills. Today, I have gross motor toys to share! Here, you’ll find the best whole body toys and ideas to help kids with balance, core strength, stability, coordination, and endurance. Scroll on to check out some therapist-approved toys that help gross motor skill development!

            Gross motor toys to help kids develop skills in running, hopping, jumping, skipping, crawling, and more.

            Gross Motor Toys

            This list of toys for gross motor skills pairs well with our recent list of Fine Motor Toys. Today however, you’ll find toys that develop a few areas that are essential to areas of child development:

            Bilateral Coordination– Kids need bilateral coordination in whole body movements to move their body in a coordinated way. These whole body movements can include coordination of the upper and lower body, or both arms, or both feet, and all of the above! Here are bilateral coordination toys to address this specific area.

            Motor Planning– Motor planning with the whole body allows children to move in a room without crashing into objects or other people. Gross motor motor planning allows children to climb steps, navigate obstacles, or any movement-based task. Here is more information on motor planning and motor planning toys to address this specific sub-area.

            Gross motor coordinationCoordination of gross motor skills is needed for tasks such as kicking or catching a ball, riding a bike, getting dressed, or any task that uses the entire body. Here are hand eye coordination toys to address this particular sub-area.

            Proprioception– Integration of proprioceptive input allows children to know where their body is in space. It tells the body how much effort is needed to pick up and move objects. Proprioception allows us to understand the body’s position as it moves in a coordinated manner.

            Vestibular input- Integration of vestibular input allows children to navigate the world around them as they move. Going up or down steps or bleachers is an example of this. Moving into different positions during tasks is another example of vestibular integration. Movement through different planes requires integration of vestibular input.

            All of these areas work together in functional tasks and all are rooted in gross motor skills.

            Related: This dinosaur gross motor game is a skill builder, as well.

            Toys for Gross Motor Skill Development

            So often, therapists and teachers purchase items to use in their work using their own money. This giveaway offers a chance for you to win an item that will be useful in helping kids thrive.

            And, given that kids are on screens more than ever before with all of the virtual learning and hybrid learning models being incorporated all over the world, therapists are seeing more need for active, physical play.

            These are gross motor toys that you will find in therapy clinics. There is a reason why…because they are gross motor powerhouses! So, if you are looking for toy recommendations that build whole body motor skills, this is it!

            Amazon affiliate links are included below. You can read more about these items by checking out the links.

            Zoom ball is a great gross motor toy for kids.

            Zoom Ball– This classic toy is such a great way to work on many skills. A zoom ball can be used in different positions to challenge balance and vestibular input: Try using the zoom ball in sitting, standing, kneeling, standing on couch cushions, a slant…again, the options are limitless! Address skills such as:

            • Bilateral coordination
            • Core strength
            • Shoulder stability
            • Visual convergence
            • Motor planning
            • Coordination
            Pop and catch toys can help kids develop gross motor skills.

            Pop and Catch- Use this coordination toy indoors or outdoors to get kids moving. This toy can be played with while the child is standing, sitting, kneeling, or in a half-sit to challenge the core and eye-hand coordination in a variety of planes. Try playing on all fours on the floor for a shoulder girdle stability activity. Another use for this toy is by playing by standing at a table while the child shoots the ball across the table surface as they play like a ping-pong type of game. There are many uses for this pop and catch activity:

            • Eye-hand coordination
            • Motor planning
            • Vestibular input
            • Core strength
            • Stability of core
            • Stability of shoulder girdle
            use bucket stilts to help kids develop gross motor skills.

            Bucket Stilts– These bucket stilts are perfect for helping kids develop gross motor skills. I love this set because there are 6 colored buckets that make a great gross motor obstacle course tool, too. You could use them as stepping stones to challenge balance and coordination, too. Here are gross motor skills that you can work on using these bucket stilts toys:

            • Core strength
            • Vestibular input
            • Motor planning
            • Coordination
            • Balance
            • Endurance
            • Stabilizing
            use agility cones to help kids build gross motor skills in obstacle courses and more.

            Agility Cones– Sports cones are such an open-ended gross motor toy that can be used to develop so many skills: hopping, jumping, skipping, running, climbing, crawling…the options are endless. Use these agility cones in obstacle courses, challenges, drills, and more. I chose these particular cones because they can go very nicely with a Zones of Regulation activity! Use cones to support these areas:

            • Motor planning
            • Vestibular input
            • Coordination
            • Core strength
            • Endurance
            Use carpet markers to build gross motor skills with gross motor obstacle courses, motor planning, and more.

