How to Provide Proprioception: Using Resistive Fine-Motor Activities


Squeeze, Push, Pull!

Activities that involve squeezing, pushing or pulling provide proprioceptive sensory stimulation to the hand joints and muscles. This sensory information tells us where the hands are moving in relation to objects and space. Many of the hand activities described in this post are called "resistive" because the activities require force to perform. Using  force to squeeze, push and pull materials provides the proprioceptive sensory stimulation that promotes motor planning.  Many common activities can be adapted to promote the proprioceptive stimulation - that children and adults with or without disabilities such as dyspraxia often enjoy.


For example, the lacing activities shown in the above photo uses stiff aquarium tubing instead of string. The tubing requires force to bend in and out of the holes. I cut the horseshoe shaped lacing board to be extra large and easy to grasp with large holes to lace. This adaptation is perfect for my young client with motor planning and sensory processing challenges. The following video demonstrates how to make a resistive activity that uses a combination of  lacing and weaving under/over motions.

The following video demonstrates an individual stringing beads onto a thick strip of fabric. Grade the challenge by using thicker or thinner fabric or cord and beads or shapes with larger or smaller holes.

Pulling and pushing shapes onto or off the tubing (shown below) creates a fun sound and materials are easy to grasp and manipulate. The shapes are cut out of detergent bottles.

Attaching a squeeze ball (shown below) to the end of string also creates resistance when pushed through either homemade shapes or shower curtain rings....

The following weaving activity requires much pulling...

Stringing onto a resistive coiled hose (shown below)  is a great strengthening, sensory activity that works on motor planning skills.


Choose objects that have fun tactile qualities to push through container openings that are small enough to require force. Fill socks (shown above) with a variety of sensory materials or purchase some objects to push/insert such as the following with fun textures.

Pushing pennies into a "Hungry Harry ball" strengthens both fingers and the hand squeezing the ball so that his mouth opens. This is a great activity to "wake up" hands before writing tasks.

Removing objects attached to surfaces with Velcro provides additional proprioceptive input when pulling.  The client shown below is blind, on the autism spectrum and seeks sensory stimulation by ripping his clothing. He loves pulling the shapes off the Velcro before forcefully pushing them into the container. In addition, the pink cushion vibrates to help meet his sensory needs.

Grade resistance by using stronger/weaker or longer/shorter strips of Velcro. Attaching Velcro to a ball is also a great way to promote bilateral hand skills. 

The following video demonstrates how clients squeeze adapted plastic bottles to insert into a container opening.


Squeezing pins or clips that require force stimulates and strengthens the fingers used in the tripod pencil grasp. The individual in the photo below must stabilize with one hand while attaching the clips to the bowl's rim. He loves using force and at the same time squeezing clips develops hand strength.

My hippotherapy client removed clothes pins attached to the right and left reins. This  required crossing midline as he removes and then attaches them to the mane or into a container attached to the tack.

A variation of the squeeze clip involves cutting tong shapes out of plastic bottles. The client needs to learn to squeeze the open ends together before pushing them through a top or side slot opening.


Ring stacks can be adapted to provide resistance by using materials that require force to push downward or attaching items to the ring stack itself so that force is used to push downward over the stack. The frisbees shown in the following video require using both hands and a lot of force to push down.

Pulling objects with smaller holes on or off coiled phone chargers also provides great proprioceptive/strengthening stimulation. Clients can use a heavy duty hole puncher to create the stringing or stacking materials.


Stretching rubber bands or elastics  over  Geoboard knobs,  a ball as shown in the second video or other materials provide greats great proprioceptive sensory stimulation.

Grade by using more or less resistive elastics.  The individual shown below gives up readily if too much force is required, so I used a fun ball and large elastics that demand limited effort .

 Provide household objects or make your own shapes as shown below- to wrap elastics around.


Tying and Untying Knots 

When we were children my sister and I played a game in the car where one of us tied a large handkerchief into knots as tightly as possible and the other person had to untie them. We used a lot of force to make it tough on the sibling! My client shown below did not have the motor planning skills to tie knots but he was proud that he was strong enough to open and remove the fabric pieces before pushing them into a container opening. See more tying and untying tips here....

Button stringing described in this post provides proprioception as the child pushes plastic "buttons" through narrow slits. 

Manipulating zippers requires force including practicing with pulling a pipe cleaner through the zipper.... Learn more here!

Opening and closing snap-it beads and clothing snaps strengthens fingers while providing proprioception stimulation..... Grade activities using easier and then more difficult snaps to open and close. 

Buckles naturally require force to open or close. I attached the following buckle pieces to bags of sand to increase the sensory stimulation provided by weight.

Grade buckles used by starting out with ones that require less force and work your way up to using buckles on life jackets....


Many toys are designed to require pulling apart, pushing together and squeezing. In fact, baby busy boards require force to turn dials, push buttons and pull cords that make noises.

Positioning a baby to reach while pushing, pulling or squeezing also strengthens shoulders and neck muscles while stimulating hands.

Older children love resistive building toys such as

  • Legos and other "bricks"
  • Tinker Toys
  • K'nex
  • Screwing nuts and bolts
  • Connecting cubes or links.

Encourage opening and closing push or screw lids on toys and every day materials such as  unscrewing a Velcro bottle lid. The video below demonstrates how to make a "Velcro bottle".


Simply using crayons rather than markers increases the force required.  Embossing is a great activity for children who want to create designs or a picture by rubbing paper on top of an embossing sheet.  The patterned sheet shown below was purchased but its easy to make your own by cutting sand paper into a desired shape. An older child colored on the paper plate placed on top of the embossed sheet. He had to use a lot of force to make the pattern appear!!!

Provide resistive messy materials to form shapes such as

  • wet cornstarch
  • wet corn meal
  • rice
  • wet or dry sand
  • thick paint
  • clay


Cutting across thick paper such as a folder provides more resistance than cutting flimsy paper. Young children especially benefit from sensory feedback when cutting play dough snakes.


Purchasing or adapting toys/activities to vibrate is an effective tool to provide proprioceptive sensory stimulation,  maintain focus and motivate.... It is so effective, I wrote a blog all about it here... Vibration! 


Many household tools such as a screwdriver, rolling pin (to roll out dough), squeezing eye-droppers to paint or folding thick paper involve using resistive materials.  The child shown below is using a regular screwdriver, although commercial play tools are also wonderful.

Pipe cleaners require force to push in and out of holes....

Older children can push a large thumb tack into cardboard to create a picture. A small tack shown below is attached inside a pencil grip to promote developing a tripod grasp.

Who doesn't enjoy pressing hard enough to pop bubble wrap???



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