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Paper Plate Birds: Hands-On Craft for Fine Motor Skill Development

Published by , on Jun 26, 2015

SONY DSCWith the school year coming to a close, we encourage you to find some time to get creative! Crafts can be a great way to spend time together – they provide a special opportunity for creative fun, the chance to develop new skills, and the satisfaction that comes with completing a project. Here’s a crafty idea from CHoR Occupational Therapist Jessica Z. Lynn with details about the specific skills this simple activity can help develop and how to use an activity like this to further enhance fine motor skill development.

The benefits of gluing, tearing and folding

The Paper Plate Bird Craft described below offers an opportunity to work on a variety of valuable fine motor skills that are often left out of the typical elementary school age fine motor skill set. I am always surprised by the number of kids that I see who have not yet learned to fold and tear. Not only are these useful skills that we use on a daily basis, but they serve as ways to develop and strengthen small hands. In addition, this craft works on visual motor integration, bilateral coordination skills and motor control. Let’s break down the activity to look at each skill:



Squeezing glue helps to strengthen the small muscles inside your hands. A child must figure out how much or how little pressure to use when squeezing in order to control the amount of glue that comes out (called “modulation” or “grading”). Squeezing the correct amount out is often the most difficult part of using a bottle of glue and this same skill is used when squeezing toothpaste. It may help to give your child a target that the glue must stay within, such as a small circle drawn on the paper.


Tearing requires children to use their hands simultaneously while each hand is completing a different movement (bilateral coordination). Tearing helps children work on opposition (pad of thumb to pad of another finger) and develop their web space (the part of their hand between their thumb and pointer finger); both opposition and web space development are integral to an effective pencil grasp! Help your child to pinch the paper with their thumbs side by side. Instruct them to tear a little bit at a time to avoid grasping the paper in the palm of their hand.



Folding requires that children use their hands together and develop the ability to use their fingers to complete precise movements. Folding also helps children develop the ability to integrate what they see with how they move.

Directions for Paper Plate Birds


  • Tissue paper, assorted colors

  • Paper plates

  • Glue

  • Construction paper

  • Curling ribbon

  • Stapler or tape

– Tear pieces of tissue paper into small squares. Fold a paper plate in half so there is a crease down the middle. Apply dots of glue to the back side of the plate and glue the tissue paper squares onto the plate. A light touch can be helpful when gluing on the tissue paper.

– Fold an 8 ½ x 11 sheet of construction paper accordion-style to make the wings. Be sure to fold it along the longer side of the paper.

– Cut out two white circles for eyes. Glue a smaller black circle (or draw a black dot) in the center of each white circle to make a pupil in each eye. Cut a triangle out of orange or yellow construction paper and fold it in half to make a beak.

– Once the glue has dried and the tissue paper is secure, poke scissors through one side of the plate (or use an X-Acto knife) to cut a slit big enough for the wing to slide through. Make the same cut in the same location (about an inch below the crease) on the other side of the plate. (Note: For safety reasons, an adult should complete the steps involved in cutting slits.)


– Once both sides are cut, re-fold the paper plate in half along the crease and slide the wing through the slits. Then glue an eye on each side of the plate and glue the beak into the fold of the paper plate.

– Cut long strands of ribbons for the tail. Tie them together at one end and glue, staple or tape the tail into the fold of the plate. You can tie a ribbon through the slit used for the wings, or staple or tape on piece of a ribbon, if you plan to hang your bird.

Paper Plate Bird Craft adapted from Juggling with Kids blog

Other craft project ideas from CHoR:

Heart Stamps
Cupcake-Wrapper Owls on Branches
(page 4)
Handmade Flowers and Vases (page 7)

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