Sensory Egg Dying Activities

sensory egg dying

There are many sensory activities that can be used to dye Easter eggs. In this blog post, you’ll find several sensory ways to dye eggs. Whether you are using natural egg dyes, movement activities to dye eggs, or using a rice shake egg dye activity, the sensory egg activities are perfect for adding movement that meets sensory needs. Add these sensory egg ideas to your Easter occupational therapy ideas!

sensory egg dying activities

Sensory Egg Activities

These sensory egg activities are fun and use all the senses! First, let’s explore the various senses that can be used when coloring eggs. Start by reading our resource on sensory play. You’ll see that there are 9 sensory systems at work at any given time:

  1. Tactile
  2. Vision
  3. Taste (Gustatory)
  4. Sound (Auditory)
  5. Smell (Olfactory
  6. Vestibular
  7. Proprioception

This sensory processing booklet is a good place to start in understanding sensory processing.

Take a look on Pinterest, and you can find SO MANY different ways to dye Easter Eggs.  We didn’t see any collections that centered on Sensory Exploration while dying eggs.
These are some fun, creative ways to dye eggs with a Sensory twist.

Movement sensory egg ideas

These ideas use movement to dye eggs. When shaking an egg in a paint bag, or shaking an egg in a bag of glitter or shaving cream, kids can use several sensory components:

  • Vestibular input by jumping or shaking
  • Bilateral coordination to use both hands together in coordinated manner to shake a plastic bag
  • Tactile sensory input to utilize several textures.
  • Visual sensory input with bright and colorful visual input.
Craftaholics Anonymous made glitter eggs. You can use a hardboiled egg and use any egg dye kit. Place the egg in a plastic baggie of glitter and shake, shake, shake!
The Chocolate Muffin Tree used crayon shavings to decorate. Can’t you just smell the crayons by looking at this picture? Use the same plastic baggie technique listed above but add crayon shavings. This is just another benefit of coloring and reason why coloring is such a great activity for kids!
Martha Stewart shows us how to decorate with thread to make a textured egg. This is a great bilateral coordination activity when wrapping string around an egg. But is this a sensory activity? 
When you consider the kinesthetic input of wrapping string around and egg, plus the other contributions: visual input, motor coordination, proprioception, then yes!
You could make melted crayon shaving eggs.  These look so textured and fun! 
Adding crayon shavings offers a specific scent, or olfactory input. 
 Creaative Green Living decorated patterned eggs using silks. This sensory egg dying technique offers tactile sensory input.
Lovely Indeed explores patterns and textures using Washi tape. Peeling tape adds fine motor proprioceptive input through the joints in the fingers. This is a great pincer grasp activity.
Add stickers to work on fine motor skills…pinching little stickers on the eggs.  This site shares some natural dying techniques, too. There are many reasons why playing with stickers supports development. This is a great sensory egg activity!
Toddler Approved used baking soda and vinegar to make these fun eggs.
 Explore those senses while dying eggs!

More sensory egg ideas for dying Easter Eggs

These ideas use tactile sensory input, movement (Vestibular sensory), visual sensory input. Each of these ideas are fun and creative was to color eggs!

  1. Natural Dyes: You can use natural dyes to color your Easter eggs. For example, beetroot juice will give a pink hue, turmeric can give a yellow hue, and red cabbage can give a blue hue.

  2. Kool-Aid: You can use Kool-Aid to dye your Easter eggs. Kool-Aid comes in a variety of colors and smells, and can be a fun sensory experience for kids.

  3. Shaving Cream: You can create a marbled effect on your Easter eggs by using shaving cream. Simply apply a layer of shaving cream to a shallow dish, add a few drops of food coloring or liquid watercolors, and swirl the colors together with a toothpick. Then, roll your egg through the shaving cream and let it sit for a few minutes before wiping it clean.

  4. Glitter: You can add some sparkle to your Easter eggs by using glitter. Simply brush some glue onto your egg, sprinkle glitter over it, and let it dry.

  5. Rice Shake: You can use rice and food coloring to create a sensory egg dyeing experience. Fill a sealable plastic bag with uncooked rice, add a few drops of food coloring, and shake the bag until the rice is evenly coated. Then, place your egg inside the bag, seal it, and shake it until the egg is evenly coated.

Many of these sensory activities for dying eggs can add sensory input to support self-regulation or to a functional sensory diet, and more!



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

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

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

Valentine’s Day Occupational Therapy Activities

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

Be sure to grab these printable Valentine’s Day cards, too!

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

Valentine’s Day Occupational Therapy Activities

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

One great tool is our Valentines Day I Spy activity for visual motor and fine motor skill-building.

Free Valentine’s Day Printables

We love to create multi-purpose free worksheets and printable activities that support development. Worksheets can get a bad rap, but we at The OT Toolbox attempt to create occupational therapy worksheets that focus on play as a function.

When we can use a printable founded in play, the user is performing a daily occupation that is important to them, and the play is both the tool and the skill that is being developed. That’s why these Valentine’s Day worksheets are so loveable!

Valentine’s Day Hat Craft– Print off this hat template and work on coloring skills, scissor skills, and executive functioning to build and create the Valentine craft.

Valentine Hole Punch Cards– These free pintables are perfect for occupational therapy Valentine parties. Use the printable activity to build skills in eye-hand coordination, hand strength, bilateral coordination, arch development, visual scanning, and more.

Heart Deep Breathing Exercise– Print off this heart poster and use it to develop skills in mindfulness, self-regulation, and even proprioception through the chest and upper body. It’s a very calming activity that can be a great addition to the sometimes chaos and unexpected situations in a classroom Valentine’s Day party. use it to support sensory needs at a Valentine’s Day party!

Valentine’s Day Activity Sheet– This printable tool is a great activity that can be used to develop many different skills depending on the needs of the individual. Use a single activity sheet to target: visual scanning, visual memory, visual peripheral skills, form constancy, fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, dexterity, pencil control, motor planning, coloring and more.

Valentine Matching Alphabet Cards– Cut out these love letter cards and match uppercase to lowercase letters. These cards are used for cursive letters to build skills in letter recognition, visual discrimination, and more.

Valentines Fine Motor Worksheet– Print off this Valentine worksheet and build motor skills in many ways. have fine motor races with small objects like beads or mini erasers. Use tweezers to move items along the path. Work on pre-writing lines by using the paths on a vertical or diagonal. Work on a vertical plane to build core strength and shoulder stability. Use the sheets to practice letter formation by writing in the circles. There are so many ways to play and develop skills with a heart theme!

More Valentine’s Day Activities

That’s not all! Use the activity ideas below in planning OT sessions, or in Valentine’s day parties that also build skills.

