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?

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.

Ocean Animals Matching Game

sea animals matching game

This ocean animals matching game was originally published when many OT professionals were conducting virtual therapy sessions a few years back. Now that therapy is back to in-person sessions, resources like this sea animals matching game slide deck are a useful tool for many reasons! It’s a great addition to a summer occupational therapy session or any sea animal theme.

sea animal matching game

Sea Animals Matching Game

Animals of the sea are a fun and engaging theme for kids, so this sea animals game is a motivating way to build on that.

Originally, this slide deck was a tool for targeting skills in visual memory, visual perceptual skills, attention, executive functioning skills, handwriting, and more. Therapy providers could access the slide deck and work on specific skills with kids over virtual therapy sessions.

Now, a few years later, the same therapy tool can still be used in several different ways:

  • Print off the slide decks and use them as Ocean animal “Spot It” worksheets.
  • Pull up the sea animal game on a tablet or computer in face-to-face therapy sessions to work on visual perceptual skills.
  • Use the slide deck on a larger screen such as a Smart board or TV. Add gross motor actions for each sea creature. Use the visuals as a prompt for various gross motor coordination tasks by acting out the sea creatures.
  • Use the slide deck as a prompt for sea animal yoga, ocean animal brain breaks, or in a Simon Says command.
  • Work on handwriting by writing down the names of the ocean animals that the user spots in the matching activity.
  • Print off the slide decks and ask the user to cut out the circles for each matching game. Then, they can clip a paper clip onto the edge of the circle when they find the match. This is a powerful hand strengthening activity that addresses bilateral coordination and motor planning. (Here are more paper clip activities to build fine motor skills.)
  • To really ramp up the gross motor skills and incorporate visual scanning skills, print off the pages as PDFs and then cut out the individual circles. Place them at greater distances around the room. This activity targets visual attention as well. It’s a great way to grade the task to foster near point copying skills and far point copying skills.
  • Incorporate the activity with other ocean animals games like “guess who” to identify features in the mind’s eye and work on executive functioning skills.

Matching games are such a great way to work on visual perceptual skills that are needed for hand writing and reading. This ocean animals matching game is a therapy activity that helps kids to work on several visual perceptual skills including visual discrimination form constancy visual scanning and other skills. Add this idea to your summer occupational therapy line-up!

Ocean animals matching game to work on visual perceptual skills

Ocean animals Matching Game

This is a great activity for an ocean theme this summer.

Kids that love ocean animals like fish seahorses seahorses octopus and see turtles will get love working on this spotting game.

To play children can look at the two circles on the slide deck. They can visually scan to locate the identical ocean animal that is the same on each part of the slide. Then the interactive piece of this game is a movable seaweed option. They can click and drag on the seaweed icon and drag it over to cover up the matching animals. By doing this interactive piece kids can improve eye hand coordination and visual tracking skills as well.

Ocean animals writing prompts

Then after the students find the matching ocean animal there is a slide that is a self-checking exercise. The slide asks “did you find the missing item?” and then offers an ocean animals writing prompt.

On the handwriting portion of this ocean animals activity kids can copy the ocean animals word from the slide.

They can work on letter formation and copying skills from a near point or a distance point.

There’s also an open ended writing prompt where kids can copy a full sentence.

You can then expand the activity to an open ended writing prompt by asking that student to expand on that topic or ocean animal.

For example kids can copy the word octopus and work on letter formation letter size and spacing between letters. Then they can copy the octopus sentence. They can work on spacing between letters and words, letter formation, line use, punctuation, capitalization, and overall legibility.

Then finally expand on the activity and ask students to continue to write about an octopus they can either write a silly sentence or another fact if they know one. This slide deck includes many ocean animals that kids will have fun finding and writing about. Other ocean animals included in this slide deck include:

  • seahorse
  • sea turtle
  • crab
  • puffer fish
  • octopus
  • jellyfish
  • whale
  • shark
  • conch shell
  • school of fish

Sometimes kids will have difficulties copying or reading without losing their place on the paper. Convergence insufficiency can be one cause for this. Other reasons can be visual scanning or visual attention skills. This slide deck is one way to work on these skills.

