Simple Steps to Transition from a Bottle to Cup


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So what do you really need to know about transitioning baby from a bottle to a cup?

The whole concept may seem daunting at first (especially if you’re a new mom) but I promise it’s not as complicated as you may think.

You can start teaching your baby to learn to drink from a straw and an open cup a little before or around the age of one year. It will just take some practice, a lot of repetition and a good role model along the way, too.

Firstly, whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, please know that your child doesn’t need a transition period on a sippy cup in between breastfeeding/bottlefeeding and drinking from an open cup. That might come as quite a surprise to many parents, since sippy cups are such a mainstay in our toddler society today. Clever baby product marketers have convinced today’s generation of parents that transitioning from breast or bottle to the sippy cup is just part of the developmental process. However, from a therapists perspective, sippy cups are both completely unnecessary and also counter-productive to the development of strong oral motor skills.

Just to clarify, a sippy cup is a toddler cup with 3-4 tiny holes used as liquid spouts, that were developed sometime in the 1980s (by an engineer, mind you) to prevent toddlers from spilling their milk. They were never developed to teach a child any sort of skill. They were developed to keep parents floors clean.

“Why say no to a sippy cup?” you might ask?

  1. They Promote Oral Motor Passivity
    Well, for starters, sippy cups teach children to use their mouths passively and not actively (in other words, they almost have to do nothing to obtain liquid from the sippy cup) which both weakens and provides no oral motor input to the mouth. Oral motor input from a straw, an open cup or even from food can provide “awakening” sensory input to the mouth for better speech and language as well as feeding, chewing and swallowing skills. To the contrary, with sippy cups, a child is essentially doing nothing with their mouths and receiving little to no sensory feedback.

  2. They Can Promote Poor Oral Motor Habits
    Besides teaching children to not actively participate in the drinking and swallowing experience, they also teach the child to propel their tongue forward into a forward resting posture, which negatively impacts speech and swallowing skills. In a child who also uses a pacifier very frequently past one year, combined with frequent use of a sippy cup, this forward resting posture of the tongue can definitely become an issue with either feeding or speech.

If you occasionally use a sippy cup, I don’t think it should be a problem. However, if your child uses it every day and also constantly uses a pacifier, these issues I mentioned above can definitely become an issue.

So, what should I use instead?

Well I’m sure glad you asked, friend! There are SO many other great cups for toddlers out on the market today that will teach real life drinking and swallowing skills and wont interfere with speech and language development at all.

Don’t worry, some of these cups are spill proof too!

Here’s the two main pointers to look for in a good cup for your toddler:

  • Look for cups with either a straw or those that promote an open-cup drinking pattern

  • Look for open cups that are are good fit for the size of your toddlers hands

  • Avoid spouted cups at all costs

    Here are just a few of my favorite cups that I recommend below. Click on the image to purchase.

My favorite activities to teach drinking skills

  1. Teach your child the art of pronation/supination (flipping the wrists up and down - a skill necessary for bringing a loaded cup to the mouth and drinking from it). Here’s how: In the bath, give your child two cups (different colored cups work best). Model to them how to pour water from one cup to the next and say “pour, pour,” while you do this. This will help your toddler to learn that holding the cup upright keeps the water in. It also helps to stabilize the muscles in the wrists for cup drinking.

  2. Teach your child how to carry an open cup and not spill it by practicing outside with a loaded cup. Fill up a bucket with water and give your child a cup. Have them dip the cup into the bucket and fill it with water and then carry it to another location to pour it out. This teaches your child all of the skills mentioned above.

  3. Teach your child how to drink from a straw. You can do this by cutting a small straw in half, dipping it into water and placing the tail end into your childs mouth and slowly releasing. This will teach your child that water comes out of a straw. After they have mastered this passive skill, its time to practice it actively. Model straw drinking for them and show them how you close your lips around the straw and suck. When you drink some water up, make a refreshed sound like, “Ahhh.” (kids love games like this.) Have them continue to practice closing their lips around straws and sucking and keep on practicing. Larger straws work best at first, as baby is still learning the art of lip closure.

  4. Vibration input prior to practicing drinking can be helpful for younger babies or kids with low muscle tone. You can use a vibrating toothbrush for this. Simply touch a vibrating tip of a toothbrush to your childs mouth prior to drinking or eating or you can hand your toddler the brush themselves and let them explore it with their mouth independently. This will help waken up the mouth prior to feeding or drinking for better oral motor skills and awareness of the mouth in general.

  5. These honey bear cups are amazing for teaching straw drinking skills.
    You can find them here.


The Importance of Making a Mess

MakingMesses (2).png

As a mom of two kids under the age of five, I know first-hand how mess making during mealtime can really drive a type-A mama like myself to the brink of insanity.  (Over and over again, every day.)  But as a pediatric occupational therapist, who specializes in sensory related feeding issues and picky eating, I also know that the benefits of letting my kids get messy when they eat, far outweigh the downfalls of messy mealtimes.

