Sensory Activities For 1 Year Olds

sensory activities for 1 year olds

This blog post is one of the oldest posts on the site, but the sensory activities for 1 year olds that we shared way back when are just as fun now! When this post was written, the babies that played with the balls and muffin tins were just 11 months and going on 1 year. Those little ones are now 11 years old! This is such a great brain building activity for babies that I wanted to reshare the idea for the latest crop of babies out there!

If you are looking for more Baby activities, try the fun over on our Baby Play page. You’ll also find some great ideas for different ages on this post on baby sensory play.  We’ve been busy!

sensory activities for 1 year olds

sensory activities for 1 year olds

This sensory activity for 1 year olds is an easy activity to set up. You’ll need just a few items:

  • colorful balls
  • muffin tins

You can add create another sensory activity for the babies with the same colorful balls and a cardboard box or basket. We also used an empty cereal box with hole cut into the sides.

Each sensory activity here supports development of eye-hand coordination, grasp and release, core strength and stability in dynamic sitting, positioning and seated play on the floor (floor play).

Baby and Toddler Brain Building activity using balls and a muffin tin. Perfect for developing fine motor skills, visual perceptual skills in an active activity for sitting and mobile babies.

An important consideration is the use of baby positioners as they can impact powerful movement-based play in babies.

The best for sensory play for 1 year olds is just playing on the floor! There are so many benefits to playing on the floor with a basket of balls and a few muffin tins.

Baby and Toddler Brain Building activity using balls and a muffin tin. Perfect for developing fine motor skills, visual perceptual skills in an active activity for sitting and mobile babies.

What do babies love to do? Take things out and put them back into containers.

We have a bunch of different colored and sized balls that are so fun to play with in so many ways. I had my nephew here one day and we needed something different to do. My nephew and my Baby Girl are both 11 months old and they absolutely loved this play activity! 

I pulled out my muffin tins and they had a blast putting the balls into the tins, taking them out, putting them back into the box, and pulling them out again!

Little Guy (my 3 year old ) loved joining in too. Really, who could resist playing with all of these colorful balls???

Peek a Boo Sensory Activity for 1 year olds

What else do babies love? The peek-a-boo game!

It’s at this age (around one year) that babies often struggle with separation anxiety when being dropped off at a caregiver’s when separated from their parents or caregivers. You will even see signs of separation angst when a parent goes into another room, which can especially happen when the baby is tired.

The next sensory activity for baby was a fun one!

We had an empty cereal box that I cut circles into. They had a ton of fun putting the balls into a hole, and pulling a different one out as the box moved around…there were a lot of little hands in there moving that box around 🙂

The it’s-there-then-it’s not of a great game of peek-a-boo (or peek-a-ball in this case!) is awesome in building neural pathways of the brain. 

 

 

More sensory activities for babies

Other sensory activities for 1 year olds and babies include using small baskets or boxes to transfer the balls from one container to the other.

Transferring from box to box…working those hands to pick up different sized/weighted/textured balls.  Dropping the ball to see what happens is so predictable, but it is important in learning for babies. Just like when baby drops the cup from her highchair a million times…

We had a ball!

(couldn’t resist that one…heehee)

Baby and Toddler Brain Building activity using balls and a muffin tin. Perfect for developing fine motor skills, visual perceptual skills in an active activity for sitting and mobile babies.

Need more sensory ideas for 1 year olds? Try these:

  • Sensory tables- put interesting toys, textures, scoops, and containers on a low table like a coffee table. The new cruiser or early walker can stand at the table and explore the textures
  • Messy play on a highchair- Strap baby in and encourage messy food play. Thing about apple sauce, pudding, or mashed potatoes.
  • Textured fabrics- Put a bunch of fabric scraps into a box and invite the one year old to pull them out and put them back in.
  • Play with cups and spoons– with supervision- This is a great activity for eye hand coordination skills.

How to Use Graph Paper

graph paper uses

Do you know how to use graph paper to meet specific OT goal areas? We can use grid paper in occupational therapy sessions to develop many goal areas. Did you ever see a student using graphed paper in occupational therapy and wonder about the pre-gridded paper purpose in supporting goals? Not only is graph paper a type of adapted paper for some, it can be a tool too! There are so many different reasons to use this type of paper to support specific handwriting or visual perception needs. Here we are discussing using graph paper and why this type of therapy tool can be helpful.

Graph paper uses in occupational therapy for handwriting and other areas.

Graph Paper Purpose in OT

Graph paper comes in many sizes!  Specific activities can be easily graded in difficulty just by making it easier when boxes are large and of course more challenging as boxes become smaller in size. 

Graph paper can be used as a tool to support many areas of development:

How to Use Graph Paper

Try these paper activities in occupational therapy sessions or at home. Here are ideas on using graph paper to meet specific goal areas in OT or at home:

Graph Paper for Visual Perception

Tasks like forming letters the correct size, using margins, aligning lists or columns are all visual perceptual areas of handwriting. You can use grid paper to support these needs.

Graph paper is great to use for math problems! Simply place one number in each box and line them up so numbers are easily read and there’s a spot for each number in your answer. Your math work just might be easier to do and it will for sure be easier to read.

Graph paper for visual motor skills

Related to the visual perception aspect is the contribution of motor skills. In order to copy shapes, copy and write words, recreate graphs, plot lines, etc. one needs visual motor skills.

Graph paper can be used to address visual motor skills with these activities:

  • Create a plot diagram. Use a ruler to connect lines.
  • Copy shapes and designs using the grid blocks on the paper.
  • Form block letters with or without a model.
  • Cut shapes and trace the shape using the graph paper template.
  • Create symmetry drawings by folding the graph paper in half.
  • Create pencil control exercises to work on precision with pencil use.


I love to use graph paper for imitating drawings. I will draw an odd shape or maybe even a specific item and ask a student to copy my drawing by counting and using the boxes to replicate my shape. Students can also draw their own shape and try to “stump” the therapist or other player.


If the adult/other player is creative, s/he can label the boxes with letters and numbers across the top and side edges (kind of like a BINGO board) and the student is asked to fill in box A-1, or C-3, etc. to create a picture that will mysteriously become visible at the end. The one helping here must do a little homework on their own first to make sure the colored in boxes will actually create a picture.