One thing I love about holiday events this time of year is that kids are excited about Valentine’s Day activities. It’s fun, friendly, and full of kindness and empathy. However, there are so many ways to develop skills with the old-fashioned Valentine fun:

  • Cut out paper hearts- Cut hearts from cardstock or construction paper for more resistance
  • Fold paper hearts in half- This is great for bilateral coordination, hand strength, pinch strength, eye-hand coordination, motor planning, and visual perception.
  • Stick heart stickers on paper- Add small targets by drawing dots and placing the heart stickers on the dots. This is great for fine motor precision and eye-hand coordination. Place the paper on a vertical surface and further develop core strength and balance.
  • Write on Valentine’s Day cards- what a functional and fun way to work on handwriting and to teach kids to write their name.
  • Make a Valentine’s Day box- Don’t worry about the fancy Pinterest V-Day boxes! Some of those require way too much parent help. Help a child wrap the box in wrapping paper (anther great functional life skill!) and then cut out hearts or draw right on the box.
  • Make a Valentine’s Day snack– Work on executive functioning skills, direction following, fine motor skills, and more.

Valentine’s Day Therapy Slide Decks

Working virtually? Use a done-for-you therapy slide deck. These are therapist-created and designed to meet the needs of a variety of levels of users. Adjust the slides and therapy activities to meet your needs and the needs of the learners you are working with.

If you are needing occupational therapy teletherapy resources, check out the hands-on Valentine’s Day activities below. They are great for February parties and therapy at home activities for this time of year, too.

Valentine’s Day Sensory Activities

From sensory bottles, to discovery activities, to heart painting and more, these sensory play activities can be a fun way to help kids develop skills through the senses. How can you use these Valentine’s Day occupational therapy activities in sessions or at home?

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

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

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

Valentines Day play dough to build fine motor skills

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

Bilateral coordination activity for valentines day

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

Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Activities

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

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

Visual perception activity and heart maze for valentines day

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

Fine motor heart activity

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

Heart fine motor and eye hand coordination activity

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

heart keychain made with salt dough

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

Valentines Day crafts

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

Valentines day handprint art

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

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

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

love bugs valentines day crafts

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

valentines day sensory bin

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

valentines day books

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

Valentines day activities to build fine motor skills
heart play dough

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

heart craft to work on fine motor skills like scissor skills

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

Valentines day craft for kids

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

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

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

More Valentines’ Day Activities

Try some of these other ideas:

Valentine’s Day Sensory Bin with Fine Motor Paper

Valentine’s Day Snacks for Kids

Valentine’s Day Goop Painting

Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Sparkle Craft

Crunchy (Sensory Diet!) Heart Tortilla Snack

Teach Buttoning with Heart Buttons

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

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

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

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

Valentines Day fine motor kit

Colleen Beck, OTR/L 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

Christmas Tree Activities

Christmas tree activities

Check out the Christmas Tree Activities on this blog post for creative ways to incorporate a Christmas tree theme into occupational therapy interventions. Tis the season for Christmas tree crafts and festive holiday activities that develop skills and learning. A lot of these Christmas crafts and sensory ideas only require a few items to make and they can last for many years to come. Add these Christmas occupational therapy ideas to your therapy toolbox.

Christmas tree activities for kids including fine motor Christmas tree crafts, and Christmas tree sensory activities.

Christmas Tree Activities

These activities are listed below in sections, so you can pick and choose the holiday activities that meet the needs of the child you are working with in therapy (or at home as a parent).

Kids can work on fine motor skills, visual scanning, visual tracking, in-hand manipulation skills and grasp patterns with a holiday theme. The tree activities below develop skills through Christmas tree ornaments, garland and Christmas themed sensory bins.  

Christmas Tree Crafts

These are fine motor crafts that build motor skills, coordination, planning, and hand strength with a Christmas tree theme.

Make a bottle cap Christmas tree

Bottle Cap Christmas Tree craft-Save those bottle caps and make a Christmas tree. Help you kids paint and arrange the bottle caps into a Christmas tree. This is a great fine motor eye- hand activity for kids.

Fine motor Christmas tree craft
Clothes pin Christmas tree

Christmas Tree Craft– Have some clothespins siting in a drawer? Gather those up with some paint, stickers and paperclips to make a fun craft for the holidays.

Gift tag Christmas tree art
Christmas tree stamp art

Christmas Tree Stamp Art– have your child make homemade gift tags. This activity will work on fine motor skills (scissor skills and grasp patterns). 

A Very Merry Occupational Therapy Christmas –This article provide a variety of activities focused around Christmas for the whole month! Scroll down to activity eight to make a craft of stringing  cranberries and popcorn to make garland for your tree. Stringing items works on so many important skills. Bilateral coordination, visual tracking and visual scanning, fine motor skills and patterning. 

Christmas tree made from egg cartons

Fine Motor Egg Carton Christmas Tree Craft-Save your egg cartons to make this fun Christmas tree craft. Grab some green paint and decorations to help your child make a table decoration. 

Christmas Tree Fine Motor Craft– Grab a hold punch and paper and let your kids have fun by making Christmas trees with various amounts of holes. Can be used as a great way to count as well. The squeezing of the hole punch provides proprioceptive input and strengthening to the hands. 

Christmas Tree Scissor Skills Craft– Use the same concept and have kids work on scissor skills with this easy cutting activity. These Christmas trees would look great on a holiday garland.

Make a pine cone Christmas tree and build fine motor skills.

Pine Cone Christmas Tree  Ornaments-Take a walk outside and gather up pinecones. Grab some paint and glitter, pom poms and make these cute ornaments with your kids. 

Christmas suncatcher craft
Christmas tree suncatcher

Christmas Tree Suncatcher Craft-what is better then seeing the sun in the winter? Having a beautiful sun catcher to see it through. This activity works on pincer grasp and in-hand manipulation skills. 

Make a pattern Christmas tree with beads

Pattern Christmas Tree Ornament– This fine motor craft is a fun one to work on pincer grasp, tripod grasp, in-hand manipulation, and more.

Christmas Tree Sensory Activities

Christmas tree sensory activity
Christmas tree sensory play

Christmas Tree Sensory Play-make a fun Christmas tree with foam shapes and water. A fun sensory activity that works on cutting, patterning and sorting. 

Christmas Sensory Binkids love playing in sensory bins. We used green peas and potpourri as the items in the bin. To make it a Christmas tree them use the green peas and add round ball for ornaments.

Fine motor Christmas card craft
Christmas tree card to build fine motor skills

This Christmas tree card kids can make is a fine motor skill activity that builds scissor skills, hand strength, eye-hand coordination, and more.

Christmas tree drink wrap

Christmas Tree Oral Motor Activity– Did you know that drinking from a juice box offers kids heavy work through the mouth as they suck on the small juice box straw? This Christmas tree craft can be used with a juice box for a bit of calming sensory input through the mouth.

Use this Christmas mindfulness activity as a coping strategy for kids during the holidays.

