9 Fabulous Fine Motor Fads to Revive on the Playground

Thank goodness the fidget fad is fading.

Even though every child has one hidden away in their pocket or backpack, the intense obsession with every kind of fidget spinners is slowly dwindling.

A few months ago, when fidgets were more popular than  big hair in the 80’s, parents and teachers kept asking me, “What do you think of these fidget spinners?

Truthfully, a fad is a fad.  Fidgets can be helpful for some kids in some situations.  I can see how some teachers would find them a complete nuisance in the classroom.  BUT, on the other hand, it’s awesome that another fine motor fad made its way back to popularity.

As an OT in a public school setting, I find that children’s fine motor skills are growing weaker and weaker.  Children are playing with Ipads and other techy toys that don’t require motor skills or dexterity.  It takes spinning, flicking, and using in-hand manipulation to move those spinners, so I look at it as a good thing.

fine motor fads, playground games, hand strength

Fine Motor Fads can be a powerful tool in getting kid’s muscles prepared for school work.  That might sound crazy but it’s true. Here are  9 other fine motor fads that are surprisingly therapeutic!

Let’s bring back the Fine Motor Fads!

1) Rainbow loom – This toy was all the rage in 2011 remained popular until 2014. The inventor made $130 million dollars!  The rainbow loom works on fine motor skills, hand strength, using two hands together, and motor planning.  As children work to make patterns and different styles, they are working on their visual perceptual skills, too.  They are great for kids who are six years old and up.

2) Friendship bracelets have been around since the sixties.  Similar to the loom bracelet, they work on motor planning, bilateral coordination, isolating one finger from the rest, and dexterity.  Children use embroidery thread or yarn to tie knots – the patterns can be as simple as a braid or as intricate as a staircase.  This makes it enticing for children four to fourteen.  I love the Klutz friendship bracelet books which give step by step directions for each style.    They make a great gift.  They’re not just for girls, either – boys can make the bracelets in their favorite teams’ colors.

3) The Hackey Sack was invented in 1972.  Although it’s technically not a Fine Motor Fad, it’s still an awesome way to work on motor skills.  Kids have to work to keep their Hackey Sack off the ground for as long as possible by balancing the sack on their foot, elbow, head, whatever!  It’s a great way to work on balance, coordination, attention, and motor planning.  It takes a lot of concentration to keep the Hackey Sack up in the air.


4) Slap Bracelets – I LOVE to use Slap Bracelets as a therapeutic tool.  You can work on bilateral coordination, in-hand manipulation, and isolating one finger at a time to close the bracelets. Have your kids make different shapes with the slap bracelets – a circle, maybe a pretzel shape, etc.  Make patterns by arranging the bracelets by the shape they made or by color.  Show the kids how to wrap the bracelets around things and then take them off and make them straight again- it’s a lot of work for little fingers!

5) Yo-yo‘s became popular in the 1920’s and are still considered a classic toy today.  BUT, most little kids don’t have them or know how to play with them. That’s a shame because yo-yos are great for working on visual tracking, upper extremity coordination, strength, as well as isolating one finger from the rest!


hand strength, hand exercises, occupational therapy

Many children today have fine motor weakness and poor hand strength. These fun and engaging activities help develop proper pencil grip, opposition of the thumb, and dexterity.

6) Sticker books – I used to LOVE to collect stickers when I  was a kid. And stickers are awesome for fine motor skills!  (The smelly ones were always my favorite!) Peeling stickers off the back sheet and placing them on the paper in a specific spot requires intricate fine motor skills.

DOn’t Forget CHINESE Jump ROPe!

7) Chinese Jump Rope – Chinese jump ropes are one of my favorite OT tools.  You can use them as a gross motor tool to work on jumping, motor planning, and lower extremity bilateral coordination.  OR,  you can use it as a fine motor tool to work on isolated finger strengthening and coordination, dexterity, motor planning and bilateral coordination.  This Klutz book   demonstrates how to do the Cat’s Cradle and all those other good moves!

*One major bonus of the Chinese jump rope is that it’s so small!  It fits right in my pocket, making it an awesome tool to bring from classroom to the car to the playground!

This could definitely be considered a pocketbook toy!

8) Safety Pin bead art – remember when you went to summer camp and learned how to make pins, bracelets, and other fun stuff from just safety pins and beads?  This hobby takes time and patience, but it’s fantastic fine motor practice!  I use Pinterest for ideas  but the kids LOVE to come up with the patterns and sequences they want to use.  Picking the colors is the best part!

This crafts requires eye-hand coordination, dexterity, attention to detail, and using two hands together. Again, the patterns require visual perceptual skills and sequencing. All you need is some safety pins and some tiny beads.

