100 Things to do This Summer

Print off this summer activity challenge for kids and keep the kids active and screen free this summer

Having a summer bucket list that keeps kids from the inevitable summer boredom is essential…but a summer bucket list that actually helps kids develop skills and gain stronger bodies is powerful! This list of things to do with kids and families this summer is a list of therapist-approved activities that help promote stronger core muscles, refined fine motor skills, and the very skills kids need to learn, play, and develop.

Summer Bucket List

Need things to do this summer with the kids? Need therapist-approved activities for the whole family, that actually help kids develop motor skills, get off the screens, and build stronger kids? This printable list of summer activities for kids and families is just the thing to battle the boredom this summer!

I am a mom of four. I have heard, “I’m bored!” 4,000 times. Each summer. This summer might look a little different that most years, and because of that, I wanted to come up with summer activities for kids that are therapy-approved. These are summer things and active play ideas. You might call this an adventure challenge. You might call it a therapy home program. What this list of summer activities is for certain, is a way to get the kids active and off the screens. This list of 100 summer things (actually 104 summer things) costs little to no money, use the items found around the house, and meets the needs of kids. It’s part of our Wellness Challenge (More info on that coming next week!)

Print off this summer bucket list activity challenge for kids and keep the kids active and screen free this summer

100 Things to do this summer

There is just something fun about creating a summer bucket list with the kids. But, what if you could hand-pick the very summer activities that help kids gross stronger muscles, gain sensory input that helps with regulation, and motor activities that improve balance, coordination, strength, and endurance? What if your summer bucket list not only built a summer of family memories, but also stronger and more functional minds and bodies?

This printable summer bucket list does just that!

Well, here we are at the tail end of another school year. This is the time that most parents and teachers celebrate the end of school and the start of summer…maybe more than the kids. With the end of the school year, it’s a time to celebrate lazy, hazy days of summer. This year is a different. Parents are celebrating the end of distance learning. Teaching kids at home through distance learning, while working from home is simply not a sustainable task for most. The list below is 100 things to do this summer. These are activities to keep the kids (and the whole family) active, and enjoying time together in play. Play is healing. Play is a learning opportunity.

For pediatric occupational therapists, we know that play is the primary occupation of the child. Play is therapy and therapy is play. These summer activities for kids are designed to boost skills, while helping children emotionally, physically, and mentally.

Kids NEED active play. They NEED to move. Kids need to create, think outside of the box, and they need to be bored. With boredom comes creativity, interest-based thinking, and innovation. This list of 100 things to do this summer might be an idea starter.

The activities on this list fall into six categories: outdoor activities, indoor activities, water activities, games, creative “maker” activities, and imagination activities. Each summer activity challenges movement and is a summer activity that can be added to home programs.

When the kids say they are bored, send them to this summer bucket list checklist and ask them to pick something on the list. With 104 ideas, there is something for each day this summer.

Summer activities for occupational therapy home programs

Summer Bucket List for Occupational Therapy

The activities on this summer activity list inspire active play for kids. They build heavy work to add proprioceptive input. They add movement for vestibular input. They add tactile input. The activities are calming or alerting. They are sensory-based movement activities.

Use this list as a home program. The list can be sent home to parents to inspire active play each day. Or, post it on your fridge and when the kids say they need something to do, ask them to pick one activity. Your challenge is to complete as many of the activities as you can. When boredom strikes, add these activities.

Outdoor Active Play for a summer bucket list

  • Obstacle course
  • Nature walk
  • Climb a tree
  • Kick a ball
  • Driveway chalk
  • Go for a hike
  • Roll down a hill
  • Make a hideout
  • Draw the clouds
  • Run around the house
  • Pick flowers
  • Do jumping jacks
  • Fly a kite
  • Draw with chalk
  • Go swimming
  • Ride a bike
  • Watch the birds

Indoor Activities for a Summer BUCKET LIST

  • Animal walks
  • Couch cushion course
  • Balloon toss
  • Bowl plastic cups
  • Indoor balance beam
  • Freeze dance
  • Yoga
  • Build puzzles
  • Hand clapping games
  • Board games
  • Catch socks
  • Write in a journal
  • Wheelbarrow walks
  • Army crawls
  • Wall push-ups
  • Dance party
  • Play with stickers

SUMMER BUCKET LIST Water Activites

  • Water sensory bin
  • Spray bottle art
  • Squirt gun painting
  • Paint with water
  • Swim
  • Play in a sprinkler
  • Make a sensory bottle
  • Make sponge balls
  • Play in the hose water
  • Water flowers
  • Wash a car
  • play in the rain
  • Water table
  • Water balloons
  • Play in soapy water
  • Bubbles
  • Sink or float tests

Summer Bucket List Games

  • Red rover
  • Play tag
  • Hide and seek
  • Play Uno
  • Play cards
  • Soccer
  • Catch a football
  • Board games
  • Hopscotch
  • 4 Square
  • Basketball
  • Relay Race
  • Charades
  • 7 Up
  • Mr. Wolf
  • Tug of war
  • Lawn tic tac toe
  • Bean bag toss

Creative Activities for Summer

  • Torn paper art
  • Make play dough
  • Build with LEGO
  • Finger paint
  • Make a fort
  • Make a recipe
  • STM project
  • Make lemonade
  • Paint rocks
  • Leaf resist art
  • Coffee filter butterfly
  • Toilet paper roll craft
  • Paper bag puppets
  • Make bird treats
  • Create a song
  • Write a letter
  • Bake cookies
  • Draw

Imagination Play for summer

  • Think of a goal for you to accomplish
  • Dress up
  • Make up a play
  • Invent something
  • Make up a dance
  • Act out a story
  • Write a story
  • Imagine a cardboard box is something unique
  • Pretend to be something or someone else
  • Think of a new ending to a movie
  • Imagine all the things you are grateful for
  • Imagine you had $1,000. What would you do?
  • Think of a random act of kindness. And do it
  • Imagine you were…whatever you could do or be. How can you get to that point? Make a list of the steps.

Get this list in a printable format below! Print it off, hand it out as an occupational therapy home program, or hang it on the fridge and when the kids say they are bored, direct them to the list!

use this activity challenge for kids that are bored this summer or to use in ot home programs
summer activities for kids

More things to do this summer

For more therapist-approved things to do this summer, use the Summer OT Bundle to work on all things handwriting, hand strength, fine motor skills, puzzles, scissor skills, and function in FUN and engaging ways.

If you are a therapist who just doesn’t have it in you to reinvent the wheel this summer, the Summer OT Bundle is for you.

If you are a parent who wants to work on the skills kids NEED to develop so they can write with a pencil and use scissors (but you’re tired of hearing the complaining about doing these activities), the Summer OT Bundle is for you.

If you need resources and tools to fill home programs, extended year programs, summer camps, or to have the babysitter do with the kids, the Summer OT Bundle is for you.

It’s 19 different products, resources, activities and guides to help kids gain the very motor skills they need to thrive. Read more about the Summer OT Bundle here and start having fun in effective ways this summer!

Summer Occupational therapy bundle

Click here to grab your copy of the Summer OT Bundle!

Free Summer Bucket List

Grab a copy of our Summer bucket list and send it home with therapy students for low-prep activities that support skill development. We wanted to select activities that are low budget and can be done over the Summer months. This is a great home program for carrying over skills…in a low effort way.

I love that these bucket list items are in a checklist format too…you can have your kids check off as many tasks as they do, without using a calendar that limits the students to a specific task each day.

This printable is found inside The OT Toolbox membership club (Level 1 free downloads) and Level 2.

Enter your email here to get your copy:

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    Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

    31 Days of Learning with Free Materials

    This blog post on learning at home with materials found around the home is a great resource for school based OT providers because many of the skills we work on in therapy sessions need to be carried over at home to ensure results. It’s the everyday practice that makes skills stick! Here you will find our top picks for DIY learning materials using items found around the home. These are great items for occupational therapy at home, too. The thing is that I love to share activities that build skills using everyday items.

    diy learning materials

    We are big fans of using free and recycled materials in our crafts and activities.  Many times, people ask: “How do you do so many fun activities without spending a fortune?!” Most of our learning, crafts, and activities involve using free or almost free materials.  While we are not a homeschooling family, we do SO many learning through play activities and homework extension skills that work on the skills that my kids are doing at school.  

    Some of our top picks using items found in the home include:



    We’re excited to join homeschooling bloggers with 31 Days of ideas for learning at home.  In this series, we share 31 days of Learning at Home with Free (or almost free) Materials.  Each day, we’ll bring you tips and ideas to use materials you already have in learning and school extension activities. Most of these materials are household items you may already have in the house and others will be recycled materials.

    Use these learning at home ideas using free materials or items already found in the home.

    All of the activities will be using free (or almost free) items to build on learning concepts that are age appropriate for our kids.  We will be sharing ways to use these items in different age ranges, as well.  

    These activities are sure to be a fun way to work on skills over the summer to prevent an academic “summer slide” and ways to creatively learn and extend on school homework and homeschool curricula during the year.  Be sure to stop by each day in July for creative learning ideas as we fill in our month with Free Learning!

     
    31 days of learning with almost free materials.  Learn at home through play with recycled and free materials.

     
     

    Learning with Free (or almost Free) materials at home:

    This series is about easy learning ideas that you can make your own.  Your child’s needs and interests will make these ideas work in your family.  My hope for the 31 Days of Learning with (almost) Free materials is to bring you creative ideas.  

    Start with these games with paper clips to use an everyday material found in most junk drawers.

    Creative & Playful Learning.  Be inspired.


    31 Days of Learning with Free Materials (items you probably already have):


    Click on the images below and the list of posts for our month of learning at home!

     

     

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

     

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Distance learning ideas for learning at home with free materials.

    More Learning at Home Ideas

    These learning with free materials ideas use items you probably have in the home right now to work on math or writing concepts, AND build fine motor skills. Try some of these learning ideas using items in the home, including:

    Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

    Occupational Therapy in Schools

    school based occupational therapy

    Occupational therapy in schools looks a lot different than it has in the past. With social distancing requirements, sanitizing needs, and changes to school schedules, therapists are looking for ways to meet the needs of their students. This year, school-based OT looks different than any other year, and occupational therapy activities will reflect those changes.

    Here, you will find strategies that school-based OT practitioners can use in the classroom as part of push-in services, in small groups, or in an individual, pull-out model.

    What is school based Occupational Therapy?

    One thing that I love about the profession of occupational therapy is that there are many environments and areas to cover. It’s all about the individual and the functional performance areas can be drastically different simply based on the environment.

