core strength

How To Support Your Child’s Core Strength Development Every Day

Back in the olden days, my parents had to walk to school 2 miles each way. Barefoot. Uphill. And they had to walk home for lunch, too.   Motor skill development wasn’t such a problem back then.

As a child, I never questioned how it was possible that it was uphill both ways, but now I get the feeling they may have been exaggerating.  Just a bit.

In today’s day and age, kids hardly ever walk to school.  Or anywhere, for that matter.  Even the ones who live down the block get dropped off by parents on their way to work.  I can see how this is easier during the morning rush and safer than letting your child wander the streets alone.  But kids need exercise.  And the truth is, there are easy ways to make sure you are supporting your child’s health and gross motor skill development every single day. Continue reading

Promoting Fine Motor Skills on the Playground



“Promoting  fine motor skills at the playground”  is part of a year-long blog hop called Functional Skills for Kids.  Each month, I will be working with other pediatric OTs and PTs to post on different developmental topics that impact functional skills for kids. I’m so honored to be working with some amazing pediatric bloggers to bring you a well-rounded blog hop that will ultimately result in a BOOK!

This series will be a wonderful resource for parents, teachers, and therapists to learn about all the different activities a child performs each day.  Every month, each therapist will discuss different aspects of functional skills.  Each childhood function will be broken down into developmental timelines, fine motor considerations, gross motor considerations, sensory considerations, visual perceptual considerations, accommodations and modifications, activity ideas, and more.

This month’s topic in the  “Functional Skills for Kids” blog hop is the Playground, so check out the landing page for the rest of our posts and information on all things related!


*This post contains affiliate links

Promoting Fine Motor Skills at the Playground

Occupational therapists who work with young children have an in-depth understanding of the skills a child needs to interact with their environment on a daily basis. A child needs to be able to negotiate their home, school, and playground (Henderson &  Pehoski, 1995).   Playing at the local playground is a wonderful way to help your child improve their physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development (Fisher, 1992).    Typical playground equipment such as swings, monkey bars, and slides can help a child to develop sensory processing skills, motor planning, problem-solving, balance, as well as hand strength.   As children interact with their environment, they learn how to make sense of the world around them (AOTA, 2012). The playground is a great place to start!

Continue reading

Holiday toys from an OT

Holiday Toys Recommended by an OT

Holiday Toy Shopping is around the corner!

The holidays can be very overwhelming.  Shopping for kids who seem to already have everything can be very overwhelming too!  As an OT, I have some favorite tried and true toys and  games that address many educational and developmental issues. I’ve decided to make a short list for all the families out there who want to buy toys  that are fun but meaningful.  Toys that address motor skills, visual perceptual skills, and reading and math are always a great buy, because you are supplying some fun while also working on foundational skills that will also support their classroom leaning.

*This post contains Affiliate Links*

Toys and Games that promote Spelling, Reading and Language Development

Boggle 3-Minute Word Game  Boggle Junior Game




 Scrabble Classic  Scrabble Junior Game


 Taboo Board Game


Toys and Games that promote Math Skills

Monopoly (80th Anniversary Version) Froggy Feeding Fun


 Yahtzee  Sumoku


Toys and Games that promote Problem Solving

 Rush Hour Jr   Rush Hour


 Wood Labyrinth  Junior Labyrinth


 Classic Dominoes  Battleship


 Guess Who?   Clue

Toys and Games that promote Eye-hand Coordination & Using Two Hands

How to Draw Books

 How to Draw Cool Stuff  How to Draw Animals  How to Draw People

Connecting & Bilateral Toys

  K’NEX Building Set   B. Pop-Arty Beapop beads  Squigz Starter 24 piece set


 Magformers   MagWorld Magnetic Tile   LEGO Classic


 Spirograph Deluxe Design Set  Beados Gems Design Studio

 Creativity For Kids Quick Knit Loom  Knot-A-Quilt No Sew Craft Kit  Kids Scrapbooking Kit
  Friendship Bracelet Maker Kit  Do-it-Yourself Jewelry


Toys and Games that promote Hand Strength and Dexterity

  B. Pop-Arty Beads  Play-Doh Fun Factory Play Doh Fuzzy Pet Salon


 Finger Puppets  Poppin Peepers Cow  Play-Doh Scare Chair Playset
  Tricky Fingers   Lite Brite Magic Screen  Helping Hands Fine Motor Tools

 Toys For Sensory Kids


 Classic Bean Bag Chair  Body Sox Sensory Bag  Fold & Go Trampoline  Kinetic Sand 

 Rocking Hammock   Indoor/Outdoor Hammock   Jump-O-Lene Bouncer
 Sunny Tunnel  Castle Play Tent 


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Happy Holidays From Miss Jaime, O.T.




Resistance band, Handee band, strengthening games

Easy Classroom Strengthening Games

Strengthening is easy to include at school

One of my favorite exercises to do with both adults and kids is resistance band. There are dozens of ways to use resistance band to improve strength, balance, posture, and coordination. One problem that I often encounter with children is that they can’t figure out where to put their hands during the exercises.  Even if I start them off in the right spot, their hands slip too far down for correct positioning.  So I was thrilled to find the Handee Band, a yellow resistance band with two hand prints in the perfect spot for little hands.



The stand-up easel book is easy to flip and utilize for kids, teachers, and parents!

An easy “Brain Break” and it strengthens, too!

I discovered the Handee Band at the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) conference Expo.  I was excited about the hand prints on the band, but I was even more  psyched about the Handee Band booklet with exercises, stickers, and checklist for the kids to check off what exercises they’ve done.  It’s so easy to use and it’s perfect for a quick brain break, warm-up, or transition activity.  Kids love to move, and the Handee Band flip book and resistance band is a fun easy activity that a teacher can use throughout the day.  Teachers often ask me for ideas or materials for kids that “can’t sit” during circle time, etc.  I am definitely adding the Handee Band to my bag of tricks.

The checklist is dry-erase, making it easy to use to track the whole class or an individual child. Just erase and use again next time!

resistive band exercises, handeeband flip book

Each monster features a different exercise, making it fun and easy to perform each activity.

My mind immediately started spinning about all the games and activities I could create for my classroom push-ins.  In the past, I’ve also created homework programs so that the parents of my kids could work on strengthening and fine motor skills at home.  The parents and the kids have always responded really well. Of course, I started brainstorming right then and there about the homework program I could create with the Handee Band.

