August 27, 2015

{Thinking Therapeutically Thursday} Fine Motor Exercise Bucket (with free printables)

If you follow me on Facebook, then you may have seen a post a few months (er, maybe longer) back asking about any interest in me posting things related to what I do in pediatric occupational therapy. 

After thinking about it a while, this was born...

My favorite thing about my job is the ability to be creative and use crafts, games and other fun activities in therapy with my patients. 
For kids, playing is their main 'occupation' in life and so we use play in therapy to facilitate what they need to be working towards. 
Making it more 'fun' and less 'work' helps my kiddos respond more and do so much better in therapy!! 

It's all about taking an activity/game/craft and seeing how it can be used to work on all the goals my kids need to meet. 
And that's what I wanted to share with you!!
I can't promise it'll be every Thursday but I am hoping to get this series up a couple times a month :) 

I'll be sharing fun activities from blogland as well as some of my own ideas and how they can work on specific skills that can help you target them with your own kids!!
So welcome to the very first week of Thinking Therapeutically Thursday!!

Today I'll be sharing a fun 'pre-writing' activity I came up with for my students that work on hand/finger strengthening, facilitating a correct grasp and upper extremity strengthening exercises. 

So many of the kids that I work with struggle with a common school activity: handwriting. 
The exercises/activities included in this 'game' I created are all geared towards helping to develop the muscles in the hands and upper body that will serve as a sort of fine motor 'warm-up' before beginning a handwriting task. 

SO many things go into why a kid might struggle in this area & I created an easy to follow chart that tells a little bit about each of those areas: 

This is a very quick rundown of the main areas & some of the parts that go into I said, there are SO many different components that are taken into consideration. 

So, starting off this year, one of the things I wanted to do for my kids was create some sort of game that made it fun to do some strengthening & warm-up exercises before starting on a handwriting or fine motor task. 

I mainly focused on two areas: 
1. Hand/grasp strength
2. Upper extremity Strength

To prepare little hands for writing, having them do exercises that work their hand and finger muscles are great for increasing the ability to use a correct hand grasp while writing. 

Along with that, it's just as important to strengthen the arms/shoulders/core area of the body to prepare them for things like sitting at a desk, using both sides of their body at the same time & to increase their ability to stabilize their arm/hand/wrist while writing. 

You don't really think about it much, but a whole lot of work is going on for those little bodies to be able to sit at a desk to write!!

The beauty about games like the one I created for this is that you can add to it all the time. 
I threw some activities together that I like to use just to get started but will probably be adding more throughout the year. 

It's quick to put together & I've provided all the printables needed to get you started!!

First things first, you'll need to create your Fine Motor Bucket. 

This consists of all the items you'll need during the warm-ups. 
Have these gathered & set aside in a container or bucket for easy access so you don't have to go hunting for them each time you want to do it. 

Here's what mine looks like at the moment: 

It's super simple and not all prettied up at the moment, but these are pretty common items that most of you probably have lying around the house! 

Supplies needed: 
Small basket or container to hold all your items
Theraputty, clay, or playdough (something that has a little resistance is best)
Pom poms
Large bolt with several nuts
Toy cars
Plastic dinosaurs
A beanbag
Bouncy ball or cotton ball
Mini box/container (large enough for the dinosaurs)

*Remember these are just the items I chose to use in my bucket, feel free to change and add your own to meet the needs of your kiddos :)

The next step is to download my free Fine Motor Bucket Cards that I created and print them off.  
I made them simple black & white squares (mostly because I can't print in color at my schools) and it's easy to see & read for the kids. 

After printing them off, I went ahead and laminated them since mine will be used quite a bit and I didn't want to have to keep printing more off. 
If you don't have access to a laminator, try printing them on a bit more durable paper such as cardstock. 

These are only the ones I've created so far- I'm sure plenty more will be added after a while!! 
I'll try & add them to the link above as I create them :) 

So now that you're all set with your Fine Motor Bucket & your laminated Fine Motor Cards, let's get to work!! 

My plan is to have the student pick 2 cards of their choice before starting a table-top handwriting or fine motor task. 
More than likely I'll have them pick one from each type- 1 hand/finger exercise & 1 strengthening exercise. 
Then I'll pick one of my choice for them to do as well. 

Most of these are quick activities and you'll be done within 3-5 minutes. 
Nice quick prep period before diving into writing. 

To help you understand what to do for each activity, I've written up quick instructions for each task. 
Download the Fine Motor Bucket Instructions here to have on hand when implementing the tasks. 

*I didn't mention it in the instructions, but the 'pinky pinches' exercise is where I would use the pom poms or bouncy ball shown above for them to pinch & hold.*

If you have any questions about any of the tasks, please feel free to comment or shoot me an email about it. 
They are divided into the two categories on the instruction sheet so you'll know how to divide them up for them to choose if you want. 

Have your child do each task for a certain amount of reps or seconds before moving on to the next task. 

Make it fun & exciting so the kids don't feel like it's work!! 
You could even use it as a good motivator or break throughout the day. 

Just like when you're trying to build muscles in other parts of your bodies, your hands & fingers take time & consistency to develop properly and grow stronger. 
Stick with it & have fun!! 

I hope you enjoyed our first Thinking Therapeutically Thursday- I'd love to hear your thoughts & suggestions on things to talk about next!!! 

**Remember when reading/implementing these activities that all children are different and I'm merely giving broad suggestions that can apply to many different diagnoses/situations.**

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