    In school based OT, occupational therapy providers support students in their education. We might support fine motor, visual motor visual perceptual, sensory motor, executive functioning skills, cognitive skills, physical skills or other area which impacts the student’s ability to learn.

    School-based occupational therapy practitioners are either occupational therapists (OTs) or occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) who use meaningful activities
    (occupations) to help children participate in the tasks they need to do in order to learn and participate in the school day. School based occupational therapy practitioners addresses the physical, cognitive, psychosocial and sensory components of performance which impacts learning.

    This might look like supporting needs in academics, play at the playground or at recess, social participation, self-care skills (ADLs or Activities of Daily Living), and transition skills.

    From targeting skills like executive functioning in schools to developing fine motor skills through play (ideal for the preschool occupational therapy interventions!), school based OT professionals do it all!

    While OT in the medical model can cover similar areas in some ways (underlying developmental areas like fine motor skills and functional skills like self care or handwriting), there are big differences too.

    school based occupational therapy

    What does a School Based OT do?

    We have a really good resource on the occupational therapy scope of practice for school based OT.

    A school based OT can work on many different areas in the school environment. It will all depend areas the student struggles with in their education. Basically, if a student’s developmental challenges impact their ability to participate in their education, then OT may be involved to support these areas of need.

    It all starts with an OT evaluation. Here is information on how to request an OT evaluation.

    Depending on the needs of the student, a school based OT can address:

    • Fine motor skills (impacting areas like holding a pencil, cutting with scissors, using school materials, managing clothing fasteners, manipulating materials like books and glue sticks, etc.)
    • Gross motor skills (impacting areas like moving throughout the school, using playground equipment, walking in the hallway, etc.)
    • Visual-motor integration
    • Sensory processing- For example, here are ideas for using playground equipment to support sensory needs.
    • Sensory Diet creation
    • Coming up with sensory strategies in the classroom to meet needs
    • Self-regulation
    • Handwriting
    • Self-care and daily living skills- for toileting, clothing fasteners, shoe tying, managing coats or jackets for leaving the school building, washing hands, etc.
    • Feeding needs (in some cases)
    • Social skills
    • Play and leisure skills
    • Executive functioning- including organizing materials, attention and focus, problem solving, planning and prioritizing projects, etc.
    • Assistive technology use
    • Environmental modifications- for example, supporting needs like getting on and off the toilet for physically involved students
    • Mobility considerations- accessing areas of the school, bus, auditorium, cafeteria, hallways, etc.
    • Sensory needs in the cafeteria
    • Transition skills
    • Behavioral strategies
    • Motor planning and coordination
    • School participation and access
    • Other areas

    Then, knowing that these are all of the areas that a school based OT provider can address in the school environment, there are different roles the OT plays as well.

    Roles of a School Based OT

    The school based OT has many roles in the school system. AOTA has a resource on this which describes roles like: educator and trainer, resource consultant, advocate, leader, and researcher. These roles typically happen all day long as a school based OT!

    When it comes to actually intervening with students, a school based OT can support students in various models:

    • Direct OT Interventions
    • Consultation
    • Professional Development and Training

    The typical school based OT will do all of these roles in a single day! Let’s cover each of these roles:

    Direct OT Interventions

    Direct treatment is done following the OT screen and evaluation, and completion of OT goals which are added to the student’s IEP. There will be a process which is followed, depending on the state requirements, which may include RTI, MTSS, etc.

    Direct OT interventions can look like one on one therapy sessions, group OT sessions, or push-in therapy interventions. All of these models provide services to support at-risk students. The main thing to remember is that we always use the most appropriate intervention model to improve the academic outcomes and school conditions the individual student’s learning.

    School Based OT Consultation

    Consult refers to periodic “check ins” with educators that are involved with the student. The school based OT professional providing consult services will address specific needs and make recommendations that are carried out in the classroom. The consult process involves checking in with the teacher or teacher assistant on how the recommendations are being used and how it’s going.

    For example, I’ve moved students from direct intervention into a consult model when the student has progressed to a certain point. I’ve used the consult model with students in middle school OT or high school OT who have had several years of direct interventions.

    Another example of consultation is supporting teachers by setting up a calm down corner in the classroom. The teachers that I’ve worked with in this way have been very appreciative.

    Professional development and training

    This can be a tricky area of the school based OT provider’s job requirements, because if the OT provider is a contracted OT, time spent training and educating educators or other members of the staff may not be paid time. However, this time can roll into the consult model if specific and individualized training and education is provided. For example, in one situation, I ran a training to a group of educators and special educators on using the ALERT program with one student. The training session was individualized for the particular student and we went over recommendations for this one student that would be implemented into the classroom. We scheduled this time as a meeting and it was billed to the student because we were setting up the program for this one individual.

    Another area of professional training is to support the entire school by setting up a sensory room. The school based OT professional is a valuable asset for the school in this regard.

    Some admin will pay for this time in the way of a staff development training session. OT providers who are employed by the school district however, may have these requirements built into their contract. It’s just one more component of the school-based OT’s job description!

    Group Occupational Therapy

    Many OTs need to move from a push-in model to pulling each one of their students out of the classroom for therapy intervention. Other therapists will focus on pushing into the classroom for a small group activity with a couple of students who are in the same classroom.

    Regardless of the model, occupational therapy activities will need to have social distancing practice in place and thoughtful use of supplies. Looking for group occupational therapy activities that can be completed with a small group?

    How to address social distancing in small groups in school occupational therapy this year.

    Some recommendations for group OT can include:

    Arranging the occupational therapy room so that students are well-spaced out. Using painters tape to create marked stations for each student can be used for social distancing, but also to help kids work on personal space, body awareness, and spatial awareness. Students can carry this skills over to functional tasks such as standing in lines in the hallway or getting on/off the school bus, or in the community.

    Sensory coping strategies in the classroom can be adjusted to address social distancing requirements while meeting the child’s needs. Think about Simon Says, wall push-ups, I Spy games, etc. These therapy Simon Says commands can target many different skills through play.

    Brain breaks can be used on an individual basis, in small groups, or in the whole classroom.

    Mindfulness activities can be implemented in therapy sessions or in small groups.

    Pushing into the classroom to work with a small group might be something that some therapists have to do per school recommendations and wishes. When pushing in to the classroom, precautions can be taken to try a group activity without close interaction like “I Spy” or “What’s missing?” visual perception games. Add handwriting to these group activities to work on specific skills, too.

    There are points for both push-in service and pull out model of school occupational therapy during a pandemic. For example, pushing into the classroom or using a consultation model can mean less equipment that needs to be sanitized between sessions.

    School Occupational Therapy Tips

    These suggestions can be used by school-based OT professionals in pull-out sessions or in push-in therapy in the classroom.

    Plan ahead. Use this interactive school-based OT planner to plan out activities based on themes and come up with a plan for each week. This can help with accessing materials and using what student’s have in their desks to work on certain skills. (See below for how to use what the student has in their desk.)

    Organize the OT space so that items can not be accessed by students. Keeping items out of reach of students will allow for less sanitation time between sessions.

    Pull out items that will only be used during that session and place each used item into a designated bin or “sanitize zone”. These items can be sanitized after each session and allowed to dry after the use of sanitizer.

    Washing hands before/after each session. When children come into the occupational therapy space as a small group, or when a small group is seen in push-in services, therapists can have each child wash and dry their hands or use hand sanitizer both before and after each session. Make it part of functional goals, if it is something that can be used to meet the goals of the child. Hand-washing offers opportunities to work on eye-hand coordination, fine motor skills, tactile sensory experience, attention, organization, motor planning, and more…all part of a functional activity of daily living. Add in the clean-up portion (throwing away paper towels) and you’ve got aspects of IADL work as well.

    Allow time for washing hands/sanitizing. we know that as therapists, we have a FULL schedule. Some OT professionals juggle 60+ students and many different school districts. But, allowing time for sanitizing and hygiene is a must. It’s not going to be easy, but like everything else, we are going to be forced to slow down and take that necessary time. Try to add that cleaning/sanitizing time right into sessions. The student can do their last activity while the therapist sanitizes materials.

    Incorporate outdoor recess as a therapy session. So many goal areas can be addressed through play and social interaction in outdoor recess. While this “down time” might look different than it has in years past, games and small group activities can be incorporated into occupational therapy sessions, in a “push-in” model that occurs outdoors. Here are sensory diet activities for outdoor recess.

    Outdoor occupational therapy sessions. Sensory processing activities on the playground is an excellent way to work on sensory needs and regulation. What’s more, is that the outdoors offer the perfect environment to work on so many OT goal areas. Take students to the playground for sensory and motor work. Use a blacktop surface for fine motor and core strength activities. Use a shading lawn area to work on various coping strategies. Here are sensory diet activities for the playground.

    Use teletherapy slide decks- Even though OT professionals may be in the schools (or virtual depending on the district and state), there are many free teletherapy resources like OT slide decks available that can be used in person, too. Try these teletherapy activities, specifically this alphabet slide deck that teaches letters with a handwriting, letter formation, and gross motor brain break activity.

    These occupational therapy teletherapy activities can be helpful for remote learning, hybrid models, or even in the classroom.

    School based occupational therapy will have trouble using shared materials and equipment. OTs can create inexpensive school based OT kits for students.

    School-Based OT Kits

    Using an inexpensive kit for each student can be an easy way to target a variety of goal areas with a few materials. Here, you will find suggestions on how to create a kit for each student. This is great for the school based OT who travels from building to building throughout their day.

    Small occupational therapy kits can be created at a low cost. Here are some OT kits that we’ve covered:

    A small kit for each student may be necessary. I tried to come up with a list of LOW cost materials and ones that can be spread across a caseload. For example, a $1 deck of cards can be split up among man students as they each get 5-6 cards. A pack of pipe cleaners or a pack of straws can be distributed among many students, especially if the pipe cleaners are cut into smaller sizes.

    These kits can be organized into a plastic zip-lock baggie for each student. Write the child’s name on the bag and make sanitizing the outside of the bag part of the child’s session. Kids can participate in this aspect, too…an essential self-care ADL of hygiene!

    School Based OT Materials

    OTs working in schools cover a lot of different areas. But, the skilled therapy provider knows how to use a limited supply materials to support a variety of needs.

    Use the items students have in their desks. This year, they will be using more individual items that come from home and are separated from other students, so use those materials. Some items and occupational therapy activities include:

    Markers- Use regular markers in occupational therapy activities like the ones we have listed.

    Scissors- Students will likely have their own set of scissors in their desk. Work through this scissor crash course to work on precision and dexterity.