Christmas Tree Mindfulness Activity– Use this Christmas tree deep breathing activity as a sensory break to address self-regulation for sensory needs or emotional needs. Print and go!

About Christina: Christina Komaniecki is a school based Occupational Therapist. I graduated from Governors State University with a master’s in occupational therapy.   I have been working in the pediatric setting for almost 6 years and have worked in early intervention, outpatient pediatrics, inpatient pediatrics, day rehab, private clinic and schools. My passion is working with children and I love to see them learn new things and grow. I love my two little girls, family, yoga and going on long walks.


Best Sensory Toys

sensory toys and sensory tools

If you are looking for the very best sensory toys to challenge sensory exploration, tactile play, or to offer sensory input to calm or alert a child, then you are in the right place. This gift guide of toys for sensory play cover many aspects of sensory processing in fun and engaging ways. Whether you need to add a few components to a sensory diet through play, or you are looking for a gift idea that develops specific skill areas, these occupational therapy toys, sensory toys, fidget toys, and movement toys cover all the bases.

When it comes to sensory toys, many of the ideas in our gross motor toy suggestions will hit on movement and heavy work input, so be sure to check that gift list out as well. Today is all about the sensory motor play.  

First, let’s talk Sensory Tools and Toys!

Sensory toys and sensory tools for kids

The Best Sensory Toys

We had so much fun putting together our recent Gift Guide Toys to Improve Pencil Grasp, that we decided to put together this gift guide for Toys to Inspire Sensory Play.  If you follow our blog posts, you know that we LOVE messy, sensory, textural play.  

There are so many benefits to sensory play for young children.  They can explore textures, colors, scents while manipulating with their hands, expanding language skills, developing self-confidence, and so much more.  And while they are playing, they are exploring, exploring, investigating, and creating!  

This gift guide provides ideas to incorporate sensory play into daily play.  We wanted to provide a list of gift ideas so that sensory play can be done easily once you have all of the needed items.  What better time to stock the activity bin/closet/box than during the holidays?  

Maybe a relative is asking for gift ideas and there is something you would LOVE your kids to play with for sensory experiences.  Direct them to this gift guide for ideas to encourage sensory play!

Sensory Tools

First let’s cover a bit about how these toys are sensory tools. When it comes to kids, play is their primary occupation. It’s their main job. Through play, kids learn about the world around them, they practice and develop skills, and they interact with others.

Play is also a prime way to incorporate movement and sensory experiences, allowing kids to regulate their nervous system, calm down, focus, attend to tasks, and remember important experiences.

Sensory tools are means of facilitating sensory input. Whether that input is calming, alerting, or something else, it’s through experiences or sensory tools that a child gains sensory input. Sensory tools can offer movement, tactile input, visual input, or input through the olfactory system, gustatory system, auditory system and interoceptive system.

Check out this resource on sensory processing for more information on all of the senses and how they integrate to enable functional participation in day to day tasks.

The specifically selected toys and tools below incorporate sensory input in one way or another.

Amazon affiliate links are included below.

Sensory Toys and sensory tools ideas for kids

Light Tables as a Sensory TOOL

Have you ever used a light table in therapy? It’s a fun sensory experience for kids to challenge fine motor skills, as well as cognitive skills, and even posture or balance, all with the sensory input of a light table and manipulatives.

Light Panel in Sensory Play:
This Portable Light Panel is great for visual sensory exploration.  Tracing and tactile manipulation can enhance math, handwriting, spatial relationships, and more through sensory play.

You could add a few Light Table Pattern Blocks or even magnetic Imaginarium Letters & Numbers like we did in our DIY Sensory Light Box post.  Explore the shapes and textures of leaves, petals, and so much more with a light table!

Messy Sensory Toys

Our kids LOVE to get messy!  Not all kids do, however, and may need gradual experiences to build up their tolerance to sensory touch and manipulate different textures.  Some of our favorite messy play materials are:

Kinetic Sand (such a cool texture…but be warned, Moon Dough is VERY messy!)

Educational Insights Playfoam (such a neat textural experience!)

Aqua Sand Polar Playground is another super messy but very cool play experience.  The wet sand dries immediately, how fun!

Glow in The Dark Slime is slimy, messy, and glow in the dark.  Add a few Marbles and you’ve got a super sensory texture. The slime and the marbles would make fun stocking stuffers!

Scented Sensory Toys

Scented Play is a fun way to engage and alert the senses through sensory toys.

Remember these Mr. Sketch Scented Markers from grade school?  I can still remember that blueberry scent!  What a great way to explore the sense of smell while playing and creating art.  Have the kids draw with the markers and then spray the art work with a water bottle to see the colors run.  This would be a great sensory and process art project for kids of all ages!

This Scented Balls Set sounds so neat!  We’ve never played with these before, but they each come in a different scent and would make an awesome stocking stuffer!

Sensory Bin Toys

There are so many ways to use a sensory bin in sensory play. You can offer texture challenges that meet the needs of the child AND incorporate learning opportunities.

Color Changing Tablets for Sensory Play:
The sense of sight is such an immediate one!  A sensory experience can be set up for the kids and as soon as they see a bright green bin of water with scoops or foam pieces, they are excited for play! 

These Color My Bath Color Changing Bath Tablets are great for setting the stage for multi-sensory play.  We’ve used them in our Swamp Water Bin Sensory Play activity.  Watching the colors fizz and mix is such a fun experience!

Throw these tablets into the bath tub along with a few unexpected items (Paint Brushes, fun eye droppers like these Learning Resources Twisty Droppers , or a Funnel Set) and you’ve got a great sensory play environment!

Manipulatives In Sensory Play:
Sensory play is such a fun way to play and learn any topic.  Exploring textures with sensory input can really instill learning. So what can you put in the sensory bin, or water bin, or in the shaving cream on a tray?  The possibilities are endless!

Try a jungle theme and add Jungle Animal Counters.  Maybe your child LOVES dinosaurs and would go crazy to play with Mini Dinosaurs
in a tub of birdseed.  Any theme or subject can be added to sensory play. 

Water Beads in Sensory Play:
There is nothing more fun than this sensory play item!  Water Beads are typically used as a vase filler because once soaked in water, they expand and become a super sensory, fun, fine motor medium. 

We’ve used them in sensory bins of all kinds.  This set from Bundle Monster is great deal and comes in so many fun colors.  (Note: always be sure to supervise children when playing with water beads!)

Water Tables In Sensory Play:
Water tables are great for sensory play.  Despite it’s name, water tables are not JUST for water!  There are so many possibilities for messy play with a water table.  Goop, moon dough, birdseed,  shaving cream…the possibilities for sensory and textural play are endless! A water table is not just for outdoor play during the summer months.  We love bringing our sand and water table indoors during the cooler months and playing with bigger items like seashells, animal figures in play dough, mixing flour and a bit of water. 

