6 Fine Motor Toys

When your child has challenges in some domain of their development, you may have questions as to what toys you should purchase art easel that will captivate your child’s creativity, allow for hours of good fun and facilitate the opportunity for your child to expand their skills.

Below is a list of toys that may enhance your child’s fine motor development this holiday season:

  1. An Easel: Easels are frequently used throughout the therapy gym to enhance fine motor skills. Their inverted plane helps your child stabilize their wrist in the correct position while completing fine motor tasks. Allow your child to exercise their creative side by coloring, drawing and writing with paint, markers, crayons and colored pencils.
  2. Piano Keyboard: Keyboards are an excellent way for your child to solidify their ability to isolate finger movements. This fine motor movement pattern is important for your child as they learn to complete self-care tasks and as they learn to manipulate their pencil. Provide your child with a workbook to teach them some of the basics of
    keyboarding skills. Simple songs to begin playing include “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “Twinkle, Twinkle.”
  3. Mr. Bucket Game: This game is a wonderful way to work on turning your child’s wrist to the sky and to the floor as well as utensil manipulation.
  4. Operation: Gather around the table to see who has the steadiest of hands in this hilarious family board game. Children of all ages can work to improve their hand strength and fine motor precision while using tweezers to remove silly game pieces from the body of their “patient.” Don’t get too close to the sides or you’ll hear a big “buzz!”
  5. Scramble: This game will allow your child to practice their fine pincer grasp as they race time to fit all of the pieces into the game board before the timer runs out. As an added bonus, it gives your child the opportunity to practice their ability to visually discriminate between shapes.
  6. Wipe Clean Board Book: This booklet allows your child to become the teacher while practicing their letters and numbers on a dry erase board. These boards offer the opportunity for a great number of repetitions while first learning to write. These repetitions will lead to improved overall fine motor control and letter formation at school as well as on paper!

These are just a few examples of games and toys that could be used to enhance your child’s fine motor development. For additional examples, feel free to ask your skilled occupational therapist. Happy Holidays!


10 Ways to Promote Language Skills During Winter Break

School is out for a few weeks, but that doesn’t mean your child has to stop working on language concepts. Using these 10 tips, you can winter girlwork with your child to promote his or her language skills in a fun and meaningful way!

10 Ways to Promote Language Skills During Winter Break:

    1. Narrate Everything: Explaining what you’re doing can help expose your child to the correct production of language concepts and verb tenses. Narration can also help to increase your child’s vocabulary size. Some examples include: “I am putting the eggs in the bowl” or “I cracked the eggs”, etc.
    2. Make Lists: Creating a list of items can help increase vocabulary. If you create lists with your child of grocery items, gifts needed, or even locations, it can help to promote language development and thought organization.
    3. Build Vocabulary: Targeting and explaining new winter words can help to improve your child’s vocabulary. Saying things like, “look at the snowman,” “the icicle is hanging from the tree,” or “look at those children sledding,” will reinforce the new words and encourage usage.
    4. Read Aloud: Reading aloud to your child is extremely beneficial for language development. When reading stories, emphasizing and reinforcing new words will enhance vocabulary skills, and asking questions while reading encourages understanding (e.g., what did the Polar Bear see?). If age appropriate, ask your child to retell the story (or part of the story). This will allow him or her to use new vocabulary words in context.
    5. Emphasize Pronouns: Many children struggle with correct usage of pronouns, so emphasizing pronouns at family functions can help reinforce correct production. Some examples include: “look what he is doing,” “she made the cake,” or “I hope we get to watch the movie!”
    6. Take Turns: Playing holiday games can promote your child’s ability to follow directions and learn about turn-taking. Games are a great way to target these language skills, and you can reinforce turn-taking and direction following by saying things like, “my turn” or “your turn.” Children may also benefit from posing the question, “whose turn is it?” and then allowing time for them to answer with “mine” or “yours.”
    7. Promote Social Skills: Pragmatic language, or the social use of language, can be targeted during winter break as well. Preparing your child to use appropriate greetings when family arrives, demonstrating appropriate volume during family gatherings, and discussing the social rules of gift exchange can be very beneficial to children who may be struggling with how to act in social situations.
    8. Ask “Wh”-questions: Asking your child questions throughout the day is a great way to encourage language skills, including naming and understanding functions. Questions like, “what do we use to make a snowman?” or “where do your gloves/hat/scarf go?” or “who baked the cookies?” can all help to enhance language skills.
    9. Use Sequencing: Discussing the appropriate sequence of actions for winter activities can not only target language concepts (e.g., first, next, last), it can also target your child’s awareness and planning. Asking your child to sequence how to get ready to build a snowman or wrap a present will allow him or her to list the steps required using many different language concepts.
    10. Find Similarities/Differences: Examining the similarities and differences of winter concepts as they relate to summer or other seasons can solidify a child’s understanding of seasons, as well as develop winter vocabulary. Asking questions like, “how is snow different from rain?” will target various cognitive/language skills and promote language development.


Winter Holiday Activities for Children With or Without Sensory Processing Disorder

Play is the occupation of children. Through the action of playing, children are able to develop themselves as well as explore the worldChildren building a snowman around them. Sensory integration is a process that automatically occurs in most individuals, such as when everything we see, hear and feel makes sense to us. Some individuals have a difficult time in processing sensory information. Sensory integration provides the groundwork for developing better physical, academic and social skills. Four aspects of sensory integration as well as activities to enhance them are listed below:

The touch sense involves the tactile system. It is defined as a sensation that is derived from stimulation to the skin. Through this system, we learn about various textures, shapes and sizes. We are able to differentiate between soft and rough, sharp and dull and small and big sensations. The sense of touch offers feedback, allowing us to utilize a pencil, button a shirt or even zip a jacket.

Holiday activities that are able to aid the tactile system:

  • Finger paint with Christmas/holiday colors
  • Create gingerbread men ornaments or cookies
  • Snow play
  • Snow angels on the carpet
  • Decorate the Christmas tree
  • Play with Christmas/holiday-colored play dough

The gravity and movement sense involves the vestibular system. It is defined as a sensation that is derived from stimulation to the vestibular mechanism found in the inner ear that occurs through both movement and position of the head. This system contributes to posture and the maintenance of a stable visual field. When we close our eyes while riding on a roller coaster, we are aware that we are moving as well as the position of our body.

Holiday activities that help better develop the vestibular system:

  • Ice skating
  • Sleigh rides
  • Sledding
  • Passing snow balls overhead or through legs
  • Lying on the couch with head upside down
  • Watching a holiday-themed movie
  • Toy soldier marching.

The body position sense involves the proprioceptive system. It is defined as a sensation that is derived from movement, muscle and joint perception. We are aware of what items we are holding in our hands with our vision obstructed. Children must be aware of how far to flex and extend their upper and lower limbs so that they are able to climb the playground or to hold a utensil.

Holiday activities that are able to enhance the proprioceptive system:

  • Making a snowman
  • Making snow angels in the snow
  • Digging snow tunnels
  • Rolling out cookie dough
  • Shaking a heavy snow globe.

Many of the activities that help establish the tactile, vestibular and proprioceptive systems will also aid in the development of motor skills. This process is called praxis. It is the ability of the brain to conceive of, organize and carry out a sequence of unfamiliar actions. When we were initially taugt how to climb a ladder or ride a bike, we had to think about how to determine our movements.

Holiday activities that help improve praxis:

  • Constructional toys, such as holiday-themed Legos or making a gingerbread house
  • Making winter holiday cooking recipes
  • Coloring and cutting shapes for a winter holiday picture
  • Creating an obstacle course in the snow to crawl under, over, through, etc.