Sleep Hygiene for Kids

sleep hygiene for kids

Here we are sharing tips for sleep hygiene for kids, and the role that occupational therapy has on sleep. Did you know that sleep is an occupation? It’s a part of our daily activities that impact function. And, sleep has been established as critical for optimal health, wellbeing, occupational performance and participation (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2012). When it comes to sleep hygiene, occupational therapy can be a big help in offering tips for better sleep, suggestions for more efficient or effective sleep, and how to manage areas that impact sleep.

Sleep hygiene for kids and tips for healthy sleep habits from an occupational therapist

sleep hygiene for kids

It seems as though every parenting book has something to say about sleep; Whether you are a parent of young children or a therapist serving kids (and their families), you’ll probably come across sleep questions such as:

  • How to get your infant on a sleep schedule?
  • How many hours a day a child should sleep based on their age?
  • How some behavior problems may be related to the amount or quality of sleep?

As kids get older, they may change their sleeping habits, or never grow out of old ones. They may be too needy or dependent on you come nighttime, or maybe your five-year-old still co-sleeps and you’re wondering how in the world can you get them to sleep in their own bed. Sleep hygiene is necessary at each stage of childhood.

What is sleep hygiene for kids?

Sleep hygiene refers to quality sleep and making the actions, habits, and necessary actions to set up a child for success in their sleep. Sleep hygiene involves nightly routines, modifications to the environment (quiet sleep space, dark room, etc.), and daily decisions (limiting caffeine in the hours before bedtime, being active during the day, etc.) that will optimize sleep.

According to the CDC, there are specific amounts of time that children of different ages need to sleep. And, the amount of sleep needed at each age changes as you grow. Here is a simple breakdown of sleep needed at each age:

AgeHours of sleep needed per 24 hour day
Newborn (0-3 months)14-17 hours
Infant (4-12 months)12-16 hours
Toddler (1-2 years)11-14 hours
Preschool (3-5 years)10-13 hours
School age (6-12 years)9-12 hours
Teen (13-18 years)8-10 hours
Adult (18 years +)7+ hours

The Importance of Sleep Hygiene

Occupational therapists can help with sleep hygiene. OTs help to improve sleep in children (or adults) because sleep has been determined to be an occupation, or a task that occupies your time. Not only that, but sleep impacts your ability to complete functional tasks, and perform activities. When poor sleep occurs, mood, cognitive processes, emotional regulation, can suffer. In kids, sleep hygiene is needed to learn, play, and complete tasks.

OTs work with individuals on task completion, participation in activity, and engagement in daily tasks. In each of these aspects of function, sleep is pivotal. Sleep is needed for overall health and wellbeing.

Just some of the implications of consistently poor sleep hygiene include:

  • Poor focus
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Problems paying attention
  • Health problems: obesity, type 2 diabetes, poor mental health, and injuries
  • Attention and behavior problems
  • Poor academic performance in school
  • Excess weight
  • Decreased physical activity
  • Increased food intake
  • Poor mental health, including depression, depressive symptoms
  • Unhealthy risk behaviors including alcohol, tobacco, and drug use
  • Risk-taking behaviors, bullying, school violence-related behaviors, and physical fighting
  • Higher risk of unintentional injury

In this article we will break down sleep hygiene for children, and how you can improve sleep so that kids can perform functional tasks.

healthy sleep habits for babies

For starters, we want to reassure you that no one has the exact right answer that will work for everyone. What works for you and your family may not work for your neighbor. We hope to provide you with education, resources, and maybe even some new things to try, as you and your family find what works best for you.

One thing to remember is to start healthy sleep habits early.

Sleeping habits, like most things, are easier to maintain if you start off on the right foot early in life. For example, if you know that you want your child to sleep independently for whatever reason, do not have them sleep in your bed from the start. Simply put: do not start a habit if you do not want it to continue.

This is easier said than done, as with most things in parenting life, but remain resilient. For those of you with babies, start their sleeping journey off right with a routine that you can stick to for years to come.

Usually 4 months old is a good time to start developing a routine, and by 6 months, most babies can sleep through the night. For older children, it is never too late to start these healthy sleep habits! Better now than never.

Healthy Sleep Habits for Toddlers

Sleep in the toddler years builds on the earlier baby stage. Habits that were established in the first year can become routine. This is when you may see the toddler that needs to sleep in the parent’s bed every night. You may have a pre-bedtime routine that is long and tedious. You might see separation anxiety at bedtime rear it’s head. Maybe you have the toddler that wanders from their bed and room each night.

Sleep hygiene for toddlers involves different environmental set-up compared to babies. For toddlers, optimal environment can involve a toddler bed that is low to the ground for safe entry and exit, bed bars for safety, comfortable sheets, or stuffed animals that comfort the toddler. Children may begin to prefer a nightlight at this age, or a dim light that shines onto the ceiling.

Other strategies to promote sleep hygiene in toddlers can include:

  • Bedtime routine with bath, story, song, prayers, etc.
  • Cozy pajamas with feet to prevent diaper removal during the night or socks being lost
  • Settling down an hour or more before bedtime
  • Physical activity during the day time hours
  • Reading the same story each night as part of a routine
  • Consistent routine and sleep space
  • Quiet the home after bedtime
  • Remove screens, tablets, phones, etc. from the bedroom
  • Limit screen time prior to bedtime
  • Safe sleep space (toddler bed, bed rails)
  • Comfortable sleep space with sheets, blankets)
  • Stuffed animal or special blanket to comfort the child

Healthy Sleep Habits for Preschoolers

During the preschool years, children may be more exposed to tablets, cell phones, and learning apps. They may have more use of these screens as a learning tool. But when limits are not put into place, we can see overuse at this young age. For preschoolers, we might see screen use right before bedtime so that it impacts sleep quality.