I’ve seen firsthand how many type-A moms like myself, delay letting their little ones self-feed during the food-introduction period, to avoid the mess.  The problem with delaying self-feeding and not allowing babies to explore foods with their hands is that it can, in some instances, lead to an interference with normal feeding patterns and can contribute to more selective eating patterns in the long run.

There are many ways that delayed self-feeding can contribute to the development of abnormal feeding and interfere with the development of oral motor skills (the skills that help the mouth, tongue, lips and cheeks work in a coordinated way to mash up and swallow food).

Babies Learn through Touch

It might be helpful to first take a look at how babies learn about the world around them within the first year of life.  Babies are naturally driven by their tactile sense and explore the world around them with their sense of touch.  They touch, feel and explore objects within their reach by bringing items that they’ve discovered to their mouths.  This helps them to understand more about their environment.

The fingertips and the lips and tongue just so happen to house more sensory receptors (cells that receive tactile or touch information to the brain to help us to understand what it is and what it feels like) than any other region in the entire human body.

Babies learn about accepting new textures in this very specific order of touch: first their hands, then their mouth (we call this proximal to distal sensory acceptance in the therapy world.) That is just the progression of tactile sensory exploration, the way that babies learn about the world around them.  Babies (and toddlers too) need to be allowed the opportunity to touch, feel and smell their foods in order to determine if they are willing to try it with their mouths.

I think if we understand that concept, we can appreciate why babies are constantly chewing on and mouthing everything they can possibly get their hands on.  I think we will also understand, then, why it is important to let babies explore different food textures with their hands and mouths.

Babies Naturally Crave Autonomy

Another important characteristic of babies is that they are naturally driven by a need for autonomy and independence (meaning they want to figure out how things work on their own).  This can describe why sometimes a toddlers very first words are often “no,” “myself” or “me” or “mine.”  Sure, some babies are more passive than others, but for the most part, kids want to do things for themselves.  This is especially important during the critical food introduction period, in my eyes.

It is important to let babies explore foods on their own terms, when they are ready and to not encroach on this innate drive for feeding autonomy.   This matters because feeding autonomy can set a framework for both 1) developing a healthy relationship with food and b) helping kids tune into their own internal nutritional cues.

The moral of the story here, is that the more that we let our children take the lead around the dinner table, the more comfortable they will feel with food and mealtime.

Issues With Spoon Feeding

While I have no problem with a feeding purees for a short period of time (1-2  weeks at the most), or helping babies spoon feed with more difficult food items (like soup, for example), I do think that long term spoon feeding of puree’s can encroach on a babies natural drive to explore and learn through their sense of touch and it also takes away a babies innate drive for autonomy.

Often parents choose to spoon feed purees for longer period of time because they fear choking.  The irony in this is that the longer a baby or child goes without learning the concepts of how foods feel and how to go about manipulating, biting, chewing and then swallowing these foods; the more likelihood they will have an actual problem with an over-reactive gag, poor tolerance to different textures and choking.  This is because the more times the gag reflex (a protective mechanism that inhibits aspiration of food being lodged in the airway) is elicited, the quicker the body self-teaches more efficient movement patterns within the mouth. 

An example of a more efficient oral motor pattern would be learning how to swipe food from the airway with the tongue and move it into the molar region. 

Furthermore, many children who throw up often during mealtime (with no underlying medical causation) have an over-reactive gag-reflex, which has been set in motion due to a lack of experiences with real foods in the first few years of life.

Getting Messy Helps to Desensitize the Tactile System

Over-protecting and over-sanitizing has taught children that being messy is not okay.  Because many children in this generation have had limited exposure to the natural elements of nature (like sand, mud, etc),  they are generally lacking in real life experiences with different textures.

A child who lacks basic experiences with textures on their hands and has never been exposed to messy textures in nature can become over-sensitive to tactile information (these children will cry or scream if they get their hands or face messy or will refuse to walk in the sand or grass.)  Sensory-related diagnosis’ are on the rise more than ever before.  We need to teach our children (and retrain ourselves as mothers, too) that being messy is okay and a very crucial part of play and child development.

Babies and kids need to be allowed to get messy and feel their foods with their hands because this important part of sensory play promotes a tolerance to a wider variety of textures.  The more textures they are allowed to explore with their hands (and feet too), the more they can put a name to different textures like “mushy” “crunchy” “lumpy”, etc.  The more we broaden their understanding of different textures, the more likely they will allow these textures into their mouths in the form of new foods.

