Memory Card Games

memory card games

Occupational therapy professionals know the benefit of using memory card games to build skills in therapy sessions. OTs love to use games in therapy sessions to address a variety areas in novel and fun ways…and kids love the gaming aspect of therapy!

Memory card games as an occupational therapy activity to work on working memory, attention, concentration, spatial relations, visual motor skills, and handwriting.

Memory Card Games in Occupational Therapy

There are so many reasons to play memory games in OT! Areas like executive functioning skills, to working memory, attention, focus, to fine motor skills, visual motor skills, visual perceptual skills, and even handwriting can be improved through the use of memory card games.

We’ve talked about using games in a variety of ways…today, we’re covering the use of a Memory Card Game to work on various skills in OT. Here’s why this simple game is such a powerful tool for impacting function:

Memory games are a powerful way to work on sort term memory, working memory, and executive functioning skills such as attention organization planning prioritization organizational skills.

Memory games are fun way for kids to work on short term memory and other skills that are beneficial for learning in the classroom and at home.

When kids play memory they can work on holding short term information in their memory In their short term memory. This allows them to use visual attention and visual memory while they remember where pictures are located playing a classic memory game.

Kids with other executive functioning issues me to be struggling with the same challenges in the classroom or at home. By playing a game such as memory kids can work on these executive functioning skills in a fun and low-key manner.

When they play memory kids can work on prioritization such as choosing which card to pick first.

When you play memory you pick a card and if you seen it before you you need to remember where you’ve seen that location of the card. This scale requires time management self-regulation and self-control. You don’t want to pick up the next card in a rush without thinking through your your process of where you saw that picture last.

Memory card games can be used to address visual motor skills.

Playing a game of memory can help with short term memory and retention of information as well. When kids need to recall where they saw a card in a previous play they need to think back and use their mental memory skills in order to recall where that card is located in the board. This visual component of working memory skills carries over to the classroom when kids need to remember to do it to do their homework or what skills have worked in the past in order to solve problems on tests or in situations of game or learning at school.

A memory game also helps with multitasking and helping kids to stay and complete a task through to completion. All of these executive functioning skills are powerful skills to develop through play such as using a memory game.

“Grading” Memory Card Games to Meet Different Needs

When therapists add a toy or game to their “OT toolbox”, they need to use the material in a variety of ways to meet the needs of different levels of children and while addressing different skill areas.

This refers to grading activities.

Grading, in occupational therapy, means making an activity more or less challenging in order to meet the needs of the individual. This can also refer to changing an activity in the middle of the task, depending on how the client or child is responding. Grading is important when it comes to finding the “just right” amount of support or adaptations that need to be made to a task that challenge the client while also allowing them to feel good about doing the therapy intervention.

If the activity is too easy, you would grade it up to make it a greater challenge.

If the activity is too hard, you would grade it down to make it easier to accomplish a sub-goal or skillset, while also challenging those skills.

Memory card games are a great tool to use to challenge a variety of skill levels and abilities.

  • You can help to boost skills by changing the number of matches that you are using in the memory card game. If a child who struggles with attention, focus, impulse control, visual perception, eye-hand coordination, or working memory, you might play the memory game with only two matches or four matches so that there are four or eight cards total on the playing board.
  • You can further adapt this game by giving clear and concise instructions or hints in other words. Try to help the child use their memory, attention, working memory, and recall skills by defining the match that they are looking for and details that are on that image. This can be accomplished by saying things like, “I’ve seen that card before. Have you?”
  • Another strategy to grade memory games is to ask the child to talk through their moves. This self-reflection can build self-confidence, and it’s a helpful way to remember where they seen a matching card before. And, this self-talk skill also translates over to functional tasks. When a child performs a task such as a chore or a homework assignment they can talk through the task at hand. This allows them to recall what they’ve learned and what’s been successful. They are able to use skills they’ve established in the past. Self talk skill is a great strategy for kids who both struggle with executive functioning skills and anyone in general.
  • Another modification to memory card games include offering visual cues or verbal cues of what the child has seen. You can support this by asking the child “Have you seen this picture already?” Ask them to recall what the image was near on the board and see if you can picture in your mind where that card is in relation to others on the board. This involves a spatial-relations component as well as other visual perceptual skills.
  • Finally it’s helpful to reduce distractions while playing memory game. Sometimes the aspect of attention is limited by other things happening around a child which can’t be addressed in a situation such as a classroom or a community situation however you can work on specific skills such as showing the child how to self regulate like taking a deep breath or preparing themselves before they make their move. This can help with over feelings of overwhelm and stress the kids sometimes get.

How to play memory games in therapy

When kids play memory they are playing the classic memory game that you’ve probably played in your childhood.

  1. The game uses matching cards which are placed facedown on the table.
  2. Players take turns selecting to picture cards they turned one over at a time and see if they’ve got a match. If they’ve got a match they can go again.
  3. If the player doesn’t have a match they turn the cards back over so they were they are facedown on the table.
  4. Then the next player goes. The second player selects two picture cards and turns them over one at a time. It’s important to turn the cards over one at a time because if you have a card because if the first card that is turned over is a card that you’ve seen before then you need to remember where that match is on the board. This aspect of playing the game of memory really works on attention focus and impulse control.
  5. Players continue finding the matches until all of the cards are selected.
  6. The player with the most number of matches wins the game.

What’s missing Activity with memory cards

“What’s missing” is also another great way to use a memory game to work on specific skills of executive functioning including the ones listed above.

How to play what’s missing with Memory Cards

  1. To play what’s missing you would set out a spare set number of memory cards on the table face up.
  2. Then the player gets to look at the cards for a set amount of time.
  3. The player tries to memorize every card on the table.
  4. Then the player closes their eyes or looks away from the table while another player removes one or more cards.
  5. Then the first player looks back at the table and tries to recall and identify the missing images.

What’s Missing games address a variety of visual perceptual skills, visual memory, visual attention, spatial relations, form constancy, and visual discrimination.

This activity can be graded up or down in a variety of ways by adding more cards shortening the amount of time to look at the cards and remember the cards or to add more matches and to remove more or less cards. To make this harder you can have two all different cards or you can have matches and some without matches.

Memory games in sensory bins

Memory cards make a great addition to sensory bins. Children that especially enjoy specific themes can use memory card games in a variety of themes with specific characters or topics such as vehicles, princesses, sports, animals, ect.

To use memory cards in sensory bins, you need just a few materials. This can include a dry sensory bin material, the memory cards, and possibly scoops, tweezers. Dry sensory bin materials include such as dry beans, rice, sand, shredded paper, etc. Then memory cards can be added to the sensory bin and hidden away, much like we hid sight word cards in this sight word sensory bin.

Another bonus is then building and refining fine motor skills through the scooping and pouring of the sensory bin materials.