In the preschool years, there is much learning. Children are gaining physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and communication skills daily it seems! Sleep is very much needed as a rest for the brain and body. But, some children may fight the sleep time and it is possible to impact hygiene of sleep.

Let’s break down healthy sleep hygiene habits in preschool aged children:

  • Bedtime routine
  • Consistent bedtime
  • Dark room or dimmed lights
  • Nightlight
  • Bedtime stories
  • Bath before bed
  • Songs and/or prayers before bed
  • Limit caffeine during the day
  • Consistent nap times or quiet time during the day
  • Consider a wake up clock so that kids can see the time to get out of bed in the morning (and not wake up too early)
  • Quiet, cool, and calm sleeping space
  • Calm bedtime routine (try to incorporate these bedtime stretches)

Healthy Sleep Habits for Older Children

When it comes to older kids, including grade school aged kids (6-12 years), middle school aged children (12-14), and high school aged kids (14-18 years), healthy sleep habits change. Even within these age ranges, there are different sleep requirements, but many of the contributing factors of sleep hygiene are similar. Also, many of the tips for healthy sleep hygiene are alike in these age ranges. I’m including these tips and contributing factors together, for these reasons.

In older children, factors that impact sleep hygiene may include:

  • Later bedtimes
  • Earlier rise times related to earlier school star
  • Increase in schoolwork (later bedtimes as a result)
  • Later afterschool and evening activities
  • Working in the evening
  • More child-led decisions and fewer parent-set bedtimes
  • Use of late-night technology in the bedroom
  • Puberty
  • Caffeine intake in the afternoon or evening

Many of these reasons for poor sleep qualitity can not be changed, such as the need to work or complete school work in the later evening hours, or puberty that impacts sleep and circadian rhythems. However, in the older children, there are some ways to impact healthy sleep:

  • Limit screen use before bed
  • Remove screens from the bedroom
  • Limit caffeine use in the evening hours
  • Encourage physical activity
  • Relaxation strategies
  • Low lights and relaxing music in the bedroom
  • Limit snacks before bedtime
  • Sound machines
  • Create a sleep log to monitor sleep and outcomes
  • Try light reducing shades or curtains for a darker sleep environment
  • Avoid sleeping in during the weekends; stick to a routine on the weekends

This literature review covers aspects of sleep hygiene in older students.

Like previously mentioned, there are many different aspects of sleep habits in this stage, and no two children and family dynamics may be the same.

Successful Bedtime Routines

Following a bedtime routine, no matter the age, will convince the brain that it is almost time to sleep, and it will start producing melatonin. This sleep hormone will cue the yawns, stretches and sleepy eyes that parents dream of.

Allow for some habit-breaking if it is a special day (late-night sleepover, anyone?), your child is sick, or the routine is just not going to work that day. Otherwise, maintain your chosen routine and your child is likely to sleep soundly throughout their lives.

Using a bedtime routine signals relaxation to the body and the brain. For some children, a visual schedule is needed for sleep routines. It can become automatic for other children.

Example of a sleep routine

  1. Baths before bed- Start at a specific time
  2. Reading books in bed- Consider a selection of the same books or types of books
  3. Singing a song together- Use the same songs
  4. Saying your prayers- Follow a consistent or similar prayer
  5. Always sleep in the same spot
  6. Lights out, parent leaves the room (door open or closed, nightlight or not, etc.)

General Tips for Good Sleep Hygiene

The ideas and tips below are general strategies that can impact sleep hygiene across different ages and stages.

If your child needs you in order to fall asleep, you are their sleeping aide. This is not always sustainable, and if your child wakes in the middle of the night without you by their side, you may be in for a rude awakening in the way of nighttime wake-ups or a difficult to change routine.

  1. Go for a tired/awake stage- Leave the room before they are asleep, and offer them a different sleeping aide that they can snuggle all night long. They may be over-tired if they are screaming and crying for hours, have the delirious “sillies” late at night, or cannot settle their bodies, minds, or voices after 30 minutes.
  2. Shift the bedtime routine up a bit if you sense that they are getting tired earlier than usual. If this doesn’t work, think about their activities from that day. Did they eat too much sugar? Not enough physical activity? How was their rest time? Find the right balance of daily activities that leads them to be ready to sleep around bedtime. Bedtime stalling is another reason why kids may not be getting enough sleep. If your child tends to ask for one more story (again), another drink of water, to go “check” on one of their toys, or needs more than one potty break at bedtime, they are a bedtime staller.
  3. Stick to your bedtime routine! Be kind, but be firm: it is time to sleep. Make return visits to their room as short as possible, and know when to stop going back. What if your child just doesn’t like sleep? Every night is a struggle and nothing seems to be working. You may be frustrated and dread bedtime, too.
  4. Check your attitude towards sleep, your child’s perspective, and what both of your emotions are like at bedtime. The caregiver’s mood is most important – you must believe that they will sleep in their bed (or whatever desired place), happily and peacefully. You should also try and use your mood to signal that sleeping is wanted and really, quite lovely. If you believe it, and your emotions follow, your child is likely to follow along. Although it can be frustrating, never use anger or threaten your child into going to bed – this may work short-term, but it is not going to benefit their sleep in the long run.
  5. Create a “bedtime” and stick to it even on weekends. (Ex: In bed by 8:30pm)
  6. Remove stimulating toys, video games, TV, music, lights, etc. an hour before bedtime. Tip: Install light dimmers so that you can lower the lights in the house at this time.
  7. Think about sleeping space. If your child sleeps better on the floor, let them!
  8. Keep sleeping areas consistent (i.e. always the floor in front of their bed), and eventually your child will want to climb into their bed.
  9. Find the “cozy” in your child’s life. Maybe they have a special blanket or lovey. Perhaps they feel most restful underneath only a sheet, while your other child needs a weighted blanket to find rest.
  10. Light and Noise Sound machines and nightlights can be a nice signal for bedtime and provide comfort, but they are not always necessary. Hold off on purchasing them until you see a need.