Self-feeding Promotes Age Appropriate Hand-eye Coordination + Fine Motor Skills

The last but certainly not least important reason that getting messy benefits babies during feeding is that it enhances the development of both hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.  These hand skills impact a child’s performance in many life-related skills and school.  A few examples of life skills that depend on refined hand-eye coordination are things like dressing, handwriting, shoe tying, utensil use and cutting.  The building blocks for hand-eye coordination begin in the hand to mouth exploration phase, which is typical from 6-18 months of age.

Getting Messy Positively Impacts Older Children too

Because so many children today have had such limited exposure to the naturally messy textures and elements of nature, it is no wonder that many older, school-aged children display signs and symptoms of tactile sensitivity or becoming over-sensitive to tactile information.

These are the children who have a meltdown if a food on their plate is a certain texture they disprove of, become anxious during messy crafts (ex: when glue, paint or markers get on their hands) or need to wash their hands immediately during any messy cooking activity (like rolling dough balls).

These children are showing signs of tactile sensitivity and these signs and symptoms are giving us a signal that their sensory systems need help in this area.

If we can give these older children back the tactile experiences they may have missed out of in younger years, we can be an integral part of the process in helping these children to regulate their sensory systems. As parents, we can help our older children be able to tolerate a wider variety of textures (which is called desensitization, by the way), and this can translate to more foods being accepted and less anxiety during sensory experiences.

Here’s a few real life sensory experiences you can encourage your older child to enjoy to help desensitize their tactile systems:

6 Activities to Desensitize + Integrate the Tactile Sensory System

  1. Allowing children to walk barefoot in different natural elements such as sand and wet grass. Anytime when your child can safely walk barefoot, allow it.

  2. Making room for regular, extended unstructured time in natural elements. This can include anything from jumping in puddles to making mud pies to building sand castles at the beach. You would be surprised at how much older children enjoy these activities too!

  3. Baking is a great way to expose the hands to different sensory information. Baking cookies and dough with their hands (rolling cookie dough balls, rolling out dough, using cookie cutters to cut dough) and making rice crispy treats, are all great places to start.

  4. Making kitchen “mixtures!” This is one of my favorite activities for older children with sensory challenges. Start with basic mixtures like yogurt with berries and then get more adventurous as you go, adding in things like granola, bananas, etc. Pizza, sandwich and salad mixtures are other examples. Allowing two foods to be “mixed” together is huge for sensory kids. Getting them involved in the physical process of mixing the foods together helps tremendously.

  5. Fingerpainting and shaving cream play is a challenge for tactile sensitive kids, but it can also be really fun!

  6. The Willbarger Brushing Protocol is a dry brushing technique, used with children with sensory challenges, that can be implemented at home to provide calming proprioceptive input to the tactile system. It involves brushing the body with a small surgical brush throughout the day. Typically an Occupational Therapist, who is trained in this technique, is the best person to train you for at home use of this protocol.


Therapist Picks Christmas Gift Guide


If you’re worried about getting it right this Christmas with gift buying for your littles, dont worry, I’ve got you covered! I created this Therapist Approved Christmas Guide to help you weed through the junk and find the best, most durable, loved on and of course developmentally appropriate toys!

This Christmas Gift Guide is everything! My hope was to be able to bring to you a condensed, researched and pre-approved list of all of my favorite toys that are developmentally appropriate for each age group (0-2 years and 3-5 years). After working as a pediatric occupational therapist for almost 10 years, I have become quite a toy fanatic. Not really in the storage of bucketloads of toys all over my house sort of way but more in the extremely selective, sturdy, age-appropriate, long-lasting sort of way. In my house that typically means getting rid of a lot of things we don’t use frequently and keeping toys that still serve an educational, developmental, sensory or skill-enhancing purpose (like music/art toys).

I am not a big fan of over-stimulating, musical toys with lots of gadgets and sounds. I look for simple, basic and straightforward. The younger the age, the simpler the functions of the toy should be.

I am, however, a huge fan of open ended, high quality (usually wooden) toys that encourage creativity and child development! Open-ended toys are great for so many reasons..

  • They inspire creativity, pretend-play, spatial and size awareness, problem solving skills, etc

  • They never get old meaning they stay “age appropriate” for longer

  • The simplicity of open ended toys aren’t over-stimulating to the child

  • The simplicity of the design doesn’t make a lot of sounds that drive me crazy

    These toys below are all toys that I have personally used before in a clinical or personal way that I know kids love and benefit from developmentally. I did my best to choose toys that offer the entire rainbow of developmental skills, including: visual-motor skills, fine motor skills and hand skills, sensory integration, strengthening/gross motor skills, oral motor skills/feeding, socialization, pretend play, problem solving, etc.

    Most of these items are on amazon so they can be at your doorstep in just a few days but I’ve included a few specialty items from small business shops on ETSY which may take more time in transit. Keep in mind that many of the open ended and sensory toys can be used for either the 0-2 or 3-5 age group.