Copying from a near point is a great way to work on visual shift visual attention and visual memory skills that are needed for kids to copy words from a workbook onto paper or from some other source like a book into a notebook.

By shifting the slides to an overhead screen such as a SmartBoard that is positioned across the room children can work on distance copying. This visual motor skill can be a challenge for some kids who struggle with visual attention and visual memory. In order to copy from a source children need to visually recall where they left off and then shift their vision while holding the visual information in there our minds eye and then realizing where to go back to on the board to copy from. That shift can be difficult for kids so this open ended and fun activity can help with visual motor skills and copying from near and far points.

This matching game is similar to others that we have here on the website so if a spotting and matching game is an interest and helpful for you and the children that you serve check out these other spotting and matching activities:

Want more ways to play and build skills with a beach or ocean theme? Check out these fun ideas:

Use the cards along with other sea creature games and activities like…

Free Ocean Animals Matching Slide Deck

Would you like to access this free ocean animals activity to work on visual perceptual skills, eye-hand coordination, and handwriting? Enter your email into that form below and you can access this resource to use in teletherapy sessions in home programming in face-to-face therapy sessions or in homeschooling activities. Another option is to also use for hand writing prompts in the classroom.

FREE Ocean Animals Matching Game

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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.

    Sports Gross Motor Exercises

    sports gross motor exercises and sports motor planning activities

    Working on gross motor skills, motor planning, or self-regulation? These sports gross motor exercises are perfect for kids that love all things sports! Use the football, baseball, hockey, and other sports activities to add athletic themed brain breaks and whole body movement.

    Sports gross motor exercises and motor planning activities for kids

    Sports Gross Motor Exercises

    These sports gross motor activities are a free therapy slide deck to use in virtual therapy sessions or in face-to-face sessions with an outline of activities.

    There are so many ways you can use these sports movement activities to promote development of gross motor skills:

    • Copy the athlete to work on motor planning
    • Go through several slides to encourage sequencing and memory skills
    • Use the sports activities as heavy work in sports themed brain breaks
    • Copy the athletes on each slide to work on bilateral coordination, crossing midline, and segmenting the body.
    • Address posture, position changes, coordination, balance, and endurance
    • Use these sports exercises in a sports themed therapy session and encourage functional tasks like ball catching and throwing
    • Ask students to copy the words and work on handwriting with a sports related brain break between each word
    • How would you use these sports exercises in therapy?

    Sports Exercises Slide Deck

    This resource is a free Google slide deck that you can download and add to your Google drive. Open the slide deck in your Google classroom or right on your computer/device to encourage gross motor activities.

    This is a great addition to other free slides that we’ve shared here on the website, and a fun weekly therapy theme when you’ve got a sports fan on your caseload.

    To access this free therapy slide deck, enter your email address into the form below. You’ll receive an email containing a download. Save that PDF so you can use this again and again! Then click the link on the PDF and copy the exercises to your Google drive. Then get ready to lead therapy kiddos through motor planning and gross motor exercises that build skills!

    FREE Sports Gross Motor Exercises

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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.

      Sun Visual Perception Activity

      sun visual perception activities

      Working on visual perceptual skills with kids this summer? This sun visual perception activity is a fun way to build skills needed for handwriting and reading! It’s a free therapy slide deck that builds skills like visual discrimination, form constancy, and visual figure-ground.

      Sun visual perception activity and free slide deck

      Sun Visual Perception Activity

      Summertime doesn’t have to mean not working on specific skills that help kids to improve functional hand writing and learning tasks. It also doesn’t mean building visual perceptual skills requires boring worksheets either.

      This free visual perceptual activity has a sun and sunshine theme for summer days.

      The visual perception sun activities include visual discrimination, form constancy, visual attention, and visual memory tasks.

      Kids can work on form constancy as they recognize differences in the various sun images and activities.

