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.

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10 pocketbook-sized toys to occupy your kid (instead of your phone!)

I am totally on the “LIMIT TECHNOLOGY” for little kids bandwagon and am all about “Pocketbook-Sized Toys”! I have been so inspired by some articles I’ve read lately; especially a great article by Your Therapy Source (link at the bottom).  So I decided to make a list of 10 pocketbook-sized toys to occupy your kid (instead of your phone!)

As a public school OT, I work with Kindergarten students two days a week.  The continued decline in the basic motor skills of four and five-year-old children is VERY evident.  There are probably many reasons why, but I feel that lack of functional playtime is a BIG contributor.    Nowadays, many kids have their own tablets, TV’s in their rooms, and an iPod shuffle. They spend less and less time playing outside, which limits their gross motor skills, endurance, and coordination.   When they are inside, they spend less time playing with toys and using their hands and more time with technology.

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Puzzle Art Therapy

 

 

 

I always say how much I love being an OT. I also love to learn. I’ve been so lucky that  I’m still energized and excited about my profession.

However….. sometimes you need to shake things up a bit.

Last year, I became certified in PuzzleArt Therapy Systems, a form of therapy that combines Perceptual, Oculomotor, Binocular and PuzzleArt Therapy Sensory protocols using hands-on art.   I’ve always been interested in the vision aspect of Occupational Therapy, so I was really eager to learn new ways to incorporate PuzzleArt Therapy into my Occupational Therapy sessions.

PuzzleART2

Professionals learning how to assess visual tracking, convergence, divergence, and accommodation

What is PuzzleArt Therapy?  PuzzleArt Therapy is a program designed to assess and remediate problems with visual motor integration, visual perceptual skills, oculomotor skills, etc.

The course is taught by International  PuzzleArtist Alli Berman and Dr. Susan Fisher, a respected Optometrist in Westbury, NY.  Occupational Therapists Linda Telford and Serena Zeidler also helped to design the materials to give a therapist’s perspective on the program.

If you are an OT, this course is accredited by NYSOTA and NBCOT.  You can get a certification in PuzzleArt Therapy Systems while getting your CEU’s all in one day.

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Dollar store fidgets

10 Simple Fidgets from the Dollar $tore

Wiggly Kids Need Fidgets to Learn  

In the “olden days”,  kids were expected to sit still and listen. When they didn’t, they were in big trouble.  Nowadays, teachers and parents understand that kids need to move in order to learn.  Children who have special needs may have particular difficulty listening or maintaining attention to topic for what educators consider “appropriate” periods of time.   Thankfully, fidgets have become more and more commonplace in the classroom. Teachers have changed their classroom routines to include movement breaks and “brain breaks” so kids can get their “wiggles out”.  But when it’s time to sit and listen, nothing beats a fidget for keeping busy hands still.

 Simple Fidgets from the Dollar $tore

Teachers (and O.T.’s) spend a ton of their own money every year to make sure their kids have everything they need to learn.   As  one of those “teachers” AND a total Bargain-Hunter, I spend a lot of time at the Dollar store.  I’m teaching a class for teachers in a few days about sensory processing and I want to drive home the importance of letting kids fidget.  So I decided to start the class by giving each teacher (aka student in my class) a fidget to play with during the lecture part of my class.   I decided to share my favorite budget fidgets on my blog to help other teachers as well as all the parents of those wiggly kids.

 

 

Fidgets keep wiggly hands busy.  So the kids aren’t looking at you when you talk, Who cares!?  They know what you look like.  And very often, they can still answer your question.   So why not give them something to fidget with?

Ok, so here goes: Miss Jaime, O.T.’s Top Ten Dollar $tore Fidgets

1)  Bubble  Wrap– The best fidgets are silent, but there is really something so satisfying about the “POP” of bubble wrap.  It also works on the “pincer” grip that OT’s are always looking for.  It works on hand strength, too.  A word of caution, kids with weak hand strength have difficulty  popping the bubbles. So they tend to “sneak” a pop by using their nails to cut the bubble. Not on my watch – oh no you don’t.  Pads of the fingers only, kiddies!

