Symptoms of Too Much Screen Time

Did you know there are specific symptoms of too much screen time that you’ve probably experienced? You’ve probably seen or experienced the symptoms of too much screen time. Blurry eyes, a muddled mind, difficulty with focus, trouble stopping the screens and behaviors when asked to stop…But what are others experiencing when it comes to screen time overload?

As a related resource, this screen time checklist can be helpful in assisting children and teens to complete a certain amount of non-screen tasks before getting access to their devices. Another comprehensive and powerful resource when it comes to screen time is this digital devastations course for therapists and parents.

Part of understanding the symptoms of screen time overload is getting on board with being a tech wise family. Just reading about these ideas and tips and getting to know the impact that technology time has on development is a great first step.

Symptoms of too much screen time

How do screens really impact our kids? And, exactly how much screen time is too much? Is it really that bad if our kids watch movies and play video games all summer? Today, I’m detailing all about what the research tells us about screens, and what evidence we have on the symptoms of screen use in children and teenagers.

Screen time symptoms include:

  • headache
  • blurry eyes
  • foggy brain
  • eye strain
  • sleep issues
  • tantrums
  • emotional skills and emotional development
  • issues with problem solving skills
  • weight
  • physical health

More common struggles are listed below when it comes to specific screen time symptoms.

This blog post is part of a short series I’m sharing on screens and the devastating impact that they have on our children. I’m very excited to share with you a powerful tool that we can use to make a positive change in our kids. One that can impact our community and our children’s futures.

We share some of the impact of screentime in our graphic below:

Symptoms of screen use in kids and research on screens and development in children and teens.

Average Screen Time

We know first hand that children today are using screens more and more. Whether it’s online learning, entertainment apps and games, watching videos, or playing with friends, screens are a part of our kids’ daily lives.

Unlike kids of just a few years ago, children today have online learning, internet-based supplemental activities, learning apps, and screen-based reading on phones and tablets.

With the sudden onset of distance learning and telehealth, kids are on screens, tablets, phones, and computers more now then ever before. Online classroom lessons and therapy sessions are just one more reason for more screen hours.

“Play” is often screen-based: interactive video games with friends, gaming apps, messaging, and videos is done for entertainment. Children and families are tied to devices to manage the home and activity schedules and to communicate with coworkers, friends, family, teachers, and coaches.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that children ages eight to 10 spend an average of six hours per day in front of a screen, kids ages 11 to 14 spend an average of nine hours per day in front of a screen, and youth ages 15 to 18 spend an average of seven-and-a-half hours per day in front of a screen.

According to the one study, children aged 8-18 spend and average of 7.5 hours in front of a screen for entertainment each day. That is a startling number!

But, when you think about requirements for distance learning, video entertainment, communicating with friends and family, app usage, that number begins to make sense. All of the screen time throughout the day and evening hours adds up quickly.

According to the World Health Organization, over 23% of adults and 80% of adolescents are not sufficiently physically active. Our kids are living sedentary lives and the adults in their lives are as well.

Children are spending more time in sedentary activity by using screens and less time in creative, active play that their bodies NEED to thrive and develop.

We also know that children under a certain age should not have access to screens. We know that kids need more active play and creative play that involves the senses. We know that our children need these things to regulate emotions, behaviors, and to give their nervous systems what they need to learn and develop.

We’ve talked a lot on this space about wellness and well-being. We’ve discussed the balance of occupations. But, have you ever looked deeply into the research on screens?

Children as young as 2 years old have their own tablets. The average age of a child getting a smartphone is now 10.3 years old. This is astounding and gravely against recommended ages of screen time according to the American Academy of Pediatric Guidelines.

Digital Clutter can cause executive function overload.

Digital Clutter

Digital clutter is a constantly growing mountain of distractions. And those distractions lead to MORE distractions…impulsivity, forgotten tasks, and lost time…​​​​​​​ digital clutter impacts executive functioning abilities in a huge way! Does this sound familiar or what??