SLEEP RESOURCES

It should go without saying that these “easy fixes” may not work overnight. They may not feel all that easy, either. Be patient, be kind, and be strong. You can do this!

Don’t hesitate to reach out to your physician to discuss your child’s sleeping habits, especially if you or your child are getting significantly less sleep than you should. They will guide you in the right direction.

Sydney Rearick, OTS, is an occupational therapy graduate student at Concordia University Wisconsin. Her background is in Human Development and Family Studies, and she is passionate about meeting your family’s needs. After working as a nanny for the last decade, Sydney is prepared to handle just about anything an infant, toddler, or child could throw at her. She is also a newly established children’s author and illustrator and is always working on new and exciting projects.

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

Get the printable Summer Activity Challenge

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    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!

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

    Summer Occupational Therapy Activities

    Summer occupational therapy activities

    Working on building skills this summer? The Summer OT Bundle is for you!

    Summer occupational therapy activities bundle

    Work on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, scissor skills, and much more so that kids can accomplish self-care tasks, learn, and grow through play all summer long.

    This bundle is perfect for the pediatric occupational therapist who needs resources and tools to use in summer therapy sessions, home programs, or extended school year therapy plans.

    This bundle is perfect for parents, grandparents, and caregivers looking to provide developmental fine motor activities designed to help kids build skills.

    • Send kids back to school in the Fall without worrying about the “Summer Slide”.
    • Use these materials to work on areas like hand strength, fine motor development, scissor skills, handwriting, pencil control, pencil grasp, sensory play experiences, and much more. Just pull out the pages or activities you need for your child, and develop skills through play!

    The Summer OT Bundle includes 19 resources that you can print and use over and over again:

    Helping children develop and achieve functional skills this summer was never so easy (or fun!)

    Be sure to grab the Summer OT Bundle, a HUGE resource of therapy tools and activities for all things building skills this summer.

    Grab the Summer OT Bundle here.

    Looking for summer occupational therapy activities or ideas to use in home programs for the summer? This year’s summer OT activities may look a little different than previous years. In years past, therapists may have been gearing up for an end of another school year and a break from in-person OT sessions. What hasn’t changed about the end of a school year is the carefree days of summer that are ahead. As an OT, I love the feeling of the start of summer. There is just something about back-to-the-basics play of summer. Running around the backyard, hopping on bikes, sidewalk chalk, sprinklers and water play…summer play is a goldmine of motor and sensory activities that can boost those underlying skills kids NEED.

    Because of this, I wanted to put together a resource on summer occupational therapy activities that can be implemented today. These are strategies to use for your own child to boost development and challenge skills. These are ideas to use in teletherapy or in home programs. These are play ideas that help kids with the balance of screens and active play. Use the summer resources for parents, teachers, and therapists to develop underlying skills in very fun ways! These are AWESOME summer occupational therapy activities!

    Check the summer activities for kids of all ages listed below!

    In the bundle, there is the Summer Occupational Therapy Activities Packet. It’s a collection of 14 items that guide summer programming at home, at school, and in therapy sessions. The summer activities bundle covers handwriting, visual perceptual skills and visual motor skills, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, regulation, and more.

    You’ll find ideas to use in virtual therapy sessions and to send home as home activities that build skills and power development with a fun, summer theme. Kids will love the Summer Spot It! game, the puzzles, handouts, and movement activities. Therapists will love the teletherapy slide deck and the easy, ready-to-go activities to slot into OT sessions. The packet is only $10.00 and can be used over and over again for every student/client!

    Grab the Spring Occupational Therapy Activities Packet HERE.

    NEW RESOURCE: The Summer Fine Motor Kit– This 90 page packet it specifically designed to build the motor skills kids have been limited in over the past year or so: handwriting, cutting with scissors, small motor manipulation, arch development and hand endurance, strength, pinch, and coloring. The Summer Fine Motor Kit includes different tools and materials than our other fine motor kits, but has some of the most-requested favorites in fun summer themes:

    • Summer Play Dough/Handwriting Mats (3 writing paper styles: single rule, double rule, and highlighted lines)
    • Lacing cards
    • Color and cut sensory bin cards
    • Sea Creature, Summer Play, & Summer Treats Silly Paths (great for pencil control and eye-hand coordination)
    • Tracing mazes/ Fine motor mazes
    • Symmetry drawing page
    • Fine Motor Flip Pages (flip a coin or small object and place them along a path)
    • Glue skills pages
    • Prewriting shapes sheets
    • Toothpick art activities
    • Pencil control worksheets/Fine motor placement paths
    • Scissor skills activities (simple and complex shapes)
    • Sensory bin cards

    NEW RESOURCE: The Summer OT Bundle– Want to cover all your bases this summer? This bundle has everything you need for therapy planning, home programs, summer camps, Grandma’s house, or extended school year programs so you can just print and go. The bundle is $20 and includes:

    Let’s help kids struggling from a year of mega-screen overload meet the goals they need to thrive. Plus…take more time for you this summer by using done-for-you resources!

    Occupational therapists can use these summer occupational therapy activities when planning OT home programs for for summer programs.

