Sugar Aunts
A child has a huge job as he manages a day at school. The classroom includes distractions, multi-step directions, multi-sensory challenges and many tasks that require fine motor skills, gross motor skills, transitions, and appropriate positioning.  This month's post in the Functional Skills for Kids series is all about the important tasks that happens during a day in the classroom.  

Ten Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists bring you a valuable resource for success in school day functions and tasks that occur in the school classroom or home school environment. 

Read through the links below in this complete guide to school day functions and tasks needed for success during the school day:
A complete guide to school day tasks and functional skills occurring naturally in the classroom or homeschool environment with tips and strategies from Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists.

Functional skills and strategies for success in school: 

Be sure to check out all of the posts in the Functional Skills for Kids series.

A complete guide to school day tasks and functional skills occurring naturally in the classroom or homeschool environment with tips and strategies from Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists.

Cursive handwriting can be a difficult thing to teach kids.  Today, I'm starting a new series to teach cursive letters in fun and creative ways.  First up is how to make letter c in cursive.  This series will most definitely not be in alphabetical order for many reasons, mainly because the cursive writing alphabet is typically not taught in alphabetical order.  So, if you are teaching cursive letters, be sure to stop back often.  For now, here are some great tips and strategies for helping kids learn to make cursive letter c:

Teach kids how to make letter c in cursive with the tips in this cursive letter writing series, perfect for kids who are working on their handwriting.

How to Teach Letter c in Cursive:

This post contains affiliate links. 

Letter "c" is one of the first letters that kids are taught when learning cursive. The letter is directly related to it's printed counterpart.  The curve of the letter is one of the most basic pre-cursive strokes that are made and helps to build several other cursive letters (a, d, g, q, and o).  

The beginning upstroke of the beginning lines in cursive "c" can be practiced in creative ways in order to help with re-trace when forming the curve of the letter.

Tips and ideas for teaching kids how to write in cursive and learn to make letter c in cursive.

There is research that shows teaching the cursive letter c like a cursive "i" with a hooked top, the carryover of legibility is better.  

After forming the up-stroke of the letter, the curved top, and the re-trace back to the bottom of the letter, it is helpful to work on sliding the pencil along the baseline of the paper to develop letter connectors and to improve legibility.  

Teach kids how to make letter c in cursive with the tips in this cursive letter writing series, perfect for kids who are working on their handwriting.

Tips for helping kids stop at the baseline when writing the letter "c": 
Use a verbal prompt to bump the bottom line.
Trace the baseline with a highlighter for a visual prompt. 

More tips for helping kids to learn letter c:
The Handwriting Without Tears program  promotes forming letter c without the starting stroke, making formation easier for most kids.   

Use sensory textures to teach letter c and the strokes needed to make the letter. 

Try practicing cursive handwriting and more cursive letter c practice with these creative cursive handwriting ideas:

Sensory based coping skills is an effective way to help kids deal with feelings of anxiety.  There is a reason that most of us deal with an uncomfortable situation by cracking our knuckles or cope with anger by punching a pillow.  Sensory based anxiety coping strategies can help kids deal with stress and feelings of anxiety for long term success and social emotional development.

When a difficult situation comes up in school or other social situation, kids can cope with the stress in that very moment.  Teaching these skills to kids requires a little preparation and frequent practice but can be a huge help when kids are feeling completely overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety.

Kids should understand that their body may react in a certain way when they are in a difficult salutation.  Feelings of stress and anxiety can be confusing to kids and can even make them feel more overwhelmed and out of control.

Anxiety kin kids can arise for many reasons, including sensory-based causes, difficulty organizing oneself, social reasons, behavioral reasons, or nervousness in new or scary situations.  Kids should know that their body can give them clues  about stress in these tricky situations and that they can understand and use those clues to feel more in control.

Feelings of anxiety might begin during or before anticipated situations that cause the child to feel overwhelmed, nervous, frustrated, or angry.  Then, when they start feeling those clues, they start to feel even more overwhelmed.

What a scary thing for a child to feel!

Anxiety and sensory based coping skills that will help kids overcome their feelings of stress and anxiety

Anxiety and Sensory Based Coping Skills to Help Kids

Imagine the signs that a child might feel when experiencing anxiety:

  • Sweaty palms
  • Fast breathing
  • Upset stomach
  • Sweating 
  • Feeling hot
  • Negative thoughts
  • Feeling angry
  • Wanting to run away
  • Feeling helpless
  • Feeling that the situation is dumb
  • Tense muscles
  • Wanting to wiggle or move
  • Feeling itchy
  • Sore muscles
  • Trouble focusing
It is important to remember that every child is different and how important it is to talk with your child to discuss his or her personal stress signals.  Talk about when they might feel these signals and what happens in the environment that might lead up to their feelings of stress and anxiety.