    Disclaimer: I never want to encourage materialism and buying more than you need, so if you can’t afford some of these goodies or don’t actually NEED them, then don’t buy them! *Affiliate links below

Ages 0-2

Ages 3-5

Christmas Tree Kits -Sensory Play Travel Boxes for Kids

Help your child get into the spirit of Christmas with these fun, Christmas tree making playdough kits! They are the perfect mix of sensory and fine motor fun to keep littles hands busy on any given occasion but especially good for car rides, airplanes, restaurants or plain old toddler quiet time.

Your child will love using these items to create and decorate their own mini Christmas trees using handmade playdough and lots of fun decorations!


Nature Boxes to Inspire Outdoor Play + Sensory Exploration


Sometimes our kids need a little inspiration when it comes to outdoor play, am I right? I used to tell my kids all the time, “Just GO OUTSIDE and PLAY!”

But the more I pushed them to play outside, the more they pushed back and resisted it and it drove me crazy.

As a pediatric occupational therapist, I know the importance of outdoor play for brain development, mental health, development of health sensory regulation skills, etc. I also want them to use their creativity and imagination and to get their healthy daily dose of vitamin D.

A child playing outdoors in nature isn’t all just fun and games. Play is the most crucial occupation of a child. And through play, a child establishes developmental motor skills (such as fine and gross motor), cognitive abilities (such as executive functioning skills and problem solving), social skills, sensory processing skills and emotional regulation.

Play is the most crucial occupation of a child. And through play, a child learns and establishes developmental motor skills (such as fine and gross motor), cognitive abilities (such as executive functioning skills and problem solving), social skills, sensory processing skills and healthy emotional regulation skills.

Physical activity even boosts a child’s self-confidence and research has shown its benefits on improving mental health as well.

A 2011 meta-analysis looking at exercise—an important component of active play—hinted that it could have benefits for anxiety, depression, and self-esteem in adolescents.

Back to me and trying to get my kids to play more outside.

There was just something about me telling them they needed to ‘go play outside’ that made them resist the idea.

It wasn’t until I started to give them little ideas that I saw their eyes light up and they finally began to enjoy and even request outdoor time themselves (hallelujah!)

”Let’s build a fairy nest!”
”Let’s collect all the colorful leaves you can find in baggies!”
”Can you find all the sticks and build a fire pit?”

These are all little ideas we’ve used to inspire outdoor play in nature/aka usually our backyard.

It seems like such a little thing but I cannot tell you how much it has helped mine and my kids sanity. They need the sensory input and the physical activity and sometimes us mamas just need a break. You know, to clean up from the 7,000 meals we served that day or maybe just drink that cup of tea and take 3 deep breaths.

Anyway, we created these little rainbow colors nature play inspiration boxes to go on a Rainbow Scavenger Hunt and I wanted to share them with you all since they have been such a big hit.

If you cant find a compartmentalized container (I found these at the dollar store) you can use an egg crate or a divided lunch box container.

Simply place something from each color of the rainbow (Think: ROYGBV) into each compartment and ask your kiddos to go outside and see how many things they can find outside to put in each color department. You would be amazed at how much their imagination and excitement will rev up about the idea of being outside with this activity.

Anyways, I hope your littles enjoy this activity as much as we do!

Leave me a comment or a picture if you end up doing this sweet nature activity!



Thankful Tree - A Thanksgiving Activity Booklet for Kids


I know it sounds cliche, but with the hustle and bustle of the holidays quickly approaching, it is SO easy to get wrapped up in the business of it all that we forget to even enjoy this time with our families and forget the reasons for the seasons.

And the true meaning of Thanksgiving is gratitude and spending quality time with family.

I am of the mindset that a little bit of gratitude can truly change everything. Whiney kids, grumpy sleep deprived moms, a negative attitude, stress, you name it. It only takes a few minutes to thank God for the top 10 things you’re grateful for to help shift your mindset from worrying about the things that don’t matter, to just being grateful for what you have.

It doesn’t have to be elaborate either. I think God is pleased when we thank him for the little blessings in life too.

I wish my kids would sleep at night
Changed Mindset: God, Thank you that my kids have a safe place to sleep at night
I want that new Toy for Christmas, Mom
Changed Mindset: God, I’m thankful for how many toys I already do have
Why are my kids always getting sick?
Changed Mindset: God, Thank you that I have access to healthy food and medical care

Get yourself and your kids into the spirit of Thanksgiving with this fun Thankful Tree Activity Booklet and Poem.

You can tape this big tree up on the back of the door or in an open wall space and have your kiddos practice their cutting skills while choosing what they want to give thanks for each day. You can have them cut them all out at once or just choose one a day to put on the Thankful Tree. This package comes with an extra page of gratitude leafs for your child to think of any extra things they’re thankful for.

The Activity Booklet also comes with this cute poem to read out loud with your kids thanking God for all of their blessings.



