I am always looking for new fine motor skills ideas, specifically when working with adults. I tend to resort to my “old favorites” that I know work well, along with specific activities that are important to my patients.
But when I am working with a patient long term, where I need to grade the activity or trying to look for activities that are fun and new, I can get stuck.
So I asked 27 Occupational therapists – What are your favorite fine motor control exercises when working with adults?
Below are the great ideas (and video!) we came up with – read, print and enjoy!
Nuts and bolts, lacing beads, using clothespins to pick up Pom pons to paint or just sort, buttons, zippers, snaps, putting marbles or rubber balls on golf tees, making small balls with putty or play doh, sorting jewelry, squeezing water out of sponges or towels, using different types of tongs to pick up small objects – Paula Bradley
Drawing a picture graded by changing the size of the paper. Bring in different materials stampers, finger paint, etc – Richard Brown
Folding clothes (wash cloths, socks), ADL board (button, zippers bra hooks etc), opening containers (toothpaste, lotion), clothes pins, rainbow rings for crossing midline, velcro board, keys and locks, theraputty, digiflex, beading craft – Jasmine Sohrakoff
My bin of various empty grocery containers is my go-to for FMC to open/close, and having pts reach for them in cabinets/refrigerators/shelves of various heights is one of my favorite GMC activities. – Sarah Stromsdorfer from MyOTSpot.com
I take them straight to the kitchen and do bathroom stuff! I get them to open their make up containers, shampoo/conditioner bottles, wearing weights while organizing shelves in the bathroom and or kitchen…make meatballs, bread, pies for meal prep…opening different containers of milk, using the manual can opener. Sorting dry a bag of dry beans for meal prep…decorating cookies and cupcakes. – India Leah Davis
Theraband activities or squeezing a ball. – Noreena Ishtiaq
I had a patient who had a stroke that was a retired banker. I brought in all sorts of coins/dollars he really enjoyed sorting them into various piles, placing them in stacks, etc. – Samantha Kaufman
One easy fine motor activity I really like is to take a piece of paper and using one hand, make it into a ball, then spread it out flat.
But Rachel Hall, had a suggestion to take it one step farther to grade it by starting with the paper on table then raise it up once in the hand so no “cheating.”
My patient cleaned a tray table of shaving cream and told me she liked doing a functional task. – Sharon Leary
Graded puzzles (larger piece sizes to smaller); grooming/hygiene tasks – open/close/apply toothpaste, lotion, lipstick; sort through a purse or bag to retrieve a specified item; pulling out a Kleenex or paper towel; open/close food and kitchen storage containers; buttons and zippers; play checkers or arrange on the board; handle money; turn pages of a book or magazine; pull silverware from a dish rack, separate them, and put into silverware tray; spray and wash a window or mirror; turn faucets on/off or light switches. Anything functional! – Monica Heltemes from Mind-Start.com
I’d love to try origami – Ruby Kopenski
We use a weightwell for strengthening and grip (graded). We also have a woodwork and arts and crafts area at work which enables meaningful engagement. – Charlotte Parry
I like those fleece blankets you tie together… they can give it to someone. One of my ladies was expecting a great granddaughter – so she was able to give her something she made. She was so excited. – Tonya Gladden
Making salt dough and using cookie cutters to make shapes. End product is endless – tags for gifts, place cards, add essential oils to dough and make hanger for closet. Stringing beads for tree decorations at Xmas and Mardi Gras.
Weaving on a simple table loom – make scarves, placemats, etc. Card making with dye cuts. Silkscreening. Puzzles with the pieces hidden in rotini pasta/beans/black eye peas all dry and uncooked. Adult coloring books. – Jane Ryan
Pony bead necklaces and bracelets, flower pens, sorting beans in a weekday pill tray, letting the patient show you how to crochet if you don’t know how, lacing boards. – Natalie Nunyabiz
We removed the line, cleaned, oiled and put a new line on a fishing rod. Box of various nuts and bolts, pennies in piggy bank, placing lots of washers on a long bolt, various locks and keys, buttoning small buttons on a shirt. Have had ladies cut coupons and make cards. – Tammy Lane
Therapy apron which has all sorts of buttons, zips, Velcro, buckles and ties. Even typing or musical instrument playing. – Bec Rourke
I’ll find out their interests. ADL (example: dressing board), IADL (example: cooking, money management like picking coin) or leisure (gardening, word finding-using pen or computer base). – Vicneas Veloo
The game “Topple” is great for fine motor. – TerriAnne Zocco Ragonese
I love to use cards games and board games: checkers, chess, Sorry, Yahtzee, Jenga, BananaGrams, Sour Apples, Chinese Checkers. Jewelry making. Cooking tasks, like that are related to holiday themes and decorating them by hand with candy decorations and frosting bags. napping fresh green beans, teaching some of the basic sign language letters. Working on the computer. Handwriting, letter writing or card writing and have them address the envelopes as well. Crochet/knit/hook rugs. Have women put on make up or do nail care and have them paint their nails. Put together models of cars or even miniture furniture. – Julie Clark Spuhler
I use culturally relevant activity prescription such as cooking. – Jouyin Teoh
Making bread and cookies. Model planes, cars and boats. Lego kits and designs. – Sandy Hanebrink
It’s always fun to bring a nostalgic type of games as long as they understand why were doing the particular task. jacks, string games (“Cat’s Cradle”), etc. Simple sport games on the Ipad or Iphone like “swim meet” and “tennis.” – Ylisa Gabay Young
I have used woodwork projects and model airplanes – sanded and then painted projects to display in their rooms at the SNF. – Michelle Stoermer
If you are looking for a few more activity ideas for your patients, check out Domino Match Game for Patients with Low Level Dementia or Occupation Based Kit Ideas for Your Rehab Department