            Carpet Markers– These carpet markers are an occupational therapist’s dream toy! Use the colored marker spots to help kids work on so many movement skills in obstacle courses, visual perceptual skill activities, direction following, sensory movement breaks, positioning guides, and so much more. The arrows are perfect for addressing directionality. Use them to work on crawling, hopping, jumping, stopping on a point. Just some of the areas that these carpet spots support:

            • Core strength
            • Shoulder stability
            • Motor planning
            • Coordination
            • Endurance
            • Proprioception
            A parachute is a great gross motor toy for kids.

            Parachute– A parachute is another open-ended gross motor toy that the kids just LOVE. This one is small enough for small groups, but builds motor skills in a big way. Use the parachute to help kids develop:

            • Core stability
            • Arm strength
            • Motor planning
            • Endurance
            • Bilateral coordination
            • Proprioceptive input

            Gross Motor Toys

            Want to add these toys to your home, classroom, or therapy practice? I am SO happy to fill your toolbox so you can help kids thrive and build and develop the skills they need!

            Check out the blog comments below to see tips and ideas from readers telling us which gross motor toys they would love to use with the kids they work with and love. Have other gross motor favorites that aren’t listed here? Tell us about them!

            Be sure to check out the winners from this giveaway in our annual Therapy Tools and Toys Giveaway series!

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

            Sensory Backpack

            What is a sensory backpack

            Today, we are starting off our Christmas in July celebration with a giveaway on a Sensory Backpack! Sensory backpacks are a powerful calming tool for children of many needs. There are weighted backpacks, compression packs, and book bag fidget tools out there. Here, you’ll find out some information on these sensory resources AND, can enter for a chance to win a Relax Pack Sensory Backpack of your own!

            What is a sensory backpack?

            What are Sensory Backpacks?

            Have you heard of the term “sensory backpack”?

            Most kids you know probably have a backpack that weighs way too much for their age or size. But for some children, the added weight of a backpack is calming. It’s proprioceptive input that has an organizing effect on kids.

            Sensory diet bags are tools that help to support a child’s sensory needs, while on the go, at school, or in the community. Understanding your child’s Sensory Needs is just part of the puzzle.

            A sensory kit can be used to meet the needs of a child and can look like many things: Sensory kits like a weighted backpack offers calming sensory input that can be used to both calm and stimulate a child’s sensory system.

            Typically, it is portable and easy to maneuver as a way to make the tools accessible at all times to the child or children in need. Since all children have sensory needs, a sensory backpack can be a way to provide sensory input in a discreet and engaging way.

            Sensory backpacks offer proprioceptive input in the way of pressure and weight.

            They offer a means for the child to fidget and move their hands.

            Many times, there are chewable items for the child to gain calming, heavy work through the mouth.

            By using all of these items on a sensory backpack, kids can gain calming, heavy work input that allows them to focus, pay attention, remain safe in group settings, and help to organize the child during community settings or outings.

            Calming Sensory Input

            Children with sensory problems often are either at high alert hyper-reactive or unresponsive (hypo-reactive) to the input from their environment. They become overly distracted by outside stimuli, or they may seek out additional sensory input from the world around them. Over responsiveness or under-responsiveness can mean difficulty with paying attention or focusing.

            The proprioceptive system receives input from the muscles and joints about body position, weight, pressure, stretch, movement and changes in position in space.  Our bodies are able to grade and coordinate movements based on the way muscles move, stretch, and contract. Proprioception allows us to apply more or less pressure and force in a task. But, the sensory system allows us to accept input too, in a way that is calming and organizing, so that we can self-regulate input from the world around us.

            Self-regulation is an issue in sensory integration disorders and other diagnoses…as well as in children without a specific diagnosis. Children with self-regulation problems usually demonstrate unusual sleeping patterns, eating difficulties and self-calming issues. They struggle to cope with sensory input and need coping strategies.

            Sensory input in the way of deep pressure, weight through the muscles or joints, chewing on resistive surfaces, or bear hugs are some coping tools that can have a grounding effect on kids with sensory issues.

