Teaching Time to Kids

tips to teach kids to tell time

Part of executive functioning skills that is so important in every functional task, is teaching time to kids. The ability to tell time on a clock is not easy, and it can be very abstract for some children. However, time telling is a skill needed for activities of daily living and IADLs. In this blog post, you’ll find tips for teaching time skills to kids, and find out how to tell time on a clock using hands-on learning approaches.

Teaching Time to Kids

For parents, the task teaching kids to tell time is just part of parenting. But when we teach kids to tell time, there are many other skill areas to consider.

Learning time on a clock can be very challenging visually and cognitively.

Concepts such as executive functioning, fine motor skills, size awareness, and even handwriting play into learning about time. Here, we’ll cover how occupational therapy plays a role in learning about telling time.

Teach kids to tell time with these hands-on multisensory strategies that address the impact of other underlying issues related to telling time.

Working on how to tell time on a clock with kids? Try these OT-approved ideas…

Occupational Therapy and telling Time

In occupational therapy, we work on time management as well as other executive functioning skills. Time in OT is an important factor. We also address self-care and any occupation that takes up a person’s day. So, when daily occupations need to be accomplished throughout the day, or in preparation to leave the house, time is a big component.

Time management refers to the ability to estimate how much time one has to complete a task. Time management also includes management of the time one has to complete a task in a given time.

Time management impacts occupational performance because one can overestimate how much time they have to complete a task. Or they can underestimate how long a task takes to complete. Both of these scenarios result in poor performance of the task.

Occupational therapists can address time in these ways:

  • The amount of time needed to accomplish a task
  • The amount of time needed to prepare for a task
  • Completing tasks in a given amount of time
  • How to tell time on a clock of various types- digital, analog, watch, phone apps, etc.

Each of these areas relate to executive functioning and time management. There are tools and strategies that can help with these areas, such as timers, apps, calendars, planners, task checklists, visual schedules, and focusing on each of the executive functioning skills in a regimented manner (The Impulse Control Journal breaks this down for skill-building).

Occupational therapists in the schools can work with kids on learning to tell time.

For school-based OT practitioners, there can be an added challenge in the time telling saga. Children learning to tell time are tackling a very abstract concept.

Learning to tell Time and Visual Perception

Students that struggle with visual perception can be challenged by worksheets with faces of clocks. This can lead to difficulties in writing clock times or identifying time on the clock.

When it comes to how to tell time on a clock, there are a lot of visual perceptual skills involved!

  • visual discrimination
  • form constancy
  • visual attention
  • visual memory

Typically, in second grade math, learning to tell time on a clock involves worksheets, packets, and math pages that ask students to match the analog clock to the digital clock.

But in second grade, we may see students on the OT caseload struggling with visual attention, visual memory, visual discrimination, letter and number reversals, form constancy, and other visual processing issues.

The clock face has many visual details that can impact working memory, specifically related to visual discrimination, visual attention, form constancy (many clocks have very different number fonts). Some clocks have Roman numerals that throw another wrench into the learning.

For our learners with visual perception and visual motor integration issues, clock worksheets are a real struggle.

Because of these considerations, and the others listed below, how to teach a child to tell time can vary so greatly depending on the needs of the individual.

Learning to tell time and Handwriting

Using a pencil to write clock times and minute or hour hands onto clock forms.

Second grade math involves many clock worksheets. The pencil skills needed to write time, mark hour and minute hands on paper clocks, and writing numbers can impact teaching time to kids.

You can really work on how to tell time on a clock by targeting the number identification skills.

Number formation is a big issue when it comes to completing those clock worksheets, and an area in which the school-based occupational therapists can support the students on their caseload.

Learning tell time and fine motor skills

Fine motors skills involved with moving clock hands on model clocks in the classroom.

Moving the minute hand and hour hand on a clock model helps kids understand how time moves, how much time is in a day, and how to identify sections of time: hours, minutes, seconds, half-hours, quarter hours, and days.

These models help kids grasp the concept of time. But for the student with fine motor challenges, understanding clocks and telling time on a model clock is a struggle.

To move the clock hands on a model clock, fine motor skills are needed:

  • Finger isolation
  • Separation of the sides of the hand
  • Precision
  • Graded grasp and movements
  • Motor planning

The visual of a model clock can become more challenging when these fine motor issues exist.

Learning to tell time and executive function

Time and learning how to tell time on a clock is a big part of executive function…and executive functioning skills plays a major role in telling time.

Kids learn to tell time, typically in second grade, however, without consistent use of analog clocks, kids lose that ability to tell time. When it comes to the time management aspect of executive functioning skills, there is a lot to be said for watching the minute hands tick around the clock as time passes.

The passage of time on a digital clock just doesn’t have the concrete visual impact that the ticking hands has on the face of an analog clock.

Executive functioning skills such as attention, foresight, task completion, and others play a role in telling time and managing time.