​​​​​​​Just because the clutter doesn’t take up physical space it’s easy to ignore but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t effect us, in a major way.

​​​​​​​​We have all wasted 15 minutes searching for a specific photo or an email. Then 10 minutes resetting a forgotten password. Felt that overwhelm by constantly dinging notifications.

Other examples of digital clutter include:

  • Not deleting emails
  • Too many unread emails
  • Too many notifications on the phone
  • Lost passwords
  • Following too many people or pages on social media
  • Having too many unnecessary social media accounts
  • Being a member of too many social media groups (too many notifications)
  • Drained battery on devices
  • Misplaced downloads
  • Unused apps
  • Constant notifications on devices
  • Photos stored on all devices and in random places
  • Misplaced emails or phone numbers

You might recognize some aspects of this…

When you have all of this digital clutter, it causes another aspect of screen time issues: overwhelm and even anxiety. This is something that I think all of us have experienced as a result of screen distractions. We are trying to do a task like contact someone about something important. But we’ve misplaced the email or their phone number. Or we’ve downloaded a file to use in a therapy session, only to not recall where it’s downloaded to or which device it’s on.

This list could go on and on and on!

​​​​​​​​Here are some quick wins to chip away at the existing digital clutter. Set a timer and choose one!​​​​​​​​

  1. ​​​​​​​​Put all of your downloads in once place. Use the same email address to download all of the resources.
  2. Look at all of the apps on your device and remove ones that you don’t use that often. It’s like cleaning out your closet; if you haven’t worn a piece o clothing in a year, donate it. The same goes for apps. If you haven’t used it recently, delete!
  3. Unsubscribe from emails + delete>> Set a timer and unsubscribe from any emails you don’t read. Delete any unneeded emails.
  4. ​Delete photos>>Take 5 minutes and scroll through some photos. Delete duplicates or blurry shots, anything you actually won’t really look at again.
  5. ​​​​​​​​Organize apps>> Go through the apps on your phone and delete any that you haven’t used in the past year. Sort similar apps into folders on your screen. Just tap and drag them into a combined folder.

What are your best tips for managing the digital clutter overload?

More information on attention and organization are on our executive functioning skills resources.

Symptoms of too much screen time in kids.

Too much screen time symptoms

The effects of screen time on children is showing up in the research. We are seeing astonishing symptoms of screen time in so many ways. These are just SOME of the symptoms and signs of screen overload:

  • Impact on physical health
  • Behavior Issues
  • Poor posture
  • Poor core strength
  • Poor fine motor skills
  • Increased frustration
  • Impulsivity
  • Moodiness
  • Poor ability to handle stress
  • Poor endurance
  • Mental health issues
  • Impact on emotional health
  • Decreased attention
  • Decreased cognitive skills
  • Overactive brain
  • Poor ability to transition
  • Addiction “state of being”
  • Less self-control

Do these screen time symptoms sound familiar? Some of them probably do! But, it’s not just something that is in your mind when it comes to screens and foggy thoughts.

Then, there can even be other symptoms of too much screen time that arise that we don’t always think about. For our kids who are developing in other areas, this can be a real problem.

This might include social withdrawal. We see the child that would rather watch YouTube videos than go outside and play with neighbors or friends.


We might see emotional dysregulation. Particularly in children and adolescents, can be linked to emotional challenges, including increased irritability, frustration, or mood swings.

This leads us to our next issue…

Behavioral Issues

Still another area of consideration are the behavioral issues. You’ve probably seen the toddler or preschooler that is playing on a device. When the parent takes it away suddenly, there is a tantrum. This happens because a preferred activity is suddenly removed. The brain and body need to reset and a tantrum or breakdown results. There can be an increase in behavioral problems, including impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity, which might not be immediately attributed to screen time.