We love this Step2 Water Table for its large basin, the added water wheel (How fun to pour sand and watch it fall!). So many senses can be addressed with water table play.  We explored the textures of fall with a Fall Themed Water Table.  Since we’ve added our water table to our play, we’ve had so much sensory play fun!

Sensory Tools in a sensory bin

There are many materials that can be added to a bin or low tray and used as a sensory tool. Some of these can be very inexpensive, making them great tools for sensory exploration. Incorporate these materials into multisensory learning, too.

More Ideas for sensory play:
shaving cream
food coloring
field corn
split peas
dry beans
colored rice
colored sand
cotton balls

Sensory Fidget Toys

Fidget toys are a fun (and popular) way to address attention needs through small scale sensory input. Each of these fidget toys promote fine motor development by encouraging finger isolation, bilateral coordination, precision, and eye-hand coordination.

Great stocking stuffers for sensory play:

Sensory Balls

Textured Sensory Fidget Toy– Great for bilateral coordination and fine moor skills.

Wooden Puzzle Fidget

Pull and Stretch Bounce Ball

Sensory Toys for Calming Input

The ideas below make great gift ideas because they add heavy work input, or calming movement input, through the proprioceptive system and vestibular sensory system. These sensory tools can be a great addition to the home.

Alerting Sensory Toys

These toy ideas van be alerting activities that “wake up” the sensory system. For others, through, they can calm the system, because the child gains a sensory work out when using them. Be sure to contact an occupational therapist for a sensory evaluation and suggestions for the needs of each individual.

So, if you are looking for a few ideas to add some sensory fun to your gift giving this holiday…or have family and friends asking for gift ideas…maybe one of these sensory play toys will be just right for your little one!  This list is by no means exclusive.  There are limitless ways to encourage sensory exploration into play.  We just wanted to provide a few ideas.  Happy playing!

More Movement sensory toy ideas

The lists of toy suggestions in the following blog posts are geared toward specific developmental areas. But, when it comes to movement, there are many sensory components intrinsically incorporated into the play. Check out these specific toy ideas:

  1. Fine Motor Toys
  2. Gross Motor Toys
  3. Pencil Grasp Toys
  4. Toys for Reluctant Writers
  5. Toys for Spatial Awareness
  6. Toys for Visual Tracking
  7. Toys for Sensory Play
  8. Bilateral Coordination Toys 
  9. Games for Executive Functioning Skills 
  10. Toys and Tools to Improve Visual Perception 
  11. Toys to Help with Scissors Skills 
  12. Toys for Attention and Focus 

Printable List of Toys for SENSORY NEEDS

Want a printable copy of our therapist-recommended toys to support sensory processing?

As therapy professionals, we LOVE to recommend therapy toys that build skills! This toy list is done for you so you don’t need to recreate the wheel.

Your therapy caseload will love these SENSORY toy recommendations. (There’s space on this handout for you to write in your own toy suggestions, to meet the client’s individual needs, too!)

Enter your email address into the form below. The OT Toolbox Member’s Club Members can access this handout inside the dashboard, under Educational Handouts. Just be sure to log into your account, first!


    We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

    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

    Therapy for Picky Eaters

    food therapy for extremely picky eaters

    In this blog post, we are covering therapy for picky eaters. Occupational therapists and speech therapy practitioners often cover extremely picky eating in therapy sessions, but how do they know where to begin with food therapy? Let’s cover specifically how to help extremely picky eaters, food for picky eaters, and therapy suggestions for extremely picky picky eating disorder.

    Therapy for Picky Eaters

    Fifty years ago, feeding therapy this would not have been a popular topic. Children ate what was provided, like it or not.  Sometimes parents would spare the child and leave the offending objects off of the plate. More often than not, children over the age of four were expected to eat what everyone else was eating.

    Fast forward to 2022. There has been a huge rise in allergies, picky eaters, and problem feeders. How to help extremely picky eaters  has become the forefront of many occupational therapy sessions and referrals.

    There has been a marked rise in food sensitivity (gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance) or allergies to certain foods.  This goes hand in hand with the rise of anxiety, illness, ADHD, autism, and poor immune response. 

    Picky Eater List

    There is a difference between oral motor skills that impact feeding abilities and a child’s picky eating. Foods that make the “picky eater’s list” might include certain food texture issues, food mixtures, food sensory issues like crunchy foods, and even foods that require utensils. 

    A short list of some foods that are not on the plate of extremely picky eaters might include:

    • Sandwiches
    • Rice
    • Chicken breast or other meats
    • Carrots
    • Cheese
    • Sauces
    • Vegetables
    • Fruits

    Obviously this is a short list and any number of foods, food types can be on a picky eater list. Any other number of foods or food combinations

    Looking at this list, you can see the limitations in nutrients, vitamins, proteins, and brain-building foods that are missing from the plate of an extremely picky eater.

    It is not productive to get stuck in the “why is my child a picky eater”, but move forward to “what can I do about picky eating”.  I am not just an experienced feeding therapist, I too had two picky eaters who survived on 3-4 different foods in their second and third year of development.  

    In order to help my daughters, I had to remove my thoughts impacting how I approached tackling that picky eater list for each child. That includes putting aside parenting/worry/anxiety/they’re starving persona, and put on my therapist hat.  I am happy to report they are thriving adults who eat a huge variety of foods!

     NOTE*The term, “learner” is used throughout this post for readability and inclusion. Not all picky eaters are children. This information is relevant for students, patients, clients, preschoolers, kids/children of all ages and stages or whomever could benefit from these resources. The term “they” is used instead of he/she to be inclusive.

     How to help extremely picky eaters 

    To learn how to help extremely picky eaters, it is important to define it first.  

    Picky eating is different from problem feeding.  Often, but not always, extremely picky eating is actually a problem feeding disorder. This has recently been renamed Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder ARFID.  ARFID is not classified with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, as persons with ARFID or problem feeding do not restrict their intake due to body image.

    The term picky eating includes:

    • Selective eating habits
    • Eats 10-20 different foods (preferred foods)
    • Will often eat more if hungry
    • Not missing entire food groups
    • Can often be bribed or rewarded for good eating
    • Can be distracted into eating
    • Adds new foods to their diet

    Problem feeding (extremely picky eating) refers to:

    • Refusal to eat
    • Rigid eating habits (no food touching, specific brand, same plate, cut a certain way)
    • Eats less than 10 different foods
    • Will starve before they eat unwanted foods
    • Missing entire food groups 
    • Behavioral reactions: gagging, vomiting, crying, anxiety, refusal to sit at the table
    • Increased sensitivity to the taste and/or texture of foods
    • No amount of rewards, bribing, punishing will magically make this go away
    • Does not recognize hunger
    • Food jags, will lose foods once eaten regularly

    What is the difference between picky eating and problem feeding?                

    The picky eater will survive.  They are likely to consume at least one meat, fruit, and vegetable and a bunch of carbs.  