This is a sponsored post, which means that I was provided with materials in order to write this post and put all my ideas into play. However, all of the opinions and ideas expressed in this post are mine and mine alone.  For more info, read my disclaimer.

motor homework program, Handee band

The flipbook includes an easy zip-up bag to hold the resistance band and dry erase marker. Easy to store and easy to transport!


About the Handee Band:  The Handee Band exercise kit was created by an Occupational Therapist named Francesca Avalli.  The booklet explains 15 different exercises, each with its own cartoon monster.  Each page lists the name of the exercise with simple, easy-to-read directions to ensure that teachers and parents are helping their students to perform the exercises correctly. The booklet is a stand up easel which makes it is easy for kids to flip over the pages.  It also has two checkoff pages in the back, so kids can visually track and match the monsters with the days of the week.  The checkoff and dry erase marker are perfect for keeping track of how many reps of each exercise the child performed.  I also find that when kids are figuring out how to do the exercises with the bands, they are working on their  motor planning skills and their ability to follow directions.

Handee band classroom games

Using the Handee Band for  Classroom Strengthening Games:

The Handee Band exercise kit works great all by itself. It’s easy for a parent, teacher, or therapist to use the book or the E-book.  Extra bands are available for separate purchase  for as little as $5 so that there is enough for each child.  Once I bought the Handee Band, I started using it right away.  However, I am a little crazy that I like to change things up and give the kids “something different” when I push-in.  The stickers in the Handee Band booklet are perfect for creating classroom games and activities.  The Handee Band is also available in 5 or 10 packs, which is perfect for working in groups or with a class.  You can buy extra stickers, too. They’re my favorite! So here are some of the games I  came up with…

The kit includes a flip book with different exercises, a "Handee Band", and a dry erase checkoff sheet and marker.

Get 15% off until May 31st, 2018

Use the Promo Code: MISSJAIMEOT

1) Handee Band Memory 

I love to combine gross motor exercise with visual perceptual skills.  Memory is a classic game that can be played individually or with a small group.  I  decided to create a “Handee Band” Memory game using the Handee Band Monster stickers.  Each Monster has a Character name under his picture.  I decided to adapt the game by having one version with the picture of the monster on one card  and the name of the character on the other card.  This was perfect for my 3rd grade self contained class.  I made a simpler, more classic version for my self contained Kindergarten class.  Both versions were a hit! And, after I played the game with the kids a few times, they grew familiar with which exercise each Monster represented.  I was able to leave the game and the Handee Bands for the teachers to use as a warm up or a sensory break.

Classroom strengthening OT

Instructions:  Like the classic memory game, with a twist.  A child attempts to find two cards that match.  When any child in the group makes a match, ALL the children do the exercise that Monster represents. After the class does a set of ten, the kids get back to the next turn.

2) Handee Band Dice

Handee band dice game

My students love to play gross motor games using dice. I’ve adapted these dice from the Dollar Tree for other gross motor games in the past. So I thought, “Why not Handee Band Dice?”  Again, I used the stickers to create a simple easy game to play during class Occupational Therapy sessions.  The kids had a blast!  I was able to leave the Dice game for the teacher to use with the kids as a reward, as a sensory break, or as a quick warm up.

Instructions:  The children stand at their desks or in a circle on the rug, each with their own Handee Band.  One child picks a die and rolls it.  Whatever “Monster” the die lands on, everyone does a set of ten for that exercise.

3) Handee Band Spinner   

Handee Band Spinner

Every kid loves a Spinner!  Flicking a spinner is hard work; requiring separation of the two sides of the hand (pinky side  and  thumb side), motor planning, and dexterity.  But even when a child can’t flick a spinner, they can still swipe or hit it.  For this game, the children take turns flicking the spinner. When the spinner lands on a certain monster, the kids grab their Handee Bands and do that exercise ten times.  As the children grow stronger, the repetitions can be increased.

The rules are simple:  The children take turns flicking the spinner. Whatever “monster” the spinner lands on, the whole class does that exercise.  Then the next kid gets a turn.

4) Handee Band Class Checkoff

Handeeband checkoff, OT homework

This magnetic dry erase board is perfect to stick right on the teacher’s desk!

I loved the Dry Erase Checklist in the back of the book so much that I decided to create a larger “class wide” version for the kids to use during the Handee Band classroom games.  I used the stickers to copy the chart in the back. Again, the checklists require visual tracking and matching skills, so the kids are working on visual perception as they keep track of their progress.  I just used a plain dry erase board .  I arranged the stickers on the board and made lines so that it could serve as a Class chart.

Resistive band, Handee band homework, OT chart

My favorite thing about the chart is that the kids can use it to track the number of exercises they did. It also works on math skills, because the kids need to add by ten each time they do another rep.  In a pinch or a rush, the teacher can keep track on the board while the kids keep working.  Either way, my students love having a “chart” to represent how hard they’ve worked.  When I made the chart, I made the lines with a sharpie (permanent marker), but I wrote the initials of my kids in dry erase.  This way, I can use it over and over for years to come!

handeeband, resistive exercises for kids

The E-Book comes with a downloadable checklist, perfect for keeping track of hard work!

15% off UNtil MAY 31st, 2018!

Use the Promo Code: MISSJAIMEOT

Using the Handee Band for a Homework Program:

Resistive exercise band

Kids love to show off to their parents and caregivers, but they love to show off to their friends even more!  Once the kids understand how to do each exercise, the Handee Band Kit is perfect to send home as “OT Homework”.  I have put together homework programs for my classes before in an effort to ensure carry-over into my student’s homes.  Most parents love an easy fun way to help their children grow stronger.  The Handee Band Exercise Kit is the perfect lightweight homework that kids can take turns bringing home.  OT’s and teachers can make an “O.T. Homework Chart” to keep track of whose turn it is to take the Handee Band Kit home.  My kids love to come in in the morning and put their sticker next to their name to show that they did their “O.T. Homework”.  I always include a letter to the parents explaining why the students have “O.T. homework”  and why carry-over is an important part of progress.

Strengthening Homework! What a great idea!

Handeeband homework


Get 15% off until May 31st with the promo code: MISSJAIMEOT

Handee Band: Resistive Band Exercises for Kids *The Handee Band kit and E-Book are available for purchase at    You can also purchase individual or class packs of the bands and extra stickers.  It’s perfect for home or the classroom!