    Summer Occupational Therapy Activities 

    In many areas, schools are winding down for the year. You may have a few weeks or a few days left. The daily countdown of number of remaining school days is dwindling.

    You might be wondering how to balance work-from home and making summer days count.

    You might be wondering how to keep the kids busy this summer without breaking the bank.

    You might be a clinician thinking about summer programming and need a few fresh ideas.

    You might be thinking about summer plans and ways to encourage development in fun ways the whole family can enjoy.

    You might be a therapist putting together summer home programs.

    You might be a teacher who is READY for the final bell to ring this school year 🙂

    I wanted to put together a list of resources for summer activities that can boost the skills kids need. The “summer slide” can happen in handwriting and other school-based therapy goal areas, too!

    Summer Occupational Therapy Activity Resources

    ~ Do some or all of the activities listed here in this Sensory Summer Camp at Home plan. All of the activities and ideas are free and use items you probably already have.

    ~ Sneak in handwriting practice while traveling with these motivating and authentic ideas. HERE are a few MORE natural writing experiences for summer that keep those pencils moving.

    ~ Try some of the activities in this Summer Activity Guide designed to encourage play and creativity in activities for the whole family.

    ~ Practice the motor planning and fine motor skills needed for handwriting and with a sensory twist using the ideas outlined in this Sensory Handwriting Backyard Summer Camp.

    ~ Try these Backyard Vestibular Activities for Summer to encourage movement and sensory experiences right in the backyard.

    ~ Print off this June Occupational Therapy Calendar for ideas to last the whole month. (It’s from a couple of years back so the dates are off, but the activities still work!)

    ~ These no-prep, basically free summer activities won’t break the bank and boost the underlying skills kids NEED, in fun ways.

    ~ Use sidewalk chalk to boost fine motor skills.  

    ~Make a summer time capsule with the whole family and create memories that can be looked back on years from now.   

    ~Create a summer kick-off bucket filled with toys and items for months of sensory play.     

    ~The kids will love these frozen fruit kabob snacks. It’s a great alerting sensory snack that doubles as a healthy summer treat.

    The ideas listed above should help you create therapy home programs, and keep the kids loaded up on creative, open-ended, and movement-based PLAY that their little bodies NEED!

    Use these summer occupational therapy activities when planning sensory activities, fine motor, and gross motor developmental ideas for kids.

    Want to take summer play to the next level? Be sure to grab your copy of the Summer OT Activities Bundle!

    Summer activities for kids

    Color Sorting Activity

    Color sorting activity

    This color sorting activity is a powerful fine motor activity and a super easy way to learn and play for toddlers and preschoolers.  We’ve done plenty of activities to work on fine motor skills in kids.  This straw activity is the type that is a huge hit in our house…it’s cheap, easy, and fun!  (a bonus for kids and mom!)  A handful of straws and a few recycled grated cheese container are all that are needed for tripod grasp, scissor skills, color naming, and sorting.  SO much learning is happening with color sorting activities. Read on…  

    Fine Motor Color Sorting Activity with Straws

    This color sorting activity is great for toddlers and preschools because it helps to develop many of the fine motor skills that they need for function.

    I had Baby Girl (age 2 and a half) do this activity and she LOVED it.  Now, many toddlers are exploring textures of small objects with their mouths.  If you have a little one who puts things in their mouth during play, this may not be the activity for you.  That’s ok.  If it doesn’t work right now, put it away and pull it out in a few months. 

    Color sorting activity with straws

    Always keep a close eye on your little ones during fine motor play and use your judgment with activities that work best for your child.  Many school teachers read our blog and definitely, if there are rules about choking hazards in your classroom, don’t do this one with the 2 or 3 year olds. 

    You can adjust this color sorting activity to use other materials besides straws, too. Try using whole straws, pipe cleaners, colored craft sticks, or other objects that are safe for larger groups of Toddlers.  

    There are so many fun ways to play and learn with our Occupational Therapy Activities for Toddlers post.

    Kids can work on scissor skills by cutting straws into small pieces.

      color sorting activity using straws

    We started out with a handful of colored straws.  These are a dollar store purchase and we only used a few of the hundred or so in the pack…starting out cheap…this activity is going well so far!  

    Cutting the straws is a neat way to explore the “open-shut” motion of the scissors to cut the straw pieces.  Baby Girl liked the effect of cutting straws.  Flying straw bits= hilarious!  

    If you’re not up for chasing bits and pieces of straws around the room or would rather not dodge flying straw pieces as they are cut, do this in a bin or bag.  Much easier on the eyes 😉  

    Kids love to work on fine motor skills through play!

     Once our straws were cut into little pieces and ready for playing, I pulled out a few recycled grated cheese containers.  (Recycled container= free…activity going well still!)   We started with just one container out on the table and Baby Girl dropped the straw pieces into the holes. 

    Here are more ways to use recycled materials in occupational therapy activities.

    Toddlers and preschoolers can work on their tripod grasp by using small pieces of straws and a recycled grated cheese container.

    Importance of Color sorting for toddlers and preschoolers

    Color sorting activities are a great way to help toddlers and preschoolers develop skills for reading, learning, and math.

    Sorting activities develop visual perceptual skills as children use visual discrimination to notice differences between objects.

    By repeating the task with multiple repetitions, kids develop skills in visual attention and visual memory. These visual processing skills are necessary for reading and math tasks.

    The ability to recall differences in objects builds working memory too, ask kids remember where specific colors go or the place where they should sort them.

    These sorting skills come into play in more advanced learning tasks as they classify objects, numbers, letters, etc.

