Between 12 and 18 months of age, babies develop greater visual-perceptual skills by using form boards, shape sorters, pegboards, nesting cups and stacking blocks. These early hand activities help them to understand how objects relate to one another and the space around them. Obviously, there are many commercially available toys available to work on these skills. However, pegboards with easier to grasp "pegs", larger and deeper holes and other adaptations make success easier for children and older individuals with learning challenges.,
This adaptation involves making "pegs" out of plastic bottles and a "pegboard" out of cardboard boxes. There are lots of ways to individualize this activity to promote
- visual- motor skills,
- eye-hand coordination
- grasping skills and
- cognitive abilities.
In addition, adapting with sensory components such as vibration and music may further motivate children or older clients with developmental disabilities to engage in hand activities. The weight of the water bottles and visual stimulation when they are shook, provide additional proprioceptive and visual sensory stimulation.
Benefits of the Sensory Pegboard
My "sensory pegboard" is easy to use because the "pegs" are actually bottles, large and easy to grasp and insert into the large and deep holes that I cut out of a cardboard box. These "pegs" do not easily fall out! This helps individuals with decreased motor control.
The bottles have the weight of water that may promote body awareness and motor planning. My two-year -old hippotherapy client shown above had increased body awareness when grasping these and copying my arms extended position. She also enjoyed shaking and watching the small, colorful bits of plastic that I inserted inside them.
There is the option of using different size and shape "pegs" with corresponding holes cut into the boxes so that users must make visual discriminations in order for them to fit in the openings.
The following video demonstrates how I added vibration and music for additional sensory reinforcement and fun.
How to Make the "Sensory Pegboard"
- Choose how many bottles to use based on your client's skill level. In the above photo, I show six, small round, clear plastic bottles (about 5-6 " high), about about 3/4 full of water. These were previously used to hold my contact lenses saline water and they are sold in other shapes and sizes, as well. Remove the labels from the bottles. Small clear juice bottles also work well.
- Add lots of tiny, colorful pieces of plastic, beads, sequins or glitter to the bottles so that they swirl around when shaken. The plastic pieces may be cut out of brightly colored dishwasher soap or laundry detergent bottles. You may need to enlarge the squirting tip of the bottle in order to fit the little plastic pieces inside. Snip so that the opening is large enough to insert the plastic pieces, but do not snip away too much or the top will not screw back on.
- Screw the bottle caps tightly. You may secure them further by wrapping tape around the cap and bottle to prevent them from opening.
- Take two sturdy boxes that are the same size (about 11-2 " deep and 18" wide) such as the boxes that hold a case of soda or beer. Force one box inside the other (with open sides facing each other) to make a tightly closed box. Cover with contract paper if you like.
- Cut six round holes in the top of the box so that the holes are just large enough to easily fit the bottles but not so large that the bottles flop around. Put colorful tape around the edges of each hole to create color contrast.
- Show your child how to insert the bottles into the holes.
- A small, inexpensive push button switch may be attached inside the box so that it is activated when the bottle is inserted and pushing down on it. These switches are sold in arts and crafts stores to be inserted inside homemade dolls and other toys. They play a brief familiar tune such as Jingle Bells. They are activated by pressing the recessed center. Build up the recessed center by attaching a piece of double-sided tape and foam so that it is easily activated with a push when the bottle is inserted. Stabilize the switch inside the box by using sticky back Velcro on the switch and on the bottom of the box below where the bottle will be inserted.
- Add vibration by attaching a motorized toothbrush (with brush removed) or pen (with point removed). Vibration can be extremely motivating.
- Raise this activity by placing on top of a box. It can also be angled slightly without the bottles falling out. These strategies may make it easier to visually attend to the materials
- Use bottles of different shapes and sizes so that individuals must discriminate how to match them to the same holes. Higher functioning individuals may also enjoy using boards with a greater number of holes and insertions. Individuals with short attention spans may use a board with fewer openings and insertions.
- Encourage crossing midline by placing "pegs" on side opposite the worker hand. Placing the pegs on the floor, a high shelf or even across the room will also incorporate movement into the activity.
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