5 “OT Toys” to Help with Fine Motor Scooping Hand Skills


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Sometimes when a child has trouble doing things like feeding themselves with a spoon or holding a crayon properly, there is a physical issue that must be addressed by a specialist such as an occupational therapist. They are trained to identify exactly what needs to be corrected and will know what exercises to use adjust. However, many times, there is no reason a child can’t physically engage in a response and they just need practice. Anyone can help them, even a parent without any professional experience. I have found here is generally helpful to do this in the context of play to avoid pairing potentially unpleasant past activities with learning these new skills.

Here are 5 things I like to use when teaching. These are affiliate links. You are under no obligation to buy them but if you are going to buy them anyway, it would help me and not cost you anymore if you use these links.

Activity 1- Transfer rice or beans between 2 small bowls with a spoon

This activity should be pretty straightforward. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Simply get two small bowls and have a child scoop something like rice, beans or lentils from one bowl to the other. Most children really enjoy this activity and it will quickly help them gain skills. Just be careful to supervise your child while doing this skill if they put things in their mouth as this can cause a choking hazard. I always recommend using very small beans such as lentils so that if your child accidentally swallows it, they can not choke. If you do not want to use food, any small object such as pom poms will work but always supervise your child to avoid choking.

When doing this activity, I recommend starting off with these specific spoons. Of all the ones I have tried, they tend to be the most effective in helping young children with difficulty scooping being successful.

Activity 2- Use sorting bears!

The fine motor purpose of this activity is the same as in activity 1. But it is a bit more challenging as the child would need to be able to get 1 bear on the spoon at a time. This activity should be done after using rice or beans which is easier. This activity will also allow you to teach a child coloring sorting at the same time. Any sorting bears set would work. I chose this one because it appears to be the best value and has good reviews.

Activity 3- Alphabet Soup

This activity is very simliar to the sorting bears! It is an soup game! The children scoop the letter out of the bowl. I use this activity to teach letter names and sounds at the same time as scooping. Whether you choose this activity or the bears would just depend on whether you prefer to work on letter sounds or colors. For kids that have articulation issues, this is a great way to target both skills at the same time!

Activity 4- Scoop Water Beads

Having kids scoop water beads with scooping tweezers or regular tweezer also words on hand skills, grasp and scooping skills. Kids tend to really enjoy this activity. Depending on what specifically a child struggles with, this can be easier or harder than the activities above. I usually recommend doing them simultaneously.

Activity 5- Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog

Peg boards are a great way to improve hand eye coordination and increase hand strength. Most kids find peg boards really boring. Spike solves that problem! This is simply a more fun looking peg board. Kids tend to be more eager to play with him that a traditional peg board!

Keep in mind- most things just take practice! If your child is having a hard time scooping, the more you do these activities the faster they get it! If you are get frustrated, remember, it is hard now but it won’t be forever. While obviously some children have real physical impairments, in most cases, kids just need some time and support! If you read this post to the end, they have all the support they need and they are lucky to have you! Hang in there!

6 Sensory Friendly Stocking Stuffers for Under 10 Dollars!

It is so hard to believe that the holiday season is already upon us.  This year just flew by. If you are anything like me, standing in long lines at the mall fighting for the best deals is not how you want to spend your holiday.   While some people enjoy holiday shopping, for busy moms like yourself who have a million things to juggle already, it is probably more stressful than fun. Additionally, kids with Autism often have very limited interests so knowing what to buy your child can make holiday shopping even more frustrating. 

I want to take the mystery out of shopping this holiday season for you. One of the number one questions that parents ask me during the holiday season is what they should get their kids.  There are a few things that i have found that hold true for almost all kids with Autism.

  1. They respond well to toys that provide visual or tactile sensory stimulation. Because many kids with Autism lack complex play skills, they find solace in simple things that either enjoy watching or touching.
  2. You may have to try a dozen different things before your find something that interests your child.
  3. Children often get bored of things very quickly.

That’s why I put together a list of 6 stocking stuffers you can order right from this blogpost that cost less than 10 dollars. While I cannot guarantee they will work for your child, I chose them because they are the most common toys that the children I work with enjoy.  Since none of the toys cost much, there is minimal risk. All of the toys selected will provide your child with some sensory input which is demonstrated to reduce stimming behaviors for some children.


Allen, A. P., & Smith, A. P. (2011). A review of the evidence that chewing gum affects stress, alertness and cognition. Journal of Behavioral and Neuroscience Research, 9, 1, 7–23.

Foss-Feig, J. H., Tadin, D., Schauder, K. B., & Cascio, C. J. (2013). A substantial and unexpected enhancement of motion perception in autism. Journal of Neuroscience, 33(19), 8243-8249.

Stalvey, S. and Brasell, H. (2006). Using Stress Balls to Focus the Attention of Sixth-Grade Learners. Journal of At-Risk Issues, 12, 2, 7-16

 Why does my child cry when he/she wants something? What can I do about it?

One of the biggest complaints we get from parents is that instead of asking for what they want their children will cry. For example, a child is hungry and wants a particular snack. They go to the refrigerator and cry. They do not point to anything. They simply cry. You as a mom offer them ten different snacks before they find the one they want. Then they stop crying. You wonder why they didn’t just point at what they wanted. Sound familiar?


The simple answer to this, is they cry because they can’t tell you what they want and this is the only way they know how to get your attention. I can’t imagine how frustrating that must be for a parent. But even more, how frustrating it must be for your child.


Fortunately, there are things you can do to alleviate some of frustration for both of you. The easiest situation would be to create a choice board. This is simply a paper or board with several different pictures of items the child may want. When they want something, they can use the board to show you. You can either have them point to the picture or if this is too challenging, you can use velcro and have them take the picture off the board and hand it to you.


Some kids will start to use the choice board immediately without any teaching required. They are usually really excited to communicate. You will notice a big smile across their face the first time they get to spontaneously ask for something. It is a huge moment for them and you.


Unfortunately, sometimes kids don’t know what to do with it and it has to be taught. If this is the case, you may want to ask your ABA therapist to develop an intervention plan for this. There are a lot of variables that will determine the exact procedures.  However, for most children, this becomes a very effective way to communicate while they are learning to talk.

A simple trick to get your child more interested in Reading

Reading is such a great family bonding time but some children just don’t have the patience to sit and read. I have found this simple trick gets almost any young child interested in books!!! It will take a few supplies, but it is easy to Read More

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