Occupational therapy and play go hand in hand. There is a reason why you’ll often see kids playing as part of their OT sessions: Play is the primary job of children!
A family walks into an Occupational Therapy clinic for the first time. With a quick look around, the child notes swings, gym mats, ramps, balls, bins of toys, and shelves of bubbles, games, and toys. It looks more like a play room than a clinic. Even the school-based OT, with their suitcase on wheels has containers with toys, mini erasers in fun colors, balloons, small-scale games, and toys…in a school where it seems there is no time for play!
Occupational Therapy and Play
There is a reason that pediatric Occupational Therapy centers on play. Play is the most essential occupations of childhood and it’s a natural medium for achieving goals and prompting kids to work toward goals that may seem lofty, unnatural, or hard. Occupational Therapy goals are often included in pediatric OT interventions as the actions that come with play work to achieve the underlying areas needed for play as well as other areas of function.
Occupational Therapy Play Activities
A child’s occupation is play. The focus of Occupational Therapists is meeting the needs of their clients so that they can reach functional goals. When it comes to kids, play is the main means of learning, development, interacting, and growth.
A child uses play to build skills needed for every aspect of their development. When a child is limited in the underlying skills needed to play, not only does their functional ability to build with blocks, color, pretend, imagine, and create suffer, but all of the skills they potentially acquire may be limited as well.
A child uses play to develop many (many) areas:
Executive Functioning Skills
Visual Motor Integration
Fine Motor Skills
Gross Motor Skills
Social Emotional Development
Areas of development that are addressed through play are needed for independence in functional tasks.
Independence in tasks including holding a pencil, managing clothing fasteners, tools and utensils, dressing, toileting, self-feeding, school tasks, performing community activities, and many more areas require the development and interaction of the areas that a child develops through play.
This page is a space where you can find creative Occupational Therapy play ideas that can be used to meet the needs of many children. Depending on the child’s interests, play can occur in many ways and with infinite themes.
Each child will require an individualized adaptations, interactions, prompts, or supports depending on age and developmental level. As with any activity on this site, always use caution when providing activities that boost skills. An evaluation from an Occupational Therapist should be performed to determine individual needs and recommendations. This site and it’s author(s) are not responsible for any outcome as a result of these posts and activity ideas.
Use the following play activities as guides to build the healthy development and functional independence in daily living skill areas needed at home, school, and in the community. Each play activity will help boost underlying skills needed for healthy growth and development of the child. Activities should be used in relation to the child’s abilities. Adaptaions or modifications can be used to help younger children or lower developmental levels meet thier goal area needs.
Crafts in Occupational Therapy Play
Some children are drawn to create and make crafts. Use this interest to help the child develop skills such as tool use, bilateral hand coordination, visual motor integration, visual perception, fine motor development, hand strength, motor planning and coordination, creativity, problem solving, self-confidence, and more.
Try these craft ideas in play to develop and build underlying skills.