Fine Motor Activities Gross Motor Activities Handwriting Sensory Activities Visual Perceptual Activities

Top Ten OT Things to do with: BALLOONS

You know I’m always looking for fun inexpensive and light ways (I travel to schools) to use children’s favorite toys and tools to teach important skills. Balloons are one of those magical items that makes every child rise to their feet and motivates them to participate!



Here are my TOP 10 + WAYS that I like using balloons!
1- Gross motor skills:
  • Play a version of Musical chairs by tapping balloons when music stops whoever doesn’t have a ballon sits out. Remove one balloon each time.
  • Great for eye-hand coordination and team building. Children tap the ballon to each other but it can’t touch floor.
  • Write letters on a balloon as children tap it to each other they must name a letter from the balloon or name the letter and a word that begins with that letter.
2- Bilateral Coordination:
  • Use balloons to work on bilateral arm and leg skills such as tapping the balloon with alternating hands or alternating feet.
  • Use chopsticks to have children pick up the balloons and walk over to a target where they have to drop them. You can increase the difficulty by adding a balance beam, items on the floor to step over, cones to go around! You cannot drop the balloon.
3- Sensory:
  • Dipping balloons in different colored paints and stamping them on paper makes beautiful Artwork (hint: keep balloons small) I love doing this activity with children that require simple activities as it requires very little skill but produces beautiful results.
  • Fill balloons using a funnel with rice, beans, flour, beads and use as a fidget toy or to improve hand strength as you squeeze or finger isolation as you squeeze with (the thumb )and one finger at a time. You can even blow them up and then shake as musical instruments!
  • Put shaving cream on a balloon and have children write their letters!
4- Drawing: Learn to draw a face. You can add paper feet so that it stays up!
5- Handwriting:
  • Have a balloon with letters written on it. Children Write a word for each letter. Or 2 children pick either the same letter.
  • Or 2 different letters and write as many words as possible for that one letter.
  • Write Who words on one balloon (nouns) and What words on another (actions). Children pick two words to make a fun sentence. Kids can also do this as a game by tapping the balloon to each other and each call out a word from one of the balloons. They then each have to make a sentence combining the words that they each called out.
6-Letter Concepts: Write upper case letters in a balloon,”. Ask children to match the lower case letter sticker to the correct letter.
7-Number Concept: Children pick 2 numbers on the balloon, write down the number sentence to add them up.
8-Reading/Spelling: This can be a fun way to learn spelling! Write your child’s spelling words on the balloon as they tap the balloon they pick a word and spell.
9- Visual Tracking Skills: Blow up a balloon do not tie it, let it go and children have to track where it lands. To make it more challenging, do 2 balloons at the same time!
10-Science: So many science activities involving sound, electrostatic E, blowing it up by using a solution of baking soda and vinegar, poking a ballon with a skewer without popping it, centrifugal force with a penny, power a lego car to move by letting the air out of a balloon…the possibilities are endless!!!20151022_162507-1
Visual Perceptual Activities

Summer Puzzles


Tips on Teaching Little ones to complete a puzzle:

The idea is to help children move from a trial and error approach to a problem-solving approach

  1. Make sure they see the completed puzzle before breaking it up
  2. Teach children to match colors, patterns etc (they don’t always realize this strategy)
  3. If it’s too difficult, give them 2 pieces at a time to match up
  4. With larger puzzles I like teaching children to create the frame first and then fill in the rest of the puzzle. I also like puzzles that have the sky and the ground when teaching larger puzzles as this is a strategy too to figure out where pieces go.
  5. I also give hints ex: if the pick up a piece of an airplane I say: Does it go in the sky or in the water? Give hints by asking questions.
  6. Use verbal cueing for instance, when the correct piece doesn’t fit, I encourage children by saying: turn it and try another side. I have them try and encourage them to turn the puzzle piece till it makes a fit.
  7. Remind children to refer to the picture on the box.
  8. For children that don’t like puzzles, use it as part of an obstacle course! It helps them comply and focus!

You can purchase this cute puzzle as part of Miss Mancy’s Summer Days Activity Kit!

Skills Addressed:

Puzzles help children work on visual perceptual skills. It also teaches them problem-solving, organization and focused attention. I find that many children do not like puzzles but it’s because they can be overwhelming. However if you walk them through it, they actually love the satisfaction of finding connecting pieces.

Fine Motor Activities Gross Motor Activities Visual Perceptual Activities

10 Ways to use Fairy Wands


You Will Need:

  • A wand
  • Round Thumbtack
  • Small magnet

I put a round tip thumbtack and secured it with hot glue on one end and a small magnet on the other end. You can also purchase this wand at MissMancy’s Shop.


