Grip Strength Exercises

grasp exercises

As an occupational therapy provider, you know how important it is to develop and improve grip strength and fine motor skills in children. Activities that focus on grip strength exercises can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to complete daily tasks, such as handwriting and coloring with a crayon. Hand strengthening activities includes many aspects of strong muscles and fine motor coordination, but focusing specifically on the grip, we can target overall strength and endurance.

By incorporating grip activities, (and even targeting finger strength exercises) into your therapy sessions, you can help children build their hand muscles and coordination, which can lead to improved motor skills and greater independence in their daily lives. In this article, we will explore some fun and effective grip activities for kids that can help them strengthen their grip and develop their fine motor skills.

Grasp exercises
Grasp exercises can use hand grippers or they can include functional activities.

Amazon affiliate links are included in this blog post. As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases.

As an occupational therapist and a rock climber, grip strength is pretty much always on my mind. The ability of one’s hands can determine so many outcomes throughout life, but today we are seeing more young people with weakened grip strength than ever before.

There are a few different theories on why this may be, namely that the increase in screen time and engaging with touchscreens may be a culprit. Regardless of what may be causing a change in grip strength, there is hope! 

Grip Strength Exercises

Parents and teachers know that the strength of a child’s hands can be seen in how they hold a pencil, tie their shoes, and how legible their handwriting is. And luckily for the kids, there are really some fun ways to strengthen their grip.

We’ll go into more details on these exercises below, but some ways to strengthen grasp includes:

  • Coloring challenge using resistive crayons or textured paper
  • Cutting heavier paper with increasing thickness or weight to the paper
  • Hand gripper
  • Theraputty exercises
  • Resistive band exercises
  • Strengthening toys
  • Play dough

In this article, we’ll explore the signs of decreased grip strength, why grip strength is important for the occupations of childhood, and several grip strength exercises that are child-friendly.

What is Grip Strength?

Grip strength technically refers to the ability of the flexor muscles that are located in your forearm and travel down towards your fingertips – these are the muscles activated when you squeeze your hand into a fist. 

Someone with adequate grip strength should be able to complete average grip-based activities, like holding a briefcase, shopping bag, dumbbell weight, glass of water, or watering can, without any issue.

There is a range of strength that is considered average based on your demographic, and can be tested using a tool that you squeeze called a dynamometer. 

Grip strength using a dynamometer requires specific positioning of the arm to acquire the most accurate testing results. The evaluating therapist will ensure the dynamometer is positioned correctly. They will take three measurements and then determine the grasp strength from those measurements.

However, no one should really have to go out and use a dynamometer to figure out if you have weakened group strength. Just look at how the hands are functioning in daily activities, that’s what an OT would do, too! 

Some functional observations indicating grasp strength is impacting performance include:

  • Switching colors (more than would be expected) when coloring
  • Re-positioning and dropping a pencil when writing
  • Trouble closing and opening food containers: sandwich baggies, small containers, yogurt pouches (when most peers can)
  • Hyper-flexion of the thumb IP joint when buckling a car seat, writing with a pencil, manipulating small objects- this occurs as a stabilization mechanism to compensate for weak intrinsic muscles. (Read more about  IP joint flexion here. )
  • Squashed thumb webspace when writing, coloring, or manipulating objects- This is also a positional mechanism to stabilize. (Read about  thumb webspace and weakness here.)
  • Completing fine motor tasks with gross motor movements of the upper arm
  • Complaining that it hurts to color or you’ll see very light coloring, especially in large spaces

grip strength muscles

Grip strength muscles include muscles which originate in the forearm and elbow (wrist muscles or extrinsic muscles), and muscles which originate at the wrist and within the hand (hand muscles or intrinsic muscles).

Grip Strength Muscles over the wrist

These muscles stabilize the wrist for an effective grip strength:

  • Extensor Carpi Radialis Longus
  • Estnesor Carpi Radialis Brevis
  • Extensor Carpi Ulnaris
  • Flexro Carpi Radialis
  • Palmaris Longus
  • Flexor Carpi Ulnaris

When a tight fist is made with the hand and the wrist is held in a neutral position, we can see tendons in the wrist. Try pushing back on the fist into wrist extension while keeping the wrist in neutral to resist extension. When this motion occurs, you’ll see several visible tendons:

  • Flexor Carpi Ulnaris
  • Flexor Digitorum Superficialis
  • Prominent Palmaris Longus
  • Flexor Carpi Radialis

Grip Strength Muscles in the Hand

These muscles act on the digits to sustain a grasp pattern. We can break these hand muscles down into extrinsic muscles and intrinsic mucsles

Extrinsic Muscles- These are muscles that have their proximal attachments, or origins, in the forearm or on the humerus bone. They impact the wrist as flexors or extensors in aiding the wrist muscles listed above.

  • Extensor Digitorum
  • Estensor Indicis Proprius
  • Extensor Digiti Minimi
  • Extensor Pollicis Longus
  • Extensor Pollicis Brevis
  • Extensor Poolicis Longus
  • Flexor Digitorum Superficialis
  • Flexor Digitorum Profundus

Intrinsic Muscles- These muscles originate, or begin, within the hand. We have covered this muscle group, and included activity ideas to target grip and pinch strength in our article on intrinsic muscle activities with tongs, and intrinsic muscles play dough mat.

  • Four Lumbricals
  • 3 Palmar Interossei
  • 4 Dorsal Interossei
  • Palmaris Brevis
  • Thenar Muscles- Opponens Pollicis, Abductor Pollicis Brevis, Adductor Pollicis, Flexor Pollicis Brevis
  • Hypothenar Muscles- Opponens Digiti Minimi, Abductor Digiti Minimi, Flexor Digiti Minimi Brevis

Signs of Reduced Grip Strength 

Weak grip strength can be seen pretty clearly if you know what to look for. Here are some signs to check: 

Difficulty holding onto objects: If your child has trouble holding onto pencils, toys, or utensils, it might indicate weak grip strength. They may drop things easily or use two hands when one should be adequate. 

One way to assess grip weakness through a visual assessment is by looking at grasp with a flexed wrist.

  1. Ask the client to position their wrist in a fully flexed position.
  2. The fingers and thumb will drop into a relaxed position.
  3. Ask the client to close their fingers into a grasped position.