    Colored Pencils- If students have colored pencils, use them to work on handwriting, visual motor skills, and fine motor work. Here are colored pencil activities.

    Pencil box- If students have a pencil box to hold their materials, use that pencil box in OT activities!

    Crayons- Crayons are always on the back-to-school list. There is a reason why crayons are so effective in building skills…Use those power tools in school occupational therapy sessions. Here is just one way to work on distal finger control with crayons. And, kids will love this 3 crayon challenge!

    Ruler- If kids have a personal ruler in their desk, use that to work on bilateral coordination, eye-hand coordination, fine motor skills, pencil control. Here is one way to use a ruler to help with cursive writing.

    Small pencil sharpener- This is a school supply item that is often times on the back to school supply list. But this year, it will be even more important for students to have their own pencil sharpener. Why not use it to work on arch strength, bilateral coordination, pinch and hand grasp, and endurance? Using a small pencil is effective in tripod grasp and hand strength, but kids can sharpen those pencils and work on skills, too.

    Books- Books and workbooks can be used for proprioceptive input and heavy work.

    Folders and papers- Kids can work on organization and executive functioning skills with the materials they have in their desks. Folders, papers, and all of the “stuff” can get overwhelming fast, especially for the child struggling with impulse control, focus, attention, and other executive functioning skills. Work on those areas with strategies.

    Use these school occupational therapy suggestions to address social distancing, small groups, and changes to school OT this year.

    School Occupational Therapy Activities

    In other cases, it might look like recommendations for a routine or wellness. This wellness wheel can be helpful in addressing the balance of kids at home and at school.

    As therapists, maybe we can offer movement-based activities or brain breaks that can be done as a whole group. Perhaps a consult with a teacher on one student leads to a deep breathing session for the whole class.

    Educating parents, teachers, administrators, and even the students themselves on the connection between movement, coping tools, behavior, and cognitive processes will become more necessary.

    While many students receiving OT in schools have handwriting goals, OT’s are definitely not handwriting teachers. It is a very common functional task that needs support. Here are handwriting activities to try.

    Try some of these mindfulness and coping tools that can be used in school occupational therapy sessions or consultation:

    Incorporate recess activities into a sensory diet to meet self regulation needs.

    Brain breaks can be used on an individual basis, in small groups, or in the whole classroom.

    Mindfulness activities can be implemented in therapy sessions or in small groups.

    This easy coping strategy requires no materials or items, making it sanitizing-friendly.

    These anxiety and sensory coping strategies can be helpful with re-acclimation to the classroom and learning.

    Working on social emotional skills can be helpful in identifying emotions as a result of reentering the classroom…and help kids come up with coping tools.

    Here is a free Space Theme Therapy Slide Deck.

    Here is a free Strait Line Letters Slide Deck.

    Here is a free “Scribble theme” Handwriting Slide Deck.

    Teach Letters with a free interactive Letter Formation Slide Deck.

    Try this free interactive letter writing/brain break slide deck.

    Final note on school based OT

    Remember to take time for self-care as a therapist and address the stress and burnout with coping strategies and balance. Rest. Use these tips for occupational therapists to stay organized yourself. You’ve got this!

    Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

    Occupational Therapy Month (Ideas for 2024)

    Low effort ways to celebrate OT month

    Happy occupational therapy month! April is OT month and every year, I love to recirculate this blog post because it offers so many OT memes and social media graphics for explaining what we do in occupational therapy. This year, we’ve got a few fun free OT PDFs for OT month, too, so if you are working in school based therapy, in clinics, or in homes and want to celebrate the OT profession WHILE building skills, those resources are for you.

    I also wanted to update this blog post because, and I don’t know about you, but I am busier than ever before. There are new challenges that seem to be getting more difficult each year that impact the profession. Some things that I’m seeing that are new challenges for OT professionals include:

    • Demanding schedules (higher number of students on caseload than ever before, more eval requests, extremely high productivity…)
    • Challenging client needs. Kids seem to be struggling just as much as we are. I’m seeing more referrals for self regulation needs, emotional skills, and coping needs, in addition to the very tasks that limit functional performance. We as OT professionals are skilled in supporting the whole person. And it seems like there are more and more of our clients that are struggling in the social/emotional/regulation area than ever. Do you see this too?
    • Limited time in the schedule for making things fun and engaging. When the schedule is full of demanding caseload numbers, it’s hard to find the time to come up with new and fun activities that keep the attention of kids we learn. It’s a recipe for burnout on the part of us as the practitioner, and the child as the client/student.

    What other areas are you seeing struggles in as an OT provider?

    So, because of these things that seem to be more and more prevalent, I added a few ideas to this OT month activity post. I added ideas that don’t take up extra time, or don’t require bringing in cookies (i.e. making cookies for colleagues that might not even recognize the true value of OT). In years past we might have provided a workshop or seminar on the value of OT. But who has time or energy for that?! Just thinking about creating a workshop is exhausting. Then try to find time in the schedule to fit one in…it’s just an unfeasible thing. There’s no way!

    OT Month Activities

    Below, you’ll find easy ways to celebrate OT month so we can celebrate the profession of occupational therapy and share with others what an amazing thing it is to be an OT professional!

    Below, you’ll find ideas for OT month:

    • OT Month memes (share them on social media!)
    • OT month printable activities. Use the free occupational therapy PDFs in treatment sessions. Grab all of them below.
    • If you are a member in The OT Toolbox membership, log in and head to OT Month resources. You’ll love the grab and go activities!
    • Collaboration ideas to celebrate OT month with your colleagues

    Also be sure to check out our occupational therapy jokes post…it’s a fun way to celebrate OT month with colleagues!

    I’ll update this post each day during the first week of April so you can gather your OT month materials. And, don’t forget to grab some of the memes below to share on your social media (just link back to this page) so you can celebrate occupational therapy along with all of your friends!

    occupational therapy month ideas

    OT Month Activities

    There are a five fun, EASY ways to celebrate OT month. Pick out these activities for the whole month of April:

    But before we get started with the OT month ideas, be sure to check out this Autism acceptance month, during the month of April and all year long.

    1. Share OT memes on social media! Scroll below for a new graphic explaining what we do in therapy sessions (and why!). There are enough for every day in April. You’ll even find inspirational occupational therapy memes, too. Here are more OT memes to share.
    2. Get creative with fun and festive OT month activities. Make OT month even better with an April occupational therapy calendar that is a perfect addition to your therapy lesson plans this year. Let’s make occupational therapy month exciting with fresh OT ideas!
    3. Use some of our OT month worksheets and activities that build skills. Not your typical “worksheet”, these are printable activities that get kids moving and functioning, with an emphasis on FUN. You’ll find 5 new OT month activities that celebrate the profession and use therapy materials for occupational therapy awareness.
    4. Grab the OT Materials Bundle! During the month of April, it’s only $8 and includes 13 OT month resources using supplies that we use every day during OT sessions. You’ll also find 8 bonus articles on ways to grow as a professional.
    5. Collaborate with other OT professionals! April is the perfect time to grow as a professional, celebrate others in the field and chat all things OT. In the OT Materials Bundle, you’ll find articles on how to collaborate with others, how to reflect on OT practice, how to find an OT mentor, and ways to network as a busy OT professional.
    Low effort ways to celebrate OT month include wearing a t-shirt for occupational therapy month

    Low-Effort Ways to Promote OT Month

    Those of us working with demanding schedules, the thought of setting up a whole “OT month” event is exhausting! We added this list of ways to celebrate Occupational Therapy Month with little to no effort. These ideas can be integrated into your daily work routines without requiring significant additional effort.

    1. Share Educational Posts on Social Media. Sharing a quick post on Facebook or Instagram is a low pressure way to celebrate the profession. Share some quick facts about OT, educational memes, or inspiring stories about occupational therapy. Check out The OT Toolbox on Facebook and The OT Toolbox Instagram page for one-and-done social media sharing.
    2. Wear OT-Themed Shirts. This is an easy way to promote the profession. Grab an OT-themed shirt from Amazon (affiliate link) and you’re good to go. We have put together a whole page of OT shirts over on our Amazon page. This can serve as a conversation starter and a way to spread awareness about the field. Click here for our OT shirts list (affiliate link).
    3. Change your Email Signature. One super simple way to promote the profession is to edit your email signature. Add a one-liner or a banner to your email signature that celebrates OT Month, such as “Proud to Celebrate Occupational Therapy Month!” or include a brief message about the importance of OT in improving patients’ lives. We included some fresh email banners to the bottom of this blog post that you can add to your email signature.
    4. Tell your Clients! One way to celebrate OT month is to bring it up in therapy sessions. Briefly discuss the significance of OT Month with clients during sessions, and highlight how occupational therapy has impacted their lives. This can enhance client awareness and appreciation of the profession.
    5. Thank another OT! A simple (and free way to celebrate OT month) is a simple thank you to your OT colleagues. I love to thank my co-workers for their dedication and hard work, and it’s a nice way to authentically appreciate the efforts that others put into their work each day. I like to think of it as starting small with a simple word of thanks and appreciation. It can expand and encourage your workplace!
    6. Share OT Resources: Recommend blog posts (like this one!), articles, podcasts, or social media posts about occupational therapy to your friends. We try to share a lot of information in our email newsletters and in blog posts that really reflect the impact that an OT has on development. Simply sharing these blog posts with others can have an impact on the person you share it with, as well as promotes the profession.

    I hope these low cost ways to support and promote OT help!

    Occupational therapy memes for OT month

    Occupational Therapy Month Memes

    As Occupational therapy professionals, we can celebrate the profession that we love by sharing a bit about what we do. This includes informational memes that advocate for the profession of occupational therapy, those we serve, and the interventions that we use as tools to support functional skills. You’ll also want to check out our blog post on occupational therapy memes. This is a fun way to share a joke or two about the profession. We also have a post on sensory memes that are just about sensory processing.

    Below are OT memes that can be shared on social media.

    Each image is an underlying area that influences development and includes a therapist quick tip.  These are occupational therapy tricks and tips! 

    It’s my hope that each day in April, you’ll share your creative ways to work on these skills. 

     

     

     Kinesthetic learning activities
     
    DAY 1: Kinesthetic Learning- Try these kinesthetic learning activities.
     
     Vestibular activities for kids
     
    DAY 2: Vestibular Activities- Try these vestibular activities.
     
     Toys and tools to help with attention
     
     
     Laterality and hand dominance
     
    DAY 4: Try these activities to address laterality and hand dominance.
     