We talked about time blindness in our post on adult executive functioning issues. However, time blindness impacts all of us at one time or another, and all ages, too.

Also, the number of minutes in five minute increments and the number of minutes in an hour or quarter hour can be a challenge for those with executive functioning skills to recall. Working memory plays a big part in math skills!

The abstract concept of teaching time on a clock

Kids not exposed to analog clocks. This makes an abstract concept even more abstract! Our kids that need concrete examples and visual cues to learn will struggle with this concept of learning to tell time on a clock.

Other kids need concrete examples in learning. time doesn’t offer that option.

Teaching kids how to tell time can start with the process of discovering the parts of a clock.  

Many of our young learners are exposed to only the digital clock of an Iphone, a microwave clock, stove clock, or the digital time shown on a television cable box, for example.  The important skill of learning to tell time is just not a part of the typical day for many learners.

However, what is important is the concept of time. We all have daily routines that revolve around the passage of time. 

teach how to tell time on a clock with multisensory activity

Below, you’ll find resources for time teaching in the classroom or home. School based occupational therapy professionals can use these concepts and hands-on time activities to support time management needs, or to work in a push-in OT session in school-based OT services when children are learning time in school.

Or, use these interactive telling time activities to support learning how to tell time on a clock as part of the child’s educational curriculum.

A few easy ways to make learning about time more interactive AND supporting development of underlying areas is through the fun activities listed here.

Try some of these clock activity ideas to teach kids how to tell time on a clock:

  • Create a rock clock for heavy work input that supports the motor planning work needed for moving clock hands
  • Try a telling time apps that can support time management needs
  • Address time concepts of am and pm to help with executive functioning skills.
  • Use sidewalk chalk to create a large clock. This is a great activity for offering resistive feedback when learning about the hands of the clock
  • Use a timer to focus on time management and the passage of time needed to complete a given task.
  • Use clock puzzles
  • Work on the number of hours on a clock using playdough and a clock playdough mat
  • Young children can learn about size awareness to understand the big hand and the little hand
  • Use a hula hoop to create a large clock to focus on motor planning and gross motor skills in a clock game
  • Teach the passage of time by using a dry erase marker to color on the face of a clock. Students can see how the minute hands moves within the estimated time as they perform the task at hand.
  • Another clock game is to create a paper clock and use paper hour hand and minute hand to focus on fine motor skills and bilateral coordination skills
  • Move the hands of a clock and have a dance party. When the clock reaches a certain time, the students can dance.
  • Play tell time games and other clock games: Ask students what time of day they  might eat breakfast, play outside, get on the school bus, etc.
  • Make a bottle cap clock for movement and learning with time telling (see below)

Teach Time with a Bottle Cap Clock

This bottle cap clock was a fun way to teach my kids how to tell time on a clock. We practiced time telling with recycled bottle caps for hands on learning while building a clock.

My daughter was taught time telling this past year while in the first grade, but it was fun to work on the parts of a clock and to practice time telling to the minute.  As she heads into second grade, she’ll be learning to tell time to the minute, so we added a minute component to our time telling with the bottle caps.

Teach kids how to tell time with hands on learning in this first grade or second grade time telling activity using recycled bottle caps.  Build a clock and practice telling time!

How to teach kids how to tell time: 

This post contains affiliate links.  

We love to use bottle caps in learning activities: stamping sight wordsletter learning, or 10s counters, and are excited to add this activity to this month’s 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.

Teach kids how to tell time with hands on learning in this first grade or second grade time telling activity using recycled bottle caps.  Build a clock and practice telling time!

 To begin this time telling activity, I wrote the numbers 1-12 on bottle caps using a  permanent marker.  Find a large round placemat/charger and have your child work on positioning the numbers as they appear on the clock.  

In this hands-on clock building activity, first show your child how to place the 12, 3, 6, and 9 on the clock face.  This is a good way to teach the concept of quarter hours and half hours, as well as quarter after, quarter to, and half-past.

Show them how the other numbers can fit within the numbers 3, 6, and 9 on the clock. The space left between 12 and 3 can hold the numbers 1 and 2 and so on.

 Use the marker to write the minute numbers on the opposite side of the bottle caps.  So, when they flip over the number one, it will have “5” written on the other side.  Number 2 will have “10” written on the other side.  

Once they’ve built their clock, they can turn over all of the bottle caps and count out the minutes by fives.

Teach kids how to tell time on a clock with multisensory clocks
Teach kids how to tell time with hands on learning in this first grade or second grade time telling activity using recycled bottle caps.  Build a clock and practice telling time!

 We then used a round glass dish to build the clock.  

Use foam craft sticks like for the minute and hour hand.  Cut one shorter than the other to teach about size awareness of the different hands on the clock.

Be sure to have your child identify the names of the hour hand and minute hand as part of this learning and clock building activity.  