Weakness of hand grasp is evident when it is difficult or impossible to close the wrist completely. This occurs because the finger extension tendons are positioned in passive insufficiency and also because of the attachments of the finger flexors which weakens their ability to contract into a grip pattern. This puts the flexors into a position where they are unable to use full and effective tension in a grip.

Hand fatigue: If your child complains of hand fatigue after short periods of drawing, painting, or using small manipulatives like stringing beads, it might be a sign of weak grip strength. This can look like a child that can’t color in a whole picture or stops to take breaks during coloring tasks, and even switches hands when coloring.

Reduced athletism: Children with weak grip strength may face challenges with sports activities that require hands like baseball, golf, or even climbing on the jungle gym. 

Poor handwriting: Weak grip strength can also affect a child’s handwriting, making it difficult to read. Usually grip strength is involved when the child holds the pencil awkwardly and needs to take breaks during writing as their hand fatigues quickly. Studies have shown that grip and pinch strength are important components in developing pencil grasp, pencil control, handwriting legibility, and independence with functional fine motor tasks.

If you are unsure of what is causing challenges, it may be worth looking into an occupational therapy evaluation. There, the OT will work to determine if the barrier is grip strength or something else, like fine motor coordination, visual motor skills, or sensory/tactile deficits.

Grip Strength is Important for the Occupations of Childhood.

Grip strength is essential for many occupations of childhood, including playing, learning, and self-care. Here are some ways that grip strength can affect a child’s life:

School activities: Developing grip strength is crucial for the development of fine motor skills, which are necessary for school activities such as writing, drawing, math manipulatives, and using scissors. 

Recreation activities: Good grip strength is necessary for more than just school-related activities. It is also a basic ability used for things like catching a ball, rowing a boat, creating pottery, knitting, or threading a needle.

Self-care: Grip strength is necessary for self-care activities such as brushing teeth, tying shoelaces, and buttoning clothes. Getting ready for the day is easier with proper skills! 

Play: The most important occupation also benefits from grip strength! Strong grip strength allows children to engage in a variety of play activities, such as climbing, swinging, building blocks, and arts and crafts.

improve grip strength

Now that we know the importance of grip strength for children, let’s explore some child-friendly exercises that can help improve grip strength:

Play with Playdough: One of the main benefits of play dough is the fine motor strength workout and it’s a power tool for building hand strength. Squeezing, rolling, and shaping the dough can help improve grip strength. This goes for slime and floam, too! The tougher the substance, the harder the muscles have to work. 

  • A play dough snake is a great way to target grip strength and pinch strength.
  • Rolling balls of play dough targets intrinsic muscles.
  • Play dough mats are powerful to build grasp strength.
  • Freeze play dough and use it to build strength by adding resistance. Play dough will freeze and get more resistive, but it will not harden completely, making it a fantastic sensory motor activity. Use the frozen play dough to manipulate with the hands or cut into pieces with scissors.

Hand Gripper– One way to target hand strength may be a home program that uses a hand gripper workout. While the most efficient and effective way to focus on grasp strength is through the functional participation, therapy providers working in a medical model or in hand therapy will see value in using a gripper to focus on grasp strength necessary for functional use of the hands.

Our blog post on hand strengthening includes several kid-friendly hand gripper recommendations to support hand strength. Select one and make the exercises functional:

  • In a school setting, tap out letters to spell words, then write the words.
  • Roll a dice, complete that number of hand grip exercises, and then write the number, or include fine motor math tasks and add, subtract, or multiply.
  • Incorporate 10-15 repetitions of a hand gripper into a sensory diet or brain break.
  • Use our 6 Month Weekly Fine Motor program to target grip strength without using a hand gripper workout.

Clothespins: Using clothespin activities to pick up small objects can help improve grip strength. You can make it a fun game by asking your child to pick up as many objects as possible within a certain time limit. Try clothespin crafts and activity cards too! 

Finger Push-Ups: If your kiddo is on the more athletic or competitive side, finger push-ups are an excellent exercise for building grip strength. Have your child place their hands flat on a surface, with fingers spread apart. Then, have them lift the palm on the hand away from the surface and push hard with their finger tips. 

Monkey Bars: Monkey bars are a great way to build grip strength and improve body awareness and coordination. Encourage your child to swing from bar to bar, using their hands to hold on. There may be some blisters after this one! 

Squeeze Toys: Squeeze toys, such as stress balls or fidget items, can help improve grip strength. Have your child squeeze the toy as hard as they can for a set amount of time, and then rest before repeating. Squeezing spray bottles, sponges, or crumbling tin foil have the same effect and can be great fun. Wind up toys are another great tool for grip strength.

Coloring- You can work on grasp strength by simply coloring! Using a crayon is a resistive tool but you can make this more challenging by using different brands of crayons, markers, or colored pencils. Challenge grasp strength by offering small spaces to color in with a wide border mark. Then increase the area with larger coloring prompts and a thinner border. Here is information on how to teach coloring skills. Use our three crayon challenge to target strengthening.

Paper- Torn paper is a powerful hand strengthening activity. To tear paper into strips or small pieces, one will target both the extrinsic muscles of the wrist and hand in order to stabilize the wrist against resistance. Then, when gripping paper and pulling it against the other hand, the intrinsic muscles are activated, particularly the lumbricals due to the positioning of the hand with MCP joint flexion, and PIP and DIP joint extension. Adding resistance by tearing more resistive paper (card stock, index cards, cardboard) is a great way to grade this task.

Building fine motor skills through play is a goal of the OT practitioner, and there are many fun ways to do just that!

You can also check out a variety of excellent crafts and activities aimed at fine motor strengthening for year-round fun! Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall and more!

weekly fine motor plans for kids
Grab the 6 Month Weekly Fine Motor Plan to add grasp strengthening workout to a daily home exercise routine!

Our 6 Month Weekly Fine Motor Plan includes six months of strengthening exercises using everyday household items. We created this plan to make OT home exercise programs super simple. The exercise program requires a total of only six items that are used in a variety of ways to make grip strengthening exercises both motivating and fun.

Grip Strength Exercises

These exercises can vary, depending on the needs of the individual. Select the exercises that target specific functional skills and work on the number of repetitions that meet the needs and abilities of the individual.