SPD, sensory processing disorder

Learn about the 8 sensory systems, the three subtypes of SPD, sensory diets, and how to help your child with sensory processing disorder. This free dive day email course is a crash course in Sensory Processing Disorder.

9) Baseball cards/ Garbage pail kids cards – Holding, shuffling, and manipulating cards is a great way to work on the arches of the hand.  So many children struggle with holding the deck and manipulating the cards so they can see them.  Collecting their favorite cards is the perfect past time for little ones.   Let’s bring em back!

Related Posts:

fidgets, sensory, spd, adhd, dollar fidgets


shoe-tying, grip, grasp, fine motor control ot pet peeves,


pencil grip, how to change grasp, digital pronate crayons, grip, tripod grasp.


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learning to tie shoes

The Amazing Secret Weapon to Learning How to Tie Shoes

 <This is a sponsored post. To learn more, read my disclaimer>

Learning how to tie your shoes is a giant leap toward becoming a “big kid”.   Kind of like getting your first car or driver’s license. It feels like you are immediately branded as a “grown-up”.

Yup, being self-sufficient below the ankles is a big deal.

There are tons of tips and tricks to help kids achieve those “big kid” milestones. Learning to get dressed (including shoes) by themselves is really monumental in a kid’s life.

Did you know that typically developing children are ready to learn how to tie between the ages of 4 ½  and 6?  It’s true. Unfortunately, many elementary school children don’t learn for years after that. 


Why aren’t Kids Learning How to Tie Shoes?

There are many reasons:

  1. No one ever taught them.
  2. Parents buy velcro or slip on because it’s faster and easier.
  3. It’s a hard thing to learn – Parents watch their children struggle with it and revert to number 2.

But there’s a solution for learning how to tie shoes!  Even for children who struggle with attention, motor planning, or using two hands together.

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How To Help A Child That Uses Too Much Pressure When Writing

Many children use too much pressure when writing.  Read on for OT tricks to conquer this problem!

“He breaks pencils like crazy, and then wastes 5 minutes each time to go sharpen it!  Why is he pressing so hard?”

The teacher’s cheeks were pink with frustration.  I could see her patience with Billy was at an all time low.

This little boy was bright, but he wasn’t producing neat work and he wasn’t finishing his work in an appropriate time frame.  And all because of one silly reason:

Too much pressure.

There are a few reasons why a child may be pressing too hard when writing, coloring and drawing.

too much pressure when writing

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2 Magical Crayons That Will Immediately Change Your Child’s Grasp

<How to change your child’s grasp by changing their crayons>

“He uses all of his fingers…  and he gets annoyed when I correct him!”

As a pediatric Occupational Therapist, I hear this from a lot of moms and teachers.  Pencil and crayon grip is important, and it can be difficult to change when a child gets older.

But there’s hope!  I promise!


This is Harry, a 4-year-old with no interest in crayons.  In the first picture, he’s using a palmar supinate grasp, which is typically seen in 1 to 1 ½ year olds.  His mom, a teacher that I work, with approached me looking for help.  Her question: 

How can I change my child’s grasp?

Change your child's grasp

Harry’s preferred grasp was a palmar supinate, using the pinky side of his hand to control the movement of the crayon. This grasp was inefficient and immature for his age.  It also didn’t allow the small isolated movements of his fingers during writing and drawing activities.  Coloring and drawing is a significant source of the fine motor exercise a 4-year-old child should be getting.  So if the child isn’t using the right muscles for the activity, they are missing out on valuable strengthening time.


As you can see by the 2nd image above, Harry’s mom took my recommendations – and it WORKED!
I’m so excited to share my favorite trick to stop kids from using too many fingers AND 2 magical crayons to use.  But here’s why these tricks are important for parents and teachers to know.

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A Valentine’s Day Motor Monday: Super Simple Hand Strengthening

I have a confession: I love the Dollar Store.  I just do.

The problem is that it’s impossible to leave without a few extra things.

BUT – that’s how I ended up with my latest and greatest Valentine’s Motor Centers.  

I swear I just went in there for a couple of birthday cards, but when I saw the “seasonal section” filled with Valentine’s Goodies, I couldn’t resist.

These adorable pink and red Valentine’s Day “table scatter” hearts were the perfect size for little hands to work on grasping.  I just started adding to my basket.  


Why resist?  It’s for the children!

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A Quick & Easy Shoe-Tying Trick

A QUick & EAsy SHoe Tying Trick

Today’s Idea: Use two different color pipe cleaners taped to a table to teach your child how to tie a bow.

I’ve taught hundreds of children how to tie. One of the most difficult and frustrating things about tying is that children have to keep both hands on the laces at all times, or the laces will “flop” and you lose your “bow” or “loop”, etc. With pipe cleaners, the loops stay in position, even if the child takes their hands away. This helps them to see what the laces should look like, and makes it less frustrating.



Shoe tying trick Dressing



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