On the glass plate, pour a small amount of water.  The added sensory component of the water is fun for a spin on this clock building task, because the bottle caps and the foam craft sticks will stick to the glass dish with the water.  Practice moving the hands around to tell different times.

Teach kids how to tell time with hands on learning in this first grade or second grade time telling activity using recycled bottle caps.  Build a clock and practice telling time!

how to tell time on a clock

After you’ve targeted the underlying skills outlined above, and used the multisensory clock activities above, you can move on to how to tell time on a clock with worksheets and real clocks!

Target skills like:

  • hour hand
  • minute hand
  • second hand
  • number placement on a clock
  • telling time on the hour
  • telling time on the half hour
  • telling time on the quarter hour
  • learning about elapsed time

What are your favorite ways to teach kids how to tell time on a clock?

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

Recycle Activities for Kids and OT

Recycle materials in occupational therapy

Having a few recycle activities up your sleeve is great as a busy OT, teacher, or parent…The thing is you can always find a way to use recycled items in crafts or play that supports the development of fine motor skills! Using recycled materials in occupational therapy crafts is a great way to create while using items that are in the home.

Some of the therapy ideas here include projects made from recycled materials, and others are activities that use recycled items in actual therapy tools. Still others are recycling activities for kids.

These recycle activities for kids are crafts that can be used in occupational therapy sessions to work on fine motor skills, direction following, motor planning, eye-hand coordination, and other OT goal areas. Many of the ideas below are activities using recycled materials you probably have in your recycling bin right now. Start saving those egg cartons, plastic containers, used water bottles, newspapers, and paper, because these crafts and activity ideas build skills!

These are great to add to your Spring occupational therapy activities: Think Earth Day fun!

Using recycled materials in occupational therapy for Earth day activities and building skills and OT goal areas through the use of recycled materials.

Recycle Activities In Occupational Therapy

Be sure to check out the list of recycled materials for art projects and fine motor activities, too. You can pass this list on to parents so they hold onto items like paper towel tubes to be used in OT home programs or teletherapy sessions. 

For more ideas, check out this ultimate occupational therapy teletherapy resource. We’ve shared a bunch of ways to play and build skills by using recycled items in therapy activities, like this gross motor grasp activity with plastic containers.

There are so many ways to use recycled materials in occupational therapy activities. When you think about the task of recycling, this is a very occupation-centered daily task.

activities using recycled materials

In OT, we address the functional tasks that one participates in throughout the day. Cooking, hygiene, and home management are those types of tasks. And, when participating in those daily tasks as an independent and functional being, there is trash that results as a result. That’s where activities using recycled materials comes into play.

When part of that task completion is the clean-up, or home management portion, you can insert activities using recycled materials, while recycling. So, managing recyclable refuse is part of that task completion. You can get your therapy clients involved in these recycling activities for kids while coaching towards goal areas.

In occupational therapy, we can cover the management of recycling.

There are many OT areas that can be addressed in therapy sessions (for all ages):

  • Sorting recycling
  • Identifying recyclable items
  • Cleaning out recyclable materials
  • Creating a recycle center in the home
  • Taking out recyclables along with the trash
  • Hand washing

And, part of that task process can be using recycled materials in therapy activities to address other goal areas, such as fine motor skills, strength, coordination, and balance.

Consider the possibilities of using recycle items in crafting and play!

Save this page, because you have a collection of activities in your toolbox using everyday items that are heading to the trash!

Use recycled materials in occupational therapy sessions.

Check out the past posts listed below to find tons of creative and fun ways to learn and play with recycled materials and a few projects made from recycled materials:

Kids will love these simple developmental and learning crafts and activities made with recycled materials

projects made from recycled materials

In therapy or in learning activities, crafts are a great way to build specific skills like scissor skills, crossing midline, eye-hand coordination, motor planning, executive functioning, bilateral coordination, and other skills. Here is our giant collection of craft ideas for kids that can be used in OT sessions.

Below, you will find craft ideas using recycled items. Below, I’ve broken down OT activities by the recycled materials.

Use the ideas listed here as recycling activities for toddlers, preschoolers, and older ages, too.

Some of these ideas are great for a physical education lesson using recyclable materials, and even balance, coordination and motor planning skills needed in physical therapy sessions.

One way that I love to use these activities is to create a handwriting portion. You can ask the clients to list out materials used and then add a piece on “how did i use recycled materials in this activity?” It’s a great way to include functional handwriting.

You’ll find a section for OT activities using egg cartons, ideas using recycled containers, OT ideas with paper towel tubes, etc. Each material has so many ways to build common goal areas. Let’s get started…

These recycled materials are good to have on hand for helping kids build skills and work on occupational therapy activities.

Egg carton crafts and activities for kids:

Save those egg cartons! Whether you are building hand strength, working on eye-hand coordination, or building motor planning skills, recycled egg cartons can be a powerful tool to add to your therapy toolbox. Try some of these ideas in OT sessions or in the classroom or home to build skills.

