Working on fine motor skills in teletherapy services can be a strange thing to consider if you re used to face to face occupational therapy intervention. Helping a child to engage in fine motor activities in a virtual setting may seem downright strange. How to do you help kids work on areas like hand strength, dexterity, or other fine motor skill needs? The use of teletherapy fine motor activities, also known as manipulatives, may at first overwhelm therapists who do not understand how this would work virtually.
However, there are a range of ways to incorporate fine motor activities into teletherapy occupational therapy treatment sessions. Therapists can use extra creativity to develop fine motor activities for teletherapy sessions, but they can also use some of the same activities they would use in-person (with a bit of preparation and/or assistance from an “e-helper”).
A recent post here on The OT Toolbox explains the basics of understanding teletherapy and what this looks like. You’ll also want to check out this piece on occupational therapy activities in teletherapy for easy-to-implement ideas for children of all ages. What about the child who needs to work on fine motor skills?
Today, we’re discussing some popular, but effective fine motor activities for teletherapists.
How to work on Fine Motor skills in teletherapy
Using a teletherapy platform to provide therapy services doesn’t mean children can’t work on essential skill areas. Here are some ideas to get your creative brain started.
One everyday item found in most homes is paper clips. Use these games with paper clips to target specific skills.
Theraband Activities in telehealth
As you may already know, theraband or resistive bands are a trusty therapy tool that can be used by therapists to treat a variety of populations in a range of settings. Teletherapists can use theraband to strengthen a child’s fine motor skills in preparation for tasks such as handwriting, dressing, eating, play, and other self-care tasks. What’s more is that resistive band exercises can be included in a sensory diet that helps children to regulate themselves so they are able to participate in fine motor activities.
Some of the following theraband activities can assist with fine motor strength and coordination in children:
- Grab each end of the theraband, make a fist, and pull the band apart at the same time (this works on general digit and wrist strength)
- With smaller theraband elastics, place the band around the tips of all of your fingers, then spread all your fingers apart, and repeat (this works on digit abduction and adduction)
- Rest your hand flat on the table, wrap a theraband elastic around one finger at a time while using your other hand to pull on the opposite end of the band; resist the pressure of the band by trying to move each finger to its resting state, which is flat on the table (this works on digit isolation and coordination)
Therapists can find more detailed videos that guide children through these exercises, or they can demonstrate for them during sessions. This often works best when children have “e-helpers” to assist in getting theraband and possibly helping children learn to use it during the first several times or as part of their home programs.
Here is a resistive band home program for kids that lends itself well to telerehab.
Use Pipe Cleaners in Fine Motor Activities during teletherapy sessions
Children can use pipe cleaners to work on fine motor strengthening during a variety of tasks during teletherapy sessions. Pipe cleaners may most easily be utilized during treatment sessions to string beads or other small objects on them. This helps children develop fine motor precision, coordination, strength, digit isolation, and more.
Children can also use scissors to cut pipe cleaners into smaller pieces and make into certain objects, fill in pictures to add color, and more.
Another good way to use pipe cleaners in teletherapy sessions is to ask children to be creative and bend them into certain shapes, objects, or letters.
This is another example of materials that parents, guardians, and other loved ones can obtain and provide for their children to use during therapy sessions.
Use Tweezers during fine motor activities in teletherapy sessions
Therapists can have children use tweezers to improve their grasp pattern, fine motor coordination, and fine motor strength. This will help children form an improved grasp pattern and overall greater range of motion in the hand as preparation for handwriting tasks. Therapists can utilize tweezers along with small objects in a variety of ways:
- Have children pick up beads or cotton balls with tweezers
- Ask children to use tweezers to place small perler beads on glue or within a picture to add color or texture
- Use tweezers to move small objects around on a table, but not pick them up
Therapists who use their creativity can easily incorporate manipulatives into teletherapy treatment. Again, the intermittent assistance of e-helpers can really improve a child’s performance and engagement in the teletherapy treatment process.
Here are additional ways to work on fine motor skills during teletherapy using items that are commonly found in the home:
Crafts for Kids to work on various fine motor areas.
Helping kids understand teletherapy
Children who have previously received occupational therapy services in a face-to-face setting may feel a little confused or out of sorts when they now need to complete fine motor tasks at home (and with items that are way less fun than what they are used to their OT playing with alongside them. Here is a fun book to help explain why they are now working on hard things like fine motor skills with their therapist through a computer screen.
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Free Parent Handout for Teletherapy Materials
This free printable and handout will help parents understand basic, everyday materials that kids can use in their therapy sessions. Use this to help kids come to therapy sessions with just a handful of household materials.
Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This blog post was written by Brittany Ferri. Brittany is an occupational therapist, author, and teletherapy professional. She is passionate about education, health promotion, and disease prevention for all. Brittany currently practices in community-based teletherapy for two platforms, one that serves pediatrics (geared toward mental health diagnoses and developmental delays) and one that serves adults. For more information, visit her company’s website at www.simplicityofhealth.com