Heart Shaped Lacing Boards for Toddlers
In planning therapy for the next few weeks, I’m thinking about a couple of my little friends who have mild motor delays in addition to super short attention spans.
Here’s an activity I’m pulling out for them and I thought I’d pass along to you too.
It’s seasonal, for Valentine’s Day, and if you’ve followed me for a while, you know how I love holiday activities to spice things up for therapy.
For this activity, you’ll be making an easy heart-shaped lacing board you’ll be able to use again and again, or as I like to do, give to the child for practice at home. You can also make other shapes – as shown in the picture.
Materials: Find cardboard in approximately 8 ½ x 11 sized pieces. Red construction paper or scrapbook paper will be needed to cover the heart. Buy shoelaces, ribbons, or thick strings for lacing. Obtain a hole punch.
Set Up: Cut out a single heart from the sheet of cardboard. Glue the paper to cover each heart. Punch holes an inch or so apart around the edges of the heart for lacing. Insert one end of the shoelace into a hole and tie a knot to prevent the string from coming through the hole.
Primary Goal: The child will lace the heart by pushing the string into one hole and pulling it through from the other side to build attention, task completion, and fine motor skills.
Secondary Goals: If you’re working with a child during this activity, you’ll also target joint attention since you’ll want him to include you. A child will also be improving motor planning and visual perceptual skills.
Instructions: Show the child the heart. Rather than telling the child what to do, hold the heart in one hand and the string in the other hand. Show a child how to place the end of the string into the hole and pull it through the other side. As you lace the heart, say something simple to narrate your actions such as, “Look! I put the string in one hole and I pull it through! Watch! In! Pull!” Repeat a couple of times or until the child seems to want a turn.
Give the child a heart and help him hold the heart and string correctly. Say something simple such as, “Put it in.” Create a verbal routine by saying, “Pull!” as he pulls the string through the other side. Provide cues like pointing if the child seems unsure of what to do.
Many toddlers will need physical assistance to learn to complete this task. Praise the child when he places the string in the hole and as he pulls the string through the hole.
Initially, a child may only be able to lace a few holes before he wants to move on to a new activity.
Gradually increase the number of holes you encourage him to lace. Saying, “Do one more,” often extends a child’s willingness to try. It’s usually not a good idea to require a child to talk while he’s focusing on learning complex fine motor tasks like this one. We can lose a child’s attention to the activity because he may not be developmentally ready to talk as he works toward mastering a new skill that requires focused concentration.
Troubleshooting Tips: If a child doesn’t seem to be learning to lace correctly, provide more physical assistance. If physical assistance seems to overly frustrate the child, model the task with another heart and provide additional visual and verbal cues. A child may accept physical assistance more readily for another person such as Daddy, a favorite older sibling, or grandmother. Try a new person to see if this change helps. Complete the part of the task that seems most difficult for the child and let him do the easier part. For example, if he can pull the string through the hole, place the string in the hole for him and then let him pull.
Moving Toward Independent Play: Once a child has mastered this task, make him more independent by giving him the hearts to lace on his own. Lacing activities can be a great diversion and are a super activity for long car rides and other times when the child is forced to wait or is confined.