Work on intrinsic hand strength with an egg carton– We used pieces of straws to build hand strength, but you can use other small items like toothpicks, beads, small toys, or even rolled pieces of paper.

Speaking of hand strength, this robin craft and fine motor activity uses an egg carton and pipe cleaners to build strength and endurance in the hand with a focus on precision and an extended wrist.

Work on buttoning with kids? Teach buttoning with an out-of-the-box activity using a recycled egg carton.

Take shoe tying to another level by teaching kids to tie shoes with an egg carton. Tying shoes can sometimes be difficult when switching to different shoes. Try practicing shoe tying on a different medium for something fun, while still working on skills such as bilateral coordination, motor planning, pinch, and sustained grasp.

Egg carton fine motor color sorting– We painted the egg carton and used colored jingle bells to work on in-hand manipulation, grasp, precision, and eye-hand coordination, but you could use any small item, and painting is totally optional.

More egg carton activities include:

  • Cut the sections and stack them in a tower
  • Clip clothes pins to the edges
  • Write a number or letter inside the carton. Place the correct number of small items in each section.
  • Sort letters written on pieces of paper
  • Cut the egg tray so it contains 2 rows of 5 sections. Use it as a hands-on 10 frame for teaching kindergarten math skills.

Egg Carton Crafts

Use an empty egg carton to build skills with a craft material that you might already have in your home right now. From egg carton flowers to fine motor power tools, these are recycled egg carton crafts that are therapist-approved.

Flower feather craft~ fine motor skills, direction following, multi-step feather art

Egg carton caterpillar craft- This classic recycled egg carton craft is a fun one for kids. We used it to build math skills, too.

Spring tulip craft with recycled egg cartons~ tripod grasp, multi-step direction following

Snowman math activity~ fine motor pincer/tripod grasp while working on math skills

Painted rainbow recycled egg cartons– Paint egg cartons and then use them in other crafts or sorting activities. Painting the sections of the egg carton tray requires precision and coordination.

Egg carton pumpkins– This is an OLD post here on the website, but one that is such fun. Kids can use golf tees to hammer into the sections of the egg carton, making pumpkin stems while building coordination and motor skills.

Fine motor egg carton Christmas tree~
Work on building tripod grasp to thread a Christmas tree from egg cartons. You could also just stack the recycled egg carton sections into a tower if you want to build this activity year-round.

Use toilet paper tube crafts in occupational therapy activities to help kids build motor skills.

Toilet Paper tube crafts and activities for kids:

Cardboard tube crafts using recycled paper towel tubes or toilet paper rolls are a great way to use what you’ve got while building fine motor skills. These toilet paper tube crafts have got you covered. You can also use paper towel tubes for many of these recycled materials activities and crafts. The paper tube provides a great material for young children to practice cutting, while positioning their scissors correctly and promoting bilateral coordination. When cutting a cardboard tube, kids have to start at their midline and work away from their body while holding onto the tube. It’s a great starter project for children.

  • Clip paper clips to the edges
  • Stack them up and knock them over by rolling a ball to work on coordination
  • Drop small items through the tubes into a target bin or basket
  • Use a hole punch to punch holes in the sides. Thread pipe cleaners through the holes
  • Slit the edges and create a building toy
  • Practice scissor skills by cutting down the edge
  • Clip clothes pins to the edges

Toilet paper rolls and paper towel tubes make a great item to use in OT sessions. Here are ways to use paper tubes visual tracking exercises with kids.

Build gross grasp and coordination with paper tubes and small balls or toys. Kids can balance the items on the cardboard rolls while building skills.

Toilet Paper Tube Crafts

Olympic rings craft with paper tubes– Kids can cut toilet paper rolls into small circles and create an Olympic ring craft.

Spring chick juice box cover~ tip to tip grasp, multi-textural craft for Spring

Rainbow recycled cardboard tube craft~ Color the sides of the toilet paper tube with crayons, paints, or markers and build fine motor skills, imagination, pretend play, language skills

Cardboard tube zebra craft– Cut a toilet paper tube into an animal shape and turn it into a zebra craft.

Rainbow binocular
s~ imagination, pretend play, fine motor skills

Cardboard tube turkey napkin ring~
fine motor work with a napkin ring craft. we made a turkey, but you could make any animal.

Recycled cardboard tube turkey juice box cover~
Use a paper towel tube to make a juice box cover. we made ours into a turkey, but you could create any animal. This craft builds tripod grasp, multi-step craft

Cardboard tube stamp painting~
Work on gross grasp, fine motor skills, and coordination.

Recycled cardboard tube pumpkin stamps~
Use a paper towel tube or a toilet paper tube to paint pumpkins in this fine motor craft.

Cardboard tube apple stamps~
Use a toilet paper tube to paint apples in a coordination craft. What other round objects could you paint by using a paper roll?

