Develop Fine Motor Skills with Toothpicks

fine motor

If you have a child who struggles with developing an appropriate pencil grasp or fine motor skills in general, try playing with toothpicks. In this photo, the child who struggles with fine motor strength, grasp, and hand dominance had to unscrew the cap of the cinnamon bottle (bilateral skills to hold the bottle with one hand, unscrew with the emerging dominant hand) and then problem solve how to get them out. She then pushed the toothpicks into the play dough to make a porcupine (took a lot of strength). Then later she pulled them out (also took quite a bit of strength) and placed them one by one into the tiny holes of the cinnamon bottle while stabilizing the bottle with her other hand.

This is a simple task packed with therapeutic value and is great for the child who still holds the crayon/pencil with their whole fist or who has not yet established a hand dominance. Find more fun ways to play with toothpicks by checking out this Top 10 list from Embrace Your Chaos.

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Mama OT In addition to being mama to two sweet little boys and wife to a crazy awesome husband, Christie is a Registered & Licensed Occupational Therapist (OTR/L). She holds a B.A. in Psychology with a Minor in Education from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA...Go Bruins!), and an M.A. in Occupational Therapy from the University of Southern California (USC OT). She has experience working as a pediatric OT in early intervention (birth to 3), clinic-based, and school-based settings. Her mission with is to encourage, educate, and empower those who care for children. Christie loves that she gets to PLAY when she goes to work, is hopelessly addicted to Kettle Corn, and is known for being able to turn virtually anything into a therapeutic tool or activity, from empty food containers to laundry and everything in between. Learn more about Christie and what inspired her to become an OT.

Occupational therapy (OT) is a holistic profession that helps people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities, also known as “occupations”. Some OTs help people diagnosed with disability, injury, or disease. Others help prevent disability, injury, or disease. Because of occupational therapy, people of all ages are able to say, "I can!" no matter what their struggle. Isn't that amazing?!

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Please provide appropriate supervision to the child in your care when completing any activities from this site. You as the grown-up will need to decide what types of products/activities on this list will be safe for your child. If you’re not sure, check with your child’s occupational therapist or pediatrician. Appropriate and reasonable caution should be used when implementing any ideas or activities from this site, particularly if there is any risk of injury (e.g., falling, crashing), choking (e.g., small parts), drowning (e.g., water play), or allergic/adverse reaction (e.g., materials/ingredients). The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any activities or ideas from this site. 
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7 thoughts on “Develop Fine Motor Skills with Toothpicks

  1. Hi MamaOT,
    I definitely want to try the play dough approach. Not sure if my son can do the cinnamon bottle advanced maneuver. He is almost 4 with motor delays.

  2. Pingback: How to Sneak Fine Motor Skills into Gross Motor Play -Mama OT

  3. Pingback: Pediatric Therapy Corner: How to Sneak Fine Motor Skills into Gross Motor Play

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