By Krupa Kuruvilla, MA, OTR/L
Product Specialist, Verge Learning
With Covid having most of us retreat into the safety of our homes and therapy being remote, here is the perfect handout for fine motor strengthening. These tips and tricks are easy and flexible when transitioning between virtual and in person. So no matter what your current situation is, these will work for you with easily available household items! It is also perfect for carryover of skills on the days the child does not have a therapy session scheduled. Anybody - parents, grandparents, babysitters... can carry out these activities easily!
Here is a list of commonly available household items and how they can be used/adapted for strengthening activities.
- Use squeeze bottles to water household plants
- Use water paint or watercolor in squirt bottles and make spray pictures on paper
- Squirting off shaving cream off the shower wall is a popular activity!
- Teach the child to place the ring and little fingers around the neck of the bottle and use the index and middle fingers to activate the trigger
- Squeeze glue out of containers for art/craft projects
Play Dough Activities
- Roll, cut, squeeze and flatten play dough during different play activities encouraging use of all the fingers of both the hands. Cut out shapes using molds and scissors or cookie cutters
- Smash play dough with a rubber spatula or potato masher
- Hide various small objects in the play dough such as pennies/beans and ask the child to find it
- Alternatively, the child can hide beads etc in playdough.
- Tear strips of paper freely and crumple them into small balls, using those to make a picture collage. Use colored paper to make the activity more interesting
- Walk a tennis ball up and down the legs without dropping it to the ground, using only your fingers. Go as high as the waist if possible!
- Use a sponge to soak up water and then squeeze it to transfer the water to another container
Sponges can also be used for painting after dipping in colors. Have the child stamp designs on a blank piece of paper
- Use a hole punch on various thicknesses of paper
- Use a hammer and pound large headed nails into styrofoam or other soft wood (you can also get the plastic hammer and nails from the toy store)
- Encourage play with Lego blocks, pop beads, interlocking chains/links and popping bubble wrap
- Do different kinds of walking on hands, the wheelbarrow walk, bear walk, crab walk
- Combine this with an obstacle course activity; try and have some small obstacle courses for the child at home such as crawling through, jumping, getting down on all fours. These will help develop gross motor strength which is essentially a good base to develop fine motor strength
- Let the child spend time playing on playground equipment; the monkey bars, a swing, anything that encourages gripping by the hands. Be sure that the thumb is around the bottom of the bars and not beside the index finger
- Cooking activities that require stirring (especially mixing ingredients) are excellent for developing hand strength
- Screwing and unscrewing jar lids can help to develop hand strength. The amount of strength needed can be graded by how tightly the lids are put on. Try "hiding" little incentives inside to make it more of a game and to motivate the child to open it!
- Peeling fruit like bananas, oranges
- Use small plastic tongs to pick up small pieces of crumpled paper, beads, any manipulatives and transfer into a container
Pushing Items In Containers
- Use an empty cheese box or any snack box, cut out a hole, and have the child push pom-poms in it
- You can use cotton balls as an alternative.
- Marbles could be used as well but they present a choking hazard so make sure it is only done with adult supervision
Put Coins/Buttons in Slits in Containers
- Make a slit/cut in any plastic container/box and have the child place coins in them. Thinner coins are for a more refined grasp and thicker coins (like connect 4 ones) could be used for a more gross grasp
- You can cut slits at different angles in different spots on the container for more variation
- Push pipe cleaners through the holes of a colander
- Stack cheerios on pipe cleaners
Put Q-tips/Toothpicks in Play Dough
- Pushing down q-tips or toothpicks in play dough
- Squeeze and arrange around the rim of a container, on a piece of cardboard, the flaps of a cereal box, paper, anywhere!
Have fun and stay safe!
Krupa Panchmatiya Kuruvilla, M.A., OTR/L
Pediatric Occupational Therapist, Registered/Licensed
Product Specialist at Verge Learning
XceptionalED Leader at XceptionalED