Occupational therapy activities aren’t just for adults with paying jobs, but for your preschooler, whose main job is to play, learn and have fun. Activities that develop your preschooler’s abilities to do his job now also prepare him for further learning and development during the elementary years and beyond.
Fine Motor Activities
Your preschooler needs to strengthen the tiny muscles in his fingers to help prepare him for holding a pencil, using scissors and picking up the cereal he dumped all over the floor. The good news is that no visits to the gym are necessary to give these muscles a workout. Encouraging your preschooler to play with materials that provide resistance, such as play dough or putty, helps strengthen those little finger muscles. Activities like filling a spray bottle with water and letting him water the plants or mixing the water with a bit of food coloring and allowing him to “paint” the snow in winter also work those muscles.
If you don’t want your preschooler to be the same klutz you were in gym class, give her plenty of opportunities to practice her eye-hand coordination. Draw shapes with a pencil and ask your little one to trace over them using a fat crayon or marker. Purchase books with dot-to-dot activities and mazes, giving her the chance to first trace the lines with her finger and gradually work up to using a crayon or pencil. Play catch using a large ball or bean bag, or hit a balloon around with a small racket or your hands.
Though it may sound pretty basic, body awareness is the foundation that prevents your preschooler from becoming clumsy and helps him to move and function with confidence. Ask him to close his eyes and touch his knees, his toes or his shoulders, or play a little game of Simon Says, asking him to do actions such as wiggling his toes or waving his arms high. Silly it up by blowing up a balloon and taking turns picking a body part to hit the balloon back and forth with — tossing a balloon around with your chin will definitely keep things interesting.
Using both sides of the body might be a tricky concept to master for your preschooler. Sure, she may be able to run like the wind, but give her a pair of scissors and watch as she struggles to hold the paper with one hand and cut it with the other. Activities to promote this kind of coordination include blowing bubbles and popping them with both hands, playing drums with both hands — one at a time — and finger painting. To develop her ability to have both hands doing something different, have her try spreading butter on her toast in the morning or practice stringing macaroni or cereal onto a string or shoelace to make a necklace.