In the sensory bin, children can look for the matching memory cards. This activity builds skills such as:

  • visual discrimination
  • form constancy
  • visual memory
  • attention
  • sensory tolerance through play
  • fine motor control
  • transferring skills
  • bilateral coordination
  • controlled movements
  • MORE

Memory Card Games and Handwriting

Therapists are often looking for short and functional means of working on handwriting skills through play. Memory games are a great way to address this need.

With a memory card game, children can write down the matches that they’ve found when matching cards. The same is true when playing “what’s missing” games. They can write down the words of the images that they’ve found on the playing board. And, by writing down these words, they can then work on letter formation, letter size, spacing, and legibility. This occurs in a in a short list format that is motivating for kids.

Yet another benefit of working on handwriting skills with a memory game is that children are excited to find matches. This excitement can translate to the handwriting portion. Kids will want to write more words because that means they are finding more matches. This is a very rewarding and positive way to work on handwriting skills, which can often times, be a challenge for kids.

Memory Card Games for Therapy

Memory cards are a powerful tool to add to a therapy toolbox! This is especially true if memory games are focused on an interest of the child. You will really enjoy a new series of themed memory cards with handwriting pages that I have coming to the website shop.

First up is our Back to School Memory Game and List Writing Prompts!

Work on attention, memory, focus, visual skills, executive functioning skills, visual perceptual skills, concentration and a variety of other skills. PLUS, the themed cards include handwriting pages with a variety of lined paper options.

This Back-to-School resource is a great way to quickly assess your caseload for handwriting, coloring, cutting, motor skills, midline crossing, visual memory, visual perceptual skills, motor planning, executive functioning, and more. And, such a fun and motivating activity to quickly and informally reassess each child on your caseload at a “just right” level.

This memory card activity can be printed off, laminated, and used again and again.

Click here to add the Back-to-School Memory Game and List Writing Prompts resource to your therapy toolbox.

Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to

Executive Function Activities (at the Beach!)

executive function activities

Executive functioning development is partly learning through experience, and partly trial and error. But did you know you could foster powerful executive function activities through everyday experiences? Here, we’re chatting how to foster executive functioning skills through play…and even at the beach! Add these ideas to improve executive functioning skills this summer.

Executive function activities don't need to be boring. Use these executive function activities at the beach or while on vacation.

Heading out of town on vacation to the beach soon? Check out these cool ways to work on executive functioning while you’re there! Once you get back, get to work on these seashell souvenirs!

Looking for engaging executive functioning activities doesn’t need a trip to the beach. Some of these ideas can be set up in your own backyard. But, if you are going on a vacation or trip this summer, why not use it to foster development of skills through executive functioning activities?

Executive Functioning Activities: Planning and Prioritizing for a Vacation

Trips to the beach can be a great opportunity for families to enjoy some time away! They can also be a fun way to integrate some therapy. Sensory processing, motor skills, executive functioning—the options are endless! Sensory processing and motor skills might seem more obvious than executive functioning. Let’s take a deeper look at a few popular activities at the beach and how they can use executive functioning!

You can start working on executive functioning even before you leave for the trip! These are excellent ways to work on planning and prioritization skills. Especially important in planning for a vacation is the prioritization aspect: when to pack, when to set aside time to wash necessary clothing, making the time to plan out a trip and make reservations can all impact the success of a vacation.

  • Have your child look up the forecast
  • Work on creating a packing list
  • Schedule time to gather needed items
  • Work together to organize vacation items into available bags.

This can be a great way to get them involved! It also challenges their ability to delay gratification, as they will need to wait until it is time to go, even if that is a few days away. Time management will also be necessary so that packing doesn’t take all day!

Executive Function Activities: Build Sandcastles

Kids love building sandcastles! This activity requires a lot of executive functioning skills.

A child needs to use impulse control so that no one gets sand thrown in their eyes and to avoid the castle from being smashed prior to completion.

The child also needs to develop a plan and organize their ideas prior to or as they build in order to get the product they would like.

They need to recall where they put their shovels or buckets, as well as sequence multiple components as they build.

They also need to problem solve, as the sand might not be their desired consistency! Sandcastles—a great, complex way to work on executive functioning!

Executive Function Activities: Skipping Stones

Remember trying to skip stones during calm days on the water? This is another great way to integrate the use of executive functioning skills.

Stones need to meet specific criteria in order to be the best candidates. Or, this can become an area for problem solving or making predictions (foresight) to see what type of stone might skip best.

Certainly, there is a significant amount of impulse control needed in order to ensure safety of others in the area! Work on emotional control through contests of who gets their stone the farthest, especially if a child has difficulty losing.

Don’t have the motor planning or coordination to skip stones? No problem! Toss stones into a pool of water instead.

Boogie boards/knee surfing Executive Function Activity

Boogie boarding or knee surfing can be another activity to work on executive functioning in a hidden way! A child needs to plan their motor movements before they take place, as well as consider timing of waves. Safety awareness will also be important, along with persistence, since this can be a challenging activity!

The beach is a great way to work on a variety of developmental skills, whether sensory processing, motor skills, or executive functioning! Enjoy some of these activities on your upcoming trip and enjoy the benefits of the beach!

Impulse Control Journal the OT Toolbox

The Impulse Control Journal…a printable resource for helping kids strategize executive functioning skill development. When saying “calm down” just isn’t enough…

When a child is easily “triggered” and seems to melt down at any sign of loud noises or excitement…

When you need help or a starting point to teach kids self-regulation strategies…

When you are struggling to motivate or redirect a child without causing a meltdown…

When you’re struggling to help kids explore their emotions, develop self-regulation and coping skills, manage and reflect on their emotions, identify their emotions, and more as they grow…

Grab the Impulse Control Journal to build organizational strategies, planning, prioritization, habits, and mindset in kids.

Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to

Improve Executive Functioning Skills this Summer

improve executive functioning skills this summer

Summer is coming! And, I have some fun ways to improve executive functioning skills during the summer months, while the kids are on a break from school. Working on executive functioning doesn’t need to involve boring projects, long checklists, or tedious tasks that make the kids run. These executive functioning activities can help to improve the skills that translate to better planning, prioritization, and staying on task during day-to-day functional tasks and when back in the classroom.

How to Improve Executive Functioning Skills This Summer

When school ends for the year, we can all have wonderful intentions of a great summer filled with enriching activities to continue our student’s growth. Sometimes, that means having plans that are hard to achieve. Sometimes, that means having absolutely no plans, but then realizing this is a bit too unstructured!

Whatever camp you are in, a middle ground is a more attainable place to be. Check out these ways to work on executive functioning skills this summer.

Under each activity idea below, you’ll find strategies to improve executive functioning skills. Use these tips to work on areas like:

  • Planning
  • Prioritization
  • Organization
  • Task Completion
  • Attention
  • Working memory

Then, when children see success that they’ve made in fun and meaningful tasks, they can carry those skills over to other tasks. Be sure to point out hard work, worthy attempts, and small successes. This auditory input can help to get a point to stick later down the road.

