By: Danielle Peets, OTR/L
It’s officially fall and boy am I excited. The drop in temperature, the holidays, the changes – it’s amazing! Ever since becoming an occupational therapist and working with kids, I found myself spending copious amounts of time on Pinterest and getting extra creative around this time of year. So, I figured I would share some of the ideas I have had success with over the years!
While so many of us continue to be affected by COVID-19 and might be spending more time indoors than not, it’s important to find time to give your kids new sensory experiences and opportunities to develop and maintain their fine motor skills. I have gathered some ideas and shared them below. Some are simple and others challenging for those that are feeling creative.
Sensory bins: Great for some fun sensory play and an opportunity to build fine motor skills.
Fill them with:
- Pumpkin fillings/seeds, corn kernels, hay, leaves, faux fall leaves, pinecones, dried black beans (Halloween edition).
- plastic animals, bugs, letters, shapes, and any other small manipulative
- Kitchen tools/utensils – tongs, spoons, a whisk, ladle, tweezers, and sorting cups/containers
Turkey feather buttons:
Let me start by saying this will clearly take some time to set up but it is so worth it! This is such a fun way to incorporate buttons and is a great bilateral coordination and fine motor task that can help improve independence with self-care skills.
- Using felt sheets, create your turkey’s body, feathers, nose, and gizzard. Once cut out, glue all the pieces together to look like the picture. Add a slit onto each feather (big enough for the buttons to fit through). Then, sew the buttons onto the turkey. Don’t forget to go back and add googley eyes to your turkey’s face. Practice buttons by having your child put on and take off the turkey’s feathers. I imagine you can do this with various animals and seasonal characters!
Farm animal walks: Great for coordination, motor planning, proprioceptive input, and gross motor skills.
Pig; rolling across the floor like a pig rolling in the mud.
Cow; crawling on hands and knees –make sure we are moo(ving)!
Donkey; walking with hands and feet on the ground, stopping every so often to kick our legs straight up in the air like a donkey kicking.
Duck; walking on your heels while waddling around the room (awesome for toe walkers).
Bunny; squatting down, have kids start with their hands out in front of them on the floor and quickly move feet together forward to hop.
Horse; galloping around the room.
Themed color sorting cups: Much like the buttons, this will take some time to create. I change this monthly and find new ways to keep my kiddos interested. For younger kids working on grasping small items, have them use their fingers (thumb and pointer). For older kids working on hand strengthening, include tongs, tweezers, or clothespins and sort away!
Scented Playdoh: In addition to all the obvious reasons –hand and finger strengthening and bilateral coordination, scented playdoh is such an awesome way to add another sensory level that kids really enjoy!
Recipe– 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of water, ½ cup of salt, 2tsp. cream of tartar, 2 tbsp. vegetable oil, 1-2 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice. Add orange food coloring.
Instructions– Cook on medium heat for a few minutes until it begins to thicken and form into a ball. Remove from heat, continuing to stir. Remove from pan and onto a floured surface to knead. Store in a zip-lock baggie.
Watercolor fun: Talk about an easy way to incorporate hand strengthening! Add some food coloring to a cup of water and break out the turkey baster or an eyedropper. Have your child squeeze up the water and transfer it to different themed ice trays.