OT/Sensory based table top activities for school-aged children
Play is an important aspect to a child’s growth and development. It is a child’s primary occupation to play. The occupations of a person are the meaningful and purposeful activities we participate in during the day. Adults have different occupations than children, but sometimes it is important for everyone to play! A child develops functional skills, motor skills, language skills and interpersonal skills through play. Engaging in different types of activities at home can even help your child develop skills in the classroom. Play helps encourage all areas of development, from cognitive and physical to social and emotional. Some benefits of play are it builds self-esteem and confidence, develops problem-solving skills, encourages new vocabulary usage, teaches children to be alone and independent, allows children to release their emotions and encourages planning and thinking ahead. It can be a great tool for children to connect with their peers and the adults around them. Fine motor development is important for children to develop as well as gross motor development. At a preschool age children are working on both. Gross motor (large muscle groups) development can impact fine motor (small muscle groups). As a child builds stability in their core it allows more control in the hands etc. Since play can be filled with opportunities for development, here are some activities children can play at a table while encouraging fine motor growth and development.
Picking at the edges of the tape is a fun way for little hands to develop fine motor dexterity. They are working on a pincer grasp (tip-to-tip pinch of the thumb and index finger)
Playing a word spelling game with boxes made out of tape. Have the child help tear the tape into bits (tripod grasp, working on small motor strength of the hand arches)
Pick up large or small objects with tweezers. Put things in sand, rice or beans and have children try to tweeze them out. (Tripod grasp, working on separating the two sides of the hand in a small motor task)
Sort pom –poms by color or size with tweezers into cupcake tins, bowls or empty egg cartons. Have the child tweeze a pom- pom from one side of the body to the other. (Tripod grasp, working on crossing mid-line.)
Play dough play
Press thick beads into play dough with the thumb in a bent position. This helps encourage development of an appropriate pencil grasp. (Working on the muscles needed to oppose with an open web space and flex the tip of the thumb.
Using play dough mats or the surface of a table play utilize play dough by pushing, smashing, rolling, and pulling it apart. Make sure the whole arm is involved in manipulating the dough! (Working on finger, shoulder and arm strength that helps support an age appropriate writing grasp.)
Pipe cleaner play
After tying a knot at one end, have the child hold the pipe cleaner with one hand and bead with the other. Using beads with smaller openings will require the child to use more finger strength. Make patterns with colors or shapes for more fun! (Working tip-to-tip pinch of the thumb, index finger and eye/hand coordination. )
Place an upside down colander on the table. Use various sized pipe cleaners to poke through the holes. Make designs and patterns using different colors. Try to get the same pipe cleaner in more than one hole. Add a time challenge for older children to see how many they can place in 30 seconds. (Working on pincer grasp, eye/hand coordination, bilateral coordination and sequencing.)
Sort water beads by color or size using a spoon or measuring cup. Place water beads in a bin or a sink and have the child scoop and sort into cups or buckets.
Filling up a container with water, have the child use a turkey baster or plastic pipettes to squeeze water in and out.. Add food coloring, sparkles or bath toys for more sensory play. For younger children, use a sponge he or she can squeeze out after dipping it into the water bin. (Tripod grasp, working on pinching and fine motor strength/ coordination.)