Grip strength exercises may include:

  • Make a fist
  • Go through tendon glides
  • Touch the tip of the thumb to the tip of each finger
  • Touch the tip of the thumb to the base of each finger
  • Make a “cup” in the palm of the hand
  • Roll the thumb over toward the palm of the hand
  • Theraputty exercises
  • Wrist weights for wrist flexion and extension- Hold a light dumbbell weight in the hand. Place the forearm on the edge of a table with the hand palm up and hanging over the table. Lift the weight moving the hand and weight into flexion. Repeat by turning the forearm over to a palm down position on the table. Lift the wrist and weight into extension.
  • Radial flexion and extension- Improve grip strength by strengthening the wrist abductors and adductors as a stabilizing force. Hold a hammer or small dumbbell in the palm of the hand. Place the forearm on a table surface with the wrist over the edge of the table. Slowly drop down the weight or hammer over the edge of the table and bring it back up to neutral.
  • Gripping tools (Amazon affiliate links):
  • Theraputty exercises- Theraputty comes in different colors and the colors mean different resistances. Theraputty can be pinched, pulled, rolled, spread apart, and squeezed.

We hope you have learned that grip strength is an important skill that can affect a child’s development in various ways. A weak grip can affect a child’s ability to engage in activities of daily living, but it can usually be easily remedied through structured play. How will you improve your grip strength today?

Sydney Thorson, OTR/L, is a new occupational therapist working in school-based therapy. Her
background is in Human Development and Family Studies, and she is passionate about
providing individualized and meaningful treatment for each child and their family. Sydney is also
a children’s author and illustrator and is always working on new and exciting projects.

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What you Need to Know About a Thumb Wrap Grasp?

thumb wrap grasp

If you’ve worked with kids on handwriting skills, then you’ve probably seen a thumb wrap grasp at one time or another. Also known as a crossover grasp, a cross thumb grasp, a thumb wrap grasp, (or other descriptive names), a thumb wrap grasp is just that: a holding the pencil with the thumb wrapped around the pencil shaft. Here we are talking about what this type of pencil grasp looks like and what to do about it. Let’s discuss!

Thumb wrap grasp information

Thumb Wrap Grasp

Kids can use some pretty interesting grasps on pencils.  You can see the thumb squashed up against the pencil, the pointer finger wrapped around the pencil, or the thumb wrapped around the fingers.

Very often, the pencil grasp that a child is using is not one of stability and rather, is a demonstration of instability as weakness in the muscles of the hand is compensating during handwriting. This thumb wrap pencil grasp exercise is an easy one to put together and one that will help kids gain strength in the muscles that make up a functional grasp.  Read on to find out how to work the muscles of the hand to improve the “dreaded” thumb wrap grasp!

I’ve had a few questions from readers about the thumb wrap grasp.  It seems like this pencil grasp is becoming more prominent in classrooms.

So, what does a thumb wrap grasp look like?

The thumb wrap grasp is what you see when you the end of the thumb is wrapped around the pointer finger.  The pencil is supported with the tip of the pointer finger, and supported by the middle finger. The end of the thumb wraps around the pencil to support and stabilize the pencil. With a thumb wrap grasp, typically mobility of the pencil strokes are limited by the thumbs positioning on the pencil.

However, a thumb wrap grasp can be functional as well. While it’s not a completely horrible pencil grasp, it isn’t a great grasp for speed and efficiency in writing.

Several anatomical components are involved with a thumb wrap grasp:

  • Opponens Pollicis
  • Flexor Pollicis Longus
  • Interphalnageal Joint (IP Joint) of the thumb
  • Intrinsic muscles

An open thumb web space is a skill that can help to fix the thumb wrap grasp. Try these fine motor activities to promote an open thumb web space.

A thumb wrap or thumb tuck grasp can be a part of developmental progress of pencil grasps, but might be one to address during this progression. Read more about pencil grasp development for more information.

A thumb wrap grasp can also be called different names:

  • Thumb wrap grasp
  • Thumb tuck grasp (pencil is tucked under the pencil, but similar anatomical positioning exists and strengthening can be used to address a thumb tuck)
  • Crossover grasp
  • Cross thumb grasp

A thumb wrap can also exist in combination with other grasp patterns:

  • Tripod grasp with thumb wrap
  • Lateral thumb wrap grasp
  • Quadrupod grasp with thumb wrap
Pencil grasp exercise to work on an open web space and flexed thumb needed to remedy the thumb wrap grasp.

Is the THumb Wrap Grasp Functional?

*Note* I am one who takes pencil grasps in stride.  So, when I say “dreaded” thumb wrap grasp, I am not completely serious in that this grasp is dreadful or something to fear.  Many (many) of us have unique and very functional pencil grasps.  The issue is when a quirky grip on the pencil becomes a cause for illegibility, fatigue, joint strain, or other concern.  In those cases, a grasp should be addressed. Read more about functional pencil grasp and how a functional grasp can exist even if it doesn’t look like they typical tripod grasp.

Remember that a functional pencil grasp is the one we want to see. A functional pencil grasp might look like various things. Every child may have different tendencies when it comes to “functional” 

Functional means the student can hold the pencil, write with legible handwriting, and doesn’t have joints that are hyperextended or otherwise inefficient in joint positioning. Fatigue and endurance play a part in a functional pencil grasp.

This resource on what therapists want parents to know about pencil grasp is a great read.

Pencil grasp exercise to work on an open web space and flexed thumb needed to remedy the thumb wrap grasp.

What is happening when a child uses the Thumb Wrap Grasp?

Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

The tip of the thumb bends over the pencil and pointer finger, providing stability to the grasp.  Instead of using the opposition muscle of the thumb to grasp the pencil, the child is using the adductor muscle.  The thumb wrap grasp provides stability but it does not allow for quick pencil movements.

As a child is required to write faster to take notes, the legibility of their handwriting will be sacrificed. Rather than moving the pencil with the tips of their thumb and index finger, the child is manipulating pencil motions with their wrist and forearm.

In order to improve this grasp, a child needs to strengthen the opposition muscle, Opponens Pollicis, along with Flexor Pollicis Longus to bend the tip of the thumb or the Interphalnageal Joint (IP Joint) of the thumb. Strengthening the intrinsic muscles along with addressing an open web space will improve IP flexion in pencil grasp. 

Working on precision skills will also help with a thumb wrap grasp.

Pencil grasp exercise to work on an open web space and flexed thumb needed to remedy the thumb wrap grasp.


Exercise to Work on a Thumb Wrap Grasp

Pencil grasp exercise to work on an open web space and flexed thumb needed to remedy the thumb wrap grasp.