Car Wash Sensory Play


So, let me introduce you to your new best friend, Car Wash Sensory Play. Your kids are going to eat it up! Not to mention keep themselves thoroughly occupied for at least an hour.

Here’s how to play:

You and your kiddos line-up all the toy cars in the household, spray them all over with shaving cream, fill up a sensory bin with water and a little blue dye for some extra pzazz and give them some old toothbrushes to help “scrub the cars squeaky clean”. They brush them off with their toothbrush and them dip them in the “soapy” water to get them rinsed off before lining them up to dry.

There are three primary objectives in this fun outdoor game:

  1. To squeeze in some messy tactile sensory play: Messy tactile input is important for so many reasons! To stimulate the tactile senses in a fun way, to decrease or eliminate any hypersensitivity to touch or textures which can impact a whole number of things (the most important being future acceptance of new food textures), to increase awareness of the hands and body and to let kids realize its OKAY to get their hands messy. If your little has an absolute meltdown when their hands get messy, this might be a good activity to try with them. Having a barrier between the hands and the shaving cream (the toothbrushes) help for those who are hesitant to touch the messy texture.

  2. To promote imaginative and parallel play (side by side play) with siblings

  3. To get kids outside!

    The greatest part is you probably have ALL of the items you need to play this game laying around somewhere in your house. Isn’t it cool that its the simplest things in life that keep kids busy and their brains working? (some of my favorites are old boxes, tissue paper, tape, shaving cream, empty water bottles and old containers, just to name a few)


So what are you waiting for?? Go put on your mom pants on and get ready to G E T M E S S Y!

**Clearly we did this outside so I could spray them down with a hose when we were done :)

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Large container for water

  • Toy cars

  • Shaving cream

  • Old toothbrushes

  • Food dye (optional)



Restaurant Boxes (DIY Fine Motor Fun)


I have a confession..

I have been carrying around random zip-lock bags of thera-putty and bags of beads and strings in my purse for about three years now.

Why on earth would you do such a thing, you might ask?  Because I’m sure you can imagine how just one more thing totally adds to the mom-purse dilemma.  You know, the one where you go on one short trip to or from preschool and you end up with the contents of what looks to be food and supplies for a small tribe of Indians! 

Why the heck would I want to encourage you to add one more thing into that shameful mom-pile??

No, its not because I’m taking crazy pills.  It’s because there is nothing worse than the wait for food at a restaurant with hangry and busy-bodied children.

Especially when you don’t always want to pop a device in front of your child, because said device only decreases child’s ability to control impulses and attention skills, according to research.

Dont get me wrong, we use devices quite frequently in our home, but I do my best to not use it every single time my kids are bored.

Waiting on your food at the restaurant, waiting at the doctors office, waiting to get your oil change with the kids, long road trips, Oy vey, is parenting full of lots of waiting! 

Patience is a virtue, people.  Something I am learning myself along the way but also something even more challenging to teach to children. 

The truth is I would much rather let my kids play and refine their hand skills than be zombified by Paw-Patrol for an hour.  Maybe its the OT in me (ok, its definitely the OT in me)  Maybe its the perfectionist (yeah, its definitely a little bit of that too).  I don’t know guys.  But I will say these little restaurant boxes have saved me more times than I can count. 

So today, I am spilling the beans to my long kept secret to restaurants with kids peace. 

Enter, the restaurant box.  


:Sigh of relief:


So, I fill these little guys with all sorts of simple fine motor activities and pop them open when my kids are getting antsy.  It buys me just enough time to look at the menu, order food for everyone and possibly even have a bite of my own food. 

I include all different sorts of simple fine motor activities.  Here’s what I put in mine:

  • A few crayons
  •  Thera-putty (sort of like resistive play-dough) and small beads to push in and take out if it
  • all different sorts of strings and beads (big and small) with different sized strings and felt pipe cleaners for my youngest (easier)
  • A pair of tweezers and these tiny erasors to practice pinch and grasp when putting things in/out of cups and bowls

The best part is that they are extremely inexpensive and simple to make and you can tailor them to your own child’s interests and age group. You can switch out the items at any time and keep these boxes on deck in the mom-bag at all times for those desperate times (you know the ones I’m talking about).

These containers I found on amazon on the perfect size to keep stowed away in your purse and have handy-dandy compartment separators and locks to keep from spillage. So what are you waiting for?? Go fill up some boxes for some restaurant peace and quiet. Maybe even pretend to have a date-night with your hubs with your kids in tow?

Comment below and let me know what types of tricks you use to keep your own kiddos busy when eating out!



Cutting Straws + Build a House

Anyone else feeling the summertime crazies already?!

I will openly admit I have been going a little stir crazy around here. Keeping these guys busy is imperative to my sanity!

Thank goodness I pulled out one of my all time favorite fine motor activities yesterday and was able to keep these busy little hands at work for quite some time!


