Valentine’s Day OT Fun

I have to admit when working as an OT, Valentine’s Day was a great chance to change up our therapy routine and get some great fine motor activities into a session. While there is a St. Valentine, for most of us, this isn’t a religious holiday and it is easy to use as a fun day to change things up, without taking a vacation day. As a homeschooler, I’ve used Valentine’s Day to work on reading, writing, and fine motor skills. Here are some of my favorite activities.

Making Valentines for Fine Motor Control

Handmade Valentine’s Day cards are a wonderful way to work on fine motor control. Even if your child doesn’t have a classroom full of friends to sign cards for, they can still make a card for a parent or sibling. Cutting out hearts works on bilateral coordination and is the foundation for lots of easy valentines.

Kids who are young or have delays can just work on cutting out red and pink hearts. Making a set of hearts in different colors and stacking them together with glue makes a nice kid-style card. If your child struggles, fold the paper for them and draw a line for them to cut on to create the half heart, that when opened reveals a whole one. Keep in mind, the more your child can do for themselves, the more they should do. However, helping just enough so that your child can make a good heart, will make them want to keep trying. Adding steps like gluing the heart on a doily, and adding stickers, glitter, or other decorations are also great for fine motor skills.

There are also tons of heart-themed crafts you can make if a typical Valentine isn’t interesting enough. Hearts can turn into bugs, have arms and legs, or be made into flowers with a little glue and some extra paper to cut out.

For kids who are beyond the typical paper valentine, you can still encourage them to create art and work on their fine motor skills. Painting, drawing, sewing, and clay work are all great for fine motor control and can be done to create fun love-themed art. Stringing beads and making jewelry also goes great with Valentine’s Day.

Easy Fun

Another easy way to add some fine motor skills to your day is by printing out Valentine-themed dot-to-dots and mazes. The internet is full of freebies with holiday themes. Just be sure to find one that isn’t too hard for your student. The trick is to get one that is engaging but not so hard that your child can’t do it. When in doubt, print an easy one to start with and see how your child does. It is better for them to be successful with 15 dots than overwhelmed with 50 and unable to complete the page.  This makes a great warm-up activity to do before doing other school work.

Reading Skills

A Valentine’s Day Scavenger Hunt is a great way to work on reading skills. Following directions and reading comprehension are both in use here. Simply make a set of clues your child will follow to find their valentine from you! For my kids, this item could be candy, a new box of crayons, or a small art kit. But the fun of it is when I don’t tell them exactly where to look. Instead of saying “Look in mom’s closet.” I might tell them to “Find mom’s summer shoes.” Other hints include, “The next clue is very cold, and hiding with the ice!” Then the child has to go look in the freezer.

Keep in mind your child’s reading level and ability to figure out riddles when you write your clues to follow. To do this with multiple children at once, I recommend color-coding the clues and reminding children to only read the clues in their color.

Handwriting

Consider having your child write valentines to send to family and friends or a local nursing home. If they can work on learning how to address the envelope, even better!

While writing their own valentines is wonderful, there are other ways to use this holiday for kids who struggle with handwriting. If your child struggles but wants to give many cards, I suggest buying a box of ready-made valentines and having your child work on signing their name to the ones they will give out. If they are all to do just a little more writing, have them add their friends’ names themselves.

If your child is ready for more, there are many valentine choices. You can have them work on copying poetry or even writing their own poems to put on homemade valentines. Give your child an example like “Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, Sugar is sweet and so are you!” as a jumping-off point to either copy or change to suit them. Valentines are a wonderful place to practice cursive or try out calligraphy and experiment with handwriting. The more your child plays with handwriting, the better their regular writing will become.

If your child isn’t yet ready to write, have them work on learning to draw a heart to sign their valentines with.  You can also let your child use stamps or stickers to add their name to cards. A small set of alphabet stamps can make this fun and easy.

Treats!

As I have said many times before, I love food! And any chance to incorporate a food-related activity into our learning is hard for me to pass up. One of my favorite Valentine’s Day traditions is making cookies, cakes, or other special foods.  Get your child involved in reading the recipe and doing the cooking. This is both a life skill and a great opportunity to practice combining motor skills and direction following.

A heart-shaped cake pan or cookie cutter can add to the fun. You can also increase the amount of fine motor control by decorating the cookies with frosting! If you aren’t much of a homemade mom, buy a tube of sugar cookie dough, or just go ahead and get cookies that are already made and add the decorations with your child.

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About the Author

nimble_asset_Laura-in-floral-shirt-with-treesLaura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator, and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.

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