    Continue to put out expected foods on the plate and encourage tasting of new foods.  The problem feeder on the other hand, is not consuming enough calories, or getting the right nutrition.  

    A person surviving on four foods often gets tired of one of them, eating only three foods now.  This is more of a dire situation and the treatment is complicated.

    If you have a problem feeder, seek treatment from a therapist who is certified or has attended classes in feeding therapy.  There is a lot that can go wrong working with problem feeders.

    The Sequential Oral Sensory course, Beckman Oral Motor Therapy, and Mealtime Miseries are popular courses. Having this information can help in identifying whether extremely picky eating is related to sensory or oral motor difficulties.

    Therapy for Extremely Picky Eating

    After viewing the list, if you feel the learner is more of a picky eater, there are several strategies that can help.

    Following a feeding evaluation, feeding therapy can begin. Start a structured feeding problem including the following:

    1. Feeding Therapy Interview

    Interview the caregiver to determine the following:       

    • What foods the learner eats – a specific list will determine texture, variety, color, or patterns. Are all the foods crunchy? Are they all brown?
    • How many foods the learner eats – less than 10 is a problem, 10-15 is picky, and above 20 is average. Count two different cookies as two items, two cereals as two items.
    • Medical history – Is there a history of reflux, G-tube, or NG-tube, swallowing issues?
    • Time frame for eating – A typical meal should last 20-30 minutes for a child.
    • Where the learner eats – Does the learner eat at the table or in front of the television? Do they run around the room catching a bite here and there?
    • Behavioral reactions during meal times – Does the child flee the table? Turn their whole body away from the food, vomit, cry, refuse to open their mouth, gag, spit out food?

    Record information from caregivers and look for clues to feeding issues, other than the exhibited behavior. The person may have a history of reflux that makes eating very uncomfortable.  They may have been verbally abused and shamed during mealtime, making eating an unpleasant experience. Perhaps the child has never had structure or routine during meal time, thus not making eating a priority. 

    2. Planning for Feeding therapy

    Start treatment planning                

    Begin with the provided list of preferred foods to determine what foods to try first.  A Food Inventory Questionnaire can be used for this step.

    If the learner eats: crackers, pancakes, waffles, bread, and dry cereal, they may have a preference for white/brown foods that are dry. Some are crunchy foods and some are soft foods, but all are dry. 

    The next in order would be another dry brown food such as toast, bagel, cookie, or different type of cracker. 

    Once the child tolerates more brown dry foods the next texture in the same color family would be a banana or plain macaroni. 

    For the learner who eats only purees or smooth foods like pudding, yogurt, and baby food, the next step would be to try different flavors of yogurt or pudding. For a learner who only eats smooth foods, it is important not to vary the texture yet. After the child tolerates this texture, then a trial of applesauce may work.

    Adding flavor choices and additional nutrients can be found in sauces or dips. While this can be a source of refusal for some kids, others prefer dips such as ketchup or ranch dressing.

    Take a look at what the individual is gaining from these dips. Both can be high in sodium and that salt intake is preferred. Can you offer other foods to dip into the preferred choices?

    Think about other similar options that may offer a similar sensory input through texture or taste:

    • butter for pasta rather than sauces
    • pizza sauce in place of ketchup

    3. Feeding Therapy Treatment session              

    Ask the learner or their caregiver to provide two favored foods and 2-3 non favored foods. Having preferred foods decreases anxiety as  the child is not presented with a plate of non favored foods.  

    It is important for the learner/caregiver to provide the food.  Possible allergic reactions are diminished, as the caregiver is more aware of the learner’s diet. There may be cultural or dietary foods that the family prefers.

    It doesn’t do any good for the therapist to work for weeks on waffles and applesauce, if the family does not offer these foods.

    Food presentation – Present all foods on the plate in small portions, or a choice of two options with small bites of each. Avoid huge piles of non-preferred food, as it increases anxiety or aversion.

    Divided plates help ease anxiety, as do small portions. It can help to present the food as snacks, using a snack plate or small tea plate.

    Food exploration- Start to encourage eating, or at least food exploration.  Have the learner look at the food, touch the food, touch it to their face, give a kiss, give a lick, take a bite, chew, and swallow. This resource on sensory touch can offer more information and strategies to support tactile exploration.

    There are 27 steps to eating from being in the same room as the food, to chewing and swallowing it.  This makes learning to eat new foods challenging. 

    Offer food options- Allow the child to touch foods or use their fingertips to pick up and eat or taste the foods. In some cases, muscles and coordination are not appropriate for utensil use, limiting options.

    Read about suggestions to improve how to hold a spoon and fork.

    Offer various food temperatures. Consider the sensory input offered by cooked carrots vs. raw carrots. 

    Offer various food cuts. Consider the amount of force needed to bite baby carrots vs. shredded carrots.

    Food Therapy Progression

    Food therapy interventions are about progressing through with small incremental changes to food offerings with observation and food challenges. Some food therapy goal banks are included below.

    Learner is able to:

    1. Be in the same room as the food, then in the same area as the food.
    2. Sit near the food, then in front of the food without turning away.
    3. Look at food, touch the non preferred item, smell the food.
    4. Touch  the food to face, then lips, then give it a kiss.
    5. Lick the food, take a bite and spit it out, chew the food with the option to take it out.

    While presenting and working on the feeding portion, observe for signs of oral motor issues that might indicate oral motor development considerations.

    • Does the learner chew from side to side or munch up and down?
    • Do they have good lip closure?
    • Do they have an intense gag reflex?
    • Can they move the food around effectively?
    • Can they bite into the food?

    4. Carryover of Therapy for Picky Eaters

    The ultimate goal is to carryover skills achieved in therapy sessions into a functional environment. Discuss techniques with caregivers and encourage them to try the same foods later in the day.

    Remind them to be calm and not emotional during feeding time. The goal is to have fun with food and find mealtime enjoyable.

    For more information on how to help extremely picky eaters, I have also published a helpful resource book (Amazon affiliate link) Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes for to understand different environments that may be impacting the eating habits of your child/clients, including the cafeteria, kitchen, restaurants, and more.  

    Feeding and toileting are two of the most frustrating, anxiety producing stages of childhood. Children start to exert their free will at this stage and can no longer be forced to do certain things.

    Encourage parents, educate yourself on this topic, and spread the word, so problem feeding does not continue to rise along with other scary diagnoses. 

    This post is part of a series on feeding disorders/picky eating. Other resources you will find helpful include:

    Victoria Wood

    Victoria Wood, OTR/L has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.

    Sensory Touch

    sensory touch

    One of the first postnatal senses to develop is sensory touch.  There are eight senses to sensory processing, with touch being one of the more important ones.  The tactile system helps the brain understand and make sense of the world around it. Starting in infancy, people use touch to explore objects, protect themselves from danger, and safely navigate their world. Sensory touch is an important piece to looking at a sensory processing disorder checklist.