Get 15% off till May 31st, 2018!

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long island hippotherapy and therapuetic riding

Long Island Links: Therapeutic Horseback Riding and Hippotherapy

One of my favorite things about Occupational Therapy is that there are no limits to how you can help a patient achieve their goals.  It depends on what the patient wants to achieve and what they are interested in.  You can use activities like gardening, scrapbooking or crocheting to work on motor skills. You can use yoga, dance, or karate to work on strength and coordination.  The list goes on.  One of the coolest ways to help a patient achieve their goals is on horseback.

There are a number of places right here in Long Island that offer Hippotherapy and Therapeutic Riding.  When I learned that a PT friend of mine does therapeutic riding lessons on the side, I just had to go see what it was all about.  And of course, I loved it!

Hippotherapy vs. Therapeutic Riding

So here is what I learned:

Hippotherapy is different than “therapeutic riding”.  The American Hippotherapy Association defines Hippotherapy as  a physical,  occupational, or speech and language therapy treatment strategy using a horse.   A horse is incorporated into the treatment to “engage the sensori-motor and neuromotor systems to create a functional change in their patient” (

So basically, a therapist takes their treatment goals and uses the movements of a horse (rather than a swing, scooter, etc.) to facilitate the achievement of that goal.  From an OT’s perspective, let’s say I wanted to work on visual perceptual skills, teaching left and right and reaching across midline.  I could set up puzzle pieces on both sides of my patient (and the horse) and have them reach across midline following my directions to get a piece from the left or right and then walk the horse forward to where the puzzle is to insert the piece.  A physical therapist might use this same activity to work on postural control, balance or trunk rotation.  A speech therapist might use it to facilitate language in a patient.

Movement and vestibular input can be very calming and organizing. I have seen children who are almost non-verbal sing and say new words after swinging on a swing for a few movements.  The movements of a horse can have the same effect.


According to the American Hippotherapy Association (AHA), there are only about 7 certified Hippotherapists in the Long Island Area. A board certified Hippotherapist has earned the letters HPCS after their name, which stands for Hippotherapy Clinical Specialist.  Hippotherapists can be licensed physical therapists, occupational therapists, or speech and language pathologists who have been practicing their profession for at least three years.  They must have 100 hours of Hippotherapy practice within the three years prior to application. Application fees apply, and a multiple-choice examination must be passed.

“Hippotherapy is not a horseback riding lesson. It is therapy prescribed by a physician and delivered by a team that includes a licensed, credentialed therapist (occupational therapist, physical therapist, or speech-language pathologist), a professional horse handler, and a specially screened and trained therapy horse. There is direct hands-on participation by the therapist at all times. The horse‘s movement is essential to assist in meeting therapy goals.” (Apel, 2007). 

Therapeutic Riding:

There are also many PATH certified therapeutic riding instructors all through the Long Island area.  The “PATH” organization stands for Professional Association Therapeutic Horsemanship.  PATH offers three levels of certification for therapeutic riding instructors: Registered, Advanced and Master. The requirements for each level include skills in Equine Management, Horsemanship, Instruction, Teaching Methodology, and Disabilities.  Instructors who are “PATH” certified have completed online coursework, self-study exams, and 25 mentored hours with a PATH Intl. Certified Riding Professional instruction as well as an on-site workshop and certification.  (

“Therapeutic riding is recreational horseback riding lessons adapted to individuals with disabilities. It is completed by a professional horseback riding instructor in conjunction with volunteers.” (Apel, 2007)  “Recreational riding is used to enhance the quality of life through physical and emotional stimulation while the client learns horsemanship skills.” (Meyer, 2006).

Observing Therapeutic Horseback Riding

I observed two therapeutic riding lessons at MyShine in Old Bethpage, Long Island

One of the things that struck me right away was the staff to child ratio.  There were three staff members assisting the child and even more watching from outside the rail.   I was so honored to meet a teenager named Caroline and her mom.  She is diagnosed with Autism and Seizure Disorder.   Her mom brings her every week for her half-hour lesson and watches from the rail as Caroline mounts the horse with help, walks around the course, and practices making the horse stop, go, and turn. My friend Stephanie (PT) taught the session.  I could see how Caroline had to use the muscles in her legs to give the “signals” and the muscles in her arms to manage the reins and make the turns.  The staff worked with her on spatial concepts very naturally, with directions such as “go between the cones”, “turn around” and “make a left”, which was Caroline’s favorite.  Caroline seemed happy and proud to be on the horse, even though she’s been doing it for years.  She had trouble focusing and following the directions at times, but the staff was amazing about redirecting her.  They had such a great rapport; it was easy to see.  Caroline went up into the woods on a trail with the staff, which was relaxing even to me who followed on foot.  The environment of being outside on a beautiful sunny day, walking on a trail through the trees was very peaceful after a crazy day. I can totally understand how this activity can reduce stress and anxiety for anyone!


Stephanie’s mom, Mary, taught the next session.  I had the opportunity to meet with a teenager named Gina and her dad.   Gina is a fifteen-year-old who has been attending either hippotherapy or therapeutic riding since she was 3 years old.  She is diagnosed with Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome (SLO).  Gina is non-ambulatory and has very high tone in her legs, so she rides without a saddle.  Stephanie told me that the tone of her legs improves when she rides.  Gina has decreased strength throughout her body, so riding is a great workout for her.  Stephanie explained to me that hippotherapy is usually done bareback, while therapeutic riding is usually with a saddle. However,  Mary uses a bareback pad with Gina even though it’s therapeutic riding because that is what Gina needs.   Mary and the staff supported Gina from all sides as she went up on the trail.  One of my favorite moments was when one of the staff members put on a Justin Beiber video on their phone for her.  The way her eyes lit up and the burst of giggles that came out of her mouth was so endearing. What a typical teenage girl!   It was interesting to see how the staff placed Gina’s legs so that she was sitting “traditional style” with her legs on either side of the horse, then with both legs on one side in a “side-sitting” position, then backwards, then side-sitting on the other side, and finally back to facing front.  Stephanie explained that this is called “around the world”, and it is Gina’s favorite thing to do.


