Thursday, September 21, 2017

DIY Games to Encourage Visual Tracking Skills

DIY Games to Encourage Visual Tracking Skills

DIY Games to Encourage Visual Tracking Skills

Visual perceptual skills require the ability to see, organize and interpret visual information.  There are many different types of visual perceptual skills that are explained in detail here.  Visual tracking is one type of visual perceptual skills.  Visual tracking is the ability to control the eye movements using the oculomotor system (vision and eye muscles working together). There are two types of visual tracking: maintaining your focus on a moving object and switching your focus between two objects.

Visual tracking is necessary to follow an object moving in space and to follow stationary objects. It is a key component to fluid reading, coordination tasks, body awareness and postural control. Visual tracking allows you to know what you are looking at and where to look. Children need to practice and learn these skills throughout childhood development.  Here is a few fun, do it yourself (DIY) games to encourage visual tracking skills:

  1.  Balloon Volleyball – blow up a balloon and start hitting it back and forth to each other.  This game encourages visual focus, visual-spatial skills, and visual motor skills.  You can use your hands or add in physical activity with these Activity Balloon Bats.  If you need to make it easier to start, try this giant balloon volleyball game.
  2. Kid Balloon Boxing – this activity requires visual tracking and eye-hand coordination at the same time.
  3. Pool Noodle Visual Tracking Ring – super cheap and super easy.
  4. Visual Tube – use a cardboard tube, colored tape, and a balloon to create this game.
  5. I Spy Movement Breaks – Make a sensory bottle with hidden exercise cards.  The children have to visually track the each of the exercise cards and complete the activity.

Looking for a quick, no prep visual tracking activity?  Check out Ready, Set, Scan.

This digital download includes 12 visual scanning and discrimination activities.  How fast can you scan, find and mark each item? There are 12 challenges in all with different themes including: shapes, animals, fruit, party, travel and babies.  Just print and start the search.  Follow the directions: start a timer, scan for one object at a time, mark each object and stop the timer.  Record your time in the box provided.  Dot markers work great for marking the item.  Use a different color dot marker for each item.  FIND OUT MORE.

DIY Games to Encourage Visual Tracking Skills



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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Pen Grip Force, Fine Motor Skills and Handwriting in Children

Pen Grip Force Fine Motor Skills and Handwriting in Children

Pen Grip Force Fine Motor Skills and Handwriting in Children

The Australian Occupational Therapy Journal published research examining pen-grip kinetics during writing tasks of 181 school-age children (5-12 years old) and investigate the relationship between the kinetic factors and fine motor skills.  A force acquisition pen was to measure the forces applied from the digits and pen-tip were measured during writing tasks.  Each child’s fine motor skills were also evaluated.  The results indicated the following:

  • peak force and average force might not be direct indicators of handwriting performance for typically developing children ages 5-12.
  • younger children showed larger force variation and lower adjustment frequency during writing.
  • force control when handling a pen is significantly correlated with fine motor performance, particularly manual dexterity.

The researchers concluded that manipulation skill may be crucial when children are establishing their handwriting capabilities.

Reference:  Lin, Y. C., Chao, Y. L., Wu, S. K., Lin, H. H., Hsu, C. H., Hsu, H. M., & Kuo, L. C. (2017). Comprehension of handwriting development: Pen‐grip kinetics in handwriting tasks and its relation to fine motor skills among school‐age children. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal.

Read more on Writing Forces and Pencil Grasps

Read more on Fine Motor Skill Level and Handwriting

Handwriting Rubrics at

Handwriting Rubrics – This is an electronic book of 26 rubrics to assess handwriting. A rubric is a scoring guide to judge performance on a specific task.   Have you ever wanted to quantify handwriting skills such as letter formation, speed or copying? Handwriting Rubrics can be used as assessment tools to quantify an individual’s written productivity. By using the rubric, each individual can be scored based on the same criteria. FIND OUT MORE.

Pen Grip Force Fine Motor Skills and Handwriting in Children

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Brain Benefits of Sensory Motor Groups

Brain Benefits of Sensory Motor Groups

Brain Benefits of Sensory Motor Groups

Do you provide group therapy sessions?  Is it ever a struggle for children to participate?  Do you find that some children have the motor skills when playing alone but then have difficulties when they start playing in a group game?  Participating in sensory-motor group games requires additional executive functions than playing alone.  Sensory-motor groups add on another level of cognitive load i.e. impulse control, higher motor planning, self-regulation, etc.  Providing group therapy sessions or offering additional opportunities for group motor play (i.e. recess, physical education or in class games) may help with executive functions, coordination skills and higher level motor tasks.

