Using Games as Fine Motor Practice to Improve Handwriting | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, an Occupational Therapist introduces us to beneficial games and tools to aid efficiency of handwriting practice for children.  For more on your child’s handwriting, click here.

In this video you will learn:

  • How certain game pieces prepare your child for writing
  • Which games are recommended to use for handwriting practice
  • Useful tools to warm up hands for writing

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now, your host, here’s

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host, Robyn
Ackerman and today I’m standing here with a Pediatric Occupational
Therapist, Lindsay Miller. Lindsay, can you explain to us what are some
games that you can play with children to help with their fine motor and

Lindsay: Sure. Some of the games that I like to play with children involve
small pieces and small pegs, such as this piece right here. This is from a
game called HiHo CherryO, and you use it by holding your thumb and your
index finger and middle finger to hold onto the piece. So that kind of
mimics the way that you would hold a writing utensil, such as a pencil.
Other games include Lite-Brite and Battleship. This is a piece from Lite-
Brite, and, again, you can see that I’m holding it with my thumb, index,
and middle finger. So it’s kind of a way to warm up the hands, before we do
handwriting tasks.

Some other games that I like to use with children involve tongs or
children’s’ chopsticks or tweezers. These are tongs, and, again, you can
see that I’m using it with my thumb, index, and middle finger, which mimics
the way that you would hold a writing utensil. Some examples of games that
use tongs and tweezers would be Operation and Bed Bugs. So those are just
some of the ways that I like to warm up the hands before we do handwriting

Robyn: All right. Thank you so much, Lindsay, and thank you to our viewers.
And remember, keep on blossoming.

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to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe to
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The Benefits of Increasing Therapy Over the Summer

Summer is the time of the year when children engage in more free play and physical activity. Therefore, summer is the perfect time of the year to improve upon skills that children need in order to be active, successful, and independent children!Little girl jumping a rope

Here are some of the best reasons to consider starting therapy or increasing the number of therapy sessions for your child over the summer:

Maintain and improve skills for school – Since school is out for the summer, it is important that children do not lose the fine motor, problem-solving, planning, and organizational skills (and more) that are necessary to be productive students at school. Although summertime is a great time to provide opportunity for free play, it may create academic issues for your child once school starts back up if he or she does not engage in challenging tasks  during their 3 month break from school.

Practice physical activities, such as bike riding, climbing, and jumping rope – During the summer, children are often playing outside for hours on end. It may become noticeable that your child is not keeping up with their peers. Activities with which you may notice some difficulty are often when children have to coordinate their arms and legs, such as jumping jacks, climbing the jungle gym, and learning to ride a 2-wheeler. By participating in therapy over the summer, therapists can address these specific concerns in order to help your child stay up to speed with their friends while performing these activities.

More availability over the summer – Since your children are out of school for the summer, they may have a lot more time and availability during the day to participate in more therapy. Summer camp and extra-curricular activities often only take up part of the day, so there may be more times you are available to schedule therapy appointments. Furthermore, although camp and extra-curricular activities are great options for staying active, they do not necessarily offer the same therapeutic benefits as therapy.

Provides structure to their day– Oftentimes, summer can be a season of unstructured play time in which children can do anything they would like. Sometimes the choices are so overwhelming that this can often lead to hours of playing video games, watching TV, and other sedentary activities. Therapy can provide structure to your child’s day to make them feel like they are being productive by spending their time doing valuable tasks.

Opportunity for peer interaction outside of school – Once school is over for the summer, some children may only spend their time with the same friends every day. Therapy sessions can provide the opportunity to make more friends in the clinic and learn how to engage in social situations with other people.

These are just a few of the many benefits that therapy can provide to your child over the summer! By making your child more actively engaged in goal-directed activities, you are setting your child up to be productive students the following school year and active children during the summer!

