I had a lot of fun working on Halloween fine motor activities with my students last week, so I thought I’d share four that turned out to be a great hit! These were done with kiddos ranging from preschool all the way to fourth grade.
1. Eyeball sensory bag.
This might have been my favorite all week because of its versatility. All you need is a gallon-sized ziploc bag, a few squeezes of dollar store hair gel, and a gooey eyeball (dollar store two-pack). I taped the bag on a whiteboard and then drew mazes and pre-writing shapes on the board underneath so they’d show through the bag. I drew an eyeball to indicate where the gooey orbit should start, and then the kids had to use their fingers to make the eyeball follow the lines. The boys, of course loved it…but so did the girls! It was quite a workout for their little fingers (with the added benefit of working at a vertical surface to encourage better wrist activation for mature pencil grasp). I’ve never seen kids so mesmerized! This activity was great for providing input to my sensory seekers (squish, squish!) while also serving as a protective barrier for my sensory avoiders (no touching that gooey, yucky stuff). Lots of adorable giggling with this one!
Fine motor/visual perceptual skills addressed: isolation of index finger, pincer grasp, bilateral coordination, hand-eye coordination (visual motor skills), following lines and pre-writing strokes
Good for ages: preschool through elementary
Make it harder: use one hand to hold the bag and the other to slide the eyeball (rather than using two hands to slide it around); slide upward; shapes with more angles; complete the path in both directions (as in picture 3)
Make it easier: hold the bag in place for them so they can use two hands to slide the eyeball; slide downward; shapes with fewer angles
2. Spider web lacing plate.
I was surprised at how easy or difficult this was for some students. My string was only long enough for six holes, but you can do more holes if you have a longer string (good thing I tested it out beforehand!). I pre-knotted the string and wrote the numbers on the plate before involving the kids, but I had them punch the holes themselves going from 1 to 6. Then they laced the web and got to hide the spider or bug at the very end as their reward (bag o’ bugs from dollar store). Some kids needed a lot of assistance to coordinate holding the plate with one hand and lacing with the other. Some needed help holding the string effectively and figuring out whether to go up or down. Some needed help scanning the plate to find the numbers in the correct order (either due to visual processing difficulties, attention/impulsive difficulties, or both). Again, this was a good Halloween fine motor activity for both boys and girls!
Fine motor/visual perceptual skills addressed: hand strength (punching holes), pincer grasp, bilateral coordination, hand-eye coordination (visual motor skills), visual scanning
Good for ages: preschool through early elementary (or older depending on skill level)
Make it harder: use one hand to punch holes rather than two; use one hand to hold and manipulate lace; add more numbers and longer string; use a thicker plate to require more strength for punching holes
Make it easier: slide plate into a 3-hole puncher (but only punch one hole at a time) so they can use their whole upper body to punch holes; use fewer numbers and shorter string
3. Wiggly spider hat.
This one I found at Sweet Tea Classroom via Pinterest (of course). I’ve been using it in the clinic and in the schools, and boys and girls think it’s hilarious! It’s a great basic cutting activity (just lines and 2 circles) that can easily be adapted based on skill level. It also involves some fine motor dexterity as they help tear off pieces of tape, press them on the hat, and roll up two pieces to use for the eyes. (You could use a stapler instead of tape but I am so not comfortable giving a preschooler a stapler, no matter how well supervised. You could also use a glue stick, but then the pieces tend to slide around when in the hands of a little one.) The best part of this craft, though, is when the kids put on the hat. It’s hilarious. The 8 legs bounce around and they just think they’re sooooo funny. The googly eyes help, too.
Fine motor/visual perceptual skills addressed: pincer grasp, bilateral coordination, hand-eye coordination (visual motor skills), dexterity, scissor skills
Good for ages: preschool through early elementary (or older depending on skill and interest level)
Make it harder: have them cut and tape on their own; show them a model and have them figure out how to make it from the model; show them a model and give them a written step-by-step list of how to make it on their own
Make it easier: only have them cut out the short, straight lines (circles are obviously harder to cut); take the lead on the tearing and rolling of tape, but have them help where they can
4. Group pumpkin collage.
I came up with this activity when I was laying in bed one night thinking about work (can’t turn that brain off). It has actually turned out to be a really neat collaborative project, and we’re not even done with it yet! I got a big piece of black bulletin board paper from the school supply room, taped it to the wall, and drew an outline of a jack-o-lantern. I found big sheets of orange and green tissue paper in a drawer somewhere and then told each student that they could contribute to a group project that all the kids were doing in OT. There’s something about contributing to the greater good that really gets some kids fired up.
Because my focus was more on having the kids crumple the paper and glue it to the wall rather than wasting time wrestling with a big sheet of tissue paper, I tore it into small squares and then handed it to them so they could get to work. Some students needed constant reminders and demos to crunch it up into a little ball (as you can see). Some had poor strength and/or dexterity, so they had to push the tissue on their body while crumpling in order to gain added stability. Some also needed help holding the glue stick correctly, like you would hold a pencil (they wanted to grab with their whole fist instead). And yet others needed frequent reminders to stay inside the lines (or out of the eyes, nose, and mouth, which will remain black). We did this as part of our fine motor warm-up before sitting down to do tabletop work such as cutting or writing. Many students have been excited to come back to OT to see how much more of the pumpkin has been made. I can’t wait to do more themed collages with my students in the future!
Fine motor/visual perceptual skills addressed: pincer grasp, dexterity, finger strength, visual scanning for where to place tissue, shoulder strength to reach up and press onto paper
Good for ages: preschool through elementary
Make it harder: have them crumple using only one hand, have them tear the tissue paper themselves, use a glue stick with a twist top to challenge more refined finger skills
Make it easier: allow them to use two hands to crumple paper, do glue for them so they can just focus on crumpling and placing the paper over and over
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I hope you get a chance to try one or more of these Halloween fine motor activities before October is over and you have to wait until next year to give them a go. Have fun!