Check out a few of our favorite ideas for helping kids learn to open food packages! All it takes is some strength, coordination, and a little bit of perseverance!
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I’m a “lunch duty mom” at my daughter’s elementary school and every time I’m there, I see how many children struggle to open the packages in their lunches. They’ll work at it for a second and then give up, shooting their hand into the air to ask for help.
Milk cartons, yogurt cups, snack bags, bananas…all of them take some serious fine motor skills, motor planning, and strength to open!
Here are some quick things to practice with kids so they can become more independent with opening packages and containers in their lunches.
Encouraging Independence With Food Wrappers and Packages
1 || Tearing paper
The movement of pinching, moving one hand forward as the other moves back, and working again the resistance of paper are all excellent precursors to tearing open those packages and cartons!
2 || Breaking sticks:
Go for a little walk in the backyard and find some sticks! Have the child hold a stick upright and break off the tip, stabilizing with one hand and applying force with the other. A great precursor to peeling a banana!
3 || Stretching balloons:
Give kids a non inflated balloon and let them stretch it. Not only is this a fantastic fidget toy (great for keeping little hands busy at a restaurant), but it also requires the same motion as pulling open those bags of chips or pretzels!
4 || Peeling tape:
Stick several small pieces of tape to the table and have kids try to pinch, grasp, and pull them off!
5 || Plastic container match-up game:
Place several different plastic lunch containers on the table. Remove the lids of the containers and mix them up, placing them on the table near the containers. See if the child can find the matching lids and twist or snap them back on the correct containers.
6 || Lego or Duplo blocks
Both awesome for developing grasp strength needed for pulling, twisting, and pinching those lunch and snack containers!
7 || Velcro
Pulling against heavy duty Velcro is another great hand strengthener. Try adapting books using Velcro, making file folder games, or making other fun velcro fine motor tasks!
8 || Rubber Bands
As with ballons, kids can stretch and pull against the resistance of the bands to promote strength in their hands. Or try creating masterpieces on a geoboard!
9 || Squigz
These cool little gadgets are fun and colorful and they make a great popping noise when you pull them off of a surface or off of each other. More great hand strengthening and bilateral coordination fun!
After you’ve practiced these, see if your child can transfer the skill to actual food items. Make sure to refer back to the activities above as reminders of how to perform each motion. For example, if your child is opening a bag of chips, say “Pinch each side and pull apart just like stretching out the balloons!”
Check out more fun hand strengthening activities here!
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Katie @ Wonderfully Made says
GREAT ideas, Pam! Thank you! Will try these with my Jack :)
Thank you, Katie! Let us know how they work!!!
You could also teach them to pinch open their bananas from the bottom end. It’s much easier and is how monkeys actually open them!
Kate Nirmaier says
Thank you for this information, I am a nanny/tutor for children with fine motor issues and in school to become an OTA : ) so will definitely use these techniques and sign up for more!
Thanks so much for stopping by! I’m so glad you were able to find some useful ideas in this post! If you sign up for our newsletter you’ll get a weekly email with our posts and other great ideas like these that we find around the web! Take care!