     Proprioception activities
     
    DAY 5: Try these activities to develop and address proprioception needs. 
     
     Distal finger control exercises
     
     
     Neat pincer grasp activities
     
     
     Tactile sensory input activities
     
    DAY 8: Try these activities to develop tactile discrimination and the tactile sense.
     
     Bilateral coordination activities
     
     
     What is motor planning activities
     
    DAY 10: Try these activities if you are wondering, “What is motor planning?”
     

       olfactory sense scented play

    DAY 11: Try these olfactory sense scented play ideas.

     Eye-hand coordination activities
     
     
     Visual scanning activity
     
    DAY 13: This is a fun visual scanning activity.
     
     In-hand manipulation activities
     
    DAY 14: Read more about in-hand manipulation activities.
     
     What is finger isolation
     
    DAY 15: Read more about finger isolation.
     
     Precision of grasp activities
     
     
     Visual discrimination activity
     
    DAY 17: Try this activity to build visual discrimination.
     
     What is visual memory
     
    DAY 18: Read more about visual memory here.
     
     Visual closure activity
     
    DAY 19: Try this activity to develop visual closure.
     
     Form constancy visual perception activity
     
    DAY 20: Try this technique to develop form constancy.
     
     
    DAY 21: This is a fun way to develop visual figure ground skills.
     
     Visual tracking tips and tools
     
     
     auditory processing activities
     
     
     Core strengthening with music
     
     
     intrinsic hand strengthening
     
    DAY 25: Use these strategies to build intrinsic hand strength.
     
     Task initiation executive functioning strategies
     
     
    Wrist extension in occupational therapy month
     
     
     How to help kids learn impulse control
     
    DAY 28: Use these ideas to help kids learn impulse control.
     
     Use animal crackers  oral motor exercise
     
    DAY 29: This is a fun way to practice oral motor exercise.
     
     Visual spatial skills
     
    DAY 30: Try these activities to help with visual spatial skills.

    More OT Month Graphics

    Use these OT month graphics to promote occupational therapy. The professional of occupational therapy is an incredible profession. Let’s share all that we love about OT and bring awareness of this amazing profession to others!

    Occupational therapy graphic
    OT month graphic
    OT month image
    OT month graphic
    Occupational therapy month graphic
    occupational therapy month
    Occupational therapy month image
    Occupational therapy month images to share
    Occupational therapy month quote
    Happy OT month
    What is occupational therapy quote

    Happy Occupational Therapy Month!

    As we step into occupational therapy month again with another April, let’s remember what it is that makes our profession special. Occupational therapists (OTs) and occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) help patients to participate in every day occupations! We help people do the things that occupy others’ time. We help others do the things that matter most to them It’s all of the most meaningful activities a person desires and needs to participate in for daily life.

    For children this may include things like doing cartwheels, riding a bike, getting dressed, writing their name, brushing their hair, or playing with friends. 

    For us as professionals, the most important thing IS to serve and support others. OT is the most encouraging, enlightening, and inspiring profession there is, and YOU are a part of that light!

    YOU make a difference in the world. That difference makes a ripple of impact. Helping one person achieve a small goal effects that person’s family and everyone they are in contact with. Now multiply that wellbeing to your entire caseload.

    • Occupational therapists are difference makers!
    • Occupational therapy assistants are difference makers!
    • We literally do, as occupational therapy professionals, what matters most in this world.

    Happy OT month, fellow occupational therapy professionals!

    Occupational Therapy Email Signature

    One way that we mentioned above, which is a low effort way to celebrate OT month, is by updating your email signature. Here are some email signature banners that you can add to your email. So, every time you respond to an email, this celebration of OT month will go out, promoting the profession!

    To use these OT email signature banners, copy and save the picture to your computer or device. Then go into your email settings and add the image to your email signature. That’s all you need to do! Then, you can celebrate occupational therapy all month long!

    April is OT month banner
    Happy OT month banner
    Happy occupational therapy month banner
    Happy occupational therapy month banner for email
    April is occupational therapy month banner
    April is occupational therapy month email signature
    April is OT month signature banner
    OT month email signature banner

    Have fun celebrating all that occupational therapy is!

    Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

    Managing Resistance in Therapy

    how to engage a resistant child in therapy

    So often, we see a child of therapy evaluation and find a need for therapy intervention, but that’s where the resistance begins. Here we are talking how to manage resistance in therapy, and not only that; but how to engage with kids so that we get the truly motivated buy-in for engaging in occupational therapy interventions

    We’ve all had to pull some magic out our our OT hat to engage a resistant child in therapy. The thing is that working on hard things is…hard! Let’s go over some therapy activities for resistant clients. We’ll also cover examples of client resistance in therapy. You might have seen some of these a time or two in your therapy sessions!

    Address client resistance in therapy

    Resistance in therapy

    If you’ve worked in OT for even a short time, you have probably experienced resistance from your clients. There are many reasons for barriers to participation in occupational therapy intervention. From differing perceptions to the outcomes of OT interventions, to not understanding what occupational therapy is and what it can do for the client, understanding therapy process is just one aspect of client resistance. 

    There are so many different reasons why a therapy client my object therapy participation. Encouraging participation in therapy sessions and functional engagement in daily tasks can be a couple of underlying areas that we are trying to address in therapy sessions. But what’s more is that beyond client resistance, there may truly be functional occupations that are being missed or delayed as a result of resistance to therapy.

    Additionally, when children are asked to participate in a therapy activity or to stop doing a preferred activity and move to another, sometimes challenging, task. In this way the transitions for children to move from preferred to non-preferred activities is sometimes hard to get their “buy in,”.

    It doesn’t have to be that way, however.

    Let’s cover various techniques to support children showing resistance in therapy sessions. We’ll also cover how to support follow transitions and make engaging in therapy fun through meaningful games and some simple resources to utilize to make sure therapy activities happen smoothly throughout the therapy session. 

    examples of client resistance in therapy

    I’m sure, if you’ve worked with kids before, that you’ve seen a few (or all) of these examples of client resistance in your therapy sessions.

    • Complain about therapy activities
    • Express doubts about the therapy’s effectiveness
    • Challenge the therapist’s suggestions
    • Question the purpose of the therapy
    • Non-Compliance with therapy tasks
    • Refuse to participate
    • Skips therapy sessions
    • Silent during therapy
    • Refuses to engage
    • Changes the subject
    • Sarcasm or joking as a way to avoid participating
    • Hostile behaviors
    • Make excuses
    • Tantrum or meltdown
    • Leaving the room or therapy area
    • Ignoring instructions
    • Complaining about therapy tasks

    Other things like body language or bad language can be examples of resistance to participate in therapy, too. In a few cases, I’ve experienced physical aggression during therapy sessions. These situations were with students who had behavior plans in place by the school. Some students had a history or physical aggression across all classrooms. If there are events like hitting, kicking, biting, spitting, throwing objects, or other physically aggressive acts, then therapy sessions would stop for the safety of the student and others, including myself as the therapist.

    It can depend on the student, however, a behavior plan will have a list to follow in various situations, and there might even be a paraprofessional that is with the student at all times.

    Why do clients show resistance in therapy?

    Before we get into strategies to encourage functional participation, let’s break down why we may see failure to participate during therapy sessions.

    Therapy makes the client look and feel “different” than everyone else- Going to a therapy session is not something that every child or teen does, so attending therapy can be a reason that makes them look different. This can lead to resistance to participate and a feeling of dread when it comes time for therapy sessions. 

    Especially for our middle school students receiving OT services, and for individuals who are very much aware that they are doing something that not everyone else is, this can be a big deal.

    Don’t understand occupational therapy- Many times, we as therapy professionals are ready to evaluate or treat a resistant client and the individual states something like, “why are you here?” or “what is occupational therapy” or “who are you and why are you asking me these questions?”!

    Do any of these questions sound familiar? Many times clients/patients/students are referred to occupational therapy evaluations without knowledge. This is the case in hospital or clinical situations when OT orders are part of the inpatient process. In the school based scenario, a student is referred to occupational therapy by the IEP team or a child’s parent. Refer to differences between an IEP and 504 for more information.

    Many times, the individual has no idea they are going to be seen by OT. This can lead to refusal and a resistance to participate. Whether you are working with a child in the classroom setting in a push in model or pulling a child out of the classroom, this can be a reason that resistance to participate in therapy occurs. 

    Therapy is hard- Therapy tasks aren’t always easy, especially if your child is participating in an activity that they love doing. If asked to step away from an activity before they are done, they may become upset and non compliant. This can be true with the child working on handwriting tasks or working on strengthening. It is HARD to write and copy all of those sentences. It requires a lot of concentrated effort doing something difficult.

    The same is true for strengthening tasks that require engagement and consistent use of muscle groups. It’s easier to regress to that comfortable and “easy” positioning. As an adult, if you are working on a project on your computer, how much advance notice would you like before you have to finish what you are working on and move to a new activity?

    Therapy is a change from the normal day to day activities- Even if the typical day to day functions is something that is being worked on, including participation and functional performance, it can be a change from the “norm” to engage in therapy sessions.

    Would you appreciate your coworker walking in while you are typing mid sentence, closing your laptop lid, taking you by the hand stating “it is time for the staff meeting. Let’s go!”

    Or would you rather they say “just letting you know that you have five minutes before the staff meeting, see you there!”

    My guess is that you would like to have some advanced notice before you have to stop working. This is the same for a child who is playing. When they are actively engaged in an activity, they have a plan and don’t appreciate being interrupted in the middle of it. This could be anything from playing with play dough, to completing a puzzle or pretend play. 

    Therapy challenges the unexpected- Sometimes when kids or teens participate in therapy sessions, they don’t know what to expect. They know that they are working on specific skills, but what if that skill of task is so new and novel that the fear of the unknown exists.

    This can be particularly true with things such as toileting. For the child with interoceptive sensory considerations, they may have no idea how a bowel movement on the toilet feels.

    This fear of the unknown can be a real area of resistance. 

    Clients Resist certain parts of therapy

    What if children don’t want to stop what they are doing and resists participation in some therapy activities?

    You have probably seen this in action when a child LOVES a specific therapy game or activity. It might be that they love anything to do with a therapy swing. But what might really be happening is that the child is overly focused on that item because it’s been a cause for positive feedback in the past.

    Or maybe, if the item is a sensory activity like a sensory swing, that the child receives the sensory input that they crave.

    Or, perhaps the preferred activity is a highly motivating activity because it’s a theme or character that the child really loves. In these cases it can be very difficult to move from the preferred activity to a non-preferred activity. 