            Sensory Backpack Calming STRATEGY

            That’s why a sensory backpack offers such a calming and organizing input for kids.

            It’s a powerful way to help kids feel safe, pay attention, focus on walking in the hallway, or on the bus.

            This year, children may return to school with an even higher level of anxiety or worries. Things are different this year and the school schedule may be different. Maybe kids are not in school at all.

            A sensory backpack can offer a routine for schooling at home and allow them to self-sooth using proprioceptive input so they can complete distance learning tasks.

            Pencil Pressure When Writing

            If you’ve worked with kids teaching handwriting or fixing handwriting issues, they you probably have come across a common handwriting problem area…Pencil pressure when writing. They may press so hard on the pencil that the pencil tears the paper when they write. When they try to erase, there are smudges that never really go away. Or, you might see pencil pressure that is so light that you can’t discern letters from one another. Either way, pencil pressure plays a big part in handwriting legibility. Here are tips for pressing too hard when writing…and tips for helping kids write darker. Scroll down for everything you need to know about writing with that “just write” pencil pressure…Typo intended  🙂

            These writing tips are great for kids that press too hard when writing or write too lightly.

             

            Pencil Pressure with Writing

            Learning to write is a complex task.  Choosing a hand to hold the pencil with, pencil grasp, managing the paper with the assisting hand, sitting up straight..and then there is the physical task of marking letters: letter formation, line awareness, letter size… this is multi-level functioning for a child!  Yet another aspect to consider is the pressure one exerts on the paper when writing.  Press too lightly and the words are barely able to be seen.  Press too hard, and the letters are very dark, the pencil point breaks, lines are smudged, and when mistakes are erased, they don’t really erase all the way, the paper tears, and frustration ensues!  

            Sometimes, when it comes to pencil pressure, simply helping kids become aware that they are writing too lightly or writing with too much pressure can make a big difference. Here is one simple activity to work on pencil pressure. All you need is a sheet of foam crafting paper. 

            Pencil pressure is dependent on proprioception, one of the sensory systems.  With October being Sensory Processing Awareness month, this is the perfect time to talk sensory and handwriting!
             
            As an occupational therapist in the school setting, I’ve come across many school-aged children showing difficulty with pencil pressure.  There are reasons for these dark pencil marks and some tips and tools for helping with this handwriting difficulty. 

             

             
            Tips and tools for kids who write with too much pressure in handwriting.  Does your child write or color so hard that the pencil breaks?  Writing too hard makes handwriting difficult to read and effectively write.
             

             

             
            This post contains affiliate links.  

             

            Proprioception and Handwriting


            The proprioceptive system receives input from the muscles and joints about body position, weight, pressure, stretch, movement and changes in position in space.  Our bodies are able to grade and coordinate movements based on the way muscles move, stretch, and contract. Proprioception allows us to apply more or less pressure and force in a task. Instinctively, we know that lifting a feather requires very little pressure and effort, while moving a large backpack requires more work.  We are able to coordinate our movements effectively to manage our day’s activities with the proprioceptive system.  The brain also must coordinate input about gravity, movement, and balance involving the vestibular system.



            When we write, the pencil is held with the index finger, middle finger, and thumb, and supported by the ring and pinkie finger as the hand moves across a page.  A functioning proprioceptive system allows us to move the small muscles of the hand to move the pencil in fluid movements and with “just right” pressure.  We are able to mark lines on the paper, erase mistakes, move the paper with our supporting arm, turn pages in a notebook fluidly, and keep the paper in one piece.

            Writing Pressure: Too Dark


            Sometimes, children hold their pencil very tightly.  They press so hard on the paper, that lines are very dark when writing.  The pencil point breaks.  When erasing, the pencil marks don’t completely erase, and the paper is torn.  The non-dominant, assisting hand moves the paper so roughly that the paper crumbles.  When turning pages in a notebook, the pages tear or crumble.  Movements are not fluid or efficient.  Handwriting takes so much effort, that the child becomes fatigued, frustrated, and sore.  It may take so much effort to write a single word, that handwriting is slow and difficult.  It’s messy. It’s not functional handwriting. 