2) Car Wash Mitt – this is a weird one, but if you look past the name on the label- it’s a perfect simple fidget.  the soft material just begs for fingers to play and rub and the little nubs are the perfect size for little hands.  If you wanted to take it a step further, you could open it and put some rice or beans in there.  Then it’s not only tactile, but a weighted fidget, too.

3) Microfiber Hand Towels – the ones I found at the Dollar Tree by me (in the Baby section)  have these cute little character faces on the ends.  Just one could be a nice quiet fidget.  Or you could sew two together and make a weighted lap pad.

microfibertowels

These little towels are soft with a little face for fingers to play with.

4)  Cold Compresses – Again, in the baby section.  Most people wouldn’t think of these as a fidget, but why not?  They are filled with little gel balls that are fun to squish around, and they are Quiet!

cold compresses, sensory, fidgets

These are meant for bumps and bruises, but why not as a fidget? Both squishy and quiet, they make a perfect fidget.

 

5)  Pop beads– in the Kiddie toy or “goody bag” section – there are usually  pop beads available.  Now, I can’t pretend that Dollar Store Pop beads are as good as really good pop beads from a therapy catalog.  BUT – sometimes budget pop-beads do the job.  They are quiet. Plus, they work on eye-hand coordination and bilateral coordination.

popbeads, fidgets

Popbeads are great for keeping two hands busy.

6)  Stretchy animals – Again – in the toy section or maybe the goody bag section, there are usually lots of yucky stretchy worms, spiders, frogs, etc.  They tend to be seasonal.  But they are always there.  They are quiet and small enough to fit in a pocket for silent fidgeting.

stretchy bugs, fidgets

Stretchy bugs change every season, but they are always at the dollar store!

7) Silly Putty – Silly putty is almost always available at the dollar store and it’s a great simple fidget.  It’s quiet and so satisfying to stretch and roll in between fingers.  It fits in the little “egg” to keep it nice and clean in the child’s supply box.

8) Loofah – My favorite part about being an OT is that I am able to look at things further than seeing what they are usually used for.  Everyone knows a loofah is great in the tub, but why not in the classroom?   They are quiet, they are fun to fiddle with.  Sometimes they have little animal heads on them, which makes it seem more like a toy and less like a hygiene tool.  But either way, they are great for busy fingers.

9) Tiny Koosh balls –  I like these because they fit right in a little palm or a little pocket.  They are quiet, and they are usually colorful. The tiny spikes feel good when you roll them in your hand or against a desk.  My Dollar Store usually has them in the goody  bag  section.  They usually come ten in a bag, so ten fidgets for a dollar, which makes a budget diva like myself very happy!

10) Large Squishy balls – these are usually in the toy section.  They come in fun loud colors and are sooo fun to squish, stretch, and smash.  I do like these fidgets, but I find that they are a little more distracting than the little ones.  They don’t fit in a pocket, either.

 

A lot of teachers who aren’t used to giving out or allowing fidgets will say to me “how do I explain to the other kids that only Johnny is allowed to have this toy”?  I like to tell kids that every student is different and they all need different tools to learn.  One child might need a special cushion seat and another might need special crayons. Everyone is different and just because one child has something doesn’t mean you all need it.   I love the book “Arnie and his School Tools” for this reason. It basically explains this to the kids in a cute story about Arnie, a very fidgety kid!

Arnie and His School Tools: Simple Sensory Solutions That Build Success

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Products you should check out for your Sensory Kid! (affiliate links)

 

FIDGIPOD HAND FIDGET Set of 3! Tangle Fidget Toy Pencil Tops Fidget

 

 

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Dollar store, stocking stuffers, sensory, fidgets

Dollar Store Stocking Stuffers for your Sensory Kid…

The “little” holiday gifts are sometimes the hardest to think of….

Opening my stocking on Christmas morning was one my favorite parts of the holiday.   My mom always stuffed my stocking with little nail polishes, socks, and other tiny fun things, all individually wrapped. I’m sure she spent a fortune and a ton of time wrapping every little thing, only to the five of us rip through the stockings in less than five minutes.  As we all grew up and moved out, the stocking tradition stopped, which was soooo sad.  Oh well!  Life goes on!

