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Fine motor & sensory fun: Autumn Edition

If you and your little ones love all things fall, I’m glad you’re here! Fall brings a ton of opportunities for kids to participate in learning activities, experience traditions and bond with friends and family while supporting development. I love festive activities that are meaningful, simplistic and easy to set up while requiring minimal materials. Let’s be honest, if you’re a parent, teacher, therapist or anyone interacting with kids through play, it’s likely you need some go-to, easy and effective play ideas. These are a few of my fall favorites.


Pumpkin patch shape match

Don’t forget to grab an extra pumpkin to mark up while you’re pumpkin picking this year! This one encourages matching, shape recognition, fine motor skills & visual perception. Grab your sharpie and some masking tape, draw shapes on both the pumpkin and tape. Have your child rip the pieces of tape to match to the shapes on the pumpkin. Modify by ripping the pieces yourself, having your little one match them on the pumpkin and then peel them off.

Cinnamon, spice & everything nice- letter and number tracing

Something about the scents of fall brings comfort and thoughts of childhood memories. In fact, research has linked olfaction (the process of smelling) to memory recall (Aqrabawi & Kim, 2018). Hence why the smell of cinnamon is the perfect addition to complete this multisensory activity. This has fall written all over it, literally. It can be used to practice formation of pre-writing strokes, letters, numbers and even shapes. Mix cinnamon & sugar, then add it to a tray with some print outs of letters, numbers or shapes. Have your child use the cinnamon sticks and their fingers to demonstrate formation of the letters, numbers or shapes. Prepare a fall delight or treat to have in hand, I promise this will trigger all the fall feels & cravings.

Design the Turkey

Perhaps I should’ve titled this ‘the one where you keep your kids actively engaged in learning & play as you prepare for Thanksgiving’, but ‘design the turkey’ sounds more fun so we’ll stick with that. We’re hoping to make this one part of our Thanksgiving Day tradition. This activity incorporates exposure to textures, pincer grasp and hand strengthening. I created a turkey picture, punched holes in the feathers & taped it to some foam from the dollar store. My daughter and I pushed feathers (use hot glue on the feather ends to strengthen if necessary) through the holes and into the foam to design the turkey. We also pulled and plucked.

*Tip*- Some children with sensory challenges may find the light touch of feathers aversive. Monitor your child’s response if they have sensory difficulties. Allow them to explore on their own rather than forcing touch.

Leaf threading

This activity was inspired by leaf collecting during an outdoor nature walk with my daughter. Lacing & threading activities are perfect for enhancing fine motor skills, pincer grasp, hand strengthening, bilateral coordination (use of both hands together) and hand-eye coordination. All you need are leaves, lace (thread or string) and a hole puncher. Use a hole puncher to place openings at the tops or around the leaves or have your child use the hole puncher, if they are capable, as an added hand strengthening task. Demonstrate lacing then, have your child lace up some leaves!

Pumpkin Infinity- brain booster

A study that examined the effects of bilateral coordination activities (use of both sides of the body together) revealed that using motor tasks, like figure 8 patterns can improve attention and focus in school aged children (Buchele Harris, Cortina, Templin, Colabianchi, & Chen, 2018). The figure 8 pattern is used in movement programs like Brain Gym. Crossing midline (center of body) also helps to connect both sides of the brain. This helps to create new pathways to facilitate the development of foundational skills necessary for learning. Repeating this pattern can have a regulating & calming effect. Start by creating a horizontal 8 using tape, markers or chalk. Have your child trace the 8 by starting at the middle intersection then prompt them to trace the pattern in a smooth motion by going counter clockwise (without stopping). This activity can be completed on a table- top or vertical surface (wall or door) to incorporate shoulder stability. Walking this pattern can be beneficial, use chalk or tape to create your figure 8 on the ground! Add a fall touch by having your child walk or trace around pumpkins!

Leaf blower

This activity is great for targeting oral motor skills and working on strengthening muscles of the mouth to support speaking and eating. Blowing bubbles or leaves can also have an organizing and regulating effect on the nervous system! Use a straw to have your child pretend to be a leaf blower!

I hope these ideas become part of your fall festivities and traditions like they are to us!

Aqrabawi, A.J., Kim, J.C. Hippocampal projections to the anterior olfactory nucleus differentially convey spatiotemporal information during episodic odour memory. Nat Commun 9, 2735 (2018).
Buchele Harris, H., Cortina, K., Templin, T., Colabianchi, N., & Chen, W. (2018, May 28). Impact of Coordinated-Bilateral Physical Activities on Attention and Concentration in School-Aged Children. Retrieved October 23, 2020, from