Use recycled containers such as plastic bottles to build fine motor skills like in-hand manipulation and coordination.

Recycled Plastic container activities for kids:

Use recycled bottles in fine motor activities– Plastic bottles like shampoo bottles, soap bottles, and other squeezable bottles are great for building gross hand grasp.

Fine motor color sorting activity with recycled grated cheese container~ tripod grasp, color, pattern, and sorting learning skills. This is a great early math activity!

In-hand manipulation activities ~uses a grated cheese container and a recycled two liter drink container to develop in-hand manipulation and translation skills.

Play dough cupcakes ~using a recycled cupcake container with strengthening and fine motor  development.

Outdoor snow restaurant activity with recycled containers~ imagination, pretend play, language skill development. Don’t have snow? Use play dough, slime, or even homemade kinetic sand.

Fine motor play with plastic bottle and crafting poms~ tripod grasp, color, sorting, and pattern learning

Recycled milk container ghost catch game~ gross motor, eye-hand coordination, and visual motor catch game

Plastic bottle and tissue paper fine motor play~ tripod grasp, auditory processing activity with colors

Fine motor sensory water play with recycled water bottles~ color learning in a multi-sensory activity with fine motor (tripod grasp) components

Spy sight word sensory bottle~ visual scanning activity to work on language. This is a great eye-hand and visual-motor activity!

Fine motor tripod grasp activity~ Tripod grasp and in-hand manipulation skills with a grated cheese container

Recycled plastic water bottle pipe cleaner fine motor activity~ Tripod grasp, fine motor skill development with an auditory component…all while working on colors.

Use recycled materials in occupational therapy sessions such as styrofoam as a base to press toothpicks into while building fine motor skills.

Styrofoam activities for kids:

Use recycled bubble wrap to work on hand strength and auditory processing with kids.

Recycled Bubble wrap activities for kids:

Finger dexterity game with recycled bubble wrap~ fine motor skills to strengthen thenar muscles of the thumb with visual scanning, tracking, crossing midline.

Sensory paint play with recycled bubble wrap~ Challenge the tactile sense with creative play while working on language development, color learning, and fine motor skill play

Mess-free bubble wrap painting~ Build fine motor skills such as tripod grasp, tip-to-tip grasp, and index finger isolation work while engaging in creative painting.

Fine motor and auditory bubble
wrap activity~ Address color learning, visual tracking and scanning, eye-hand coordination with an auditory component.

Use recycled materials in occupational therapy activities and to build skills such as fine motor skills or sensory play.

Recycled Shredded paper crafts and activities for kids:

Sight word sensory bin with shredded paper~ Use recycled paper from the paper shredder in tactile sensory play while learning and identifying sight words, visual scanning activity

Shredded paper snowy farm sensory bin~ Build language, creative expression, and imagination through pretend play with a sensory bin using recycled paper as a sensory bin base.

Valentine’s Day shredded paper sensory bin~ This sensory play activity uses colors, fine motor work with tools, imagination, and pretend play.

Use a recycled cardboard box to build fine motor skills.

Cardboard crafts and activities for kids:

Small world activity with a cardboard box~ imagination, pretend play, language development

Valentine’s day door banner craft~ Multi-step direction following with fine motor work

Fine motor with pipe cleaners and a cardboard box ~ tripod grasp, eye-hand coordination, tip-to tip- grasp

Cardboard box golf tee hammering~ eye hand coordination, tool use, strengthening, letter learning, visual scanning, visual motor activity

Cereal box fine motor coordination~ tripod grasp, visual motor play

Pretend play pizza shop~ imagination, pretend play, language development

How to create a craft bin from recycled materials~ process art with imagination

recycle bin flower craft~ fine motor development

Make a recycle bin project using items you find in the recycling bin. This is a great activity to inspire creativity and imagination!

Use recycled bottle caps to work on occupational therapy activities or address learning such as letter identification, fine motor skills, and more.

Bottle cap crafts and activities for kids:

Christmas stamps with recycled bottle caps~ fine motor development

Recycled bottle caps fine motor activity– We used dry chick peas to build fine motor dexterity with recycled bottle caps, but you can use any small object.

Bottlecap Spinning Tops- These fine motor power tools are great for precision, dexterity, grasp, in-hand manipulation, and arch development of the hands

Use bottle caps in visual tracking– Recycled materials can be used with big visual processing benefits to address visual scanning and tracking.

Recycled bottle cap sight word stamps~ sight word learning, visual scanning, matching

Bottle cap flower craft– Build precision and eye-hand coordination with bottle caps.

Bottle Cap DIY Toys– Recycle bottle caps into DIY toys with fine motor benefits.

