Tactile Defensiveness

Tactile defensiveness and what you need to know about tactile sensitivities

Today, I have an update on a very old blog post for a specific reason. This fake snow messy sensory play activity is a valuable tool in addressing tactile defensiveness, or tactile sensitivity. In general descriptions, this simply means an over-sensitivity to touch, or over-responsiveness to touch sensations. For kids with sensory issues, this can be a very big deal. Tactile defensiveness can mean poor tolerance to certain clothing, textures, food sensitivities, closeness of others, wearing socks or the feel of seams or clothing. Sensitivity to these touch sensations can look like many different things! Today we are discussing all about tactile sensitivity, what that looks like in children, and a sensory challenge that can be used for tactile sensitivity.

If you are looking for more information on sensory processing, start here with our free sensory processing information booklet.

tactile sensitivity sensory challenge with fake snow

What is Tactile Defensiveness

I briefly explained the meaning of tactile defensiveness above, but let’s break this down further.

The tactile system is one of our 8 sensory systems: touch, taste, smell, sight, hearing, proprioception, vestibular, and interoception. The sense of touch is a very big piece of the whole picture.

The Tactile Sensory System is one of the earliest developed
senses of the body, with studies telling us this sensory system begins to develop at around 8 weeks in utero. The sense of touch completes its development at around 30 weeks in utero when pain, temperature, and pressure sensations are developed.

Types of touch

The skin performs unique duties for the body, based on different types of touch input, and tactile sensitivity can be considered to occur in the various aspects of touch. These types of touch include: light touch, pressure, discrimitive touch, pain, temperature.

Most importantly for our ancient ancestors, especially, the skin protects and alerts us to danger and discriminates sensation with regard to location and identification. This is important because touch sensations alerts us to both discrimination and danger. These two levels of sensation work together yet are distinctively important. And furthermore, the skin is the largest and the most prevalent organ.


Touch discrimination- Discrimination of touch allows us to sense where on our body and what is touching us. With discrimination, we are able to
discern a fly that lands on our arm. We are able to sense and use our fingertips in fine motor tasks. We are able to touch and discern temperatures, vibrations, mount of pressure, and textures and shapes of objects.

Danger perception– The second level of the tactile system alerts us to danger. It allows us to jump in response to the “fight or flight” response
when we perceive a spider crawling on our arm. With this aspect of touch, we are able to discern temperature to ensure skin isn’t too hot or cold. We can quickly identify this temperature or sharpness of an object and quickly move away to avoid burning, freezing, or sharp objects.

When either of these levels of sensation are disrupted, tactile
dysfunction can result. This presents in many ways, including
hypersensitivity to tags in clothing, a dislike of messy play,
difficulty with fine motor tasks, a fear of being touched by
someone without seeing that touch, a high tolerance of pain, or a
need to touch everything and everyone.

Sensitivity to touch can mean over responding to touch input in the form of textures, temperatures, or pressure. Touch sensitivities mean that the body perceives input as “too much” in a dangerous way. The touch receptors that perceive input are prioritized because the brain believes we are in danger. The body moves into a state of defensiveness, or safe-mode in order to stay safe from this perceived danger. This is tactile defensiveness.

What does Tactile Defensiveness looks like?

Hyper-responsiveness of the tactile sense may include a variety of things:

  • Overly sensitivity to temperature including air, food, water, or
  • objects
  • Withdrawing when touched
  • Avoids certain food clothing textures or fabrics
  • Dislikes wearing pants or restrictive clothing around the legs
  • Refusing certain food textures
  • Dislike of having face or hair washed
  • Dislikes hair cuts
  • Dislikes having fingernails cut
  • Dislike seams in clothing
  • Excessively ticklish
  • Avoidance to messy play or getting one’s hands dirty
  • Avoidance of finger painting, dirt, sand, bare feet on grass, etc.
  • Avoids touching certain textures
  • Clothing preferences and avoidances such as resisting shoes
  • Resistance to nail clipping, face washing
  • Resists haircuts, hair brushing
  • Dislikes or resists teeth brushing
  • Overreacts to accidental or surprising light touches from
  • others
  • Avoids affectionate touch such as hugs
  • Dislikes closeness of other people

As a result of this avoidance, development in certain areas can be delayed, in a way that functional performance of daily tasks is impacted. What you see in as a result of a poorly integrated tactile sensory system:

  • Delayed fine motor skills
  • Rigid clothing preferences
  • Behavioral responses to tasks such as putting on shoes or coat
  • Impaired personal boundaries
  • Avoids tactile sensory activities
  • Poor body scheme
  • Difficulty with praxis
  • Poor hand skill development

More information on sensory processing of each of the sensory systems and how that impacts daily life can be found in The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook. You’ll also find practical strategies for integrating sensory diets into each part of every day life, in motivating and meaningful ways. Check out The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook for moving from sensory dysfunction to sensory function!

How to help with tactile sensitivity

There are ways to help address these areas, so that the child is safe and can function and perform tasks in their daily life. While addressing tactile sensitivities doesn’t mean changing the child’s preferences, it can mean understanding what is going on, what the child does and does not prefer in the way of sensory processing, and it can mean providing tools and resources to help the child.

This should involve an occupational therapist who can take a look at sensory processing and integration and make specific recommendations.

Some strategies that can impact tactile sensitivity include:

  • Understanding the child’s sensory systems, and integration in the daily life of the child. Grab the Sensory Lifestyle Handbook to read more on sensory diets that are meaningful and motivating. These are sensory activities that can be integrated right into tasks like baths, tooth brushing, hair brushing, dentist visits, clothing changes, etc.
  • Take a look at clothing sensitivity red flags for areas of sensitivity to clothing that stand out for the individual child.
  • Read more on proprioception and the connection of heavy work input as a calming and regulatory tool for sensitivities.
  • Work on touch discrimination with activities at the level of the child.
  • Provide verbal input to warn the child prior to light touch
  • Provide visual cues and schedules for tasks that must be completed such as tooth brushing or hair brushing.
  • Trial tactile experiences at a graded level, introducing various sensory experiences in a “safe space” at a just right level for the child.

Tactile Defensiveness Sensory Activity

That’s where this messy sensory play activity comes in. By taking out the “messy” part of this sensory experience, children who dislike messy play or touching certain textures can explore the sensory activity and challenge tactile exposure. In this way, they are experiencing a new and novel texture (temperature and squishy, messy experiences), but at a safe level, or “just right” level for them.

This snow sensory play activity has the opportunity for tactile challenges, but it uses a plastic bag to contain the actual mess, allowing for a mess-free sensory experience, at different grades of texture exposure.

Fake snow for sensory play

Fake Snow Recipe

We made fake snow one recent weekend, when we had a big cousin sleep over.  There were six kids aged five and under staying overnight at our house.  I had this activity planned for us to do together, (because I procrastinated ) and had to get it together to take to a Winter Festival at our church the next day.  It was a fun messy play idea for indoor snow.

We’ve made this fake snow before and I have the recipe listed on our Messy Play Day post.  

This fake snow is easy, because it includes only 2 ingredients:

  • Toilet paper
  • Ivory soap

With these two ingredients, there are many opportunities for tactile sensitivity challenges, and each child can experience sensory exploration at a level that suits their preferences. Some children may enjoy experiencing the dry texture of the toilet paper. (See the kids below…they sure enjoyed this texture.)

Other children may prefer (or avoid) the tactile experience of touching and manipulating the squishy, warm soap texture.

Others may tolerate mixing the two textures together.

Still others, may prefer none of these textures. In this case, move to the last level of this tactile experience, which is placing the fake snow into the plastic baggie. Then, they can squeeze and touch the sensory fake snow with a barrier in place. they will still experience the warm temperature and firm, heavy work of squeezing through their hands, but they will experience this sensory input in a “safe” level with that plastic bag barrier.

Fake Snow Dry sensory Bin

Step 1: Tear the toilet paper into shreds. Keep this in a bin or large container. We used an under-the bed storage bin because I was making a large quantity of fake snow for our Winter Festival.

We shredded the toilet paper and the kids had a BLAST! It started out so neat and kind.  Tearing the toilet paper is a fantastic fine motor activity for those hands, too. It offers heavy work input through the hands which can have a regulating, calming impact on the joints of the hands. This can be a nice “warm up” exercise for the tactile challenge of exploring and manipulating the dry toilet paper texture.

For kids with tactile sensitivities, this might be “too much” for them to handle. Try using tongs and ask them to explore the toilet paper shredding sensory bin to find hidden items. Some of the paper cards and winter words in our Winter Fine Motor Kit are great additions to this sensory bin.

How to make fake snow using toilet paper for a fun sensory challenge to the hands.
Kids can make fake snow for a tactile sensory experience.

 And then turned in to this.  

Use toilet paper in a dry sensory bin for tactile sensitivity and fine motor strengthening.

  And this.  

Slightly off-course in our sensory bin, but of course it did.   Why wouldn’t it when you have 6 cousins together?  ((Ok, that part of this post was NOT mess-free…the end result is mess-free. I promise.)) So, then we popped the Ivory soap into the microwave…

Fake Snow Wet Sensory Experience

Step 2 in the tactile sensory experience is the wet fake snow portion. Following the fake snow recipe, we popped a bar of ivory soap into the microwave and ended up with a cloud of sensory material.

Ivory soap in the microwave for a tactile defensiveness sensory challenge and to use in making fake snow.

Children can touch and explore this sensory material for a warm, sensory experience.

Step 3 in the tactile challenge is mixing the dry material with the wet material. This can definitely be a challenge for those with tactile defensiveness or touch sensitivities.

If it is too much of a sensory challenge, invite the child to mix with a large spoon or to touch with a finger tip.

Other children may enjoy this part of making fake snow. The melted soap can be mixed with the toilet paper…to make fake snow!    

How to make fake snow with ivory soap and toilet paper

 

Fake Snow Sensory Play for Tactile Sensitivities

THIS is the mess-free part that many children with tactile defensiveness may enjoy. 🙂

Simply place some of the fake snow material into a zip top plastic bag. You can tape the top shut to keep the material in the bag.