    Sensory touch

    Sensory touch

    According to what we know about sensory processing, and looking at the sensory processing disorder chart, The body sends tactile information to the somatosensory cortex through neural pathways to the spinal cord, the brain stem, and the thalamus.

    The primary somatosensory cortex is the primary receptive area for touch sensations and is located in the lateral postcentral gyrus, a prominent structure in the parietal lobe of the human brain.

    Think of sensory touch and the tactile system as a set of wired pathways, similar to the inner workings of a machine. In a typical body, the wires are the correct size, go the right direction, and send the appropriate information from the touch receptors to the brain. 

    Types of sensory touch

    Three Types of sensory touch

    There are three types of touch; light touch, deep pressure, and discriminative touch.  

    • Light touch is alerting.  It may alert you to danger such as something touching the skin, or brushing against a spider web. For those with sensory sensitivity, light touch can be bothersome, painful, and elicit negative emotions. 
    • Deep pressure tends to be calming.  Hugs, weighted blankets, and compression clothing, offer external deep pressure sensory touch. Deep pressure can also alert the body about how tight something is, if there is too much pressure, or not enough. 
    • Discriminative touch alerts the body/brain to the type of sensory touch.  It helps describe the incoming information.  Was it sticky, wet, dry, rough, bumpy, hot/cold, or smooth?

    Sensory Touch Issues

    How does this affect people with sensory touch difficulties?

    If the sensory touch system is not functioning optimally, the wiring can be off. Some wires might be too large, sending too much information at once (sensitivity). 

    Other wires may be too small, not sending enough information (sensory seeking). 

    Sometimes the wires are too long, taking it longer for the messages to be sent to the brain and registered.

    Other times the wires don’t go where they are supposed to, and misinformation is sent.

    Slow responses to touch sensory input, or the wiring may be too long/send misinformation:

    • Doesn’t notice if hands or face are messy or dirty
    • Doesn’t cry when seriously hurt and isn’t bothered by minor injuries
    • May not notice if bumped or pushed

    Seeking out touch sensory input or the wiring is too small:

    • Touching people to the point of irritating them
    • Loves messy play
    • Likes haircuts
    • Constantly touching objects, running their hands along the walls, or playing in the dirt

    Sensitivity to touch sensory input or the wiring is too big:

    • Dislikes having hair cut or brushed
    • Difficulty with toe and fingernail cutting
    • Fussy with food textures
    • Avoids getting messy, wants to wash hands immediately
    • Does not explore with touch
    • Irritated with certain clothing textures, labels and seams and socks. Avoids new clothes

    Sensory Touch and Function

    So, how does touch affect functional tasks?

    Touch is critical to making sense of the world. Along with the other senses, it teaches the brain the characteristics of an object or situation.

    This is the reason babies and young children touch everything!  They can not understand a new object without physically exploring it.  

    Let’s break down the definition of sensory touch terminology:

    • Stereognosis – a fancy word meaning; the ability to feel an object, and know what it is without seeing it.  An example of stereognosis is reaching into a bag to find a set of keys. 
    • Dyspraxia – difficulty with motor movements. Without the correct sensory touch information, movements and motor planning can be difficult.  Is that sand going to be soft and squishy, how close to the wall am I walking, how much force do I use when petting this puppy?
    • Tactile defensiveness Inability to tolerate touching food, wearing certain clothes, standing in line, being touched, exploring the environment, or experiencing new tactile sensations.

    Another component of touch that impacts functional performance is the information about touch that keeps us safe and gives us information about the world around us. This includes touch information such as:

    • Where is a particular item touching me?
    • The sensory touch awareness that “disappears” over time (feeling your socks on your feet when you put them on, but then not constantly feeling the “feel” of the socks on your feet). This awareness isn’t always present in Autistic individuals.
    • Is this item hot or cold?
    • Is a particular item too sharp or dangerous?

    Somatosensory Touch

    Somatosensory touch is a physiological body process which includes several aspects of sensory touch:

    • Exteroception input which can include touch sensitivity, thermoreceptive input (heat and temperature awareness), pain receptors
    • Interoceptive perception– awareness of pressure or feelings inside the body
    • Proprioceptive perception– feelings and awareness of joints and body awareness.

    Research about the somatosensory touch sense

    There are several research articles available on the somatosensory or tactile system:

    1. This article covers the sensory neurons of touch, including important information about the somatosensory system which serves three major functions; exteroreceptive (perception of sensory stimuli outside the body and on the skin), interoceptive (perception of internal stimuli inside the body), and proprioceptive functions (for the perception and control of body position and balance). Of important mention is the inclusion of
    2. This article which covers the development of touch.
    3. This article which discusses the common influences of the visual and tactile systems in using similar cognitive processes to enable humans to rely merely on one modality in the absence of another to recognize surrounding objects.
    4. This article discusses how Meissner’s corpuscles work in sensory touch, and how the location and presence of the number and distribution of Meissner’s corpuscles occurs in different locations on the human body.

    These are scientific journal articles which provide facts and research on theories about the sensory touch aspect of sensory processing.  To the layperson, they are difficult to read and decipher. Using the wiring example above, along with concrete examples may prove to be more beneficial to caregivers.

    Sensory Integration and Touch

    Sensory integration is the ability to correctly receive and interpret information from the senses. Difficulty with sensory integration, often labeled sensory processing disorder, results in misinformation about incoming information. It can be in one or more of the senses.  

    Why do babies touch everything?

    Babies and toddlers explore with touch.  A person who has not integrated this sense, may need to explore with touch long beyond the acceptable time frame. Learners who are developmentally delayed may exhibit “inappropriate” sensory behaviors because their system is functioning at a much lower level. 

    A four year old functioning at a one year old level would be expected to explore with taste and touch. 

    Infants and children who are born prematurely may also have difficulty with sensory regulation.  Their sensory systems were not developed well in utero, and it is almost impossible to mimic the womb sensations in an external NICU. 

    Premature children may be especially vulnerable to sensory challenges.

    Sensory Touch Preferences

    Everyone has their own set of sensory preferences.  You might dislike wearing jeans, cut the tags in your clothing, love snuggling under a heavy blanket, or prefer not to get messy. 

    These can be normal reactions to touch.  It becomes a problem when the reaction to sensory input impacts function. 

    The person who can not wear any clothes, is not able to be around people who might touch them, or has a panic attack stepping on the sand, are on the further ends of the typical spectrum.

    Their ability to lead a productive life is being compromised by their sensory difficulties. These are the people who may benefit from treatment.

    What can I do about this?

    The first step is understanding. Understanding a child is not “bad” or being difficult on purpose. Provide good tactile experiences to nurture and build the sensory system. 

