Put-in Boxes for Easy, At-Home Fine Motor Development
I know that since we’ve been stuck at home for several months, you might feel like your child isn’t getting the fine motor development they “need”, whether or not they’ve been participating in virtual therapy or you’re just too exhausted to put something together.
One fun and simple way you can get your child improving their fine motor at home, is to use containers (often that you’re getting ready to throw away) like sour cream or a wipes container PLUS household items such as toothpicks, noodles, paper, etc. When you combine these simple elements, you create task boxes or “put-ins” as they are often referred.
Put-ins are close-ended activities that can keep your little one engaged for large blocks of time while targeting a wide range of fine motor skills and allowing mama to put her feet up for a few and relax.
Most of the put-in task boxes shared here will target the following skills:
- Pincer Grasp
- Bilateral Coordination
- Hand/Finger Strength
- In-Hand Manipulation Skills
- Motor Accuracy
Many of them also include:
- Tactile Processing
- Tactile Discrimination
- Upper Extremity Range of Motion
- Simple Rotation
- Finger Isolation
- Visual Attention
- Language Development
Here are several ideas to get you started creating your own put-ins at home using items found around the house.
**Please use close supervision and parental intuition regarding which activities will best match your child’s developmental range and skill. For example, if they continue to be oral seekers, do not offer them small items that they might place in their mouth and/or choke on.**
A wipes container + some fabric
This is the perfect activity for young kids (12+ months)…especially because you probably have a few extra wipes containers around the house! Make sure the inside is clean and dry then find a few scrap pieces of fabric from old t-shirts, towels or grandma’s stash of fabric.
I highly encourage you to use a variety of textures to increase your child’s exposure and tolerance to tactile input and support their ability to discriminate between smooth, rough, bumpy, etc.
Tupperware with wide opening + ½”-1” beads/blocks
This would be appropriate for a child about 18+ months. The great thing about this put-in, is your child is required to use a lot of small motor/pinching to pick the items up but the accuracy required to place them in is reduced due to the wide mouth. This allows your child to find more success putting items in, hopefully increasing their length of engagement.
Additionally, adding in an element of fun, like their favorite cartoon character or movie will make it all the more exciting to work on.
Isn’t this Cookie Monster adorable? It was a gift from an amazing OT student I once had.
Coffee Creamer bottle + Cherrios
Who doesn’t have both these items in their house if they are a toddler parent? Most kiddos love any activity that involves snacking and with this quick and easy set-up no one will be mad if a few Os are munched during this task.
Dip Container + Mini Erasers
I love this one because it seems like every other day we are recycling some yogurt, sour cream, or cottage cheese container, which makes this put-in box readily available. We have an extensive mini eraser collection to choose from and change it up. Cutting the holes different sizes, provides different resistances for which the mini-erasers uphold being pushed through the smaller holes. Unfortunately, if you need to switch up the item you are putting in, know that Cherrios don’t hold up so well against openings smaller than them.
This task is ideal for any child…literally, 2-10 year olds. It’s really an opportunity for repetition and refining of skills.
To make it a little more challenging, I encourage translation skills. Having the child pick up one item at a time then use their fingers to navigate it down into the palm holding it with their ring and pinky fingers. Challenge them to get 3-5 in there before working each one out of the palm into their pincer fingers to push it in the container.
NOTE: Covering the container with fun duct tape and placing stickers of their favorite movies makes any activity 10x more interesting.
Toss n Go cup + Ziti Noodles (or a Beaded Necklace)
Easy Peasy! Again…if you have toddlers I’m sure you have plenty of these cups around the house. These ziti noodles are a tight fit for this hole but I like it because it requires the child to use a little more strength than some of the other put-ins.
I also LOVE using a beaded necklace because you can target upper extremity range of motion when they use one continuously long pull OUT. And of course, using their pincer fingers to thread and push each bead back IN through the hole to clean up is amazing fine motor work!
Spice Jar + Toothpicks and Pipe Cleaners
Any spice jar will do, you just need to make sure it’s tall enough for your objects to fit in. I personally love jars that have both small holes and a wider opening. This allows you to mix in several types of objects that your child will need to visually discriminate where/how they will fit. It also gives the option to require more or less motor accuracy.
Large Jar + Tickets (or strips of paper)
This one requires a sharp knife or power tool to make the slits but it is so awesome for sustained visual attention because the slits can be made on the lid or side of the jar and at different angles. You can require your child to tear the tickets apart or feed them in the slots in long strips.
Each of these put-in ideas is fun, cheap, and easy so you don’t have to spend a lot of time or money to target your child’s fine motor development. Just take a quick look around your house.