✂️Cutting Staws +  Build a House🌈🏠


You’ll need:


✂️Colorful straws




Cutting straws is the absolute best in my opinion.  Here’s why I think it’s the cats pajamas:


🎉It’s always my go to as the first step to teaching scissor skills due to the fact that it’s one small snip and way less challenging than cutting paper

🎉It gives toddlers instant gratification

🎉The straws literally shoot across the room and they (and I) think it’s hysterical

🎉It gives great feedback (auditory and propricoeptive) to a beginning cutter like my 2 year old

🎉It’s a bilateral (two handed) task that makes the 🧠left and right sides of the brain work together as a team to build good motor planning skills!

Adding a second step to build a house made it a bit more challenging (and increased the task completion time 🙌)for my 4 year old buddy who’s got cutting down pact.


This week I’m partnering with, an amazing resource for all things parenting,  and I just LOVED this list of Fun & Educational DIY Crafts for Toddlers.


If you’re having the summertime mom crazies, like me, I think you’ll find this list very useful! 



Birthday Cake Surprise -Fine Motor Fun

And our adventures continue trying to beat the heat this summer...Bored with play dough? Have a kiddo who loves talking about all things birthday?Just want to keep the kids entertained indoors to escape the relentless summer heat? 😩😭



Enter birthday cake surprise! Place candles into the “cake” and then decorate the candles! You can make patterns if you want to make it more challenging. And of course sing happy birthday 1,000 times 😆


This activity is great for any age really. All you need is play dough, spaghetti noodles, marshmallows and Cheerios. 👌if you have any foam blocks laying around (we found ours at the dollar store) it adds a bonus challenge 👍


This activity works on lots of things, including sensory exploration, grasp development and strengthening, fine motor precision and graded pressure modulation.


Most wild boys (ahem, my son) and wild girls too, who are described often as ‘too rough’ are missing the ability to grade (control) their pressure on objects might have a hard time with activities such as this. They might appear clumbsy or too rough. They spill, accidentally crush things 😂 and have a hard time with things that require them to s l o w their bodies down.


Pushing the marshmallows onto the spaghetti noodles without breaking them and also pushing the noodles into the foam bricks requires a lot of graded pressure modulation so it’s a great activity for those wild ones.


We did lose a few noodles, but in the end, my wild boy was able to master his birthday cake surprise!👌🤗👏🙌


Try it with your kiddos and let me know how they do😃


Decorating Telescopes for Fine Motor Skill Building


(18 months and up)

I love stickers for 3 reasons:

  1. They keep kiddos entertained F O R E V E R
  2. Taking stickers off of the pad encourages a three-digit grasp (tripod grasp) and strengthens the thumb 👍muscles which are an important building block for all aspects of prehension (grasp)
  3. Taking stickers off of a pad encourages higher level bilateral coordination (using both hands together in a coordinated way) I’m always looking for smaller items that encourage one hand to stabilize while the other hands manipulates (places stickers) and these toilet paper rolls are 👌

✍️Why am I always talking about the importance of thumb strength and the development of proper grasp?

Because if encouraged early on through simple play like this, kids can avoid awkward grasp patterns down the road.

I treat so many kids in the clinic who don’t have a functional grasp due to weak arches of the hands and poor thumb strength improper grasp patterns on a writing utensil cause quick fatigue of the hand during writing tasks and can (not always) lead to an overall negative association with all things handwriting related.

Get some stickers from the dollar store and some toilet paper rolls and you’re good to go! Also my son for some reason believes he can spy things more easily through his “telescope” 


Easter Egg Rocks + Chalks


Okay so we have quite a ways until Easter but don’t judge me.  I am oddly obsessed with all games and toys that are related to eggs.  Opening/closing egg toys are my favorite for babies because they teach them how to use both hands together in a coordinated way AND they usually have some sort of visual matching component too.  

Anyways, I digress. 

You guys, this activity was SO easy to set up, or should I say there was really no set up, and the kids LOVED IT. I am not kidding when I say they have been playing it non-stop all weekend.  So if you’re feeling the weekend toddler crazies and trying to prevent your house from being turned upside down before nap time, run to Easter Eggs Rocks + Chalks quick! 


All you need is 4 things:

  • Chalk of any kind
  • Old egg carton
  • Rocks
  • Easter baskets (optional) 

This activity is definitely chalk full of skill building but honestly, we were just trying to have a little fun and kill time before dinner. 

