January 14, 2017 posted by littlewhitecottage

5 games to play with cotton wool balls…

F and I had a our Saturday morning together (the boys had gone climbing) so I thought I’d get the cotton wool balls out – that she calls ‘pom moms’ – as she loves playing with them.

These cotton balls are great as they aren’t messy, can be thrown and also can be used again and again.

We try to do a few fine motor skills activities each week as we have noticed that she uses her hand as a whole more often than not and doesn’t have the strength that we would hope she would by being nearly 3. We are keeping an eye on her fine motor skills as H was exactly the same at her age and he’s dyspraxic.

Here’s our first game:

Game 1 – Clearing up the snowman poo.

This is what you need. If you don’t have plastic tongs like we do you can always use kitchen tongs. They are a bit more tricky to negotiate but can be just as fun.


I scattered the cotton wool balls around the kitchen and said that a naughty snowman had popped in and pooed on the kitchen floor. She thought this hilarious and set about clearing the poo up.


Nimrod our puppy was very keen to join in too!

F is a solid right hander so always chooses this hand to work with.

She did a mixture of using her right hand (this picture) but also used both hands (the above picture). I don’t correct her but I do show her other ways to hold the tweezers. I know from experience with H that part of his issue is that his brain can find alternatives when what it’s doing isn’t working. This is working for F and she’s not frustrated (though she did pick up a lot of balls with her hands which is interesting) but I do think it’s because she doesn’t have the hand strength that she holds the tweezers the way she does.


Game 2 – Throwing

I got a large bowl out from the cupboard.


I showed F how to throw to aim at the bowl.

We both had a great time laughing at missing and cheering when we got the ball in the bowl.

She’s very pleased with herself here!


There were no rules and if she moved nearer I didn’t correct her. For me it’s about letting her take the lead while supporting her where she might need it.

Game 3 – Scooping


I got the tea strainer out and also the large spoon, ladle and spoon. F dived in with them and started carrying the balls from one bowl to another. She found scooping hard and often had to pick up a ball and place it on the spoon she chose. In the summer I would like to add height and distance to this game to see if she can balance while walking. This is something H could not do at this age.


Here she is with the tea strainer.


Game 4 – Jars

F was still very much interested in what we were doing so I thought I’d add some jars to the mix of things to play with. Jars are great as they can be filled and emptied (give great capacity language too) but also putting the lid on ad off is a great hand strengthening exercise.


Surprisingly F was able to both put the lid on ad off which is something I would have said she wouldn’t have been able to.

She used a range of the other spoons and tweezers to fill the jars along with just using her hand. I left her to make her own decisions and she was vey happy exploring.

Game 5 – Lining the cotton walls balls up


This is something she started to do by herself. She also started to count them getting to 5 by herself.

This is a great and simple way to count using concrete representations of numbers. By matching her counting to a cotton wool ball she is seeing the amount ‘in the flesh’ as it were. It isn’t an abstract concept such as a written number. F is also seeing the amount she is counting increase. We can easily use this when she’s a bit older to introduced 1 more and 1 less.


F had a fab time with our off-the-cuff activity.

Observing her I can see that she is more comfortable using her whole hand to work with and if she does she does have good strength. She doesn’t have an effective pincer grip yet (thumb and first finger) and she is very adept at adapting an activity to suit her better while still achieving the same aim.

I’ll be planning a few more pincer activities to help her develop this grip but also finger independence.

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