Draw shapes

The student can also be instructed (verbally or with written cues) to draw shapes, lines, letters, etc. in certain boxes or at the intersection of certain lines (e.g. put a yellow circle in box A-1, or draw a tree at line F-7 or similar). 

This helps to follow written instructions, draw a specific shape, and locate the correct space on the graph paper.  Be creative and make it fun!

Graph paper Letter Size Activity-

Finally, it would be an injustice to graph paper if I didn’t mention the use it can play in creating letter boxes for a box and dot handwriting task.  Your student may already be familiar with this through OT sessions. 

Graph lines can be used to outline the space in which a letter sits, using one single box for lower case letters.  Upper case letters and lower case tall letters: (t, d, f, h, k, l, b) will need to include the box ON TOP to make it a one wide by a 2 tall defined space. 

Lower case letters that are descending below the line, or tail letters (q, y, p, g, j) must include the box BELOW, making it also a one wide by 2 space, but the box on bottom goes below the line on which the letters are written. 

Missing letter activities-

Making up a “key” of words, or a game, have the student place the letters in the proper defined word space that has letter boxes outlined or maybe even just the word outlined.  This may be a fun way to practice spelling words. 

Cutting activity-

If nothing else, you can always use graph paper to practice cutting on the lines, creating a colored picture, making paper air planes, or crumpling into a ball to play a game.  Graph paper is one style of cutting paper with a graded resistance we talk about in our scissor skills crash course.

I’m sure your student can think of many non-traditional things to do with it on his/her own!

If you don’t have graph paper on hand, below are resources I have found which may be helpful.

More handwriting tips

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.

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

Ambidexterity or Mixed Dominance

What is ambidexterity

Many parents see their child switch hands during tasks, or show refined use of both hands and wonder if their child is ambidextrous. Maybe a child uses their left hand to throw a ball, but bats with their right hand. Maybe they kick a ball with their right foot, but hold a pencil with their left hand. Ambidexterity is a common question among parents of kids who switch hands in activities or don’t use one hand consistently.

Here, we are covering several aspects of ambidexterity. We’ll go over the difference between being ambidextrous and having mixed dominance. We’ll cover what it means when a child uses both hands to write or color. And, we’ll go over some activities to support a dominant hand.

How do you know if your child is ambidextrous or if they are showing signs of mixed dominance? This post will explain a little more about ambidexterity as well as mixed dominance and what it means in motor skills.

What is ambidexterity? Is my child ambidextrous?

What does Ambidextrous Mean?

The definition of ambidextrous is use of both hands with equal refined precision and motor skill. This means that each side of the body is equally able to write with natural motor planning, fine motor control, strength, and refined motor movements.

According to the definition of ambidexterous, there is equal refinement and precision. You might think this means just the hands and fingers are involved with equal use of both sides. However, that’s not exactly the case.

Those who are truly ambidextrous may have equal use of hands, as well as feet, eyes, and even toungue motor skills.

An ambidextrous child will play naturally with toys using both hands. You might notice equal use of the hands and feet, or switching left to right or right to left during play, sports, school work, and other tasks.

When it comes to someone being ambidextrous and fine motor involvement, this can refer to:

  • Writing
  • Scissor use
  • Clothing fasteners
  • Play
  • Hand strength
  • Brushing teeth and hair
  • Many other every day tasks

Ambidextrous also refers to the feet too.

An ambidextrous person will be able to kick equally strong and with the same amount of force with both feet. They are able to “take off” from a running stance with equal feet placement, whether they start out running on their left foot or their right foot. Gross motor ambidexterity can be seen in:

  • Jumping
  • Running
  • Skipping
  • Hopping
  • Balance
  • Kicking a ball
  • Throwing a ball
  • Catching a ball
  • Among many other every day tasks

Ambidexterity can be observed in the eyes, too. Typically, all of us have one eye that is stronger, or a naturally dominant eye. We can complete a visual screening to identify this, or a visual exam may be in order.

Finally, an ambidextrous individual may show motor overflow movements with the tongue to both sides of the body.

Are you wondering about a child who uses both hands to write or perform tasks? Maybe you know a child who uses both hands equally and with equal skill. Perhaps your child uses one hand for specific tasks and their other hand for other tasks.

Mixed Dominance or Ambidexterous?

Just yesterday on The OT Toolbox, we discussed mixed dominance. In this post, we will cover more about true ambidexterity and what that means.

A child with mixed dominance demonstrates clear, stronger patterns based on the side of the body they are utilizing to complete the task.

For example, a child who is left hand dominant will develop a stronger fine motor pattern then a child who is not left side dominant but compensating for fatigue and is moderately adept at utilizing the left hand as a coping skill.

Is my child ambidextrous

A child who is truly ambidextrous will be equally as skilled at utilizing both sides of the body and it will look and feel natural to the child. Statistically, only 1% of the population is truly ambidextrous—it’s really very rare, and it is more likely that your child is experiencing mixed dominance patterns.

True ambidexterity requires both hands to be used with equal precision and there is no true preference in either the right or left hand for either both fine or gross motor tasks.

Can you make yourself ambidextrous?

This is an interesting question. Many times there is a perceived benefit to being ambidextrous, or switching hand or foot use during a task. Some perceived benefits might be:

  • Switching hands when one is fatigued from use during a task
  • Switching dominant sides during a sport such as baseball or softball to pitch with the other arm, batting from another side, dribbling to the other side when bringing up the ball during basketball, or kicking a ball with the other foot during soccer.
  • Writing equal legibility with both hands

Actually being ambidextrous is different than teaching yourself to become ambidextrous.

To use both sides of the hand as a learned concept takes cognitive attention whereas natural ambidexterity occurs without thought. Because of the neuroplasticity of the brain, humans have the ability to teach themselves to use their non-dominant hand or side to complete tasks. It takes practice, practice, and more practice.

Read here on motor planning where we cover this concept.

Ambidexterity or Mixed Dominance?

