OT to the Rescue! Educational Play for Fine Motor Skill Development

OT-Resources-for-Fine-Motor
By:
Cross Country Education
Posted:
January 14, 2022 02:11 AM (GMT-04:00)
Categories:
Educator Resources

Research and Resources on Educational Play and Fine Motor Skills for OTs

Occupational therapists can quickly identify children who struggle with fine motor skills. These kids often stand out in the classroom, as they wrestle with shoelaces and buttons, fight with snaps and zippers, and become fed up with scissors, pencils, or crayons. They (along with their parents and teachers) may feel impatient (and even exasperated) with their lack of coordination.

Fortunately, OTs are here! And they’ve brought along targeted therapies to strengthen coordination skills (masterfully packaged as fun and exciting educational play)!

OTs to the rescue!

OTs can be both empathetic and optimistic about these challenges because they know that occupational therapy is highly effective at helping children develop fine motor skills and strengthen coordination. They also know that OT can be fun! Early intervention with OT and educational play can help kids with fine motor challenges improve coordination and build confidence in school and beyond.

Motor Difficulties Are Common

Nearly 6 percent of school-aged kids have motor difficulties severe enough to impact their academic and social interactions (American Family Physician). Without intervention, these challenges can persist and can even become magnified in adolescence and adulthood (AFP). Motor difficulties can be associated with other issues like ADHD, poor drawing and handwriting, learning disabilities, emotional immaturity, and more (AFP). That’s why early intervention is critical.

Studies Show OT Helps!

Here are just a few of the many studies that confirm how effective OT is for fine motor skill development:

  • Fine Motor Outcomes in Preschool Children Who Receive Occupational Therapy Services – in this article, published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy, Case-Smith demonstrated preschool children with moderate fine motor delays who received weekly OT showed significant improvements in eye-hand coordination, mobility function, in-hand manipulation, eye-hand coordination, and grasping strength with self-care function and mobility.

  • Occupational Therapy in the Preschool Classroom – Promoting Fine Motor and Visual-Motor Skills for Kindergarten Readiness – In this piece, published in the Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, & Early Intervention, Martino explored how intervention using fine motor and sensory activity centers indicated clinically significant gains in readiness skills.

  • Occupational Therapy in the Preschool Classroom – Promoting Fine Motor and Visual-Motor Skills for Kindergarten Readiness – In this piece, published in the Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, & Early Intervention, Martino explored how intervention using fine motor and sensory activity centers indicated clinically significant gains in readiness skills.

  • The Impact of >Educational Play on Fine Motor Skills of Children – Dadkhah’s research, published in Middle East Journal of Family Medicine, demonstrated that when occupational therapists used educational play involving bead sorting and pegboards with children aged four to six, they showed improved eye-hand coordination, hand-hand coordination and speed of hand skills.

This research is great news for occupational therapists and children since it highlights the importance of the complex learning activity of educational play – and playing is fun!

Educational Play OT Activities for Strengthening Fine Motor Skills

Here are some of our favorite resources for OT activities to build fine motor skills. These activities involve lots of educational play, so your students are bound to love them!

  • Fine Motor Skills – This resource from The OT Toolbox provides an in-depth look at types of fine motor skills, including bilateral hand coordination, gross grasp, in-hand manipulation, translation, shift, and rotation. They also cover pincer grasp, neat pincer grasp, tripod grasp, eye-hand coordination, and wrist extension. There are many fun activities linked to each skill, like pushpin can letters for arch development, snap block lightsabers for hand strength, and much more!

  • Fine Motor Activities –This resource from Kid Sense Child Development covers the importance of hand dominance, bilateral integration, finger isolation, and hand and finger strength. It lists play activities like threading and lacing beads, games like Pick Up Sticks and Connect 4, and building with materials like Play-Doh, Lego, egg cartons, and sticky tape.

  • 50 Fine Motor Occupational Therapy Activities at Home – This page from Your Therapy Source begins with warm-up activities like chair pushups, yoga poses, and bear hugs. Then, the page offers a collection of fine motor activity cards using basic supplies. Examples include putting coins into a bank, stringing macaroni on yarn, finger painting, using q-tips to paint a picture, playing with finger puppets, and playing a hand-clapping game with a friend.

We hope you find these resources useful for your OT toolkit. Enjoy this opportunity to help your students through educational play, and have fun!

To find out where your specialized skills are needed most across the nation, browse our school OT jobs now!

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