By manipulating the fake snow in a safe sensory manner, kids get exposure to a calming warm temperature. This is one low-level challenge to the tactile system. The warm temperature is a calming, regulating aspect that can be powerful in self-regulation.

Children can also squeeze, manipulate, pound, and spread the fake snow within the plastic baggie. This offers heavy work input through the hands and upper body in a way that is calming and regulating.

By placing the fake snow into a bag for sensory play, kids are exposed to tactile experinces in a way that may help with tactile discrimination by incorporating the proprioceptive sense.

Challenge motor skills further by adding items such as foam snowflake stickers, glass gems, and glitter.  This was so much fun for my crew of kids and nieces/nephews and I hope it’s a tactile experience you get to play with as well!

Make fake snow for a mess free sensory experience that kids with tactile defensiveness will enjoy
Fine motor sensory experience with fake snow.

 

Products mentioned in this post:

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is your strategy guide for turning sensory diets and sensory activities into a sensory lifestyle.

A Sensory Diet Strategy Guide The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is a strategy guide for sensory processing needs. With valuable insight to the sensory system and the whole child, the book details how sensory diets can be incorporated into a lifestyle of sensory success. The thoughtful tools in this book provide intervention strategies to support and challenge the sensory systems through meaningful and authentic sensory diet tactics based on the environment, interests, and sensory needs of each individual child.

winter fine motor kit

The Winter Fine Motor Kit Done-for-you fine motor plans to help kids form stronger hands.

This print-and-go winter fine motor kit includes no-prep fine motor activities to help kids develop functional grasp, dexterity, strength, and endurance. This 100 page no-prep packet includes everything you need to guide fine motor skills in face-to-face AND virtual learning. Includes winter themed activities for hand strength, pinch and grip, dexterity, eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, endurance, finger isolation, and more. 

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.

Salt Truck Craft

salt truck craft

We live in an area with cold winters and lots of snow.  With the wintery weather comes ice, salt, and snow plows.  We’ve been watching many salt trucks rumble down our road, scattering salt and plowing snow.  My kids love to see the salt truck come and every time the see one when we’re out and about, they shout, “SNOW PLOW” from the back of the minivan.  We had to make an Easy Shapes Salt Truck craft to join our other truck crafts.

Salt truck craft is perfect for kids that love vehicles, and working on early scissor skills.

Other trucks and cars crafts that work on scissor skills with simple geomteric shapes include:

Big Rig Craft

Backhoe Craft

Firetruck Craft

School Bus Craft

Craft for Scissor Skills

If working on scissor skills is a must, then this salt truck craft is the way to go. Kiddos that love all things trucks and vehicles will love it for the vehicle theme, but as a therapist, I see the geometric shapes, making it perfect for working on early scissor skills.


Salt Truck Craft

  This post contains affiliate links.

 

To make the craft, you’ll need just a few materials:

  • Scissors
  • Yellow paper
  • Red paper
  • Black paper
  • White paper
  • Green paper
  • Glue

Other colors of paper can certainly be used! These are the colors we used, and I’ll describe the shapes you need for this truck craft here so you can use the salt truck as a template.

About paper type- Different types of paper provides different amounts of feedback for young scissor users. We love crafting with card stock or thicker paper, because it’s easy to hold with the assisting hand and the paper doesn’t easily bend or move when cutting through it with scissors. Cardstock paper is great for younger kids or those just learning to snip and cut with smooth lines as well as just starting with turning the scissors around a corner of simple shapes..  Its brightly colors make great crafting material and the thickness is perfect for new scissor users. You can find more information on types of paper for scissor skill development in our scissor skills crash course.

You’ll need to draw the following shapes:

  • Yellow Rectangle- for the body of the truck
  • Yellow Square- for the cab of the truck
  • White Smaller Square- for the window of the truck
  • Large Green triangle- for the truck’s Salt bed
  • Long Green rectangle- for the top of the salt truck’s bed
  • 2 Black larger circles- for the wheels
  • 2 Smaller white circles- for inside the wheels
  • Red Half Circle- for the plow
  • Small Red Square- for the plow attachment

Draw the shapes onto the paper and then start cutting. Cut shapes as pictured above to build the salt truck craft.    

Snow Plow Puzzle

Constructing this snow plow puzzle is part of the fun! Kids can work on visual memory by building the truck from memory or by looking at an example picture and then back to their project.

You can build the salt truck with them and then deconstruct the truck.  Ask your child to recreate the truck from memory, using their mind’s eye to recall the placement of the shapes.  This memory is visual memory and an important skill for copying work when handwriting.  

There are other visual perceptual skills at work, too.

Looking for specific pieces that are placed on the table surface is a challenge in visual scanning, visual discrimination, figure-ground, and form constancy.

Remembering the position of the shapes is part of visual discrimination, a skill needed when children need to remember subtle differences in a picture or written work.  Difficulty with visual discrimination will be apparent when a child has difficulty discerning between b, d, p, or q.

Kids love salt trucks and snow plows!  Make an easy shapes truck craft to work on visual memory and visual discrimination.