Letter learning with recycled bottle caps~ letter learning, visual scanning, matching

Recycled Materials List for Parents

Working wiht children on an Occupational tehrapy home program or in OT teletherapy sessions? You can ask parents to hold on to some of these recyceld materials to use in OT sessions or to work on specific recommended activities;

  1. Toilet paper tubes
  2. Paper towel tubes
  3. Plastic containers (spice jars, Parmesan cheese containers, squeeze jars, shampoo bottles, berry containers, cupcake containers, etc.)
  4. Bottle caps
  5. Cardboard tissue boxes
  6. Delivery cardboard boxes
  7. Egg cartons (cardboard or Styrofoam egg trays)
  8. Styrofoam take-out containers
  9. Shredded paper
  10. Old worksheets, paper that’s been used on just one side
  11. Paper bags
  12. Cereal boxes

What would you add to this list?

Looking for more ways to work on specific skills in teletherapy? Check out this ultimate occupational therapy teletherapy resource to guide a wide variety of treatment ideas.

Earth Day Crafts

Any of these recycled crafts make a great Earth Day craft…why? Kids are using recycled materials in crafting and they are learning to use what they have on hand!

For more seasonal crafts to use in OT sessions, you’ll love our Spring Crafts library!

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

Surprising DIY Pretend Toys from Bottle Caps

Today, I’m sharing a few fun DIY pretend toys made from bottle caps! These craft ideas that are irresistible for imagination, pretend play, and creative time.  In fact, make that super cute bottle cap crafts.  These are fun ways to inspire pretend play with toys using recycled materials from around the home to create toys, pretend play, and just plain old fun. I am trying to figure out which of the DIY pretend toys to make first!
Make DIY pretend toys from bottle caps!
Scroll around and check out some of these super cute crafts using bottle caps! I love that so many of these can be used in pretend play.  Get the kids involved in the creating process for DIY pretend play fun!

Make DIY pretend toys from bottle caps!

DIY Pretend Toys for Kids

Bottle Cap Rattle Snake Craft  from Moms and Crafters

Rudolf Ornament Craft from Red Ted Art

Bottle Cap Holly Craft from Sugar Aunts

Bird Puppet Craft from Messy Little Monster

Treasure Magnets from Hattifant

Bottle Cap Ornaments from Life Over Cs

Bottle Cap Snowflake from Zing Zing Tree

Bottle Cap Truck Craft from Swoodson Says

Polymer Clay Bottle Cap Pies from Adventures in a Box

DIY bottle cap toys would be fun for pretend play with kids.

Make DIY pretend toys from bottle caps!

Which of these DIY pretend toys from Bottle Caps do you want to make first?

How To Get Your Kids to Practice Handwriting A-Z Writing Activity

You may recall that we love handwriting activities around here.  It’s a topic I’ve loved to cover since my days as a school-based Occupational Therapist. I love to take an activity that works on the skills needed for functional tasks and build them through creative play and development.  It’s just fun to be creative!   

There are a ton of creative ways to build handwriting skills here.

But sometimes, all it takes to improve letter formation, line awareness, spatial skills, and overall legibility is practicing using the skills that have been built and developed through therapeutic activities.  

Today’s post is a creative and fun way to sneak in practice on a daily basis.  We made this handwriting clipboard to work on written work with an alphabet theme.  It’s one of the activities that we found in the (affiliate link) 101 Fun and Easy Learning Games for Kids  book that two fellow bloggers have recently published.  Read more about that here

sneaky handwriting ideas for kids who need to practice writing but just don't want to. This A-Z list can be taken anywhere for writing practice on the go!

A-Z Handwriting Activity for Kids 

Kids sometimes need a little motivation to practice and work on their handwriting.  A fun activity like this A-Z writing sheet can help.  Simply ask kids to write out a word for each letter of the alphabet, based on a single topic.  You might walk through a grocery store together while completing the week’s shopping as your child writes out words of foods that he sees in the store.  You could take a walk in the park and come up with a list of A-Z words based on things you see and hear around you.  The possibilities are endless for this handwriting prompt.  

We decided that if we were to walk through a store and write out a list of items, we would need a clipboard or some kind of stable surface for writing.  From there, came our DIY cardboard clipboard!

DIY cardboard Clipboard

Make up one of these clipboards on the cheap and have a writing surface for all of your portable handwriting practice sessions. 

Cardboard (We used a recycled shirt box.)
Paper Clips

To make the cardboard clipboard: Cut the cardboard to the appropriate size.  Slice a hole  and thread ribbon into the cardboard.  You’ll want the ribbon to be long enough for comfortable writing. Knot the ribbon.  Tie the other end of the ribbon to a pencil.  Attatch paper to the clipboard using paperclips.  Your cardboard clipboard is done!