      You’ll love adding this these other visual perceptual activities too:

      Sunshine Visual perceptual activities

      There are several visual perceptual activities with the sun theme on the slide decks.

      This is also great if kids are heading off to vacation or taking a break from therapy for a while. They can use the activity as a fun way to work on specific visual perceptual skills.

      Want to access this free therapy slide deck? Enter your email address into the form below and to receive this activity.

      FREE Sun Visual Perception Activity Slide Deck

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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.

        Mermaid Sandcastle Activity

        mermaid sandcastle

        Do you know kids that love all things mermaids? Or, are you heading to the beach this summer and want to add a sandcastle activity to your skill building? This mermaid sandcastle is going to be a hit this summer! Kids can decorate the mermaid and build a sandcastle in an interactive slide deck for therapy goals!

        Use this mermaid sandcastle activity to work on therapy skills- decorate a mermaid and a sandcastle and then complete the mermaid writing prompts and sandcastle writing prompts.

        Mermaid Sand Castle Activity

        Did you ever see a kiddo or little girl who loves all things mermaids? Using mermaid themes in therapy activities can be a fun way to engage kids in something that interest them like mermaids.

        In this interactive slide deck children can move the pieces to add accessories to create a decorated mermaid.

        This mermaid slide deck is mirrored off of our popular disguise a turkey slide deck from Thanksgiving and our fun decorate a gingerbread house from Christmas time. Both free slide decks were really popular during the pandemic when all therapy was virtual. Just like those interactive slides, this mermaid sandcastle activity allows kids the freedom of expression and creativity to decorate a mermaid and a sandcastle with movable pieces right on the slides.

        This slide deck is a great summer occupational therapy tool to work on several areas.

        Skills like eye hand coordination, visual motor skills, visual memory, visual attention, and visual discrimination can be used to move the different necklaces and crowns for the mermaid.

        On the first slide children can select accessories for the mermaid by clicking and dragging on different accessories. They have to work on mouse control or finger isolation to click and drag.

        Mermaid Writing Prompts

        Next the slides prompt kids to write about what they selected to create their mermaid.

        Depending on the child’s individual goals or needs they can work on hand writing and write out the sentence prompts on paper or they can type right on this the scrub slide deck.

        The slide asks kids about the accessories they used to decorate their mermaid, so the prompts work on using visual memory and working memory skills as part of executive functioning. Children can try to recall the specific details about the accessories that they selected like the color the shape the form and other details.

        This helps with awareness skills and recognition as well as discrimination and visual memory. All of his skills are essential for hand writing when copying materials or writing from memory to form letters and numbers.

        Decorate a sandcastle activity

        Next the slide deck continues with the sea theme with an interactive decorate a Sandcastle slide. On this slide, children can decorate this the Sandcastle using features such as colorful and fun windows, doors, and flags.

        Sandcastle Writing Prompts

        Then the next slide continues with a handwriting or typing prompt and asks about details that they selected for their Sandcastle.

        Children can again work on working memory skills and attention to detail.

        Both of the slide decks both of these slides are fun ways to use a mermaid and sandcastle theme in therapy.

        Free mermaid sandcastle slide deck

        Would you like to add the slide deck to your therapy Toolbox? Enter your email address into the form below to access the slide deck. You will receive an email with a PDF that you can click to cook to connect the slides to your Google Drive. When used in the edit mode the clickable pieces on the interactive slide deck will be movable. Note please consider using a personal email address as school email addresses and work email addresses may block the delivery of this PDF via email.

        FREE Mermaid Sandcastle Slide Deck Activity

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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.

          Camping Writing Activity

          camping writing

          Going camping this summer? This free therapy slide deck is a camping writing activity that kids can use to work on handwriting skills this summer. Use the camping activity as a tool to work on handwriting skills in therapy sessions or at home this summer.

          Use this camping writing slide deck to work on handwriting skills this summer, with a camping theme.