Early scissor skills fine motor

For more ways to work on scissor skills, along with all of the fine motor skills needed for scissor use and handwriting, try the Winter Fine Motor Kit. It’s loaded with cutting activities, lacing cards, coloring, clip activities, fine motor art, and fun ways to help children develop pre-writing hand strength, dexterity, and motor skills.

Use the fine motor activities, lacing cards, toothpick art, and crafts in the Winter Fine Motor Kit. It’s a 100 page packet with all winter themes, and you’ll find penguins there!

winter fine motor kit

Click here for more information on the Winter Fine Motor Kit.

 
More easy shapes Truck Crafts you may like:
 
firetruck craftBig rig truck craftDigger truck craftSchool bus craft
 
             Fire Truck craft | Big Rig craft Digger craft | School Bus craft  

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.

Clothespin Snowman

clothespin snowman

This clothespin snowman is a fine motor craft that is not only the cutest winter craft we’ve seen, but it’s also a powerful tool to strengthen fine motor skills. Kids that fumble with pencil grasp, struggle with clothing fasteners, or are challenged by opening lunch box containers, often times need focused fine motor strengthening. What if we could combine fine motor work with a fun snowman craft? That’s just what we did and we are sharing the how to below! This is a craft that kids can use to really boost fine motor skills…with a super cute snowman clothespin craft!

Read on to find out how to make a snowman craft that uses a few craft supply closet staple items (hello clothespins!) AND works on the fine motor skills like hand strength, precision of grasp, and other skills, too.

Clothespin snowman craft for developing fine motor skills in kids.

ClothesPin Snowman Craft

We used some basic craft materials to make a snowman craft that has been as much fun to make as it is to play with! The fact that this snowman craft is on a clothespin makes it a fine motor power tool. Kids can pinch the clothespin to attach the snowman to anything from a folder, to a book, to a backpack, to a flowerpot! Our snowman craft showed up hanging out on the side of a flowerpot and it is still there!

Fine Motor Skills Craft Idea

The clothespin snowman craft that we made is a spin on the typical painted clothes pin idea. While equally cute, I wanted to come up with a craft idea that builds fine motor skills throughout the process of making the snowman craft AND while using it in play and decoration.

This snowman craft is a cutie that we made with a few items from www.craftprojectideas.com. The best thing about this little snowman is that while making him, we powered up on fine motor skills like neat pincer grasp, pincer grasp, bilateral coordination, in-hand manipulation, eye-hand coordination, hand strength, finger isolation.

All of these fine motor skills are needed for every-day tasks like pencil grasp, management of clothing fasteners, cutting with scissors, manipulating small containers, shoe tying, and so many other areas.

So many of our kids are struggling with fine motor skills…why not sneak them in with a fun winter craft like this clothespin snowman craft?

Craft supplies to make a snowman craft that builds fine motor skills for kids.

You will need a few materials for this clothespin snowman:
Clothespin
White craft pom poms
Small black craft pom poms
Red pipe cleaner (or any color!)
Brown pipe cleaner
Black paint
Craft glue

Craft pom poms are needed to make a snowman craft that helps kids with fine motor skills.

make a clothespin Snowman

This was super easy to make:

  1. Use the craft glue to stick the white craft pom poms onto the clothespin. The bottom of the snowman should be at the end of the clothespin that opens when you pinch it.

2. Glue the small black craft pom poms onto the belly of the snowman.

3. Use the red pipe cleaner as a scarf by cutting a smaller piece. About 4 inches long is perfect, because you can then trim it as short as you would like.

4. Thread the pipe cleaner behind the head of the snowman and bend it around the front. Twist it into a “knot” and bend the pipe cleaner so it stays in place with the ends hanging as you would like them. Trim the excess from both ends of the scarf.

5. Use the brown pipe cleaner to make the arms of the snowman craft. Thread the pipe cleaner behind the snowman’s head. At this point, you can add a bit of glue to the red and brown pipe cleaners to keep them both in place.

6. Use paint to make a face on the snowman craft. We used squeezable gel glue from www.craftprojectideas.com (the kind that is use for window suncatchers) because it really adds a fine motor strengthening component. A sharpie works as well. Other ideas for decorating the snowman’s face might include gluing small googly eyes and a orange pipe cleaner carrot in place. These options may include use of a hot glue gun.

And that’s it! Your snowman craft is ready to hang out AND work those fine motor skills!

This snowman craft helps kids work on fine motor skills.

Fine Motor Skills Used in this Snowman Craft:

We incorporated fine motor skills like the ones listed below right into the process of creating our snowman craft!

Make this snowman craft to work on fine motor skills that kids need for functional tasks.

Use the clothespins to pick up the craft pom poms that you will need for the snowman. One way to do this is to have a sample available. Kids can look at the sample and identify the correct pom poms they need to build a snowman of their own. What an exercise in visual perceptual skills as well as fine motor skills!

Use craft pom poms and clothes pins to work on fine motor skills in kids.

Picking up and moving craft pom poms with the clothespins really strengthens the hands. Here is more information on using clothespins to strengthen the hands, and you can read more about the specific fine motor skills below.