Is my child ambidextrous? Isn’t that what mixed dominance is? These are two questions that therapists get asked frequently when evaluating a child for the first time for mixed dominance and other concerns. The answer is no, they are not the same thing.

This is a tricky area. Therapists recognize mixed dominance as a miscommunication or poor integration of the left and right sides of the brain and that’s how it’s explained to parents. However, there is a lot of information out there on this topic that may or may not be relevant to your child and her struggles— keep this in mind when Googling information.

It is more likely, that your child’s brain is utilizing the left and right sides for very specific motor skills such as writing, eating and throwing a ball. This can lead to motor confusion—this is where the poor integration and lack of communication between the left and right sides of the brain comes into play.

When the child is not utilizing one side of the brain more dominantly for motor patterns, confusion and poor motor learning occur leading to delays and deficits in motor skills.

It is unclear why the brain develops this way, but it does happen, and it is okay. In fact, it is easily addressed by an occupational therapist.

Ambidexterous Motor Development

I already touched on this a little, but a child with mixed dominance may switch sides for task completion when experiencing fatigue. Due to this, their motor development and precision is typically delayed.

The most common area that this is noted in is in fine motor development for handwriting. This is because the child is equally, but poorly skilled with both hands, and will switch hands to compensate for fatigue.

Motor delays may also be noticed later on when it comes to the reciprocal movements needed to throw/catch or kick a ball and when skipping. A child with mixed dominance may attempt to catch and throw with the same hand, hold a bat with a backwards grip, or stand on the opposite side of the plate when hitting.

They may also experience a moderate level of confusion, and frustration as they are unsure of how to make the two sides of their body work together leading to overall poor hand/foot-eye coordination skills.Ambidexterity or mixed dominance and what this means for kids who use both hands to complete tasks like handwriting.

For a few fun hand dominance activities, try these ideas to help kids establish a

Ambidextrous hands and eyes

If you have more questions and want to learn more on a dominant eyes and understanding how the eyes and hands work together during activities, you’ll want to check out our Visual Processing Lab.

It’s a 3-day series of emails that covers everything about visual processing, visual motor skills, and eye-hand coordination. We take a closer look at visual skills and break things down, as well as covering the big picture of visual needs and how the hands and eyes work together.  

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

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

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

 
Free visual processing email lab to learn about visual skills needed in learning and reading.

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

Scanning Activities for Reading (Free Download)

visual scanning for reading

Today, we have a fun scanning activities for reading using a printable resource that supports the underlying visual skills while using a fun theme that kids engage with. Vision truly impacts learning so if we can support the areas of development that help a child thrive, we are moving in the right direction. One of the ways that occupational therapy professionals support development is through meaningful occupations, and anything fun and playful is a winner when it comes to pediatric OT!

There are many visual scanning activities that support functional participation. Here, we’re talking specifically about reading skills.

Visual Scanning and reading

The end of the school year might feel like coasting into the finish line, however it needs to be focused on meeting goals and preparing learners for summer reading. 

Learners seem to have a love/hate relationship with reading. I believe the people who hate reading struggle with this task.  Becoming a proficient reader takes a combination of skills. Beyond vision, phonics, spelling, and letter recognition, are the visual perceptual skills needed to read fluently. Today’s post is focusing on scanning activities for reading. 

Visual scanning impacts reading in many ways.

  • The child who struggles with letter reversals
  • The child who labors with reading and commonly skips words or lines of words when reading.
  • Saccadic eye movement, or visual scanning, is necessary for reading a sentence or paragraph as the eyes follow the line of words.
  • Visual scanning allows us to rapidly shift vision between two objects without overshooting as when shifting vision during reading tasks.
  • In copying written work, this skill is very necessary.
  • Skips words or a line of words when reading or re-reads lines of text
  • Must use finger to keep place when reading
  • Poor reading comprehension

All of these aspects of reading can be an issue because of scanning challenges.

So what’s going on here, visually?

Visual scanning is one of several visual perceptual skills. These have been highlighted in posts before, but as a reminder, they are:

  • Visual Attention: The ability to focus on important visual information and filter out unimportant background information.
  • Visual Discrimination: The ability to determine differences or similarities in objects based on size, color, shape, etc.
  • Visual Memory: The ability to recall visual traits of a form or object.
  • Visual Spatial Relationships: Understanding the relationships of objects within the environment.
  • Visual Sequential-Memory: The ability to recall a sequence of objects in the correct order.
  • Visual Figure Ground: The ability to locate something in a busy background.
  • Visual Form Constancy: The ability to know that a form or shape is the same, even if it has been made smaller/larger or has been turned around.
  • Visual Closure: The ability to recognize a form or object when part of the picture is missing

All of these areas combined make up visual perception, and is part of the bigger picture of how our eyes work functionally.

Visual perception is the ability to organize and interpret the information that is seen and give it meaning.  This is a common thread in therapy treatment, as it is the foundation for many activities addressed daily.

Visual perception is essential for reading, writing, math, self care tasks, instrumental activities of daily living, and play.

How to develop SCANNING Skills FOR READING

There are ways to support the development and accuracy of visual scanning skills.

  1. Reading Readiness Skills- When my girls were young, the summer reading list meant a chance to earn a ticket to Six Flags from the school!  It also meant a dollar per chapter book from mom and dad.  I was out $61.00 just from one kid that summer.  It was worth it. 

In preparation  we did a lot of scanning activities for reading readiness.  These included worksheets like the ones offered on the OT Toolbox, as well as games.  Amazon has their (affiliate link) visual perceptual games chunked into one search category. 

This might include using reading prompts, desired books, and short reading passages.

Other strategies include working on scanning the environment for details. Ask kids to look for items that are all one color, for example.

Another reading readiness activity that supports reading is I Spy activities like these I Spy colors game, I spy with real toys, and printable pages (Many are found in our Membership).

2. Visual Scanning Games- Some activities to develop scanning skills for reading include:

  • Tricky Fingers
  • QBitz
  • Where’s Waldo
  • Highlights Magazine
  • Spot it Games.

3. Vision Activities– Also be sure to check out these vision activities for kids to support all of the underlying skills that impact reading and learning.

Specifically, be sure to check out these visual scanning activities that cover the full gamut!