    Hands on strategies to support sensory touch:

    Understanding sensory touch, along with the other seven senses is tricky and complicated. What seems like a basic human function, can be a tangled web of crossed wires and misinformation.

    NOTE*The term, “learner” is used throughout this post for readability and inclusion. This information is relevant for students, patients, clients, preschoolers, kids/children of all ages and stages or whomever could benefit from these resources. The term “they” is used instead of he/she to be inclusive.

    Victoria Wood

    Victoria Wood, OTR/L has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.

    Thanksgiving Mindfulness Activity

    Turkey exercise for a mindful thanksgiving

    Having a mindful Thanksgiving is so important, but have you ever considered HOW to achieve Thanksgiving mindfulness during a time when abundance is everywhere? Today, we have a few tips on holiday mindfulness, but also a great turkey exercise. This Thanksgiving deep breathing exercise is a tool to use when the overwhelming feelings of a big holiday event can overcome emotions and behaviors. Add this turkey activity to your Thanksgiving occupational therapy plans.

    Thanksgiving Mindfulness

    This time of year, being mindful is a huge part of the gratitude of Thanksgiving. This Thanksgiving Mindfulness activity doubles as a deep breathing coping strategy but also is helpful in teaching kids to be mindful during a time of year when the holidays can get the best of them.

    A few weeks ago, you may have seen a Pumpkin deep breathing exercise on The OT Toolbox. This mindfulness strategy is inline with that coping tool. Use it to talk to the kids about mindfulness or as a sensory strategy.

    Thanksgiving mindfulness activity with deep breathing exercise to use as a coping strategy with kids.

    During the time of year when signs of a feast is everywhere (from a family get together to a feast in the classroom), it can be easy to become overwhelmed by tensions, boundaries of others, and even the over-abundance.

    For our kiddos with sensory needs, we see this play out in emotions, behavioral meltdowns, and sensory regulation needs.  

    However, for ALL of us, sometimes having an open mind and mindful strategies can support a complex season. 

    Mindfulness for kids can be a creative way to address common concerns with attention, self-regulation, self-awareness, coping skills, and concentration.

    Mindfulness activities can be a way for kids to be more present in the moment, and more aware of themselves in every situation, including in the home, in the classroom, and while performing everyday activities.

    With the turkey exercise below, we use a few areas of mindful attention:

    • Deep breathing
    • Coloring (if using the coloring page)

    Deep breathing exercises can improve a child’s attention, emotional regulation through mindful attention to Breath Control

    Breathing exercises are a coping tool to support relaxation by attentive breathing. When focused breathing occurs with breath control to inhale a deep, diaphragmatic breathing strategy, and then held for a moment to hold the breath at full capacity, there are many calming benefits, which can slow a racing mind. This relaxation breathing is a breath control mechanism.

    Mindfulness Strategies for Big Holidays

    There are many ways to incorporate mindfulness into holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas. You can still honor the spirit of Thanksgiving or other big holidays even when overwhelm and a racing mind are at play.

    Here are some of our favorite mindfulness tools for holidays:

    • Fun Mindfulness activities for kids–  creative mindfulness exercises that can help kids feel better, reduce stress, address anxiety, and have a greater awareness of their body and mind. Mindfulness activities for kids can be used as a self-regulation tool or a coping strategy. 
    • Go for a quick walk to add movement, heavy work through the body, and the opportunity to take a few deep breaths.
    • Make a list of things you are grateful for. Use that gratitude to pray, give thanks, or use in gratitude meditation.
    • Talk about gratitude with kids. This Bear Says Thanks activity is a great hands-on activity for this lesson.
    • Take a walk in nature and practice gratitude while walking
    • Talk about gratitude. You don’t need to save thankfulness for the Thanksgiving table. Talk about the things you are thankful for each day.
    • Consider mindful eating during big meals or family meals.
    • Winter Theme Mindfulness Activities–  Use these tips for mindfulness in the classroom and creative mindfulness exercises with a winter theme. 
    • Mindfulness Videos on YouTube– Use these YouTube videos to help kids pay attention and responding to input from the world around us, including emotionally and cognitively. 
    • Make gratitude and mindfulness a habit. 
    • Adding a quick morning meditation can help with overall wellbeing.
    • Hug your friends and family. Did you know there are benefits to giving and receiving hugs? Not only do they offer proprioceptive input through deep pressure, but they can be very calming.

    Turkey Exercise for Mindfulness

    This mindfulness activity is a fun one for kids this time of year. Like our pumpkin deep breathing exercise, we used a visual graphic of a turkey paired with directions to breathe deeply as a sensory coping strategy. Use the turkey deep breathing activity to teach kids mindfulness and awareness.

    Use the printable along with these free Thankful Turkey Templates for hands-on play.

    What better activity is there for Thanksgiving and the season of gratitude?

    • Kids can use this Thanksgiving mindfulness activity to wind down after a busy day, cope with sensory overload, and be more aware of things they can express gratitude for.
    • Use the printable turkey exercise as a breathing tool during the chaos of a family dinner.
    • Use this Thanksgiving themed mindfulness tool to address sensory issues such as sensory overload. It’s a great way to add a mini-sensory break into busy days filled with family and festivities. Simply taking a few moments to add deep breathing exercises can help with feelings of overwhelming sensory overload and add the calming moment a child might need.
    • It works for kids of all ages, too…take a few moments with your kiddos to step back, breathe deeply, and express gratitude or awareness.

    It’s a great way to introduce mindfulness to children with a visual representation of the deep breathing strategy and awareness of the world around them.

    Ok, so how does this work? Let’s try this mindfulness meditation task!

    How to Use this Turkey Exercise for Mindfulness

    Print off the turkey exercise by entering your email address into the form below. This resource is also available in our OT Toolbox Member’s Club, on the Thanksgiving Therapy Theme page.

    1. Use the visual graphic to follow the arrows as you take deep breaths in and out.
    2. Pair the deep breathing with thoughts of things that you are thankful for with each breath.
    3. For each feather on the turkey, you will concentrate on one thing, person, or aspect that you are thankful for. Maybe it’s a warm house. Maybe you are thankful for the sun shining outside. Maybe it’s a frantic house filled with family and friends. Maybe it’s a job that pays the bills.

    Thinking about whatever it is that you are grateful for is a simple way to pair the benefits of slow deep breaths with intentional thoughts.

    Use the Thanksgiving mindfulness with kids as a group or individually. You can set this up in several ways. Ask them fist to list out some things they are thankful for. Then, quietly say an item with each breath break.

    Use the Turkey Deep Breathing Exercise in a Group

    This exercise is a great addition to group gratitude activities.

    As a mindfulness group activity, use the turkey graphic and explain that they will be pairing deep breathing with a focus on gratitude. Come up with a list of things the group is thankful for and as you work through he deep breathing exercise, the children in the group can focus on things that they are thankful for personally.

