We are gearing up for Halloween here at our clinic. We find that making crafts is a wonderful tool for boosting speech and fine motor skills. For this craft, you will need a colander, pipe cleaners, and something to make eyes with. Did you know that spiders can have up to 8 eyes?! At our clinic we used googly eyes to put on the colander. You could also use putty, markers, puff balls, cherries, or even beads to make the eyes. 


When we play games in speech therapy, we often name our characters something that starts with our target sounds. In this case we named our spider craft, “Spencer”, so that we could come across many opportunities to say our sp- words. Additional sp- words that could be used during this activity include “spider, spaghetti”. These three words alone could be used during your craft time numerous times if you are focusing on improving sp- words. By the age of 4-5, children are typically able to mark both sounds in consonant blends sp- words. We used sound buddy visuals by Adventures in Speech Pathology to assist with marking both sounds in these blends. The production of sp- blends can also be targeted with a carryover activity, singing the itsy bitsy spider and pausing for your child to fill in “spider” and “spout”. 

Whether you play this game with you and your child or you play in a small group, you can still touch on social language skills. It is an important skill for children to use language to ask prior to grabbing. This can be practiced during the game if someone houses the piper cleaners and students need to ask for their colors. Another social language skill that can be addressed is greetings and farewells. You could hide the spider around the room or put it behind a door and have your child greet the spider before putting each pipe cleaner in the colander. 

By the time a child is 2-3 years old, they are typically able to follow longer directions. This could look like you saying, “this time, I’d love for you to get the spider a green pipe cleaner and a red pipe cleaner, go”, to see if they are able to recall and comprehend the colors of your pipe cleaners. Another way following directions could be targeted is by asking your child, “first can you touch your (body part) and then can you grab the (color) leg!”. We often discuss quantitative concepts during this task and ask our students, “can you grab (number) pipe cleaners please”. Sometimes we will put different amounts of pipe cleaners in each hand and will ask “which hand has the most/least, one/many pipe cleaners”. 


This activity is great for targeting visual motor skills. Visual motor skills are all about using our visual skills to help us execute a motor plan accurately, therefore, aligning the pipe cleaner with the holes on the colander is a perfect activity for targeting this skill. To support accuracy with this skill, help the child hold the pipe cleaner closer to the end that is going in the hole, this makes it easier to control. If you want to up the challenge, have them hold the pipe cleaner farther away from the end going in the hole. If you have multiple sized colanders at your disposal, larger holes make this task easier and smaller holes really challenge those visual motor skills. 

In addition to visual motor skills, fine motor manipulation, dexterity, precision and grasping skills are targeted via this activity. Encourage the child to “walk” their fingers up and down the pipe cleaner and to spin it around with just one hand or using the other to help to target those fine motor skills. When it comes to grasp pattern, have the child hold the pipe cleaner with a digital pronate grasp or a tripod grasp. A digital pronate grasp is holding a pencil (in this case a pipe cleaner) with the thumb and index towards the paper (colander) and the rest of the fingers wrapped around the utensil. A tripod grasp is holding the pencil with the thumb and index finger with the utensil resting on the middle finger, with the other two fingers curled against the palm. If they currently utilize a gross grasp pattern (full fist grasp), try to facilitate grasping with their fingertips as opposed to their whole hand/palm! 

If you have read our other activity skill breakdowns, you may have already seen this recommendation… change up the sitting, kneeling, or standing position to target gross motor skills and postural stability! Try balancing on one foot while placing a pipe cleaner in the spider or try tall kneeling, half kneeling, squatting, long leg sitting, side sitting, or laying on the stomach during the activity. To really emphasize gross motor skills during this activity, turn it into a relay race! Place all the pipe cleaner legs on one side of the room and the spider colander on the other. Have the child crawl, hop, skip or balance on a line in between the stations! 


Here is a unique way to target the tactile and proprioceptive system with this activity! Have the child rest their arms on the table and close their eyes. Use a pipe cleaner (or “spider leg”) to poke somewhere on their arm or hand. With their eyes still closed, have the child touch where the spider touched them! If they are unable to point to the spot with their eyes still closed, you can have them open their eyes for that portion. Make it a sneaky spider game:) 

This activity is perfect for “spooky season” with the added bonus of targeting so many skills. As always, get creative and have fun with it!