    And, when children sort items by color, they are building What a great fine motor task this was for little hands!  Sorting straws into a container with small holes, like our activity, requires a tripod grasp to insert the straws into the small holes of the grated cheese container.   

    These grated cheese containers are awesome for fine motor play with small objects!

    Sorting items like cut up straws helps preschoolers and toddlers develop skills such as:

    • Fine motor skills (needed for pencil grasp, scissor use, turning pages, etc.)
    • Hand strength (needed for endurance in coloring, cutting, etc.)
    • Visual discrimination (needed to determine differences in letters, shapes, and numbers)
    • Visual attention
    • Visual discrimination
    • Visual perceptual skills
    • Left Right discrimination (needed for handwriting, fine motor tasks)
    • Counting
    • Patterning
    • Classification skills

    Preschoolers can get a lot of learning (colors, patterns, sorting, counting) from this activity too.  Have them count as they put the pieces in, do a pattern with the colored straws, sort from smallest to biggest pieces and put them in the container in order…the possibilities are endless!

    Cut straw into small pieces and provide three recycled containers to sort and work on fine motor skills with kids.

    Color Sorting Activity with Straws

    Once she got a little tired of the activity, I let it sit out on the table for a while with two  more containers added.  I started dropping in colored straw pieces into the containers and sorted them by color. 

    Use colored straws to sort and work on fine motor skills with recycled containers.

    Baby Girl picked right up on that and got into the activity again.  This lasted for a long time.  We kept this out all day and she even wanted to invite her cousin over to play with us.  So we did!  This was a hit with the toddlers and Little Guy when he came home from preschool.  Easy, cheap, and fun.  I’ll take it!

    Looking for more fun ways to work on color sorting?

    You’ll find more activities to build hand strength, coordination, and dexterity in this resource on Fine Motor Skills.

    What are Executive Functioning Skills?

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

    What are executive functioning skills

    What are executive FUNCTIONING Skills?

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

    Development of executive functioning skills

    When do executive functioning skills develop?

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

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

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

    How can executive functioning skills improve?

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

    What are executive functioning skills

    Emotional regulation as an area of executive functioning:

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

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

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

    Initiation and executive functioning skills:

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

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

    Shifting as an executive function:

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

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

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

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

    Inhibition and executive functioning:

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

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

    Working memory as an executive function:

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

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

    Planning/organizing for executive functioning success:

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

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

    Organization of materials and executive functioning:

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

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

    Executive functioning skills in kids

    Monitoring for executive functioning success:

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

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

    More Executive Functioning Skills Resources:

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

    This post was written by contributing author, Emily Skaletski, MOT, OTR/L is a pediatric occupational therapist in the Madison, WI area. Emily participated in the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association’s Emerging Leaders Program (2016), earned her level 1 digital badge in autism from the American Occupational Therapy Association (2017), received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Chatham University (2018), and was appointed the South-Central District Co-Chair of the Wisconsin Occupational Therapy Association (2019). Emily has presented at both state and national conferences and is passionate about professional development. While trained as a generalist, Emily particularly enjoys working with clients with autism spectrum disorder and challenges related to executive functioning skills.

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

    Impulse Control Journal the OT Toolbox

    What are Primitive reflexes?

    what are primitive reflexes

    Have you even heard the term reflexes and wondered what are primitive reflexes? One of the many things that your newborn’s pediatrician will check periodically is their primitive reflexes. The existence of reflexes can be a great marker for neurological health in people of all ages, as they are controlled by the nervous system – the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. Primitive reflexes develop in the womb and are integral to an infant’s survival and future development. Below we will break down each of these reflexes and their purpose. 

    what are primitive reflexes

    Related: Books About Primitive Reflexes 

    What are Primitive Reflexes?

    As infants develop into toddlers, these reflexes should do what health care professionals call “integration”. The response that comes with the primitive reflex should integrate into a more mature or voluntary movement. If they are still present long after they should have integrated, the child will display certain characteristics specific to the retained reflex, many of which hold back their development and academic skills. 

    Let’s begin with the most easily noticeable reflex that babies have: the palmar reflex. This is also known as the grasping reflex. You will see this when you place your finger into the palm of an infant’s hand, and they hold on tight. This is an adorable response that can make you feel pretty special, but it is involuntary up until about 6 months of age when the reflex should disappear. 

    PALMAR REFLEX

    The palmar reflex is important for the development of purposeful grasping, something that an infant is learning throughout their first year of life. 

    Fun Fact: if your baby is holding your hair in a death grip because of this reflex, stroke the back of their hand with your finger – it should initiate a release of the grasp. 

    ROOTING REFLEX

    The rooting reflex is one of the main “survival” reflexes. The rooting reflex can be elicited by stroking an infant’s cheek with your finger, or more likely, a bottle or breast nipple. This is because when the cheek is stimulated, the infant will turn his or her head towards that stimulation. 

    If you ever need your baby to pay attention to their feeding, try giving their cheek a little stroke or tap so they turn towards the feeding source. This response should be seen in infants up until about 4 months of age. 

    SUCKING REFLEX

    Similar to the rooting reflex, the sucking reflex is necessary for an infant’s feeding abilities. To stimulate the sucking response, touch the roof of the infant’s mouth and they will automatically begin sucking. 

    Most infants learn this skill very quickly (they do get tons of practice, after all!) and the reflex will disappear by about 2 months old. 

    MORO REFLEX

    This reflex is the first of three on this list that is a response to a change in body position. Also known as the startle reflex, the Moro reflex can be seen by gently dipping a baby’s head and neck backward, as if they are falling. It can also be elicited by other stimuli like a startling noise or a drastic change in temperature. 

