Friday, December 18, 2009

Holiday Finger Frolic

One of our OTs, Heather Galligan, created this great handout for fun stuff to do over the holiday break--check out the Snowman Food idea at the very end of the post. Feel free to pass along the ideas to your students' families, or use them for finger frolic with your own PCs (personal children).

Holiday Activities for Fine Motor Skills

Here are some suggestions for things to do over the holiday break that can help to build fine motor skills and using 2 hands together…….

-Cut out pictures from old Christmas cards – You can draw a circle around the picture to help. They do not need to be exact, just the practice of cutting is good. Use child sized scissors and supervise your child while they practice cutting. With the cut out, they can paste it onto paper to make a new card. Or, instead of gluing, use a hole punch to punch holes around the cut out shape and have them lace around with ribbon for hanging. You can leave the ribbon long at the ends and use it as a book mark.

- Mixing Salt Dough with hands or making cookie dough and using rolling pin and cookie cutters. If you bake salt dough that you have cut from cookie cutters, or that they have shaped, use a straw to punch a hole in the top before baking them. After baking, if you have a set of water color box paints (the simple ones, Crayola or so), use them to paint the ornaments. The colors come out nicely. Decorate further with glitter glue and thread pipe cleaner or ribbon through the hole for a hanger.

Making Salt Dough – This can feel dry on the hands and some kids may not like that but some may be fine with it.


-2 cups of flour
-1 cup salt
-1cup water

They can mix it with their hands until it forms a dough. You add a little water at a time. Knead the dough for 7-10 minutes. Additional water may be needed but not too much or it becomes too sticky. If preparing ahead of time, you can add color to the dough. Store in plastic bags. This dough can be baked or air dried to later be painted. Cookie cutters, rolling pins, a straw to punch a hole and some paint and glitter glue can make some lovely holiday ornaments. Just string ribbon through the hole.

To Harden: Air dry for 48 hours on a screen so air can pass underneath as well.
***Or Bake: 325-350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes for each ¼ inch thickness. Parchment paper works nicely to line cookie sheets.

-Make paper snow flakes: Fold the paper in ½ or 4 ways and draw little guides for them to snip. Triangles are easy, just two lines like a teepee. Decorate the snowflakes with glitter and glue.

-Make a large Holiday Tree - Make a large triangle (about 8 inches for lines). We use our pizza boxes or cardboard boxes from the store to make the tracer. The paper can be the back of wrapping paper or tape smaller pieces together to make a large piece. Help them trace 3 triangles, one on top of the other to make a holiday tree. Tape this to a suitable washable vertical surface, such as the refrigerator, to have them color or paint with washable markers. Also fun is to have them use small pieces of sponge that they have to hold with their thumb and index and middle fingers to sponge paint the tree. Once this is dry, they can put stickers or any other decoration on the tree with tape. Endless ideas.

**Remember, any drawing or coloring on the vertical surface such as with the refrigerator or easel, will help improve wrist and shoulder strength which helps with pre-writing and writing skills.
- Snowman Food – Have them tear any white piece of scrap paper you have in to about 2 X 2 pieces. No need to be exact. Show them how to crumple it up using their finger tips. This is very challenging for some children. Just keep it fun. Keep making them until you can fill up a paper lunch bag or other handy container. To top it off, you can have them sprinkle some glitter or cinnamon in the bag using their finger tips when it is full of little paper balls. Decorate the bag and set it out for Santa to pick up during his travels or just use it when there is a snowman outside! The kids can decorate the paper bag however they wish before it is filled. *** If you happen to have a berry picker or some tongs, the child can practice picking up the paper balls with these to place into the bag! Other wise, hold them in the air, one at a time, for the child to grasp and place into the bag.
Have a wonderful holiday break !

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sometimes words are not enough

Lately, I've been adding photos to my observation and evaluation reports, to better provide the families and school staff with a clear explanation of a student's current skills and progress over time. You sure don't want to have to explain hyperextension of the DIP or what thumb wrap entails in 25 words or less.

Having the photos on hand also helps when it comes time to create handouts for parents and school personnel. Remember to edit out faces and names to ensure the privacy of your students.