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10 Signs at Camp A Child May Need Occupational Therapy

Camp counselors have their work cut out for them- they have to plan daily activities, monitor the safety of the campers, be a cheerleader to encourage the campers throughout the day, and be a referee to teach the campers sportsmanship, turn taking, and following the rules. However, they are also the best advocates for the campers, as they can observe the strengths and weaknesses of each child, and can talk with the campers’ parents about what they notice throughout the day. Below is a list of some of the many signs indicating a child may benefit from working with an occupational therapist:

10 signs at camp that a child can benefit from occupational therapy:

  1. The child has difficulty following directions, either auditory and/or written, in order to engage in an activity. For boys playing tug-a-warexample, first get the soccer ball, and then sit in the grass.
  2. The child shows aversion to different textures (e.g. grass; sunscreen; finger paint; tags in clothing).
  3. The child demonstrates decreased sportsmanship with peers, such as having a hard time losing, or a hard time with turn-taking.
  4. The child demonstrates decreased body awareness, such as being unaware of having personal space with peers (e.g. sitting/standing too closely to others), or moves too quickly or unsafely around his environment (e.g. trips often, bumps into things).
  5. The child demonstrates decreased hand-eye coordination and motor planning compared to same aged peers, such as difficulty with simple ball skills or basic swimming skills.
  6. The child has difficulty transitioning, such as a hard time with drop-off in the morning or with leaving at the end of the day. Similarly, the child may demonstrate difficulty transitioning between activities throughout the day.
  7. The child has decreased postural control, which might be noted by having a hard time maintaining an erect posture during tabletop tasks (e.g. leaning/propping/fidgeting) or has a hard time lying in prone on his belly.
  8. The child demonstrates picky eating during snack time or mealtime (e.g. only eats hot or cold foods; will only eat a few select food choices; only likes salty/sweet).
  9. The child has decreased attention compared to same aged peers, noted by jumping from one activity to the next without spending much time at each activity; or noted by distractibility and looking around to notice others in the room.
  10. The child has difficulty with handwriting/drawing/crafts compared to same aged peers (e.g. does not know how to hold writing utensil correctly; cannot draw a person with correct parts).

If any of the signs above apply to your child, he would definitely benefit from an occupational therapy evaluation and most likely ongoing occupational therapy (OT) sessions. OT sessions can help your child to gain more confidence for his fine motor and gross motor skills, body awareness, and other age appropriate activities. The goal is to help your child to keep up with same aged peers and expectations he is required to meet at home, at school, and within the community, so that he can have the greatest success.

In-Hand Manipulation Skills: What are they?

In-hand Manipulation refers to the ability to move and position one or more objects within one hand without using the other hand to assist. Below, are explanations of the terminology often used for In-Hand Manipulation Skills.

In-Hand Manipulation Examples:

Translation: Refers to the linear movement of the object or objects from the palm to the fingers or the fingers to the palm.piggy bank

  • Picking up marbles with the fingers and thumb and moving them into the palm.
  • Moving coins from the palm of the hand to the finger tips to insert into a piggy bank.

Shift: Refers to linear movement of an object on the finger surface to allow repositioning of the object on the pads of the fingers.

  • Adjusting the pencil grip so that the fingers are on the tip of the pencil.
  • Dressing skills including snaps, lacing, and buttoning.

Complex Rotation: Refers to the turning or rolling of an object with finger pads between180-360 degrees.

  • Turning a pencil to use the eraser

Simple Rotation:  Refers to the turning or rolling of an object with finger pads no more than approximately 90 degrees.

  • Unscrewing a bottle cap
  • Puzzles

Why are In-Hand Manipulation skills important?

In-hand manipulation skills are important in the efficiency of every day tasks such as:

  • Drawing
  • Handwriting
  • Cutting with Scissors
  • Eating with a fork, knife, and spoon
  • Dressing skills such as buttons, zippers, and snaps
  • Manipulating small objects for crafts and games

Children who are experiencing difficulties with in-hand manipulation, may be observed using both hands for skills that should only take one hand, changing or transferring objects to the other hand for repositioning, and/or may hold an object against their body during activities.

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The Developmental Benefits of Practicing Ball Skills with your Child

Ball skills are oftentimes overlooked as an activity only for boys, or only for athletic children. However, ball skills are an important activity for children of all interests and abilities to practice consistently. Ball skills not only prepare children for gym class at school and extracurricular activities, but they help to address bilateral skills, hand-eye coordination, timing, sequencing, motor planning, and attention. girl dribbling ballBall skills can include, but are not limited to: throwing and catching, dribbling, kicking, and aiming for a target. Here are some activities to try at home:

5 Ball Games To Play With Your Child For Developmental Exercise Purposes:

  1. Ball at the wall: Find a safe wall (e.g. outside), and have your child throw a ball at the wall and catch it in their hands. To make it easier, throw the ball at the wall, allow it to bounce once on the ground, and then catch it in hands. Use a playground size ball to start, and work towards using a tennis ball.
  2. Popcorn: Throw a ball overhead (towards the ceiling), trying to see how many times your child is able to clap their hands (while the ball is in the air) before catching the ball in their hands. For another challenge, see what words your child can spell while clapping their hands, before catching the ball.
  3. Dribbling: Set-up cones or other obstacles for your child to weave between as they dribble a ball using either one hand or alternating hands. If they bump into a cone with their body or the ball, have them begin at the start again to help them to work on body awareness and a slow and steady pace, rather than rushing through the activity. Make it into a relay by timing them or having them race a partner.
  4. Laundry-basket basketball: Have your child hold a laundry basket at about chest or trunk level as you toss beanbags or rolled up socks for them to catch. Make sure to make the throws unpredictable as the child becomes successful, to work on moving their body and keeping their eyes on the ball.
  5. Upside down basketball: Place a barrel or bucket and a few balls behind your child to serve as the hoop and the basketball. Have your child lay on their back over an exercise ball so that their head is inverted (upside down), as you hold onto their legs. Next, have your child reach overhead with both hands to pick-up one ball and toss it into the hoop as they remain upside down. Lastly, have your child squeeze their tummy muscles to pull themselves back up into a seated position on top of the exercise ball.

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What is Proprioception and Why is it Important?

What: Proprioception is the concept of knowing where your body is in space (body awareness) and the ability to safely maneuver around your environment. It also includes the use of heavy work activities and the ability to stimulate the joint receptors.

Why: Proprioceptive input is important for a child’s frog jumpsdevelopment because it helps them to feel a sense of self, aides in self-regulation and promotes success in both fine motor and gross motor activities. It is also important as it helps a child to be aware of their “personal space” and how to appropriately engage with their peers without overstepping their boundaries (e.g. hugging without asking) or not engaging enough (e.g. decreased eye contact).

Activities to provide proprioceptive input:

  • Wheelbarrow walks
  • Bear hugs
  • Body pillow “sandwich” (have child lay between two large body pillows and provide them with moderate squishes)
  • Frog jumps
  • Jumping on a trampoline or on a mattress
  • Pushing a heavy basket/cart (e.g. fill a laundry basket and have child push across the house)
  • Pulling a heavy wagon
  • Squeezing or rolling playdough/theraputty
  • Bouncing on a pogo stick or on a hippity hop ball
  • Climbing a rockwall
  • Monkey bars
  • Tug of war (e.g. use a towel to play tug of war with a partner using both hands; place pillows behind each child, so that if they fall or lose their balance, they can crash into the pillows)

Bond With Your Child Through An Amelia Bedelia Book!

Do you need some time to bond with a child? “Amelia Bedelia Bakes Off” can help! Amelia not only is a great book to read and teach kids that being an Out of Sync Sensory Integration guru of a child can be oh so cool, but this book is a great way to spend quality time baking with your child as well!

Amelia Bedelia  Amelia Bedelia Ingredients

In the book, Amelia bakes a bed cake with pillows and a blanket! This is so exciting! Teachers can use this book to read and bake with the class!

So, now you have taught the child a lesson, bonded, and worked on fine motor skills with the stirring, math skills with the measuring, reading skills (click here tto learn about Orton Gillingham Reading)with the recipe and the book, tolerance for any child, and more! MMM..smells good!

daughter baking

My daughter and I baking the bed cake together!

Daughter with Cake

Finished product with my happy daughter!












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The weather is getting chilly again, and Halloween is almost here! Here are some great ideas for indoor fun that will help children develop their fine motor strength and coordination skills.

5 Fun Fine Motor Activities For Halloween:

Tissue Paper Pumpkin:

Supplies: construction paper, markers, tissue paper, gluegirl carving a pumpkin

*Draw a pumpkin on construction paper. Tear small pieces of tissue paper, and using one hand, scrunch up the pieces with your thumb, index and middle fingers. Dip the tissue paper into glue and place it on the construction paper to fill in the pumpkin.

Haunted House:

Supplies: popsicle sticks, glue or superglue (use with supervision), construction paper, paint

Use construction paper as a base for the popsicle stick house, as the glue may get messy on a table. *Make a floor out of popsicle sticks and secure it with glue to the construction paper. Glue popsicle sticks together to make the walls and the roof. To make a slanted roof, secure the roof to the walls on a diagonal. Once the glue on the house is dry, you can paint it black and paint on ghosts and goblins.


