Occupational therapy is designed to use purposeful and meaningful activities to help individuals develop ‘skills for the job of living’. Well how do kids develop these skills? Through play! So it only makes sense that our sessions are play based and child led. Click here to learn about a few of our favorite OT activities, what they address and why they have become a fan favorite.
Children have many occupations that make up their daily lives, such as playing, learning and participating in other meaningful activities. They grow and change rapidly as they explore and play, developing motor coordination, social skills, self-care, and planning abilities.
Occupational therapy is designed to use purposeful and meaningful activities to help individuals develop “skills for the job of living”. This might include learning to ride a bicycle or pump a playground swing, navigating a playground effectively, writing their name, getting dressed or tying their shoes. Older children may need help learning how to organize themselves during daily routines and homework, and participate in chores and meal preparation at home.
SST’S TOP 6 FAVORITE OT ACTIVITIES:
1. Feed The Shark
- What is it? You may need your imagination for this, but the kids love it! You need a swing, a tire or something to throw at, and some bean bags. The child is on the boat in the middle of the ocean and they need to feed the shark before he gets too angry. To feed the shark, the child needs to throw the bean bags into the sharks mouth. But make sure you do it before time runs out!
- What does it address? Well, just about everything! Working on balance, coordination, body movement through space. This activity focuses specifically on projected actions sequence, visual attention, timing, and eye-hand coordination. It also works on emotional regulation and frustration tolerance. You can modify this activity in a million different ways to work on specific skills – but kids seem to love every version!
2. Life size angry birds
- What is it? This movement activity allows kids to develop many different skills while replicating a game in person. You need large building blocks (that are safe to crash into), scooter board and scooter ramp. Take photos of different block designs prior to the activity. The child must re-build the tower based on the photo. TIP: add small animals or items that replicate the ‘pigs’ within the design. Once the design is complete, they can get on the scooter and go down the ramp to knock over the tower. You can make the designs progressively harder, or encourage the child to try a variety of different ways down the scooter ramp.
- What does it address? Body position, movement through space, postural stability and strength with the scooter board and ramp. Visual attention and timing to knock over the tower and pigs. It also works on visual perceptual skills and spatial planning when building the tower. And of course planning and problem solving!
3. Bumper Tires
- What is it? It doesn’t matter your age, this activity never gets old. Hang two tires up on opposing sides of the room with 2 sets of ropes hanging in between. Each person climbs into the tire (like you are riding a horse), and grabs a set of ropes. On the count of 3, start pulling the ropes to get the site swinging and in no time you will be bumping and crashing into your opponent and spinning around the room. The last person to stay in the tire and not fall off wins the round!
- What does it address? Movement through space and body awareness. Lots of core strengthening, core righting and postural stability to not fall out of the tire. Pulling the ropes works on bilateral integration sequencing, timing, and upper extremity strengthening. Plus, the bumping and crashing provides a lot of proprioceptive input that can be calming and organizing for many kids.
4. Homemade Play-doh
- What is it? Messy play is just the best! All you need is some flour, salt water, and food coloring and within a few minutes you have homemade play-doh. The kids can feel accomplished because they made it on their own and they have something to take home! You can always add in different scents or glitter if you want to get more creative.
- What does it address? Sequencing, following directions, IADL skills for meal prep and cooking. Force grading and bimanual coordination with measuring all the items. And tactile play to touch and mix all the ingredients. It is also great for hand strengthening fo the younger ones because of all the squishing, squeezing and folding to mix all the ingredients together.
- What is it? Burgermania is a 2 player fine motor game for ages 4 and up. The player race to build a custom burger from the recipe card they choose. There is a conveyer belt that moves along as the kids race to build their burger. But chef’s can’t use their hands to touch the food, so the kids need to use tweezers to collect the burger pieces. Work together or work to beat the clock – how many burgers can you make?
- What does it address? Visual perceptual and visual discrimination skills to build the burger based on the recipe card. Fine motor and dexterity skills when collecting all the burger items. Impulse control and frustration tolerance with the speed component. Social skills and winning/losing.
6. Story Cubes
- What it is? Story Cubes have several different themed dice you can get, but we love the original at SST. It is 9 dice that have different images on each edge of the dice – ranging from a lightning bolt to a bridge to everything in between. A few fun ways we have utilized story cubes in our OT sessions:
- Roll the dice and create a story using all the images starting with “once upon a time”
- Roll a certain amount of dice and choose one image from them and write a sentence about it (grade it up – pick more than one or create a whole story)
- Roll the dice and choose one image and incorporate that into a drawing
- Roll the dice and work together to tell a story that incorporated the images that were rolled
- Both therapist and client roll the dice, choose one image and draw individual scenes. Once completed, look at the other persons image and write about what you see/interpret.
- Roll the dice and act out what you see.
- What does it address? idea generation, impulse control (only choosing one image etc.), organization, sequencing and of course written expression. Bonus: add in in hand manipulation skills with the dice!
Occupational therapists must be creative when developing activities in order to address underlying issues and keep the child interested and engaged. One of our super powers it to be able to take an activity and change the demands or rules to fit the individuals need at that moment – it is what we call the “just right challenge”. But at the end of the day, having fun is the most important.