The holiday season is a great time to gather around the Christmas tree with loved ones and spend time together making crafts and getting in the holiday spirit. At St. Kate’s OTA Online program, we know that all families are different, and some family members may need occupational therapy to get certain tasks done. That is why we have created this list of holiday craft ideas for occupational therapy patients who want to make holiday decorations and get in the spirit but may need a little more help.
These activities exercise fine motor skills, visual perceptual skills, sensory function, and brain function while giving patients something fun and festive to do. Most of these holiday craft ideas for occupational therapy patients are designed for children to do with their family or occupational therapy assistants, but can be enjoyed by adults as well!
Sensory Snow Globe
While this DIY snow globe will look a little different than the shiny, snow-filled glass snow globe sitting on your shelf, our DIY motor skill snow globes are fun to make and are a great fine motor skill exercise for children. All types of plastic bottles and containers work with this activity, so feel free to use empty cartons or boxes to change it up. The idea is to allow the child to tear, pinch, and crunch the tissue paper into the water bottle and boxes. By doing so, the small muscles of the hand are used and these motions strengthen the arch of the hand, as well as improve grip. By strengthening these muscles, the child will be able to do things such as tie his or her shoe, write, button clothes, and other daily tasks that children with weak hand muscles and an undefined arch would otherwise have trouble doing. The tissue paper and plastic bottles also engage sensory preceptors in addition to using fine motor skills.
Items needed to make the snow globe:
Clear plastic bottles and boxes
To make your own snow globe, round up clean, clear, non-sealed disposable plastic containers. Make sure the plastic of the container is not thick, but malleable so the child may scrunch it and change its form slightly. Next, gather several different colors of tissues paper. Green and red are very festive for the season, and there is even holiday-themed tissue paper during the holiday season in the gift wrapping section of most stores. Allow the child OT patient to rip up the tissue into whatever shape he would like, then let him put the tissue paper into the empty container by first holding the container with his dominant hand and putting the paper in with his non-dominant hand, then alternate for bilateral hand coordination practice. Make sure he is crumpling, pinching, and twisting the paper with his hands throughout the activity so that he can really work his hand muscles. When the bottles or containers are full to the child’s content, allow him to play with the bottles or boxes by squishing them down or squeezing them (do not put the cap on the bottle while doing this), so he can watch the way the air flow affects tissue paper. This also improves grasp and hand muscles.
Let It Snow! Slime
This amusing and pretty sensory activity is enjoyable for child patients to make with their OTA or an adult and perfect as a one of our holiday craft ideas for occupational therapy patients this holiday season. The “slime” recipe used is very common in occupational therapy for sensory therapy with the cold, soft, and sticky slime and peppermint scent. Also, when the child squeezes, holds, pulls, and plays with the slime, her hand and arms muscles are working, using hand manipulation and pulling movements for fine motor skills.
Items needed to make the Snow Slime:
2 cups of white Elmer’s glue
1 ½ cups of very warm water
2 drops peppermint extract
Borax mixture (mixed in separate bowl)
¾ teaspoon Borax
1 1/3 cups very warm water
To make the snow slime, combine the glue, warm water, glitter and extract in one medium bowl and mix well. After preparing the borax solution in a separate bowl, combine with the glue mixture and mix well with your hands for a few minutes until a gooey mixture forms. To make the mixture cold for extra sensory fun, store the mixture in a Ziploc bag and place in the refrigerator before and after playing with the mixture. When cold (but not too cold), allow children to play with, stretch, plop down, roll, and squish the mixture. For more fun, spread the mixture on a surface and let children take cookie cutters to the surface and make oozing snowflakes or snowmen.
Hand-Painted Christmas Tree
The holidays are an awesome time to give handmade gifts to family members or post the children’s decorations on the fridge. This activity is fun and gives children who have trouble holding crayons, paintbrushes, colored pencils, and other art mediums a chance to make their holiday themed works of art with their hands. Finger painting is great, messy fun for children and develops both fine motor skills and visual motor skills. It’s also a great sensory activity when using the edible paint!
