OT Activities for Young Kids

“Movement is key to learning. Movement and dance activities such as crawling, creeping, rolling, turning, walking, skipping, reaching and swinging are essential for a toddler and a young child’s brain development.” These activities help strengthen muscles, nerves, brain cells, speech centers and vision, so your child can use their hands, eyes and body more efficiently to eat, play, draw, write and read. 

  1. Choose 5-10 minutes of these motor exercises:
    • Crawling under, over and around furniture or through a tunnel if you have one 
    • Crashing into a mound of pillows and being playful with your child after they land. You can include language like “Ready, Set, Go” “One, Two, Three,” or singing traditional nursery rhymes “Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall…” 
    • Laying on belly and going for blanket rides
    • Building a mini obstacle course with chairs, jumping on stickers, pretending to be an animal (hopping like frog, crawling like a bear, wiggling like a worm, moving slow like a turtle on hands and knees, etc)
  1. Massage your child’s head, arms and hands using deep pressure to wake up sensation and muscles of the upper body before practicing one of these fine motor activities 
  1. Choose 5-10 minutes of these fine motor exercises: 
    • Putting coins into a piggy bank (make one with an old plastic container if you don’t have one)
    • Cutting play doh (supervised of course), rolling it out like a long snake, pinching it, rolling it into small balls. If you do not have play doh or putty, there are so many easy to make home made dough. I will share a recipe if you need one!
    • Practicing putting on or taking off shoes, wiping face, brushing teeth, opening food packages, practicing hand washing or any self care activity they are not able to do on their own. 
    • Drawing shapes, letters or writing sight words or making marks with glue/glitter/sand/markers/crayons/chalk on sidewalk/
    • Use clothespins to pick up cotton balls

Home Exercises

Occupational Therapy

Home Exercise Program

Purpose: Sensory motor development provides the foundation for academic learning, behavioral regulation and language development, so these skills will improve as your child’s eyes, ears and muscles begin working more efficiently. Exercises should not be completed without proper training from your Occupational Therapist.

Frequency: 20-30 minutes/day


  1. Child must be able to tolerate being on tummy. Playing on tummy highly encouraged during initial phase of therapy.  
  2. Primitive Reflex Exercises
    • Swords (ATNR) x60
    • Lizards (ATNR) x60
    • Advanced Lizards (ATNR) x60
    • Bridge Pose (Moro)
    • Superman/Superwoman (TLR)
    • Meatball (TLR)
    • Stretching cat (STNR)
    • Snow angels (Spinal Galant)
    • Stress Ball (Palmar grasp)-whole hand, then thumb opposition with individual fingers
    • Cheek strokes (Rooting)
    • Starfish (Pop ups)
  1. Rolling as demonstrated by therapist. 3x to R, 3x to L
  1. Belly Crawling as demonstrated by therapist (The following areas will improve as skill level increases and pons develops)
    • Visual and auditory attention
    • Bonding
    • Perception of danger
    • Horizontal eye movement (tracking)
    • Perception of hunger, extreme hot/cold sensations and pain
    • Vital release (can grasp on to something but can also let go)
    • Control of heart rate and respiration
    • Ability to see visual outlines
    • Sensation and muscle control of the face
    • Balance
    • Sound transmission from inner ear to the brain
  1. Crawling on hands and knees (The following areas will improve as skill level increases and midbrain develops)
    • Balance
    • Distinction of one face from another
    • Vertical eye tracking
    • Hearing and understanding meaningful sounds such as tone of voice
    • Perception of tactile sensations such as smooth, fuzzy, prickly, and so on
    • Body awareness
    • Hand grasp
    • Filtering and prioritizing of incoming stimuli
    • Moderation of body functions such as sleep/wake cycles, blood pressure, appetite, body temperature regulation, secretion of enzymes and hormones, secretion and suppression of neurotransmitters
    • Detailed information about the environment

Most of our cranial nerves are housed in the brainstem. They are the ones that control sensory, facial expressions, tongue movements, eating, breathing and regulation for being calm or alert (sleeping, waking up). The way we develop our brain stem is through creeping (crawling on belly) and crawling (moving on hands and knees). As the sensory input and motor output gets more complex, higher parts of the cortex can properly operate.

  1. Vestibular (Balance and Movement)- Use of a rocking chair, swing, rolling, inverted position, linear is calming, rotary/spinning is alerting
  1. Tactile (touch)
    • Brushing Protocol
    • Lotions as tolerated
    • Any play; play-doh, beans, moon sand, beans, rice, ball pit
  1. Deep pressure is calming
    • Foot massage (numerous sensory receptors found in the foot)
    • Weighted blanket if available
  1. Animal walks (Crab, Bear, Turtle, Snake slither, etc.)
  1. Obstacle courses; including tunnel, crawling, climbing, crash pad, scooter board if available
  1. Any use of playground equipment; climbing on monkey bars, swings, hanging from monkey bars
  2. Rhythmic Movement Training (Mimic in many ways the developmental movements that babies and infants naturally and automatically makes as they grow) . Video demonstration further down on page.
  3. Proprioceptive Joint Distraction Exercises (Designed to help center or calm the child while simultaneously increasing brain stimulation). See Wilbarger Brushing Protocol video above.
  4. Auditory (Hearing)
    • Nursery Rhymes
    • Therapeutic Listening if prescribed
  5. Visual (Seeing)
    • Ball/catch (balloon, weighted balls, bean bags)
    • Mazes, picture finds, puzzles, tracing shapes, lazy 8s
    • Pencil push-ups
    • Light stimulation
  1. Aromatherapy (Often associated with a positive change in nonverbal communication, emotional awareness of self and others, immune regulation, digestion, and body/spatial awareness)
Right Coffee Eucalyptus Lemon Lime Peppermint Onion Mustard
Left Apple Banana Cherry Lavender Chocolate Strawberry Orange