North Shore Pediatric Therapy wishes you a Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Merry Christmas!

13 Holiday Crafts for Fine Motor Development

North Shore Pediatric Therapy wishes you a Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Merry Christmas!We’re into the holiday season with Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa just three weeks away, so why not get your children into the spirit by getting them involved in prepping the decorations? Here are 13 simple craft ideas that will entertain, add some cheer to your home and also promote your child’s fine motor development:

13 Holiday Crafts to Promote Fine Motor Skills

  1. String beads onto pipe cleaners and shape them into various holiday symbols such as candy canes, dreidels or wreaths.
  2. Fold up pieces of paper and cut out snowflake designs.
  3. Make a snowman picture by pulling apart cotton ball pieces and gluing them onto paper. You could also draw a snowman on the paper and have your child carefully secure marshmallows over the lines.
  4. Create your favorite holiday image using pony beads and elastic cord. You can find free instructions for various patterns online so there are plenty of options for this one!
  5. Paint the ends of an acorn using a thin paintbrush. You can also use glue instead and cover with glitter.
  6. Build a Christmas tree, menorah, or Kinara using popsicle sticks and glue. Decorate each stick however you would like using glitter, markers, stamps, sequins, crumpled tissue paper, paint, ribbon, etc.
  7. Create a window cling. This can be done using a craft kit or by following simple do-it-yourself instructions online. Your child can use a template as a guide or make an original design of his own.
  8. Decorate holiday cookies using cookie cutters, frosting, sprinkles, or other small pieces of candy. Be sure to have your child help with baking preparation too for extra strengthening and skill development while stirring, scooping, and rolling out the dough!
  9. Similar to baking cookies, you can use play dough to work on many of the same fine motor skills. Use plastic play utensils and scissors to cut playdough apart, roll out large pieces using a rolling pin or the palm of your hand, and use fingers to roll small pieces of play dough into balls. Use playdough stamps and other molds to create your favorite holiday symbols. For creations that you and your child are especially proud of, bake them in the oven for a few minutes to harden the dough and preserve the shape. Then they go on display or even on your tree!
  10. Make your own ornaments. The options are endless with this one but some ideas are to decorate ornament balls, use cardboard cut-outs, or glue together felt pieces. Your child may also enjoy turning their baked playdough into a holiday ornament!
  11. Build a gingerbread house. This is a great activity for siblings to work on together as it allows for plenty of creativity and a variety of challenges for different skill levels.
  12. Create a dreidel gift box using a printable template.
  13. Make a holiday count-down chain. Cut out strips of construction paper and secure them into loops that link together. Make this a fun family activity by hanging the chain in a common area of your home and removing one link daily as the holiday approaches!

Click here for tips on the perfect holiday gift for motor development!



10 Common Household Items to Develop Fine Motor Skills

The building blocks for fine motor success begins on day one. Skill development is commonly observed when the child becomes explorative in their environment and increasingly independent. Independence in age appropriate tasks is often a great measure of where they are developmentally. Specifically, the common influencing skills for fine motor development are strength, coordination, visual perception and motor planning. To assist in maturation of these skill areas you can engage your child in simple activities with things you may already have around the house! Blog-Home Fine Motor Skills-Main-Landscape

10 great tools you may find around the house to develop fine motor skills:

  • Broken crayons– Don’t get rid of those broke crayons! Coloring with these can assist with precision, hand strength and grasp maturity.
  • Q-tips– They can be utilized for painting, dotting and erasing from a chalk or white board. Fine motor precision and grasp maturity are challenged in activities with Q-tips.
  • Clothes pins– Transferring small items while playing different games such as matching, minute to win it, and relay races. Clothes pins also assist with motor planning, strength, and coordination.
  • Tweezers– This is another great tool for transferring small items while playing different games that addresses motor planning, strength, and coordination skills.
  • Child safe scissors– Begin with snipping construction paper and progress into more complex activities such as cutting shapes. To start, make a fun fringed edge for a picture they drew or advanced beginners can make a snowflake with parental assistance. Cutting activities can be difficult, but it significantly addresses coordination, strength, visual motor, and motor planning skills.
  • Legos– These small pieces may hurt when stepped on, but they are great for coordination, precision, visual attention, and strength.
  • Small blocks– Blocks can be used in many ways. A few suggestions would be to stack, string, and build various structures. Blocks are wonderful tools for coordination, visual perception, and grasp maturity.
  • Play Doh– Great way to mature manipulation, coordination, strength, and creativity skills.
  • Shaving cream– A fun way to practice their drawing skills in a non-traditional pencil and paper way. This can assist with precision and motor maturity as well.
  • Spray bottle– Clean up from the shaving cream and painting activities with a spray bottle filled with water. This can really test as well as develop the child’s grasp strength and endurance.