Once you and your kiddo have the clues of anxiety figured out, it is helpful to come up with strategies to cope with anxiety.  

This post contains affiliate links.

Try these sensory activities and tools to help kids with anxiety.

Sensory Based Coping Skills for Kids

Try these sensory-based anxiety coping strategies for helping kids deal with stress:

Proprioception-based Coping Strategies

Knee tapping
Chew gum
Muscle squeezes-Tense the whole body like a rock and hold the position for 10 seconds. Then release with "no muscles".  Repeat this technique three times.
hand clenches- Squeeze the hands into fists and hold them for 10 seconds.  Release and repeat three times.
Stress ball- (Try this homemade stress ball OR a store bought one)
Punch a pillow

Vestibular-based Coping Strategies

Run in place
Head bend down with deep breaths

Oral-based Sensory Coping Strategies

Suck a lollipop
Blow up a balloon
Deep belly breaths and blowing out through "duck lips"
Hum low and "under your breath"

Olfactory-based Coping Strategies

Smell calming scents

Tactile-based Coping Strategies

Sensory touch bar for desks.  Sticky back velcro is a great cost-effective version of this strategy.

Vision-based Coping Strategies

Anxiety and sensory based coping skills that will help kids overcome their feelings of stress and anxiety

Teaching kids to use these sensory based coping strategies to deal with anxiety or stress requires thoughtful discussion with your child and practice to prepare for unknown situations.  Try role playing situations where overwhelming feelings have previously presented themselves.  Talk about what led up to those feelings and clues and how the child can use different sensory based strategies to beat the anxiety next time. 

Anxiety and sensory based coping skills that will help kids overcome their feelings of stress and anxiety

Fine motor strengthening is a hot topic when it comes to back-to-school time.  Kids go back into the classroom and need to get back up to speed on all of the fine motor requirements in the classroom.  What better way to work on fine motor strength than with a Fall apple theme? This apple themed fine motor activity adds a bit of math, too and it's super easy to create for hands-on play, learning, and fine motor work.

Kids will love this fine motor strengthening apple activity this fall.

Fine Motor Strengthening Activity

This apple tree activity is a fun way to build the intrinsic muscle strength of the hands as well as gross grasp strength.  It's an easy activity to throw together, and the steps of the activity help to build strength of the hands, too.

Materials needed to make this apple tree activity:

Affiliate links are included in this post.


Kids will love this fine motor strengthening apple activity this fall.

To create the apple tree, cut the green felt into a tree-ish shape.  Cutting felt is a complex scissor task, so older kids can help with this part.  If you are able to use stiff felt, cutting through the material is a strengthening exercise in itself. 

Next, cut the brown felt into a trunk shape, by simply cutting strait lines. Consider allowing the child to cut the trunk shape as cutting strait lines on a material such as felt is easier, yet the flimsy material makes it difficult to cut.  A stiffer material would work well for this part as well.

Use strips of paper to build hand strength

Next, cut the red cardstock into small, thin strips of paper.  This is not necessary for the end result of the activity, however there is a fine motor benefit to the extra step.  Kids can hold the thin strips of paper with a pincer grasp using their non-dominant, helper hand.  Using the small strips of paper requires precision. Kids will then be required to slow down while using the hole punch so that they don't cut the holes over the edge of the strip of the paper.  

Need a hole punch that requires less effort for younger kids or those who need to build their gross muscle grip strength?  Try this one.

Use the brown cardstock to make a small apple barrel shape. This can be used in the math part of this activity.

A slower cut with the hole punch allows for the muscles of the hands to exercise with prolonged tension and increases blood flow.  Using the hole punch with slow repetitions builds gross grasp strength.

Once the apple tree and apples are created, kids can place them on the tree. The cardstock will not stick permanently to the felt, but they will stay in place for temporary play.  Scatter the red cardstock circles, (those are your apples!) onto the table.  Show your child or student how to pick up the apples and place them onto the apple tree.  Picking up the small cardstock circles is a real workout for the intrinsic muscles of the hand. 

To make this activity easier, place the cardstock circles on a piece of felt.

Apple Math and Fine Motor Activity

Add a bit of math to this activity with a pair of dice.  Show your child how to roll the dice and then count the number of dots on the dice.  They can then add and count the number of apples and place them on the tree.  

There are several ways to build on this activity:
Use the dice to add apples.
Subtract by taking away apples from the tree. 
Create multiple step math problems by adding and them subtracting the numbers on the dice to put on and then remove apples.