Cognitive Delays

For young children, especially toddlers and preschoolers, we might see cognitive delays. In young children, excessive screen time can impact cognitive development, potentially delaying language acquisition, attention span, and problem-solving skills.

Pencil Grasp

Pencil grasp and visual motor skills are another area you might not think about right away. Overreliance on screens may limit opportunities for engaging in activities that develop fine motor skills, such as drawing, writing, or manipulating small objects. Pencil grasp development requires play and when the primary form of play in young kids is via screens, we see that impact as school based therapy providers. This is one of the main things that therapists want parents to know about pencil grasp.

warning signs of too much screen time adults

The warning signs for too much time on screens isn’t just for kids. We see the impact of screentime in adults too.

Excessive screen time in adults can have various negative effects on physical and mental well-being. For adults, we might need to spend long hours on a computer while at work. Then to spend more hours at home as entertainment when watching shows on a small screen or while scrolling social media. All of this time adds up!

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Eye Strain: Complaints of dry, irritated, or tired eyes.
  • Headaches: Frequent headaches, particularly tension headaches, may be linked to prolonged screen use.
  • Insomnia: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep may be associated with excessive screen time, especially before bedtime.
  • Sedentary Behavior: Excessive sitting or lack of physical activity associated with prolonged screen use.
  • Posture Problems: Neck and back pain due to poor ergonomics or prolonged periods of screen use.
  • Increased Stress: Excessive screen time, especially on social media or news sites, can contribute to heightened stress levels.
  • Anxiety and Depression: Some individuals may experience increased symptoms of anxiety or depression related to their online activities.
  • Reduced Productivity: Difficulty focusing or completing tasks due to distractions from screens.
  • Memory Issues: Challenges with memory and cognitive functioning associated with prolonged screen use.
  • Isolation: Spending excessive time on screens may lead to reduced face-to-face social interactions, potentially contributing to feelings of loneliness or isolation.
  • Blurred Vision: Vision-related issues such as blurred vision or difficulty focusing.
  • Digital Fatigue: Feeling mentally exhausted or drained after extended screen use.
  • Work or Personal Neglect: Neglecting work responsibilities, personal relationships, or household duties due to excessive screen time.
  • Strained Relationships: Increased conflicts or strained relationships with friends, family, or colleagues due to excessive screen use.
  • Lack of Exercise: Reduced engagement in physical activities due to prolonged screen-related activities.

Screentime in adults

It’s important to note that these signs may vary among individuals, and some people may be more resilient to the effects of screen time. However, being aware of these warning signs can help individuals and healthcare professionals address potential issues related to excessive screen use and promote a healthier balance in daily activities.

Encouraging breaks, adopting proper ergonomics, and establishing screen time limits can contribute to a more balanced and sustainable approach to technology use.

These are the things we see when it comes to screen time. But what else is happening when screens take over the balance of play, physical activity, creative play, and imagination?

  • Less family interaction
  • More frustration
  • More stress
  • Poor ability to transition between tasks (stopping screen play and moving to a different task)
  • Less creative play
  • Less imagination play
  • Less opportunities for communication and interaction
  • Wanting more and more screen time
  • Lack of energy
  • Poor motivation
  • More distracted
  • Posture issues
  • Difficulty with pinch and grip strength and dexterity
  • Eye tracking and shift difficulties

The list could go on and on! It’s the iceberg theory of behaviors, only it’s applied to screen time and over use.

Screen time symptoms

There is research behind these common concerns. More on that in an upcoming blog post.

Strategies to help kids balance screen time in the Digital Devastation Solutions course

How to balance screen time

We can do something. We can make a difference in our children and our future.

This doesn’t mean that we need to completely take screens away from our kids! It doesn’t mean that they can’t watch videos or play games with friends online.

But, we can offer balance, and the activities their nervous systems need to empower sensory and regulation so learning, emotions, behaviors, and mental well-being flourishes. Much of this can be impacted by another aspect, the individuals co-regulation abilities.

