Monday, May 3, 2010

Homemade Monday: Narrowing the Gap

One phrase our occupational therapist encouraged us to keep in mind when working to strengthen fine motor skills was to continually "narrow the gap".  It used to be a challenge for LC to perform a controlled drop of a toy into a box with a large opening.  As her motor (and direction following) skills have improved, we need to increase the challenge-level of the tasks by narrowing the space she has to aim for.

Here are some activities we've created from household items in an attempt to continue strengthening LC's fine motor skills.

We took most of our inspiration from this purchased Fisher Price toy.  It clearly requires LC to drop objects into small, designated spots based on size and shape.  However, the number of objects and choices for openings is pretty overwhelming for LC right now at her stage of development.  We can simplify the activity by taping over some of the shape options or decreasing the number of shapes she works with. 

We have more success with some of the following homemade options, using items from around the house.

This activity involves dropping jumbo sized craft sticks into the opening of the rubbermaid liquid container we used to use for mixing formula.  LC has to manipulate the stick a bit to get it through the target, but the circular opening is still large enough that she doesn't have to be exactly precise in order to be successful in getting the stick into the container.
Sidenote:  Neat colored sticks, right?  I had them leftover from my elementary teaching days.  They're bright and colorful and BLEED LIKE CRAZY WHEN WET.  I do NOT recommend them for toddlers in the taste-testing-everything stage of life.

This activity resulted from some modifications to a similar one Loren's mom shared with us.  She's always super creative and full of good ideas...

It's the jumbo craft sticks again and an empty grated parmesan cheese container.  For early practice, we put the jumbo sticks through the large opening on side.

Once she's improved in dexterity a bit, we can open up the smaller-holed side and use straws that have been cut in half.
Finally, she can be given both objects and determine which of the two sides to use when placing the objects into the container.

Our last activity is a way of recycling used formula containers and lids.
I cut a wide slit into a formula container lid large enough to fit various lids from around the house.  Yogurt, sour cream, cake frosting, pickles, babyfood, cream cheese....each lid fits through the same slot but needs to be manipulated in order to make it through into the container.

I modified another lid to accommodate shapes of different sizes.
This lid is designed for working with old plastic Easter eggs and the smaller size of craft stick.  We start with the craft sticks only, since she can achieve success with either size hole.  Then we transition to the eggs, so she understands that the eggs only make it through one opening and they'll only make it through vertically...not horizontally.  Finally, she works with both objects together on the "puzzle".

Let us know how you're practicing to strengthen fine motor skills at your house!  We love to hear your ideas!

We'll end with a shot of my handsome photo assistant...just because I find him incredibly charming...


  1. Great ideas thanks for sharing!

  2. I think your assistant is charming too:)

    We have been putting cheerios into empty plastic water bottles. She does this really well. We were going to move on to pennies into slits to up the challenge for her, watching carefully so she doesn't eat them!

    Thanks for all your homemade suggestions. I can always see the teacher in your mothering ...or maybe that is because I have the same tendencies! You are just sooooo organized with their work though, and I'm not quite there.

  3. Thanks for giving us some great ideas!

  4. Wow very cool. You are such a good teacher. We have just started to focus on putting things into a container. Wysdom's big on throwing out right now. I love your post about the bath!! Wow what fun they have. Sooo cute.

  5. We are still!! Trying!!!! to get Em to release anything into any bucket, box, bag, basket...

    Those are great ideas. Think I'll try the sticks! it's completely different than anything else we've done. Just might throw off the white knuckle grip she's got on everything else.


  6. Thanks so much for all these wonderful ideas. I'm with Stephanie....we worked so hard to get Landon to hold on to an object when he picked it up and he is not ready to let go of it yet. But....we keep on TRYING:) That sure is one adorable little assistant you have over there:)

    BTW, why am I not getting your updates anymore? I am following your blog but for some reason I'm not receiving your updated posts. We cannot have that over here. Landon loves chatting to your kiddos! HELP:)

  7. First off, LOVE your assistant. I have a similar set up with Marissa. I've been cutting the tops off of various containers for a while now. I've been using those magnetic fridge letters (from the dollar store) so we can do letter/sound review while we work n those fine motor skills.

    Another good one is an empty baby wipes container. But it works just as well to cut your own. :-)

  8. Those are great. We've done a couple of those, but I'd like to try the one with the straw.
    We've also used cupcake picks stuck in a pegboard (easier than the pegs it came with). My husband made a giant lacing board. I have pictures up on my blog.


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