    Or, you could invite the child to think in their head about some things they are thankful for and then with each breath in, they intentionally concentrate on that thing/person/idea.

    Adding the deep breathing exercise with intentional thoughts makes this a Thanksgiving Mindfulness activity that can be so helpful for kids (and adults) of all ages!

    Thanksgiving mindfulness activity for kids

    Free Thanksgiving Mindfulness Exercise

    You can print off a version of this turkey exercise deep breathing tool. Enter your email address into the form below. The OT Toolbox Member’s Club members can access this resource inside our Member’s Club on the Thanksgiving Therapy Theme page.

    Free Thanksgiving Mindfulness Turkey Exercise

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

      Bat Template Fine Motor Activity

      Bat stencil template

      This bat template is a fine motor activity, perfect for building motor skills with a Halloween twist. Use the bat printable as a stencil to cut out, trace, and then use in fine motor work. Add this to your Halloween occupational therapy activities!

      Bat Template

      Fall is here and that means it’s time to pull out the Halloween crafts! This bat Halloween craft is a favorite in our house, and it’s actually a fun way to celebrate Halloween with kids without spooky decorations.

      We also used this bat template in a Stellaluna activity that also challenged visual processing skills. Be sure to check that activity out for another way to use this printable bat stencil.

      The nice thing about using our bat template is that it becomes an open-ended Halloween craft idea is one that doesn’t need a lot of materials. In fact, it’s a simple craft idea that is big on the fine motor skill development! When kids make this bat craft, they will be boosting skills such as fine motor strength and dexterity in a big way.

      For more Halloween craft ideas, check out some of the ideas at the bottom of this post…it’s the perfect addition if you’re looking for Halloween crafts for toddlers or Halloween crafts for preschool parties.

      Related, check out these spider activities for more spooky but fun ideas.

      Printable bat stencil to use in fine motor crafts for Halloween

      Bat Template Craft

      We made this bat craft with a fun sensory twist.  And, since we have a certain second grader that is cursive handwriting obsessed, we decided to add a cursive handwriting twist to this activity.  This activity could work to help kids with letter formation of upper case letters, lowercase letters, or numbers too. The possibilities are endless. 

      We arranged the bat template so you can print out one bat printable page and then get 3 bats from the one page.

      Or, if you are using the bat templates with a group of kids like in a classroom Halloween party activity, you can easily cut the bat template page into three sections with one bat stencil for each child.

      This post contains affiliate links.

      Cut out bat template and trace onto black paper with yarn

      Bat Printable

      To make your bat craft, you’ll need just a few materials.

      Affiliate links are included.

      • Bat printable (get your copy below)
      • black cardstock 
      • black yarn 
      • Glue 
      • Scissors (THIS is my favorite brand and the ones that I always recommended as an Occupational Therapist!)
      • Pencil or marker

      This is a great Halloween craft for preschoolers because it’s a fantastic way to work on scissor skills with a Halloween activity.

      Make the Bat Template

      1. First print out the Pat printable onto printer paper.
      2. Cut out the bat templates on the page. Each template has three bats. Students can cut out the bat printable or the adult can do this as preparation work.
      3. Trace the bat template onto cardstock or black construction paper. This is another good task for students to do as tracing the bat template supports development of bilateral coordination skills, eye-hand coordination, crossing midline, and pencil control skills.  
      4. Cut out the bat template.

      Kids can cut out the shape using their Scissors for great scissor skill work.  The bat shape is a complex cutting shape and can be done by Elementary aged students.  

      Cutting the angled wings and curves can be difficult, but by using the cardstock, kids will get a bit fore proprioceptive feedback from the thicker resistance of the paper material.  

      To make the task easier, cut wings without the jagged lines or use thicker cutting lines when you draw the bat shape.  

      Decorate the Bat Cutout

      Once you have the bat, you’ll need to cut pieces of the black yarn.  Have your child cut long or short pieces, it doesn’t really matter what length they wish to cut for their bat’s texture.  

      1. Cut black yarn for the bat cutout.

      Cutting the yarn is a great material to practice appropriate scissor positioning and bilateral hand coordination.  

      If a child is holding the scissors on an angle, cutting the yarn will be more difficult.  (You may see them trying to “saw” at the yarn!) Encourage them to hold the scissors straight up and down and the blades of the scissors at a 90 degree angle to the yarn.  You can find more of our Scissor Skills activities.

      Child dipping black yarn into glue to stick to the bat printable

      2. Next, pour some glue into a shallow dish or plate.  Show your child how to drag the yarn through the glue and get it nice and saturated with the glue.  Use both hands to pinch and “scrape” off excess glue from the piece of yarn.  

      3. Next, drape the black yarn on the bat shape.  You can let your child get as creative as they wish with this part.  Some might like to outline the bat shape and others, just pile it up on the bat.  

      4. Let the glue and yarn harden and you’ll have a textured bat craft to use in Halloween decorations this Fall.  You will have to wait for the glue to dry, probably overnight.

      Use the Bat Printable in Handwriting Practice

      Occupational therapy practitioners know the value of using a single activity or material to develop a variety of skill areas. That is the case with this bat printable…use it to work on handwriting skills too!

      We used those saturated yarn pieces to build cursive letters, but you could build printed letters as well, using our letter construction method.

      This would be an excellent way to practice cursive letter formation in our Creative Cursive handwriting journal activity.

      Make letters with yarn and decorate the bat printable.

      Use this Bat Craft for kids to work on letter formation of any kind. It’s a creative writing activity that they will be sure to remember. Work on forming individual letters, spelling sight words, or making Halloween words.

      Bat template and letters made with black yarn.

      Use the Bat Printable in Learning

      This would work as a very fun…and very sensory…classroom Halloween party idea or learning activity for this time of year, while working on team work skills, and learning components.

      1. Split kids up into teams. Give each team a collection of cut black yarn and a bowl of glue.
      2. Write a spelling word, or a Halloween word on the board or hold up a sign with a Halloween word.
      3. Each team has to work together to use the cut yarn and glue to spell the Halloween word on a piece of paper or cardboard.
      4. Once a team has completed the word, they have to hold up their paper or cardboard. The first team to spell the word with the letters sticking wins! (Too much glue or not enough glue will make this a fun race for Halloween parties for kids of all ages.)
      Use black yarn to decorate the bat printable template and then write words with black yarn.

      Build printed letters with the glue yarn, too.  We had a lot of fun with this Halloween craft and it was a hit with all of my kids…from preschool on up to grade school.

      Check out some of these other Halloween activities and crafts:

      Free Bat Template

      Want a copy of this free bat template printable? Enter your email address into the form below to get a copy of this Halloween printable. This activity is also available inside The OT Toolbox Member’s Club under our Bat Therapy Theme. Members can log in and get the bat template there without entering an email address. Not a member yet? Join us today.

      Free Bat Stencil

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