What kids REALLY need, is balance. They need play to help develop their brains. They need play to create new neural connections in the brain. They need creative activities to build self-confidence, emotional well-being, and strategies to cope.

Wondering about how much screen time is too much, and what to do when the effects of screen time seem to impact daily life?

How much screen time is too much?

Determining how much screen time is “too much” depends on various factors, including age, developmental stage, and the content being consumed. It’s important to remember that moderation is key.

The fact is that current education, social interactions, entertainment, and daily life tasks all revolve around screen use. Because daily life requires use of screens, we can’t be made to feel guilty about using phones, tablets, laptops, and other types of screens. This is a change in daily life experiences and a piece of the puzzle that must be considered.

Let’s take a look at what current research says about moving from the moderation level to the “too much screen time” level.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provides guidelines regarding screen time for children and adolescents:

  1. For Children Under 18 Months: The AAP recommends avoiding the use of screen media other than video chatting.
  2. For Children 18 to 24 Months: If introduced, parents should choose high-quality programming and watch it with their children to help them understand what they are seeing.
  3. For Children Ages 2 to 5 Years: Limit screen time to one hour per day of high-quality programming, and co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing.
  4. For Children Ages 6 Years and Older: Place consistent limits on screen time, ensuring it does not interfere with adequate sleep, physical activity, and other behaviors essential to health.

While we can’t change current screen usage as times change; students work from personal tablets all day at school; shopping over apps is more and more common; checking in to the doctor’s appointment is done via a tablet at the doctor’s office door.

What we can do is be sure that activities such as physical play, face-to-face interaction, and sufficient sleep are integrated within the day over screen time.

Excessive screen time has been associated with various negative outcomes, including poor sleep, obesity, and delayed language development in young children. However, it’s essential to recognize that not all screen time is equal. Educational content and interactive apps can have benefits when used appropriately and in moderation.

As an occupational therapy practitioner, you can work with families to create a balanced approach to screen time that takes into account individual needs and developmental considerations. Encouraging parents to engage in activities that promote social interaction, physical activity, and creative play can help mitigate the potential negative effects of excessive screen time.

For more information, you can refer to the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on media use for children and adolescents.

How to manage Screen time

There is a way to combat the requirements of online learning, distance schooling, social distancing, and the newest concerns of today. One way to do this is by taking a multisensory approach to academics.

We can balance digital entertainment with the tools that kids need to flourish in emotional, mental, and physical well-being.

One way to manage screen time is to focus on telling time and time management in kids.

We can manage screen time in ways that make a true difference.

Resources for Reducing Screen time

To support kids and the families that are looking for ways to adjust to the influx of screentime we have these days, here are some resources you can offer as a therapy provider:

Too much screen time can have devastating impact on kids and adults. We see this every day. Hopefully, the information in this blog post can help with understanding about the effects of too much screen time in kids and in adults.

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

Caregiver Stress and Burnout

professional caregiver burnout

If caregiver stress and burnout wasn’t a common condition prior to the Coronavirus shutdown of 2020, it certainly is now. During the height of the pandemic, people found themselves caring for their children (typical and with special needs), elderly parents, and spouses 24/7. 

Caregiver stress and burnout

Prior to this life changing event, caregivers did not realize what a blessing school and daycare were, in terms of lifting some of the responsibilities and stressors for a few hours.  During the shutdown in 2020, caregivers flocked to social media, and were incensed that they had to be the ones to teach their children at home, or provide circle time and socialization all day.  

As a therapist and parent of grown daughters, I was frustrated by the comments from these angry parents.  I wanted to exclaim, “this is YOUR child!”  YOUR responsibility!  I understand the toll caring for others takes on a person, however I never considered teachers to be a requirement, or a given; they were privileges and gifts. 