          Camping Writing

          When you think of camping and writing, you might think about writing letters home from a summer camp. Or, maybe you think of writing out packing lists before you head off to tent in the woods for the weekend.

          Both are actually really great natural writing tasks that kids can use to put pencil to paper this summer and work on writing skills without the boring rote practice that thoughts of handwriting typically bring.

          However, to expand on that theme a bit, this camping writing slide deck is great for building specific writing skills over the summer months.

          You can use this slide deck in teletherapy sessions, in home programs, in extended school year, or at home to work on writing skills such as:

          • copying skills
          • letter formation
          • size awareness
          • line use
          • visual motor skills

          The camping activities include visual forms that children can copy without admitting details so that they are working on visual perceptual skills such as form constancy, visual discrimination, visual closure, and other areas.

          There are several simple camping images that build up to more complex camping images that kids can copy to build visual motor skills and attention to detail.

          There’s also a part of the activity where kids can copy specific terms related to tenting and camping.

          Kids can copy these words right onto the screen using an Google Jamboard or they can copy the words onto paper. Several slides have lined portions where kids can copy the words onto the screen. You’ll find a link to access this resource once you access the file in the form at the bottom of this post.

          When kids copy words they need to work on they are using visual perceptual skills such as visual scanning, visual attention, visual memory, and visual shift. These tasks this skills are important for tasks such as copying written material from a chalkboard or smart board in the classroom.

          This handwriting active activity can also be expanded to ask kids to copy the words into alphabetical order or to expand the activity by asking them to write a sentence including the words.

          Free Camping Writing Slide Deck

          Would you like to add this camping hand writing activity to your therapy tool box? Enter your email address into the form below to access this free therapy slide deck.

          FREE Camping Writing Activity

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            More Ideas for Summer

            Want more ways to play and build skills while camping or with a camping theme in therapy sessions or at home? Check out these fun ideas:

            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.

            Ice Cream Writing Activities

            ice cream writing activities

            Today I have a fun ice cream writing activity that gets kids excited about writing ice cream words and everything fun and motivating about ice cream. If your kids are anything like mine they love ice cream and the toppings ice cream cones sprinkles and the jingle of the ice cream truck.

            Ice Cream Writing Activity for kids

            Ice Cream Writing

            In this ice cream writing activity kids can work on the skills they need for legible handwriting including letter formation sizing spacing and copying skills and the fine motor skills needed for a functional pencil grasp.

            All of this happens in an interactive in a free Google slide that you can use in teletherapy face-to-face therapy home programs or in the classroom for with an ice cream theme.

            This ice cream writing activity begins with a several ice cream themed words including:

            • ice cream truck
            • chocolate syrup
            • ice cream scoop
            • cone
            • sprinkles
            • spoon
            • bowl

            Ice Cream Writing Skills

            Kids can copy the words from the slide deck and work on letter formation, sizing, spacing, and legibility.

            You could expand the activity to ask kids to write the words in alphabetical order and address some visual perceptual skills such as visual scanning visual memory visual attention and visual discrimination and others.

            Then the slides continue with a visual perceptual exercise that takes away one of the items on the previous slide.

            This activity is much like one a hands-on “what’s missing” activity where you lay out several minute items on a table and then ask children to remember what they see in front of them and then after a few seconds you take away one of the items and ask them what’s missing.

            “What’s Missing” games are such a great way to work on visual attention and visual memory skills. These skills are so needed for copying materials writing reading and recalling letter formation as well as hand writing rules like using spaces between words in pencil grasp rules.

            The slides continue with several of these “what’s missing” activities with the ice cream theme where kids can write out the specific ice cream terms that are missing on each slide in further work on handwriting skills.

            Write Ice Cream Words in ABC Order

            The next ice cream handwriting activity asks kids to write in alphabetical order, several ice cream words scattered on ice cream cones.

            Kids can work on copying those in order and work on the visual memory skills and visual perceptual skills needed for putting words into alphabetical order.

            Ice Cream Sign Language Activity

            The next several slides include several American Sign Language handwriting activities to spell out ice cream words.

