This week’s edition of Pinned on Pinterest, Tested in Occupational Therapy involves a random picture I found on the internet! (Not an unfamiliar story of a Pinterest user, I’m sure.)
The reason I call is random is because I couldn’t seem to find the origin of said Pin; it only links to an image without a webpage. Would that have stopped the average DIY Therapy-Product-Maker? Perhaps. But I decided to charge on.
It looked really cool, simple enough to recreate, and possibly highly motivating to some children that are in a handwriting rut. A potential low risk/high reward crafting challenge.
With only an image to go off of, I started by ordering a roll of tape register paper from Amazon.
This paper set the dimensions for the cardboard frame, and I was able to choose a dowel rod from the hardware store that allowed the paper to spin, as well as a few rubber bands to hold it in place. I thought I could make the entire thing out of cardboard, but a wood block base made the stencil much more stable.
The Assembly Process
Visual perceptual skills are not my strong point. So while I sort of knew what I needed to do, I couldn’t quite break it down when it came to making the first cut in the cardboard. Thankfully I happen to live with a husband who can grade the challenge for me. He drew me this image to help cut the cardboard sides:
I shouldn’t mention the 3 boxes I messed up first. Let’s pretend I got it on the first try. Just ignore the next image of my cardboard cutting wrath.
My first mistake was making the box only as wide as my register paper. I either needed to order wider paper, or make the box wider and set the paper in the middle. (The children wouldn’t have even been able to fit their arms in my first few trials.)
Once you (successfully) cut out the cardboard, you can wrap it around a base. As I mentioned, I used a wood block, and this worked out perfectly. The cardboard was secured to the wood with hot glue, and while I was skeptical of its holding power, it made it through multiple therapy sessions, as well as the commute to and from work a few times without falling apart.
I then got a box cutter and picked a few stencil outlines. I just used patterns that best fit my current caseload’s needs. I had a few children working on squares, and I also figured they could write within the boxes for handwriting practice.
Yes, I was giddy with the result. It looked as fun as I hoped it would.
How it Worked in Occupational Therapy
This was a HIT! From the get go, children noticed the stencils as soon as they walked in the room.
“Can we play with it?!”
The novelty factor won straight away.
Not only were they excited to try it, the children stuck with it. One child wanted to make “receipts,” tear them off, then do some sort of delightful ribbon dance with the paper. Hey, whatever works!
One child insisted that I tore the paper off too short, so he quickly rushed back to do an entire new unprompted set of letter “L’s” so he could make a longer strip of paper! (And this is a child that usually tries SO hard to avoid anything related to letters or fine motor activities.)
We traced shapes, colored in the guidelines, wrote letters and numbers in the boxes. I was incredibly happy with the practice I got out of this little project.
The activity promoted bilateral coordination as the children had to use one hand to secure the stencil since it had just a little wiggle room. Pinch strength was also incorporated to tear off each little receipt of paper.
The only downside I noticed was that the height of the wood block sort of promoted a child’s arm to hover over the writing surface. I tried to encourage their forearm placement on the actual block for more proximal stability. Only one child tried to unroll the entire roll of paper, so I’m gonna count that as a big ol’ win as well.
Overall, a fun and fairly easy way to encourage fine motor development in our sessions. Thank you, random picture on the internet!!