Vertical Velcro Pull for Finger, Hand, & Shoulder Strengthening

Vertical Velcro Pull - DIY Strengthening OT Exercise.

This vertical pulling activity is a simple way for your little ones to work on upper extremity strength in their shoulders, wrists, and hands.


1.  Cut 3 strips of velcro, about 12 inches each.

2.  Securely attach the strips vertically to a vertical surface.  We attached them to a section of our tactile sensory board (full post on this coming soon).  Although velcro has a sticky label on the back side, we used hot glue for extra “stick.”

3.  For variety, attach the first and last strip with the fuzzy half facing out, and the middle strip with the scratchy half facing out.  This way, when you peel the velcro apart, there will be two different textures left on the wall to touch and feel.

4.  Instruct the child to pull the velcro strips off of the wall, starting at the top and pulling each strip completely off of the wall.

Voila!   You now have a simple DIY occupational therapy activity that works well in a clinic setting, at school, and/or at home.
. Continue reading Vertical Velcro Pull for Finger, Hand, & Shoulder Strengthening

10 Simple Fine Motor Exercises for Putty & Play Dough

10 Easy & Creative Fine Motor Exercises for Putty / Play Dough.

Putty, play dough, and other hand manipulatives are classic occupational therapy tools for fine motor work and sensory play.  Not only are they fun, but they can also be used to work on a whole host of developmental skills, such as hand strength, finger isolation and dexterity, bilateral coordination, imaginative play, and much more.  Here are some of our favorite play-dough games/exercises/tricks:

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Easy “Birthday Cake” Fine Motor Activity

Easy "Birthday Cake" Fine Motor Activity

The best therapy exercises are the ones where the child doesn’t know it’s an exercise, which is why every pediatric speech and occupational therapist’s “bag of tricks” is mostly full of toys and games and other fun activities.

Play dough is one of these staple activities.  There are endless possibilities of what you can do with it, one of which is creating a “birthday cake” for imaginary play and to work on fine motor skills.

So, let’s throw a birthday party!

•   Be enthusiastic and involve the child in every step of the process.  Ask him/her who’s coming to their party, what kinds of games they’ll play, where it will be hosted, etc. Continue reading Easy “Birthday Cake” Fine Motor Activity

Cork Button Castles – A Fine Motor Activity

Cork & Button Fine Motor Activity

These Cork Button Castles are a fun and effective DIY fine motor activity.  Not only are the fingers and the fingertips in charge, but the Velcro also provides an added level of resistance to really make their intrinsic muscles work.  A big thank you to the amazing blog No Time for Flashcards for the inspiration!

What you’ll need:  Velcro circles, tapered corks, and buttons (these cute ones are from Michael’s)

Continue reading Cork Button Castles – A Fine Motor Activity

Fine Motor Activity for Finger Isolation – Feed Mr. Owl

DIY Fine motor activity for finger isolation

Finger isolation is the ability to move certain fingers independently from the rest of your fingers.  It’s an important skill in a variety of everyday activities, such as pointing, activating toys, pressing the button in the elevator, dialing a phone, writing with an efficient grasp, etc.  And also for more complex tasks such as typing or playing the piano.

The index/pointer finger is what we focus more on in OT for the development of appropriate play and the pincer grasp.  Isolating just the index finger is usually developed by 9 or 10 months.  Isolating all fingers should be developed by age 5.

One of my favorite ways to practice finger isolation is with the DIY below.  It’s simple yet effective, and has been in my OT bag for years:

  • Source a cute container.  This particular one was perched on a shelf at JoAnn’s Fabric.  The Dollar Store is also a great place to look.  Technically any container with a flexible lid will work, but character-themed ones tend to be more appealing and motivating for kids.  With this one, for instance, we can say, “It’s time to feed Mr. Owl!” Or, “Mr. Owl is hungry, he needs his lunch!”

Continue reading Fine Motor Activity for Finger Isolation – Feed Mr. Owl

Easy DIY Piggy Bank Fine Motor Activity

Make your own “piggy bank!”  This DIY fine motor activity involves just two easy steps:

1.  Cut a slit into the lid of any old food container (this is an almond can).

2.  Use poker chips, play money, or real money to push into the bank.

DIY fine motor piggy bank

Unlike store-bought piggy banks that have a wide slot for coins, the thin slit here provides resistance when you push items through for both hand strengthening and proprioceptive feedback.  Idea courtesy of the latest member of our team, Mary Black, MS, OTR/L.  Thanks Mary!!