This is such an easy activity.  Use store bought Play Dough or homemade sensory dough.

Press flower beads into the play dough with a bent thumb. Encourage your child to press the flowers into the dough using a their their thumb in a bent position on the edge of the flowers.  This is important, because it works the muscles needed to oppose with an open web space and flex the tip of the thumb.  This is the mobility needed to advance the pencil fluently.  These flower beads are perfect for this exercise because of the length of the flower that can press into the Play Dough.

Pencil grasp exercise to work on an open web space and flexed thumb needed to remedy the thumb wrap grasp.


Next, ask your child to pull out all of the flower beads by using the tips of their pointer finger and the tip of the thumb, while ensuring that your child maintains a slightly flexed (bent) thumb IP joint.

Encourage learning and playful math by counting as your child pulls out the flowers.  If your kiddo is like my preschooler, those flower beads will be hidden pretty far into the play dough.  The search and find is a great overall hand exercise and a fun math activity as you add up the beads!

ONE Simple Trick to Help Kids With Their Pencil Grasp

SO? How can you use this info to help kids with their pencil grasp? Make them aware of that little bent thumb joint.  Point it out as they are doing the play dough activity and then again when they are holding a pencil.  Remind them of that bent knuckle when they write.  Too much for your kiddo?  Don’t fret. 
Another tip is to use the pencil grip needed for a thumb wrap grasp. This blog post includes pencil grips for each type of grasp.

Pencil Grasp Tricks and TIps

Working on the underlying skills of a functional pencil grasp? Battling a thumb wrap grasp that slows down handwriting so much that the kiddo you are seeing on your caseload falls behind in writing speed? Know a child who has hyper-extended joints when holding the pencil?

Here are some pencil grasp tricks that can help to improve functional grasp. These strategies can address pencil grasp issues such as thumb wrap, inefficient joint positioning, a closed thumb web space, poor separation of the sides of the hand, and other pencil grasp concerns.  

Use this pencil grasp tricks to help kids improve pencil grasp when writing.
human hands with pencil and erase rubber writting something

Pencil Grasp Exercise

  • Try this trick: Ask the child to hold and manipulate a small item such as a kneadable eraser in the non-dominant (non-writing) hand while holding the pencil with the dominant hand. Ask them to manipulate the object with just the thumb, pointer finger, and middle finger. Sometimes that symmetrical movement makes a big difference!
  • This pencil grasp trick uses an item you probably already have in your therapy bag: a clothes pin!
  • This pencil grasp trick helps to work on thumb IP joint flexion…and requires only a marker.

The pencil grasp exercise and tricks above will help with many kids that need to work on an open web space, not just the thumb wrap grasp.  Try it and let me know how it goes!


Working on a functional pencil grasp with your child or occupational therapy caseload? Need activities to improve pencil grasp that kids WANT to do? These games that improve pencil grasp through fine motor activities are activities that boost the skills kids need for pencil grasp and games that strengthen the hands. Working on pencil grip to make and efficient and functional pencil grasp can be as easy as adding a few fine motor games to your therapy toolbox!

  • Want to know how to fix a problem with pencil grasps?
  • Need help knowing where to start when it comes to immature pencil grasps or a child hating to write because their hand hurts?
  • Need help with carryover of pencil grasps?

The Pencil Grasp Challenge in open for you! In this free, 5 day email series, you’ll gain information, resources, specific activities designed to promote a functional, efficient pencil grasp.

know about the skills that make up a functional pencil grasp. You’ll learn what’s going on behind the inefficient and just plain terrible pencil grasps you see everyday in the classroom, clinic, or home. Along with loads of information, you’ll gain quick, daily activities that you can do today with a kiddo you know and love. These are easy activities that use items you probably already have in your home right now.

Besides learning and gaining a handful (pun intended) of fun ideas to make quick wins in pencil grasp work, you’ll gain:

  • 5 days of information related to pencil grasp, so you know how to help kids fix an immature pencil grasp.
  • Specific activities designed to build a functional pencil grasp.
  • Free printable handouts that you can use to share with your team or with a parent/fellow teachers.
  • You’ll get access to printable challenge sheets, and a few other fun surprises.
  • And, possibly the best of all, you’ll get access to a secret challengers Facebook group, where you can share wins, chat about all things pencil grasp, and join a community of other therapists, parents and teachers working on pencil grasp issues.

Click here to join the Pencil Grasp Challenge.

free pencil grasp challenge
Pencil grasp exercise to work on an open web space and flexed thumb needed to remedy the thumb wrap grasp.

More fine motor activities you will love:   

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

The Handwriting Book is a comprehensive resource created by experienced pediatric OTs and PTs.

The Handwriting Book covers everything you need to know about handwriting, guided by development and focused on function. This digital resource is is the ultimate resource for tips, strategies, suggestions, and information to support handwriting development in kids.

The Handwriting Book breaks down the functional skill of handwriting into developmental areas. These include developmental progression of pre-writing strokes, fine motor skills, gross motor development, sensory considerations, and visual perceptual skills. Each section includes strategies and tips to improve these underlying areas.

  • Strategies to address letter and number formation and reversals
  • Ideas for combining handwriting and play
  • Activities to practice handwriting skills at home
  • Tips and strategies for the reluctant writer
  • Tips to improve pencil grip
  • Tips for sizing, spacing, and alignment with overall improved legibility

Click here to grab your copy of The Handwriting Book today.

Supporting Student Strengths in the Classroom

student strengths in the classroom

When working with kids, we as professionals support students in many ways, but one of the most important ways to support kiddos is by highlighting individual student strengths in the classroom. We’ve all been there: feeling down about our own insecurities. That negativity impacts our mood, behavior, and the way we respond to others, including co-regulation. For kids that struggle with various areas, they may constantly be aware of how they are challenged to learn, make friends, participate in classroom activities. We as occupational therapy professionals can bring positivity and support through the simple act of highlighting the good. Our students on every ability level will thrive when using their strengths as meaningful motivation!

Student strengths in the classroom to support learning and classroom tasks using student's personal strengths

Here, we are talking about how to support students by identifying student strengths, understanding how to use those strengths to support the child, and how professionals can identify individual strengths for each student.

Student Strengths in the Classroom

School professionals and paraprofessionals do so much for our students, and it is not always easy. One way to bring some positivity to the classroom is to highlight all of the wonderful strengths you see.

Student strengths in the classroom environment are obviously an important aspect of school performance. We all thrive when we feel we do something well. It makes us want to learn more about the topic. Doing a job or task well makes us want to achieve because we know we are good at that particular thing.

We know that using a strengths-based approach works for Autistic learners, trauma-informed therapy interventions, specific diagnoses such as cerebral palsy, and essentially everyone!

What Are Student Strengths

Let’s start with defining exactly what are student strengths and how to facilitate functional skills and learning through the use of strength-based participation.

Student strengths are exactly that; the strengths of the individual student! So often, we talk about the challenges a student has. We see the behaviors, the deficits, and weaknesses, and the diagnosis. These negative aspects are what the student is reprimanded on. It’s what makes them stand out (in the eyes of the student) and makes them different than their peers. But when we highlight strengths, we are shifting the focus to the positive.

All students have strengths. Every one has interests, positive aspects, special skills, and abilities that make them unique. Student strengths are any personal trait that makes them who they are!

When an individual’s personal strengths are highlighted, there is a ping of dopamine that offers feedback through the nervous system. There is a feeling of “good” that travels through the brain and body. This positive feedback can support regulation, mood, emotions, behavior, communication, and participation.

When student strengths are highlighted in the classroom, students thrive.

When student strengths in classrooms are highlighted, not only do individual students thrive in academic learning but in these other areas, but the whole classroom can be impacted too. The classroom can grow and develop together as a unit when they see that each student’s special skills and abilities play a role in their teamwork. Each student brings something special to the table and when these special skills are identified, students can empathize with more understanding.

A student that struggles with attention and has physical behaviors or anger might be very talented at drawing. That special interest can be used to create a classroom poster that shows how we are all different, but all of us have some unique qualities that make us who we are as individuals.

Simple wording that highlights the positive aspects of a student go much farther than the constant barrage of negative messaging. Our students pick up on this wording. So, when we put a positive spin on the terminology or ways we describe a child’s positive qualities, we are doing a benefit for not only the student, but the whole classroom’s view of the world around them.

Highlighting student strengths can support teamwork and empathy. It develops individuals into leaders, teammates, and supports conflict resolution.

Let’s take a closer look at student strengths…

List of Student Strengths

A child may be constantly in motion, but they can also be described as active or energetic. A student might be impulsive or take risks but they can also be described as adventurous or confident. Simply putting a different, positive spin on skills and abilities can make a difference.

Some student strengths include:

  • Artistic
  • Accepting
  • Confident
  • Self-assured
  • High self-esteem
  • Friendly
  • Sociable
  • Outgoing
  • Creative
  • Imaginative
  • Capable
  • Insightful
  • Perceptive
  • Talented
  • Intellectual
  • Deep thinkers
  • Daring
  • Energetic
  • Honest
  • Friendly/Makes friends easily
  • Talkative
  • Articulate
  • Kind
  • Loving
  • Empathetic/Sensitive to the needs of others
  • Affectionate
  • Fun-loving
  • Active
  • Loyal
  • Determined
  • Organized
  • Resilient
  • Humble
  • Caring
  • Helpful
  • Introspective
  • Reserved
  • Thoughtful
  • Altruistic
  • Trusting
  • Modest
  • Affectionate
  • Warm
  • Sympathetic to others, including to strangers
  • Benevolent
  • Predictable
  • Thorough
  • Ambitious
  • Consistent
  • Grateful
  • Forgiving
  • Patient
  • Original
  • Innovative
  • Clever
  • Curious
  • Strong
  • Tactful
  • Brave
  • Calm
  • Optimistic
  • Funny/humorous
  • Polite
  • Loyal
  • Persistent
  • Conscientious
  • Self-disciplined
  • Leader
  • Reliable
  • Resourceful
  • Hard-working
  • Persevering
  • Controlled
  • Goal-oriented
  • Unselfish
  • Mindful
  • Amiable
  • Considerate
  • Happy/cheerful
  • Great interpersonal skills
  • Communicator
  • Critical Thinker
  • Problem Solver
  • Great at Public Speaking
  • Teamwork
  • Collaborator
  • Accountable
  • Active Listener
  • Adaptable
  • Decision-maker

You can see how this list could go on and on…and on! Highlighting the positive aspects of students in the classroom is powerful!

How to identify Student Strengths

As student supporters – whatever role that may be – we should harness those individual strengths into greater achievement for all of our students.

One easy way to identify strengths of an individual student is to think about each subject, unit, or specials class. How does the student behave in each?

What is their engagement like in music versus physical education; math compared to reading? Maybe they are the first to raise their hand during social-emotional learning or cringe when they know writing time is next. No strength is too small; maybe they are not academically achieving in any traditional subject but are a leader on the playground or in the hallway. 

Let’s say our student, Charlie, loves science class for the action. They show great strength in exploring and understanding scientific concepts. However, they hate writing because they never know what to say and are not confident in their penmanship yet. 

As a supporter of this student, our role is to find ways to bring their favorite aspects of one subject into their least favorite. For example, Charlie really does cringe at the idea of writing, so I try to break that down. If they present with reduced fine motor or visual motor skills and therefore handwriting is a challenge, how can we use their strength in science to increase their writing skills? 

The first thing that comes to mind is to intentionally and meaningfully include writing in the science lesson. It’s technically “science” time, but guess what: we are going to be strengthening fine motor skills with eyedroppers and writing the results of our experiment! 

The best part about integrating one subject into another is that it is a universal approach – all children will benefit from combined learning! 

How to Use Student Strengths as Motivation  

We all know how difficult it can be to motivate students. My favorite word that correlates with motivation is ‘meaningful’. If you can make something meaningful to someone else, it becomes motivating. Using a student’s strengths is a great way to create meaningful learning. 

One method to ease into meaningful learning is to make a list of preferred topics.

We can use Charlie again here – you see that all of their folders are superhero-themed. They are always donning Super Mario or Minecraft and talking about their beloved cat during their free time.

Taking the time to make a list of preferred topics for each of your students may take some time, but it will be so worthwhile! Make the list of ideas accessible to all those who work with this student, and most importantly, to the student themselves. 

With a list of their favorite things in hand, Charlie always has preferred options of what to write about. Even when not writing, there is always the comfort of having meaningful subjects nearby. Better yet, they are from a teacher (or another supporter) who wants to connect with them – how cool is that? 

This doesn’t always have to be simply based on what a student likes; if a student is a good leader, give them more autonomy or leadership roles to produce quality work. Or if a student is a strong speller, de-scrambling words as a part of the writing process could be motivating. 

The just-right challenge is often most motivating: it is just easy or familiar enough to initiate a task (using our strengths)…but just hard enough to still learn, grow,  and feel accomplishment! 

ENVIRONMENT: Student STRENGTHS in the Classroom Environment

A person’s environment is a big deal to occupational therapists. We participate in functional tasks in so many different environments and those places impact function in a major way.

One model of occupational therapy is called the Person-Environment-Occupation model and it is used in many different settings, including schools.

This model is exactly what it sounds like; the combination of a unique person and all their traits, PLUS the environment they are in, PLUS the occupation that they are doing. All of this results in performance. The big picture here is that the environment plays a huge role in how well we perform. 

Simply put, the Person/Environment/Occupation model breaks down who we are, where we are, and what we are doing.

Unique person and all their traits + environment + occupation = performance 

Simple equation using the Person-Environment-Occupation model used in occupational therapy to focus on occupational performance.

When you take a look at this performance model, and consider the use of personal strengths to support successful performance, we can help individuals thrive. Adding personal strengths to the equation supports completion of the task, buy-in, motivation, and meaning.

Strengths-based Classroom Environment-

Thinking back to our example student from above, let’s go a bit further by using this model to look at how to add student strengths into occupation:

What can we do to make Charlie’s environment optional based on their strengths and weaknesses? They are a great direction-follower and do not get distracted easily, so their seat may be best near peers that could use a positive role model. In addition to this, they have good eyesight so do not need to be placed at the front of the room. 

Charlie’s room job is to turn on and off the lights, so the pathway should be clear and perhaps a seat close to the light switches may be nice. Charlie is very organized and that is apparent when you look at their desk area! 

Because Charlie has reduced writing skills, placing their seat in view of the helpful visuals (wall dictionary or alphabet, grammar posters, etc.) will be important.

To increase their engagement in writing, offer various pencils or erasers in a communal spot, and bring their love of drawing (a stone’s throw away from writing) into the classroom by offering time to decorate the classroom walls or their locker. 

A final note on student strengths in the classroom

Again, these recommendations are universal and can be applied to all students. There is a careful balance to be had, however, to make the environment optimal for students of varying needs and abilities. 

Whenever possible, start with a student’s strengths. It can be so easy to fall into what is challenging about a student’s behaviors or grades, but dwelling on the negatives never produces many positive results. We hope to have given you a new outlook on student strengths and how to best integrate their use into day-to day school life! 

List of student strengths in the classroom handout

Free List of Student Strengths in the Classroom

Would you like a printable list of student strengths in the classroom? Add this printable handout to your toolbox. Simply enter your email address into the form below to access this handout.

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

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

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

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

Join the Member’s Club today!

FREE Handout: Student Strengths in the Classroom

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    Sydney Thorson, OTR/L, is a new occupational therapist working in school-based therapy. Her
    background is in Human Development and Family Studies, and she is passionate about
    providing individualized and meaningful treatment for each child and their family. Sydney is also
    a children’s author and illustrator and is always working on new and exciting projects.

    Ultimate Guide to PLAY DOUGH MATS

    Play dough mats

    After reading below about the benefits of playing with play dough mats, go grab some of them for FREE. When using these fun play dough mats, you will start helping children work on important developmental skills. In addition to all the fun children will have while using these mats (which is a win), they will be developing the necessary fine motor hand skills needed for everyday functional tasks such as; fastener manipulation, classroom tool use, grasp patterns, and overall dexterity/manipulation used in multiple fine motor tasks. Be sure to check out our resource on playdough activities for fine motor skills to support this area.

    Play dough mats

    The benefits of using play dough mats

    Play dough is an AWESOME tool in itself!  We know that in itself, there are so many benefits of play dough in building skills in kids.

    With all of the attractive colors, and the sensory feel of it, playdough can be very enticing to children. With a little preparation and care, play dough mats can be almost mess-free! If pieces fall off, just tap with another blob of dough, and it blends back in with little need for clean-up. (Just avoid the carpet!) While engaging with these super fun play dough mats, children can stay occupied for a lengthy time in either independent play, or cooperative play with a partner.  

    You can easily use play dough mats during an OT session, as part of a home program, or as a fine motor station in the classroom. Each mat provides a theme to compliment any learning or skill building you might be looking for. After you read about all of the benefits, you’ll want to get all of these mats and start right away, but first let’s look at those specific skills they help develop. 

    Play dough can easily be made or purchased, and used with play dough mats to focus on developing so many skills.

    Many Benefits of play dough mats:

    • Hand and finger strengthening skills – squeeze, press, poke, and pinch the play dough while manipulating. Hand strength is a skill needed for most functional tasks. This helps build intrinsic hand musculature, and improves fine motor endurance.
    • Grasp skills – Tools such as plastic knives, scissors, cookie cutters, pizza cutters, and rolling pins, provide the opportunity to work on varied grasp patterns.
    • Bilateral integration skills – use both hands together in a coordinated manner to manipulate the play dough, therefore building bilateral coordination. They adjust the dough’s size, shape, and weight as needed for mat play. Bilateral coordination skills are needed for functional tasks like writing, dressing, cooking, and essentially all functional participation.
    • Manual dexterity skills – manipulate the putty to shape and pinch the dough to match the theme the of each mat. This gives them the opportunity to develop precise finger movements and thumb opposition.
    • Self-regulation skills – When children squeeze, press, poke, pinch and roll out the dough, they get deep proprioceptive input, which can be soothing and calming to a child. As an added benefit, these emotions play dough mats support the social learning and identifying emotions names to help with emotional self regulation.
    • Eye-hand coordination skills – While creating and placing the shapes on the play dough mats to match the theme, learners are coordinating their hand and eye movements, working on important visual motor coordination skills. Eye hand coordination skills can impact functional participation.
    • Gross motor skills – Engaging with play dough works the larger muscles of the upper extremity (shoulder and arm) in order to push, pull, press, and roll the dough. Don’t forget, development occurs proximally to distally, so those larger muscles need engagement!
    • Creativity and play skills – Learners use their play dough creativity and imagination to add their own details to the mats, with their own play dough creations.  They can add small beads, sequins, buttons, or pegs in addition to their playdough shapes. 
    • Social skills – If mats are used with a partner, children will have the opportunity for cooperative and collaborative play They will be learning self-control and communication, coupled with pretend play, as they work to build items together on a single mat, or by trading mats and sharing details. These would make a great tool for social skill groups!
    • Visual perceptual skills – Play dough mats work on visual figure ground skills, as learners visually scan the boards to locate the circles for play dough ball size, location, and placement. Visual discrimination skills are needed to identify any size differences in the circles, and make the play dough balls larger or smaller as indicated. 
    • Olfactory skills – Adding a little scent, such as an essential oil to the play dough will provide children some olfactory input, making the experience more multi-sensory. 
    • Tactile skills – The addition of a little glitter, rice, or sand to the play dough, will provide children further tactile input. For some learners with tactile aversion, working with playdough may be difficult at first.

