A Functional Activity With Embedded Academic and Developmental Skill Components

Multi-step gross motor and sensory activities with academic skills embedded within the task, among other developmental skill components, can be quite simple to put together, with powerful effects on child learning and overall developmental growth-especially if done consistently, with a multi sensory approach,  with some variation, and over time.

Wordy? I’ll explain, through a concrete activity that I recently utilized in a school-based setting.

Materials You Will Need:

  1. Flat colorful objects to jump on-or do this outside and draw them with chalk!
  2. Scooter/bike-anything with wheels (but I do like the idea of the child on their belly and propelling themselves  with their hands-yet, realistically, we usually have to work with what we have and modify accordingly, correct? I have often found, in those situations, that the end result of creative problem solving comes out even better than the original😊)
  3. Fine Motor Boot Camp Activity Pack/See the make up of the activity below to make similar (flat wooden stick, approximately 48 clothespins, 2 Popsicle sticks, sharpie).
  4. Dry erase board and marker/pencil and paper/marker and paper.


1. The first part of this activity was jumping on different colored mats, while calling out the color they landed on.

A. To grade the activity, I would sometimes have the child jump on two at once and say both colors, hop on one foot, or utilize an ‘Anywhere Body Break’ (see my first book, The Kids Guide to Staying Awesome and In Control).

-This section worked on rapid coloring naming, an important skill relating to cognition, as well as gross motor coordination, visual perception/motor skills, sensory integration, and self regulation.

2.The student would then get to the awaiting scooter, lay prone (on their belly) with their neck in slight extension, utilizing only flat palms to propel themselves forward.

-Here, we are addressing core and neck strength and control, sensory processing (think vestibular), bilateral upper extremity strength and coordination, and ocular motor control.

3.As I mentioned in an earlier post, I love the Fine Motor Boot Camp program, and decided to utilize one of their activity packs into this exercise.

As you can see from the picture, there is a simple wooden ruler, with the alphabet written in uppercase letters. There are also two packets of wooden clothespins, attached to a simple stick. One packet is comprised of clothespins with uppercase letters, the second pack comprised of clothespins with lowercase letters.

A.I had students think of a word they wanted to spell-using each letter once (a challenge for higher level students; for some students to simplify the task,  I would provide the spelling of the word-and have them find the corresponding letters).

B.The child would have to then visually scan the clothespins to find letters they were searching for.

C.After utilIzing a functional pincer grasp pattern to take the clothespin off of the stick, while stabilizing the stick with their non-dominant hand, I would have them vocalize the sound of the chosen letter before placing it on the matching letter on the ruler (look at the picture for further clarification).

4. Once all letters were on the ruler, the child would take a whiteboard marker and first write the word at a near point distance. Following writing out the word, they would draw a picture representing the word.

-This component addressed phonics, graphomotor skills, visual motor and perceptual skills, fine motor strength/dexterity, while also allowing for child choice over portions of the activity-which I named for them( thus increasing self-regulation).

Kids repeatedly asked to do this activity again and again; I believe they enjoyed the predictability, the choice, the sensory components, and the fun embedded into the academic components😊

This type of activity would be easily replicable in a variety of settings; whether you are a parent, teacher, or therapist. It can be modified to address a variety of developmental skill components. I may try a version of this outside with my kids at home next month! I’ll let you know how it goes:)

How would you use an activity like this? Does it seem manageable for a weekend/day with some free time with your kids/clients/students? Let me know, and have a fantastic summer!:)



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