Tag Archives: fine motor activities

Number Recognition On The Cheap

August is quickly approaching, and it’s time to start thinking about a new year of homeschooling.  One area of focus for Noah is going to be number recognition and understanding.  I made this for Noah a few months ago – a simple activity with a paper plate and clothespins – and we pulled it out again today.



  1. Using a marker, divide a paper plate into four sections.
  2. Number each section 1-4.
  3. Place dots that correspond to the number in each section.
  4. Write numerals that correspond to the dots in each section on clothespins.
  5. To use, have your child clip the clothespin onto the appropriate dots around the plate.  (One clothespin with the number 1 will go in the section marked 1, two clothespins marked with the number 2 will go in the section marked 2, etc.)

When Noah first did this activity months ago, it was more a fine motor activity than anything else.  He needed me to show him where to place each clothespin.  Gradually, through pointing out to him that the number on the clothespin is the same as the number on the section on the plate, he has become independent in this activity and even is attempting to name the numbers.  Progress!

Knowing the ASL sign for same was definitely a plus for this activity.  Here’s a video:  http://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/SAME/368/1.

The script I used for Noah was simple – I pointed to the number on the clothespin and said it, I pointed to the number on the plate and said it, and then I signed and said “same.”  Between this and the fact that Noah had to use the small muscles of his hand to manipulate the clothespins turned this academic activity into one that worked his number skills, his fine motor skills and his language skills.

All for the cost of a paper plate and some clothespins.

For more fine motor activities that work the small muscles of the hand, visit http://www.therapystreetforkids.com/fm-strength.html.

Hand Strength and Coordination – A Recipe For Writing

As I was researching for this post this morning, I came across a stern warning:  Whatever you do, DON’T force a child to hold a pencil correctly as they are learning to write; they may not be developmentally ready.  I’m sure this is just one of many opinions on the subject, but something about the warning resonated with me.  If I leave Noah alone, he uses a beautiful modified tripod (two fingers on the top surface of the pencil instead of one), and his writing is functional.  If I come along and try to “help” him by forcing his fingers into a correct tripod grasp, writing becomes too frustrating and he loses control of the pressure of the crayon.  The truth is that the way children grip writing utensils is largely developmental.  Because Noah’s Down syndrome brings some pretty significant developmental delays, it is no surprise that at age 6 he would still be using a modified tripod grasp.  Most typically-developing children move on to a perfect tripod by age 4-7.   At some point it will be time to help him find a perfect tripod grasp if he hasn’t found it on his own, but today is not the day.

For those of you whose children are ready for the tripod grasp, http://www.writeoutofthebox.com/tips.php is a great site for fine motor work where I found lyrics to a song that teaches correct handling of a pencil.  If you click and wind up at their site, scroll down to the “Sleeping Fingers, Busy Fingers and Pillows” link for an explanation.  From their tips page, scroll down to “Fingers and Pillows” song for the actual lyrics.

Instead of working on a perfected tripod grasp, Noah is focusing more on foundational issues concerning the hand and fingers like in-hand manipulation.

In-hand manipulation:  the ability to move and position objects in one hand without the assistance of the other hand.  http://www.therapystreetforkids.com/fm-inhandmanip.html  Examples:

  • Place a piece of string or paper in front of the child.  Give the child 6 nickles to hold in his dominant hand.  Have him lay down one coin at a time along the line using only his dominant hand.  (He will have to use his finger and hand muscles to move the coin from the center of his palm into the spot between his thumb and index finger.)
  • Place 5 coins near the edge of a table in a horizontal line, leaving space between each coin.  Have your child use his dominant hand to push one coin at a time to the edge of the table, flip it with his thumb and push it back away from the table’s edge.  Repeat for all five coins.  Experiment using different coins to see which are easiest to flip and which are hardest (thickness and size may matter).
  • Have your child use his dominant hand to grasp a pencil using the tripod grasp.  Without using the other hand, have your child use his fingers to “walk” his fingers up and down the pencil.  The goal is to be able to do this while keeping the pencil steady.
  • Peg Boards – If you have an easel, use it to prop up the peg board; otherwise, a horizontal surface is fine.  Have your child store as many pegs as he comfortably can in his dominant hand and insert the pegs into the peg board using only the palm and fingers to manipulate each peg into a pincer grasp and then into the board.

What have I missed?  Any ideas to add to the list?

Christmas Decorations – Special Needs Style

The holiday season allows us to take a break from a lot of things, but with Andres (8) in OT recovering from his Chiari 1 malformation issues and Noah (6) with Down syndrome, we’re trying not to skip a beat as far as speech, language, fine motor, gross motor, sensory processing, well, you know the drill.

Knowing how every year my husband mentions that he’d really like to string cranberries and popcorn for the tree (translated as he’d really like us to string cranberries and popcorn for the tree) and discovering 3 bags of frozen cranberries in the back of my freezer from all the years I meant to make his little cranberry popcorn dream come true, I decided this was the year I was going to make it happen.  Remember, this is my year to go over-the-top, to do all the Christmas activities and go to all the Christmasy places that in years past just seemed like too much work.

So I scrounged up all the long needlepoint needles I had, bought some fishing line (strong quilting thread works too), thawed out the cranberries (partially thawed works best), popped some raw popcorn in a paper bag in the microwave (isn’t that how Laura Ingalls did it?), sat down with Andrew and the kiddos, and we had a night of family fun.  I figured Noah was too young to handle a needle, but he insisted on joining in the fun, so I pulled out my plastic canvas needles, which are long, big-eyed plastic needles, and Noah got to work.  The plastic needle was too thick and broke the popcorn, but it worked fabulously with the cranberries, so Noah strung cranberries only.

By the time it was all said and done, we had an impressive bunch of strands for our tree.  And Noah and Andres got a dose of OT without even realizing it.  And my husband finally has a tree decorated with popcorn and cranberries.  And I have, oh, one bag less of cranberries in the freezer.

All’s well that ends well.