Instead of unleashing fury about having to take care of your loved ones, let’s rewrite the narrative.  How about, “this is hard, day after day. Their teachers must be miracle workers. Or, “I can’t understand how their daycare teachers manage this so well,  I’m exhausted.”

caregiver stress and burnout

No matter what the narrative is or was, the end result is caregiver stress and burnout. Ron Ingbur, JD writes, “caregiver stress syndrome is a condition characterized by physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. It typically results from a person neglecting their own physical and emotional health because they are focused on caring for an ill, injured or disabled loved one”

Check out this article on caregiver stress. People were (and still are) blurring the boundaries between their roles, trying to do too much, not wanting to ask for help, and attempting to be perfect in this imperfect world.

The OT toolbox has a great post on family wellness and a research article on wellness that are good resources to have.

Professional Caregiver Burnout

Caregiver burnout and stress is not limited to families. Healthcare workers, daycare attendants, teachers, therapists, and many more adults take on the role of caregiver, often neglecting their own needs. 

Professional caregiver burnout is a real thing.

As an Occupational Therapist (and a mom and wife)  I hit a wall right before the pandemic took over. I tried changing jobs, reducing hours, decreasing my caseload, none of these relieved my symptoms.  The pandemic was a blessing of sorts for me. 

While it was not 100% solitude, (my husband and teenage stepson still roamed the house looking for food) it was eye opening to realize the change that was happening in my mental and physical health, by having a few months off of work to breathe and reflect.

The lesson I learned, (too late) was I should have taken better care of myself and my needs, before hitting a wall I could not recover from.  Check out these self-care strategies for therapists.

A self-reflection journal for therapists can be a great tool to add to your own toolbox when battling professional caregiver burnout.

common signs of caregiver stress and burnout

Though everyone differs, the common signs of caregiver stress syndrome are:

  • Changes in appetite, weight, or both
  • Depression – feeling blue, hopeless, irritable, helpless, loss of interest in activities
  • Withdrawal from friends and family – these are just one more added stressor
  • Changes in sleep patterns – either sleeping too long due to exhaustion and burnout, or not getting enough sleep due to responsibilities and stress
  • Getting sick more often – not only are caregivers exposed to more illness, their own immune systems are often compromised by their exhaustion and stress
  • Negative thoughts of wanting to escape, hurt yourself, or the person you are caring for
  • Emotional and physical exhaustion
  • Anxiety – intrusive thoughts, obsessions, perseveration on beliefs and feelings

Caregivers find they snap at the ones they love, have nothing left to give when they come home, can not spread their attention across everyone in the family, or constantly feel they are failing.  

caregiver burnout quiz

Think you might have caregiver burnout? 

In addition to the emotional toll caregiving places on a person, there are physical manifestations as well.  According to Igbur, 45% of caregivers reported chronic and possibly life threatening conditions, 58% of respondents said their eating habits were not the same as before, and 72% reported they did not go to the doctor as often as they should.  

What about the little things?  I see caregivers who have not had a hair cut, been to the dentist, or bought new clothes forever.  One of my patient’s moms was wearing old shoes that were duct taped together, using a computer missing several keys (she is a writer, so this is kind of critical), because she put everyone else’s needs so far above her own.  

Once you (or a loved one) recognize the symptoms or caregiver burnout, it is time to take action.  Caregivers who feel they need to do it all, (I was one of them) are the most reluctant to get help.  It is important for these caregivers to realize that they are not going to be of any help to anyone if they are lying in a hospital bed, dead, or having a nervous breakdown.  

