20 Signs a Preschooler Needs Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy can be a very important part of childhood development and often helps children with special needs. Here are 20 signs that your child may need the help.

The “occupational therapy screening checklist preschool” is a list of 20 signs that a child may need occupational therapy.

Preschoolers may get assistance from occupational therapists in seven key developmental areas. Find out the 20 indicators that your preschooler may need occupational therapy…


How is preschool doing so far?  

Do you have children ages 3, 4, or 5 at home?  

You are aware of your child’s readiness for kindergarten, right?

Your kid will grow and acquire many new and great skills throughout the preschool years, which is an extremely exciting time. The period between toddlerhood and kindergarten is when confidence is developed and skills for increasing independence at home, school, and in the community are learned. 

Did you know that the early years of a child’s development, from infancy through preschool, are regarded as a “sensitive time” or “critical period”? 

During this critical period of brain growth and development in the preschool years, the neural underpinnings of learning are being laid.

Occupational therapy offers children who need assistance in getting ready for kindergarten a special developmental viewpoint to help develop certain sensory-motor abilities that will help them get ready for success in the classroom.

On Your Kid’s Table, Jessica McMurdie OTR.L., pediatric occupational therapist, mother of two, and creator of Play It Forward Therapy, offers her professional insight gained from more than 20 years of working with kids and partnering with parents and educators. 

Jessica practices “paying it forward” by disseminating original occupational therapy exercises that promote child development and enable children to realize their full potential. She lists the top seven talents that preschoolers should have. 


How occupational therapy (OT) may advance the development of your preschooler

Occupational therapists assist kids in developing self-assurance through play while imparting crucial kindergarten ready skills.

By assisting preschoolers in developing crucial motor, sensory processing, prewriting, self-care, executive functioning, play, and social skills, OTs prepare children for kindergarten.  

The greatest pediatricians understand how to encourage your child’s growth via play, employing activities like games, novels, pretend play, and enjoyable exercises to build their strength. The greatest thing is that all of this “work” is done while having fun!

You’ll see various areas to think about for assisting your kid in getting ready for a good kindergarten year since OT looks at the complete child.  



7 aspects of development that occupational therapy may help with

Knowing how an occupational therapist can help your kid will help you ensure that any areas of need are addressed. Occupational therapists work on a range of different areas of development.

Initial Area: Motor Coordination

Running, leaping, or using play equipment during recess or on the playground are examples of gross motor abilities.

Area #2: Coordination of small muscles

For cutting, writing, coloring, and drawing, you need good hand dexterity.

Area #3: Self-regulation and sensory processing

It’s crucial to understand how to spot your child’s reactions to various sensory stimuli. The first step in determining if your kid has sensory processing difficulties or a sensory processing disorder is understanding the causes of maladaptive behaviors. Occupational therapy may assist you and your kid in identifying the sensory resources needed to help your child attain physical and mental calmness. Learn about Sensory Processing Disorder and What Every Parent Should Know. 

Aspect #4: Emotional management

learning appropriate ways to express and control strong emotions. assisting in fostering the mental wellness of your kid.

Fifth area: social skills

learning how to play nicely with other kids while sharing, taking turns, and learning how to make and maintain friends.

Skills in area #6: Self-care

gaining greater self-confidence in their ability to dress themselves, clean their teeth, consume a variety of meals, use utensils, and handle clothes fasteners.

Executive Functioning Skills Area #7

Higher order cognitive abilities required for success in the classroom, such as the ability to pay attention for an extended period of time, follow instructions, handle frustration, and move seamlessly from one task to the next. A Sensory Guide for Student Success may be found here.

If you believe there’s a problem, my advise to you is… Because occupational therapy’s main objective is to identify methods to make your kid more successful, I’ll tell you what to do. Be quick!  

Early intervention prevents additional development delays.

Receiving assistance as soon as possible may help preschoolers avoid future delays in development throughout their childhood when they have a tendency to avoid certain activities or lack the confidence to attempt new ones, particularly when these activities are connected to the abilities mentioned below. 

It’s crucial to remember that children might be completely healthy yet not be progressing as they should. It’s not always true if someone advises you to wait or claims that they will get over it.  



The following 20 preschoolers may need occupational therapy 

The OT Screening Checklist for Preschoolers is a broad, well-rounded checklist that covers the most typical problems and difficulties that occur in preschool-aged kids if you’re wondering whether your child is on track when it comes to developmental milestones. 

You may register to get a copy of this checklist, and you can use it to start a dialogue with your child’s preschool instructors. (The printable version of this list is available at the URL below.)

It’s crucial to discuss your concerns with your kid’s health care physician or doctor if you see that your child is having any of the difficulties listed below at home or at preschool. You should also arrange to have them assessed by a pediatric occupational therapist. 

The OT Screening Checklist for Preschoolers

  • Says “I can’t” or “I won’t” in response to age-appropriate activities
  • Compared to other kids, needs more practice to master new abilities.
  • clumsy, regularly falling
  • Low muscular tone; seems flabby or weak
  • bumps into objects or people, and struggles to judge how his or her body fits in relation to the space around it
  • dislikes solving puzzles, cutting with scissors, or drawing in lines.
  • Active too much and unable to slow down
  • little span of attention. swiftly switches between several toys.
  • delayed language acquisition
  • difficulty calming oneself
  • ignores or overreacts to sensations of touch, taste, sound, or smell
  • dislikes getting a haircut, showering, or snuggling
  • very fussy eater reduces consumption of complete food categories.
  • has trouble adjusting to sudden shifts and transitions
  • difficulty executing one or two-step instructions
  • avoids playing in the playground. prefers passive play.
  • doesn’t want to leap, swing, or have his or her feet off the ground.
  • he has a hard time making friends with kids his own age.
  • instead of playing with peers, prefers to do it with adults or younger kids.
  • Lacks the courage to attempt new things or is easily irritated


I hope you will find this checklist useful for identifying any potential problem areas. You may use it to start a dialogue with your child’s physician, teacher, or therapist, and you’ll find it to be a useful tool. Keep in mind that you are the expert on your kid, so trust your instincts if you believe they may benefit from a developmental boost.  

I advise parents who are prepared for this next stage to get in touch with their child’s home school and ask their physician for recommendations for nearby services.  

CLICK HERE to Grab your FREE copy of The OT Screening Checklist for Preschoolers

Interested in finding more OT-Tested and kid-approved activities? Observe us on social media or our website!   

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Over the course of her 20+ year career as a therapist and clinic owner at Stepping Stones Therapy Network in Bellevue, WA, Jessica McMurdie OTR/L has assisted hundreds of kids and parents. Jessica enjoys speaking with parents through telehealth sessions or in person at her office in Washington state because she understands both the rewards and difficulties of being a parent. Through her online courses on pediatric occupational therapy and coaching for establishing and growing a solo practice, Jessica also educates other occupational therapists. Click here to read more about Jessica and her consulting services.


The “preschool screening checklist” is a list of 20 signs that a preschooler needs occupational therapy. The list includes things such as if the child has difficulty making eye contact, if they have trouble with fine motor skills, and if they have a tendency to be hyperactive or aggressive.

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