Heres how to play: 

  1. Color the rocks all your favorite colors
  2. Put them in the carton
  3. Have the kids count the rocks
  4. Talk about your favorite colors together
  5. Hide the rocks all over your house or backyard
  6. Take turns hiding the eggs (the kids especially loved getting to hide them for me and watching me try to find them) 
  7. Practice math skills when trying to determine how many eggs are still missing

Here’s a few skills we worked on: 

  • Bilateral integration skills (Using one hand to stabilize the rock while the other dominant hand colors)
  • Tripod grasping skills (using three fingers to hold the chalk with an open web space in the web space)
  • Counting
  • Simple subtraction
  • Parent interaction


Totally Doable Household Chores for Toddlers (by age range)


As an OT, building skills for functional independence is basically my thing.

Giving kids (no matter their age) chores that are within their functional abilities will:

  • give them a sense of accomplishment + pride
  • empower them to become a contributing family team player
  • build functional skills that can be built upon in other areas (such as categorizing, reaching, balance skills, problem solving, etc)
  • teach them life skills for the future
  • help you out with your endless parenting to-do list

Having little ones rummage through and tear apart the house while you're trying keep it in order can drive anyone a little crazy, myself included.  I have found it most helpful to get the kids involved when I am in the cleaning spirit.  

When you keep their little hands and minds busy working alongside you, they (hopefully) won't un-do all that you're trying to accomplish.  

It is SO important with toddlers to find just the right task.  By that, I mean, the activity must have just the right balance of challenge and feasibility.  You want them to be challenged but you also don't want them to become so frustrated that they give up.  

I thought it might be helpful, to other parents out there, to make a list of age-appropriate house hold chores (listed by age range).  So here it is, I hope you find it useful!

Remember: the idea isn't necessarily for them to be thorough but to learn and feel as though they're helping.

14 months - 2 years

 Meal time:

  • Help prepare veggies/fruit for snack: watch and helping to place pre-cut food items onto plates, closer to age 2 they can peel bananas and oranges (adult starts the peel, child finishes)
  • Help set table: bring utensils to the table while the older children can place them properly
  • Help set table: bring everyone’s drink and place it on table near their chair
  • Wipe the table down after dinner with help


  • Place sorted laundry into basket (to keep hands busy i.e. not pulling sorted items out)
  • Help take out items from dryer and place into basket with you
  • With help, can transfer clothes from washer to dryer
  • Place sorted clothes into washer with you + pour pre-measured laundry detergent in
  • Help push button to turn on washer/dryer


  • Routinely clean up at bath time by putting bath toys away into bin
  • Carry a small sized bag of recyclables and place them in bin (use stool if needed) 
  • Can pull a small sized garbage bag to the outside garbage (with an adult)
  • Take out the plastic cups and silverware from the dishwasher and hand them to you as you sort + put away
  • Starting around 18 months, they can start sorting the silverware into forks, knives and spoons drawers.  If they can’t sort types, start with only forks and spoons (they will only have to divide their attention by 2 vs 3)
  • Clean the cabinets  - give them a wipie or wet cloth and have them get busy
  • Clean up spills with a towel
  • Help feed pet by scooping + pouring dog/cat food into bowl
  • Water the plants with a squirt bottle or small watering can
  • Clean up and put away one singular toy set at a time with adult encouragement (I.e LEGO’s, blocks, one puzzle) learning to clean up is easiest when an adult models desired action (I.e putting blocks into container)

2-3 Years 

Meal Time 

  • Help prep snacks and veggies - peel and cut bananas and other soft fruits with butter knife, break broccoli stems off, peel oranges, sprinkle seeds, toppings or spices (salt, chia seeds, nuts, etc)
  • Help plate pre-cut food items
  • Sort knives, forks, spoons into appropriate drawers from dishwasher
  • Set table by bringing fork, knife and spoon and placing properly in desired location (adult will model desired place setting first)
  • Help set table- bring everyone’s drink and place it on table near their chair
  • Bring dirty dishes to dishwasher or sink and can begin to learn how to put plates into dishwasher and silverware, etc
  • Wipe the table down after dinner
  • Can use a small hand broom to clean up spilled food, will need some help


  • Help transfer laundry from washer to dryer and turn on dryer 
  • Help sort clothes into baskets (lights, darks, whites)
  • Put laundry into washer and pour pre-measured detergent
  • Lay out clothes, find the stains and spray with spot treatment (may want to have them wear gloves in case of leakage)
  • Match socks: first find the matches, then lay the match atop each other (may be able to roll them as well)
  • Help each family members underwear in proper drawers
  • Help washcloths with adult modeling
  • After they have mastered folding washcloths, then teach them how to fold towels
  • Put away individual folded piles of laundry into correct drawers, one clothing item at a time (I.e. “put away this stack of shirts, hold them like this”)