Apple fine motor strengthening activity and fall math with hands-on learning.
Looking for more apple activities?  Try these:

Apple learning activities

Apple Lacing Fine Motor Bag // Coffee Cups and Crayons
Apple Life Cycle Printable Book // Stay at Home Educator
Apple Number Match // A Dab of Glue Will Do
Apple Life Cycle Hat // The STEM Laboratory
Apple Tree Counting Puzzles // The Kindergarten Connection
Oatmeal Apple Crisp: A Recipe for Kids // Liz's Early Learning Spot
Apple Play Dough Surprise Activity // Play & Learn Every Day
Apple Counting Book // Fun-A-Day
Balancing Apples Up on Top // Sara J Creations
Apple Seed Counting Busy Bag // Powerful Mothering
Apple Alphabet Puzzles // The Letters of Literacy
Apple Subitizing Cards // The Simplified Classroom
Apple Tree Busy Box // Teach Me Mommy
Apple Ten Frames // Still Playing School
CVC Spelling Mats // Fairy Poppins
Apple Color Matching Activity // Frogs Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

Occupational Therapists are often times consulted to assess a child for their fine motor skills that are needed in school and for resources to build fine motor skills in the classroom.  When a child's fine motor skills are lacking, classroom tasks can be difficult and result in delays in many aspects that are necessary for learning and functioning in the school environment.  Today, I'm sharing a breakdown of fine motor skills in the school environment and how to build these skills during the school day through simple strategies.

This post is part of the Functional Skills for Kids series where I'm joining 10 other Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists in exploring functional skills of childhood.  You can read all of the posts in the series here.
Fine Motor skills needed at school and classroom activities to help

Fine Motor Skills Needed at School

Fine motor skills are essential for independence and functioning within the classroom environment. Consider all of the areas where fine motor skills are needed for ease during the school day:

Handwriting and pencil grasp
Scissor grasp and cutting paper
Paper management including placing papers into folders
Paper clip management
Paper connectors (brads) management
Erasing with a pencil
Rotating a pencil within the hand
Squeezing glue bottles
Removing glue caps from squeeze bottles or glue sticks
managing zippers on backpacks
Tying shoes
Managing clothing and clothing fasteners during bathroom breaks
Donning and doffing jackets and coats
Managing buttons, snaps, and zippers on coats and jackets
Tying shoes
Opening containers in the lunch room
Holding utensils and scooping food to eat
Picking up small pieces of food
Manipulating coins in the lunchroom
Typing on a computer keyboard
Toileting (tearing toilet paper and wiping)
Toileting (pulling up pants)
Using a stapler
Opening and closing a three ring binder
Managing glue sticks
Art projects
Packing a backpack
Endurance in writing
Removing and putting on caps on markers
Sharpening pencils
Placing manipulatives and counters accurately in hands-on math activities
Opening jars of paint

These daily functions within the school environment require many fine motor skills.  Each daily task requires many fine motor skills: 
  • Open thumb web space
  • Bilateral coordination
  • Thumb IP joint flexion
  • Finger isolation
  • Hand and wrist Development
  • Upper extremity stabilization
  • UE joint mobility
  • Trunk stability
  • Core strength and Posture
  • ROM
  • Dexterity
  • Arch development
  • Intrinsic muscle strength
  • Bilateral coordination and integration
  • Visual-motor control
  • Precision handling
  • Motoric separation of the two sides of the hands
  • Motor control
  • Pincer grasp
  • Grip strength
  • Pinch strength
  • Gross Grasp strength
When fine motor skills are delayed, a student's success in the classroom can be greatly impaired.

There are many reasons that fine motor skills might be lacking, resulting in delays in functional skills:
Muscle weakness
Low tone
Delayed wrist and hand development
Poor posture and core strength
Insufficient somatosensory input with failure to develop kinesthesia
Insufficient visual control
Incomplete bilateral integration
Incomplete utilization of proximal joints of the upper extremity including poor support
Inadequate spatial analysis and or synthesis skills
Insufficient visual-motor control 
Delayed or inadequate arch development
Underdeveloped precision handling
Difficulty with Motoric separation of the two sides of the hands.

Fine motor development and successful use of refined motor skills in functional tasks relies on a sensorimotor foundation of trunk and arm stability, strength, manipulation, ability to motor plan, and effective coordination of visual motor information.  When kids are required to perform classroom and school activities without these foundations in place, difficulties arise, resulting in frustration, feelings of failure, and behaviors.

So many times, there is a question of whether a student should be referred to the school-based OT for evaluation and assessment of fine motor skills for improved success in the classroom.  Teachers, parents, and school support staff should consider a referral to the school-based Occupational Therapist if the following fine motor conditions are observed and are effecting school occupations and learning.

