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OT Corner: 10 Fun Ways to Use Toothpicks for Fine Motor Practice and Grasping Skills

By: Dana Elliot, OTR/L

Another great household object that can be used to build sensory-motor skills is a toothpick.  Toothpicks are great for building fine motor and grasping skills.  Their small size encourages the child to use and strengthen their fingertips.  Challenge your little one to hold the toothpick with their thumb, index, and middle fingers only.  You can have them hold a cotton ball or another small object with their ring and little fingers if they are having difficulty separating the two sides of their hand.  Toothpicks are also great for building visual motor skills and eye-hand coordination as you use the toothpicks to manipulate other objects.

Here are 10 fun ways to get your kid engaged in toothpick fun!

1.  Stab It:  Use the toothpicks during snack time to pick up grapes, watermelon, strawberries, cheese cubes, or melons.

2.  Build It:  Use toothpicks along with gum drops, marshmallows, or clay/playdoh to create a fun 3-D design, like our house or train.

3.  Punch It:  Learn numbers, letters, or shapes while building fine motor skills.  Have your child sit on a rug or on the carpet or place a carpet square under their paper.  Then have them punch holes along the lines with the toothpick to form various letters, numbers, shapes, or pictures.

4.  Trace It:  This is a fun, new way to get your kids interested in practicing their letters.  Flatten play dough on the table and have your child use the toothpick to trace letters of your or their choosing.  Flattening the play dough is also a hand strengthening activity.

5.  Push It:  Create fun animals, such as porcupines, or birthday cakes.  You can also place the toothpicks along the lines of letters, shapes, or numbers for another way to get your kid interested in learning.

6. Poke It:  Use the toothpicks to pick up pieces of styrofoam or small balls of play dough and drop into a container.  This is also a great activity to encourage midline crossing.

7.  Drop It:  This is a great fine motor and visual motor activity you can make at home.  Grab an old spice container or salt shaker and have your little put the toothpicks through the small holes.  This will build eye-hand coordination and is a great activity for younger children.

8.  Create It:  Create people and animals using the toothpicks for arms, legs, ears, and hair.  Get creative and see what new types of animals you can create!

9.  Picture Pizza:  This is a great one!  Flatten or roll out the play dough and use the toothpick to draw a picture of their choosing.  This one was created by a very smart 5 year old!

10.  Freeze:  I found this fun recipe for toothpick popsicles from

How to Make Toothpick Popsicles:

1.  Pour the juice into the ice cube tray just as you would if you were filling it with water.

2.  Put the ice tray in the freezer and let it sit for about 6 hours. Remove the ice tray from the freezer.

3.  Place the toothpicks in the center of each cube, and put the ice tray back inside the freezer. Freeze for about 4 more hours, or until fully frozen.

Any other ideas?  Be sure to share them!

Featured Contributor:  Dana Elliot and Embrace Your Chaos: 

About the Author:  Dana is an occupational therapist, practicing in pediatrics for 6 years.  Her certifications include Sensory Integration and Praxis Testing, Interactive Metronome, and Therapeutic Listening, with additional trainings in Myofascial Release, TAMO, and NDT.  She has been working in a sensory integration clinic since graduating from OT school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2006. Her professional and personal goal is to provide parents with knowledge of how to best support and help their children grow in today’s society. The most basic but important activities are ones that get your kids moving, touching, exploring, and manipulating the world around them.  Join her as she shares tips, advice, and weekly activities to foster play, creativity, and skill development!



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