Pipe Cleaners are a must-have piece of any craft collection. They can be used in a variety of ways in order to create colorful and unique masterpieces…and they are perfect for creating crafts for any holiday season. Pipe cleaners are also perfect for building the fine motor and visual motor skills your child needs for the development of their pencil grasp and handwriting skills. They are great for strengthening the muscles in their little hands so that they are able to button their pants or zip their jacket. Pipe cleaners are also great tools for learning colors, sorting, and problem-solving skills.
Here are 10 (actually 11) fun ways to use pipe cleaners to build sensory-motor skills!
1. Weave It: This is such a fun fine motor activity. And who would have thought that such a simple idea would keep a child occupied for such a long period of time. It’s also great for building visual motor control and grasping skills.
2. Lace It: Lacing is a great activity for building eye-hand coordination and bilateral skills. You can modify lacing by using pipe cleaners as opposed to string to decrease the challenge of the task. Paper plates or foam paper, rather than construction paper, are also more stable and easier to manipulate at first.
In the below example, the child was having difficulty placing the pipe cleaner into the holes in sequential order. His success increased significantly by simply using different colors to outline the holes.
3. Copy It: Build the visual motor and copying skills your child needs for handwriting by challenging your child to copy your designs. Start by using different colored pipe cleaners in the design and then move to using all the same colors.
4. Form It: Practice forming uppercase and lowercase letters with the pipe cleaners and then copy that letter onto paper or onto a dry erase board. Start by providing your child with a model and then transition to having your child form the letters from memory.
5. Build a Person: Improve your child’s body awareness and draw a person skills. Use the pipe cleaners to create different body parts and have your child put them together to build a person.
- First form the parts of the person and lay them out on the table.
6. String It: Like lacing, stringing beads is also a great activity for building visual motor skills and bilateral coordination. Using a pipe cleaner as opposed to a string provides a more stable base that is easier for beginners to to manipulate.
7. Fold It: Folding is another one of those developmental skills that builds fine motor control and eye hand coordination. Pipe cleaners require more precise manipulation but are more sturdy to manipulate than paper. Challenge your child to line up the edges or perform multiple folds.
8. Punch It: Work on your child’s visual motor skills, fine motor skills, and tool use all in one fun activity. Create a “poker” with your pipe cleaner by folding it into a third of its length. Draw a picture or a letter onto paper and then use a different colored marker to put dots along the outline. Place the paper onto a piece of Styrofoam or on the carpet. Have your child build their hand strength, grasping skills, and eye-hand coordination by punching the dots with their new tool!
9. Put In: Pipe Cleaners are another common object that can be used to create a fun fine motor put-in activity. Cut the pipe cleaners into various lengths and challenge your child to build their pincer grasp (which is a must-have for holding their pencil) by using their index finger and thumb to pick up the pieces. You can use an old spice container or water bottle for your child to drop the pieces into. Have them build their bilateral skills by holding the container with their non-dominant hand while putting the pipe cleaners in with their dominant hand. In this picture the child is placing the pipe cleaner pieces into the opening of a straw. This was a great challenge for his eye-hand coordination and ability to coordinate his hands together.
10. Hang It: This is a fun activity that also builds your child’s creativity. Hang a string and have your child problem solve different ways to hang the pipe cleaners. Challenge your child to get creative and come up with many ways to hang the pipe cleaners. You can also see if your child can connect the pipe cleaners to form a fun creation or picture.
11. Grab It: Pipe cleaner pieces are great for picking up with tongs or clothespins as another fun activity for building hand strength, manipulation skills, grasping skills, and visual motor coordination. Cut the pipe cleaners into smaller pieces and have your child use the tongs or clothespins to pick up the pieces and drop them into the container of your choice.
For additional challenges, you can also incorporate sorting, pattern designs, and color recognition into your activities. While hanging or grabbing the pipe cleaners, have him or her sort them by color or size. You can also form the pipe cleaners into various shapes and have them sort by shape. You can place a pattern of colors on the string during the hanging activity and have your child copy it. To up the challenge, call out an order of colors and have your child try to remember and hang the pipe cleaners in the right order. Finally, you can work on color recognition and recall by having your child select a certain color or call out each color they pick up!
So, get out your pipe cleaners and keep those motor skills fresh throughout the summer! And remember to have fun!