Skill-building crafts: From caterpillars to butterflies
September 02, 2016
Skill-building crafts: From caterpillars to butterflies

    The crafts featured below were selected by occupational therapist Jessica Lynn. Both projects involve specific tasks that support the development of a child’s hand and finger skills and in the “skill builder” sections that follow each description, Jessica highlights some specific skills a child develops when making these and suggests additional ways these cute, easy-to-do-at-home projects can be used for additional skill-building fun!

    Safety tip: Always supervise children closely when they are using craft supplies!

    Clothespin caterpillars

    Materials needed:

    • Clothespin
    • Craft glue
    • Fuzzy pom-poms
    • Pipe cleaner
    • Googly eyes


    – Run a line of glue down the top side of the clothespin. Let glue set for about a minute (this helps pom-poms stay in place) then carefully place pom-poms in the line of glue to form the caterpillar’s body.

    – Bend a small piece of pipe cleaner into a “V” shape to create the antennae and insert the antennae between the first and second pom-poms. Gently hold the antennae and pom-poms in place while the glue sets.

    – Put two dots of glue where the eyes will go and gently put the eyes in place. Be sure to let the glue dry completely before using the clothespin.

    – You can also glue a magnet to the bottom of the clothespin and the caterpillar becomes a cute way to hang items on the fridge! 

    Skill builder

    Pom-poms and clothespins are staples for activities designed for children by occupational therapists. Pom-poms are a small item with an interesting texture that is easy for little fingers to pick up. Here are ways to use pom-poms as a skill builder:

    Encourage development of a mature grasp pattern by having your child use their thumb, index and middle fingers to pick up the pom-pom while the ring and little fingers fold down into a fist. The ring and little fingers stabilize the hand so the other fingers can move freely during activities like writing, coloring, cutting, buttoning and shoe tying. You can help facilitate this grasp pattern by having the child take the pom-poms out of a small container like a muffin tin, making it difficult for the child to use their whole hand.

    To encourage overall hand development, challenge the child to hold another pom-pom in the palm of their hand using their ring and little fingers while using their other fingers to put the pom-poms on top of the glue.

    When the caterpillar is dry, provide the opportunity to strengthen the same muscles used to pick up the pom-poms by having child squeeze the clothespin with the thumb, index and middle finger tips to open the caterpillar’s mouth and pick up other small materials to “feed” him!

    Paper butterfly

    Materials needed:

    • 2 paper squares (heavyweight paper works well)
    • Pipe cleaner in a coordinating color

    Note: Directions below are geared for a 6” paper square.


    – Fold one paper square in half diagonally to make a triangle. Working from center line out toward a top corner, make zigzag folds that are one-half inch or less on one half of the folded triangle then the other. (Each side should end with a small triangle on top of the folds and when both sides are folded the finished shape should resemble a diamond.)

    – Repeat with the second paper square.

    – Cut the pipe cleaner to approximately 6” in length. Pinch both sheets of paper together at the center of the folded parts, wrap firmly with the pipe cleaner, and twist to secure.

    – Bend the pipe cleaner to resemble antennae, open up the wings, and gently flatten the edges to hold wing shape open.

    To make a butterfly garland to hang on a wall or flat surface, make several butterflies and thread twine or ribbon through the pipecleaner in each butterfly.  Hang and enjoy!

    Skill builder

    Folding is a practical skill that we all use on an everyday basis. It requires a variety of skills including but not limited to visual motor integrationvisual perceptionbilateral coordination, and fine motor strength and precision. By providing opportunities to practice folding, children are working on the same skills they need to write, color, cut and complete activities of daily living. Here’s how this craft supports folding skills on a variety of levels:

    During this craft activity, the child exercises their visual perceptual skills when determining which direction to manipulate the paper to achieve the intended fold. The ability to carry out the intended fold using the correct movements requires visual motor integration skills. Accurate folding requires the coordination of both hands to manipulate the paper and hold it still while the other hand makes the crease. Finally, the child uses precise movements of the fingers to make a crease. The activity can be made easier by drawing folding lines to help the child determine the location of the folds. For a younger child, you can make the folds and let the child crease them. The activity can be made more challenging by using heavier paper like card stock. Make sure to encourage your child to use both hands and to press hard when folding the paper!

    Caterpillar craft adapted from
    Butterfly craft adapted from 

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