Items needed to make the Christmas Tree:
Edible, toddler-safe finger paint* (See recipe below)
Construction paper or other thicker paper that won’t rip when wet
Circular, star, and other shaped stickers
*Edible Finger Paint Recipe:
1 container of instant vanilla pudding, prepared according to the box instructions
Divide the pudding equally into different containers. Add food coloring until desired colors are obtained. (Green, yellow, and red dyes work great for making this Christmas tree.)
To make a Christmas tree with finger paints, cover the surface you are working on with newspaper or wax paper to protect from paints. To make the Christmas tree, set a piece of paper in front of the child and help them dip their entire hand in green paint. Allow them to place three hand prints next to each other at the top of the page. Then, overlapping with the first row a little, have them dip their hand in more green paint and put two hand prints together below those three prints, towards the middle of the page. After that row, turn the page upside down so the three hand prints are at the bottom of the page and upside down. Then, let the child put one final green hand print on top of the two rows, to make the top of the Christmas tree. After cleaning the green paint off her hands, or letting her use her other hand, have the child use the different colors of paint with her fingers to paint around and on the tree for decorations. Once the paint has dried, let her add stickers for more decorations on the tree.
Jingle Bells Sorting Activity
The jingle bell sorting game is for independent learning for pediatric OT patients and helps brain development with problem solving skills, learning colors, and enjoying sounds. It is also great for fine motor skills, as her or she will need to handle the small jingle bells and sort them, which incorporates dexterity of the intrinsic muscles, as well as visual perceptual skills as he or she must sort the bells into the right section based on color. This activity is excellent for the holiday season when jingle bells christen the air with festive delight.
Items needed to make Jingle Bell Sorting Activity:
Different colored bells (most hobby and craft store have these or you can get them online)
Paint (corresponding with bell colors)
Egg carton (cardboard, not foam) or colored cups
This activity takes a little preparation the night or a couple hours beforehand with the help of an adult or OTA. To prepare the game, paint the egg carton sections in corresponding colors to the bells so that the children may sort the bells in corresponding colored sections. Once the paint has dried and the child or children are ready to play, set out 20 to 30 or so bells of all different colors. Allow them to sort the bells one at a time at first, and then have them hold multiple bells at a time while sorting for in-hand manipulation practice. This will help their hand muscles and finger muscles, along with grip using finger-to-palm translation and palm-to-finger translations. Once all the bells have been sorted, empty the carton and play again!
Paper Plate Snowflake
It is very common for occupational therapy patients to need practice with their fine motor skills, in particular hand movements and strength. Therefore, the traditional children’s holiday craft of cutting snowflakes with paper and scissors during the holiday season can present problems for OT patients. That is why this fun and functional activity is great for children who need hand manipulation exercise and other fine motor skills by punching holes and pinching, grasp, and bilateral coordination, as well as visual perceptual skills with hand-eye coordination.
Items needed to make Paper Plate Snowflakes:
Yarn (different colors)
Allow the child to pick the different colors of yarn he or she would like to use to make their snowflake. Take a paper plate of any size, and either by assisting the child or allowing him to use the hole punch on his own, punch five to ten holes around the outside of the plate on the border. To make this more challenging for older OT patients, place numbers around the plate’s border with a pen and then tell them to punch holes next to the numbers, in numerical order. Later in the activity, these numbers will come in handy as you can tell them what numbers to string the yarn through for numbers practice. Next, allow the child to string the yarn through the hole, being sure to take the yarn to the hole across the plate, so that lines start overlapping. Use as much yarn as you like and switch the colors when you wish to make a unique snowflake effect on the plate. You can hang these paper plate snowflakes on the wall, from the ceiling or even on the Christmas tree!
We hope that you enjoy these holiday craft ideas for occupational therapy pediatric patients and that you can use them for a child or adult in your life.
If you are not an occupational therapy assistant but are interested in learning more about the role of an OTA or how to become an occupational therapy assistant, contact us today by calling 877.223.2677 or filling out this contact form to learn more about our online OTA program at St. Kate’s in Virginia.
Want more fun occupational therapy activity ideas? Check out our list of recycled household items to use in occupational therapy. If you are looking for more children’s OT activities, be sure to check out our review of alternative pediatric occupational therapy methods.