The Activities:

Fantastic Ways to teach letter formation:

1. Form letters on your child’s back and they have to guess the letter. I added a rounded tip at the end of my wand to make it “roll” more smoothly on different surfaces.


2. Form letters in the air and have your child guess. I like to do it also as a race between 2 children. Who can name the letter first.


3. Form letters in the pool and have your child guess the letter.


Other ways to use the wand:

4. Use the magnetic tip to pick up bingo chips or magnetized letters as part of an obstacle course.


5. Carry small items from one end of the room to the other or on a balance beam. I like to make little butterflies or birds out of different materials or use mini erasers and ask children to “save” the butterfly across the bridge. This helps children learn to slow down and pay attention to their bodies and movements.


6. The Abracadabra Animal game: Wave your magic wand and name an animal. Your child has to pretend you turned him into that animal and imitate this its walk ex: bird, butterfly, elephant, bear, crab. This is a fun gross motor activity.


7.Tap a balloon to each other. Great eye-hand coordination game especially for children with poor ball skills.


8. Finger Activities: Race with fingers up and down the length of the wand. Begin by holding it with a tripod grasp like a crayon and walk your fingers back all the way to the star and then forward all the way to the tip. Twirl like a baton. These are both great ways to work on pincer grasp which will help strengthen little fingers for writing.


9. Have your child close his eyes. Touch him with the wand somewhere on his body and ask him to then open his eyes and point where you touched him. This is great for body awareness through tactile input.


10. Turn on the music and have your child dance around with the wand. When the music stops they must freeze. They cannot move but if they do, you tickle them with the tip of your wand and they are out of the game. This is a great auditory processing game.




Fine Motor Activities Visual Perceptual Activities

Easter Finger Work TIC-TAC-TOE

I love going to the Dollar Store and finding great (inexpensive) tools that I can use to create purposeful activities.

Therapy Corner:

When working on fine motor skills it is important that your child learn how to use both sides of his hand simultaneously and in a coordinated manner. In a nutshell, you want the first 2-3 fingers of the hand (which includes the thumb aka the radial side of the hand) to do the work/movement while the last 2-3 digits of the hand work as stabilizers (aka. ulnar side of the hand). This is an important pre-cursor to a good pencil grasp. Think about it, the first few digits of the hand hold the pencil and move during handwriting activities while the ulnar side of the hand pushes down into the table to stabilize the paper.

With that said, we work on:

Nesting Skills (i.e. picking up small items with fingers and placing them in the palm of the hand)

Retrieving Skills (i.e transferring small items from the palm of the hand to the tip of the fingers)

Pincer Grasp Strength (i.e. using the thumb and one or 2 other fingers to pick up items. This is a precursor to a functional tripod grasp for writing)

What I also love about Tic-Tac-Toe is that it’s a great visual perceptual and  problem solving game!

You will need:

  • Tic Tac Toe board from dollar store
  • Putty

The Activity:

Ask you child to place putty behind the board game (this will provide resistance to strengthen little fingers and helps keep the pegs upr

The goal is to work on nesting and retrieving skills therefore,
Place all the pegs in your child’s hand and have them use the same hand to wiggle one peg at a time out of their palm (retrieving)

When one round is done, ask your child to pick up one peg at a time and keep them in the palm of their hand (nesting)

Pincer grasp: when pushing a peg into the board, make sure your child uses only their thumb and index finger.

For children with more advanced finger skills, I like to give them one peg at a time from the bottom and have them flip it using their fingers to hold it from the head of the bunny before pushing it into the peg board.


Visual Perceptual Activities

XOXO Tic-Tac-Toe

You will Need:

  • Dry erase board
  • Dry erase markers

The Activity:

Play XOXO Tic Tac Toe using Valentine colors or play with X and hearts.



Therapy Corner:

Tic Tac Toe is a wonderful Visual perceptual activity to play with children. It works on so many important skills such as motor planning (figure out a strategy), problem solving (how to respond to “opponent’s” strategy). I also like to use this activity for children who work on their diagonals (by making them the X and me the O)


Visual Perceptual Activities

Holiday Patterned Bookmarks

You Will Need:

  • White card stock paper cut the page into 4 lengthwise
  • Foam stickers

The Activity:

Begin by creating a pattern by sticking foam shapes on paper and ask your child to continue the pattern. This is a great way to work on visual perceptual skills. Furthermore, peeling stickers is great way to work on finger skills. I like to have children create these and then use them as wonderful Holiday Bookmarks!


