January 14, 2016

{Thinking Therapeutically Thursday} Alphabet Bead Fine Motor Game


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!! 
This series is all about taking some of those ideas & inspiring you with fun & beneficial activities to do at home! 
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I'm back for the second installment of Thinking Therapeutically Thursday!!

I really am excited about this series, however sporadic it may be during the months :) 

I always find it funny when I randomly find a super easy activity to do (usually when I'm bored of the things we usually do) and just grab things I have on hand to use... and it becomes a HIT with the kids I work with. 

Isn't it funny how the simplest things can make them so excited? 

That's what happened this past week when I was trying to think of something different for them to do. 
We just started back to school after Christmas break and it's always hard coming off that high of the holidays. 

I had some leftover pipe cleaners from some candy cane activities and decided they might be fun to work with. 
Combined with some alphabet beads I randomly found in a drawer (never used!), I threw together a quick activity that has been quite the hit with my kids this week. 




Here's the rundown on the super complicated supplies needed: 

*Pipe Cleaners (any color)
*Alphabet beads (they have to have a hole big enough for a pipe cleaner to slide through)
*Random colored beads

I know, way too many items right?
I mean, how much easier can it get??


Set-up is a breeze too. 

Pile your alpha beads onto the table (or if you can't handle the mess, contain them on a plate or bowl)
Hand the kids a pipe cleaner. 

This is where your creativity kicks in. 


A lot of my younger kids are still working on writing/recognizing the letters in their names. 
So I started with that and had them string their first and last names onto the pipe cleaner. 

To keep it organized, I had them spell their first name, string it on and then spell their last name and string it on. 
The beads slide easily onto the pipe cleaner, just make sure to straighten it out as you go.  If you get a kink, it makes it more difficult to slide them on. 


Another easy thing to do is have them spell out their spelling words or sight words for that week onto the pipe cleaner.

It makes it a little more fun & different than spelling them out loud or writing them repeatedly.
Plus it gives them movement, tactile input and some sensory input thrown in to the whole process.
Whole body learning is the best!! 


Here's a few areas that this activity is working on, in all it's simplicity...

Fine Motor Skills- of course, there are so many different ways to work on fine motor skills and this simple project is great! It targets finger dexterity (being able to move your fingers in specific motions to perform a task) and fine motor precision (tiny movements in the hand and wrist that facilitate an action). For a  bigger challenge, have the child hold all the beads for their name in their palm while stringing them on- this helps increase in hand manipulation skills. 

Eye-hand coordination- The child has to focus on holding the bead with one hand and holding the pipe cleaner with the other, all while combining hand/eye movements in order to be able to slip the bead onto the pipe cleaner. Eye hand coordination is a huge component in balance, handwriting skills & gross motor movements. It's also great for crossing midline which is huge in being able to perform fine and gross motor movements during their daily routines. 

Visual Motor/Figure Ground- I love how this activity requires the child to pick out a letter in a very busy background (because all the beads are mixed together). This requires the use of figure ground- something that can be hard for a lot of kiddos and cause a lot of frustration when working on a busy worksheet. It helps train the eyes to take in a lot of information and pick out what is most important. For an easier version, pick out the letters they need before giving it to them and mix the letters in with just colored beads or only a small amount of other alphabet beads. Then build up to being able to have a larger pile of 'distractors'. For a bigger challenge, dump the beads on a busy surface such as pattern paper or fabric to make it even harder. 

Sensory Processing: It's a very simplistic sensory activity, but I have had a couple kids already struggle with just touching the pipe cleaners. This activity introduces different textures through the hard, raised letters on the beads & the soft, flexible and fuzzy feeling of the pipe cleaners. This is great for kids that have tactile sensitivities- just introduce it slowly if it really bothers them. For one of my kids, I held the pipe cleaner and had him just string the beads on. This made it close enough so that he still skimmed the pipe cleaner but didn't have to hold it. Then I had him slide them off at the end.  Build up to letting them touch and then hold it themselves. Add in different textures with different types of beads (bumpy, squishy) or different things to slide them onto. 

Hand Strengthening: So many of my kids are working on hand strengthening because their little hands get so fatigued so quickly. Most of them just need extra activities to build up those little muscles in the hands and wrist. Something as simple as hiding the beads in playdough or theraputty would create great resistance and require a good amount of finger/hand strength to dig them out. Playdough is a very soft resistance so if your child needs more of a challenge, theraputty comes in varying degrees of firmness to challenge them and can easily be bought online at places like Amazon. 

Cognitive Thinking: It's providing all kinds of great cognitive challenges including spelling, letter recognition, patterns (if you use the colored beads), problem solving, and creativity. I love coming up with new ways to working on their names- writing it over and over again gets so repetitive and if it feels new & fun, they are much more apt to get excited about it! This would be great for spelling words and sight word practice during the week. 


Bonus Suggestion!!

Have your child complete the activity while on their hands and knees or laying on their tummy over a therapy ball (couch cushions and ottomans work great too). This helps promote core strength by working those ab and upper extremity muscles. It's a great way to let wiggly, sensory-seeking kids work on a learning activity with greater attention to the task at hand. 

Working on their hands and knees gives what is called 'proprioceptive' input into their little bodies, which most kids crave and don't get enough of. It helps create stronger muscles, increases attention and allows them to get up and move!! 



Activities like this just go to show that it doesn't have to cost a lot or be crazy complicated in order to work on all kinds of skills that your child needs!!
So break out those pipe cleaners & beads and start building some new skills!



**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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