**All activities should be closely supervised and supported by an adult.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140.


Fine Motor Skills: Ideas for At-Home Improvement

Fine motor coordination is the capacity of the small muscles of the upper body to allow for controlled movements of the fingers and hands. They include the ability to hold a writing utensil, eat with a fork, open containers, and fasten clothing. These small movements correspond with larger muscles such as the shoulder girdle, back, and core to provide stability for gross motor functioning and with the eyes for hand-eye coordination. Weaknesses in fine motor skills are often the result of poor hand strength and poor motor coordination.

Does My Child Need to Improve His/Her Fine Motor Skills?

For a comprehensive list of fine motor development red flags, please view my previous post, Fine Motor Skills: Is your Child Lagging Behind?

Why Should I Seek Therapy if I Notice Difficulties with Fine Motor Skills? 

  • To improve ability in and persistence with fine motor tasks
  • Increase school readiness
  • To help your child complete self-care tasks, such as buttons and zippers
  • To avoid disengagement in an academic environment due to difficulties completing fine motor activities (e.g. writing, cutting, drawing)
  • To help maintain and develop a positive sense of well-being
  • To ensure that your child doesn’t fall behind their peers in handwriting development

A Word About the Tripod Grasp

The “tripod grasp” is the way we occupational therapists describe what the fingers look like as they hold a pencil or other small utensil. Like a triangle, or a tripod, the thumb, index, and middle fingers work together to maneuver the pencil, clothespin, fork, etc. Mastering this grasp indicates a mature manner of utilizing those small hand muscles. Most kiddos have learned to utilize this grasp by the age of 5 or 6.mightyhands2

Fine Motor Toolkit

As a pediatric occupational therapist, parents continuously request ideas for easy activities to do at
home. Recently, one of my families requested ideas for the car ride to school. Introducing….the Mighty Hands kit! This bin is a fine motor development dream (from an occupational therapy standpoint), AND it’s fun! Tailor it to what you’ve got on hand, show your child how to use the items inside, place it in your home (or even your car!), and let your kiddo go to town. You can thank me later.

What’s Inside the Mighty Hands Kit and What Do I Have My Child Do with This Stuff?

Theraputty: Hide small beads in the putty to use pincer grasp to dig them out, play tug-of-war, pull and twist, but don’t use the table to help! Medium-soft (red) and Medium (green) grade.



Clothing fasteners: Practice fastening clothing items such as buttons, zippers and laces for increased finger dexterity and independence!

Screw-top jars: Screw-top and push-top jars filled with small items such as coins, marbles, pom poms, cotton balls, small toys such as these dinosaurs. I hold all of my Mighty Hands items in jars or Tupperware for additional fine motor practice!

Play-Doh: Roll, pound, squeeze, press, pinch!

Locks puzzle: Practice opening various types of locks – a great way to strengthen fingers!

Spoons: Practice scooping small items and transferring them from jar to jar.


Spoon and pom poms.

Playing cards: Kept in a sandwich-sized plastic bag. Practice shuffling cards and deal them one by one.

Kiddie Tweezers: Use thumb and first two fingers to squeeze objects and transfer them to a container. Great for hand strength and coordination!

Magnetic Mini Games: Great for pincer grasp (the use of the thumb and forefinger)!

Cardstock: Kept in freezer-sized plastic bag. Tear paper into small pieces (one hand turning away from body, one hand turning toward body) using tripod grasp with thumbs at the top of the paper.

Q-Tips: Hold the Q-tip in the middle, dip either end into two different colors of paint, rotate Q-tip in hand to create fun art – make sure to use dominant hand only!

Screwdriver With Nuts & Bolts: Hold the screwdriver with dominant hand and the set with the non-dominant hand to practice turning nuts and bolts.



Bank: Encourage your child to hold three coins in his/her hand with the ring and pinky fingers while pushing a coin through the slot one at a time without dropping the other coins.

Craft/Jewelry Sorting Case: Label individual segments 1-15. Have your child hold a few small pom poms in his/her hand (again, using the ring and pinky fingers) while placing them into the container one by one by moving a single pom pom up to the fingertips each time. Or, use the tweezers to sort!