    The response that you will see in the baby is that of fear – their arms, legs, and head will reach out and then tuck back in – jerking their body back and forth. They may also open and close their hands and may even cry. The movement that is created by a startling stimulus is to protect your baby and allow them to move away from the stimuli even before they can control their own movements. Pretty cool, huh?

    You may notice the startle reflex really kicking in around 1 month old. If your baby is inconsolable and moving around their body in this way, securing supporting their bottom and their head should help them realize that they are safe. By six months old, or as early as two months, this reflex will disappear. 

    TONIC LABYRINTHINE REFLEX

    The tonic labyrinthine reflex (TLR) is used for head and postural control. We know that baby has poor control of their head and neck when they are born, and this reflex is part of what helps them gain control over this part of their body. 

    The TLR can be seen when moving the head and neck forward and backward. When the head moves forward toward the chest, the arms and legs bend and the baby assumes the fetal position. When the head moves back away from the chest, the arms and legs straighten. You can see this really well during tummy time! 

    The TLR will disappear by about 4 months old so that more advanced reflexes and movements can begin development. 

    ASYMMETRICAL TONIC NECK REFLEX

    Last on the list of movement-based reflexes is the asymmetrical tonic neck reflex (ATNR). As the name suggests, this reflex has to do with the neck. You can see the reflex if you turn a baby’s head to one side while they are laying on their backs. They will reflexively straighten their arm and leg on the side that they are looking, and bend the arm and leg of the other side. That is where the asymmetrical part comes in: their left side and right side of their body are opposite. They look a bit like an archer, about to shoot an arrow. 

    This reflex is important in the birthing process, as the motions of the head can control the movement of the rest of the body help the baby through the birth canal. It is also important to the initiation of crawling, as the arms and legs move as a baby turns their heads while on their belly. For this same reason, the ATNR is crucial to the development of hand-eye coordination. 

    The ATNR disappears around the time an infant is gearing up for crawling, around 6 months old. 

    MORE ON PRIMITIVE REFLEXES

    There are a few more infant reflexes that we did not mention, and you can check them out if you are looking to learn more! The Spinal Galant Reflex, the Babinski Reflex, the Landau Reflex, and the Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR) are some that we missed in this article. The Landau and the STNR are actually not primitive reflexes, as they develop after the baby is born, but they are developmentally important nonetheless! 

    Sydney Rearick, OTS, is an occupational therapy graduate student at Concordia University Wisconsin. Her background is in Human Development and Family Studies, and she is passionate about meeting your family’s needs. After working as a nanny for the last decade, Sydney is prepared to handle just about anything an infant, toddler, or child could throw at her. She is also a newly established children’s author and illustrator and is always working on new and exciting projects.

    How to Run a Therapy Camp

    How to set up a therapy summer camp

    Have you ever thought about running a camp program as part of your therapy offerings? Maybe you work at an outpatient therapy clinic and are looking for summer camps to offer to kids for a cash-based service. Perhaps you are looking for themed ideas to add to summer therapy sessions. Maybe you want to offer a therapeutic summer program that hits on specific skill areas. Or, maybe you are wondering how to set up a DIY backyard summer camp for your kids. A therapy camp may be just the way to build skills in a fun way this summer.

    How to create a therapy summer camp

    Setting up a space camp, handwriting camp, or sensory camp as a supplemental activity resource is easy and requires just a little planning. In this post, we’ll discuss how to set up a camp program as a side income, a supplemental service to therapy clinics, a summer therapeutic camp, or DIY home program.

    therapy summer camp ideas

    How to start a therapy Summer Camp

    The steps below will help you decide how to run a summer camp at home or as a therapy camp that supplements summer programming.

    The first thing to consider (prior to deciding on a theme or goals of the summer camp) is to determine the scope of your therapy camp. Is it a suppliment to therapy where therapy goals will be addressed generally across a group of kids? Will insurance need to be involved? Will you be using your therapy license to make clinical decisions? Or, will the summer program be a supplement to therapy where goals are not specific to each child and each child moves through the same set of activities without individualized adjustments? Will the camp be a cash-based activity type of program, designed to prevent summer slide in handwriting or pencil grasp skills? Or will the summer camp act as a developmental play sessions? All of these are important to questions to consider before making other decisions on the program.

    Decide on the summer camp theme

    First, you’ll want to decide on the theme of your summer camp. Will your theme be based on an interest area? Some ideas include pirate theme, outer space theme, water theme, sports theme, fairies theme, and more. The options are truly limitless when if comes to a summer camp theme. The best thing about a themed summer camp program is that kids are typically highly motivated if the theme interests them.

    therapy summer camp ideas

    Summer camp theme ideas

    Summer camp theme ideas can be as specific or general as you like.

    Summer camp themes can be based on skills: fine motor, gross motor, handwriting, cursive writing, executive functioning skills, cursive writing, shoe tying, etc.

    Summer camps can also be based on the activities that will be done: play dough, science experiments, gardening, cooking, dancing, acting, writing, or messy sensory play.

    Or, the summer camp theme ideas can be based on a general theme like princesses, pirates, fairies, pretend play, cooking, nature, hiking, obstacle courses, camping, or anything! There are so many ways to incorporate interests and meaningful, motivating themes into a summer camp theme.

    You can find lots of weekly theme ideas here. These are tailored toward using a set theme in occupational therapy sessions, but are designed to be open-ended so that they can be adjusted to meet a variety of needs and skill levels like in a typical therapy caseload. The thing about a summer camp program is that the activities are not therapeutic or individual in nature. Rather, they are a set of specific activities and so the weekly themes you find in this resource will be quite helpful in planning themed activities.

