In my little southern part of the world, snow is extra special and somewhat rare. Actually, it has shut my part of the world down for the last 3 days. This is partly due to the fact that we must keep our school children and staff safe. The first 1-2 days was due to snow and the last 2-3 is due to black ice and country roads that are not made for these conditions. Therefore, I have some time to work on a blog! I had meant to do it for Thanksgiving and Christmas but, alas, time got away from me. So, here is what my January OT toy box holds for the theme of snow and snowmen.
I took these photos rather quickly on my last day at work before our southern snow storm. So, for now, this represents just some of the things I do for my snow theme OT sessions. I will add that I have a bunch of cut-out snow flakes that I have; some have the word “snow” on them and the others have matching words like “flake” or “ball.” I love to use this time of the year to discuss compound words so, each snowflake can build into a “snow” compound word such as: snowman, snowflake, snowball, snowcream, snowstorm, snowfort, or snowangel Some of those may not actually be true compound words but you get the idea. I will take these snowflakes and incorporate them into a gross motor activity. I also love to use this time to work on the letter S. This is such a hard letter to write for various reasons. It is really hard for my kids with visual motor, visual perceptual, and midline crossing issues. Therefore, it is even more important to work on this letter. (I will add that the verbal prompts that help me are “make a little c/ curve and turn it back around”). I like to have kids construct the letter S in various fun ways. An easy way is to use either HWT wooden pieces or play dough. I really love to have them do an extra large S on the vertical. This forces them to cross their midlines. When doing this, remember to put kids’ bellybuttons at the middle of the S with shoulders facing forward. Then have them trace a large S in various ways. I draw a big S on a chalkboard, then have them trace over it with a cotton ball (or water paint brush or their finger or another piece of colored chalk). Kids with midline issues will really try to shift their bodies by turning their hips, taking a step over, or turning their shoulders to get that S on one side of their bodies, so make sure they don’t get sneaky on you. 😉
I also love to start my sessions with constructing a snowman. I use the same concepts as Mat Man but now with a snowman. I use thick foam craft sheets to make my snowmen. I use pipe cleaners for their arms. I also love to have them lay over a therapy ball while we construct it. I have them “wheelbarrow walk” up to the piece they need and bring it back to the “snowman building” area. Therapy balls roll very nicely over my foam pieces, so no worries there, and the kids love to watch the snowman go under the ball.
I also have other fun ways to construct a snowman. I have a snowman puzzle. I also found these snowman magnets at Dollar General. I took them and cut them in a couple of other places to make them more of a construction task. I am pleased to say they have handled the cutting just fine. This is just one of the magnet snowmen I use. I taped up a piece of construction paper on my dry erase easel to help it show up better. I love having kids “working on the vertical” as we OTs call it. It is great for their arm muscles.
I also found this awesome Build a Snowman or Melting Snowman a few years ago. I would recommend buying two, if you can, as I would like more white putty to make the snowman with. This is a great way to work visual perception/ visual motor skills with the construction, but it is also a fun way to work those fine motor muscles.
I have also made play dough and had my kids make their own snowman. I was given this recipe years ago from a wonderful preschool teacher…..
Play Dough Recipe
2 Cups Flour + 1 Cup Salt + 1 Cup WARM water + 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil = awesome play dough! (store in a Ziploc gallon plastic bag or container)
I will add here, that I also love for kids to write in play dough. I do not do it a lot because I normally do not have a lot of play dough but this recipe allows for this activity. Flatten out a large piece, take a sharpened pencil or something with a good point end and have them make shapes and letters in it.
After constructing a snowman, I love for my kids to draw a snowman or we make a snowman cut-out craft. I love for kids to doing cutting of a snowman as it gives me a chance to get them to cut 3 circles. The ability to cut out a thick lined large circle should be a skill they can do by 4 years 6 months. The Peabody assessment will say by 50 months.
Along with cutting snowmen, you can have them cut out snowflakes. Get/ make a true square shape out of white paper. Have them fold the paper in half and then in half again. Folding paper is also another great hand development skill. This should be occuring at 6 years of age (per the Peabody Developmental scale). Then they just cut small designs on the outside borders of the folded paper.
The HWT wooden pieces to construct the letter S, mentioned above, is also in the pic below. After drawing a snowman, and maybe themselves with it, I then have them write a word or sentences on the topic. I do not have pictures of what my older kids do for this; I might be able to add that later.
In the drawing artwork, I am using metallic triangular pencils from Lycra or a white crayon; you could also use white chalk on dark blue or black paper.
Of course I love to do my fine motor fun! Here are some things that I do with my kids.
I found these tongs at Sur la Table back in Christmas of 2016. They are short tongs that have mittens at the end! I use them to pick up “snowballs”. I have kids do this at the table, but I often incorporate a gross motor balance task. Sur la Table also has tongs like this with hands at the end. Recently, I have found those tongs at Walmart. For now, these are my favorite tongs (either variation from Sur la Table)
I found these hard plastic snowflakes one year at Walmart in the craft section or the cake decorating section. I use them hidden in theraputty or to push through a small slit opening. The container is actually from Lowes or Home Depot. It is made to hold nails/ screws etc, but it is perfect to strengthen hand muscles. These are also the same motions needed for buttoning tasks, so it is considered a prebuttoning task and excellent for those kids struggling with or working on buttoning skills.
I found these stacking crayon pencils in a dollar section somewhere a while ago. I like them for the idea of writing with because they force a tripod grasp with their short size. However, I have found that they do not write dark enough for my kids. My true love for these is to work on motor control and coordination from stacking them as high as they can get. It also becomes a bilateral activity as they must use both hands to hold and stack. My teacher friends could also use them to work on patterns or math skills.
I also believe that you must have gross motor play and development to allow for fine motor development. Here are a few things I like to do.
I like to have kids crumble up white copier paper, to make snowballs. Crumbling paper is a great way to strengthen hand muscles. The Peabody Developmental assessment would say they should be able to crumble paper by 10 months. However, I would say to make the tight snowball form it will be more around 2-3 years of age. Then have the kids throw them at a target! This may be a hula hoop hanging in the air, a big trash can, or in a “snowball fight” with others. As an OT, I love to have them do this from my platform swing in tall kneeling.
I will also add that I did a mini “yoga flow” this year with some of my kids. I always do gross motor strengthening at the start of my sessions. I hope to make a short video of it to add later. Basically, it is reversed plank pose. I tell the kids that they are a bridge with a snowplow going under them or they are a snow sled getting ready to go down a hill. Then go into boat pose. I tell the kids they are a snowball. Then I tell them to “explode!” as a snowball which means extend out legs and arms over head while laying flat on the floor. Then go from exploded snowball back to snow bridge/ snow sled. I have the kids do this 5 times in this pattern. Try to have them hold the snowball for a while to work those core muscles and bridge to work those shoulder muscles!
Finally, I will add this one I also learned from a preschool teacher. She takes the waxy paper plates and makes an “ice skating rink” on her classroom carpet! Such a fun way to work your muscles and motor planning.
I hope this gives you a few fun ideas for those cold winter days inside.