Category Archives: Sensorimotor

RAPPER SNAPPERS AKA POP TUBES in purple, red, green, and blue

Therapy Activities On A Budget: Rapper Snappers

Rapper Snappers are a multi functional therapy tool perfect for creating fun, budget friendly therapy activities! In this post, Physical Therapist and creator of the ABCs of Movement, Laurie Gombash, PT, M.Ed, shared five different ways to use Rapper Snappers (also known as Pop Tubes) as a therapeutic tool.  Be sure to check out her video below!

Demonstration of rapper snapper activity:  pulling a pink rapper snapper open

Arm Strengthening

Place hands on either end of the Rapper Snapper and pull! Work with the arms overhead to target shoulder strength or work with arms away from the body to target core strength. Target different muscles of the upper body  by pulling in different directions. Try holding the rapper snapper in one hand, at hip level, and using the other hand to pull up and across the body. Alternatively, hold the rapper snapper at shoulder level and uses the other hand to pull down and across the body.

Pro Tip, using the fingers to scrunch the Rapper Snapper back to size is great for finger strengthening!

Self Regulation

Rapper Snappers are a fun way to learn about self regulation.  Help kids visualize concepts like fast breathing or rapid heart beat by opening and closing the Rapper Snapper rapidly. Alternatively, demonstrate slow or rhythmic breathing by slowly pulling apart  or closing the rapper snapper.

Pro Tip, the sound made by the Rapper Snappers as it is opening and closing provides great auditory feedback!

Demonstration of rapper snapper activity:  squeezing a pink rapper snapper closed

Fine Motor & Motor Planning 

Looking for a fun and engaging activity? Use Rapper Snappers to make a marble run!  Bend and twist the Rapper Snapper to make a maze, drop the marble in, and let it run through.  Using two or three fingers to grasp the marble and inserting it into the Rapper Snapper’s narrow opening is a great way to get the small muscles in the hand working.  Planning a successful maze for the marble to run through takes planning abilities!

Pro Tip: This activity can be done holding the Rapper Snapper and moving the marble through or you can use Velcro or other adhesives to adhere Rapper Snappers to a wall or other vertical surface. 

Demonstration of rapper snapper activity:  blowing into a pink rapper snapper

Oral Motor

Shape the Rapper Snapper like a smile and try to imitate it with your lips, now flip it upside down to make a frown!  Purse your lips, give a big blow, stick out your tongue!  There are so many ways to use a Rapper Snapper to help build and strengthen oral musculature! 

Academic Skills

Use the Rapper Snappers to build shapes, letters, and numbers. Connect multiple Rapper Snappers for bigger numbers or shapes. Work as a team to build a giant letter on the floor!  

Rapper Snappers are a small, easy to transport, budget friendly tool that can be used across multiple settings and to target a variety of treatment goals making them the perfect tool when creating therapy activities on a budget!

Watch the Video!
My Motor Mats movement path, boy completing a crab walk on a black motor mat

Making Time for Movement Breaks

There is no doubt that movement is an essential part of the learning process but finding the time for movement breaks in an already packed school day can be hard.  However, with the ever growing body of research linking movement to academic performance (Petrigna et al, 2022)  finding the time for movement breaks becomes essential. So, how do you move? Here are some quick ways to add a little extra movement to the day: 

Add Extra Movement Opportunities Into Transitions

Movement paths (sometimes called sensory paths or motor paths) offer great opportunities to build in movement breaks during naturally occurring transitions, like changing classes.  The simple addition of movements like hopping, balancing on one foot, or turning in a circle offers an enriched movement opportunity that activates different sensory channels helping the brain get ready and be more receptive to upcoming learning activities.  

Add Movement To Academic Lessons

Reach those kinesthetic learners by incorporating movement into academic lessons. Readily available activities, like the ABC’s of Movement cards or the Drive Thru-Menus makes this easy to do!  Teaching literacy skills? Use visuals from the ABC’s of Movement to add an ‘Alligator March’ to letter A concepts or the ‘Penguin Waddle’ to letter P concepts.  Practicing spelling words? Try spelling each word while performing Angels in the Snow from the Drive-Thru Menus Body Challenge Exercises.

Don’t Just Take A Break, Take A Movement Break

During the school day there are naturally occurring breaks, such as transitions or when students finish up at different times. Fill these moments with meaningful movement opportunities. Use cards from the Move Your Body Fun Deck to add motor movements to transitions. The fun deck offers easy to grab, quick visuals with a variety of different movement activities; pick three for the day, display them on the board, and do each one a few times between activities for a quick brain reset! Use the Minute Moves or Focus Moves Bundles to establish Movement Routines. The Bundles are designed to provide easy-to-do, evidence-based routines to enhance academic skills. Another option is the Year of Mini-Moves for the In-Sync Child, which offers a weekly schedule of different movements that can be easily incorporated into the day.  

Create Accessible Movement Spaces

Getting outside often offers a plethora of opportunities for movement breaks but for the student who has gross motor challenges the opportunities can be limited.  Having a variety of activities available will help ensure students of all abilities are able to access movement opportunities.  For students who have difficulty with standard catch and throw ball games, offering alternatives like Magicatch, Beanbags, or Pezzi Activa Balls offers inclusive approaches.  For students who have difficulty accessing standard playground equipment, the availability of  parachutes, bubbles, or movement based games like Trunks can provide alternative movement activities at recess. 

