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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lisa Marnell, OTD, MBA

5 Amazing Fine Motor Activities for Thanksgiving!

Activities that are meaningful and motivating to children are vital to encourage their participation. When children are interested in activities, they are better engaged and motivated to take part! This is especially true when children struggle with specific skills, such as fine motor coordination or upper body strength.

As an occupational therapist, I know how important motivation is to the children I work with. I wanted to share five of my FAVORITE Thanksgiving activities for building fine motor skills in children! I found these on some great websites and wanted to share them with you.

1- Feed the Turkey!

In this activity, a child uses tongs to pick up a pom-pom. Then he drops it in the top of a plastic bottle, aka: the HUNGRY turkey! This creative idea from "The Busy Toddler" goes in my very top spot because it addresses many skills.

First, there is a strong visual component. A child uses visual scanning to search and locate a pom-pom then he must fixate his gaze on it. Visual motor skills are required as he carefully orients the tongs over the chosen pom-pom. Fine motor strength is used to close the tongs and keep them closed. Finally, shoulder stability is required as the child raises his arm and orients his hand over the mouth of the bottle.

2- Corn Creations!

This next activity requires a tad more involvement: You will need to hand corn cobs on hand as a child will roll corn in paint to make a Thanksgiving picture. One of the reasons I am drawn to this activity from "Pocket of Preschool" is because I often work with children who have tactile sensitivity. Remember that aversions to tactile input (like messy, squishy, wet substances) negatively impacts participation in fine motor activities and hence, fine motor skill development. Fun and motivating activities like this one may encourage kids to get paint on their fingers.

Remember to always let children with tactile over-responsiveness be in charge of how much and how long they take part in a task. Have paper towels on hand so they can take breaks, wipe off their fingers, enjoy a break, and then participate again!

3- Thanksgiving Poke Picture!

I must admit, as an OT I haven't used Poke Pictures much, but I do love them. This craft simply requires two things: pushpins and a turkey (or acorn, or pie, or scarecrow) picture that you must prepare by marking poking spots around the periphery with a black marker.

"Poke Pictures" require children to use a tripod or three-jaw chuck grasp. This activity from "ABC's to ACT's" is wonderful for hand strengthening and perfect for working on a child's pencil grasp. Remember to always supervise kids carefully when doing "Poke Pictures" since pushpins are sharp.

4- Bright Turkey Feathers!

I want to offer a slight variation on this wonderful activity I found at "The Stay at Home Educator" simply to make it a little simpler. Originally, this craft involves using contact paper to make a sun catcher. I recommend that if you have the time, by all means make this lovely craft. But I use this activity idea to simply make a turkey with very bright and colorful feathers. Simply draw a turkey with large feathers. Next, using strips of either tissue paper or construction paper, tear tiny pieces. Now, glue these pieces on the turkeys feathers. Voila! A colorful, happy turkey!

As a quick note, choosing between tissue paper and construction paper may depend on your child's strengths and weaknesses. A child who has poor strength in her hands may benefit from tearing construction paper - this is hard work and good for building muscles! A child with poor force modulation (who often breaks toys or pushes too hard on her pencil) may benefit from tearing tissue paper - this is delicate work, and she will have to modulate the force she uses which is good practice for children who struggle in this way.

5- Make a Turkey!

Last, but definitely not least, on this list of Thanksgiving fine motor activities is this idea from "Buggy and Buddy" which is endless fun for kids. My variation of this activity uses putty or Play-doh. It is simple, really - poke golf tees, or toothpicks, or beads into putty or Play-doh. Stick a picture or simply eyes onto the front and you have a turkey!

I am always amazed at how engaged children become when they play with putty. And this activity is wonderful for working on hand strength, tripod grasp, and bilateral (two-handed) coordination since the child must hold the putty or Play-doh steady as his pokes items into it with the other hand!

Feel welcome to leave a comment. What are your favorite go-to fine motor activities? What tasks do your students or kids struggle with?

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Lisa Marnell MBA, MS, OTR/L

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