    Play dough does not need to be store bought. Go to our link here for some of the Best Dough Recipes.

    how to use play dough mats

    How to Use Play Dough Mats

    Using play dough mats is pretty self explanatory. Kids love using the fun and engaging play activities and often times don’t realize they are developing skills at the same time. You can definitely pair these play dough mats with theraputty exercises for more strengthening!

    These steps will help with using your play dough mats in therapy, the classroom for a fine motor brain break, or in the home for a play activity:

    1. You’ll need to print off the play dough mat that works for your needs. You can find different printable playdough mats for different themes.

    2. Laminate the page, or slide it into a page protector sheet.

    2. Select play dough, either home made or store bought. Select play dough consistency and resistance based on the individual’s needs.

    3. Consider how to adapt the activity based on the needs of the individual. Some considerations include thinking about fine motor skills, bilateral coordination needs, visual motor needs, or sensory needs.

    4. Position play dough mats and play dough to meet the needs and areas of development for the individual.

    5. Work on opening and closing the play dough container if this is an area of concern (it’s a great functional activity!)

    how to use play dough mats for occupational therapy

    Adapting Play Dough Mats

    Play dough mats can be used in occupational therapy to develop skills and work on goal areas through play. They can also be used to support needs and integrate adaptations in play for practice.

    Play dough mats are a fun way to play and build skills at home, too. They can be used in the classroom for a brain break, a sensory break, or a tool to build fine motor skills with a classroom theme.

    How can you adapt playdough mats for specific skill adaptations in OT sessions? There are so many ways…

    Motor Skill Needs- For individuals struggling with motor skills, you can tape the page protector sheet to the table surface. Another idea is to use sticky tack on the back of the page protector. This can secure the play dough mat to the table and limit it’s movement during play.

    Another motor skill strategy is to use a play dough mat with larger areas or smaller areas for the play dough. This can require more or less small motor movements, and can offer more or less opportunities for precision work.

    Bilateral coordination needs- Encourage bilateral coordination by asking the user to hold the play dough mat on the table. This is a great way to encourage paper positioning during writing tasks, too.

    Sensory needs- Play dough consistency will provide a varied tactile experience such as, sticky, slippery, firm, and partially dry. Much like different grades of thera-putty, different play dough recipes can be used to build fine motor skills or offer more or less heavy work through the hands.

    Some play dough to meet tactile preferences and tactile challenges include:

    Some play dough to meet tactile preferences and tactile challenges include:

    Regulation needs- Building on the sensory aspect, you can offer movement-based heavy work through the hands and upper body by offering less resistant play dough (more of a silky and fluid feel to the play dough consistency) or you can offer more heavy work using a heavier grade to the resistance.

    Visual needs- For users with visual processing needs, there are ways to adapt the play dough mats. Try outlining the areas where play dough is placed for a darker visual cue by using a dark marker. You can then slide the sheet into a sheet protector and play from there.

    Core strength/Stability/Visual Gaze- For some, maintaining an upright posture is difficult. You can easily position play dough mats on a slant board, easel, or vertical surface using sticky tack, tape, magnets, etc. This positioning strategy can be used to either support positioning and visual gaze needs to to challenge these areas to reach a “just right” level in therapy sessions.

    Free Printable Play Dough Mats

    Each of the free play dough mats below can be printed off and used over and over again. A few tips for using play dough mats in therapy or in the home or classroom:

    Space Play Dough Mat | gives learners the opportunity to strengthen their hands while developing essential skills that are needed for pencil writing, as well as the dexterity and precision skills that are needed for many daily, fine motor tasks. The simple thing about this outer space mat, is that it works on a specific set of muscles in the hand. 

    Astronaut Play Dough Mat | can be used as part of space theme, or a solo activity. Ask your learner to pull off a small piece of play dough and roll it between the fingers and thumb of one hand. It’s important to use just that one hand as it’s part of the challenge! Doing this hand activity will help build hand strength, dexterity, coordination, and endurance of the smaller muscles of the hand and fingers. 

    Play Dough City | complements any geography lesson as children fill in the circles of the city sky, while helping them to build their fine motor skills and endurance, which are needed for tasks like writing/coloring, pencil control for forming letters, functional pencil grasp, manipulation of clothing fasteners, opening/closing containers, and so much more. This cute mat can be used along with any other city activities including books, travel, and anything about city life.

    Ice Cream Play Dough Mat | create small balls of play dough that fit on ice cream images, while working on hand strength and other motoric skills needed for pencil grasp, endurance for coloring, accuracy with scissors, and dexterity for manipulation of buttons, zippers, and coins. This mat can be a great take home mat for use over the summer break. Be sure to include instructions on what you want the child to do!

    Toy Theme Play Dough Mat | helps children use their fingertip and thumb to roll a small ball of play dough, placing and pressing the dough onto the circles on the mat. They need just a small piece of dough to make the ball small enough to fit into the circles. This is a great activity for developing and defining the arches of the hand, strengthening the intrinsic musculature, and boosting visual perceptual skills too! This toy theme mat builds on the fundamental “job” that kids have, which is play! Use this themed mat during down time, or a rainy day, to add a little productive playtime.

    Play Dough Bird Mat | gives kiddos a hand workout, while they create small balls of dough rolled with their fingers, to match the circle sizes on the mat. There are various sizes to challenge the child’s precision and dexterity. Children can count the birds and match the colors of the birds too.  Another way to use this mat is to write numbers or letters in the circles in random order and then have the child scan the mat to challenge their visual perceptual skills.