Signs a Student Needs Occupational Therapy in the School for Fine Motor Skill Development:
Difficulty holding scissors and cutting shapes when age-appropriate
Trouble with letter/number formation or reverses letters
Avoids fine motor activities
Trouble using an effective pencil grasp
Fatigue when coloring
Difficulty erasing without tearing paper
Writes too lightly or too dark and written work is illegible
Difficulty putting on coat, managing buttons/zippers/snaps, or tying shoes (from what is age appropriate)
Switches hands during activities

There are some easy ways to build fine motor skills right in the classroom.  Try some of these strategies to accommodating for poor fine motor skills that might impact a student's success in the classroom:

Classroom strategies for accommodating for poor fine motor skills at school

Try various writing utensils.
Work on various writing surfaces (chalkboard, slant board, easel).
Use a kneaded eraser for less required effort when erasing.
Evaluate pencil grasp and try various pencil grips to modify for efficiency.
Utilize techniques for organizing papers when motor planning is an issue.
Manage papers and bilateral coordination by taping paper to the desk.

Finger Aerobics Exercises for Building Fine Motor Skills in the Classroom

One strategy that is helpful in building fine motor skills in the classroom is finger aerobics.  These finger motor movement exercises are activities that can be used by the whole classroom as part of a handwriting warm-up exercise.  Kids with poor fine motor skills can often times struggle with hand functions and tool use in the classroom.  Finger dexterity activities like finger aerobics promote sensorimotor awareness and manipulation of the hands.  Finger aerobics are ideal as a transitional movement activity for the whole classroom or a brain break type of activity.

Fine Motor skills needed for school and classroom and activities to help build those skills, including finger aerobics exercises.

Spider Push-Ups:  Show the students how to place both hands together with palms and fingers touching.  Then, show them how to push the hands away from each other at the palm.  The fingertips should remain in contact.

Fine Motor skills needed for school and classroom and activities to help build those skills, including finger aerobics exercises.

Finger Pick-Ups:  The students should stand at their desk and place their hands flat on the desk surface.  They can then pick up each finger in isolation.  Ask them to raise each finger from the desk surface 3 times and then pick up and hold each finger individually for several seconds.

Fine Motor skills needed for school and classroom and activities to help build those skills, including finger aerobics exercises.

Fingertip Touch:  Ask the students to touch their thumbs to the tips of each of the fingers.  They can do both hands at the same time or one hand at a time. Then, ask them to touch the tip of their thumb to the base of each finger.  They can touch the tip or base of each finger at different speeds, as they spell words, or count in various increments.  Next, ask them to touch the tips or bases of each finger with their hands held behind their back or out of their field of vision. 

Finger Sounds:  Ask the students to close their eyes.  Then, the teacher or group leader can ask the students to listen carefully as she makes sounds with her hands.  The teacher can make one sound and then ask the students to repeat the sound using their hands.  Ideas include: rubbing the hands together to make a soft swishing sound, snapping, clapping, thigh slapping, finger tapping, or patting the desk. The students should keep their eyes closed as they repeat each individual sound.

Fist Squeeze: Ask the students to make a fist with both hands.  Then, they should try placing their thumb in different positions and squeezing as hard as they can.  Try the thumb at the side of the fingers, wrapped over the knuckles, and tucked under the fingertips.  Show them how to stretch out the fingers and then repeat.

Spider Crawl:  Ask the students to stand up behind their desks.  They can then place both hands with the palm and fingers flat on the desk surface.  Show the students how to make their hands "crawl" across the desk like spiders.  They can move both hands together symmetrically and individually in different directions.  Keep the palm lightly positioned on the desk surface.

Fine Motor skills needed for school and classroom and activities to help build those skills, including finger aerobics exercises.

Finger Muscles:  Show the students how to use their other hand to provide resistance for squeezing.  They can place their pointer finger or their pointer and middle finger of one hand on the out stretched fingers of the other hand.  Ask them to squeeze their fingers and then to try to push against the fingers.

Writing Gloves:  Ask the students to pretend to put a glove on their hands, slowly moving the glove over each finger.  They should push each finger down individually.  Then, they can remove that pretend glove, one finger at a time.  This is an especially calming activity that provides propioceptive input through joint compressions.

Finger Ducks:  Ask the students to straiten the fingers and thumbs to create a "duck" puppet with just their fingers.  They can make the duck open and close it's mouth to spell words, count, or read.  Then, ask them to pretend that the duck ate a lemon as they pull the finger tips into the palm.  This is a great activity that strengthens the lumbrical muscles of the hands. 

Finger aerobics for fine motor strengthening and handwriting warm up.

Be sure to visit the other Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists who are writing about School Day Functions this month in the Functional Skills for Kids series:

Fine motor skills needed in the classroom and finger aerobics ideas

More Fine Motor Activities that will build skills needed for Function and Learning in School:

 fine motor writing activity Pencil Grasp Activity Pencil Grasp Exercise Thumb opposition activity