Here are 3 evidence based reasons to support brain benefits of sensory-motor groups:

Participation in group motor skill games and complex motor tasks may possibly induce neurogenesis in the hippocampus and physiological changes in the cerebellum.

Skills acquired during complex motor tasks and cognitively demanding group games may transfer to executive functions.

There is a close interrelationship between motor control and executive functions such as:

  • the co-activation between the prefrontal cortex, the cerebellum, and the basal ganglia during several motor and cognitive tasks
  • both having a similar developmental timetable.
  • both skills requiring sequencing, monitoring, and planning.

Research indicates that increasing the mental engagement in physical activity by adding coordination and cognitive demands result in superior effects on executive functions when compared to physical activities without increased cognitive loads.

Reference:  Aadland, K. N., Moe, V. F., Aadland, E., Anderssen, S. A., Resaland, G. K., & Ommundsen, Y. (2017). Relationships between physical activity, sedentary time, aerobic fitness, motor skills and executive function and academic performance in children. Mental Health and Physical Activity, 12, 10-18.

Read Tips for Successful Pediatric Group Therapy Sessions.

Here are 3 resources for sensory-motor groups to encourage movement and learning:

The ABC's of Movement

The ABC’s of Movement®- Combine Movement with Literacy  – The ABC’s of Movement® is a pdf document of educational flash cards that combine movement with literacy development. Kids love these colorful flash cards that merge learning the alphabet with twenty six fun, noncompetitive movement activities. Designed for children of all abilities from preschool through 2nd grade, these flash cards were developed by a physical therapist with learning and physical development in mind. Ideal for home and school use. These bright, bold letters and full color photographs of children make learning easy and fun!

Movement Flashcards

Movement Flashcards – Movement Flashcards digital download includes 10 aerobic exercises with flash cards templates. Students can get physical activity while reviewing material. The 10 aerobic activities include: run in place, jumping, hopping, squats, lunges, skipping, twists, cross crawls, jumping jacks and marching. Each page includes a picture image of the aerobic exercise along with a blank template to type in 18 flash cards. You choose what to work on for academic material.

Cardio Skip Counting digital download includes 3 videos and worksheets to get moving and working out while practicing skip counting by 2s, 5s and 10s to 100. Each video takes the students through skip counting while performing different aerobic exercises such as marching in place, running in place, cross crawls, trunk twists, lunges, squats and more! All you have to do is open the Powerpoint Presentation or the video files and select the movie you want to play. The worksheets include number writing practice and an aerobic activity. The students have to write in the missing numbers and then perform an exercise while counting to 100 by 2s, 5s or 10s.

Brain Benefits of Sensory Motor Groups

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Progression of Tactile Input Using Sensory Bins

Progression of Tactile Input Using Sensory Bins

Progression of Tactile Input Using Sensory Bins

The tactile system provides information to the brain on light touch, pain, temperature, and pressure.   Children can experience decreased ability to interpret tactile input or can be oversensitive to tactile input.  Many early childhood classrooms and parents provide children with sensory bins to explore various types of tactile input.  Some children LOVE it,  some children HATE it and many children fall in between the two extremes.  When introducing sensory bins, it may be beneficial for children who are oversensitive to grade the amount of tactile input based on the materials included in the sensory bin.  (Children should never be forced to touch anything they do not wish to touch).

To begin with the least amount of tactile input, children could wear gloves while playing with sensory bins that include dry materials. Therapists and teachers can fill sensory bins with different ranges of tactile input starting with dry materials such as:

  • dried beans
  • rocks
  • fabric scraps
  • shredded paper
  • leaves
  • dried pasta
  • uncooked rice

Progress to materials that are not dry but don’t stick to the hands such as:

  • play dough
  • colored water
  • magic sand
  • water beads
  • cooked pasta
  • crushed ice

Finally, increase tactile input to messy play such as:

  • finger paints
  • shaving cream
  • yogurt
  • slime
  • dish soap bubbles
  • lotion

Do you need more handouts?  Check out the Sensory Tools In the Classroom packet.

