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Occupational Therapy Tips for Craft Time

Last updated Monday, January 12, 2004

The following was prepared for Reading to Kids by volunteer Melanie Bergthorson OTR/L. These ideas, though seemingly geared towards younger children, may be helpful in identifying weaknesses in foundational skills that, if not properly acquired, may lead to difficulties even in older grade levels. In general, the guidelines should enhance the craft time experience of reading club participants, both adult and child alike!

"Pediatric occupational therapy is the use of purposeful activity or interventions to help children fully participate and achieve at school, at home and in the community."

Craft time is a great time to encourage the development of fine motor skills such as drawing, tracing, and cutting. When children are having difficulty with these important skills, they may not want to participate in craft time, or they may be embarrassed to bring their finished product home.

Having a finished product can help build a child's confidence in his or her own abilities as well as provide a means for the story to live on. Some tips are provided below to help make craft time a successful time as well as to encourage skill development.


Basic Tips
 •  Ensure the child is holding the scissors correctly, with the thumb on top and the index and middle finger in the bottom loop. Many kids tend to cut with their hand upside down.
 •  Encourage the cutting out of shapes such as circles, squares or triangles. If the child has difficulty with shapes, have them cut out the straight lines--they will at least have helped and still have a nice result. Young kids tend to cut in a "snipping" fashion. This is ok and can be used for many craft ideas!
Development of Scissor Skills*
2 years Snips with scissors
2 ½ years Cuts across 6-inch piece of paper
3-3 ½ years Cuts along a 6-inch line
3 ½-4 years Cuts a circle
4 ½-5 years Cuts a square
*Adapted from "Occupational Therapy for Children" by J. Case-Smith (2001)
Craft Suggestions to Develop Cutting Skills
 •  Headbands are a popular craft at Reading to Kids: have the kids cut out the strip by themselves.
 •  Make items that use a fringe, such as grass, a lion's mane, hair, etc.
 •  Have the kids cut out a variety of shapes to paste onto paper. Trace out the shape for them and have them cut it out, help with the more difficult parts, or help by cuing them when to stop cutting and turn the page.


Basic Tips
 •  One of the most important things to take note of is how the child is holding his/her pencil or crayon. By the age of three, a child should be holding the pencil with his/her fingertips, not in the palm of their hand. If you see an incorrect grasp, cue the child to fix it, "Show me where your fingers go." Broken crayons are a great tool to encourage a finger grasp, the child has no choice but to use their fingertips.
 •  For children that are not as artistically inclined, have them trace over your pencil drawing or have them use templates. Templates can be quickly made out of a piece of construction paper and result in a perfect result each time.
 •  Have the children write their names on all products. If they are unable to, have them trace it. Some children find it easier to print when a line is drawn for them.
Development of Handwriting Skills*
10-12 months Scribble on paper
2 years Imitates horizontal, vertical and circular marks on paper
3 years Copies a vertical line, horizontal line, and circle
4-5 years Copies cross, diagonal lines, square, may print own name
5-6 years Copies triangle, prints own name, copies most letters
*Adapted from "Occupational Therapy for Children" by J. Case-Smith (2001)
Craft Suggestions to Develop Drawing/Tracing Skills
 •  Have the children trace out shapes that are drawn in pencil. They can add their own finishing touches.
 •  Use templates whenever possible. The child may need help to hold the template in place while tracing around it.

Additional Pointers

 •  At the beginning of craft time, quickly make a model of the craft. This gives the children a better idea of how their finished product should look. However, take them through the steps one by one because it is sometimes difficult for children to copy directly.
 •  Always encourage the children to do as much as they can by themselves--the more of the finished product that is their own, the prouder they can be!
 •  Other ideas to encourage development of hand skills are folding paper into shapes such as hats or cones; or ripping strips of paper to glue onto the craft.