As I ran to the dollar store yesterday to get some tinfoil pans for the ten pounds of mashed potatoes I need to make for Thursday, I was struck by all the awesome Sensory stuff at the Dollar Tree.   In the spirit of the holiday season, I decided to share  some of my Dollar Store know-how for all you moms out there who need to stuff a stocking for your sensory kid!

Some of this stuff is “non-traditional”,  but shouldn’t stockings be individualized to the child?

So if something seems weird but might be something your child loves, go for it.

StressBalls – Tactile and great as a fidget (also great for hand strength)

Koosh balls– Tactile and great as a fidget (some kids are very defensive to Koosh balls for some reason)

Silly Putty – Stretchy and tactile, heavy work for little hands.  (also great for hand strength)

Fake Play-Doh– I say fake because it is imitation play-doh and it’s definitely not as good as the real thing.  However, it is still fun to squeeze, squish and create with.  It just won’t last too long.

Silly String – Tactile- Kind of wet and cold when it squirts; (AMAZING for hand strength – see spray snow) and so fun to play with in the snow!

Shaving Cream – For finger painting, sensory squeeze bags, or the moonsand recipe below, etc.

Body Lotion – For massages, deep pressure and tactile input (can help calm and get little ones to sleep) Dollar Tree has princess lotion!

Hair gel – For finger painting, sensory squeeze bags, etc.

Slime/Gak – These little eggs of goo are usually in the same aisle as the stress balls – they are wet, smelly, slimy, and the containers are hard to  open (need 2 hands and great practice for opening lunch/juice boxes, etc.)

Loofah – Great in the bathtub or out, loofahs can be great for tactile and sensory input

Nail files – This is a tough one to sell for any kid, but a sensory kid really can be defensive when it comes to nail hygiene.  For girls, the promise of glittery nail polish or polish that is “Anna and Elsa’s” favorite color can help persuade them for a little, soak, scrub, and file.  For  boys, sometimes watching mom or dad or an older brother can be a little helpful.  If they really hate getting their nails clipped and or filed, try to do it after a bath and use a buffer instead of a nail file (until they tolerate it).

Velvet color by number– These are fuzzy and fun for kids who enjoy coloring and the tactile feedback helps kids to color within the lines

Scratch Art – These vary by store but the concept is the same, grab your scratcher (with a perfect pencil grasp, of course) and scratch the paper until some fabulous art shows through.  It’s fun.

Chalkboard games – Many of these from the Dollar Store are cheap and don’t last long. But writing with chalk provides a kinesthetic feedback that kids don’t get to experience with dry erase, pencil, writing on a tablet, etc.  It is fun and if used consistently, can really help a child’s motor skills.

Cornstarch – This is a weird one, and your kid may think you’re crazy.

1)  You can use cornstarch to make “oobleck” ( a Dr. Suess favorite – look up the book and here is the link to the recipe)

2) You can make moonsand

Bubblewrap – so, so, fun.  I bring bubble wrap to my classes sometimes when I want to strengthen a pincer or pencil grasp. The weak kids always want to “rip” the plastic with their nails.  Not on my watch!  Get those “pinchers” moving.

Stretchy Bugs, Animals, Creatures, etc. – These are great fidgets for a kid who needs to have something in their hands all the time.

“Fidgets” – I consider mini koosh balls, tops, jacks, mini slinkys, etc. all to be fidgets.  They are small and keep little hands busy when mouths are supposed to be quiet (teacher is talking, waiting in waiting room, sitting in movie theater, etc.)

Grow In Water Pills – I buy these pills a lot when I’m at the Dollar Store – they look like an aspirin, but when they are submerged in hot water, the plastic coating around them starts to melt and then a little sponge in the shape of a bug, dinosaur, etc., pops out for kids to play with.   Because I am always looking for ways to work on hand strength, I put a bunch in a tupperware and then give my students Travel Size Water Bottles  filled with hot water so they can squeeze, squeeze, squeeze until their hands get tired.  I’m so mean, right!?  But they love it and then they get to have water play.  Also, the sponges can be used later for painting activities, etc.   You can do a lot with these little guys – and they are usually 9 pills for a buck – what a bargain!

