One of my main focuses in OT during the initial months of school is developing mature grasp and precision patterns. These hand skills are what enable little ones to hold their pencils, control their coloring strokes, draw fluid lines, manipulate scissors and handle self-care tasks (like buttons and snaps). Functional hand skills rely heavily on an important muscle group known as the "thenar eminence". This group of muscles is what make up the meaty bulk right under your thumb. Weak thenar muscles often lead to inefficient or immature grasping patterns, poor control and difficulty with finger coordination tasks.
A great (and inexpensive) tool to use when working on building up the thenar eminence is a clothespin. Holding the clothespin correctly will put your fingers in the "pinch" pattern. Squeezing it open works those thumb muscles.
With that in mind, I planned for this cute fall project where the little ones work on their pinch patterns and thumb strength by squeezing the pumpkins onto and off of their fence. In addition to pinch developing - the tasks also works on some other important skills such as: fine motor precision for coloring in the boundary lines, fine motor coordination and eye hand skills for cutting on the lines and visual perceptual concepts for fitting all those pumpkins on the fence.
Here is the template we used for our five pumpkins.
Pumpkin Template printed on cardstock
5 squeezable clothespins
7 craft sticks
Paint (I used beige, but any "gate" color is fine)
Hot glue & hot glue gun (regular Elmer's glue will work, but not as well!)
1. Print the above Five Little Pumpkins Template out. I would suggest using cardstock. Since it is thicker, it really works those thumb muscles for cutting.
2. Color in the pumpkin template.
3. Cut out the pumpkins.
4. Have an adult hot glue the pumpkins onto the clothespins. (See picture).
*We used a hot glue gun to glue the pumpkins on the clothespins. Squeezing a hot glue gun can also be a great way to work on finger strength and isolation skills - but use your adult judgement. I let some of my older OT friends squeeze there glue on with my supervision and assistance. You can use regular glue, but I don't think the project will hold up as well.
5. Have an adult hot glue the sticks together to form a gate (see picture) and paint them.
* Just to make it a little more challenging, I brought the clothespins a step further by using them as "paintbrushes". We used the clothespins to pinch onto a cotton ball, then dipped the cotton ball into globs of paint to paint our popsicle stick fence.
6. Have fun squeezing the pumpkins on and off the "gate" as you read the 5 little pumpkins poem!For our final step, we cut out itty bitty rectangles to make our own Five Little Pumpkins book.
Here is the template for our Mini Book.