    In many cases, the child even becomes overstimulated or dysregulated as a result of focusing on that one particular activity, or as a result of reciting too much stimulation or a certain type of sensory input from that one activity. 

    When a child feels like they don’t want to transition to a new activity or that they didn’t have enough time to finish the task they were completing, they may become upset and hard to calm down. 

    In these cases, using a positive redirection activity that will give children the ability to comfort themselves and they are feeling overwhelmed.

     Giving them time and space to calm down is very important, especially in a non-threatening way. If the child is upset, part of the therapeutic process is to support the child to calm down, identifying feelings and emotions, and offering support. Therapy professionals can guide them through communicating how they are feeling and participating in solving the problem at hand. 

    how to engage a resistant child in therapy

    How to engage a Resistant Child in therapy

    the child that resists therapy sessions is struggling. But that doesn’t mean the therapy strategies and goals are not appropriate!

    Whether you are working in a clinic, hospital setting, or school-based, resistance to therapy happens. When giving instructions and laying out transition expectations to young children, it is important to keep in mind their individual and collective developmental age range in order to give clear and concise directions.

    The following are strategies to engage the child or teen showing resistance in therapy. 

    This can include components of getting buy-in that are important to include in every direction given to a young child. 

    1.Clear and concise expectations- Having a plan of expectations and then using clear directions in those expected task completion is a key way to support engagement.

    Use these tips to support and give clear expectations with clients:

    • When giving a statement or direction to a child, make sure that it is easy to understand.
    • Keep in mind the age of a child and their receptive language skills.
    • Using one or two step directions, children will be able to remember what is being told to them.
    • When giving the directions, make sure you are in the same room as the child (not yelling “it’s time for dinner” from the kitchen area), preferably kneeling down at their eye level.

    Additionally, certain tools can support the “flow” of therapy sessions and offer a visual cue for participants with concrete expectations. Strategies that can support these expectations in therapy include:

    2. Stick to Routines. When we work on daily routines, such as bedtime, clean up time, morning routines, leaving the house, etc., we use routines to make sure that the routine of events is the same every time. This strategy can carryover to therapy interventions. Using a similar routine for therapy sessions can include premeditated steps in order to allow children to feel successful and prepared for what is coming next.

    Here is a great example of a therapy session routine:

    1. Arrive to therapy
    2. Check in
    3. Sit in the same spot in the waiting room
    4. Move to the therapy clinic area
    5. Hellos and talk about last session
    6. Discuss areas that the client wants to work on
    7. Warm up activities
    8. Address identified needs
    9. Preferred activity
    10. Cool down activities
    11. Discuss home program and plan for next visit

    Another schedule strategy that can be used for countering resistance to participation in therapy includes staggering preferred activities with non-preferred tasks. For the child that struggles with handwriting and really is resistant to handwriting tasks, you can stagger preferred activities (while selecting options that also address underlying areas of need or other goal areas). You can come up with a treatment intervention plan that includes options for the client to select from that are both preferred and non-preferred.

    This strategy can look like:

    • Arrive to therapy
    • Check-in
    • Select activities to address based on goal areas
    • Preferred activity
    • Non-preferred activity
    • Preferred activity
    • Non-preferred activity
    • Preferred activity
    • Cool down activities
    • Discuss home program and plan for next visit

    One of the best ways to make transitioning from a preferred activity to a non-preferred activity is to make it FUN! When the transition process is exciting, children will join right in. 

    You can find more examples of daily routines that are used for functional participation here on the website. 

    3. Utilize Auditory Cues– To make sure that the child in therapy hears what you are saying, when you are giving them the directions, have them stop and look at you.

    A fun way to do this with young children is to have a saying such as “1,2,3 FREEZE” where they put their finger over their lips and look at you. There are so many other fun “stop and listen” sayings and games that you can find in this video.

    4. Creativity- If you’ve ever worked with kids before, then you know that engaging a resistant child in therapy sessions requires creativity, flexibility, and patience. The kids we serve are struggling in some way (developmentally, cognitively, with sensory processing, or many other ways) and that impacts the way they do things they need to be doing or want to do (This is the functional aspect of OT).

    When we work with kids on these challenges, it can be hard for them to actually do the things that we ask them to do. For example, your student with handwriting goals might think “Writing is hard, so why do I want to do hard things?”

    It’s our job as the OT professional to help our clients and patients to feel comfortable while building skills. That might mean using less of a structured session and more of a safe space where the child can express themselves.

    We do this with our OT thinking caps on, and sometimes that requires some real creativity.

    Some of the ways I like to have fun in occupational therapy sessions to make kids feel more comfortable (while being creative about working on those goals) includes:

    1. Play: Play is the work of the child at all ages. You can use play activities, games, toys, and creative activities that align with therapeutic goals.
    2. Use their Interests: Tailor your OT activities to the child’s interests. That might mean using specific therapy themes or writing interests-based handwriting lists. When you incorporate interests into OT sessions, it can increase engagement and motivation.
    3. Sensory Strategies: The benefit with using sensory activities like slime, sensory bins, etc. is that it is engaging and motivating. Some kids love (and crave) this sensory input.
    4. Movement: Some of our kids LOVE to move. They crave movement. You can incorporate activities that involve movement, such as obstacle courses, yoga, or simple exercises. These can help the child focus, reduce anxiety, and improve their mood.
    5. Storytelling and Role-Play: You can help your therapy client to participate by including storytelling or role-play. This can help them express emotions, practice social skills, and work through challenging scenarios in a safe and controlled environment. Floor play does this to meet OT goals.
    6. Crafts: Use OT crafts to help kids to express their feelings and experiences. Some kids love drawing, painting, or sculpting. This can be particularly effective for children who may have difficulty expressing themselves verbally.
    7. Technology and Digital Tools: The draw of the screen is real! But with recent advances in technology, we as OTs can use that to our advantage to support very functional skills. Use OT apps to promote the skills that need development.
    8. Choice and Control: A simple choice board can do wonders! Give children some control over their therapy sessions by allowing them to choose between activities. This can help increase their sense of autonomy and engagement.
    9. Build a Therapeutic Relationship: You learned about “therapeutic use of self” in your OT classes. That tool is a real strength! Spend time building rapport and trust with the child. Show genuine interest in their thoughts, feelings, and interests. A strong therapeutic relationship can reduce resistance and increase engagement. We have some rapport activities in a blog post about back-to-school because that time of year can be a time to strengthen those OT/student relationships.

    Games for Resistance in Therapy

    Here are four games that make participating in therapy interventions fun. Use these ideas to counter resistance to therapy activities.

    1. Timer Games – Using timer games are great for making clean up time fun. These games include: “How fast can you clean up all the toys?” or “Can Charlee put all the blue blocks away faster than Henry can put all the green ones away?” When children are engaged in a game during clean up, it’s not so boring!  
    1. Movement Songs – Pairing movement and music together to get children to a specific place will make the transition very exciting. I love using songs like “We are the dinosaur marching marching” or  “Flap your arms like a butterfly to the line” or “Jump like a bunny  all the way, over to the _____.” When pairing a movement activity with a direction and melody, children learn that transitioning to the new activity location is just as fun as what they have been doing! 
    1. Jobs – Making children an active part of the next activity, but giving them a very specific job, makes them feel important and gives them purpose for moving to the next activity. For example, if you want your child to transition to nap time, they can help pick out the books that are going to be read to the children, or they can put a new pillow case on their pillow. If children are transitioning to mealtime, they can set the table, or hand the other children their name cards. There are so many different jobs that allow children to become part of the new activity.
    1. Visual Supports- When creating a routine for the classroom or at home, there are several ways to include visual supports to make transitions easier for the children and for you. Using a visual schedule will make your days so much calmer! You can create a visual schedule for different parts of your day (such as morning and bedtime routines) or for your full day. The visual schedule will help children understand what is coming next. 

    Every day children are asked to transition at least 50, maybe 100 times. That is A LOT! Children don’t always have a lot of control over what is going to happen during their day, but allowing them time in between new activities, making the transition fun, and giving them a job to feel important, will make transitions feel less like a chore. As adults, if we stay consistent, giving children directions while being mindful of their developmental level, our days will become less stressful and more fun!

    Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

    Rainbow Activities for Child Development

    rainbow a

    Here, you will find rainbow activities that are powerful and effective activities to help with child development. I’ve strived to pull together rainbow sensory activities, crafts, fine motor activities, visual motor activities, and movement ideas. Scroll through the various rainbow theme ideas to promote skills for all ages. These are great additions to your Spring occupational therapy activities!

    One of our favorite ideas is a fruit loop rainbow craft, but you’ll love the others below, too.

    We’ve also added a free printable therapy activity sheet with rainbow activities that can be used in planning therapy sessions. Scroll to the bottom of the blog post to grab this resource.

    rainbow activities

    These are developmental activities to add to your occupational therapy interventions.

    Rainbow Activities for Therapy

    Each rainbow therapy activity below is designed to promote multiple aspects of child development. These are powerful motor activities for developing areas that help kids with functional tasks, coordination, movement, and learning.

    Rainbow activities for child development and occupational therapy interventions

    Some of our favorite rainbow activities include colorful sensory bins, rainbow markers and crayons, and making rainbow crafts. The nice thing about using a rainbow theme in therapy is that you can use what you have on hand.

    • Sort paperclips or craft pom poms by color.
    • Pick a colored pencil out of a box and use it to write the name of the color.
    • Ask the students to name their favorite color and then use it as a rainbow writing prompt to write about things that are typically that color.
    • Cut colorful paper into strips and glue it to a cloud shape cut from paper.

    There are so many easy ways to come up with rainbow ideas that build on skills. Let’s take a look at a few more ideas…

    Rainbow activities for kids to use in occupational therapy sessions to develop skills like fine motor skills, sensory processing, and executive functioning skills.

    Rainbow Fine Motor Activities

    A rainbow therapy theme is great during the Spring months.

    This time of year, rainbows are the way to go for building fine motor skills. Try some of these activities to work on fine motor strength, coordination, hand eye coordination, motor planning. You’ll see improvements in pencil control, dexterity, precision, in-hand manipulation, and fine motor skill work.

    rainbow pencil control activities

    Rainbow pencil control activities– All you need is some colored pencils and paper to work on pencil control, visual motor skills, and hand strengthening.

    color mixing rainbow handwriting activity

    Rainbow Color Mixing Handwriting Activity– Grab a pack of markers. Kids can work on color mixing and letter formation, letter size, spacing, and handwriting legibility.