Kids love this fine motor activity that is so easy to set up and strengthen the hands, using just a clothes pin and craft pom pom.

Neat pincer grasp- This fine motor skill is a precision skill that uses the tip of the pointer finger and the tip of the thumb in opposition. Here is more information about neat pincer grasp. We use neat pincer grasp to manipulate very small items. This is a refined fine motor skill. Use the snowman craft to work on this fine motor skill by holding the small craft pom pom with the tips of the fingers while adding craft glue. 

Pincer grasp- Pincer grasp is the opposition of the pointer finger to the thumb, but with the pads of the fingers. This is a skill tat develops from a very young age, but is used for so many functional skills! Use the clothes pins to pinch and pick up the craft pom poms like we did.

Bilateral coordination- Using both hands together in a coordinated manner is a skill that is used in almost every activity we do. Work on bilateral coordination by building a fine motor snowman of your own.

In-hand manipulation- This fine motor skill is essential for a functional pencil grasp and manipulating items like clothing fasteners and small objects. Work on in-hand manipulation by managing the craft pom poms when completing this craft.

Eye-hand coordination– Build skills by asking your child or client to work on eye-hand coordination when adding the craft pom poms and details to this snowman craft.

Hand strength- Strong hands allow us to perform fine motor tasks with coordinated movements. Use the clothes pin to strengthen the arches of the hand and the intrinsic muscles by pinching and placing the snowman craft onto various surfaces!

Kids can work on visual perceptual skills and fine motor skills using craft pom poms and clothes pins.

All of these fine motor skills are needed for every-day tasks like pencil grasp, management of clothing fasteners, cutting with scissors, manipulating small containers, shoe tying, and so many other areas.

This snowman craft for kids is so cute and helps kids with fine motor skills too!

  This cute little snowman craft has been moving all around our house these last few days! 

Want more ways to boost fine motor skills with a snowman theme or winter theme? The Winter Fine Motor Kit is on sale now!

winter fine motor kit

This print-and-go winter fine motor kit includes no-prep fine motor activities to help kids develop functional grasp, dexterity, strength, and endurance. Use fun, winter-themed, fine motor activities so you can help children develop strong fine motor skills in a digital world.

More than ever, kids need the tools to help them build essential fine motor skills so they develop strong and dexterous hands so they can learn, hold & write with a pencil, and play.

This 100 page no-prep packet includes everything you need to guide fine motor skills in face-to-face AND virtual learning. Includes winter themed activities for hand strength, pinch and grip, dexterity, eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, endurance, finger isolation, and more. 

Click here to grab the Winter Fine Motor Kit!

 

 

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.

Snowman Collage

snowman collage using junk mail

Helping kids develop fine motor skills doesn’t require a bunch of fancy therapy equipment or carefully selected developmental toys. Here, I’ll show you how to use junk mail to help kids improve motor skills. This snowman collage is a winter craft that kids can use to work on areas like scissor skills, eye-hand coordination, visual motor skills, and hand strength! It’s a fun indoor activity for winter when the kids need something different to do. Grab that junk mail, we’re going to build a snowman!

Fine motor snowman collage using junk mail to help kids with motor skills and visual motor skills.

Snowman Collage Craft

We got a bunch of junk mail today with random neighborhood coupons inside… When my kids were younger, they loved to use scissors to practice cutting. And, actually, using the coupons found in junk mail to practice scissor skills, is actually a very functional and easy way to practice cutting along lines.

Junk mail is easily accessible and a material found in most homes. So, why not use it to help kids develop fine motor skills?

Junk Mail Craft

While we used junk mail to create a snowman collage, this craft technique can be used for any shape or theme.

Kids can use junk mail to work on snipping with scissors, eye-hand coordination, and visual motor skills. Try these strategies using junk mail:

  • Work on snipping along the edges of paper to create a fringe- This is a great bilateral coordination activity for preschool aged children and new scissor users.
  • Work on cutting along lines or coupons for early scissor skills- Cutting coupons or basic shapes is an early scissor skill activity. Junk mail often times includes flyers that are made from cardstock or heavy materials, as well as thinner materials, so it’s easy to progress through a graded activity to meet the needs of all levels of kids.
  • Cut out pictures- Use junk mail to cut out pictures or shapes. This is a nice way to work on simple to complex cutting skills. Progress from easy or basic shapes to more complex shapes.

For more scissor skills activities and how to progress along various grades, check out these Scissor Skills Crash Course.

To further along from basic scissor skills, use the junk mail materials to create a collage craft. You could use the steps below to make any shape or theme, making it a great addition to weekly therapy themes or preschool themes.

Snowman Collage

For our snowman craft, I first drew a snowman shape onto blue paper. This part could be graded as well. Use a larger shape for younger children or make a smaller shape for addressing more refined skills and precision.

Next, ask your child to cut out blue and white pieces of junk mail. This is where the craft gets open-ended. You can let kids snip random shapes, or you could request that they cut all squares. I love that this scissor skills craft fits with all levels and needs.