Movement is a critical component of the learning process that can get overlooked during a busy, academic filled, school day.  Building movement breaks into already existing routines and schedules can help students move and succeed! 

Petrigna L, Thomas E, Brusa J, Rizzo F, Scardina A, Galassi C, Lo Verde D, Caramazza G and Bellafiore M (2022) Does Learning Through Movement Improve Academic Performance in Primary Schoolchildren? A Systematic Review. Front. Pediatr. 10:841582. doi: 10.3389/fped.2022.841582.

child playing with blue sticky object

Keeping Skills Sharp All Summer Long: Summer 2022 Edition!

Allyson Locke M.S., OTR/L & Sarah Glovasky M.S., OTR/L

Summer is fast approaching but that doesn’t mean kids need to lose the skills they developed over the last academic year! Last year, we posted a blog filled with summer activity ideas geared toward preventing the “summer slide”.  As therapists, we know summer activities provide numerous opportunities to develop and build skills that will be needed for the upcoming school year in fun and non threatening ways.  So we are bringing back the topic with this new post.  New this year are more activity ideas and contributions from Sarah Glovasky M.S., OTR/L! As always appropriate supervision is recommended!

Get Messy!

Messy play is a great way to develop the sensory skills needed for important school tasks like handwriting and social interactions.  Summer is the best time for these messy activities because they can be done outside leaving the mess outdoors. An added bonus is that it is usually warm enough for a quick wash with the hose before going back inside.  A few ideas to try:

  • Hide objects (like rocks, sticks, or mini animals)  in a pile of mud, shaving cream, or leaves. How fast can you find them? How many can you find in 10 seconds? Not only is this a great sensory activity it helps strengthen the visual perceptual skills needed for academic tasks like reading! 
  • Stomp in rain puddles, roll down a grassy hill, or skip through a soft patch of dirt. These big body movements help develop the vestibular and proprioceptive systems which are so important for self regulation! 

When it is too hot or too rainy to go outside there are still plenty of opportunities for sensory exploration that are a bit less messy! 

  • Make a sensory collage with items found in the recycling bin or use the Sensory Collage Kit! How many different textures can you incorporate? What textures do you like to feel? As a bonus, ripping, crumpling and rolling paper, tissue, and cardboard are all great ways to strengthen the muscle of the hand.  For more ways to use recycled materials check out Second Hand Therapies
plastic container scooping water and dumping it into a yellow bin filled with water
Jug Scoop
From: Second Hand Therapies: Recyclable Strategies & Useful Tools

Make Art!

Art projects afford great opportunities to develop the small muscles in the hand.  This muscle development is critical for academic tasks like writing with a pencil and cutting with scissors. Get creative with your art projects, try:

blue turtle made of playdough with a green shell and colorful dots
  • 3D Art.  Three dimensional art helps kids build form and space concepts.  Building a fairy castle outside is a great way to learn about size concepts.  Inside, building with blocks, clay or even pillow cushions is a great way to explore how these concepts work.  To add a sensory component try using scented dough
  • Tie-Dye Prints: This is a great outdoor activity! First color an old bed sheet or large piece of paper with washable markers. Next use a spray bottle, filled with water, to squirt the drawing. Watch the colors mix and swirl together! Using a spray bottle not only helps build the muscles in the hands it is also great for bilateral coordination! For a smaller scale version, use an eyedropper to wet the paper! 
  • Draw pictures in the dirt or other mediums like pudding (great for kids who like to explore with their mouth!) Use a stick, rocks, or fingers to draw with! We still love the Ed Emberly drawing books when you need drawing inspiration, stencils are another helpful tool! Drawing is so important for early writers and is great for visual perceptual development!

Play With Bubbles!

Many skills can be targeted with simple bubble activities. Eye hand coordination and oral motor development are just a few!  Blowing bubbles is also great for attention and regulation; to learn more about this check out the book M.O.R.E.: Integrating The Mouth With Sensory And Postural Functions. For fun with bubbles, try:

  • Making Bubble Art!  Make bubble paint by putting a small amount of bubbles and a dab or two of food coloring in a bowl (use different bowls for different colors). Use a bubble wand and dip it into your favorite color. Blow the colored bubbles right at plain paper and watch the designs come alive! 
  • Play Catch! Chasing after, stomping on, and catching bubbles are great ways to get some extra energy out. It is also a great way to develop eye-hand coordination and the visual skills needed to complete academic tasks like copying from the board.  To make bubbles easier to catch try using Touchbubbles
  • Make A Mountain of Bubbles! For a fun indoor activity, fill a small dish bin or other similar size, shallow bucket with lots of dish soap and a few inches of water.  Use a straw to slowly blow into the water to make a mountain of bubbles.  To really work the muscles in the mouth try a long straw or one with lots of twists like the Krazy Drinking Straws or Connector Straws

With these fun activity ideas the learning doesn’t have to stop when school is out. Keep skills sharp and be ready for the upcoming school year!