how to alleviate caregiver stress and burnout

  • The first step is to take a break.  While a two week vacation in the Bahamas is just what everyone needs, this is not always possible.  Sometimes a break means twenty minutes of alone time in the bath, or a stroll through Target without anyone asking for anything.  Seek assistance from friends, family members, neighbors, church members, groups, organizations, or professional respite care agencies. Caregivers do not need to leave the house while their respite carer, or other helper is in their home.  They can take a nap, do some gardening, lie in the sun, watch Netflix, or whatever they find relaxing. Some of these respite care resources are voluntary, grant funded, or paid agencies.
  • Next, lighten the load.  What tasks or responsibilities do you have that someone else could easily do?  Maybe someone else can clean the house, do the grocery shopping, pick up the other kids at school, take grandma for a stroll, or deliver meals.  Don’t be too proud to share the workload.
  • If you are working outside of the home, talk to your employer about your options.  Maybe you can flex your hours to include a little downtime, take family medical leave if necessary, or cut down work hours.  People are often afraid to ask their bosses for fear of being laid off. To reiterate, if you are so overworked you end up in the hospital, or deceased, your job won’t matter.
  • Once a little time has been freed, take care of yourself. Go to the doctor, visit the dentist, talk to a therapist, join a support group, reconnect with friends, get your hair colored, get some rest, exercise, meditate, color, take a bath, or whatever you have been neglecting while caring for others.

Whether you are a parent, child, healthcare worker, teacher, spouse, or other caregiver, make sure your entire tribe knows what responsibilities you have.  Let your child’s OT know you only have about 15 minutes to spare each day to work on their home program. Talk to their teacher about what amount of homework you and your child can get done each week. Have a discussion with your coworkers about dividing the workload more evenly, and speak to your friends and family so they understand what you should/not take on, and how they can help.  

control what you can

In a caregiver role, there are many things out of your control.  As a teacher you may not be able to control the number of students in your class, but you could streamline your day to be more efficient, or get a housekeeper and a cook to lessen the load when you get home.  You may not be able to decrease your hours at work, but you can make the most of your lunch time by going outside for a walk, eating a yummy snack, taking a nap, or catching up with a friend. Parents may not be able to send their children to school or afford daycare, but they may be able to swap babysitting hours with a friend, join a meal sharing group, or create a playgroup, where there is emotional support as a group while the children play.

Caregiver stress and burnout is huge.  Not just because of the Coronavirus. Adults are living longer, possibly needing more care from their children. There is an increase of children who have special needs requiring extra care, therapies, and appointments.  People are taking on multiple rolesk while juggling a busy job and household. Overscheduling and committing are becoming the norm.

The hardest step to alleviating caregiver stress and burnout

While the first step is recognizing the problem, the HARDEST step is doing something about it. It takes a lot of swallowing your pride, compromising, and feeling the agony of defeat, to ask for help.  Caregivers will find it tough to watch someone clean their house while they take a bubble bath or rest.  Some with find it even more difficult to let a respite care worker take care of their loved one, while they head out to the movies.

This article has some great resources and websites to learn about and combat caregiver stress.

You will thank yourself later.  While I love the job I landed in, I can’t help but wonder what path my career might have taken if I had recognized the burnout sooner, and done something about it. Now that my girls are grown, I constantly reflect on my parenting with doubt and angst, thinking I might have been more patient if I had taken that nap.  

Victoria Wood, OTR/L

Victoria Wood, OTR/L is a contributor to The OT Toolbox and has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.

*The term, “learner” is used throughout this post for readability, however this information is relevant for students, patients, clients, children of all ages and stages or whomever could benefit from these resources. The term “they” is used instead of he/she to be inclusive.

Treadmills and Wellbeing

Treadmills and wellbeing

There are so many benefits to running on a treadmill, for example the physical exercise, wellbeing, emotional response, and treadmill use can play a part in occupational balance when incorporated with leisure activities. And for many, a treadmill is a tool to incorporate exercise into daily routines. Let’s talk treadmills and wellbeing.

Treadmills and wellbeing.

Occupational therapists work with people of all ages on all aspects of occupation, or daily occupations of daily life, and include wellness and wellbeing to promote functional independence in daily occupations. From physical activity to performance of tasks, to a balanced lifestyle, to emotional and social wellbeing, physical activity plays an important role in all of these areas. Leisure activities such as entertainment and listening to music as entertainment are included in a balanced lifestyle, leading to overall wellbeing.