            There is an American Sign Language key on each slide so that kids can visually scan to copy the hand formations to spell out the words.

            They will love using sign language to spell out ice cream words like sprinkles, scoop, ice cream, bowl, and spoon.

            The benefits of asking children to use sign language to spell words is that if they do not know the sign language hand formations, that they need to visually attend to on the screen, using visual memory and visual attention skills to copy the formation.

            However using sign language also develops working memory to recall and use the same letters in spelling. American sign language activities and spelling also benefits kids to work on fine motor skills such as:

            • finger isolation
            • separation of the sides of the hand
            • open thumb web space
            • arch development
            • dexterity

            Ice Cream Writing Prompts

            The last activity on this ice cream writing task is a open ended handwriting task which asks students to create sentences using the ice cream words.

            You can expand this activity to meet the needs of various levels of children by asking them to copy more sentences or less sentences you can make the sentences very concrete and give them a specific sentence to write that contains the words or you can leave it open ended and ask students to write a silly sentence or a story using the words on the slide.

            Use the ice cream writing prompts to meet the needs of your students!

            You will also enjoy the other ice cream activities that we have here on the website including:

            Would you like to add the slide deck to your therapy Toolbox? Enter your email address into the form below to access this ice cream writing activity.

            FREE Ice Cream Writing Activity

              We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

              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.

              Ice Cream Working Memory Activity

              ice cream activity for working memory skills

              This ice cream activity is also a working memory activity that combines the two themes into a hit of a therapy tool…a lot like combining ice cream and sprinkles! If building working memory skills this summer is on your to-do list, than this interactive ice cream ice cream activity is sure to be a hit! Add this to your summer OT activities and let’s build executive functioning skills!

              Ice cream activity that is a working memory activity too!

              Working Memory Activity

              Working memory is a skill that can be difficult for many children but is used and needed for so many functional tasks. Working memory is an executive functioning skill that kids need for safety completing assignments reading participating in self-care tasks interacting with others and basically every task that we complete throughout the day.

              We use working memory to complete school tasks, self-care tasks, and everyday living tasks!

              Processing short term memories and using it allows us to respond in new situations.  Working memory allows us to learn, play, and interact with the world around us. The skill allows us to self-regulate, and pull strategies that have worked (or didn’t work) for us in the past. Using working memory skills we can use past information in reading in order to read, spell, know math facts, phone numbers, faces, addresses, sight words…and so much more.  We can remember our way back home, state capitals, mnemonics, phone numbers, addresses, and friends’ names.  We can then use that information to answer questions based on what we know and apply that information in new situations. All of these abilities are working memory at work!

              Ice Cream Working Memory Activity

              That’s where this ice cream activity that address is working memory is comes in handy.

              This ice cream working memory activity is a free virtual slide deck that can be used with teletherapy or to facilitate face-to-face therapy sessions as well as home programming or school activities.

              In the ice cream working memory slide deck kids can move through the slides and work on various skills while they complete each slides instructions. The slide deck is designed to support and practice skills including:

              • working memory
              • visual attention
              • visual scanning
              • eye-hand coordination
              • direction following
              • sequencing

              This slide deck is able to be graded to expand the activities and make them easier or harder for individual students based on their needs.

              You can grade the activities by asking students to complete two or more tasks for each slide.

              For example you can read the directions on the slide and then add additional steps or additional details that they need to remember and recall. Each ice cream ice cream on the slide deck is movable so this interactive slide deck is an interesting and fun way to work on specific skills for kids. When you open this slide deck in your Google Drive you can edit it in order to move the individual ice cream cones.

              This is an engaging and motivating way for kids to work on listening sequencing motor planning and direction following. And this slide deck can be adjusted so that it addresses specifically different needs for kids you can for example move the ice cream cones to other areas on the slide that were give them to individual children based on descriptive colors or positions so that you’re working on other skills as well such as body awareness and position in space or other listening and comprehension skills.