    When I ran a cash-based program, the first thing that I decided on was the theme. We had a 4 week session with one class each week. The theme of the entire program was a Dig into Spring! theme. By deciding to first cover the overall theme of spring, I was able to come up with specific activities designed on the various skills being covered in the camp program.

    Decide on the Skills being addressed in the therapy camp

    Next, decide on the specific skills you are targeting. With a therapy camp, you likely won’t address specific goals. Rather, all of the participants will go through the activities as a supplement to build strength, sensory participation, or practice functional tasks. Are you going to cover sensory participation? Handwriting? Motor skills? Learning? Executive functioning skills? There are limitless options when it comes to skills being covered in a summer camp program.

    Make these skills as specific or general as you like. You’ll also need to consider the age of the child and general child development.

    Back to my Dig into Spring! camp…After deciding on the theme, coming up with the skills was next. I knew I wanted play and sensory activities to be predominant. Sensory based play is not an easy home program for some families to set up for children. Between the mess and the materials needed for sensory experiences, it can be hard to set up many activities that are so needed and powerful tools for building other underlying areas of development. I took the overarching skills of sensory participation and added fine motor work, core motor strength, balance, coordination, and handwriting.

    The nice thing about planning your own backyard summer camp (or summer camp program at a therapy site), is that you can tailor the activities to meet the needs of the kids you serve. An outpatient setting may want to set up a handwriting camp that gets children involved in fine motor strengthening activities with a mix of handwriting. Another group may include executive functioning tasks for high school aged students. Whether you want to highlight fine motor skills, sensory activities, or executive functioning, the sky is the limit when it comes to a diy summer camp.

    In a summer camp for kids, all of the children will participate in the activities at the same level. There won’t be specific goals being covered or adaptations or modifications. Now, if a child has a therapist or a support person that is involved in the activities who is able to modify the specific tasks and perform them as part of a therapy goal session, that is a different topic. For the discussion here, we are just covering the set-up of a therapy supplemental program or play group.

    If you are setting up a camp as part of an adjunct to a clinic or a therapeutic summer camp program, there may be additional liabilities, payment or insurance considerations, and goals that need to be established.

    DIY Summer Programming

    Next, decide on programming. How would you like to run this camp? Is it going to be one activity per day? For a backyard camp, keeping things open-ended at first can be beneficial for the whole family. Decide on one activity to address each day. For a more organized camp such as those being held in a therapy setting, perhaps you have a list of activities to run through each session.

    Some tips include:

    Have more activities available. If children work through the activities quickly, you will want to have other ideas available.

    Have extra “busy time” camp ideas ready. For the students that arrive early or leave a little later than other students, you can set them up with extra activities.

    Decide how you will set up the various activities. Will the whole group work through the activities together in a centers type of set up? Will you break the group up into smaller groups? Will kids rotate through the centers a different times? All of this depends on the number of participants in the group as well as the help that you have available.

    Will parents remain with children during the camp or will they drop off the students?

    Be sure to get contact information and background information such as allergies, background information, and any other information needed.

    Check-in/check-out- Create a system to allow for safe check-in/check out, especially if the camp set-up is drop-off style. Depending on the nature of the camp and location, this may require some extra thought and preparations.

    Summer camp disclaimers- Be sure to indicate in several places that the activities completed in your summer camp will not be therapeutic in nature. If you are a therapist, the activities will not be therapy! They are developmentally appropriate play-based activities that allow children to explore motor skills, sensory input, and are not a substitute for therapy. You may want to have this disclaimer in writing which parents of camp attendees agree to in writing.

    Another important disclaimer to include is write out a form for parents to sign which indicates safety and liability issues. This is a form that you may want to have written up by a lawyer, specific to your state and your particular summer camp programming activities.

    Social distancing, safety measures- Another consideration is regarding current situations in the way of health and safety. This consideration also requires forethought and planning depending on your situation and summer camp.

    Begin to plan the summer camp activities

    Now comes the fun part. Once you have a theme and skills decided on, you can begin to plan out your activities.

    Gather your ideas and your programming. Do a search on The OT Toolbox to look for activities for various themes and skill areas. We’ve got a lot of ideas here, so there should be something for every topic and skill.

    Finally, start filling in the programming with your activities. Summer camp activities may include a warm up activity, a gross motor activities, fine motor space activities, sensory activities, and more. Perhaps you a have a writing portion to incorporate handwriting in fun and “non-handwriting” way. Ask kids to check in or write their favorite thing you did that day as a way to incorporate writing without asking them to sit and actually practice written work.

    Summer camp themes

    Summer camp ProGram Ideas

    Sensory Summer Camp – Set up a backyard summer sensory camp that incorporates messy play experiences and motor skill development through play and interaction with friends.

    Sensory Handwriting Summer Camp- Helping kids with handwriting? Use the ideas in this sensory handwriting camp to help with letter formation, sizing, spacing, and pencil grasp using sensory play-based activities.

    Typing Camp- If you’re looking for an out-of-the-box idea for a summer camp program, how about a keyboarding club that helps kids improve typing skills, keyboard use, and typing speed?

    Summer Cooking Camp– A cooking camp is a fun way to spend the summer cooking up recipes, creating summer memories, and helping with problem solving, creativity, executive functioning skills, and motor development. Try the recipes in our cooking with kids recipe collection (an A-Z Recipes collection)!

    Cursive Writing Camp– Use the activities and ideas in this 31 days of cursive to teach cursive writing skills, letter formation.