    Rainbow beads

    Rainbow bead bracelets– Use beads and pipe cleaners to make a set of rainbow beads and develop pincer grip, in-hand manipulation skills, bilateral coordination, open thumb web space, arch development, and eye-hand coordination skills.

    Pipe Cleaner Rainbow Craft– An alternative to the rainbow bead bracelet is our pipe cleaner rainbow that we made many years ago. This activity was fun because we built a 3 dimensional rainbow…and then used it in our leprechaun trap!

    To make the rainbow pipe cleaner, use colorful pipe cleaners and colorful beads. Ask your students to sort the beads into colors of the rainbow, and then match the beads to the same colored pipe cleaner. Bend the pipe cleaners into a rainbow arch. Then, push the ends of the pipe cleaners into a foam block.

    teach prewriting lines to kids with a rainbow theme

    Rainbow PreWriting Lines Activity– This free therapy slide deck is a fine motor and gross motor activity to help kids with pre-writing skills. Kids can work on finger isolation, eye-hand coordination, visual motor skills, and more.

    Pot of Gold Coins– Cover cardboard circles or washers with foil to make gold coins. If you can grab some gold wrapping paper or tissue paper, use it to wrap the circles while kids develop bilateral coordination, precision, hand strength, and motor skills.

    In this blog post, you’ll also see how to tie scraps of fabric to create a rainbow. This is a fun bilateral coordination activity that builds hand eye coordination skills as well.

    Rainbow Play Dough Fine Motor Activity – Use this hand strengthening activity to work on finger isolation, in-hand manipulation, dexterity, and arch development. Here is a rainbow play dough recipe.

    Rainbow Bottle Activity– All you need is an empty water bottle and colorful craft pom poms to work on finger isolation, in-hand manipulation, bilateral coordination, hand eye coordination, and dexterity. This is a great rainbow activity for preschoolers or toddlers.

    Rainbow Fine Motor Sort– All you need is an ice tray and colorful craft pom poms to work on in-hand manipulation skills, sorting, precision, dexterity, and finger isolation.

    Rainbow Scoop and Sort– A simple rainbow sensory bin can include beads, yarn, or any colorful materials and a handful of cotton balls. Add a kitchen utensil or scoops, tongs, or other tools to scoop, manipulate, and work on coordination, and fine motor skill development.

    Rainbow Fine Motor Work on the Window– Kids can cut foam sheets into strips to work on scissor skills. Then, stick these to a window or even a shower wall to work on precision, wrist extension, wrist stability, shoulder strength and stability, core strength, and the coordination skills needed for fine motor tasks like pencil control and dexterity.

    Rainbow cups

    Rainbow Cups– Make a set of these colorful cups and work on bilateral coordination, eye-hand coordination, core strength, motor planning, and more.

    Fine Motor Flip and Fill A-Z Letter Pages

    Rainbow Flip and Fill Fine Motor Activity– Kids can use these alphabet worksheets to fill the upper case or lowercase letters and develop fine motor skills like in-hand manipulation, eye-hand coordination, precision, open thumb web space, and more, with these color activities in the Colors Handwriting pack and bonus pages.

    More ideas for supporting fine motor skills with a rainbow theme include:

    Fruit Loop Rainbow Craft: One therapy tool that I love to use during the Spring months is Fruit Loop cereal rings. Why? It’s a great shape for little fingers to work on pincer grasp and eye hand coordination, but it’s also an inexpensive therapy tool, too.

    1. All you need to do is create a rainbow template on paper or cardstock.
    2. Ask your student to separate the cereal by color. This is a great color sorting activity.
    3. Next, show your student how to glue the cereal pieces onto the rainbow.

    This activity encourages fine motor skills such as picking up small objects, hand-eye coordination, and color recognition. Here are more Fruit Loop Rainbow craft ideas.

    Rainbow Writing: If you need an inexpensive therapy activity that uses items you already have, rainbow writing is it. Kids like to rainbow write, especially if you use motivating words or a different writing surface than they are used to.

    1. First, gather your materials. You’ll need a surface and colorful writing utensils (dry erase board and markers, sidewalk and chalk, paper taped to a window and crayons, fabric and markers, or just use paper and crayons).
    2. Show the students how to make a rainbow shape using one color. Ask them to draw a large arch.
    3. Next, use each color of the rainbow to draw right over the first arch.

    You’ll end up with a colorful mess…but it’s a great activity for building skills!

    This activity supports visual motor skills, pencil control, and crossing midline. If you use a dry erase board or a window, ask your students to use a spray bottle with water to erase the colors and then watch those colorful rainbow drips!

    Color Rice for Sensory Bin: One sensory motor activity that I love is a good old fashioned sensory bin. Kids love a sensory bin, and as the OT practitioner, you can add or pull out a couple of items to meet specific needs, and then use the sensory bin with your caseload.

    1. Dye rice with different colors like we do in our rice sensory table blog post.
    2. Fill a large container with the colorful rice.
    3. Add tools and cups to scoop and pour. (Spoons, funnels, containers)

    Of course, with any sensory bin, you would need to consider the safety of the child, and a color rice sensory bin would be no different. This activity works on motor planning, sensory touch, and motor skills.

    Rainbow rice sensory bins can be used for other skill areas like handwriting by adding color words and asking kids to copy the word that they find in the sensory bin.

    Rainbow Worksheets: The members in The OT Toolbox membership know that we have many rainbow worksheets that support a variety of skill areas. There are handwriting activities, coloring tasks, fine motor activities, scissor tasks, rainbow crafts, rainbow self regulation activities, rainbow sensory bin materials, and much more. Like all of the materials in The OT Toolbox membership, our rainbow worksheets support hands-on skill building through play.

    Rainbow Visual Motor Activities

    Visual Motor integration activity using a marker ladder activity

    Rainbow Ladder– Use this rainbow visual motor activity to work on visual scanning, visual tracking, visual figure ground, form constancy, visual discrimination, and other visual motor skills needed for handwriting and reading. We used this in a cursive handwriting activity, but you could use the same concept in teaching upper and lowercase letter identification, number writing, sight words, or other multi-sensory learning strategies.

    Copy a rainbow visual motor activity

    Rainbow Drawing Visual Motor Activities– Use this occupational therapy teletherapy slide deck to encourage kids to copy rainbow drawing forms and build pencil control, visual perceptual skills with simple and complex drawing skills.

    Emotion Matching Game– Use this rainbow matching game to teach emotions and social emotional developmental milestones and skills. It’s a powerful way to work on visual perceptual skills too, including visual scanning, eye-hand coordination, visual discrimination, and other visual motor skills.

    Colors Pre-Writing Pencil Mazes

    Rainbow Colors Pre-writing Lines Mazes– These mazes are great for developing pencil control, eye-hand coordination skills, fine motor dexterity, and visual motor skills.

    Rainbow Sensory Play

    When kids participate in sensory play experiences, they develop tactile sensory exposure and can explore tactile experiences. Use these activities to learn colors, and learn through play! Try these multisensory learning activities to teach colors, and develop sensory exploration through play.

    rainbow breathing exercise

    Rainbow Deep Breathing Exercise– Use this rainbow deep breathing exercise as a calming self regulation activity to help with coping strategies and mindfulness.

    Rainbow Sensory Bottle– In this rainbow sensory bottle, we used friendship thread to incorporate all the colors of the rainbow, but making a calming sensory bottle can use any materials you have on hand. Use the sensory bottle as a calming sensory tool.

    Rainbow Playdough– When kids play with play dough, they gain proprioceptive input through their hands and fingers. This heavy work input is a powerful resistive activity that “wakes up” the hands but also can be calming.

    Rainbow Sensory Bins– Making rainbow sensory bins are easy but there are big benefits. Kids can use sensory bins as a tactile sensory experience, but with fine motor benefits like tool use, scooping sorting, fine motor precision, dexterity, manipulation skills, coordination, and so much more. Add sight words and high-frequency words, or math manipulatives to use these rainbow sensory bins in multi-sensory learning opportunities.

    Gold Coin Sensory Bin– Use a sensory bin base and add some ribbons and the yellow pieces from a Connect 4 game for a sensory bin.

    rainbow xylophone

    Rainbow Xylophone– Kids can explore sound, STEAM concepts, and motor skills in this auditory processing activity.

    Rainbow Crafts to develop skills

    These rainbow crafts are powerful ways to work on fine motor skills, manipulation of tools, dexterity, strength, motor planning skills, handwriting, and more.

    Rainbow binoculars craft– Kids can make this rainbow binoculars craft and work on scissor skills, bilateral coordination motor planning, and precision. Then, use this rainbow craft to encourage visual scanning, visual perceptual skills, and more. Can you use this in a color scavenger hunt?

    Egg carton rainbows– Use a recycled egg carton and kids can paint in this process art activity that develops grasp, precision, eye-hand coordination, and sensory experiences.

    Rainbow Snacks

    When children are active in the kitchen, they develop so many fine motor skills, executive functioning skills. The kitchen is a prime location for developing working memory, attention, direction following, as well as offering learning opportunities, as well. Fine motor skills in the kitchen are just some of the benefits of cooking with kids!

    Try these rainbow recipes that kids can make and are a perfect addition to a rainbow theme.

    Rainbow Snacks– These rainbow snack cups are perfect snacks for preschool. When kids help to make them, they can work on cutting foods, sorting, visual scanning, and fine motor skills, too!

    Color Snack– Pair kitchen activities with a popular children’s book to explore colors and developing skills in the kitchen with kids.

    Colors Handwriting Kit

    Rainbow Handwriting Kit– This resource pack includes handwriting sheets, write the room cards, color worksheets, visual motor activities, and so much more. The handwriting kit includes:

    • Write the Room, Color Names: Lowercase Letters
    • Write the Room, Color Names: Uppercase Letters
    • Write the Room, Color Names: Cursive Writing
    • Copy/Draw/Color/Cut Color Worksheets
    • Colors Roll & Write Page
    • Color Names Letter Size Puzzle Pages
    • Flip and Fill A-Z Letter Pages
    • Colors Pre-Writing Lines Pencil Control Mazes
    • This handwriting kit now includes a bonus pack of pencil control worksheets, 1-10 fine motor clip cards, visual discrimination maze for directionality, handwriting sheets, and working memory/direction following sheet! Valued at $5, this bonus kit triples the goal areas you can work on in each therapy session or home program.

    Click here to get your copy of the Colors Handwriting Kit.

    More Rainbow Ideas

    For more rainbow crafts and ideas to support development of skills, check out the Spring themed activities in our Spring Crafts library. There are fun ways to use a paper plate to create a rainbow while working on scissor skills…and just so many other Spring tools for supporting the development of kids of all ages.