  • Routinely clean up at bath time by putting bath toys away
  • Carry a small sized bag of recyclables and place them in bin (use stool if needed)
  • Take out items from dishwasher and hand them to you while you put away/organize
  • Clean the cabinets  - give them a wipie and have them go to town
  • Clean up spills with towel
  • Water the plants with a squirt bottle or small watering can
  • Help dig, till, weed and plant seeds for a garden
  • Help feed pet by scooping + pouring dog/cat food into bowl
  • Clean up 2-3 toy sets at a time with adult encouragement (I.e “you clean up the blocks and LEGO’s, I’ll clean up the dolls”)
  • Clean up book shelf independently (putting books in correct position with title facing out, cue them to "turn it so we can read the words.")
  • Help spray and wash glass windows
  • Put away bikes and scooter when finished playing

4-5 Years

Dinner Time 

  • Prep snacks and veggies - cut bananas, break broccoli stems, peel oranges, use a butter knife to spread peanut butter/jelly/butter etc on toast or crackers, add toppings/spices/salt and pepper. 
  • Help to taste and add spices/salt + pepper to dishes (also helps to decrease sensitivity to certain spices and warm-up their palate for mealtime)
  • Help plating food items
  • Tear napkins and fold into squares, set them on table
  • Set table with silverware in correct position atop folded square napkins
  • Pour waters for everyone having dinner (pre measured water, from a pitcher or water dispenser)
  • Bring dirty dishes to dishwasher, can learn to place plates and silverware in proper locations
  • Wipe table down after dinner, use a squirt bottle to spray first
  • Begin to learn how to sweep items into a pile (still may need assistance)


  • Help transfer laundry from washer to dryer and turn on dryer (the fun part!)
  • Help sort laundry into baskets I.e lights, darks and whites
  • Lay out clothes, find the stains and spray with spot treatment (may want to have them wear gloves in case of leakage) 
  • Match and fold socks: first find the matches, then lay the match atop each other, then roll them together
  • Put each family members underwear in proper drawers
  • Fold washcloths in halves or folded squares (folded in half twice)
  • After they have mastered folding washcloths, then teach them how to fold the larger item, towels
  • Put away folded piles of laundry into correct drawers, learning how to hold the folded piles with two hands without dropping them
  • Help put hangers into shirts and hand them to you while you hang them in the closet


  • Routinely clean up at bath time by putting bath toys away
  • Take our recycling: find a handy-sized bag they can fill and carry out to the bin
  • Take out trash
  • Help find ripe fruits and veggies at the grocery store: give them a baggie to fill and teach how to tell if a fruit/veggie is ready to eat
  • Take out items from dishwasher and help put away/organize
  • Clean the cabinets - give them a wipie or wet wash cloth and have them go to town
  • Clean up spills with towel
  • Water the plants with a squirt bottle or small watering can
  • Help dig, till, weed and plant seeds for a garden
  • Clean up a small room with encouragement but break the tasks down into steps for them (i.e “first clean up the LEGO’s, then the books”)
  • Clean up book shelf independently (putting books in correct position with title facing out, cue them to "turn it so we can read the words.")
  • Help feed pet by scooping + pouring dog/cat food into bowl, filling up water bowl
  • Help spray and wash glass windows
  • Put away bikes and scooter when finished playing
  • Help put clean pillow cases onto pillow while you put clean sheets on the bed
  • Around age 4, they can manage pushing a small vacuum 


Wall Stickers - Color Match

Here is an effortlessly simple fine motor toddler activity for a rainy afternoon!  It will keep those little hands and brains busy like they should be so hopefully you can get something accomplished for the day.  My son and daughter were both SO excited about this game. 

Being an occupational therapist and mother to two little ones, its always important to be able to grade an activity up or down to make it harder or easier for both age levels. 

For my daughter (who is 21 months), we worked on color recognition, bilateral hand skills and tripod grasp to take off the stickers.  And for my son, I graded it up a bit  and turned it into a connect the dot number puzzle afterwards.


Supplies Needed:




color code dot stickers, markers, paper roll, tape


Here are all the skills this activity addresses + promotes:

  • bilateral coordination hand skills *the ability to cross midline and use the hands together in a coordinated way
  • tripod grasp strengthening - taking off the stickers
  • upper extremity reaching skills
  • upper extremity strengthening of the shoulder girdle or proximal stability
  • color recognition + matching skills
  • visual scanning and visual sequencing - for connect the number game

I talk a lot about how writing + coloring on a vertical surface such as a wall, window, easel is great for strengthening all the muscles in back and shoulder girdle.  "Why is this so important?" You might ask. 

The reason is that the shoulder girdle and back muscles are the basis of support for the entire upper extremity.  The stability of the upper extremities depend completely on the shoulder and scapula strength.  Essentially, fine motor control cannot be established without adequate stability at the shoulder.   We call this proximal stability, quite literally meaning strength near the spine.

There are so many children that I work with in the clinic who have poor proximal stability at the shoulder girdle, and, therefore, have poor fine motor strength and control.  Instead of immediately addressing their grasp strength and fine motor control, I usually have to first take a step back and strengthen the shoulder girdle before we move on to the next.