Get started with some fun summer games. Planning a weekly game night with the family can get this on the calendar and make game playing an event. Think about even adding themes or special fun snacks to the game night events.

Interest Based Occupations to Work on Executive Functions

Occupational therapists use meaningful occupations (or the tasks that occupy one’s time) as a therapeutic tool to improve independence, functioning, safety, and meaning in one’s life. The use of motivating interests play a strong role in building essential executive functioning skills, too!

Use your child’s interests to improve executive functioning that carries over to less preferred activities (like school, homework, and even chores).

Whatever your child’s leisure interests, there is likely an easy way to integrate executive functioning growth opportunities!

sports to work on executive functioning skills

Do you have a budding athlete in your family?

  • Have them set up a tournament for your family or neighborhood: create the brackets (requires planning and organizing, working memory, and initiation)
  • Winning/losing (requires emotional regulation and impulse control)
  • Create the court or field (planning and organizing, organization of materials)

Art to work on executive functioning skills

How about your budding artist? There are so many fun summer-themed crafts for all ages!

  • Have your child think flexibly about different materials they can use, especially if you do not have all of the items needed to make a certain masterpiece!
  • Plan projects
  • Set a completion date and write out steps with small goals that need to be achieved before the next step can be accomplished
  • Use a large project such as a mural, pottery, or painting garden planters to expand executive functioning development over weeks or months

Reading to work on executive functioning skills

Have a bookworm?

  • A summer book club could be fun! They could create a plan for each club meeting, including creating the invitations and agenda, working on their skills of initiation, time management, planning and organizing, and working memory.
  • Mark off on a calendar when library books need to be returned
  • Schedule time daily for reading and make it relaxing: a book picnic in the yard, taking books to the park, or reading under twinkle lights can be fun and interesting, and all need to be planned out with thinking ahead.

Chores to Improve Executive Functioning Skills

Summer is a great time to start integrating family chores without the pressure of starting a new routine in the middle of a school year. Activities like cooking and recycling are approachable for many ages.

Cooking to work on executive Function

Find a recipe that works for your family’s ages, needs, and foods. Then, to work on executive function, try some of these tips:

If cooking is something that you would like to try with kids, be sure to pick out a recipe that is motivating to the child. Here are tons of cooking with kids recipe ideas.

  1. Break up the recipe into the planning stages, the executing stages, and the eating stages!
  2. With each step of the recipe (including preparation and clean-up), assign different family members different jobs, like making the list (while giving them 3 steps to remember and write down for a working memory challenge).
  3. Work on planning and prioritization by estimating when each step will need to start for more complex recipes (time management).
  4. Think about the items and recipe ingredients that are needed as well as steps of the process, including smaller tasks like emptying the sink or dishwasher after you finish cooking (organization of materials).

Recycling to work on executive function

Take the opportunity to teach your children about recycling. Here are tips to use recycling as an opportunity to build specific executive functions:

  1. Can they identify what items should go in the garbage versus the recycling (working memory)?
  2. Can they initiate and show impulse control in this task, such as taking the extra steps to the recycling bin, rather than just throwing that can in the garbage?
  3. Use a calendar to mark off the day when recycling materials should be collected and the bin taken to the curb or recycling center.
  4. Use a list to identify materials that can be recycled.

Summer Learning and Executive Functioning Skills

While neither a strong academic focus nor a lack of academic focus tends to be the best for any child, there are ways to integrate academics into the more relaxed environment of summer activities.

Have some sidewalk chalk? Work on sight words (both from previous grade and the soon-to-be grade), letter formation, math problems, you name it!

If slime is still a trend in your house, find a good recipe and have your child use their executive functioning skills to complete and reflect on the creation. What went well? What did they struggle with or would they change?

Make a ninja or obstacle course! This takes incredible amounts of executive functioning skills: initiation, shifting, impulse control (“No, Johnny, it probably would not be best to put that plank on top of the playground as a launchpad.”), emotional control/failure tolerance, time management, working memory, planning and organizing, and organization of materials.

Have fun this summer, stay safe, and keep the growth going!

Impulse Control Journal the OT Toolbox

The Impulse Control Journal…a printable resource for helping kids strategize executive functioning skill development. When saying “calm down” just isn’t enough…

When a child is easily “triggered” and seems to melt down at any sign of loud noises or excitement…

When you need help or a starting point to teach kids self-regulation strategies…

When you are struggling to motivate or redirect a child without causing a meltdown…

When you’re struggling to help kids explore their emotions, develop self-regulation and coping skills, manage and reflect on their emotions, identify their emotions, and more as they grow…

Grab the Impulse Control Journal to build organizational strategies, planning, prioritization, habits, and mindset in kids.

Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to

What are Executive Functioning Skills?

Executive functioning skills are an important component of skilled occupational therapy intervention, but they can be confusing to some. What are executive functioning skills? Executive functioning skills go beyond the basics like working memory and impulse control. In fact, there is not necessarily one agreed-upon definition for executive functioning! Ready to learn more? Keep reading!

What are executive functioning skills

What are executive FUNCTIONING Skills?

Executive functioning (EF) skills are diverse. Typically, EF consists of skills including the ability to manage emotions, initiate activities within a timely manner, shift attention from topics or activities, control impulses and urges, retain information for use during functional activities, develop plans and formulate systems to perform a desired task, prevent missing materials, and being mindful of how our own behavior impacts others.

Development of executive functioning skills

When do executive functioning skills develop?

Executive functioning skills take a long time to develop! As a result, different ages demonstrate different challenges when facing EF deficits.

While a child in late elementary school may seem successful with their ability to manage classroom materials, turn in homework assignments on time, and engage in age-appropriate behaviors, the same child may demonstrate significant challenges upon the transition to middle school. For example, now they have to return to their locker between classes to exchange books, which is not just a simple stop-and-go activity.

There are distractions, the desire to engage in social interactions, a time crunch to make it to the next class on time, the need to remember what class is next and what materials they need, and not to mention needing to remember the sequence for their combination lock! This all happens before they even make it into their next classroom or head home for the day.

How can executive functioning skills improve?

Thanks to the brain’s neuroplasticity, EF skills have potential for improvement! Many daily activities require diverse EF skills, making them a fantastic opportunity to integrate effective strategies.

What are executive functioning skills

Emotional regulation as an area of executive functioning:

Emotional regulation is one of the first areas of executive functioning that many parents want to improve, since it can add significant stress to family life. Self-reflection is one way to improve emotional regulation. However, it’s important that this takes place after the big feelings pass, since learning takes place when bodies and minds are “just right.”

This can easily be added to family routines. One way to encourage self-reflection is to have each family member share a positive and negative from the day when seated for dinner.

