With summer upon us, many folks will be taking long car rides on their way to various summer destinations. For most parents, this presents the dilemma of managing large amounts of unscheduled and sometimes restless time for children in the car. This downtime can be a prime opportunity to provide your children with activities that can promote development and refinement of fine motor skills while also helping to pass the time.

One of my favorite fine motor kits to have on hand in the car is simple, inexpensive and has infinite options for activities. For this activity you need: (1) An old shoebox, (2) Clothespins, (3) Cardboard or Cardstock paper. Clothespins are a great resource to help with developing children’s hand strength and pincer grasp because they have to use graded force in order to open and close the clothespin. Write single letters, numbers or shapes on each clothespin. Along the edge of the shoebox, write or attach pictures of the same list of letters, number or shapes. I tend to stick with basic shapes such as a square, circle, triangle, diamond, heart. Once your child is ready for a new activity in the car, have them match the clothespin to the letters, numbers or shapes on the edge of the shoe box. This activity is great for fine motor skill development as well as continued letter and number development.

This activity has room to grow with your child. When simply matching letter to letter becomes too easy, there are many ways to expand this activity. You can begin working on spelling by writing simple words on the cardstock paper and have your child working on spelling words, names, phrases instead of just matching letters. Sight words are always good choices to reinforce beginning reading skills and providing tactile reinforcements of the pattern. To help with spelling you can also have your child simply use the clothespins to spell out words along the edge of the shoe box. The tactile reinforcement is motivating for many kids in reinforcing spelling patterns.

To take this activity to more of a visual motor or mathematical focus, help your child paint or color the clothespins different colors or purchase multicolored clothespins. You can then focus the activity on patterning with the colors or use the numbers with a few added clothespins with addition and minus signs to add basic match skills. On the cardstock draw patterns and then have your child replicate the pattern on the side of the shoebox or write math problems on the cardstock for them to solve. Certainly, you can get advanced as you want and alternate with the skill level of your child.

While long car rides can cause anxiety for parents and children, they can be a great opportunity to continue to help your child build on fine motor/visual motor skills and have fun passing the time.

Blog provided by Diana Nazari, OTR/L