Supplies: kleenex or paper towel (to make a bigger ghost), cotton balls, thread, marker

*Place a few cotton balls in the center of the kleenex or paper towel for the head of the ghost. Next, fold the napkin in to wrap it around the cotton ball, and secure the head by tying a thread around it while letting the rest of the napkin flow.

To hang it up, pull a threaded needle through the top of the ghost’s head. Make sure the thread is long enough to hang to hang on something, and loop it through to make a knot.

Pumpkin Carving:

Supplies: pumpkin, marker, pumpkin carver (it is easier and safer to use than a knife, and you can buy one at walmart, stencils (optional)

*Draw a face on the pumpkin with stencils or free-hand, and carve away! This is a great activity to develop motor control and strength.

Halloween Necklace:

Supplies: Halloween colored beads of all shapes and sizes, beading wire or thread

*Make a knot on one of the thread, and start stringing the beads! Using small beads is great for fine motor control and precision. For additional coordination and fine motor muscle development, instruct your child to hold 3-5 beads in the palm of their hand, and as they need the next bead, have them use their thumb, index and middle finger to get the bead out of their palm. Make sure their palm is facing up so that they cannot compensate and use gravity to help them get the beads!

OT Skill Olympics | Fine and Gross Motor Skill Building Games

Children love games and competition, and parents love when their children are active and engaged with their siblings and friends. What better way to combine social skills, turn-taking, and fine and gross motor skills than with new creative activities? Below are a few new ideas to try incorporating with your family before the summer is over. Who will win the “gold” wheelbarrow racemedal at your OT Skill Olympics?

These activities help to address several occupational therapy skills, such as: motor planning, body awareness, hand-eye coordination, trunk control, grasping, and balance.

1. Dizzy bat baseball: The batter-up places his forehead onto the baseball bat and spins around in circles with the baseball bat on the ground and hands wrapped around the neck of the bat (approximately 10 spins). After the batter is done spinning, the pitcher pitches the ball like in a typical baseball game, and the batter runs his bases.

The challenge: to maintain balance and eye-hand coordination after making yourself dizzy!

2. Ping-pong ball races: Each player has a spoon and a ping-pong ball. They players can create many variations. For instance, players could walk across a balance beam while holding the spoon/ping-pong ball; set-up several cones or markers, and weave between the cones; or skip/gallop/bunny hop from one end of the room to the other while holding the spoon/ping-pong ball. The players could race one another or time one another using a stop watch.

The challenge: to keep the ping-pong ball on top of the spoon the entire time, holding the spoon with only one hand if possible.

3. Hula-hoop “ring of fire”: This activity should be done inside where lots of pillows and blankets can be used to jump onto. One or two players hold the hula hoop a few inches over the pillows/blankets, and another player must “dive” through the “ring of fire” onto the pile of pillows/blankets. The players can continue to raise the hula hoop a little bit higher each time; however, players should make sure to have their arms out like superman, so that the arms can help to protect the head and neck.

The challenge: to “dive” through the hula hoop without touching it with your body.

4. Relay races: Set-up two cones or markers to illustrate the starting line and the finish line. Have players choose a variety of different styles to get to the finish line: crab walks, bear walks, inch worms, wheelbarrow walking, or prone (on stomach) pulling self on scooter board or skate board.

5.Inch worms: start in the downward-facing dog yoga pose, with hands and feet on the ground, and hips and bottom raised in the air; next walk hands forward as far as they will go without falling, and then keep the hands where they are, and walk feet forwards to meet up with the hands.

The challenge: to maintain the proper body position the entire length of the course, from start to finish (e.g. crab walks: hips and bottom should be lifted off of the ground).

 Try a couple of these out and then leave a comment below with what worked best!

Developmental Skills While Playing With Cars

Pediatric therapy sessions typically involve a lot of play time! Why? Children learn about their world through play and child playing with car imitation of adults, and play is much more motivating than sitting at a table completing worksheets. When a child plays with a car, here are a few of the skill areas that are targeted:

Cognition while playing with cars:

• Experiencing cause and effect relationships, such as when a car drops down a ramp

• Labeling basic parts of a car

Fine Motor or Hand Skills while playing with cars:

• Strengthing hand-eye coordination skills and improving hand dexterity while building a toy car. Consider building a visual model for your child to copy

• Improving hand coordination and hand dexterity while repairing a car using toy tools. Facilitate this by placing your hand on the child’s and physically moving his hands if necessary

• Practice using both hands simultaneously while turning a steering wheel Read more