My Favourite Learning Opportunities for Gross and Fine Motor Skills — An Occupational Therapists View

My Favourite Learning Opportunities for Gross and Fine Motor Skills — An Occupational Therapists View

Author: Kimberly Heyer, Occupational Therapist from Preferred Toys Therapy

Hello, I am Kim, a pediatric Occupational Therapist. I am so exited to be guest posting for TeachKloud and sharing some of my favorite toys I use during Occupational Therapy sessions! I have been practicing Occupational Therapy for 17 years and have specialized in pediatrics for the past 8 years. I work in both the school and clinic, and in these settings I support children with fine motor, visual motor/visual perceptual, self regulation, sensory processing, and self care skills.

I enjoy using toys to promote and work on important developmental skills while the children are (most importantly) having FUN! Here are some of my favorite toys for pre school and early elementary aged kids to work on a variety of skill areas:

Visual Skills

1. Puzzles

Puzzles are great for visual perceptual and problem solving skills! Start with wooden single piece puzzles with matching pictures underneath, and slowly work up to the multiple piece puzzles without the matching picture beneath. The kids I work with love the Melissa and Doug sound puzzles as they make a sound once the piece is put in which can be more motivating and fun for puzzle completion.

2. Spot it Jr

This is a great game for visual skills! I love that it is also travel friendly game as the cards come in a small canister that can easily fit in bags and purses for easy entertainment when going out to a meal or when traveling. You also get a bonus of working on container opening and closing for hand manipulation.

3. Bubbles

This is a great low cost activity for working on early visual motor skills, have your child try to pop the bubbles with their fingers.

Fine Motor Skills

1. Lego

Lego is great for hand strengthening, fine motor skill development, visual skills, bilateral hand skills, and creative play! I recommend the Duplo size for preschool aged kids. As a parent, this is probably my preschool aged daughters most used toy!

2. Mr Potato Head

This is a great classic toy for toddler/preschool aged kids for learning body parts. I often will use this toy with my early preschool kids who are starting to learn how to draw a person as a fun warm up activity. This toy also works on bilateral hand skills (using both hands together,) hand strengthening, and fine motor skills. This is also a fun toy for creative play!

3. Beads

Beads are great for working on using your smaller hand muscles and promoting use of a tripod grasp (middle finger, pointer finger, and thumb) which is the grasp that we promote for use when holding a writing utensil. I like to use beads for making bracelets or necklaces and lacing them onto string or pipe cleaner. You can also hide them in play dough or putty and have your child go on a “treasure hunt” to find the beads. If you don’t have beads, you can use pasta or cut straws as beads as well. I would recommend starting with larger beads with larger sized openings and work up to smaller sized.

Gross Motor Skills

1. Tunnel

Tunnel activities are one of my go to warm ups with my pre school and early elementary aged kids. Kids love crawling through the tunnel, and crawling also provides some deep pressure/ proprioceptive input as well. I like to incorporate puzzles with tunnel activities (pieces on one side and board on other) for some added visual skills development. Tunnels also can be incorporated easily into a basic obstacle course.

2.Cat in the Hat I Can Do That Game

I love using some games as a gross motor warm up, they are fun and also work on social and turn taking skills. My favorite gross motor game is “The Cat in The Hat I Can Do That Game. “ This is a game for following 2–3 step directions (with visual picture cards) while completing gross motor activities. This game is also nice for incorporating positional concepts-over/under/in/on.

I hope you’ve found these toy ideas helpful and have some new ideas for fun play activities! For more of my favorite toys, visit:

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Author bio

Kim has been practicing Occupational Therapy for 17 years. She
specializes in Pediatrics and works in both the school and clinic setting in San Diego, California. She has a pre school daughter who she enjoys watching grow and loves trialing and testing new toy and activity ideas with her. You can find her at and on Instagram @preferredtherapytoys.

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