Take the clipboards out and think of A-Z topics to write about while practicing handwriting.  Places and topics to include in an A-Z writing list might include:
Foods at the grocery store
Cars on the highway
Things at the park
Animals at the zoo
Things at the beach
Sights on vacation
Names of people
Book titles in the library
Toys in the toy store

Want MORE sneaky (and totally fun!) ways to incorporate handwriting into play and activities while making handwriting practice not-boring?  Try our Sensory Handwriting Summer Camp.  It’s packed with a summer full of handwriting fun.

handwriting practice idea for kids with a DIY cardboard clipboard

sneaky handwriting ideas for kids who need to practice writing but just don't want to. This A-Z list can be taken anywhere for writing practice on the go!

What A-Z writing prompt lists can you think of?

Want to find more creative ways to learn through play and games?  Grab your copy of 101 Fun and Easy Learning Games for Kids .  This book is packed to the brim with creative learning ideas that are complimented with colorful images. You need this book!

This activity has been reprinted with permission from the publisher from book 100 FUN & EASY LEARNING GAMES FOR KIDS. I received a copy of the book from the publisher.

You’ll love these handwriting activities

Baking Soda Vinegar Powered Boat STEM

This baking soda and vinegar powered boat was such a fun way to build and explore movement powered by science.  My kiddos and a niece and nephew built this boat using recycled materials, (a lot like we did last week with our evaporation experiment).  This boat required a baking soda and vinegar reaction to power movement across water.  It’s the perfect outdoor STEM fine motor activity

Baking soda and vinegar react in this movement and power STEM activity to power a boat made with recycled materials. This is a fun outdoor STEM science experiment for kids.


Baking Soda and Vinegar Powered Boat

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My kids LOVE baking soda and vinegar reaction STEM activities.  They’ve tried a rocket and volcano so I knew they would love this boat activity.

This recycled boat was pretty easy to put together.  We a recycled used Styrofoam egg carton to cut a triangular shape.  To that, we taped a plastic lid.  We used two small pieces of straws and taped them to the back of the boat and coming from the lid.  With that, our boat was ready for power.

Baking soda and vinegar react in this movement and power STEM activity to power a boat made with recycled materials. This is a fun outdoor STEM science experiment for kids.

A tip for the boat construction:  Be sure the straws are taped securely in the lid and parallel to the water surface.  We used electrical tape for this job.

Next, fill the lid with baking soda.  We have this HUGE bag of baking soda and love it.  The quantity is perfect for experiments that kids want to do over and over again. 

Baking soda and vinegar react in this movement and power STEM activity to power a boat made with recycled materials. This is a fun outdoor STEM science experiment for kids.

Carefully pour in vinegar and watch the boat sail across the water. We noticed that our first run was the best and we think it was because the straws were better positioned at the start of our STEM activity.  We also tried aiming the straws down into the water and that seemed to help with powering movement, better too.

 We did this boat activity in a tub outside, but want to try it in a larger area like a baby pool very soon.  One of the kids said we should build a cruise ship and make it go with baking soda and vinegar.  I’ll be sure to share how that project pans out 😉

This post is part of the 31 Days of Outdoor STEM series.  Stop by and see all of the STEM fun!

Baking soda and vinegar react in this movement and power STEM activity to power a boat made with recycled materials. This is a fun outdoor STEM science experiment for kids.

Let us know if you make a baking soda and vinegar powered boat!

More STEM ideas you will love:

Recycled Materials STEM Lever and Fulcrum

I love reusing recyclables in crafts and activities.  One thing my kids might love even more is science and STEM activities.  We decided to use some materials we had in the recycle bin to make a lever and fulcrum.  This is a perfect STEM activity to do with the kids over the summer to promote learning, creativity, and problem solving.  The Summer Slide is a real thing and simple, easy projects like this one are fun ways to build skills as a family.  Our Lever and Fulcrum STEM activity led to cheers with all four of the kids. This is a fun STEM fine motor activity kids will love.

And when the kids are cheering for science, engineering, and math, it is perfectly OK for Mom to do an inner cheer, too.
Build a lever and fulcrum with recycled materials in this STEM activity that is perfect for kids to do over the summer at home or at summer camp to prevent the summer slide!

Recycled Materials Lever and Fulcrum STEM Activity

There are so many items found in your recycle bin that can be used in STEM activities.  Today, we pulled out a few materials to build a lever and fulcrum.  We used a recycled chopstick, a toilet paper tube, and two coffee pods.  