    Fine Motor Summer Camp– Work on fine motor skills through play. Set up activities with various materials each day of the summer camp:

    Play Dough Summer Camp- How fun would it be to make play dough and explore textures, while strengthening fine motor skills? Try of the sensory dough recipes of our best homemade play dough recipes.

    So, what summer camps are you thinking of?

    St. Patrick’s Day Theme

    St. Patrick's Day activities

    Looking to work on skills in therapy sessions that use a St. Patrick’s day theme? Here, you’ll find four leaf clover activities, rainbow activities, St. Patrick’s Day crafts, snacks, and more. Use these ideas to foster child development of functional skills using a fun theme.

     
    How is it March already?? We’ve got lion-like weather yet again around here, but spring, rainbows, and lamb-weather are on the horizon, Yay for warmer weather! These St. Patrick’s Day theme activities and ideas are great for planning therapy sessions based on four leaf clovers, shamrocks, leprechauns, and pot of gold fun. It’s time to get in a spring-like mood and a fun little themed play date or preschool party sounds like just the thing  Check out the ideas below for green-themed party ideas for the kids.

     

    Use a St. Patrick's day theme in planning therapy activities with kids.

     

    St. Patrick’s Day Theme in therapy 

    Having a weekly theme in your therapy sessions makes planning much easier. Each St Patricks Day activity can be adjusted to meet different levels and functional goal area depending on the kids that therapists are serving.

    Check out all of the St. Patrick’s Day theme activities below. You’ll find resources for teletherapy, fine motor, gross motor, crafts, and more. If St. Patrick’s Day ideas for kindergarten, preschool, or specific age groups are what you’re looking for, you are in luck. 

    St. Patrick’s Day theme therapy slide decks

    Try these St. Patrick’s Day therapy activities in the format of a free Google slide deck. Therapists can go through the slides with the clients on their caseload and foster development of goal areas.

    St. Patrick’s Day Write and Sign slide deck– Work on handwriting with these writing prompt activities. Then use ASL to sign the words, building fine motor dexterity, coordination, finger isolation, and motor planning.

    Shamrock Visual Perception slide deck– This slide deck includes 7 different visual perception activities. Kids can move the pieces on the slide decks to work on areas such as visual discrimination, visual attention, visual scanning, and much more.

    Four Leaf Clover Balance Exercises– Go through the slides and follow the exercises as kids are challenged to balance a pillow or beanbag in different ways (a stuffed animal or roll of socks works too!). Encourage coordination, motor planning, core strength, proprioceptive input, and more.

    Rainbow Gross Motor/ Pre-Writing Lines slide deck– Kids can “air write” and copy pre-writing rainbow lines.

    Rainbow Emotions Spot It Game slide deck– Work on social emotional skills and visual discrimination and other visual perceptual skills with a matching game.

    Rainbow Visual Motor Activities slide deck– Working on handwriting, but the underlying issue of copying forms and visual motor integration is an issue? Kids can copy simple-to-complex rainbow forms and work on pencil control, eye-hand coordination, and more.

    St. Patrick’s Day Fine Motor Activities 

    Use these St. Patrick’s day theme ideas in working on fine motor skills with kids. Amazon links included below.

    6 Fine Motor Activities Using Gold Coins– This printable handout on 6 fine motor activities using coins strengthens those fine motor skills using just a handful of coins. We used plastic gold coins in our activity, but you could use pennies as well.

    Shamrock Balance Beam– Cut out shamrocks from paper and use them to make a balance beam to incorporate core strength, coordination, vestibular input, and more.

    Finger Isolation Clover Fingerprints Got paint? Use it to make fun fingerprint 4 leaf clovers and work on finger isolation, separation of the sides of the hand, eye-hand coordination, and more. This would be fun with homemade puffy paints, too (just need flour & water).

    Bilateral Coordination Clover Activity– Stick a piece of paper to the wall and draw symmetrical clovers to work on bilateral coordination, visual tracking, visual motor integration, and more.

    Four Leaf Clover Deep Breathing Exercise & Coloring Page– Take mindful coloring to the next level with this deep breathing exercise. Kids can color and then use the printout as a deep breathing exercise over and over again.

     

    More St. Patrick’s day Ideas

    St. Patrick’s Day Party Snacks for Kids

    Every play date needs some snacks.  3 Boys and a Dog has six St. Patrick’s Day treats that are fun and festive. To really build fine motor skills and executive functioning in kids, have them make these healthy rainbow snacks. There is a lot of skill-building to happen in the kitchen.

    St. Patrick’s Day Songs for Kids

    Get the party started with some Leprechaun Songs for St. Patrick’s Day from Let’s Play Music.  Wouldn’t these be fun songs to sit the kids in a circle for a preschool sing-a-long?

    St. Patrick’s Day Printable Pages for Kids

    Set up a little table with some print outs to keep the kids busy and having fun with friends.  These St. Patrick’s Day Coloring Pages from 3 Boys and a Dog would be perfect!  Scatter a box of crayons and a pile of printable sheets on a little picnic table are all you need.

    Cutting strips of paper or foam craft sheets are great fine motor work for beginner scissor users. If you are looking for St. Patrick’s Day activities for kindergarten and preschool ages, have kids cut strips of colorful paper like we did in this rainbow window activity.

    St. Patrick’s Day Games and Activities for Kids

    Kids will love a few St. Patrick’s Day games and activities.  Try this Clover Tic Tac Toe game from The Mamade Diaries. 

    If sensory play is your thing, this green rice sensory bin from Little Bins for Little Hands looks like so much fun…throw a sheet down on the floor (or a baby pool set up indoors would work, too!) and let the kids in on the sensory fun with 3 Rainbow Sensory Bins!


     

     

     
    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.

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