4. Take a Deeper Look at What’s Going On- When assessing for reading difficulties, once you have ruled out visual acuity issues, use a screening tool or assessment to test for visual perceptual deficits

The Motor Free Visual Perceptual Test, as well as the Test of Visual Perceptual Skills, assesses the different visual perceptual skills, broken down into different areas. 

5. Visual Scanning Exercises- The free spring weather visual scanning exercise (grab it below!) is just a sample of the larger packet offered HERE on the OT Toolbox.  

Below you’ll find a free downloadable spring visual scanning exercise you can use to support visual scanning needed for reading skills. These activities include a weather and Spring theme, but you can use them all times of year. The sun and clouds themes work for everyone!

This visual scanning exercise is a great scanning activity for reading. It relies on visual attention, discrimination, memory, visual-sequential memory, and figure ground.

For more scanning work, grab the Spring Fine Motor Packet. This 97 page no-prep packet includes everything you need to guide fine motor skills in face-to-face AND virtual learning. Includes Spring themed activities for hand strength, pinch and grip, dexterity, eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, endurance, finger isolation, and more. 

6. Visual Perception Activities- There are several posts this month highlighting Visual Perceptual Activities for Spring. 

For some therapists, parents, and educators these will be great worksheets for spring break, on those long rides to Grandma’s house.

Others will find these PDF sheets great for a spring lesson plan. Make a great packet of pages to send home, or do during class.  You can laminate these pages to make them eco-friendly and reusable. Some people project these onto smart boards, however I personally prefer the added skills involved in writing on paper.  However you choose to motivate your learners is the key to success.

DATA COLLECTION during scanning activities

Scanning activities for reading readiness are great for data collection. It is easy to measure the number of correct/incorrect guesses.

Of course it gets tricky when other factors such as impulsivity, attention, and compliance skew the data. Be sure to document these aspects of scanning that impacts reading skills as a functional task:

  • Document the number of errors, while adding narrative about the learner’s behavior. 
  • Provide several different types of visual perceptual tasks to try and determine which specific skills (or combination) are deficient.  This way your treatment can be more efficient, if you can hone in on one or two skill areas, such as visual memory, or scanning. 

DOCUMENTATION of Scanning tasks to support reading

  • Does your learner scan in sequential order, or all over the page?
  • Are items completely missed when scanning?
  • Is your learner taking their time, or making random guesses?
  • Does your learner thoroughly look at all the choices before giving an answer?

Some of these questions are not easy to answer. Continue to provide different types of exercises in order to measure progress. 

Progress is often the answer we seek, rather than “why do they do that?”  Often doctors do not know the why, but have to try different things until they find something that works. 

Use spring break (if you are lucky enough to have one) to rest and recharge for all of the fun spring activities that can be added to your treatment plans and OT Toolbox!

Free scanning activity Download to support reading skills

Want to add this printable tool to your therapy toolbox?

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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.

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FREE Visual Scanning for Reading Exercise

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    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.

    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.

    Beaded Feather Fine Motor Activity

    beaded feathers fine motor activity

    This beaded feather activity is a fine motor task that we created YEARS ago. WE love it because beads and feathers are common craft materials found in many pediatric occupational therapy professionals’ therapy toolbox. In fact OTs love crafts as a fine motor strategy and this feather bead activity is a powerhouse!

    Beaded Feather Activity

    If you need a quick and easy little activity for the kids while you are making dinner, or just something fun for the kids to keep practice a few fine motor skills, then this is a great activity for you.  Simple to set up and easy to clean up, this one will get those little muscles going and moving with fine motor dexterity!
     
    This can be a great skill-building task to add to a STEAM activity or a STEM fine motor activity.
     


    Beading with feathers

    This activity works on several grasps, color awareness, counting, sorting, visual scanning, and eye-hand-coordination.  How can you beat such an easy activity with so many benefits??  

     

     
    Fine motor activity for kids using beads and feathers.
     
     
     
    This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
     
    You’ll need just two craft materials for this fine motor activity:
     

     

     
     
    Preschoolers and Toddlers can match beads to feathers to learn colors.
     
    Get your feathers and some coordinating beads and lay them out on the table.  I started a few feathers to show the kids what we were doing and had the invitation to start ready to go. 
     
    They came over to check it out and would bead a bit here and there throughout the day.  It was kind of like a therapeutic little break from bouncing off of couch cushions and each other. 
     
    Their little bodies needed a chance to slow down and re-group before getting back into the routine of regularly scheduled chaos.
     
    But maybe that’s just my kids?
      
    Sorting colored beads to match colored feathers is a fun way to learn colors.

     

    Pincer Grasp Activity With Beads and Feathers

    You could also put out a big old tray of all kinds of beads with different colors, shapes, sizes to work with. 
     
    This slightly makes the activity just a little more difficult as the child has to visually scan for the colors needed and pick out the beads that they want with a neat pincer grasp
     
    Using the tips of the index finger and the thumb in a precision grasp to manipulate beads from a big tray of colors is great for eye-hand coordination
     
    Want more ideas to work on neat pincer grasp or eye hand coordination?  We’ve got plenty!
     
    Threading colored beads on feathers is a great way for prechoolers and toddlers to work on colors and fine motor skills.

     

    Beading Feathers Bilateral Coordination Activity

    Holding the feather and the beads requires two hands to work together in a coordinated way (bilateral hand coordination). 
     
    This is a great way to practice pre-writing skills and those requirements needed for self- care like managing buttons, zippers, shoe-tying, and scissor skills.
     
    Beads and feathers are a fun way to practice colors and fine motor skills with kids.

     

    Bead Feathers to learn colors

    Younger children (Baby Girl is just getting this!)  can learn colors and practice naming colors as they pick out the beads and match to the color of the feather. 

    How many other ways can you think of to make this a learning opportunity? 

    Patterns, sorting, counting…this is a fun learning op and a great way to get those little hands moving!

                                    Kids can work on fine motor skills and color matching awareness while beading feathers.

    Fine motor activity for kids using beads and feathers.
     