This also allows for family members to support each other (“Good luck on your test today, Jacob, you studied very hard!”) and provides opportunities for continued conversation (“You mentioned having an argument with your friend at lunch today. Is there anything I can do to help?”). It can also normalize the big feelings we all experience!

Initiation and executive functioning skills:

We’ve all struggled with initiation at some point in our lives; we need to complete items on an ever-growing to-do list, but just don’t know where to start! Kids experience this, too.

For children who are competitive, make a contest out of completing tasks. See who can complete their to-do list the fastest, but with the best quality, too! Teaching children and teens how to become more independent with initiation can be fun and successful.

Shifting as an executive function:

Shifting is often combined with attention, since shifting requires the individual to determine what is important and focus on that, rather than what they might have been doing or thinking before.

Take, for example, a student who was writing a paper on a Shakespearean play for their English class. They’ve now finished the assignment and have moved on to a worksheet on the quadratic formula. Their mind needs to completely turn “off” Shakespeare and turn “on” the quadratic formula.

Luckily, there are many activities for attention. One fun way is to build an obstacle course. Each time the child completes the course, change one of the rules!

For example, the second time, they can only touch primary colors or can only hop on one foot in between obstacles. They will not only need to remember what the new rule is, but they will have to shift away from the old rules!

Inhibition and executive functioning:

Inhibition is often referred to as impulse control. It can be an exhausting component of executive functioning, as it can lead to significant safety concerns.

One way to improve impulse control with younger children is through the game “Red Light, Green Light.” Many children (even early teenagers) enjoy playing versions of “Floor is Lava,” avoiding certain materials as they attempt to navigate a room. This can also be a great way to work on working memory!

Working memory as an executive function:

Working memory can be a significant challenge for many individuals. Working memory requires us to retain learned information and use it during daily activities.

There are many ways to support working memory development and deficits. There are many task-management apps available, even for things like medication management. For activities to improve working memory, try playing games like Magic Labyrinth, Melissa and Doug’s Sandwich Stacking Game, or making a recipe!

Planning/organizing for executive functioning success:

Planning for projects and organizing ideas is stressful! It can be helpful to go through large assignments one at a time. Break the assignment into manageable pieces, including what materials are needed for that step and when that step needs to be completed.

The good news is that these skills can experience definite improvements with practice. Check out this link for more information and strategies on prioritization and planning skill development.

Organization of materials and executive functioning:

Messy rooms with laundry covering the floor, desks and lockers overflowing with paper, expandable folders filled to the brim with assignments—these are the signs of a disorganized student! Organization is often the first thing to go when a person feels stressed or overwhelmed, as it can be time-consuming.

To support a child’s organization skills development, try making checklists for their locker or desk. As they place each item into their backpack, they can check a box to make sure they have everything they need before they go! Or, use labels to clearly define where belongings go in a closet or on a bookshelf.

Executive functioning skills in kids

Monitoring for executive functioning success:

Monitoring is important since we all interactive with others on a daily basis! Monitoring is the acknowledgement that we behave in certain ways and that these behaviors can affect other people.

Self-reflection (mentioned above) can be a good way to promote monitoring. An individual can process through what they think went well, what they struggled with, and how they think others felt during these events. Behavior charts can also be helpful by clearly listing out what the expectation is and whether the individual demonstrated that skill area. Ultimately, the goal is to encourage self-monitoring as much as possible, rather than adults monitoring the child. The possibilities for monitoring strategies  are diverse and it’s possible to find something that works for each person.

More Executive Functioning Skills Resources:

  • Free Executive Function Mini-Course- Wondering about what are executive functioning skills? This Executive Functioning Skills Course is a FREE, 5-day email course that will help you understand executive functioning and all that is included in the set of mental skills.
  • This collection of executive functioning skills resources outline many aspects of higher cognitive skills through various EF skill areas.
  • Getting organized can be a start to addressing several executive functioning skill areas. Here is a collection of organization strategies, tips, and tools.
What are executive functioning skills? This resource on attention, organization, planning, and other executive functions helps kids develop skills needed for learning.

For resources, tools, and printable activities to improve and strengthen the development of executive functioning skills, check out The Impulse Control Journal.

Impulse Control Journal the OT Toolbox

Free Spring Memory Game

Spring memory game

Today, I’ve got a spring memory game that you can access for free. Fire up the printer because this printable game is a fun way to work on visual perceptual skills with kids. The bugs, butterflies, rain clouds, and other Spring images will keep the kiddos building visual memory, visual attention, and visual discrimination skills so they can learn and grow through play. And, check out our Spring visual perception activities for more fun.

Spring memory game for kids is a free printable

Benefits of playing Memory GameS

Memory games are such a great way to help kids develop visual perceptual skills they use in reading, writing, and math. For another printable game, check out this Goodnight Moon memory game activity.

Memory games boost skills in a lot of different ways:

Visual discrimination- determining the difference between images uses visual discrimination skills. This translates to letter and number identification, reading sight words, and reading fluency and comprehension.

Visual attention- Memory games require a lot of attention to keep those eyes on the game pieces. This ability to visually attend during game play then transfers over to attention during writing and reading tasks.

Visual memory- a little different than actual memory of concepts and ideas, visual memory is the picture that the mind’s eye captures during situations or events. Visual memory allows us to file away information and recall it for future use, based on what we’ve seen. Visual memory plays a role in executive functioning skills and working memory.

Executive functioning skills- speaking of executive functioning, visual skills have a large role in attention, focus, planning ahead, and other EF tasks. Read more about games to support and develop executive functioning skills, including the game of memory.

Visual figure-ground– This visual perceptual skill allows us to pull out important information from a busy background. When playing memory, you need to see a specific image in a background of many other game cards. This skill can be developed in non-traditional game play. Turn all of the game cards over so the images are face up. Can you find the matches quickly when they are all showing? What if we turn on a timer? Can you beat the clock to find all of the matches? Visual figure ground skills play a role in reading fluency and comprehension.

There are other skills that the game of memory develops as well: Skills like focus, attention, concentration, attention span, thinking skills, problem solving, self-confidence…these are just some of the ways that Memory assists with child development!

Free Spring Memory Game

In the printable, there are 12 different Spring images, so 24 total cards. You can adjust the number of cards to meet the needs of each child. Use it to play traditional memory, or adjust the activity with different memory and visual perception activities:

  • Play “what’s missing”
  • Match the cards on a dry erase board with a marker or string, like we did here.
  • Print them off, slide them into a page protector sheet and use them over and over again with a dry erase marker.
  • Work on pencil control and color in the images with colored pencils
  • Practice handwriting and write the names of the images.

I’m adding this free printable to this week’s Spring occupational therapy activities. If you are looking for fun and easy ways to help kids develop skills in their therapy goals, or for ways to support child development in the home or classroom, be sure to check out the seasonal activity ideas.