Progression of Tactile Input Using Sensory Bins

Would you like a FREE printable handout of this post to provide to school staff or parents regarding the progression of tactile input?  Enter your email below to sign up for our newsletter and you will be redirected to the download.

Progression of Tactile Input Using Sensory Bins

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Color Cut Glue Scissor Practice for Fall

Color Cut Glue Scissor Practice for FallColor Cut Glue Scissor Practice for Fall

Fall is certainly in the air here.  The apples are starting to get picked, a few leaves are falling and pumpkins will be right around the corner. Here are three black and white activity pages to practice coloring, cutting out simple shapes, planning out where to glue the pieces (the trickiest part) and then paste the shapes together to create the Fall themed pictures: apple tree, pumpkin, and apple.  Just print and it is all set to go.

This activity encourages:

  • scissor skills practice
  • eye hand coordination
  • bilateral coordination
  • motor planning
  • sequencing

Remember to get your free copy by signing up for our newsletter at the bottom of the post.

Looking for more scissor activities? Here is a Scissors Bundle from Your Therapy Source.

If you need more specific information on the development of scissor skills, check out The Scissor Skills Book. This digital download is a huge resource for anyone who works on scissor skills with children. Written by the Functional Skills for Kids (FSFK) team of 10 pediatric physical and occupational therapists with years of experience in the field, The Scissor Skills Book is the ultimate resource for tips, strategies, suggestions, and information to support scissor skill development in children.

Color Cut Glue Scissor Practice for Fall

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5 Reasons to Provide Handouts to Parents, Teachers, and Students

5 Reasons to Provide Handouts to Parents, Teachers, and Students5 Reasons to Provide Handouts to Parents, Teachers, and Students

As pediatric occupational and physical therapists, we always need to remember that one of the most important, if not the MOST important, aspect of our job is to educate. We need to let students, teachers, school staff and parents know what we do and why we do it.  One way to support this process is to provide hand outs with educational information.  Keep in mind when you do provide hand outs do not overwhelm people.  Information is easier to digest and understand when providing in smaller amounts.  Here are 5 reasons to provide handouts to parents, teachers, and students.

Memory boost: hand outs help to provide a review for teachers and parents about what was discussed.

Reminders: a handout can help remind what steps needed to be taken to carry out the suggestions.

Written Explanation: it can be hard to understand all the recommendations when speaking quickly in a meeting (or passing in the hallways) therefore a hand out helps to explain the details in writing.

Full attention: when you are explaining a technique, new suggestion or tip let the person know you will follow it up with a hand out so they can give you 100% attention while you discuss it and not have to take notes.

Written record: by providing a hand out you can go back and reference it if goals are not met to tweak or change the activities or suggestions.

Check out The Busy Therapist Bundle for over 100 hand outs for parents, teachers, and students.  The topics include fine motor, gross motor, executive functioning, handwriting, visual perceptual and sensory processing skills.  Find out more here.

5 Reasons to Provide Handouts to Parents, Teachers, and Students

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Friday, September 8, 2017

How To Help Students Take Organized Notes

Students Take Organized NotesHow To Help Students Take Organized Notes

Do you work with students who need help taking organized notes?  Do you have students who struggle with working memory?  The Cornell Note Taking System helps students to take effective, organized notes and study the material.

The Cornell method was a system created by Walter Pauk, an education professor at Cornell University, to provide students with a systematic format for condensing and organizing notes.

Help Students to Take Organized Notes

The Cornell Note Taking System is divided into several steps:

Step 1:  Record Notes – Write notes in the note taking column on paper that is divided into different sections.  See below to download your FREE copy of the template.  Use short sentences or phrases for the notes.

Step 2:  Key Points/ Questions –  When the class period is over, write the key points or questions in the left-hand column on the paper.  This step helps students to clarify meaning, strengthen memory skills and assist with studying.

Step 3:  Recite – Cover the notes section and in your own words recite out loud the answers to the questions that you formulated in step 2.  This step helps students with understanding the material and long term memory.

 Step 4: Reflect – Think about the material you are learning to make connections with previous facts, ideas, and experiences.

Step 5:  Review – Write a summary of the notes at the bottom of the page in your own words.  Review all the material weekly to prepare for future tests.


Looking for more note taking templates?  Check out the 11-page packet of Cornell Note Taking Templates.

Reference:  Cornell University.  The Cornell Note Taking System.  Retrieved on 9/8/17 at

Help Students to Take Organized Notes

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