By: Laura Petix, MS OTR/L

Do you know a kid who constantly (and unintentionally): stomps their feet, slams doors, gives way too tight hugs, or does things way too fast or hard? Conversely, do you know a kid who seems to have a weak grasp and can barely make the pencil line show up, or can never throw the ball far enough to a target? Yep.

Those kids may have difficulty with graded force. I’m here today to share some of my top graded force activities.

What is Graded Force?

Graded force is the ability to adjust how much pressure to place on an object or person, based on feedback from the environment. 

Being able to grade your force is reliant upon having a good sense of body awareness and a solid proprioceptive system. 

How Do You Improve Graded Force?

To truly improve a child’s body awareness and graded force, the proprioceptive system needs to be targeted and worked on through sensory integration, with consultation and intervention from an OT. 

The OT might provide sensory diet activities at home and work on activities in the clinic that provide heavy work: things like pushing, pulling, climbing, carrying and jumping. 

Aside from sensory integration and a sensory diet to follow at home, these games/activities below provide good opportunity to practice graded force skills. 

Graded Force Activities for Kids

  1. Setting up a domino rally (try these domino letter cards for letter practice at the same time!)
  2. Playing Jenga
  3. Building a block tower
  4. Throwing and catching differently weighted objects: balloon, bean bag, bounce ball, basketball, weighted ball.
  5. Practice giving soft, medium and hard high fives.
  6. Practice running slow, medium and fast.
  7. Pouring liquids 
  8. Coloring different shades with the same crayon (e.g. light blue, blue, dark blue) 
  9. Using a mechanical pencil for kids who write too hard (the lead breaking is a natural consequence with immediate feedback)
  10. Salt painting crafts (if you push too hard with the paintbrush, it doesn’t work well)
  11. Using these squiggly wiggly pens (these give great sensory feedback, but if you don’t push hard enough (or push too hard), the ink output differs. 
  12. Pom pom- puff race: use one of those infant nose syringes (you know those old school squeezers you used to suck out baby boogers?) to blow colored pom poms from one end to another. 
  13. Doing rub art (place paper over textured object like a leaf, and push hard with a crayon on top while you watch the pattern appear)
  14. Peeling stickers (if you push too hard/fast, they rip) 
  15. Practice using play dough shape/letter stamps: challenge them to push just hard enough to imprint in the play-dough, but not all the way through to the other side.
  16. Using liquid bottled glue and challenging to only put tiny dots of glue instead of big “globs” (<– yes, “globs” is an official unit of measurement!) 
  17. This marble balancing activity: place golf tees in putty, then balance marbles on top!

18. Pick 10 random objects around the house or clinic and ask the child to put them in order based on lightest to heaviest. Then, practice throwing the objects to a target- they have to adjust how hard they throw based on the object. 


Developmental Motor Skills & Activities


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Laura Petix, MS OTR/L

I’m an enneagram 6, so my brain is constantly moving. My OT lenses never turn off and I can’t “un-see” the sensory and other developmental skills that go in to literally every activity. I love taking what I see and breaking it down into simple terms so parents can understand what goes into their child’s behavior and skills.

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