     
    More Fine Motor activities you will love:
     
     

     

    The beaded feather activity and the other fine motor tasks listed above are a great addition to our popular Fine Motor Kits:

    Use these Fine Motor Kits for hands-on activity kits to develop fine motor skills, strength, dexterity, and manipulation. Kids LOVE these fine motor kits for the motivating activities. Therapists love them because it’s fresh, fun ways to work on pinch, grip, manipulation skills, and much more. Try some of these themed therapy kits:

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

    OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY SUPPLIES MATCH IT CARDS

    OT Spot it game for occupational therapy

    Today’s free resource for OT month is a fun OT Spot It type of game. This occupational therapy supplies match it activity develops visual perceptual skills and uses common OT materials and supplies. If you are working with kids, you’ll want to grab this freebie as a tool to use during OT month, but also all year long!

    OT Spot it game for occupational therapy

    OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY SUPPLIES MATCH IT CARDS

    This therapy game is part of a larger set that you can find in our OT Materials Bundle. And, incase you missed the OT month freebie that we shared already, be sure to grab this set of OT coloring pages, too. Both are great resources to add to your toolbox.

    If you have ever played the (Amazon affiliate link) Spot It card game, you will love these Occupational Therapy Supplies Match it Cards!  Spot it games come in dozens of different styles to motivate even the most resistant learner. With these occupational therapy tools matching cards, learners can practice visual perceptual skills using a familiar platform. 

    Why are visual perceptual skills important?

    We’ve previously shared a great post explaining the importance of visual perception on learning.  Visual perception is important for reading fluency, decoding words, scanning a page, remembering what has been seen, finding things in a drawer or closet, playing games like puzzles, recalling/recognizing correct spelling, completing math equations, and so much more.

    As a related resource, this free visual perception packet covers many different visual perceptual skills.

    Spot It Game for Visual Perception

    If you’ve seen the Spot It game being used in therapy sessions as a tool for development, you may have wondered how this popular game supports visual perceptual skills.

    What visual perceptual skills are used in the occupational therapy supplies match it game?

    • Visual Attention: The ability to focus on important visual information and filter out unimportant background information.
    • Visual Memory: The ability to recall visual traits of a form or object.
    • Visual Spatial Relationships: Understanding the relationships of objects within the environment.
    • Visual Figure Ground: The ability to locate something in a busy background.
    • Visual Form Constancy: The ability to know that a form or shape is the same, even if it has been made smaller/larger or has been turned around.

    All of these skills are addressed through the use of the Spot It games, and that’s why we wanted to create an OT version to develop skills!

    Use the OT Match IT Game

    Because April is OT month, it is a great time to talk about the role of occupational therapy with other students, or to work with learners on understanding why they get OT. 

    They may not understand why they get to see this awesome person every week.  By educating learners about the role OT plays in their lives, they can begin to explain it to other people.  When we educate other adults about occupational therapy, we are advocating for the profession, as well as teaching them how we can help.

    WHERE WILL YOU TAKE THIS ACTIVITY?

    1. A great place to start would be by ordering the rest of this occupational therapy supplies match it cards HERE. This bundle of occupational therapy activities includes 13 printable products that can be printed off and used with students in therapy sessions to celebrate all of the therapy tools kids use. This packet is great for OT month, and all year long.
    2. An all inclusive lesson plan can easily be made by using all of the occupational therapy month themed activity freebies:
    • Occupational Therapy Coloring pages
    • OT Words Handwriting Sheets– coming later this week
    • Occupational therapy Fine Motor Game– coming later this week
    • Therapy Tools Word Search– coming later this week
    • OT Supplies Match It Game– Grab it below
    1. Create a visual perception theme addressing several of the important visual perceptual skills.  The OT Toolbox has some brand new resources for visual perception. 
    2. Color and laminate these cards to build a reusable game set.  Make a special game set for your learners to take home and share with family
    3. Have learners research and learn more about occupational therapy and the supplies or tools we use

    HOW TO DOCUMENT Spot IT Games in Therapy

    If you are using these occupational therapy supplies match it cards as part of your treatment plan, you will need to accurately document your learner’s skill level. 

    • The percentage of correct cards matched
    • How long it takes to do each card
    • Attention to detail, following directions, prompts and reminders needed, level of assistance given
    • Can your learner scan the page to identify the correct items?  Are they recognizing what they are matching or merely matching shapes?
    • How many times do you need to repeat the directions so your learner can follow them?
    • How many reminders does your learner need while doing this activity?
    • First determine what goals and skills you are addressing. Are you looking strictly at visual perception and picture matching?  Or something else entirely such as executive function and behavior?
    • Focus your observations on the skills you are addressing.  It is alright to address one (or ten) skills at once, just be sure to watch for those skills during the activity.  This can take practice to watch everything all at once. Newer clinicians often videotape sessions and go back and review clinical observations they may have missed.
    • Use data to back up your documentation. Avoid or limit phrases such as min assist, fair, good, some, many, etc.  They are vague and do not contain the numbers and data critical to proficient documentation.  Instead use percentages, number of trials, number of errors, time to do a task, number of prompts, minutes of attention.  You get the idea.
    • This type of documentation may feel foreign at first if this is not what you are used to, however insurance and governing agencies are becoming more strict on accurate documentation.

    TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AS WELL AS OTHERS

    Take time this month not only to advocate for occupational therapy, but to celebrate each other for the fabulous work we do!  Share stories of success, funny moments, learning opportunities, and resounding failures.  Every time I think I have heard or seen it all in my thirty years practicing, a new surprise or hilarious moment comes my way!  Someone should publish a book or page about all of the funny things people say during a therapy session. 

    This profession is rewarding but also very tough.  Burnout is common among health professionals. In fact, caregiver stress and burnout applies to many therapy professionals! If you can’t find a moment of levity, it will break you.  

    While this post is highlighting the occupational therapy match it cards, take time to reflect about what great work you are doing, spread the word about OT, and practice your own self care.

    Free Match IT Game for OTs

    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 Occupational Therapy Spot It Game

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      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.

