For a simple Thanksgiving activity for kids, try transforming an empty water bottle into a turkey that helps kids practice their fine motor skills!
This water bottle turkey provides kids the opportunity to practice fine motor skills such as pincer grasp (pinching with thumb and pointer), bilateral coordination (working together with two hands), hand-eye coordination, and in-hand manipulation skills (being able to move objects around in one hand without the help of the other hand). It’s packed with fine motor power! This post contains affiliate links for your convenience (see full disclosure here).
Here’s what you’ll need in order to make a water bottle turkey as pictured above:
- 1 empty mini water bottle
- Craft felt (a roughly 9-inch x 3-inch strip of brown felt, plus a tiny bit of orange and red felt)
- 2 googly eyes
- Skinny screwdriver
- Gold permanent marker
- 5 craft feathers
- Hot glue gun (keep it away from the kids!)
- Small items to “feed” the turkey that will fit in the water bottle’s opening (such as marbles, beads, craft pom poms, small balls of play dough, etc.)
- Tongs such as these mini alligator tongs (optional)
How to make a water bottle turkey for fine motor skills:
- Get your empty mini water bottle and carefully poke 5 holes around the top edge with your mini screwdriver (or something similar). It’s important to do this step first (before you decorate it) just in case you mess up the holes and have to start over with a new water bottle!
- Once you are happy with the holes, plug in your hot glue gun and get to work cutting out your 9”x3” piece of brown felt (for the turkey body) plus your orange triangle beak and red wattle (yeah, that red thing that hangs from under the turkey’s beak). The brown felt strip doesn’t have to be exactly that size, but that’s the size mine was based on the water bottle I was using.
- Hot glue the brown felt strip all the way around the bottle. Then glue on the eyes, beak, and wattle. I’ve found that having the brown felt on the water bottle makes it a lot easier for little hands to hold.
- Take your gold permanent marker and draw circles around the 5 holes you poked at the top. This is such an important step because it provides visual contrast. Otherwise, your kiddo will have a really hard time visually locating the holes!
Alright, you’re good to go!
Show your child how to place the tips of the craft feathers into the gold holes. Then watch how they explore and experiment with this new creation. You might be surprised at how engaging this simple fine motor activity is!
Now show your child how to “feed” the turkey by pinching and dropping small items into the top of the water bottle. This past week we have been using marbles from the dollar store, but you could also use small items such as beads, craft pom poms, or small balls of play dough. Be smart! If you are concerned your child may try to place small items in his or her mouth, then consider using taste-friendly items such as Cheerios or Kix cereal just in case.
Here are a few ways to increase the level of fine motor challenge with this turkey water bottle activity:
- Have kids pick up the feather at the “feathery” end and then walk (aka- “shift”) their fingers closer to the tip before placing in the holes. This in-hand manipulation skill tends to develop in the early preschool years, around age 3 to 3 1/2.
- Start this activity with the water bottle cap closed so kids have to twist it off in order to be able to feed the turkey. Great practice for finger and hand strength as well as for real life self-help skills.
- Have kids pick up 2 or 3 marbles, one at a time, before feeding the turkey. This encourages an in-hand manipulation skill called “finger-to-palm translation”, which means they pick up a small item with their fingertips and then coordinate the fingers and small muscles of the hand to slide the item into the palm. This is a realistic skill for preschoolers.
- Once kids have the 2 or 3 marbles in their hand, then challenge them to slide only 1 marble out to their fingertips at a time. This is the opposite direction of the previous idea and is called “palm-to-finger translation” because, well, they are moving the small item from their palm to their fingertips. This is a more advanced in-hand manipulation skill which requires an increased level of coordination with the thumb, however, it should be realistic for many preschoolers.
- Have kids use tongs or tweezers to feed the turkey. This helps them strengthen their hands and fingers while also practicing a similar grasp needed for holding a crayon or pencil and a similar open/close motion needed for cutting with scissors.
I hope you enjoyed this Thanksgiving activity for fine motor skills and that you get a chance to try it out with the kids in your life!
Want more fine motor ideas and resources you can (legally) download to your computer or print for your own use? Check out these helpful e-books from OT Mom, packed with practical, ready-to-use fine motor activity ideas:
OT Mom’s Fine Motor Bundle (Discounted price on Fine Motor Activities plus Scissor Skills Activities plus FREE Bonus Cutting Template)