Here are some recent photos taken in a class for 3-5 year olds--I'll leave the nomenclature to you...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sparkly fun

Who knew the student artwork would turn out so beautiful? These quilled ornaments were created by middle school students in a classroom for students with moderate intellectual disabilities. Some of them rolled the paper strips easily and some needed a little assistance. The finished product is gorgeous and proudly displayed near the school office.
Here's another idea for a fine motor activity for elementary students--use up that wild holiday paper or magazine cover by having the students dot-dot-dot individual letters, then use a handheld hole punch to forge a see-through trail outlining their letter.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Crack the Code

Here's my buddy, Lauren, again with another of her amazing ideas for helping kids in school:

Attached are pics of a fun handwriting activity I did with one of my 1st grade students. I gave the teacher several copies of the activity & she is going to put it at one of her “handwriting centers” for all the kids in the class to use.

My ever so creative name for the activity is “Crack the Code”. Here’s how it works:
I put an alphabet code at the top of the page.
Each letter of the alphabet has a corresponding number ~ for example, letter A is 5, letter B is 14, etc.
Below the code I came up with some Christmas theme words (you could use whatever theme you want).
For each letter of the word I put a line on the handwriting paper.
Under each line I put the number “code” for the letter that I want the student to write on the line (ie. for “a” I would write a 5 under the line because that is the # code for letter “a”).
The student must then “crack the code” by filling in each letter based on the # written below the line.

For students working on correct letter size within writing lines, I use handwriting paper corresponding to the student’s grade or developmental level.

For students who are just working on letter formation & who are not yet focusing on handwriting lines, I use rectangle boxes as place markers for where to put each letter & base the size of the rectangle on the students motor skill level.

I sometimes place the activity in page protectors, for novelty & so that it can be re-used. Other times I will use paper/pencil.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Not the mall parking spots

A smart third-grader has visual needs which require many accommodations at school. His equally-smart OT created this sturdy pull-out drawer for him to more easily locate the many books, composition books, workbooks, subject folders and other papers necessary for daily life in the classroom. In one photo you'll see the "parking spots" with attached pouches containing crayons and other needed manipulatives. I noticed that using black Velcro instead of the usual vanilla variety made the empty parking spots less noticeable since they blended into the color of the desk. For some students it would have been a good visual cue to use a contrasting color of Velcro, but this student can find the pouches easily and sure doesn't want to draw any further attention to himself.

Rather than suggesting specialized software to enlarge the font on the computer, we're suggesting he uses a Large bold font in Microsoft Word for now. This way, he'll be familiar with using the easily-accessible tools available on all school computers and also at home. Since the lengthy writing demands are not frequent in 3rd grade, we'll save the big gun software for a little later down the academic road.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Can I have Triwall with that?

Our Sunday newspaper included an article entitled, "Be More Productive," by Alexandra Levit of the WSJ. She had some interesting quotes from Kevin Purdy, an editor at, so I checked it out. The website is an OT's dream come true!
Just for fun, peruse the site for all the low and high tech ideas--some pretty quirky--about work, home and life in general. One set of ideas, which should be near and dear to our OT hearts, can be found via this link:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Typing Resources--FREE!!!

My good OT buddy, Lauren Swedenborg, compiled this list of resources for keyboarding. Please send me any additional resources you use, or your comments on the ones listed here.

For Learning Touch Typing

Free On-Line Programs

Dance Mat



Typing Lessons with Peter

Free Typing Tutorial

This site also has a number of different typing games to help practice letters learned

Commercially Available

For a comprehensive review of each of these programs, as well as information on additional programs, please go to .

Type to Learn
There are many versions of this program. The most current version is Type To Learn 4, which retails for $79.95, but you can download a 30 day free trial.
Purchasing/Free Download Source:

Type to Learn 3 is more cost friendly, retailing for around $29.99 ($32.99 for Vista compatability).
Purchasing Source:

Typing Instructor for Kids 5.0
Purchasing Source:

Typing Quick & Easy
Purchasing Source:

Ainsworth Keyboard Trainer
Purchasing Source:
Free trial download available

Purchasing Source:
Free trial download available

Typing Pal Junior
Purchasing Source:
Free demo trial available

SpongeBob SquarePants Typing
Purchasing Source: