Top 5 Craft Supplies used by Occupational Therapists

Top 5 Craft Supplies used by Occupational Therapists

As a Paediatric Occupational Therapist working with children, I use a variety of craft materials in my occupational therapy sessions to ensure children are motivated and engaged in the task. Sometimes I worry that outsiders, and at times parents, think I just play games with children in the sessions. But in reality, we use these “games” to develop the child’s skills and to ensure the child is motivated by the activity. If the child is not engaged and doesn’t want to participate in the activity, it becomes hard, and sometimes impossible, to help them develop the skills they need.

Occupational Therapists use a range of craft materials to develop skills such as:

  • Fine motor skills such as finger strengthening,
  • Gross motor skills such as crossing the midline and bilateral integration,
  • Sensory play,
  • Calming strategies to develop emotional regulation skills
  • Letter formation and much more!

Occupational Therapists work with children to develop a range of skills. Check out our blog “What is Occupational Therapy?” if you want to learn more about the areas Occupational Therapists work in.

Below is a list of the top five craft supplies I use in my occupational therapy sessions. I have included a list of activities that we use in therapy using these arts and craft materials.

  • Pom Poms
  • Paddle Pop Sticks (Popsicle Sticks)
  • Pegs
  • Pipe Cleaners (Chenille Sticks)
  • Buttons
[DISCLAIMER:These activities are general in nature
and although are generally safe, does not consider your child’s individual
needs. Please consult an Occupational Therapist or health professional if you
have any concerns. Some of these activities contain small objects – adult
supervision is recommended for these activities.]
  1. Pom Poms

Coloured pom poms of different sizes are a great craft material to help develop a range of skills.

  • Pom pom matching game: Use different coloured cupcake liners and place them inside a muffin tin. Ask your child to sort the pom poms into either colours or sizes. Ask your child to use tweezers or tongs to pick up the pom poms to help develop their fine motor skills.
  • Multisensory letters: Draw an outline of a letter you want your child to learn. Get your child to go over the letter using a glue stick. Place the pom poms on the letter. Try and get your child to use correct letter formation (i.e. starting from the top to bottom, left to right) when they are “writing” their letters.
  • Pom pom race: Have a pom pom race with your child! Give each person a pom pom and a straw. Starting at the start line, aim the straw at the pom pom and blow through the straw. See who can blow their pom pom over the finish line first.
  • Sensory bin: Hide small objects inside a container filled with pom poms. The goal is for the child to find the small objects. For older children, ask the child to close their eyes as their hands search for the small objects. Ask them to feel the object and guess what the object is.  
  • Paddle Pop Sticks (Popsicle Sticks)

You can also get different sized and coloured paddle pop sticks.

  • Brain Break ideas: Write or draw some brain breaks on the paddle pop sticks. Brain breaks could be: walk around the room, 5 big jumps, star jumps etc. Put these paddle pop sticks in a small bucket and pick them out when you need some classroom movement breaks.
  • Paddle pop stick puzzle: Draw a letter or picture across multiple paddle pop sticks. Mix them up and ask the kids to put the puzzle back together to reveal the original letter or picture.  
  • Velcro dot construction sticks: Put small Velcro dots on each end of the paddle pop sticks. Ask children to join the ends of the sticks to create different crafts – it could be different shapes, letters, or anything using their creative minds.
  • Sight words: Write one sight word on the end of the paddle pop stick. Draw one letter on each peg. Get your child to find the right pegs with the right letters for the sight word. Peg the letters onto the other end of the paddle pop stick to practice letter matching and spelling.
  • Pegs

Depending on the activity, you may want to use different size pegs and either coloured or non-coloured pegs.

  • Clothesline: Cut out felt “socks, t-shirts, pants” etc. Get your child to peg the “clothes” on the line. This can help develop fine motor skills.
  • Counting pegs: Write numbers on different cardboard pieces. Get the child to put the correct number of pegs to correlate to the number on the cardboard.
  • Peg pom pom craft: Use the peg the hold the pom pom. Dip the pom pom into the paint to create dotted pom pom paintings.
  • Hanging up artwork: After a child has created an artwork, ask them to hang it up on the line with pegs.
  • Pipe Cleaners (Chenille Sticks)
  • Multisensory letters: Ask the child to create letters with the pipe cleaners. To make it easier, you can have the letter on an A4 paper and get the child to make the pipe cleaners into the shape of the letters.
  • Threading beads: Thread small beads onto the pipe cleaners to make a bracelet.
  • Threading through a colander: Turn a colander upside down. Ask the child to thread the pipe cleaner through one side of the colander and out through another side of the colander. This can help with developing hand-eye coordination and motor planning skills.
  • Pipe cleaner shapes and animals: Create different shapes and animals using the pipe cleaners.
  • Buttons
  • Button strip: Cut two strips of felt into long pieces. On one strip, attach different buttons along the strip. On the other strip, cut a slit corresponding to the button. Ask you child to button the two strips together.
  • Threading buttons: Thread the buttons onto a string.
  • Sorting buttons: Sort the buttons into different colours and/or sizes. You can have the buttons stored in a small container which can help the child develop a pincer grip when they pick out the button from the container.
  • Prewriting lines and shapes: Put buttons along different lines (e.g. horizontal, vertical, wavy and zig-zag lines) and shapes (e.g. square, triangle, circle). Learning these lines and shapes are fundamental to develop letter formation.