Gina’s mom told me that she learned about hippotherapy from Gina’s Early Intervention PT. It was difficult to find a program for her at such a young age, but Gina’s mom was very motivated by the research and documentation she found. Her first session on a horse was at the age of 3.  It was with an experienced rider and the instructor sat in the horse with Gina and they rode together.  Gina’s mom reported that Gina finds it very relaxing and when she was young she would often fall asleep (thumb in mouth) and out like a light on the horse. Over the years, Gina has participated in both hippotherapy and therapeutic riding with a PT, and an OT.  They reported that they saw the biggest changes when they started at MY Shine.  She began holding the reins (not mouthing her hands or her shirt) and becoming thoroughly engaged!  Gina’s mom also reported that they see increased trunk control, better posture, maintaining contractors in her legs (which is preventing surgery), and decreased mouthing her hands (which is a constant challenge). Overall, Gina is a happy girl when she is on a horse!


 The benefits of horseback riding

There are many benefits to horseback riding for people of all ages; both with and without disabilities.  Horseback riding can help to improve speech and language, sensory processing, and muscle tone and strength.  It addresses balance, motor coordination, and reflexes.  Horseback riding can be used to address cognitive and mental health goals as well.  There is a lot of research about how animals can facilitate progress in children and adults with physical, cognitive, social, psychiatric, and developmental disabilities.  Articles report increased socialization, improved mood, decreased anxiety, and improved communication (both verbal and non-verbal) when animals or pets are incorporated into a patient’s therapy or care (Rosetti & King, 2010).

 Hippotherapy and Therapeutic Riding Resources

“American Hippotherapy Association, Inc.” American Hippotherapy Association Inc. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 June 2015. <>.

Apel, L. (2007, 06). Hippotherapy and therapeutic riding highlight! The Exceptional Parent, 37, 28-34. Retrieved from

Meyer, G. E. (2006). Special needs, special horses: A guide to the benefits of therapeutic riding. Physical Therapy, 86(4), 596-598. Retrieved from
Rossetti, Jeanette,EdD., R.N., & King, Camille, MS,R.N., P.M.H.C.N.S.-B.C. (2010). Use of animal-assisted therapy with psychiatric patients. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing & Mental Health Services, 48(11), 44-48. doi:

 Long Island facilities that offer Hippotherapy or Therapeutic Riding:

HorseAbility Center for Equine Facilitated Programs

Horse Riding School
223 Store Hill Rd
Old Westbury, NY 11568

*HorseAbility offers both Hippotherapy and Therapeutic Riding, as well as many other equine assisted activities.  Click the link for more information.

Great Strides Long Island, Inc. 

Saddle Rock Ranch
41 Coram-Swezeytown Road
Middle Island, NY  11953

*Great Strides believes in the benefits of equine assisted activities for everyone – children, adults, and veterans of all abilities.  Great Strides is currently running a recreational therapeutic riding program using PATH certified instructors.  They also offer programs to veterans free of charge.  Click the link for more information.

Pal-O-Mine Equestrian, Inc. 

829 Old Nichols Road
Islandia, NY 11749

* Pal-O-Mine offers hippotherapy, therapeutic riding and other equine assisted activities.  Click the link for more information.

SPeech IN Motion

Speech Language Pathology in Motion has been offering Hippotherapy as a speech therapy treatment strategy for over 5 years. They are the only place on long island set up as a therapy practice.

Locations in Islandia and Hauppauge, NY
ph: (631) 479-3393 Ext. 3
fax: (631) 479-3358
alt: (516) 395-8610


Center for Therapeutic Riding of the East End  (Ctreeny)

Wolffer Estate Stables
41 Narrow Lane East
Sagaponack, NY 11962


*Ctreeny offers therapeutic riding lessons from “PATH” certified instructors.  They do not accept insurance, but they do offer scholarships.  Riders start with core balancing riding at age 3 and there is no limit on older ages.   Riders must have good sitting balance and our restrictions are listed on our new rider paperwork.

IRIE Therapeutic Horseback Riding

Union Standardbred Farm
937 Reeves Ave.
(631) 871-1916

Disclaimer: Part of my goal in developing this blog is to offer resources to families in my community of Long Island, NY. Miss Jaime OT is not employed by or associated with the above organizations.  These organizations were contacted for permission to be included on this blog post.  If you have information about another resource in Long Island that should be added, please let me know.

For more information about Hippotherapy, click here.

For more information about “PATH” click here.


Happy Riding!


~Miss Jaime, O.T.


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literacy and motor skills, Miss Jaime OT

Incorporating Motor skills into Literacy centers

BLOGhoplogofrogI’m so excited to be participating in my first blog hop, courtesy of Speech and Language Literacy Lab.  In an effort to promote Better Hearing and Speech Month, SL3 has gathered over 30 professionals in the educational field  to offer their expertise on RTI in the school setting.   Today I will be blogging about the importance of incorporating motor skills into literacy centers for children.  Common Core standards have increased the expectations we are placing on our little ones.  As an Occupational Therapist, one of my concerns is that the children are still given opportunities to use and develop their motor skills throughout a typical school day. Over the past few years,   I am finding that children’s motor skills are decreasing, rather than improving.  So what can we do?  Tons of things!  There are so many ways to incorporate movement into reading and literacy lessons.  Why not work on two skills at once?

What is RTI, anyway?

RTI stands for “Response to Intervention”.  Response to Intervention (RTI) is a framework used by teachers to help children who are struggling.  For example, a first grade student is behind his peers in reading.  The teacher will use his test scores or other strategies to provide targeted interventions to address that deficit.  What does that mean?  It means the teacher will determine where the child’s weakness is, and then provide specific strategies and lessons geared to helping that child improve on that skill.  If the interventions don’t work, the teacher will provide more focused interventions.   RTI is a 3 tiered process.  It allows a general education student to get the help they need before falling significantly behind.  It is designed to be pro-active in helping children to catch up to their peers.  For more information on RTI, check out this link.

Anyway, RTI is here to stay and it’s a great way for teachers and parents to keep track of their student’s success.  RTI strategies can be used for learning, behavior, and even motor skills. One of my best ideas (in my opinion!) over the past two years was to create “motor boxes” in my classrooms.  I collected shoe boxes from all the teachers in my building and then had a blast building activities that incorporated both motor and literacy skills. The boxes were  designed for each child’s special learning needs.  I admit it took a while, because I created the boxes based on each child’s individual needs.  However, the idea behind the boxes is perfect to use from an RTI perspective!  So I am going to share the ideas/boxes that I created for my classrooms in hopes that parents, teachers, OT’s and Speech and Language Pathologists will create similar activities to use with all of their students, too!