So? Want to print off this Spring game and add it to your therapy toolbox to help kids (and adults) play and build brain skills? Enter your email into the form below and you’ll receive the printable game pieces.

The images on the Memory Game are similar and match a lot of the icons and graphics used in our NEW Spring Fine Motor Kit. Read more about this resource below.

Free Spring Memory Game

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    Spring Fine Motor Kit

    Score Fine Motor Tools and resources and help kids build the skills they need to thrive!

    Developing hand strength, dexterity, dexterity, precision skills, and eye-hand coordination skills that kids need for holding and writing with a pencil, coloring, and manipulating small objects in every day task doesn’t need to be difficult. The Spring Fine Motor Kit includes 100 pages of fine motor activities, worksheets, crafts, and more:

    Spring fine motor kit set of printable fine motor skills worksheets for kids.
    • Lacing cards
    • Sensory bin cards
    • Hole punch activities
    • Pencil control worksheets
    • Play dough mats
    • Write the Room cards
    • Modified paper
    • Sticker activities

    Click here to add this resource set to your therapy toolbox.

    Spring Fine Motor Kit
    Spring Fine Motor Kit: TONS of resources and tools to build stronger hands.

    Grab your copy of the Spring Fine Motor Kit and build coordination, strength, and endurance in fun and creative activities. Click here to add this resource set to your therapy toolbox.

    Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to

    Vision Problems or Attention

    Vision problems or attention issues

    Visual deficits and occupational therapy interventions go hand in hand. And, the connection between vision problems or attention issues impacts children when it comes to ADD and ADHD. In fact, the connection between visual deficits and attention is especially a factor in OT treatment. Trouble paying attention, difficulty with reading, finishing work on time and staying on task can be signs of both attention issues or a vision issue. So, how do you tell the difference, and what do you do about it? Knowing if a visual impairment is present can mean the difference between accommodating for vision difficulties and a different diagnosis, such as attention deficit disorder. 

    Vision problems or attention issues

    Vision or Attention Deficit Disorder

    Children with vision deficits work twice as hard, and use more “brain” power to make their eyes work correctly as compared to peers without vision deficits. 

    Children with vision deficits may also experience fatigue more quickly, have frequent headaches, or blurry vision.

    When they begin to experience the above symptoms, it is easier for the child to look away, leading them to appear to be “staring off into space” or lose focus. These behaviors are often mistaken for ADD in the classroom setting. Vision deficits that may be behind these symptoms and actions include: 

    • Poor tracking 
    • Poor teaming
    • Poor convergence and divergence
    • Eye muscle imbalances 

    All of these issues can impact learning.

    Vision and Social Skills

    Like kids with ADD, kids with vision deficits often appear to have poor social skills. Behaviors include a lack of response to their name, missing social cues or facial expressions, and not attending to others in the room. 

    This apparent “lack” of social skills is also related to how hard they are working on using their eyes. When this happens, the level of executive function left for other tasks significantly decreases. 

    This may also make the child appear “scatter brained” or disorganized. 

    Attention Deficit Disorder Symptoms

    Vision concerns outside of acuity are FREQUENTLY missed due to limited vision screening protocols and the desire to quickly remediate behavior.

     In addition to limited vision screening, vision deficits are not widely recognized as a potential reason for distracted or inattentive behavior. 

    Attention issues and vision Problems

    If you have concerns, or concerns have been brought to your attention, regarding your child and ADD, rule out vision deficits first. A trip to a developmental ophthalmologist may help better explain your child’s behavior concerns and provide them the help they truly need.


    Now what?  When vision problems are suspected after a screening by the OT, it is best practice to refer the family to a developmental optometrist.

    A developmental optometrist will complete a full evaluation and determine the need for corrective lenses, vision therapy or a home program to address vision concerns.

    As occupational therapists, it is imperative that we rule out vision problems before treating handwriting or delays in visual motor integration, to ensure the best possible trajectory of development and success for the child.


    Occupational Therapists screen for visual problems in order to determine how they may impact functional tasks. Our newest Visual Screening Tool is a useful resource or identifying visual impairments. Visual screening can occur in the classroom setting, in inpatient settings, in outpatient therapy, and in early intervention or home care.

    This visual screening tool was created by an occupational therapist and provides information on visual terms, frequently asked questions regarding visual problems, a variety of visual screening techniques, and other tools that therapists will find valuable in visual screenings.

    This is a digital file. Upon purchase, you will be able to print the 10 page file and print off to use over and over again in vision screenings and in educating therapists, teachers, parents, and other child advocates or caregivers.

    Click here to read more about the Visual Screening Tool 

    Visual screening tool for vision problems in kids

    DIY Flexible Seating Ideas

    For those of you looking for flexible seating ideas for the classroom, we’ve got some to share! But, one of the most common concerns about setting up flexible classroom seating arrangements is the price! Finding inexpensive seating options that meet the needs of kids can be difficult. In place of pricy alternative seating ideas, why not try the frugal version and make a few DIY flexible seating ideas? Here are some ideas for adding sensory seating to the classroom with do-it-yourself versions of seating options to arrange a classroom for success!

    These DIY flexible seating ideas are alternative seating for the classroom like bean bags, cushions, therapy balls to help kids with sensory needs.

    DIY Flexible Seating Ideas

    Add some of these seating strategies to a classroom sensory diet, to meet sensory needs, or to help with self-regulation or attention issues. These classroom seating options can meet the needs of a single student or a group of students. From wobble seats, to therapy balls, to using a futon in the classroom, flexible seating looks like a lot of different things! The alternative seating options below are a do-it-yourself version.

    Tire Seat- You may have seen DIY tire seats shown on Pinterest. Be sure to check out our Pinterest page of flexible seating options for some ideas and more options! One easy DIY tire seat tutorial is listed on A Life That We Built, which shows how to construct a tire seat as a seating idea for kids. This looks easy enough!

    Use circle dots or carpet squares as a flexible seating option in classrooms.

    Circle Dots- Kids can really benefit from floor time! The versatility of moving colorful dots around the room as a seating option is perfect for the classroom that covers many needs. While these carpet dots are available commercially, what if you could frugally create your own version? Here’s the how-to:

    1. Grab a set of colorful felt sheets.
    2. Using a black marker, trace a dinner plate on each sheet of felt.
    3. Use your sharpest scissors and get to cutting.
    4. Done! Use those carpet dots to encourage movement, set up visual cues for seating, sort students into groups by colors, create in-classroom obstacle courses, and use as a visual seating spot for learning of all kinds!

    Partially Deflated Beach Ball– Yes, a beach ball! We shared how and why this DIY seating option works in a past blog post. Using a beach ball as a cheap seating option is a great way to encourage the proprioceptive and vestibular input kids need.

    Therapy Ball- A flexible seating option doesn’t need to be specified as a seat. Just like using a partially deflated beach ball described above, try adding more or less air to exercise balls aka a stability ball, yoga ball, or balance ball.

