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OT Corner: 10 Ways to Use Popsicle Sticks to Build School-Readiness Skills

by Dana Moore, OTR/L
There are so many ways to use popsicle sticks for craft projects.  But did you also know that they can be great tools for building school-readiness skills?  Check out these easy ways to use popsicle sticks to prepare your little one for reading, writing, and academic success!

1) Spacing Buddy:  First have your child decorate his popsicle stick.  The children I work with often like to create little friends on their sticks.  Then use them to help your child learn how to space between their words.  Your child can start by using the stick as a spacer during writing and then later transition to using it as a way to check their work after spacing independently.  Picture courtesy of Therapy FunZone.

2) Build a Perfect Pincer Grasp:  A strong pincer grasp is the foundation of a good pencil grasp.  Use your popsicle sticks to build a strong pincer grasp by pushing them through slots of containers
3) Letter Sizing:  You can also help your child learn the motor control they need for proper letter sizing by challenging them to fit their letters onto the popsicle sticks.  Glue the sticks onto a piece of paper and have your child practice writing letters or sentences within them.
4) Adherence to Baseline:   Help your child learn to stay on the line when writing by using the popsicle sticks as a physical boundary.  Glue the sticks onto a piece of paper and have your child write their words and sentences along the top of them.
5) Place Holder:  When learning to read, you can use your popsicle sticks as a place holder to help your child stay on the right line.  Hold the stick horizontally and have them move it down as they transition from line to line.
6) Story Topics:  Work on creative writing by writing several story topics onto the popsicle sticks.  Then have your child choose one and attempt to write a paragraph or story about that topic.  You can also have your child choose several sticks and create a story using all the elements, such as trains, monsters, and snowmen.  In addition you can have several categories, such as object, place, and action, with your child choosing one stick from each category.  See what funny stories your child can create with scenarios such as a monkey at the library playing limbo!
7) Spelling:  Use the popsicle sticks to practice spelling words.  Turn the sticks vertically and write letters, A-I on one, J-Q on another, and R-Z on another.  Make several sticks with each set of letters.  Then you can spell different words by aligning the sticks so that the letters of the word are side by side.
8) Math:  Use the same strategy as above to practice addition, subtraction, and even multiplication skills.  Write letters on three of the sticks and then write the mathematical signs, +, -, x, on another stick.  Align the sticks to create math problems such as 3 + 3.  Have your child find the answer and align the correct number to solve the equation.
9) Scanning:  Work on the scanning skills your child will need daily at school to find their pencil, locate their teacher on the playground, and complete their school work.  Get out several popsicle sticks and draw several designs, such as different colored stars, squares, and smiley faces, on each.  Call out a design, such as the purple star, and see how quickly they can find it.  You can also use several of the same designs and see how quickly they can find all of them.
10) Ocular-Motor Skills:  Work on saccadic eye movements, which are vital for reading and academic success.  Create different color segments down the length of two popsicle sticks.  Hold the sticks on each side of the child’s face and have them call out the colors they see in order, going from right to left and back again, gradually moving down the stick.

About the Author – Dana Moore:  Dana is an occupational therapist who has worked in the pediatric field for seven years. She graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with her Master’s in Occupational Therapy and now resides in Charlotte, NC with her husband and two children. Dana specializes in gross and fine motor development and sensory integration. Her passion comes through on her blog, Embrace Your Chaos , where she shares everyday ways parents can foster their children’s skills and help them to thrive, and where she embraces dealing with the chaos of parenthood, and making the most of everyday life!

PediaStaff hires pediatric and school-based professionals nationwide for contract assignments of 2 to 12 months. We also help clinics, hospitals, schools, and home health agencies to find and hire these professionals directly. We work with Speech-Language Pathologists, Occupational and Physical Therapists, School Psychologists, and others in pediatric therapy and education.


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