Here’s a simple yet cute Christmas fine motor activity you can do with your toddler or preschooler that consists mostly of items you can find around your house!
This activity was inspired by Stir the Wonder. I adapted it to accommodate for the materials I had on hand and to give it an OT twist! This post contains affiliate links for your convenience (see full disclosure here).
First I took a cardboard Costco milk box that had been sitting in our garage patiently waiting its turn to be part of one of my DIY projects. I hot glued down the flaps and then used Elmer’s Glue to glue white dollar store doodle pad paper all around it.
Then I cut out a large green triangle and small brown rectangle, glued them on the box, and nailed holes all over the green triangle tree to make room for the toothpick decorations to come. (I also had to test the holes to make sure they were big enough for the toothpicks to squeeze into.)
Then, knowing one of my kiddos would probably drool on the paper or somehow cause it to become wet or torn at some point (cuz that’s what happens with kids), I applied a layer of Mod Podge to make it a little more water- and damage-resistant. Mod Podge goes on white like glue, dries clear to create a seal over whatever surface you apply it to, and can be found at craft stores such as Michaels or Hobby Lobby, or online here.
While the Mod Podge dried, I hot glued sparkle craft pom poms to the ends of a bunch of toothpicks. You have to be super careful to pinch the pom poms on the very tip to keep from burning your finger on the glob of hot glue. These sparkle poms poms are the same ones used in our jingle bell sensory bin, and can be found at Michaels in-store or online here.
Once the mod podge dried after 10 minutes or so, I poked at all the holes with a toothpick to loosen them up and make it easy for the pom pom toothpicks to go through when my little ones tried it out. Once that was finished, we were ready to play!
The reason I decided to use a cardboard milk box instead of a detachable shoe box lid (as seen in the original post), was so that this activity could be done while working on a vertical surface, much like working at an easel.
For many kiddos who have fine motor delays, they have a tough time completing fine motor activities that require a pincer grasp (pinching with thumb and pointer), wrist extension (bending the wrist back), and/or bilateral coordination (coordinating both hands together). By using a box that can stand up while pushing in the toothpick pom poms, it allows them to practice all three of these skills — they must pinch the toothpick or pom pom, extend their wrist, and stabilize the box with the helper hand while pushing the toothpick in with the other. I also liked this particular box because what were originally the top and bottom flaps soon became “handles” for the helper hand once the box was turned sideways (as pictured below).
In trying this activity out at home, I learned that this can be a great sibling activity, too! It was fun for them to be able to complete together (yay, teamwork!) while also providing opportunities for practicing taking turns, sharing space, and resolving conflict (because I’m not the only one whose young ones want to both use the same materials at the same time, right?).
One suggestion I’d make after having put this activity together myself is to cut the toothpicks in half if you’re going to do this with kiddos who are impulsive or who have difficulty with hand-eye coordination. The reason I say that is because if you don’t put the toothpick in pretty much straight-on, you run the risk of cracking the toothpick as you push it in at an angle. That happened to us and it was no big deal because we were at home and could fix it. But breaking a toothpick might be extremely frustrating to a kiddo who is doing this in an occupational therapy session, or even at an independent work station at preschool. If you do decide to cut the toothpick in half, just make sure you glue the pom pom onto the blunt end so you leave the pointy end available. That’s the easiest end to push into the tree.
I hope you get to try out this Christmas fine motor activity before December is over and you have to wait until next year to give it a go!