Category Archives: Fine Motor

Tips for Left Handed Writers

  • As with all writing/desktop activities make sure the child is sitting in a well supported position
    • Feet are well supported
    • Hips and knees are at 90 degrees
    • Back is well supported
  • Have the child angle their paper clockwise about 30 degrees to the left (the bottom of the paper moves towards the left and the left top corner is pointing upwards)
  • Can place tape on the desk around the paper to form an outline to remind the child of the ideal paper position (a taped outline of one corner works well)
  • Encourage the child to move their grasp up the pencil about 1 – 1.5” so they are able to see their writing and avoid smudging
  • Can place a sticker on the pencil as a visual cue as to where they should have their fingers
  • Instruct the child to keep their hand underneath the line they are writing on
  • Rather than having the paper in the center of their body have the child move their paper to the left of their body so their eyes can see the writing as they move across the paper
  • Make sure they are using their right hand as their “helper hand” to hold the paper in place
  • Try writing on a slant board to help position their wrist appropriately and to help make the writing more visible
  • When using spiral notebooks flip the notebook around so that the spiral is on the right instead of the left
  • When using scissors make sure to use left handed ones

Activities That Help Develop A Pincer Grasp

A pincer grasp is when you use your thumb and the tip of your index finger to pick up an object. As children develop they move from a gross raking grasp involving their whole hand to a more refined pincer grasp as seen in the picture below.

A pincer grasp is important for many functional activities such as zipping a zipper, picking up small objects, using a key, etc. Here are some activity ideas to help develop a pincer grasp:

  • Use tongs to pick up items
  • Set out a muffin pan and give the child small items to sort and place into the cups
  • Stickers – any activity that involves stickers helps practice the pincer grasp
    • Bigger stickers will be easier and small stickers will be more challenging
  • Hide small coins, beads, etc. in playdough and have the child get them out
  • String beads on a pipe cleaner
  • Any game involving clothespins
  • The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game
  • Lite Brite
  • Mr. Ball

There are many different activities that work on the pincer grasp. Be creative and have fun!

What do OTs do?

What do OTs (Occupational Therapists) do? Many people have no idea what an OT is when I tell them what I do! Many people think that we help people get jobs, but that is not the case (mostly anyways!). OTs focus on the areas of self-care, productivity and leisure. So depending where an OT is working they are helping people with very different things. OTs are trained in the areas of anatomy & physiology, neurology, child development, mental health, counselling, older adult disabilities, among other areas.

In acute care (hospitals) we focus a lot on self-care, helping people to be independent in their basic daily activities such as getting themselves dressed, having a bath, preparing a meal or moving around their homes/community. We prescribe equipment and provide education about how they can become more successful completing their activities of daily living in a safe manner. An independent study by health policy researchers published in Medical Care Research and Review (Rogers, Bai, Lavin, & Anderson, 2016) found that “occupational therapy is the only spending category where additional spending has a statistically significant association with lower readmission rates” for the three health conditions studied: heart failure, pneumonia, and acute myocardial infarction. Yay OT!

When working with children as we do at Bright Horizons OT, the focus looks very different. We use play as a means to achieving the child’s/family’s goals. In order to achieve the goals, we either use remediation (treating the underlying deficit) or compensation (adapting activities or environment) to make the child more successful in their everyday activities. The goals of OT can be many different things, here are some examples of general goals:


  • Increase ability to pick up small objects and release them
  • Increase ability to use both hands together (e.g. stabilizing the paper while writing with the other hand, holding a jar while using the other hand to twist the lid, etc.)
  • Increase handwriting legibility and/or speed
  • Increase accuracy while cutting with scissors


  • Increase core strength/postural stability in order to increase gross and fine motor skills
  • Increase the child’s support while sitting in a chair at school (proper seating in order to maximize their ability to complete school activities)
  • Making adaptations in gym class/sports/leisure activities to increase participation


  • Increase self-care abilities such as getting themselves dressed, doing up buttons, zippers, tying their shoes, etc.
  • Provide adaptive equipment/education to help make bathing independently or with assistance easier


  • Increase self-feeding abilities (using a spoon, fork, knife, open cup, straw cup, etc.)
  • Expand the number of foods a picky eater/problem feeder will eat


  • Decrease sensitivities to sensory input (lights, sound, touch, etc.) and/or make environmental adaptations to help them cope with these sensitivities
  • Increase the child’s ability to engage in hair brushing, hair washing, hair cutting, etc. for those that are sensitive to these activities
  • Make adaptations/find clothing that the child will wear without being bothered by tags, seams, fabrics, etc.


  • Increase on task behaviour in children who have attention difficulties (teaching self-regulation skills)

These are just some examples of the things that are addressed when you see an OT. One of the greatest parts of our job is we get to look at such a wide variety of areas!

Mr. Ball – Increase Hand Strength, Pincer Grasp & Coordination

Mr. Ball activities are great for working on:

  • Hand strength – helps develop the arches of the hand
  • Pincer grasp – picking up objects with thumb and fingertips
  • Translation skills – moving objects from the palm to the fingertips
  • Bilateral skills – using both hands together

How to make Mr. Ball:

  • Make a mouth by cutting a slit in the middle of a tennis ball using an utility knife (be careful!)
  • Decorate your Mr. Ball with googly eyes, hair, anything you want!
  • To make the activity easier – make the slit larger
  • To make the activity harder – make the slit shorter

Activity ideas:

  • Feed Mr. Ball by squeezing his mouth open with one hand and feeding him objects with the other hand:
    • Coins
    • Pom poms
    • Marbles
    • Buttons
    • Beads
    • Dried beans
    • Pieces of paper
  • Make Mr. Ball talk and play with other Mr. Balls

Ways to change the activity:

  • If it is too hard – place your hand on top of the childs and help them squeeze the ball
  • To work on translation skills – have the child pick up more than one object and feed Mr. Ball one object at a time
  • To work on colours – ask the child to pick up a certain colour object and feed it to Mr. Ball
  • To work on letters – use letter tiles/magnets and ask the child to feed Mr. Ball a certain letter
  • To work on counting – ask the child to feed Mr. Ball a certain number of objects
  • To add a resistive component – hide the coins in putty and have the child take it out before feeding it to Mr. Ball