Grow in Water Animals –  Same concept as above.  But they are bigger and cost $1 each – and they will definitely take up more room in the stocking (that’s always a plus!)

Mechanical pencils -there is something thrilling about replacing the broken lead of a mechanical pencil. That is, the first few times.  After that you start to get annoyed and then think… Maybe I shouldn’t press so hard….If you have a child that presses way too hard when he or she writes, give these a try.  The feedback from the break may be a help with that habit.  If your child is in the second grade or older, I suggest trying to get them to change the lead themselves. Resist the urge to automatically do it for them. Maybe they will be able to do it.

Highlighters – Kids love highlighters.  I think it is because they are mostly a “grown-up” thing.  However, highlighters can be great to help kids with copying, “highlight one line blue, copy it, next line yellow, copy, etc… They can also be great to help outline a shape when your child needs to “cut on the line”. They can help highlight where to write when they need to skip spaces or write smaller. They are even good to make boxes to keep your letters and words spaced properly.

Flashlights – What kid doesn’t love their “own” flashlight?  It may seem like a weird gift, but you can explain that it is their special flashlight to use if the lights ever go out. You can also use it to work on visual tracking and scanning, games like I spy, ( turn the lights off in the living room, “I spy, Daddy!,  I spy, the TV set!, etc.” Your child  has to move the beam of light (aka. tracking) and then settle on the object he is looking for.

Basting Brush – Again, this one is a little weird, but it is basically a plastic paint brush.  The bristles are a different texture for your “multi-sensory” kid and it can be just another tool to have fun and paint with.  Besides, your child doesn’t even know what basting is.

Spray Snow – Spray Snow can provide hours of fun, but obviously your child needs to be chaperoned.  Aerosol cans like these can be dangerous, but I love the position that the little hand needs to take in order to get it to “squirt”.  It is EXTREMELY difficult to hold the cylinder of a can in your thumb, middle, ring and pinky while your index sits on and squeezes the cap.   This one is for older kids (like 8 and up).

20141125_170449

This post contains affiliate links.

sensory processing

Sensory Processing 101 is a vital resource for parents, therapists, and teachers who work with Sensory Processing difficulties.

Oral Motor

Okay, I am going to include this because so many children have weak oral motor skills and it can impact their speech,  eating habits, and oral hygiene.   That said, your house will be very loud and potentially obnoxious if you stuff your kids’ stockings with these toys.  BUT! in the spirit of the holidays…. it is supposed to be all about the kids, right?  Maybe confiscate the loud ones for “another day” when they can go outside or in the soundproof basement, etc.

Whistles – in the party favor section, there are a lot of different whistles, princess, whistles, hunting “duck” whistles, etc.

Blow toys- not sure what these babies are called exactly, but you have to control your breath so the ball goes up but not too far, etc.  This works on force modulation (if you remember from last week) and breath control.

20141125_164155

 

Balloons – Kids love balloons and there are a million ways to play with them.  You can put them in their gift and then offer to blow one up and they are likely to play with the balloon longer than your other present.  For older kids, trying to blow up a balloon is a major deal, and something we totally take for granted.   Many dollar stores have them multi-colored bags or one color, which can be fun if you get your child to “help decorate” for the holidays.

Blow outs – these look like the annoying noise makers from New Years Eve, but way bigger.

Novelty straws – Straws are a great way to work on “sucking” and oral motor “strengthening”.  The Dollar Store has fun ones for both boys and girls.

Noise Horns – Again, so annoying but so strangely addicting…

Musical Instruments – On this particular trip to the Dollar Tree, there were a lot of recorders.  Blowing would be work alone, but then you have the eye-hand coordination to try to cover up the holes at the same time.

 

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What is your favorite Dollar $tore Stocking Stuffer?  Please leave a comment and let us know!

 

Happy Thanksgiving!      ~Miss Jaime, O.T.

 

 

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