    Chair or Couch Made from a Wooden Pallet– Use a couple of discarded pallets to create a small chair or bench. One tutorial is available on Funky Junk Interiors. This would make a nice reading space in a classroom or home.

    DIY flexible seating can be a way to modify the classroom with inexpensive seating options.

    Milk Crate with Cushion- Use a milk crate, fabric, and foam to create a no-sew milk crate seat. These can be adjusted for students by adding softer or thicker foam, inflatable cushions, or other options. Really Good Teachers shares how to make no-sew milk crates easily and without pulling out the sewing machine!

    Pillow Pile on Shag Carpet– Keep your eyes peeled for a sale on area rugs and especially for a shag carpet that’s on sale. A small cozy reading corner can be made using a shag rug and a pile of pillows. The shag seems to be a great fidget for some kids, too. Here is one option for a reasonable price.

    Window Seat with Storage- Curling up with a book and some comfortable pillows sounds like a fun way to spend a little free reading time. Use a cube storage bench with pillows to create a flexible seating idea for the classroom or home. Store books or other materials in the cubes.

    Cozy Corner Tent with Pillows- A calm-down space or cozy corner can be a part of the classroom’s flexible seating options or used as an area to meet specific sensory needs within the classroom. Some ideas for creating a cozy corner can include a teepee or tent, cardboard box, or even a fort structure with a sheet roof.

    Use these DIY flexible seating ideas in the classroom.

    Lounge Cushions- Make your own lounge cushions by recycling old couch cushions or sewing up a sleeping bag. You can often times find cushions available on Facebook marketplace.

    Carpet Scrap Placed Upside Down on Linoleum– This is a quick seating option that can help kids with the wiggles while providing a means of vestibular input The ability to scootch and slide the carpet square can be a movement break for some kids. Keep the carpet square “parked” in a designated spot when it’s needed and the child can keep their hands and feet still. This alternative seating option is a nice one for helping kids with personal space, too.

    Use a yoga mat with markings as a flexible seating idea that can help kids pay attention in the classroom.

    Yoga Mat– A yoga mat can be purchased fairly inexpensively and can be a nice way to provide movement in the classroom, both as a movement break, or even as a space to lounge while reading or completing group work. Yoga mats can be rolled up and stored in a closet or locker and pulled out for group yoga activities. While this isn’t a DIY seating idea specifically, you could use painter’s tape or electrical tape to create markings on the yoga mat for specific seating ideas to help with body awareness or marked spaces to sit and work.

    Cardboard Box– Alternative seating strategies don’t need to be expensive! Use a large cardboard box either as a quiet space for reading or chilling, or as a seating option. Kids can get into a cozy box and read or complete a specific task. The walls of a cardboard box can muffle some distracting noises and can be a space to create or calm down. Add a string of Christmas lights for a sensory tunnel space or cave like we did in an old blog post.

    Laundry Basket- Another inexpensive seating option, a laundry basket offers a cozy and small space for kids to calm down and focus on a task such as reading.

    Soft Tent- There are so many options for play tents out there. Grab one or tow and make it a calm down space in the classroom that offers a quiet place to read, complete an assignment, or regroup. Kids can complete written assignments by using a small stool or lap tray to write on in the cozy sensory tent. They could also just chill and read in quiet by lounging on a bean bag or some pillows. Search pop-up kids indoor tent on Amazon to find lots of options.

    Yoga blocks make a great DIY alternative seating option for the classroom.

    Foam Blocks- Yoga blocks can be used for so many different positioning needs. Use them to prop up feet to provide a foot rest for fidgeting or to get kids into a better posture for writing. The input through the feet can help kids with proprioceptive input that aligns their body for a better upright posture. Foam blocks could be used to prop up a clipboard to create a DIY slant board option, too. There are options on Amazon, but these can be found at discount stores like Five Below, too. To make a DIY version, use an old phone book with duct tape to create a sturdy block. Or, cut hard foam from packing materials and cover with tape.

    Lowered Table and Kneeling- One nice option about some tables and desks is that they can be lowered with the help of the custodial staff at schools. The lower legs can be removed and placed into a cut tennis ball to creates a half-sized desk or table, Kids can then sit or kneel to work at the table surface, while getting some really great proprioceptive input in through their knees and legs.

    Standing Table Surface- Other tables can be raised to create a standing surface. Kids can then stand to work in small groups or to complete short assignments. A pub-style table is a great surface as a standing table. This one is very nice for one or two students to work on a task.

    This portable swivel seat rests right on the chair seat and offers sensory input while learning.

    Swivel Seat- This is an alternative seating idea that provides much-needed sensory input for some kids. Think of a Lazy Susan and the spinning/rotation benefits that can occur. A swivel seat pad can provide that spinning or rotating vestibular input on any chair surface or even the floor. Kids can rotate their lower body to turn back and forth in their seats. I love this swivel seat option.

    Flexible seating tips

    What are your favorite DIY flexible seating ideas? Would any of these alternative seating ideas work in your classroom or home? Let me know in the comments below!

    Flexible Seating in the Classroom

    THese flexible seating in the classroom ideas are helpful to improve attention, focus, and learning in students.

    It’s that time again when we are heading back into the school year. Teachers are getting into the classrooms and setting up room arrangements. School-based OTs are gearing up for the back-to-school chaos. When the thoughts of classroom organization and caseloads come into mind, flexible seating in the classroom ideas may not be the first thing you think of. Seating options may even be a part of a classroom sensory diet. But here’s the thing: Flexible seating ideas are always good to keep in mind! There are so many benefits to flexible seating arrangements. From DIY flexible seating ideas to types of seating ideas that can be used in classrooms…there is a lot to think about!

    flexible seating in the classroom with out of the box ideas that kids will love for learning.

    Flexible Seating Ideas for the CLassroom

    There is so much to think about when it comes to accommodating to various seating needs. Positioning and specific student needs are just part of the puzzle. Facilitating learning while encouraging collaborations among students is important and the primary concern when it comes to out-of-the-box seating arrangements. Below, you will find various flexible seating for the classroom and information on the benefits of flexible seating ideas…as well as how to adapt to this classroom sensory strategy.

    Things to consider about Flexible Seating

    When considering flexible seating ideas for the classroom, there is a lot to think about. These considerations include a variety of needs including behavior, cognitive needs, physical abilities, posture, and more.

    Many times therapists are consulted regarding specialized seating as a result of postural needs. In these cases, an individualized assessment may be warranted and aspects of seating should be analyzed before addressing specific seating needs:

    Posture and seating needs may be a result of sensory issues such as physical limitations, weakness, range of motion as a result of tone issues or spasticity, sensory impairments,or other needs.

    Physical limitation or deformities may impact seating posture and positioning. These may include posterior pelvic tilt, pelvic rotation, scoliosis, joint contractures, leg length discrepancies, head and neck positioning, extremity limitations, or other concerns. Each of these may impact learning and attention in the classroom.