    Free Printable List of Rainbow Activities

    One tool we have in The OT Toolbox membership club is therapy themes. Rainbow themed activities is one of them! We’ve put together a list of rainbow activities that can be used in therapy sessions to build skills and created a printable therapy lesson plan.

    This resource is a hit with therapy providers because they can pull out the sheet and plan their week of therapy sessions with just a handful of activities. This printable is inside The Membership Club but you can grab a copy here as well. Enter your email address into the form below and we’ll send it to you.

    Rainbow Lesson Plan for Therapy

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      Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Snowy Farm Sensory Bin

      farm sensory bin

      Welcome to a winter wonderland on the farm! In today’s blog post, we’re diving into the magical world of sensory play with a snowy farm sensory bin. This delightful activity combines the charm of a farm theme with the sensory joys of winter, creating an engaging and therapeutic experience for children. This is one of our favorite winter sensory bins because you can focus on so many different underlying skills through play.

      Farm sensory bin

      Whether you’re a parent looking for creative winter activities or a therapist seeking effective tools for skill development, this farm sensory bin is tailored to captivate young minds while addressing various therapeutic areas. Read all about sensory bins in general as a therapy tool to support skill development.

      Farm Sensory Bin

      We love a great occupational therapy sensory activity because cold winter temps and less daylight hours mean you might not have a chance to get little ones outside as often as you might like. Plus, a farm sensory bin goes great with a Farm theme in preschool or in occupational therapy sessions.

      This farm sensory bin has a winter theme, but you could actually set up a farm sensory bin any time of year. In fact, we loved this play dough farm activity that goes along with a farm theme and supports fine motor skills as well as sensory input.

      The base of shredded paper sets the stage for a snowy landscape, providing a tactile experience that stimulates sensory exploration and fine motor skills.

      This winter-themed sensory bin features a collection of farm toys and mini figures, turning the snowy setting into a farm scene ready for imaginative play.

      Farm Animal Sensory Bin

      The farm animal sensory bin takes the excitement a step further, introducing miniature figures of beloved farm animals. As children dive into the bin, they engage in hands-on exploration, feeling the textures of the shredded paper, maneuvering the farm toys, and creating their own farm stories.

      This sensory-rich experience enhances tactile input, encouraging self-confidence as children express themselves through play.

      Farm Theme Sensory Bin Setup

      Setting up the farm theme sensory bin is a breeze:

      1. Begin with a large container filled with shredded paper to create a snowy base. You could also use other sensory bin base materials if you don’t have shredded paper on hand.
      2. Add farm toys such as barns, tractors, and mini figures of animals to bring the farm to life.
      3. Encourage creativity by incorporating small props like faux trees or fences. This simple yet effective setup provides a canvas for endless imaginative scenarios.

      Before this weekend, we’ve had a super cool spring.  With a handful of days where it snowed.  We are ready for outside play in short sleeves, running in the yard, and grass stained knees.

      But, we have been loving this fun play activity too 🙂

      We had a boat load of shredded paper from doing taxes recently.  It came in pretty handy for a small world snowy farm scene!

      We put some farm animals, the Little People barn, and of course, Little Guy’s construction vehicles.

      (how else can the farmer move allll that snow??)

      Little Guy went to farm-town with imagination stories and pretend play.

      Baby Girl loves to make the animal sounds and had a blast finding them in the shredded paper.

      Why This Farm Sensory Bin Helps Development


      Beyond simply playing in the sensory bin, this farm sensory bin serves as a therapeutic tool to foster development in various areas.

      You can target areas in:

      Fine motor skills are particularly important in early childhood development, as they lay the foundation for more complex tasks in the future. 

      Tactile discrimination, exploration, and sensory desensitization are effectively addressed with sensory bins as they are playful and present in a non-threatening way. The playful nature of sensory bins allows children to control their tactile experiences, fostering confidence in their interactions with materials and gradually increasing their comfort with different sensations. 

      The hands-on nature of the activity promotes fine motor skills as children manipulate the farm toys and engage with the sensory materials. Communication skills blossom as they create farm narratives, fostering language development.

      In addition, occupational therapy providers love sensory bins because they can offer a unique and enjoyable way to engage reluctant children who may initially be hesitant about engaging in the sensory elements of tactile defensiveness challenges.

      Tactile input and sensory exploration contribute to a holistic sensory experience, supporting overall sensory processing.

       

       
       
       
       
      My fun-loving Baby Girl instigated this little incident…
       
      she just couldn’t help herself 🙂
       
       
      What are we learning through play?

      Imagination Play

      Pretend Play

      Learning Animals

      Animal Sounds

      Visual Scanning

      Sensory Play

       

      Farm Sensory Bin Ideas

      You can pair this farm sensory bin with other therapy ideas, too. Use some of these tools and resources to support skills like gross motor skills, coordination, brain breaks, and more:

      • These Farm Brain Breaks can add movement and gross motor input to a child’s day and fit in great with a farm animal theme. Print off the cards and use them in the classroom or home.
      • These heavy work cards includes a set of 8 farm themed heavy work activities that can be used as a brain break or added proprioceptive input.
      • Free Farm Scissor Skills Packet
      • This barn craft is fun because kids can make a barn and use it in the farm animal sensory bin.
      • This Farm Fingerprint art activity supports visual closure, visual tracking, and visual scanning activity, too.
      • The Farm Therapy Kit has a bunch or activities to support sensory needs, handwriting, motor skills, dexterity, and more.

      Get your copy of the Farm Therapy Kit.

      Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Finger Dexterity Exercises

      Hand holding coins by the fingertips and dropping one at a time into a stack of coins. Text reads "finger dexterity"

      Fine motor skills are a complex thing, but one thing that plays a major role in fine motor coordination is finger dexterity. The precision movements and endurance in small motor activities is driven by the ability to maneuver fingers and isolate the joints in holding and manipulating small objects. Let’s explore the role of manual dexterity in fine motor skills.

      The finger dexterity activities and exercises in this post can be used along with manual dexterity goals to support functional tasks.

      finger dexterity

      Fine Motor Dexterity

      Fine Motor Skills in kids are so important for independence in self care tasks.  Children need to develop the ability to manipulate their fingers in a coordinated manner in order to skillfully maneuver buttons, zippers, shoe laces, pencils…and the tools of learning and play…TOYS! 

      Dexterous movements are used in everyday activities throughout our day.

      What is finger dexterity?

      Finger dexterity refers to the ability to use coordination and manipulation of objects in the hands with precision. Dexterous motor skills can be broken down into areas: grasp and release, coordination with in the hand (in-hand manipulation), and proprioception (knowing how much effort is needed to manipulate objects without dropping them). There are many other contributions that impact finger dexterity and we list these below.

      Together, these precision skills enable us to pick up an object with the right amount of pressure and motor dexterity so you can grasp the object accurately taking eye-hand coordination skills into consideration.

      After grasping the object without overshooting or missing the item, it is necessary to position or rotate the object within the hand. Isolation of the joints of the fingers and thumb allow for precise movements and coordination when manipulating objects in functional tasks.

      The nine hole peg test is a good way to assess for finger dexterity.

       

      Finger Dexterity Examples

       
      Fine motor dexterity also looks like:
      • manipulating coins
      • picking up small beads
      • opening a tube of toothpaste
      • threading a needle
      • holding items in the palm of the hand and putting them down one at a time
      • crafts with small objects
      • peeling stickers off a page
      • opening or closing a clasp on a necklace
      • tying shoes
      • opening a bread tie
      • putting a pony tail holder in hair
      • braiding hair
      • maneuvering a pencil within the hand (rotating the pencil, erasing a small spot on the page)
      • turning a pencil in a handheld pencil sharpener
      • zippering– inserting a zipper into the zipper carriage
      • buttoning a shirt
      • lacing up shoes
      • stacking coins
      • holding playing cards in your hands
      • any other task that requires small motor tasks
       
       
      We’ve got lots of posts dedicated to fine motor skills.  Finger Dexterity is a necessary step in development of fine motor skills
       
       

       

       
      Kids will love to play this finger dexterity activity to work on fine motor skills.

       

      Skills needed for Finger Dexterity

      Children develop their hand skills from infancy. Hand strength develops from the time a small baby is placed in tummy time. You’ll start to see finger dexterity in action when a baby picks up cereal pieces using a pincer grasp.
       
      Finger dexterity requires components such as: 
       
      The terms that make up finger dexterity are explained in each of the blog posts in the list.
       
      There are developmental milestones for fine motor development that are necessary for independence each stage of childhood. When kids struggle with handwriting, manipulating small objects, hand fatigue in small motor tasks, finger dexterity and the underlying contributions should be considered.
       
      Children also need to demonstrate dexterity in order to manipulate objects.  They need to maneuver their fingers independently of one another (this is called finger isolation) and with separation of the two sides of the hand
       
      Without these skills, modifications or adjustments are often made by the child. We’ll cover more specifics about the relationship of finger dexterity and these components below.


      Finger Dexterity and Separation of the two sides of the hand

      When using the small muscles of the hands in dexterity tasks, one uses the side of the thumb-side of the hand. 
       
      The precision side of the hand is the thumb, pointer finger, and middle finger.  These are the fingers needed for dexterity tasks and fine motor skills. 
       
      The ring finger and pinkie finger are involved in providing stability during precision tasks.  When the index and thumb are involved in a small motor activity, the ring finger and pinkie finger are tucked into the palm and proved a support during handwriting and shoe tying
       
      They also provide power during grip and the force behind a gross grasp
       
      So when will you see the two sides of the hand separated during activities?? Tying shoes, pulling a zipper, fastening a button, and manipulating small pegs into a pegboard are some examples of separation of the two sides of the hand.


      Finger Dexterity and Finger Isolation

      Finger isolation is a key part of finer dexterity and begins when an infant begins to point at objects with one finger. 
       
      Using the fingers independent of one another is needed for tasks like turning a page in a book, typing, molding dough, sign language, and finger plays (“where is Thumbkin” and other fingerplay songs are great ways to practice finger isolation and dexterity!) 
       
      Kids can identify colors by playing this fine motor game.

       

      Finger dexterity Activity

       
      This finger strength exercise is actually a game, which makes it a great activity for developing precision in those little muscles of the hands, isolating fingers, and separating the two sides of the hand…all SO important in independence and play.
       
      Try this activity to work on separating the two sides of the hand with a fun activity for kids. 

      This post contains affiliate links.

      Our finger dexterity activity began with a little prep work.  We used acrylic paints to paint circles on the back of bubble wrap paper. 