My teachers have given me great feedback on the boxes. They told me that the “motor boxes” are great for independent working time. This allows the teacher to pull children in small groups while other children work independently at their desks on the motor and literacy skill in their box.  From an RTI perspective, a teacher could create multiple boxes so the children can take turns using them, working on different skills.  I found it very helpful to create a “star chart”. I numbered each box. Then I put the children’s names and the box number on the chart.  After a child finished the task in the box, they were excited to go over to the chart, find their name and put a star in the column of the number box they did.  This also eliminated a different problem.  Kids were avoiding the “difficult” boxes!  Now we had a way to ensure that each child worked on all the different skills we planned.

The first thing I did was to ask my teachers for a list of the skills they wanted to work on as well as the sight words they would be teaching this year.  Then I used the information to create each box to be a little different.  As I said, the children were all at different levels, so I had to make the boxes hard enough to be challenge, but easy enough to succeed:  “The just right challenge”.

As we all know, school materials can be expensive!  I recycled a lot of things and then used Dollar Store materials to supplement where I needed to.  Here were some of the activities that I came up with.

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So this was an easy one.  The Dollar Tree sells sight word flashcards in different grade levels.  For a Dollar, you get a whole stack of words of different levels of difficulty.  I separated the words into two piles and put the “difficult” ones away for the second half of the year.   I love clothespins to work on grip and hand strength.  Again, the Dollar store always has them.  I took a sharpie and wrote the letters of the alphabet (a different letter on each side) on the top of the clothespin.  I did extra clothespins for vowels and popular letters like s and t.  And that was it!  The kids are now reviewing grade level sight words, much like flash cards. Plus, they are working on bilateral coordination to hold the clothespin and the card at the same time. They are increasing their hand strength (particularly their Pencil Grip muscles) to open and close the clothespins, too!   This box also incorporates Visual Figure Ground – the ability to find what you are looking for in a busy background.  Many times the kids will say, “I can’t find an A!” even when it was right in front of them.  They had to track and scan through the pile to find what they needed.  This is just like looking all through the fridge to find the milk (that is right in front) or looking through your crayon box to find the black (even though it’s right on top).

This activity could also be adapted to be a vocabulary lesson.  Use index cards with definitions and write the word on the clothespin. Children have to find the correct definition and pin it onto the matching card. The possibilities are endless!

 Craft Sticks

sight words

I had a million craft sticks that were donated to me by a retiring teacher.  I wanted to use them up but wasn’t sure how to get a motor skill out of simple craft sticks.   I used the vocabulary list from my teachers to make cards again.  Then, I used a box cutter to make little slices in the top of a shoe box.  It’s better if the shoe box isn’t too high, so the sticks don’t fall through. BUT!  I did have one box that was too big, and the kids learned that they had to modulate the amount of force they used when putting the sight word in the hole so it wouldn’t fall through.  This is a great skill for kids who press too hard on their pencil and squeeze too hard on the glue.  I also like that the children had to put the stick in the correct slot.  It helped to build their awareness of left to right fluency and also spacing.  You can’t just put any letter anywhere or the word won’t be correct.


spice container


This activity was designed for some of my preschool students who are having difficulty sorting by color.  The children actually had good fine motor skills for their age, so I used these tiny “Perler” beads to keep the “just right challenge”.  They had to discriminate through the beads to find the proper colors in order to put them in the right hole.  I used loose-leaf reinforcers and magic markers to mark the colors with an empty spice container.  Sorting and categorizing is a math skill, but they are also language based skills that  a child needs in order to develop good literacy.


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I bought these “ABC” beads and this floral wire at you guessed it, the Dollar store!  I cut the wire into different lengths so I could use them for different boxes. One of the teachers had sent me her “words to know” from the Journey’s program (aka sight words) via email in a label template.  So I printed them out, stuck them on index cards and done!  I should mention that I always print out the directions and paste them inside the box. This way I can make sure the teacher or teachers aide knows exactly what I want the kids to do.  I also go through each box with the kids when I present them, to explain what they need to do.  The tricky thing with this center was that the kids would pick a card and then find the right beads. But they had to WAIT to put them on the wire until they found all the letters.  Otherwise their word would end up backwards.     In my directions I explained to the kids that they had to find the beads, put them in order, then string them (last letter first).  They had to put a plain colored bead in between the words to represent a space.  Then, they had to write the 5 words on loose leaf.  This center reinforced left to right directionality, spelling, writing, and recognizing sight words.  It also worked on using a pincer grasp to pick up the small bead, using bilateral skills to hold the wire and get the bead on, and left to right tracking to line the beads up properly.  Don’t forget Visual Perceptual skills to find the bead they needed and to recognize the letter whether it was upside down or turned sideways.



I had some Linking cubes  that I hardly ever used.  You could also use Legos or Mega Block if you have them.  I used the same pack of Dollar Store sight words and I used a Sharpie to write the letters on the blocks.  I suggest putting all your cubes together before you write the letter so they are all facing the right way.  I made a few long towers and then wrote all the letters, extra vowels, and popular letters.  Then I flipped the cubes over, and wrote more letters on the back. This way the kids had double the letters with half the blocks.  I also included some fun pencils in the box so the kids could practice writing the words. Kids love anything novel.   The kind of pencils where you can pull the top off and stick them in the back are always a hit! Plus they work on bilateral skills and pincer strength!


hand-245230_1280Arches in the hand









I love to use dice with children in any way I can.  The first thing that most teachers don’t realize is that children don’t actually “roll” the dice. That is because they really haven’t developed the arches in their hands yet.  You need arches in your hand in order to make a “cup” so the dice don’t fall out.  There was a cute pin on Pinterest of dice in a clear Tupperware.  It’s kind of like the “popper” from the game Trouble.  I think it’s a great idea because children can shake the Tupperware and the dice don’t go flying…. BUT, I would rather deal with the flying dice so that children can learn to use the arches in their hands to hold things (including dice) without them falling out of their hands.  I feel the same way about glue sticks – Ok, so there is no mess, but there is also hardly any work involved.  Kids need to squeeze, turn the cap, and learn when to Stop squeezing.  They benefit way more from real glue.  But I digress!