    When providing a new or novel seating option in the classroom, there are considerations to keep in mind as well. A flexible seating option may not be the primary classroom seating situation. In other words, it may be the best situation for the classroom learning to occur in traditional desks. Flexible seating in the classroom can be provided for supplemental learning, small groups, independent reading, or other similar activities.

    In some cases, it’s important to consider optimal support in seating options including for those students with physical needs. As a result, some situations may not warrant a full classroom of flexible seating. Chairs and surfaces may not provide optimal postural alignment in order to provide adequate trunk support. Upper extremity mobility and positioning is important to consider if students will be using the seating arrangements for writing tasks. Additionally, considerations such as correct height/depth of the seat and the placement of both feet on the floor is needed for writing tasks.

    Flexible seating in the classroom, ideas to help kids with sensory needs.

    Benefits of Flexible Seating in the Classroom

    A primary benefit of alternative seating options is the improvement to learning and attention that can occur. There may be several reasons that various seating options offer in the classroom.

    • Opportunities for Choices- Students may find that the ability to make a choice in their seating situations makes all the difference in learning and attention. Some students may really like the option to pick where they sit!
    • Something for Everyone- When there are several options for seating in the classroom, it can be one way to meet the needs of a whole classroom. Some teachers may find that kids change in their activity or attention levels throughout the day. When additional movement or proprioceptive input is needed, an alternative seating method may be just the ticket to learning.
    • Heavy Work Opportunities- Use of various flexible seating techniques in the classroom can offer occasional or scheduled use of flexible seating options can provide opportunities for heavy work input by moving desks, bean bag seats, or other seating set-ups as students or a specific team of students move furniture from determined positions. Don’t forget the sensory benefits of moving desks and chairs!
    • No Singling Out- When there are various flexible seating options in the classroom, no child is singled out. This is important for the child with sensory issues or self-regulation needs. Some students may need extra movement or heavy input to facilitate learning, and when the whole classroom has the option to choose a beanbag for reading time, the flexible seating methods are there for everyone…and no student feels singled out based on needs.

    Flexible Seating Ideas for the Classroom

    Now that we’ve covered considerations and a few benefits of flexible seating ideas, let’s cover some specifics! Below are alternative seating methods that may work in the classroom.

    You’ll find a list of options for adding proprioceptive input to the seating system, as well as a large list of alternative seating ideas. Some of these are able to be purchased (Amazon affiliate links are included below). Other options are quite frugal or are DIY ideas. Have fun exploring and considering the flexible seating ideas!

    Flexible seating and proprioception input

    Sensory benefits play a big part of choosing the best flexible seating option. While some alternative seating options provide sensory input or feedback via the positioning, others provide heavy input by hugging the student. There are many ways to add weight that provides a calming benefit into seating ideas. Consider some of the options below in adding to a seating system:

    Tips for adding proprioceptive input or weight to a alternative seating system:

    • Add a weighted lap pad
    • Try a therapy band or bungee cord to the chair legs
    • Use a body sock or fabric tube to the legs of the chair. Done in a non-restricting way, this tube can be a place to slide legs into while sitting in a regular chair
    • Bean bag for under/over the child
    • Computer lap desk over the child’s legs (Can be used as a writing station)
    • Homemade bean bags over legs or feet. Slide these into tube socks or knee-high socks and knot two socks together to create a weighted tube to drape over legs or the shoulders.
    • Under-the-table sling
    • Therapy swing in the classroom or outdoor space
    • Add velcro wrist weights to the inside of a 4 inch binder. Use the binder as a lap writing surface.
    • Encourage tummy time writing. (Write, draw, or read while lounging on bellies on the floor. Make this a fun reading experience by asking students to bring in a flashlight from home.)
    • Try a weighted fidget tool that can be used while seated at a desk.
    • Try some of the additions listed and described below.

    Remember that finding an ideal seating system can require a lot of investigation and trial and error. Some students may benefit from one of the ideas listed here and others may require a mix of several options. Keep it individualized and remember to consult your child’s occupational therapists regarding seating ideas.

    Flexible Seating Ideas

    Bean bag chair is a flexible seating idea for the classroom

    Bean Bag Chairs- Use these on the floor or at a low table. Consider lowering a table to 2-3 feet off the ground for a low writing and reading surface. Other times, bean bags can be used in small group work or for quiet reading. Consider using a bean bag as a cover for legs to provide heavy input through the legs. There are some inexpensive bean bag seat options available. There are also a few varieties of stuffed animal bean bag covers that create seats using old stuffed animals.

    Stuffed Animal Bean Bag Seat- Ask around for stuffed animal donations from family and friends! This bean bag cover creates a bean bag seat using old stuffed animals as a seating option and can be adjusted as needed. Add more stuffed animals to fill the seat or take some out depending on the child’s sensory needs. This stuffed animal cover comes in a larger size that can be used as a lounger chair.

    Use a duvet lounger as a flexible seating idea in school.

    Duvet Lounger- Using the same concept of filling a bean bag with upcycled stuffed animals is the DIY version of using a duvet cover as a method to create a lounger seat. Fill a duvet cover with cushions, pillows, or stuffed animals and create a crash pad that can be used as a lounger seat for the classroom or home.

    A t-stool is a great flexible seating idea for the classroom.
    The Stability Tube Chair is a T-Stool seat for the classroom or home.

    T-Stools- A T-stool is a common seat seen in classrooms. The stool allows students to wobble, move, and wiggle just as their bodies need, while reading, writing, learning, and listening! You’ll find a variety of T-Stools available: The Kore Wobble Chair is great for grades K-3 and provides a larger base of support. The Stabili-T Tool Tube provides less support but requires more core contraction and work, allowing for more movement. A T-Stool Single Leg stool offers more vestibular input given a much smaller base of support and an adjustable height option.

    Single leg T-Stool offers a flexible seating option for classrooms.

    Milk Crate with a Ball Inside– Going for a multi-option flexible seating arrangement in the classroom? Adding a large kickball or small therapy ball inside a milk crate is a great option for the frugal. This is one way to create several seats for a lower cost. Line the milk create up under a low table for a centers activity or small group.

    A therapy ball makes a great flexible seating option in classrooms.

    Therapy Ball– Another frugal means of offering opportunities for movement and sensory input in the classroom is using therapy balls. There are many options available on the market and in stores. Search for yoga balls or exercise balls to find the best prices, in many cases. Worried about them rolling away or becoming massive projectiles in the classroom? Make a “station” using a hula hoop as a base.

    The peanut ball seat is a flexible seating idea for classrooms.

    Peanut Seat- A different version of the therapy ball is the peanut ball seat. Kids can use these seats in a variety of ways, sitting or lying prone on the ball. The peanut ball allows for only unidirectional rolling so they can be easier to contain in the classroom setting when compared to a round therapy ball.