Build a lever and fulcrum with recycled materials in this STEM activity that is perfect for kids to do over the summer at home or at summer camp to prevent the summer slide!
To make the lever and fulcrum:  Poke a hole in each of the coffee pods.  We used a sharp skewer to do this.  you will want the holes to be at the same height on each pod.  Insert one end of the chop stick into each pod.  Finally, fold the toilet paper tube into a triangular shape. The cardboard tube will be the fulcrum and the chop stick can rest evenly on the tube and act as a lever. 
Build a lever and fulcrum with recycled materials in this STEM activity that is perfect for kids to do over the summer at home or at summer camp to prevent the summer slide!
Now for the fun part:  It was time to play and learn with our STEM activity!
  • We added crafting pom poms to each cup and counted how many were needed to keep the lever even.  
  • We talked about the distance between the ends of the chop stick and how the fulcrum needed to be in the center in order for the lever to be even.  
  • We tried moving the fulcrum and measured the distance between the ends of the chop stick and the fulcrum.  
  • When the fulcrum was off center, we counted how many craft pom poms were needed to make the lever even again. 
I was kind of amazed at how much all four of my kids were totally absorbed by this STEM activity.  It was enough to make me smile (and cheer some more, on the inside!) for their love of science, technology, engineering, and math.
Build a lever and fulcrum with recycled materials in this STEM activity that is perfect for kids to do over the summer at home or at summer camp to prevent the summer slide!

STEM Summer Camp


Learning with Recycled Plastic Containers

Sometimes finding materials at home for learning and play is as easy as grabbing a plastic container from the recycle bin!  We put together this list of creative learning ideas using recycled plastic containers.  Who knew you could use an old plastic bottle or food container in so many ways!  This post is part of the 31 Days of Homeschooling Tips series where we are joining 25 bloggers in creative learning and ideas for homeschooling and learning at home.  We’re sharing 31 Days of learning with free (or almost free) materials so today’s plastic container learning ideas fits the bill!
Ideas for using recycled plastic containers in learning activities for kids: science, math, sensory, crafts.

Learning with Recycled Plastic Containers Ideas for Kids:

Picklebums explored colors and created print art with plastic containers.
Learn with Play at Home mixed colors in a container.
grated cheese container is great for fine motor work, sorting, math, and color identification.
For more fine motor work, use a recycled container for sorting like Mama OT.
Practice math concepts with recycled snack containers. (This Reading Mama featured on Kids Activities Blog)
Use yogurt containers for Counting Games like Teaching Mama.
For more math concepts, try this measuring activity from Learn with Play at Home.
Can Do Mama shares baby container play ideas.
Use spice containers to explore counting, observing, stacking, problem solving and more like Toddler Approved.
Or use spice containers for baby sensory play like we did.
Plastic containers are great means for conducting science experiements like this water fountain from Learn with Play at Home.
This water filter science experiment from Planet Smarty Pants uses a recycled tennis ball container.
Try this wave in a bottle from Imagination Tree.

How do you play with recycled plastic containers?  There is a lot of learning that can happen with trash!  Visit our Trash Turned Kids Crafts Pinterest board for recycled material fun and learning.

Caterpillar Math Craft

You know we love a great craft made from recycled materials, right?  Recycled items seem to make a reoccurring appearance on our blog.  And, here’s a little secret:  I LOVE crafting and encouraging playful learning with recycled stuff because it’s re-purposing and environmentally cool, but it’s also FREE!  You have the materials already in your home, and are just going to be tossing them away (whether it’s into the garbage or the recycle bin…so why not learn and play first?)  We made this caterpillar craft from a recycled egg carton and added a math twist to add a little adding and 1:1 correspondence number counting to provide a multi-age learning tool for three of my kids, ages 3, 5, and 7.  (The baby just want to to pull the googly eyes off of the caterpillar.  Which is a sort of subtraction…)
Caterpillar craft made from a recycled egg carton. Use this for math concepts for preschool through grade school kids.

Math Caterpillar Craft (from a recycled egg carton!)

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We pulled a recycled egg carton from the recycle bin.  Cut one long section of carton.  Paint the sections to make the caterpillars body and head.  We love these paints for their bright colors.
Grab some yarn and have the kids snip little 2 inch pieces.  This is fabulous scissor practice.  Holding the wiggly yarn while snipping sections encourages bilateral hand coordination that is needed for managing paper and scissors while cutting shapes from paper and worksheets.
Caterpillar craft made from a recycled egg carton. Use this for math concepts for preschool through grade school kids.
Math concept:  Encourage your child to count the sections of yarn into groups of three.  
Tape the yarn legs onto the caterpillar’s body.

Glue on googly eyes and draw on a smile.
Caterpillar craft made from a recycled egg carton. Use this for math concepts for preschool through grade school kids.

Caterpillar math activity:

We played a few math games with the caterpillar.  
  • Count out craft pom poms, encouraging 1:1 correspondence.  Counting items is an important preschool math concept that is used in addition and subtraction in later grades.  My first grader often uses counting manipulates as a technique for adding multiple digit addition/subtraction problems and counting too quickly can lead to errors.  
  • Use the pom poms to feed the caterpillar.  Sort them into piles by color and patterns and make the caterpillar eat the pom poms by pushing them under the head.  Write out the math subtraction problems.  
Caterpillar craft made from a recycled egg carton. Use this for math concepts for preschool through grade school kids.

How cute is this little guy?  Make him and other fun recycled crafts for learning and play.

This post is part of the  natural parenting and earth month series at Allternative Learning.