            Writing Pressure: Too Light

            Another form of handwriting that is just not functional is when pencil pressure is just too light. Kids may write so lightly that you can’t read the overall writing sample. Other times, you can’t discern between certain letters. Still other times, the writing pressure is just so light that the child’s hand or sleeve smudges the pencil lines and the writing sample is totally not functional or legible. Other times, kids start out writing at a legible pencil pressure, but with hand fatigue, the writing gets lighter and lighter. Working on proprioceptive input and hand strengthening can help with too light pencil pressure. Try some of the writing tips listed below.

            Pencil pressure and Messy handwriting

            Messy handwriting can be contributed to many factors.  Decreased hand strength, Visual motor difficulty, motor planning issues, visual memory difficulties, or impaired proprioception. 
             
            Difficulty with grading the movements required in drawing or making letters in a coordinated way may present as messy, smudged, illegible handwriting.
             

            Writing Tips for Pencil Pressure

            Proprioceptive activities allow the muscles to “wake up” with heavy pressure. Moving against resistance by pushing or pulling gives the muscles and joints an opportunity to modulate pressure.  Resistive activities before and during a handwriting task can be beneficial for children who press hard on the pencil. 

             

            Pencil Pressure Activities:

            Some of these pencil pressure activities are writing strategies to help kids become more aware of the amount of pressure they are using when writing. Others are tools for helping the hands with sensory needs. Still others are tools for strengthening the hands. Try some or a mixture of the following ideas to addressing handwriting needs.

            • Stress balls or fidget toys can help to strengthen pinch and grip strength. 
            • Use carbon paper or transfer paper to help kids become more aware of the amount of pressure they are exerting through the pencil when writing. Here is some easy ways to use a Dollar Store find to use carbon paper to work on handwriting
            • theraputty with graded amount of resistance (speak to a license occupational therapist about the amount of resistance needed for your child. An individual evaluation and recommendations will be needed for your child’s specific strengths/needs). 
            • Gross grasp activities- These activities can be a big help in adjusting the grasp on the pencil, helping the hands with sensory input and strengthening the hands to help with endurance when writing. 
            • Some children will benefit from using a liquid gel pen for fluid handwriting marks. The gel ink will provide feedback when gobs of ink are dispensed when writing too hard.
            • Still others will benefit from a gel pen, marker, or using a dry erase marker on a dry erase board. This can be beneficial as a tool for teaching about pencil pressure or as an accommodation for those writing too lightly.
            • Practice letter formation and pencil pressure by lacing a sheet of paper over a foam computer mouse pad. If pressing too hard, the pencil point will poke through the paper. 
            • A vibrating pen provides sensory feedback to the fingers and hand and helps to keep children focused on the task. 
            • Practice handwriting by placing a sheet of paper over a piece of sandpaper. The resistance of the sandpaper is great heavy work for small muscles of the hand. 
            • Practice Ghost Writing: Encourage the child to write very lightly on paper and then erase the words without leaving any marks. The adult can try to read the words after they’ve been erased. If the words are not able to be read, the writer wins the game. 
            • Hand exercises are a great way to “wake up” the hands before a handwriting task. Encourage the child to squeeze their hand into a fist as tight as he can. Then relax and stretch the hand and fingers. Repeat the exercise several times. Practice holding the pencil with the same type of tight and relaxed exercises Practice writing on tissue paper. A very light hand is needed to prevent tears. Discuss the amount of pressure needed for writing on the tissue paper. 
            • This will provide the child with awareness and words for the way they are holding the pencil. 
            • Wrap a bit of play dough or putty around the pencil as a grip. Encourage the child to hold the pencil with a grasp that does not press deeply into the dough. Encourage using a “just right” pressure. 
            • Provide terms for they way they write. Encourage “just right” writing and not “too hard” or “too soft” marks. 
            • Use a lead pencil to color in a small picture, using light gray, medium gray, and dark gray. Talk about how using different amounts of pressure changes the shade of gray. 
            • Instead of writing on a notebook, pull a single sheet from the pages and place on a hard table or desk surface. The firm surface will limit the amount of pressure. You can also slip a clipboard between pages of a notebook to provide that hard surface, if sheets must remain in a notebook.
             
            Help kids with pencil pressure and handwriting problems with these writing tips to work on heavy pencil pressure or writing too light.

            Need more tips and tools for addressing handwriting needs? Be sure to check out all of our handwriting activities here on The OT Toolbox.