    Use a sensory swing indoors or outdoors, a great alternative seating idea for the classroom

    Sensory Swing- A sensory swing is a versatile seating option for reading, small group work, individual work, or a much-needed sensory break. We’ve tried and loved the Harkla Sensory Pod Swing for it’s cozy support and use as a calm-down space. The great thing about Harkla sensory swings is the easy-to install ability to place them in a classroom. We tried ours outdoors too, for an outdoor sensory swing option. Kids love the outdoor sensory swing in a shaded area such as under a patio deck or even hanging from a tree limb.

    A portable laptop stand is a fun idea for flexible seating in the classroom.

    Portable Laptop Stand- This portable laptop stand doesn’t need to be used for just laptops! Use it as a writing station or for a small reading center. I would love to see a DIY version of this…wonder if an awesome school janitor could whip one together using scrap materials? P.S. If you have one of these stands made…or you make one yourself…let me know! I would LOVE to see it!

    Teachers can use a futon in the classroom as a flexible seating idea.

    Futon- An easy way to incorporate flexible seating options in the classroom is to add a futon. You can grab one at a big box store or on Amazon and have it shipped directly to where you need it to go. The benefits of using a futon in the classroom are endless- A “job” can be to open the futon and replace pillows after quiet reading time, adding opportunities for heavy work. Add a few weighted throw pillows and a weighted lap blanket if it’s appropriate. Sometimes lounging during instruction may be just what is needed.

    A scoop rocker chair is a great way to add flexible seating options to the classroom.

    Scoop Rocker Chairs- Kids love these scoop rocker chairs! They are versatile in that they can be used at a lowered table or during circle time. The light-weight and handle make them easy to carry from class to class or to special classes, if needed. There is a special deal on Amazon offering a set of 6 scoop rocker chairs for $48 right now. Who knows how long that price will last!

    Use a scooter board for seating needs in the classroom to add sensory input as part of a sensory diet at school.

    Scooter Board- Have a scooter board in your car trunk (If you are a mobile therapist, this totally applies to you…) or in the physical education gym/supply closet at school? Scooter boards make awesome foot fidgets for when sitting at a desk. Kids can also use them during circle time. (Provide a hoola hoop boundary!) Or to sit on at a low table or when working in a small group. You can find them at great prices on Amazon!

    Use a reading pillow or bed reading pillow  as a flexible seating idea in the classroom.

    Cushions or Pillows- Super easy to get, and at a very inexpensive cost, pillows and cushions are a fantastic way to create a cozy corner or crash area. Kids will love quiet reading time or group work when sitting on a pillow or cushion. Stalk your local resale shops for great prices. You can also ask parents to send in a small pillow or chair pad cushion (the kind you use on kitchen chairs) that can be used at desks for seated work. A reading pillow (the kind you typically use on a bed) works really well in a calm-down space, too.

    Body Pillow- A body pillow can be an inexpensive way to add movement and positioning to the classroom or home. Add it to a futon or couch in the classroom or include it in a calm-down space.

    Rocking Chair- An old-fashioned porch rocker is a wonderful addition to the classroom. There’s just something about rocking back and forth that brings back memories of quieting fussy babies during the night for this mama…but perhaps the calming effects of slow linear rocking can be just the thing to turn classroom fidgeting into focused learning. If the price tag of a traditional wooden rocking chair is a problem, consider adding a camp rocking chair or an upcycled nursery glider. You can find these baby nursing chairs on Facebook marketplace or in consignment shops for a great price.

    Use a balance cushion as a flexible seating tool in the classroom.

    Balance Cushion- Balance cushions can be used on a traditional desk seat or for floor seating. Adding this to your flexible seating line-up promotes an opportunity for attention and balance by adding movement to learning. Add more air or remove some from the cushion to provide more or less movement and stability required.

    Use a beach chair as a cheap flexible seating option in classrooms.

    Beach Chair- A beach chair is a super inexpensive way to add flexible seating options to a classroom. Set up an area with a few beach chairs for group activities or use them in circle time or morning meetings.

    Use a camp chair as a cheap flexible seating idea for the classroom.

    Camp Chair– A camp chair is another inexpensive option for alternative seating. The curved base provides a cozy and calming space for reading or listening to read alouds in the classroom or home. There are a lot of options on the market in the ways of camping chairs. From the basic camp chair to those with rockers, recliners, or loungers, the choice is yours based on needs in the classroom or home.

    Stools- There are a lot of stool options out there. Using a stool in a flexible seating arrangement provides a variety of use for addressing various needs while making arranged seating easier to change out without much effort. Some ideas for stool use in the classroom include high-stools. These can be used at a high top table which also offers an opportunity for standing. They can be arranged into circle time or small groups while offering vestibular input. Other stool ideas include a small foot stools. These can be used at low tables, in circle time, in a small group circle, or at a low table. Try using them while writing on a paper hanging on a wall or at an easel for vertical writing, which offers more proprioceptive input and movement challenges. Stackable stools are still another option. These are great in place of traditional desk chairs in some cases. The great thing about using stools as part of an alternative seating system is that students can move and set up seating options, offering built-in heavy work.

    Use a papasan chair in the classroom as a sensory seating idea for students.

    Papasan Chair– A papasan chair or a lounger seat is great for the classroom. Quiet reading or group learning can be calm and focused with a supportive and cozy seat. You can find a great price on these chairs in big box stores or on Amazon.

    A cube chair is a seating option that meets sensory needs in the classroom.

    Cube Seat- This cube seat is an option that provides support for the back and trunk while containing and providing a boundary for seated activities. This cube seat option is nice because it can be used in one direction as a low seat and flipped over to allow for a higher height or for use as a table writing surface with visual blocks when visual attention is an issue.

    Partially Inflated Beach Ball- Yes, it’s true. Grab a dollar store beach ball and blow it up just a little, so that the air in the beach ball provides a movable cushion. This seating system is appropriate for younger children, but it’s an option for testing out movement in the seat. You’ll find more about using a beach ball cushion in a previous The OT Toolbox blog post.

    Cheap flexible seating ideas for the classroom include  camp chairs, beach chairs, bean bags, and pillows.

    More Flexible seating ideas

    What are your best tricks and tips for adding movement to the classroom while meeting the needs of various students? Flexible seating in the classroom doesn’t need to be complicated. It doesn’t need to be expensive either! Stop back soon, because we’ll have a line-up of DIY flexible seating ideas coming your way very soon.

    Some of the ideas listed above are very budget-friendly, especially if you are able to find items second-hand or by upcycling items. Other budget-friendly seating options include using a cardboard box, cushions, or stadium seats, for example. We’ll have more budget-friendly seating ideas for you coming up soon!

    Budget-friendly flexible seating ideas include camp chairs, beach chairs, carpet spots, and more.