It is easy to think of  ways to use dice for math, but for literacy?   There are still a lot of ways to use dice.  I have seen “Roll A Sight Word” sheets in many classrooms.  You can use my free  BINGO template for this purpose, too. You can use the concept with any subject.  It’s simple to assign each number a word or even a definition for older kids.   An example: a Kindergarten student is practicing simple sight words.  The teacher has a simple work sheet with a “key”.

  • Roll a one:  he
  • Roll a two:  she
  • Roll a three: they
  • Roll a four: it
  • Roll a five:  the
  • Roll  a six: and

The child rolls the die and then colors in a box with the word in it or writes the word in the box.  The child is using future  math skills (probability, graphing) with current math skills (counting, number recognition) as well as literacy skills, recognizing the number, matching it to the word, remembering that the number two is code for “she”. They are also using motor skills to build the arches in their hands to hold the die and “roll” it, rather than drop it or throw it. (They often need to be shown this).  Then, they are working on pencil or crayon grip and fine motor skills to write or color.  That’s a lot of things accomplished with a die activity.  The activity can be adapted to fit any teacher’s needs.

Let’s think about the same activity  for a fourth grade teacher.  She can use it to work on social studies definitions and vocabulary.  Fourth graders often study in class by copying definitions from the textbook or from the board, doing fill in the blank sheets, or multiple choice questions.  Here is way to make it a bit more fun AND work on those hand muscles.

  • Roll a one:  Definition of longitude
  • Roll a two:  Definition of latitude
  • Roll a three: Definition of equator
  • Roll a four: Definition of plateau
  • Roll a five: Definition of peninsula
  • Roll  a six: Definition of plains

When the child rolls the die and reads the definition, they have to find the corresponding word on a sheet and color it in. Now the child is working on vocabulary and motor skills at once.  If you wanted to add another component, you could add an extra die, make more definitions, or have the kids write the word instead of color.  You could even have the kids write it in script.  The possibilities are really endless. You just need to think about your typical classroom and homework routine in a different way (aka involving motor skills).

Scissors skills

There is an easy way to incorporate scissors skill practice into literacy.  Cut till you get to the words you need!  Again, you can modify this concept any way you want.   Use it for letter or sight word recognition or to learn vocabulary.  Once you start thinking differently, you can adapt anything.   20150518_174000


“Start at the beginning and cut until you reach your sight word.  Try to stay on the line!   Tell me the sight word!?”

Novelty items

I’ve also made motor boxes to help kids learn their word families.  I’ve used plastic eggs and also other novelty items (like these eyeballs ) to make it fun.  You can write on anything with a Sharpie.  Twisting eggs takes fine motor and bilateral coordination as well as forearm rotation, which kids need in order to cut with scissors.  Scooping with these  great measuring spoons (Dollar Tree!) also works on forearm rotation and eye-hand coordination.

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These eggs end up sticking around all year long!  I made different eggs for each word family, with magnetic pieces to make up some of the words in that family.  Kids can use the whiteboard or an easel to make the different words, and then write them.

Bingo Chips

This simple boxed worksheet is the one resource that I use all the time (and hopefully you will too!)  Shown here is a simple spelling review activity for a second grade class.  Children were given  a handful of Bingo chips and told that they need to hold at least three in their hand.  When they hear the spelling word called, they have to use their fingers to manipulate the bingo chip to their thumb and pincer and then place it on the correct box (word).  Children try to compensate for decreased in-hand manipulation skills “dropping” the chip onto the board, or using their other hand to simply pick it up and place it in the right spot.  The purpose of this activity is to work on a skill called “translation”.  Translation is the ability to move an object from your palm to your fingertips.  Picture having your hands full and manipulating your ring of keys to get the right one into the door knob.  Or trying to get the quarter (when you have a handful of coins) into the slot of the vending machine.  This activity can even be used for high school students. Teachers can put definitions, vocabulary words, you name it in the boxes. I’v also used it to work on letter recognition in script and print.   And what child doesn’t like to win BINGO?  If you don’t have Bingo chips, change it up. Use coins, stamps, or even stickers.  Anything that the kids need to manipulate within their hand is good!


Click the link below for your FREE printable template that can be used and customized in a million ways.


Adapting the ideas for children who are significantly delayed

Everything can be adapted to be appropriate for children who are significantly delayed. Make the pieces bigger, make the directions more simple, etc.  I know that I am simplifying what can sometimes be a very difficult task. Modifying curriculum so it is still appropriate but still achievable can be a challenging task for any therapist/educator.  Simple adaptations such as using bigger pieces or using simpler directions can really help.  Here was one way that I adapted  the “bingo” idea.  I used checkers from a “Connect Four” game that had broken.  I put stickers on the face of the checkers and then used a sharpie to write letters and simple sight words.  I had the children pick up one checker at a time and place them on a simple sheet.  Some of the children were non-verbal, but they knew the letters.  Using the larger coins allowed them to work on their sight word or letter recognition, grasp and release, fine motor, and dexterity skills just like their peers.



What about Gross Motor Skills?

Here’s two ideas to incorporate gross motor skills into a small group lesson.

Balloon Play

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Playing with balloons is always fun.  A bag of balloons can cost $1 dollar for 12 balloons, so that’s a great bargain.   Balloon play helps a child with visual tracking, eye-and coordination, and crossing the midline.   It also addresses some sensory issues  for children who don’t like smells like latex or loud noises like popping.   You can use your imagination to come up with an activity that suits the needs of your class, but here is one that I like to do with small groups.  Give each kid a  balloon and a Sharpie.  You can incorporate music if you want to.  Play keep it up, where the kids have to keep their own balloon in the air until the music stops or the teacher says “freeze”.  The teacher then says a sight word, a definition, or a category.  The children use their Sharpie to write the answer or the word on the balloon.  The teacher is incorporating the lesson and literacy activity at hand with the motor skills involved in balloon play.  This allows the children to showcase and build their knowledge while still getting some active juices flowing.  I’ve played this with my students outside and inside.  I found that playing inside made the kids negotiate the obstacles (desks, cubbies, etc) in the classroom. Playing outside let them breathe fresh air, play in natural light and run.  Sometimes the balloons pop if they hit the grass, though.  You can prevent that by tying a string around the balloon and the child’s wrist.  Now its more like a paddle balloon.  Whatever!  It still works on all the skills I’ve mentioned….

