School-based and private Occupational Therapists (OT) often work on the go with little equipment or space, so they usually have a “to-go and go-to” bag of sensorimotor tools. As therapists, we are trained to evaluate and set goals for improving motor performance skills, which include tasks like aligning, stabilizing, reaching, bending, gripping, and manipulating…to name a few. With virtual/remote learning on the rise these days, although crucial, too much screen time may be an unwelcome side effect. It’s important that students at home continue to get opportunities to practice the performance skills listed above. Here are some long-standing low-cost favorite OT items and activities that may be helpful:
1. Wikki Stix: They have universal appeal to most kids and you can gather so much information about sensory processing, tactile, and perceptual skills when handling these sticky candle wick-like textures to make shapes and letters.
2. Magnetic Wand & Chips: Often called bingo wands, these are an immediate attention grabber if you scatter the chips around a table or floor then hand the child the wand. Watch the gross and fine motor movements as they work on getting all the chips back on the wand. Wonderful to work on balance and equilibrium issues on a therapy ball as they reach from side to side.
3. Bubbles: These provide focus, visual tracking, oral motor skills (blowing), and an instant ice breaker for fun! Perfect for early childhood students.
4. Pegboard and Pegs: The mushroom-shaped versions offer slight resistance as the child pushes in/pulls out the peg. Helps give a baseline for hand strength skills.
5. Squiggle Wiggle Writer: Guaranteed to get a child to pick it up and at least make contact with paper! Children along the spectrum who avoid engaging in handwriting tasks will usually make an exception if this vibrating pen is used. Runs off one AA battery.
6. Tangle Fidget: Fidgets make a great option for most age ranges. Good for use when listening to a story or solving math equations AND it may help with intrinsic hand strength.
8. Sidewalk Chalk: For all aspiring artists. Use painter’s tape to make a pattern design, let the child color inside each of the shapes, then remove for a stained-glass design.
9. Clothespins: Clip/unclip to playing cards, paint chip samples, around a coffee can, or on a clothesline.
10. Dressing Vest: Practice fine motor manipulatives with zip, snap, and button.
We invite you to add your own list of resources for working on fine motor skills at home. Let us know your favorite ideas!
Cecilia Cruse, MS, OTR/L has a BS degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Florida, and her Master’s degree in Education from Georgia State University. She is SIPT certified and has over 25 years’ experience in pediatrics with school-based services, acute care, and outpatient pediatric settings.
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