Visual Perceptual Activities

Stocking Surprise!

Stereognosis is the ability to perceive and recognize the form of an object using cues from texture, size, spatial properties, and temperature. This is an important skill for children to develop so they can open/close buttons, zippers and other fasteners on their clothing without visually monitoring their fingers. It is also a skill we use when looking for keys in our purse! (and if your purse looks anything like mine, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack!!! (:

You Will Need:

A Christmas stocking or Santa hat

Holiday items such as candy cane, bell, little box/present etc…

Corresponding pictures or words of the items you picked out

Dry erase board and marker OR pencil and paper

The Activity:

There are many ways to play this game depending on your child’s skill level. I have listed a few.

1- Stack the cards with pictures and have your child turn one over. She then places her hand inside the stocking and and pulls out the matching item.

2- For children that can read or are practicing reading skills, you can use cards with words on them instead of pictures.

3-Place all card facing up in front of your child. Place only ONE item in the stocking. Ask your child to place their hand in the stocking and feel the item you placed. After 10 seconds (without pulling the item in the stocking) ask your child to identify what item they touched by picking out the correct card.

4- In clinic I like to also practice handwriting so I ask children to write down the name of the item that they identify correctly!

Visual Perceptual Activities

Holiday Memory Game

You Will Need:

  • Coasters or tags (I got these at Target)
  • Holiday pictures (I printed these online)
  • Holiday words
  • White card stock paper

The Activity:

I prepared laminated cards with Holiday Words and matching pictures and stuck them on these lovely coasters that I found at Target.

You can play several ways:

Memory game: Turn over all cards facing down and have your child find matches. This is a wonderful way to work on visual memory!

Reading: Keep all cards turned facing up and ask little ones to match words to pictures by reading.

Handwriting: During memory game if a child finds a match ask her to write it on paper or dry erase board.

Balance beam: Place these cards facing up on either side of a balance beam and ask children to pick up matches without losing their balance!

Obstacle course: The possibilities are endless, I use these on different playground equipment or rock wall and ask children to climb, slide etc.. to find a match. Once they  find a match, they come back to me and copy to word (or first letter) on a dry erase board.

Visual Perceptual Activities

Tic-Tac-Toe Sight Words

What You Need:

The Activity:

This is such a fun way to teach sight words especially if your child is bored of Flash Cards. I saw a teacher do this with her students and I loved it! This works great with HOMEWORK!!!!

This is a 2 player game. Each player picks a color from the daubers. The use of daubers help young ones strengthen the grasp and when held with the fingers can assist in developing the O shape between the thumb and index finger. You then draw a Tic Tac Toe Grid on a blank piece of paper (i.e. this will create 9 boxes) and write one sight word in each box.

Play Tic Tac Toe however before marking your box you must read the sight word that is in that box…Voila! Tic Tac Toe!


My mind of course always races to adapt activities to meet different goals especially when I come across a great new game like this one. I wanted to try and make this game re-useable (I hate wasting so much paper) and also work on handwriting at the same time. So here is my adaptation:

You Will Need:

  • Paper with Tic Tac Toe grid drawn on it
  • Plastic Sheet Protectors
  • 2 different colored dry erase markers
Available for purchase here on MissMancy’s Shop

The Activity:

Draw a Tic Tac Toe Grid on a blank piece of paper (i.e. this will create 9 boxes) and write one sight word in each box with a light colored marker. Place the paper in the sheet protector. Play Tic-Tac-Toe however each player has to CIRCLE the sight word, READ it and TRACE it! When you’re done just wipe it off and use it again!

Gross Motor Activities Visual Perceptual Activities

Scooter Make and Break

You will need:

The Activity:

I love finding activities that combine more than one therapeutic goals. When working on core strength I often use a scooter board and combine it with a fine motor or perceptual activity.

Get your child to lay on the scooter on his tummy. Make sure that the edge of the scooter reaches the middle of his chest. Place a selected card at one end of the room and place the colored blocks at the other end of the room.

Start your child on the scooter where the card was placed. Have your child look at the card carefully, then using only his hands reciprocally to propel the scooter, retrieve one block at a time and go back to the starting place to build the figure from the card. Only allow your child to get off the scooter and sit to build the figure if he becomes tired from the scooter.

This position on the scooter called prone positioning helps a child build core muscles of his back and neck along with shoulder, arm and hand strength while the reciprocal arm movement to propel the scooter works on your child’s coordination.

Make and Break is a wonderful game to work on important visual perceptual skills (more specifically visual spatial skills). These are important skills for handwriting.