Bean Bags


In my OT/PT room at school, I had a tic tac toe board that I barely ever used. I decided to use it a different way by having my students work on their word families.  I set up the tic tac toe board right by the Smartboard.  The kids lined up excitedly to throw a bean bag at whatever square they could.  When they hit a word ending, they had to tell me  a word from that word family and then write the word on the board.  I pulled up lined paper on the board so the kids could also practice writing their letters on the lines with proper spacing.  The kids thought they were “having a break”, but we were also able to target a literacy skill that they needed help with.

Using Motor in RTI

Teachers can incorporate these motor skills into their classroom lessons or reading groups at any Tier in the RTI process.  Tier One is a general intervention to be used  with all students.  Teachers can and should incorporate motor activities into their lessons as a general practice.   Tier Two instruction targets 5 to 10% of the students who are not making adequate progress in the core curriculum.  Targeted instruction is provided based on the students needs and rates of progress.  Motor activities can easily be incorporated into small group instruction.  Teachers can find simple ways to include movement and motor skill activities with the reading and literacy activities they are focusing on for Tier Two interventions.  Tier Three  provides Intensive Instruction on top of regular core instruction to 1 to 5% of children who aren’t responding to interventions.  As the teachers monitor the progress of the children and determine what interventions to put in place,  motor skills are being addressed and monitored as well.

Look at the whole child

Literacy is of utmost importance.  Teachers are being evaluated based on their student’s reading scores and levels of success.  Common Core has increased the demands of the curriculum so that Kindergartners are doing what used to  be done in the First grade.  As an OT, I am amazed and impressed with what our children are able to absorb and learn.  But it is still so important that they have a chance to develop their motor skills.  Any movement activity that can be incorporated into a literacy or reading lesson should be. We as educators and parents need to remember to look at the whole child.

And remember:

1) Reading is really important, but there are many other skills that help a child to read well.  Visual tracking, language, letter recognition, and postural control are just a few.

2)  Kids need to move!  Movement helps them to maintain an engaged state of mind so they can focus.  It lets them get their wiggles out.  They are still kids!  Research shows that when kids move as part of learning they process information better and the learning stays with them for longer periods of time (Jensen, 2001).

3)  What about writing?    Yes, we know that technology is taking over the world and even little kids can text.  That doesn’t take away the fact that they still need to learn how to write properly.  Using a pencil to write helps them to use all of those little muscles in their hands that they need in order to live life.  To open a bottle of water, to zip their own coat, to sharpen a pencil, to use a fork and knife….the list goes on.  Writing in itself is a fine motor skill, and so is coloring!  It drives me nuts when teachers tell me they aren’t supposed to color anymore.  What?!

4) Coloring IS meaningful and purposeful for children of all ages.  It is exercise.  Teachers who incorporate coloring and drawing into their lessons are building fine motor strength as well as helping children to create memories associated with pictures or words.  The association of pictures with words or vocabulary can help solidify a child’s learning.

5) Don’t forget your  BINGO FREEBIE!  I hope you come up with a million ways to use this simple sheet.


Jensen, E. (2001).  Arts with the brain in mind.  Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


I really hope that my “Motor boxes” have inspired you to to start creating!  What motor centers did you create for your students? As always please feel free to comment! I love to hear from readers!

~ Miss Jaime, OT


Check out the rest of the posts on the blog hop!  There are tons of free resources available.

The Schedule:

5/1/2015 Kick Off to Better Hearing Month

5/2/2015 RTI for the R sound! Badger State Speechy

5/3/2015 Response to Intervention in High School– A Journey from Abject Frustration to Collaboration and Student Success Stephen Charlton Guest blogs on Speech Language Literacy Lab

5/4/2015 Technology and RTI  Building Successful Lives Speech & Language

5/5/2015 Motor Groups and RTI Starfish Therapies

5/6/2015 Orton Gillingham Approach & RTI  Orton Gillingham Online Academy

5/7/2015 Evidenced-based writing that works for RTI & SPED SQWrite

5/8/2015 RTI/MTSS/SBLT…OMG!  Let’s Talk! with Whitneyslp

5/9/2015 RtI, but why?  Attitudes are everything!  Crazy Speech World

5/10/2015 Who Knew RTI Could be So Much Fun? (Artic RTI)    Consonantly Speaking

5/11/2015 Universal benchmarking for language to guide the RTI process in Pre-K and Kindergarten     Speech Language Literacy Lab

5/12/2015 Movement Breaks in the Classroom (Brain Breaks)   Your Therapy Source

5/13/2015 How to Write a Social Story   Blue Mango LLC

5/14/2015 Some Ideas on Objective Language Therapy    Language Fix

5/15/2015 Assistive Technology in the Classroom  OTMommy Needs Her Coffee

5/16/2015 Effective Tiered Early Literacy Instruction for Spanish-Speakers Bilingual Solutions Guest blog on Speech Language Literacy Lab

5/17/2015 Helping with Attention and Focus in the Classroom   The Pocket OT

5/18/2015 Vocabulary Instruction  Smart Speech Therapy, LLC

5/19/2015 An SLP’s Role in RtI: My Story Communication Station: Speech Therapy, PLLC

5/20/2015 Incorporating Motor Skills into Literacy Centers   MissJaimeOT

5/21/2015 The QUAD Profile: A Language Checklist  The Speech Dudes

5/22/2015 Resources on Culturally Relevant Interventions  Tier 1 Educational Coaching and Consulting

5/23/2015 Language Goals Galore: Converting Real Pictures to Coloring Pages  Really Color guest blog on Speech Language Literacy Lab

5/24/2015 Lesson Pix: The Newest Must-Have Resource in your Tx Toolbox Speech Language Literacy Lab

5/25/2015 AAC & core vocabulary instruction Kidz Learn Language

5/26/2015 An RtI Alternative Old School Speech

5/27/2015 Intensive Service Delivery Model for Pre-Schoolers   Speech Sprouts

5/28/2015 RTI Success with Spanish-speakers     Speech is Beautiful

5/30/2015 The Importance of Social Language (pragmatic) Skills guest post on Speech Sprouts

5/31/2015 Sarah Warchol guest posts on Speech Language Literacy Lab

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OT toys

Holiday Toy Suggestion List from Miss Jaime, O.T.