    Roll and Write Play Dough Mat Bundle | all about helping kids warm-up their hands prior to handwriting. It makes handwriting more fun when using one of these 7 themed play dough mats. Children warm-up using dough, then work on letter formation, words, and sentences. 

    These printable play dough mats include a themed play dough area plus a writing area. Use the play dough as a fine motor warm up and then move to the handwriting aspect.

    Numbers 1-20 Sky/Ground Play Mats | helps children to work on 1-20 number formation, provides sensory input, encourages motor planning, and spatial relations. 

    A-Z Sky/Ground Play Mats | work on upper case and lower case A-Z letter formation, provides sensory input, encourages motor planning, and spatial relations. 

    Intrinsic Muscle Strengthening Play Dough Mat– This simple play dough mat limits the visual background and offers different sizes of circles. Users can create small balls of play dough to build intrinsic hand strength.

    All of the free play dough mats are available in our Member’s Club. There, you can just click and download the play dough mats!

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

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

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

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

    Join the Member’s Club today!

    A final note on play dough mats:

    Do you want to use any of the play dough mats multiple times? Simply laminate them, or place in a sheet protector so children can use them repeatedly, any time they want. Play dough mats are a fun and engaging way for young children to work on problem-solving, pretend play, pre-academic skills, and other developmental functions. They don’t even know they are doing it, as they are having so much FUN!

    Regina Allen

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

    Note: Only use play dough with the appropriate aged children. take sensible precautions with small or differently abled children, as play dough and small manipulatives can be a choking hazard. Adult supervision should be provided. 

    SHAMROCK ACTIVITY: Fine Motor Clip Cards

    Shamrock activity fine motor clip cards

    Today on the site we’ve got a great Shamrock activity…Fine motor clip cards with a shamrock theme! This is a great addition to St. Patrick’s Day activities in therapy, home or the classroom, and they work on a ton of different skills. Print them off, laminate the clip cards if you like, and you have a literal therapy pot of gold!

    These shamrock activity fine motor clip cards can help with hand strengthening skills, fine motor control and much more.

    This week as we roll out these fabulous Shamrock Activity (Fine Motor Clip Cards), let us take a moment to be thankful the weather is warming up and we can finally celebrate spring. If you are not fortunate enough to have spring weather yet, I feel for you. 

    According to the news report, people are moving out of California, New Jersey and New York in droves. I am surprised more of y’all from Wisconsin and North Dakota aren’t rustling out of there too!  No matter what the temperature is outside, this cute Shamrock Activity Fine Motor Clip Card spring themed activity will help get you motivated for warmer weather. 

    Shamrock activity for Fine Motor skills

    There is something magical about rainbows and unicorns.  Throw some shamrocks in there for good luck, and it is the perfect spring trifecta! 

    Add them to these other shamrock and St. Patrick’s Day themed activities that support the development of fine motor skills:

    These Shamrock Activity fine motor clip cards are so versatile, they  will be able to be modified for most, if not all of your learners.  Read below for ways to adapt and modify this fine motor activity.  

    How to use this shamrock activity:

    • Have learners count the number of shamrocks and place a mark to designate the number of items on the card.  These cards would be great with a (Amazon affiliate link) Dot or Bingo marker!  
    • Learners can color in the rainbows as they go
    • Cut these ahead of time, or make cutting a part of this fine motor counting clip activity
    • Use clothespins to attach to the shamrock cards to count the numbers.  Decorated clothespins are even more fun!  They are great spray painted gold, or dipped in glitter
    • Color and laminate these cards for reusable fun.  Learners can use dry erase markers to count the objects
    • Enlarge or shrink this page to change the level of difficulty
    • Change the type of paper, heavier weight is easier to handle, but may be harder to cut
    • Colored paper might be more motivating, or provide better contrast
    • Project this onto a smart board to make it a touch task, or have students follow along with the diagram
    • Scatter the cards around the room to include a gross motor component
    • Add these cards to an obstacle course having learners complete the challenge, collecting clips along the way
    • Scavenger hunt to have learners find all of the cards in order
    • Crab walk from one card to the next
    • Create an entire St. Patrick’s Day theme for the week!
    • Add spring fine motor tasks with this great fine motor bundle found on the OT Toolbox
    • The possibilities are really endless, don’t let yourself get stuck doing this fine motor activity  just one way

    Things to Observe with these Shamrock Activity Clip Cards

    When working on this shamrock fine motor activity, there are several observations that can be  made: 

    • Can your learner scan the page and count all of the shamrocks?
    • How many items can your learner correctly count?
    • Does your learner correctly hold and manipulate the scissors, crayon, or bingo marker? How much assistance do they need to grip scissors, cut the paper, or color the rainbow?
    • Do your learners have the strength to open and place the clothespins?
    • Can your student motor plan all of the skills needed for this task?
    • Will you need to modify this activity for success?
    • Can your student continue to hold the clothespins while trying to manipulate the paper?
    • What is the number of times you need to repeat the directions so your learner can follow them?
    • How many reminders does your learner need while doing this activity?

    Use these notations in your documentation to document data and support the development of fine motor skills.

    what skills do my learners need?

    While cutting, coloring, counting, and placing clips is a straightforward task for higher level learners, beginners will struggle with all of the parts needed to complete this task. 

    Think about all that has to be involved to do this counting shamrock activity:

    • Fine motor skills – Resources can be found in our fine motor skills library at the OT Toolbox
    • Strength
    • Bilateral coordination
    • Visual perception
    • Executive function/behavior/social skills
    • Following directions
    • Attention to detail
    • Work tolerance
    • Cutting on a line
    • Coloring
    • Counting
    • Multistep directions 
    • Processing skills

    This is just the start of the list when using these Shamrock fine motor clip cards! 

    Perhaps focus your attention on addressing, or observing, just one or two of these skills.  For example, work on following directions or counting, rather than all of them.

    Need more great Shamrock and St. Patrick’s Day tools?

    Here are a few more spring activities and ideas from the OT Toolbox to get you started. Round out your shamrock theme with this new Color Handwriting Kit with Bonus Rainbow Sheets!

    While spring is a lovely change of pace from winter, summer is really my jam! Bring on the heat!

    Free Shamrock Printable Clip Cards

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

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

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

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

    Join the Member’s Club today!

    Free Shamrock Activity- Fine Motor Clip Cards

      We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

      Victoria Wood, OTR/L is a contributor to The OT Toolbox and 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.

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