      Spring Visual Perception Activities

      Spring themed visual perception activities for kids

      Have you been following along with the Spring Occupational Therapy activities this week? All week long we’re covering various aspects of development and function with fun and creative spring-themed ideas. Today you’ll find Spring Visual Perception Activities. These are ways to promote visual perceptual skill development and the visual components that are needed for skills like reading, writing, and functional tasks.

      Spring Visual Perception Activities

       
      Working on visual perceptual skills in kids to help with handwriting, reading, or other skills? These spring themed visual perception activities will help.

      If you missed the other posts this week, you can check them out here:

      For a more exhaustive set of strategies, activities, and ideas, be sure to grab the Spring Fine Motor Kit (PLUS bonus kit which covers everything you need for Spring Break) that is on sale now for just $10. You’ll be loaded up on all kinds of tools that will last all season long.

      Each Spring theme includes activity ideas. To see all of the posts from this week (and to see what we’re coving tomorrow), head over to our Spring Occupational Therapy Activities page.

      For more creative strategies and ideas to use in therapy this time of year, you will want to grab the Spring Fine Motor Kit that includes our Spring Occupational Therapy Activities Packet. It’s loaded with tools and ideas to put into place in therapy sessions starting today. 

      For OT Toolbox readers and newsletter subscribers, you can access both of these materials in our Spring Fine Motor Kit DEAL which includes the bonus materials at the time of your purchase.

      Use the ideas in fine motor or gross motor warm-ups, or add them to a home program. You’ll find more visual perceptual activities and worksheets that can be used over and over again. You’ll also find handwriting prompts in list form so you can really focus on things like letter formation, spacing, and line use in short writing tasks. You’ll love the Spring themed brain break cards that can be used in the classroom or at home.

      Grab the Spring Occupational Therapy Activities Packet and bonus Spring Break Kit here.

      Working on visual perceptual skills in kids to help with handwriting, reading, or other skills? These spring themed visual perception activities will help.

       

      Spring Visual Perception Activities

      When we breakdown the term “visual perception”, you will see that there are many sub-areas that are needed for functional skills like reading, handwriting, spelling, coordination, and many functional tasks.

      Below, you’ll find an explanation of visual perceptual skills that impact function, as well as Spring-themed activities to help improve these areas.  

      Read more about how visual perception impacts handwriting here.  

      Visual Perceptual Skills

      Visual Memory- This visual perceptual skill allows us to store information that we see and use that information for future use. In order to recall visual information, we need visual attention.

      The selection and perception of visual input requires that information is perceived via the eye’s visual fields, and in coordination with oculomotor control, is processed through the visual cortex in the brain. This is how visual processing happens.

      Visual memory allows for discrimination of details of such things as letter discrimination, sight word identification, etc.  

      Spring Visual Memory Activities-

      • Use different colored plastic eggs or other items such as mini erasers. Put them in a series of three and show the student. You can then cover up the objects and then ask the student to replicate that series.
      • Create a Spring Memory game. Use pictures or stickers of flowers, chicks, bunnies, caterpillars, butterflies, etc. to create a DIY Memory game.
      • What’s Missing Game- Use those mini erasers from a dollar store to create a What’s Missing Game. Place a handful of erasers on a tray. Allow the child to memorize the items. Then cover them and remove one or more. The child needs to recall and identify the missing items.
      • Spring Memory Game (Free download)– print off this free printable and play memory games with a Spring theme.

      Visual Discrimination- This visual perceptual skill allows us to identify the features of a form/object/letter/number so we can tell the difference between objects.

      Using visual discrimination, we can identify similarities and differences related to the objects and use that information in conjunction with visual memory.  

      Spring Visual Discrimination Activities- 

      • Cut a spring picture or card into pieces. Kids can position the pieces to recreate the whole picture. Make this activity easier or more difficult as needed by the child.
      • Use a packet of spring stickers. Many times there are several sheets that contain the same stickers. Use them to make small cards. Mix up all of the cards and ask the child to find the matches.

      Form Constancy- This visual perceptual skill allows for recognition of objects in various environments or with attention to details and orientation.

      This allows us to recognize letters or numbers no matter their font or size.  

      Spring Form Constancy Activities-

      • Write lists of spring words on index cards in different sizes or fonts, or upper case/lower case letters. Hide the cards around the room. The child can look at one card and go off to find the matching font and word.
      • Using plastic eggs, draw shapes that are similar in form, but are different sizes on each half of the egg. Then, mix up the eggs and as the child to find matches and put them together.

      Visual Closure- This visual perceptual skill enables the identification of objects or forms and allows us to identify an object by viewing just a portion and using mental skills to complete the object’s form in our mind.

      Visual closure is a skill necessary for reading and recognizing words by viewing just the beginning letters. Visual closure is related to and requires visual memory and visual attention.

      Spring Visual Closure Activities- 

      • Gather several Spring-themed items such as small animal figures, flowers, cookie cutters, plastic eggs, etc. Place them on a tray and cover half of the items. Ask the child to name each item without seeing the whole object.
      • Make an “I Spy” Frame- Cut a hole or rectangle in an index card. Place it over a spring picture or item. Ask the child to name the object or item by seeing only a portion.

      Visual Figure Ground- This skill enables us to locate items in a busy background.  Finding hidden items in a hidden pictures puzzle works on this skill by visually scanning and identifying items within a busy scene.  

      In handwriting, visual figure ground is necessary for copying written work from a model and locating the place left off when shifting vision.

      Spring Visual-Figure Ground Activities-

      • Use small items such as mini-erasers of various shapes like bunnies, carrots, and flowers. Spread them out on a table in a pile. Ask the student to sort the like shapes into piles.
      • Go on an “I Spy” nature walk and look for signs of Spring.
      • Flip through a catalogue or grocery flier to find specific items on a list. These can be items needed for a Spring event like Mother’s Day or Easter, or items needed for a recipe. 

      Visual Sequential Memory- This visual perceptual skill is the ability to visually take in and then later recall the sequence or order of items in the correct order. This skill is important in reading and writing.

      Visual sequential memory is important in spelling words correctly and recognizing that words are not spelled correctly.

      Spring Visual Sequential Memory Activities- 

      • Make an order of three or more items like three flowers. Ask the student to memorize the order and then to replicate it.
      • Talk about the steps to complete a task such as planting a flower seed. Write out or draw the steps. Cut the paper so the steps are separated. Mix up the order by spreading the various steps on a table surface. Ask the student to place them back into order. 

      More Spring Visual Perception Activities

      Spring Fine Motor Kit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Free Apps for Occupational Therapy

      apps for occupational therapy

      Questions about the best apps for occupational therapy come up often. It is possible to address developmental skills through app play. Let’s cover various occupational therapy apps for the iPad or tablet.

      Children of today have technology very much integrated into all aspects of their daily lives. Technology is an occupation in and of itself. As occupational therapists, we strive to support functioning and full lives in our clients. Using apps in occupational therapy services serves two purposes: a meaningful and motivating tool to support functional skills by addressing underlying skills, AND as an extrinsic factor impacting function: using a device, filling form fields on apps, scheduling appointments, making calls, and other performance areas. Apps are a part of function because technology is so integrated into daily life.

      Let’s look at various areas of development where app use can help support kids, teens, and adults:

      Use these apps for occupational therapy to work on specific skills, development, and even functional skill work that is motivating and meaningful to today's kids.

      Apps for Occupational Therapy

      Normally at this time of year in therapy, it can be hard to keep the kids attention spans on track. Having a free app that builds skills can be one way to stay on track with addressing specific skills.

      Here, you will find free apps for occupational therapy that can be used as a supplemental activity or as a quick activity in between other occupational therapy activities. The OT apps for the ipad or tablet can be used in many different ways:

      1. Add them to your line-up of occupational therapy teletherapy activities.
      2. Use the OT apps as a supplemental activity for home recommendations or classroom down-time.
      3. Use the occupational therapy app as a transition activity that continues to develop skills addressed in therapy sessions.
      4. Others may want to use these apps for therapy breaks or as a reward at the end of the session.
      5. Use the apps for occupational therapy homework so that kids are motivated to participate and incentivize OT home programs, fostering the carryover we don’t sometimes see.
      6. Still others may find the occupational therapy apps perfect for home occupational therapy programs or ways to keep kids busy while parents are working from home.

      Whatever your need, these educational games and special education supports can be a powerful tool in distance learning and learning at home.

      These free apps for occupational therapy build handwriting, executive functioning, visual memory, fine motor skills, and more.

      Free Apps for Occupational Therapy

      The free apps below are broken down into targeted skill area. I’m adding apps for handwriting and letter formation, visual motor skills, executive functioning skills, and other areas. Some of these apps are IOS apps and others are Android apps.

      The apps that are available for Android on Google Play may be accessed through a Google account on a desktop and then accessed through the Google play app or via a Google account on an Apple device. Here is more information on how to access Google Play apps on an Apple device.

      I tried to locate only free apps in this resource. There are many great apps for occupational therapy out there, but I wanted to cover all the bases when it comes to OT interventions with free apps that can meet the needs for free!

      Another great idea for using free technology in occupational therapy includes using these Alexa skills in occupational therapy.

      Free Apps for Visual Motor Skills

      The apps listed below are some of the best apps for occupational therapists to use in therapy sessions, and to recommend to parents and teachers, when appropriate. Remember that all kids are different and all have specific needs, so these recommendations may not work for every child or individual.

      All About Shapes- This free app is available on IOS and is a shape drawing app. Users can draw and identify shapes.

      Vision Tap- This free IOS app is a great one for addressing visual processing and visual efficiency skills. Visual tracking, visual scanning, and oculo-motor skills are challenged with this one!


      Broom, Broom- This free IOS app allows children to draw paths for the vehicles in the game to drive on, building eye-hand coordination, motor planning, visual memory, and precision of fine motor skills.

      Visual Memory- is a free app available on Google Play. The game is designed to develop visual memory and improve attention. Users can find the image that appears at each level.

      Piko’s Blocks- this free IOS app really challenges the visual spatial skills for older kids.

      Memory Game- is another free app on Google Play. The game is just like the classic concentration game, helping users to build visual memory skills.

      Learning with Wally is an Android app available on Google Play. The visual discrimination app challenges users to discriminate between differences, recognize, and attend to details in visual forms, including pictures, letters, words and sentences.

      Sorting and Learning Game 4 Kids- This app is available on Google Play and challenges users to categorize and match themed objects while helping to build visual attention, visual memory, and focus with a concentration on visual perception.

      Visual Attention Therapy Life is an app available on Google Play. The free app allows users to address and build visual scanning, visual memory, and visual attention. It also helps rehab professionals to assess for neglect and provide more efficient and effective therapy for attention deficits.


      Sensory Baby Toddler Learning- This Google Play app is great for younger kids as they work on cause and effect and develop hand eye coordination skills.


      Connecting Dots is Fun- This free IOS app allows users to work on visual perceptual skills such as visual discrimination, form constancy, figure-ground and visual processing skills of tracking and scanning. Users create dot-to-dot activities in the app.

      Alphabet Puzzles For Toddlers- This Google Play app helps younger children work on letter identification and letter recognition. The letter learning app is a great app for preschoolers or toddlers. The visual perceptual app allows children to address form constancy, visual discrimination, figure ground, and other visual perceptual skills.

      iMazing- In this free IOS app, users can complete maze activities while challenging visual perception and visual motor skills.
      Skill Game- This free app is available on Android. The game allows users to draw lines to connect numbers while building eye-hand cordination, precision, motor planning, visual memory, and more.

      On the Line- This IOS app is great for working on visual motor skills using a stylus.


      Squiggles- This free app is a great one to work on pre-writing skills. Users can draw lines and figures and watch as they become animated.

      Use these free handwriting apps to work on letter formation, number formation, letter recognition, and more.

      Handwriting Apps

      These handwriting apps are occupational therapy tools that support the underlying skills needed for handwriting. Some apps allow kids to “write” letters using a resistance-free surface on the tablet or iPad. This input can be the “just right” level for some kids. Other Handwriting apps listed address other skills. Let’s take a look at how to use these apps in occupational therapy services.

      ITrace is a handwriting app that does have a price for the main version, however, there is a free version available with some activities. Users can trace letters, numbers, words, and shapes while working on visual motor skills and letter formation.


      Writing Wizard- This app is available on Google Play and allows users to trace letters along a visual guide. There are various fonts available and size can be adjusted for different ages.

      Writing Wizard-Cursive- This handwriting app is created by the makers of the regular, print version of Writing Wizard. Users can practice letter formation in cursive.

      Start Dot- This app addresses letter formation using visual, auditory, and movement cues. These prompts fade to address accuracy and independence.

      Ollie’s Handwriting and Phonics- This free app allows users to trace and copy individual letters and words on the app’s chalkboard wall.

      Write ABC – Learn Alphabets Games for Kids- This handwriting app is available on Google Play. The app helps younger children work on letter formation using visual cues for starting points and ending points.

      Sand Draw- This free Google Play app provides a sandy beach for kids to practice writing letters, words, or phrases in. Use it to practice spelling words for a fun twist.

      Snap Type- While this app has a paid version, the free version also allows users to create digital versions of worksheets. Students can take a picture of their worksheets, or import worksheets from anywhere on their device. They can then use their Android device keyboard to add text to these documents. When complete, students can print, email.

      Apps for Fine Motor Skills

      These apps for fine motor skill development might not be your go-to fine motor task when it comes to strengthening hands and promoting dexterity. But for the child that struggles with fine motor skills, a tablet or iPad app can be a motivating and meaningful way to address developmental skills.

      With an app, it is possible to address functional, fine motor skills:

      The fact is that devices are not going away. In fact, our youth are likely to see all aspects of their future lives managed by screen technology. For kids that struggle with dexterity, hand strength, motor planning, and other motor skills, we can help them to be the most functional and independent individuals.

      These fine motor apps are just one more strategy in our OT toolbelt.

      Dot to dot Game – Connect the dots ABC Kids Games- This free app is great for toddlers, preschoolers, or young children working on precision, dexterity, and fine motor work. the app addresses letter and number formation.

      Tiny Roads- This free app allows children to connect objects while working on precision and finger isolation.

      Montessori Fine Motor Skills Game School Numbers- This fine motor app helps users work on eye-hand coordination, precision, and finger isolation while working on numbers, letters, and shapes.

      Use these free executive functioning apps in occupational therapy sessions to build skills like working memory, attention, and focus.

      executive function apps

      When addressing attention, distraction, planning, prioritization, time management, and other executive functioning skills, using apps in occupational therapy is a no-brainer. Kids are exposed to the technology of devices every day and the ability to complete daily tasks using devices is just part of advances in our time.

      Use these executive function apps in occupational therapy as a support tool: devices to help with challenges like attention, organization, scheduling, and planning. Or, use these executive functioning apps in OT to work on cognitive skills that enable function; Apps are a great way to practice filling out forms, recalling and typing passwords, addressing online distraction, and other functional tasks that kids and adults are faced with every day. App use is an occupation, or task that occupies our daily lives, in a very real way.

      CogniFit Brain Fitness- This Google Play app uses memory games, puzzles, reasoning games, educational games, and learning games to train memory, attention, concentration, executive functions, reasoning, planning, mental agility, coordination and many other essential mental skills.

      Lumosity: Brain Training- This free executive functioning skills app uses games to exercise memory, attention, speed, flexibility and problem-solving.

      Memory Games: Brain Training– This executive functioning skills app uses memory and logic games  to improve memory, attention and concentration. 

      Alarmy- This free alarm app allows users to set alarms for attention building, and scheduling.

      The Google Tasks app– This free app creates checklists and sub-lists and allows users to add details about the areas that users need need to focus on in order to accomplish tasks. The app helps users to stay on track with due dates and notifications.

      The 30/30 app- This free app helps with executive functioning skills such as starting tasks, staying organized, and prioritization in tasks. This app is useful to address procrastination and motivation on bigger tasks or projects.

      Forest- This app helps with procrastination, productivity, and motivation.

      Study Bunny- This free productivity app helps students pay attention and focus on studying and larger school projects or tasks.

      Habitica- This task completion app allows users to track habits, and add gamification to tasks to build motivation and help with productivity.

      HabitNow- This free habit tracker app helps users to track habits and build habits to improve productivity and time management. This is a great app for scheduled activities or daily tasks such as chores or morning/evening routines.

      Brain N-Back- This working memory app helps to train working memory.

      Clockwork Brain Training- This memory training app helps with working memory and concentration through games and puzzles.

      Use these free self-regulation apps to help kids identify emotions, and feelings and help with coping tools.

      Apps for Emotional regulation

      There are apps that can be used as self-regulation tools. There are apps to practice social interactions. There are even apps to check-in on emotional regulation and self-regulation needs. These apps for emotional regulation are a great way to support kids and teens emotional regulation and overall wellbeing needs through the use of a hand-held self-regulation tool.

      Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame- This self-regulation app uses a fun Sesame Street monster to help little ones calm down and solve everyday challenges. Available in English and Spanish, the coping tools app helps your child learn Sesame’s “Breathe, Think, Do” strategy for problem-solving.

      Trigger Stop: Sensory and Emotional Check-In- This free self-regulation app is available on Google Play so they can identify and communicate sensations and emotions or feelings in the body so they can express them in a healthy way.

      Social Navigator –This emotional regulation app is a great social skills app designed to assist children with social and behavioral challenges. Kids can develop essential social interaction skills by taking a look at their behavior in social situations, and this app is a nice way to build confidence in that area.

      EmoPaint – Paint your emotions! is a free self-regulation app available for IOS in the Apple Store or Google Play. The paint app allows users to represent emotions or bodily sensations through art, by painting them interactively on the screen.

      Moodflow: Self-care made easy!- keeps track of your emotions, moods, thoughts and general well-being with a self-rating system, emotional language, and a system that allows for identification of how coping strategies help with emotional regulation.

      Deep Breathing apps- there are many mindfulness and deep breathing apps out there. I even have one right on my watch. With calming visuals, mindfulness apps allow the user to calm down and regulate their emotions so they can function in any situation. Bubble: Breathing Companion is one self-regulation app that encourages emotion regulation through breathing exercises.

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