When kids are sorting through a stack of junk mail for specific colors, they are developing a variety of skill areas:

  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Visual scanning
  • Finger isolation (page turning)
  • Precision and refined grasp (manipulating one page at a time)
  • Visual attention and visual memory

Next, you will need squeeze glue from a bottle. As a pediatric occupational therapist, I love the use of a squeeze glue bottle over a glue stick for so many reasons. By using a squeeze glue bottle, kids are building refined use of skill areas:

  • Refined grasp
  • Hand strength
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Arch strength
  • Open thumb web-space
  • Visual motor skills

You can focus on certain areas with use of a squeeze glue bottle by asking kids to place glue onto specific spots. Just use a marker to dot throughout the shape. Kids can then place glue dots on those specific spots.

If working with glue bottles is a helpful activity for the children you serve, you will love the Glue Spots Exercises in the Winter Fine Motor Kit.

Next, kids can place their junk mail pieces onto the glue and within the collage area to create the snowman.

Snowman collage craft using junk mail is a nice way to help kids work on fine motor skills using materials found in the home.
Use junk mail and squeeze glue bottle to help kids with fine motor skills using junk mail.

Ask kids to line up strait and curved edges along the curved lines of the snowman. This is a great way to work on visual motor skills.

To grade this activity to make it easier, make the lines of the snowman thicker with a black marker.

Cute junk mail collage snowman for preschoolers

You can see that we completed this craft on the floor, making it a shoulder strengthening activity as well.

Make a junk mail snowman craft to help kids with scissor skills and fine motor skills.

  That’s a pretty cute snowman…and great for practicing those snipping skills!

Want more ways to boost fine motor skills with a snowman theme or winter theme? The Winter Fine Motor Kit is on sale now!

winter fine motor kit

This print-and-go winter fine motor kit includes no-prep fine motor activities to help kids develop functional grasp, dexterity, strength, and endurance. Use fun, winter-themed, fine motor activities so you can help children develop strong fine motor skills in a digital world.

More than ever, kids need the tools to help them build essential fine motor skills so they develop strong and dexterous hands so they can learn, hold & write with a pencil, and play.

This 100 page no-prep packet includes everything you need to guide fine motor skills in face-to-face AND virtual learning. Includes winter themed activities for hand strength, pinch and grip, dexterity, eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, endurance, finger isolation, and more. 

Click here to grab the Winter Fine Motor Kit!

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.

 
 
 

 

Glitter Paint Snowman

We used homemade glitter paint to make this snowman painting that is the prefect addition to a snowman theme! The nice thing about this snowman craft is that it uses paint and glitter so that the process is a little messy, but super sensory.  The way that we painted our glitter paint snowmen was very fun and a great sensory experience for the toddlers.  

Glitter paint snowman craft

How to make Glitter Paint

This post contains affiliate links. 

Make glitter paint for kids crafts

 To make the glitter paint, we started with some white paint in a bowl and a new shower scrub.  You can get a pack of these at the dollar store. 

At this point, you could mix white or iridescent glitter right into the paint and mix it up. We chose to sprinkle the glitter onto the paint, however, for the fine motor benefits of sprinkling.

Next, you are ready to make the snowman craft!

Glitter Paint Snowman

Press a new shower scrubber into the white paint. Then, gently press it onto blue construction paper. You can “build” a snowman by adding three puffs of white paint.

RELATED: To build a snowman with less sensory input or via virtual therapy, try this build a snowman therapy slide deck.

The shower puff was the perfect stamper for our snowman’s body and a great painting tool for toddlers. The Toddlers could grab the shower pouf with a gross hand grasp and smash it right down on the construction paper.

Toddler craft idea using a shower puff to paint.

Big Sister helped out with this craft and was the “teacher”. 

Toddlers can paint with a shower puff for fine motor and sensory crafts.
Sprinkle glitter into paint for homemade glitter paint, great for a snowman craft.

While the paint was still wet, we sprinkled **generous amounts** of clear glitter right onto the paint.  By sprinkling the glitter with your fingertips, kids develop intrinsic hand strength and arch development. It is a similar motor plan and muscle use required for rolling small balls of play dough. You can explore more on intrinsic hand strengthening here.


We used the same technique recently when we made our Fine Motor Snowman Craft.

The glitter stuck right in the glue and the excess was shook off.  Our snowmen were starting to look pretty snowy!

Use a bottle of squeeze glue to help kids develop fine motor skills.

The next step involved Big Sister coming to the aid with her “teacher” duties.  She squirted dots of glue for eyes, noses, scarves, hats, and buttons. 

Next, you will need squeeze glue from a bottle. As a pediatric occupational therapist, I love the use of a squeeze glue bottle over a glue stick for so many reasons. By using a squeeze glue bottle, kids are building refined use of skill areas:

  • Refined grasp
  • Hand strength
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Arch strength
  • Open thumb web-space
  • Visual motor skills

You can focus on certain areas with use of a squeeze glue bottle by asking kids to place glue onto specific spots. Just use a marker to dot throughout the shape. Kids can then place glue dots on those specific spots.

If working with glue bottles is a helpful activity for the children you serve, you will love the Glue Spots Exercises in the Winter Fine Motor Kit.

All of these were one at a time and because we were doing four kid’s worth of snowmen, she was pretty busy with her little glue assembly line!

Fine motor snowman craft with glitter paint.

Little Nephew was much more sure of himself when it came to squashing the black pony beads into the glue dots.  This was a great fine motor activity for little hands.  I love those little wrinkly knuckles!

Work on fine motor skills with this glitter paint snowman craft.

Big Sister helped to keep everyone on task with the steps.

Fine motor snowman craft with homemade glitter paint.

I cut little pieces of orange felt into carrots for the snowmen noses and tiny felt hats from felt sheets.  The eyes were googly eyes and the scarves were just strips of red felt.  Once everything was glued on, we used a brown marker to draw stick arms.

Cute glitter snowman crafts for preschool and toddlers.

  Our sparkly snowman family looks pretty cute.  This was such a fun craft for multiple ages.  I love how their personalities come out in each snowman, too…with the different sized eyes, the smash of the paint, the sizes of the arms…Big fun!  

Looking for more winter activities designed to build fine motor skills?   The Winter Fine Motor Kit is on sale now!

winter fine motor kit

This print-and-go winter fine motor kit includes no-prep fine motor activities to help kids develop functional grasp, dexterity, strength, and endurance. Use fun, winter-themed, fine motor activities so you can help children develop strong fine motor skills in a digital world.

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.

 
 

Build a Snowman Activity

Build a snowman activity

I have another free therapy slide deck to share today. This build a snowman activity is an interactive Google slide deck that kids can use to work on eye-hand coordination, spatial awareness concepts, visual scanning, and handwriting (or typing) skills. This snowman activity is based off our popular disguise a turkey slide deck and our decorate a gingerbread house slide decks from earlier this year. If these slide decks are helpful for your virtual occupational therapy interventions, grab this free resource at the bottom of this post and browse the other free slides there.

Build a snowman activity with a virtual Google slide deck for teletherapy

Build a snowman activity

I love this slide deck for many reasons. One is that it’s a cute building a snowman activity that kids will love doing. It’s fun to move the pieces on the slide deck and can be a break from the normal virtual lessons or teletherapy.

Therapeutically, this snowman activity can help kids with several skill areas:

  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Visual scanning
  • Spatial relations
  • Size awareness
  • Handwriting
  • Typing
  • Visual memory

Kids can visually scan the slide to actually build the snowman using different sized snowballs. They can arrange the snowballs to make the snowman.

Then, users can scan the slide to find various pieces for the snowman. Depending on your goals for the child, they can independently build the snowman and decorate their snowman. Other students can be given verbal directions for scanning for eyes, carrot noses, arms, or other individual pieces. The items are scattered around the slide to challenge visual perceptual skills such as visual memory and visual attention.

NOTE– When you access the slide, you are prompted to make a copy onto your Google drive. Once you make that copy, it is yours to edit to meet the needs of your students. You can remove some of the items or make duplicates of some snowman decorations, depending on the needs of your client or student.

Once students are happy with their snowman creation, they can go to the next slide. There, they can type or write details about their snowman. This can challenge visual memory skills and be a great practice for handwriting or typing skills.

Get the Build a Snowman Slide Deck

Enter your email into the form below to access this free slide deck.

FREE Build a Snowman Slide Deck

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    More slide decks

    Penguin Theme Emotions Game

    Penguin Yoga 

    Polar Bear Gross Motor Activities 

    Holiday Cookies Slide Deck

    Gingerbread Man Slide Deck.

    Decorate a Gingerbread House Slide Deck

    Reindeer Games

    Community Helpers Theme Slide Deck

    Football Theme Slide Deck

    slide deck for a Social Story for Wearing a Mask

    Space Theme Therapy Slide Deck

    Therapy Planning Interactive Slide Deck

    Back to School Writing Activity Slide Deck

    Alphabet Exercises Slide Deck

    Self-Awareness Activities Slide Deck

    Strait Line Letters Slide Deck

    “Scribble theme” Handwriting Slide Deck

    Snowman Theme Bilateral Coordination

    Snowman Bilateral Coordination Slide Deck

    I have something super cute to share with you today. This snowman theme bilateral coordination activity might be one of my favorites of recent resources. If working on bilateral coordination, crossing midline, and motor planning is something you’ve been working on with kids, then this free therapy slide deck is for you. It’s meant as a fun, play-based direction-following therapy slide deck. Use it as a warm-up to occupational therapy interventions, or a brain break, with a snowman theme!

    You can use this snowman gross motor activity alongside this snowman deep breathing activity for winter therapy fun!

    Snowman Bilateral Coordination Slide Deck

    Snowman theme bilateral coordination activity

    This therapy slide deck is designed so therapy practitioners need no other materials or items to run a virtual session. The free slide deck can be uploaded to Google slides and then used within a virtual session or distance learning classroom.

    There are so many benefits to working on bilateral coordination skills, and motor planning with a fun theme like this snowman activity.

    Read here about crossing midline activities and the benefits of this essential skill in handwriting, learning, and functional tasks. This skill integrates with bilateral coordination, or a coordinated use of both sides of the body so that functional use of both hemispheres in everyday tasks are possible.