Scissors: Draw straight lines across 4×6” scraps of paper and cut in half.

Clothespins: Clothespins can be used for a series of great activities that facilitate the tripod grasp, strength, and coordination. Be sure to use the pads of the thumb and forefinger.

Tennis Ball Container & Pipe Cleaners: Punch holes in the top of the container and use the dominant hand to push the pipe cleaners into the hole while stabilizing the container with the non-dominant hand.


Tennis ball container and pipe cleaners.

Tennis ball With Horizontal Slit: Squeeze ball open with one hand (tennis ball resting in palm) while removing small objects from its “mouth” with the other hand.

Pegboard: Stretch bands across pegs to increase hand strength and coordination.

Squigz: Adhere these toys to a wall, door, or refrigerator and pull off! It’s trickier than one might think!

Additional Activities for Around the House

Chores can be a great way to practice fine motor development – and help out mom and dad around the house! Have your child help you put away silverware, turn the door handle and lock the door when leaving the house, unscrew jars and containers while cleaning out the refrigerator, pull weeds, pour laundry detergent, refill soap bottles (be sure to have your child open and close the lid!), and close Ziploc bags.

How Will These Activities Help?

All of the items in my toolkit are designed to strengthen small hand & forearm muscles as well as improve in-hand manipulation, finger isolation and dexterity, and fine motor coordination. As your child’s fine motor skills improve, you will begin to notice an improvement in his/her larger (gross motor) movement, trunk stability, and hand-eye coordination as well. It’s a win-win-win! As always, be sure to consult with an occupational therapist to ensure proper follow-through of fine motor activities and for a more tailored plan.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!


Toys to Promote Fine Motor Skills in Children of All Ages

Whether you are shopping for a baby, a preschooler, or a pre-teen this season, there are an array of toys to work on kids’ dexterity, upper extremity coordination, and fine motor development.  Certain activities that your children take part in during the day may be working their hand-eye coordination and visual-motor skills without you even realizing it.

Between puzzles, arts and crafts, and board games, below are some recommendations for things to look for when shopping for your growing explorer.

Games that promote fine motor skills:

Puzzles/Board Games:

Puzzles are a great way to promote cognitive enhancement and fine motor development during each stage of a child’s growth. For younger kids, puzzles don’t just come with larger pieces. There are many puzzles with handles or pegs on each piece so they can work on pinch, grasp, or grip.  Some classic toys for babies, such as ring stacking and shape sorting games, are great for learning how pieces fit together and for working on visual-motor integration and visual perceptual skills. Though it might not look like a typical puzzle, Mr. Potato Head is also a game that encourages fine motor skills. Read more

Dressing Skills: Developmental Steps for Kids

Dressing may seem like a simple task, but it is actually a task that requires multiple skill sets from children. Dressing requires skills girl dressing such as fine and gross motor coordination, body awareness, bilateral coordination, right/left discrimination, postural stability, and motor planning. As a parent, it can be difficult to know at what age a child should develop certain skills in dressing.

Developmental steps of self-dressing skills in children*:

1 year:

  • Pulls off shoes
  • Removes socks
  • Pushes arms and legs through garments

2 years:

  • Helps pull down pants
  • Finds armholes in pullover shirts
  • Removes unfastened jackets
  • Removes untied shoes

2.5 years:

  • Removes pull-down elastic waist pants
  • Unbuttons large buttons
  • Puts on front button shirt

3 years:

  • Puts on socks and shoes (though it might be the wrong feet or socks upside down)
  • Puts on pullover shirts with some help
  • Buttons large buttons
  • Pulls down pants
  • Zips and unzips with help to place on track

3.5 years:

  • Identifies front of clothing
  • Snaps fasteners
  • Unbuckles belt
  • Buttons 3-4 buttons at a time
  • Unzips jacket zipper

4 years:

  • Removes pull over shirts without help
  • Buckles belt
  • Zips jacket
  • Puts on socks correctly
  • Identifies front and back of clothing

5 years:

  • Dresses alone
  • Ties and unties knots

6 years:

  • Ties bows and shoelaces

According to Jayne Shepherd (2005), achieving independence in dressing may take up to 4 years. During this time, parents gradually perform fewer of the tasks, and encourage their children to do more, with the ultimate goal of independence.


Shepherd, J. (2010). Activities of daily living and adaptations for independent living. In J. Case-Smith, (Ed.), Occupational therapy for children (5th ed., p., 501). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby.

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