Modified Beading Activity – Occupational Therapy (OT) at Home

One of the things I’m learning is that when people say their child with Down syndrome is “on grade level,” it doesn’t mean their child is doing exactly what the other children in his class are doing.  Often activities are being modified in the classroom to ensure the child is successful.

Successful at grade level activities?

I’m all for that.

Stringing beads on a shoestring is a common pre-kindergarten activity, but Noah’s delayed fine motor skills and high level of frustration make this activity too difficult for him.  So, do we wait until he seems ready?  This mama says NO!!!

Let’s give him a baby step.  (This is actually Bella, who just HAD to be included.)

Activity:  Stringing beads on a pipe cleaner.


  1. Pony beads
  2. Pipe cleaner or chenille stem cut in half
  3. Thread spool (with or without thread)
  4. Velcro dots
  5. Cardstock or paper


  1. Place Velcro loop dot on the bottom of the spool.
  2. Place Velcro hook dot on the cardstock or paper.
  3. Place spool on paper, matching Velcro dots.  (This holds the spool in place, making a stable holder for the pipe cleaner.)
  4. Fold pipe cleaner in half and insert into the middle of the spool, raw ends down toward the paper.
  5. Twist pipe cleaner at the top so that it is tight enough for a pony bead to fit onto it.

Activity:  Give your child a selection of pony beads and have him place them onto the top of the pipe cleaners.  Have him push the first bead down so that it is resting on top of the spool.  The doubling of the  pipe cleaner will increase the resistance of the beads, thus making it easier for your child to manipulate them.

A step up:  Instead of cutting the pipe cleaner in half, leave it the full length.  Still double the pipe cleaner to put it in the spool.   Have your child string beads on this longer pipe cleaner.  The increased length will result in more flexibility, which will increase the difficulty of this task.

Once that is mastered (over a number of sessions), do not double the pipe cleaner when you put it in the spool, thus resulting in even more flexibility and difficulty.

Finally, allow your child to string beads onto the pipe cleaner without putting it in the spool.  Once your child has mastered this, he should be ready to move onto stringing beads onto shoe strings.


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