              Working Memory Activity for handwriting

              When we write or copy material, we need to recall how to hold the pencil including verbal cues or physical cues we’ve experienced in the past. The ability to recall those cues during a similar task involved working memory. The ability to translate those cues to a muscle memory involves working memory as well.

              You can see how working memory plays a role in letter formation, number formation, line use, spacing, sizing, pencil grasp, margin use, capitalization, punctuation, and overall legibility in handwriting.

              Ice Cream Activity for Working Memory Skills

              The slide deck with an ice cream theme is very engaging and fun for kids and it can be used to work on other areas to such as handwriting and visual motor skills.

              There are several slides in the slide deck that work address on hand writing and copying skills kids can copy the different ice cream terms in and work on handwriting skills such as:

              • letter formation
              • letter size
              • line awareness
              • copying from a distant or near point

              There are also drawing activities to address visual motor skills.

              Kids can copy the simple and complex forms on the slide deck and work on details that are needed for copying work such as handwriting or lists in the classroom. When kids copy from a form they are working on visual motor skills in order to copy the form but they are also furthering their working memory skills by not missing any pieces of the drawing.

              There are so many ways to use this engaging and motivating ice cream activity to work on working number memory skills!

              Would you like to add this ice cream working memory activity to your therapy Toolbox? Enter your email address into the form below and you can access this therapy tour on your Google Drive. It’s able to be used in teletherapy sessions home programming face-to-face therapy sessions or in the home or classroom.

              FREE Ice Cream Activity for Working Memory

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                More Ice Cream Activities

                Want more movement activities? Check out these fun ideas:

                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.

                Baseball and Softball Activity

                baseball and softball activity

                Today I have a fun baseball and softball activity to add to your therapy toolbox. This interactive therapy slide deck goes really well with our other baseball activity (perfect for softball themed fun, too!); this baseball matching game.

                Fun baseball and softball activity is a free slide deck for therapy that addresses handwriting skills, with an interactive Connect 4 game.

                Baseball and softball activity

                This baseball and softball activity is a digital connect four game is a lot like our other more recent digital connect four game with a space thing.

                However this online connect four game has a baseball and softball theme that fits perfectly with the interest of many of the kids we work with.

                Kids that love baseball or softball will love this Connect 4 game that actually addresses therapy goal areas and functional tasks, such as handwriting, letter formation, number formation, eye-hand coordination, visual scanning, visual memory, working memory, visual attention, and more.

                Baseball & Softball Writing Activity

                When you use it in Google slides the game is interactive, allowing kids to move the baseball and softball game pieces to play Connect Four.

                This is just one of the many free slide decks available here on the site. Be sure to grab them all!

                Because users can select the baseball or the softball game pieces, and then move them to cover spaces and play traditional Connect 4 games.

                There is also a slide with letters on each space on the board. When players move their piece to cover that letter, they can write the letter focusing on letter formation. Expand the activity to ask kids to write a word that begins with that letter, or to write a sentence containing words that only begin with that letter. The game is very open-ended to meet the needs of all levels of students.

                You’ll also find a game board containing numbers. Use this to work on number formation. OR, incorporate gross motor movement, balance, coordination, motor planning, and ask kids to do that number of a specific task, like jumping jacks, hops, skips, etc.

                The online connect four game can be played with a therapist or another person and each participant can move the game pieces. Kids that love baseball or softball will love this virtual connect four game!

                All of these are fun ways to address letter and number formation with an interactive and engaging activity.

                Want to add this baseball themed activity or softball themed activity to your therapy Toolbox? Enter your email address into the form below to receive this interactive slide deck. It can be a great tool for a virtual therapy sessions teletherapy or face-to-face therapy activities. Consider even using this in-home or brain break activities in the classroom or at home.

                To receive this free interactive connect four game enter your email address into the form below and it will be delivered to your email address via PDF.

                FREE Baseball & Softball Digital Connect 4 Game

                  We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

                  Also add our recent baseball emotions spot it matching game for your baseball theme in therapy.

                  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.