What to get your O.T. Kid for the holidays…. Printable list included

Do you feel like your child has everything?  Not sure what to get but hoping to get something that will help them learn and progress with their skills?    Here are some ideas for each and every kid out there…


As the aunt of 12 nieces and nephews, I have to admit that I have always been partial to giving “educational” gifts.  “Educational” to me means that it will work on some type of skill.  Not necessarily math or reading, but anything that they should be developing naturally  (fine motor skills, visual perceptual skills, coordination, etc.).  Of course I want my loved ones to have fun and be excited about their present, but I can’t help but want to work on age appropriate skills – it’s become ingrained.  As an OT, I am constantly searching for ways to “hide” work in fun activities or games.  It’s amazing what you can discover about a child when you actually sit with them and play. This list is very general; its purpose is to get you thinking about what you think your little one might need to improve.  If you already know, go right to that section.  If not, look over the list and think about your child’s strengths and weaknesses.  Some of these games may seem really old- they are the classics!  “The oldies but goodies” and they are still a lot of fun.  Also- keep in mind, just because they seem old to you, doesn’t mean they will seem old to your child. If they have never played them, they will still be tons of fun.


Target and Kohls always have good sales on the classic games like Checkers, Connect four, Jenga, Battleship, etc.  For other games such as Scattergories,  Pictionary, etc.,  I would check on-line. You should be able to get great deals.  I have also heard that “Five Below” has a ton of “knock-off” games for a great price.   Oriental Trading is good for gross motor and sensory items like a tunnel, body sock or zoomball.  When I am buying for my school (ie, it will get a lot of use and needs to be REALLY durable), I will buy gross motor stuff at a therapy company such as Abilitations or Achievement products.  If it will be a family toy or used by one child, I stick with Oriental Trading.  Click on the “Hands on Fun” link to get to the “OT stuff”.   Barnes and Nobles tends to be a little more expensive, but during the holidays, they always have “fancy” versions of the classic games. They come in nice wooden boxes and would make a great gift that would last for years.


My favorite stores to shop for crafts are AC Moore and Michael’s.  They always have cheap crafts for boys and girls that work on fine motor skills, bilateral skills, and visual perceptual skills.  When in doubt, I go to AC Moore – they have paint by number, color it your self backpacks and jewelry boxes, wooden models and build it kits, etc.  They also have great crafts for the “tweens”, learn how to knit, learn how to make a friendship bracelet, learn how to do origami, science kits, etc.  Great for those blizzards that are around the corner!


Speaking of blizzards, so many Long Island families spend weekends away upstate; maybe skiing or visiting friends.  These are the perfect times to break out the classic board games.  Some of my best holidays memories involve all the laughs surrounding a family game of Jenga with my grandparents or a game of Old Maid with my parents and brothers and sister.   Rather than constantly relying on the DVR or some movie rental, break out some crafts or a good game and play with the kids.  Then, let them play a few rounds on their own to “practice”.  This is how kids learn to take turns, play fair, etc.  So many games nowadays only require one player.  How do kids socialize when they are playing by themselves?  Just because they are sitting next to their cousin playing “Minecraft” doesn’t mean they are actually bonding and interacting with them. So enough of my preaching – you know what your child likes, needs, and is capable of.


Here are some additional ideas to get you thinking.  Notice that I didn’t put ages on this list.  I hope that isn’t an inconvenience, but many children with disabilities are delayed in their motor skills and need toys that may be geared toward younger children.  That’s ok, they are still fun and “fun”ctional.

Fine Motor Games/ Toys 







Lite Brite

Honey Bee Tree

Tricky Fingers

Lacing cards

Stringing beads

Lanyard Sets

Wikki stix

Silly Putty


Mr. Potatoe Head

Dot Art

Mosaic Art


Nuts and Bolts

Cut-in-half Food

Playdoh Fun Factory

Stacking rings

Sequencing toys

Model Magic clay


Pegboard games

Games with tweezers (bedbugs, operation, etc.)

Cards (uno, playing cards)

Crafts (beads, jewelry making, weaving, knotting quilts)

Scatterpillar scramble

Weaving loom

Sewing craft kits

Pop beads (Large or Small)

Bracelet or friendship making kits

Perler Beads

Hook and Latch Rugs

Model cars

Wooden Build-it kits (home depot)

Shrinky Dinks

Chinese Jumprope

Gross Motor Activities/ Toys/ Equipment

Bicycle, rollerblades, scooters, etc.


Sporting equipment

Vecro ball and target

Velcro catch

Zoom ball


Hopping Spots

Scooter (to sit on)

Mini Trampoline

Chinese jumprope (Klutz)


Ball pitt or “Jumpolene”


Bop It



Visual Motor/ Visual Perceptual

Legos- any and all kinds!  The tiny ones make a great stocking stuffer!

Knex – often come with a “make this” guide, so children have to copy the picture

Don’t break the Ice

Thin Ice – anything with marbles is great – unless you have a “mouther”

Hungry, Hungry, Hippos


Aqua Doodle

3 D Puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles

Velvet color/paint  by number

Etch-a Sketch

Crayola magic wonder markers

Crayola pip squeak skinny markers – one of Miss Jaime’s favorite things (only if they are skinny; better for little hands)

Crayola Twistables

Tracing stencils

How to Draw Books

Rush Hour and Rush Hour, Jr.



Word search books

Guess Who



Easy Bake Oven

Mad Libs





Simon Says

Sensory  Materials, Games, Equipment

Radio/ CD Player with headphones


Sound Machine

Aroma therapy materials (diffuser, scented lap pads, etc.)

Bath stuff – Massage Glove, loofah

Mini Massager


Moon sand

Wikki stix or Bendaroos


What’s In Ned’s Head?

Bean Bag chair

Wiggle Writer Pen

Hippity Hop

Play-doh and Accessories

Koosh Balls, Stress Balls

Model Magic clay

Body Sock

Cuddle Loop

Play tent

Kinetic Sand

Ball pitt

WANNA PRINT THIS LIST? CLICK HERE  FOR A PDF holiday suggestions.pdf

Again – this is a general list meant to give you some ideas.  Please feel free to share and leave a comment if you have any other great ideas!! Happy Shopping!

~ Miss Jaime, O.T. logo

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