    Be sure to read more on this link about bilateral coordination, because you’ll see that there are three components of bilateral coordination:
    Symmetrical movements
    Alternating movements
    Dominant hand/supporting hand movements

    Each of these areas play a role in functional tasks like play, self-care, learning, school-day tasks, and things each of us do all day long.

    Motor planning is another important motor skill that impacts everyday functional tasks. Here is more information about motor planning.

    There is a connection between creating a plan for movement, following a visual representation of a body positioning, and then sequencing movements using both sides of the body.

    This snowman gross motor activity does just that!

    You can scroll back and forth between the slides to really challenge kids with these motor plans. It’s like a “Simon Says” game with snowmen.

    Work on all of these areas:

    • Bilateral coordination
    • Motor planning
    • Crossing midline
    • Core strength
    • Stability
    • Balance and equilibrium skills
    • Range of motion
    • Flexibility
    • Movement patterns
    • Posture and postural control
    • Muscle tone
    Snowman bilateral coordination activities for virtual therapy

    Free Snowman Gross Motor Therapy Slide Deck

    To get your hands on this free snowman slide deck, you’ll need to enter your email address into the form below.

    Use this polar bear theme therapy slide deck in virtual therapy sessions or as a brain break.

    Be sure to make a copy of this slide deck and not change the url to indicate “edit” at the end. When you make a copy of the slide deck onto your Google drive, you will end up with your own version that you are free to adjust in order to meet your student’s needs. By changing the url to “edit”, you can potentially mess up the original version that many other therapists and The OT Toolbox users are given.

    You can grab a copy of this Google slide deck and use it to work on specific skills.

    Enter your email address below and you will receive a PDF containing a link to copy the slide deck onto your Google drive. Save that PDF file, because you can come back to it again and again and send it to the kids on your caseload (or classroom) so they can make their own copy on their Google drive.

    Please use the copy of the slide deck and do not change the url.

    FREE Bilateral Coordination Slide Deck- Snowman theme!

      We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

      Snowman Crafts and Activities

      snowman activities

      These snowman activities and snowman crafts are perfect for using in occupational therapy interventions or to build skills! Here you will find snowman activities for fine motor, gross motor, sensory tolerance, pencil grasp, handwriting, math, scissor skills, sensory experiences, and other learning/school tasks. Use the snowman crafts and sensory activities to make winter fun a skill-building moment! For wintery fun, browse the ideas below.

      snowman activities and snowman crafts for kids to develop skills in therapy and at home.

      Snowman Activities

      I’ve broken these ideas into areas designed to help kids develop specific skills. You’ll find snowman activities for fine motor development, gross motor skills, and motor planning. You’ll love the craft ideas that challenge visual perceptual skills and sensory tolerance. Each activity can also build on several skill areas.

      Add this snowman theme to your weekly therapy theme list for themed therapy activities that are done for you.


      Snowman Crafts and Activities for Kids

      Snowman Gross Motor (slide deck)– Incorporate bilateral coordination, motor planning, crossing midline, and other gross motor skill areas with this snowman activity. Kids can follow along to the slide images. This makes a great brain break activity, too. This is a free Google slide deck. Click here for the snowman bilateral coordination activities.

      Snowman Fine Motor Activities (Snowman Crafts)– These snowman crafts cover a variety of materials and skills. Choose the ones that work for your needs, and available materials. Kids can improve areas including: pinch, grasp, precision, cutting, glue use, bilateral coordination, eye-hand coordination, and more. Click here for snowman craft ideas.

      Snowman Executive Functioning Activity (Make a Snowman Treat)- Cooking in the kitchen is a powerful way to develop fine motor skills and executive functioning skills. Use cucumbers and vegetables to make this snowman snack. Click here for the snowman snack directions.

      Snowman Self-Regulation Activity– This deep breathing activity can be a coping tool or a sensory strategy to help with self-regulation skills. Included is a free printable deep breathing worksheet. Click here for a snowman deep breathing activity.

      Snowman Sensory/Fine Motor– Use this baking soda dough recipe to make a sensory and fine motor material that kids can use to build skills. The baking soda dough provides a resistant material for strengthening hands. Click here to for the snowman baking soda dough directions.

      Snowman Math Activity/Fine Motor– This counting/adding/subtracting activity builds eye-hand coordination, and fine motor skills. Make snowmen from recycled egg cartons. This is a great activity for breaking down numbers. Click here for this snowman math activity.

      Slide deck- Use this build a snowman activity in virtual lessons or teletherapy to work on eye-hand coordination, visual scanning, handwriting, or typing.

      Snowman Crafts

      Address eye-hand coordination with this stamp glitter snowman craft.

      Snowman countdown craft to make a paper chain snowman or a snowman suncatcher and build fine motor skills.

      Work on precision and dexterity with this fine motor snowman craft using paper reinforcement stickers.

      Stamp and paint to make this snowman art activity using materials in your home.

      Work on letter identification with this snowman letter craft.
      Create a sensory tolerance activity with this shredded paper snowman.


      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.