Many of the children we see in our clinics struggle with coloring skills. Whether the difficulty is rooted in poor fine motor control, visual perceptual skills, attention or regulation, it is common to see a child begin coloring a page with good intentions, then end up scribbling or abandoning the task. We are careful to present the children with a coloring page with a “just right challenge”, but there are an abundance of free printable coloring pages online. Here are some of the things we look for.
- Choose a topic or character your child is interested in. He may be more motivated to color a picture of a Lego Ninjago character than a holiday themed page.
- Look for bold outlines. Children who have difficulty with the motor control necessary to efficiently direct their crayon will benefit from the extra “wiggle room” between sections, while children with visual perceptual difficulties may be able to better identify different areas of the picture.
- Find pages with little or no background detail at first. Check out the difference between these two images. Both are Lightning McQueen, but a child with decreased attention or ability to maintain a regulated state may give up on the more detailed picture before it is finished.
- Encourage your child to choose one area at a time to fill in. If your child needs help to stay organized, ask questions like “What color should his tires be?” Praise your child for his effort and make some room on the refrigerator for the masterpiece.
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Clothespins: Use clothespins to move game pieces during board games. Try different types of clips too – chip clips, wooden clothespins, plastic clothespins, office clips etc. for more (or less) of a challenge.
Play Scrap Paper Basketball: Cut up small pieces of scrap paper (or better yet, have your child cut them up!), then show your child how to crumple the paper using one hand. This works on strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the hand. See who can score the most points shooting the balled-up pieces into a laundry basket or trashcan.
Spray Bottles:Spray bottles can provide year-round fun. Let your child paint on the driveway with water. Have them draw a picture with markers and spray it with water to make it “melt” into the sink. In the winter, mix a few drops of food coloring with water in a spray bottle and let your child paint the snow. In the summer, hang sponges as targets outside and use spray bottles to aim and shoot at the targets. Use food coloring to make different colors and have a competition to see who hits the sponges with greatest accuracy.
Turkey Baster:Have a turkey baster race. You’ll need a turkey baster and some cotton balls or pompoms. Have your child lay on their belly on the floor and army crawl as they use two hands to squeeze the bulb of the baster to blow on the cotton ball and push it across the floor. Use a stopwatch to see who can get to the finish line first, or use two basters and go head-to-head. You can even set up obstacles, like toilet paper tubes to go through or pillows to go around for more of a challenge.
Play-doh and Clay: Make creations out of clay or play doh. There is even a clay-like material available from craft stores that can be used as an eraser after it is baked in the oven.