      Kids will explore colors in this finger dexterity game.

       

      I painted the back side of large bubble wrap with different colors.   We let these dry (and it was slightly difficult to remain patient!!)

      Kids will love to play "Twister" in this fine motor exercise.

       

      Once our paints were dry, we got our fingers ready to play some finger dexterity games!  I had Little Guy get his fingers ready by making “legs”. 

      This is a great way to encourage use of the two sides of the hand.  He tucked his pinkie and ring fingers into the palm of his hand and got his pointer and middle finger busy as they “walked” around.

      Fun fine motor game for kids.

       

      We played a color matching game with the colored bubbles.  I called out a color and he had to “walk” his fingers to the color and pop the color.  He was working on color awareness at the same time as we practiced finger dexterity.

      kids can work on fine motor skills needed for independence in many tasks.

       

      As I called out different colors, he had to “walk” his fingers around to the different colors.  He really worked on those finger isolation skills as he searched for a bubble that was not yet popped. 

      Other ways to work on finger isolation and separation of the two sides of the hand include using small objects in manipulation like crafting pom poms.

      The index, middle finger, and thumb are needed to manipulate items in fine motor tasks. This activity is a great way to encourage dexterity in kids.

       

      Even Baby Girl wanted to get in on the fun!  This finger dexterity exercise is a great way to “warm up” the hands before a handwriting or typing task for older children. Using handwriting warm ups prepares the hands for tasks like writing with a pencil.

      When there is weakness in the small muscles of the hands, it is often times, difficult for children to write, color, or type with appropriate grasp and positioning of the fingers and wrist. 

      A dexterity exercise like this one is a fun way to play and get those muscles of the hand moving and strengthened in order to improve endurance and positioning.

      Manual Dexterity Activities

      Looking for more fun ways to practice manual dexterity of the fingers?  These are some fun games and activities you may want to try:

      Finger dexterity exercises

      Using the activities listed above are great ways to build fine motor skills. You can also improve manual dexterity with the following exercises:

      • Pinch putty or playdough 10 times, with 3 repetitions (find more reps in our theraputty exercises blog post)
      • Place pegs into a pegboard- time the student to see how many they can place in 30 seconds. Try to beat that time.
      • Hand gripper workouts to improve proximal stability
      • Stack 10 coins or game tokens into a pile. Then pick them up one at a time and place them into the palm of the hand
      • Deal a deck of cards
      • Creating a fine motor home exercise program
      • Using the exercises described in the Weekly Fine Motor Program
      • Finger aerobics shown in the video below.

      Working on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, or scissor skills? Our Fine Motor Kits cover all of these areas and more.

      Check out the seasonal Fine Motor Kits that kids love:

      Or, grab one of our themed Fine Motor Kits to target skills with fun themes:

      Want access to all of these kits…and more being added each month? Join The OT Toolbox Member’s Club!

      Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Occupational Therapy Documentation Tips

      soap notes

      If you are an occupational therapy practitioner you know all about the dreaded “d” word called documentation. It’s part of the daily life of a therapist, and writing SOAP notes to address the goals of an IEP or 504 accommodations can sometimes seem like it’s all we do. Let’s break down this dreaded task with some occupational therapy documentation tips and look at the positive side of documentation in therapy! You’ll find information on SOAP notes in occupational therapy as well as COAST notes and how to combine SOAP notes with COAST notes for client-centered occupational therapy documentation.

      soap notes

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      Occupational therapy documentation

      Daily documentation (along with the dreaded productivity) is not the most fun or anticipated aspect of the occupational therapy profession, but it is a necessary part of it in order to fully appreciate and understand the need for our service and determine if it is making a difference in our client’s life.  Also, we need to do it to get payment for our service and well, let’s face it, make a living!

      When it comes to completing all of the daily tasks involved in a therapists’ day, documentation requirements can impact productivity. Here are therapy productivity hacks that can help with getting it all done.

      So, with all of that being said, let’s talk about treatment documentation and the necessary components of such to provide evidence for the need of OT services while simultaneously providing a record of client progress and needs. But first, let’s start with taking the negativity out of the process and fill in the blanks with positive ways to view this time-consuming act.

      Ok, here we go…

      D – Declare OT’s awesomeness

      O – Optimistically state potential outcomes

      C – Celebrate client’s small successes                                                  

      U – Uncover next steps no matter how small

      M – Mention “make a difference” engagement

      E – Eagerly show client’s need for achievement

      N – Narrate your client’s accomplishments

      T – Thoughtfully share challenges and how OT can help push through

      A – Affirm client’s desires

      T – Tactfully explain OT’s unique plan for overcoming obstacles

      I – Identify OT as an essential partner in client’s therapy plan

      O – Openly communicate earnest client responses

      N – Notably inform of client strengths for goal achievement

      How’s that for bringing the positivity to occupational therapy documentation?

      occupational therapy notes

      Treatment documentation needs to be provided to share all about your hard work as a therapist and how you make an impact and a difference in the lives of your client’s and their families. There are many ways a therapy practitioner approaches documentation for treatment sessions.

      In the 20+ years I have practiced O.T., I have changed my documentation strategies and approaches in a myriad of ways. Every year I tend to change a little more based on experience and the need for clarification of O.T. as a valuable treatment service in the lives of my clients.

      doubletimedocs
      soap notes

      Occupational therapy Soap Notes

      Occupational therapy SOAP notes cover all aspects of documentation using an easy to remember acronym. Most therapy practitioners utilize the SOAP note format developed by Lawrence Weed, M.D. which originated from his original problem-oriented medical record.

      The SOAP note acronym provides the necessary components for treatment documentation that meet the requirements of reimbursement agencies while providing the necessary information to document progress and regression and make a plan for further service.  

      Here is a brief review of the S.O.A.P note format:


      S is for subjective information which is what the client/family states or presents as relevant to therapy, (think of it as your client’s current status, behavior, or answers to your questions),

      O is for objective which is what you and the client did together to address their goals, (think of it as measurable, quantitative, and observable actions during the session)

      A is for assessment which is how the client did or how they responded during the treatment, (think of it as adding validity and interpreting the information written in the S and O section), and

      P is for plan which is what you intend to do next time to address how the client responded this time such as next steps, revisiting of steps, etc., (think of it as your treatment plan for next time).

      Soap notes in occupational therapy documentation

      COAST Documentation

      A new goal writing method called the C.O.A.S.T. method which was developed by Crystal A. Gateley, PhD, OTR/L and Sherry Borcherding, MA, OTR/L. Coast notes can also provide a solid approach for occupational therapy documentation within the a S.O.A.P. note format.  In the COAST method of note-writing, documentation is client-centered, beginning with the task completed, based on occupations, and includes clear guidelines for documenting levels of assistance, conditions the client performs the tasks within, and time-centric.

      When goals are written using the COAST format, it can be easy to stay on target with client-centric goals and interventions. Here is a brief review of the C.O.A.S.T. method for goal-writing:

      C is for client. Identify the client being worked with in the treatment session.

      O is for occupation. Identify the functional task or goal being addressed in the session.

      A is for assist level. What level and type of of assistance is needed for the client to perform the task?

      S is for specific condition. What conditions are necessary for the client to achieve the tasks.

      T is for time. By when is the goal expected to be achieved?

      COAST notes for occupational therapy documentation

      SOAP NOTES + COAST NOTES

      Joining these two acronym structures can generate a solid treatment note which can provide reimbursement agencies with the necessary information to justify your service while demonstrating the client’s needs and progress.

      Following the SOAP note format while interjecting COAST note components will ensure you look at the whole client and provide client-centered documentation validating your service while pushing forward with the treatment to make sure your client achieves their goals so they may live their best life.

      These acronym structures can also help you, as the practitioner, in your future paperwork needs for progress reporting, re-assessment, and goal writing that is specific to each of your clients.

      What are definite attributes of writing therapy treatment notes? Let’s take a peek here:

      1.  Be client specific

      2. Be legible and clear

      3. Be consistent and organized

      4. Be thorough

      5. Be timely

      6. Be value-based

      7. Think positively about OT documentation (refer to acronym DOCUMENTATION above)

      The next time you start to sit down and write your treatment notes, visit the DOCUMENTATION acronym above for achieving a positive frame of mind and remember that this is the time to let your skills shine, demonstrate OT’s value in your client’s life and show your client’s progress and needs for an occupation-based service that can help lead to health, well-being, and quality of life.

      The use of SOAP notes in occupational therapy allows for organized and reliable documentation of the patient’s progress and treatment plan, ensuring effective and comprehensive care. Working on efficient SOAP notes for OT session documentation is a great strategy as a professional!

      Occupational Therapy Documentation Software

      One way to save time with documentation is to use an OT documentation software. There are many therapy documentation software tools out there specifically designed for Pediatric Speech and Language Pathology, Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy documentation.

      The software is essentially designed specifically for purchase by school districts, contract companies, and pediatric clinics, and it allows for the therapy providers to write their evaluation reports and progress notes quickly.

      Therapy documentation software has different formats, including multiple choice, fill in the blank, and short answer responses that are individualized and uses strategies such as templates, word prediction, cutting and pasting.

      One such tool is (affiliate link) Double Time Docs.

      Double Time Docs is nice because it has various features designed to make life easier and save time for therapy providers:

      • It has a questionnaire feature for caregiver and teacher questionnaires. This can save a significant amount of time because after the person responds, the therapy provider can log in and click the answers. 
      • DTD can be used by a therapy provider even if the clinic or school district uses a different documentation software. DTD generates an evaluation report by answering the questions, download their report, and cutting and pasting it directly into their district software such as IEP Direct, EASY IEP, SESIS, Frontline, etc.
      • Reports done in a fraction of the time.
      • A therapist can be more productive by focusing on planning, treatment, and consultations.
      • Reports are written to the standards of the district.
      • Consistency between therapists – new/old and district/contract
      • Teaching tool for new grads
      • Data collection
      • One template for initials/triennials/observations
      • Reduces common errors such as wrong name, pronouns, etc.

      Have questions about trialing and using Double Time Docs to make documentation easier? Just click here.

      Regina Allen

      Regina Parsons-Allen is a school-based certified occupational therapy assistant. She has a pediatrics practice area of emphasis from the NBCOT. She graduated from the OTA program at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson, North Carolina with an A.A.S degree in occupational therapy assistant. She has been practicing occupational therapy in the same school district for 20 years. She loves her children, husband, OT, working with children and teaching Sunday school. She is passionate about engaging, empowering, and enabling children to reach their maximum potential in ALL of their occupations as well assuring them that God loves them!