Wellness and wellbeing are important for function in all areas. Today, we’ll explore how a treadmill is a powerful tool in promoting wellbeing through physical activity.

Research on wellness tells us that there are many contributors to wellbeing and overall wellness. And in those contributors, you’ll see a similar thread of physical activity. Tools for promoting wellness include strategies such as mindfulness, deep breathing, yoga, guided imagery, and wellness programs and even rooms. But what about the treadmill as an option to improve wellbeing?

Treadmills and wellbeing

When you take a look at the wellness wheel, it’s easy to see how a lopsided wheel can lead to caregiver stress and burnout, lack of self-care, and a deflated state of being. Adding too much to one pie of the wheel, such as when there is a focus on schooling, work, caring for a children, or long work days can lead to burnout, especially when there is extended time involved in focusing on that one portion of the wellness pie.

Exercise and the benefits that it has on emotional wellbeing, physical activity can be difficult for some. Those in cold or rainy environments, and places where outdoor exercise is difficult can be a detriment. In these situations, indoor running is the way to go.

And, for some treadmill users, the time spent on a treadmill can be time to watch movies, television shows, or listen to music. This can be time that “rounds out” the wellness wheel and adds a much-needed time of entertainment.

This article explains more on these concepts of emotional and physical wellbeing in treadmill use. In fact, treadmill users ran farther, and with higher heart rates when they watched self-selected entertainment during their treadmill run, compared to watching nature images (both a static image or a dynamic nature image).

Treadmill use can also add benefits in emotional wellbeing. Participants in one study showed lowered levels of anger, dejection, and anxiety, as well as increased excitement after exercising on a treadmill.

Preferred music also can have an impact on running performance, according to a different study.

Treadmill Tools

So when it comes to incorporating motivating and meaningful physical exercise into the health and wellness pieces of overall wellbeing, it is beneficial to incorporate entertainment and leisure activities like listening to preferred music or watching movies and television shows.

When weather is bad or it’s too cold outdoors, I turn to my treadmill. I love to run along to music, podcasts, and even Netflix when running on the treadmill. What motivates you?

With the Horizon Fitness treadmills and fitness equipment, there are a number of entertainment apps and streaming options, including Bluetooth speakers,  live or on-demand fitness apps, and other streaming fitness opportunities. All of these extras are designed to promote improved physical exercise and meaningful motivation.

Check out the Horizon fitness deals, including free shipping that you can access now on the Horizon site.

Affiliate links are included in this post, but I only recommend products that I own, and love!

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

Physical Exercise and Wellbeing

Physical exercise and wellbeing go hand in hand.

Evidence tells us that physical exercise is a strong influence on wellbeing. Here, we’re breaking down the evidence and identifying aspects of exercise wellbeing and overall wellness. Therapists who struggle with burnout in the industry know that self-care and intentional focus on wellbeing makes an impact on day to day tasks. But taking what we know as professionals and applying it to our own lives can sometimes be difficult! Let’s take a look at what science says about the benefits of exercise on wellness.

You’ll also find my top tips for using physical exercise to promote self-care as a busy therapist.

physical exercise and wellbeing go hand in hand in battling burnout in therapists.

Physical activity

Physical activity can mean different things to different people. The World Health Organization has a fact sheet on physical activity, including recommendations for physical activity levels for different ages.

Beyond the obvious physical health benefits, participation in physical activity benefits areas such as:

  • Physical health benefits
  • Physical activity reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Physical activity enhances cognitive functioning, including thinking, learning, and judgment skills
  • Physical activity ensures healthy growth and development
  • Physical activity improves overall well-being

We can break down physical activity into physical activity that includes a structured and repetitive, and has as an objective. This might include planning to and following through with a walk around the block every morning, or doing 20 crunches 3 times a week, or running a mile at the track. Physical exercise can come in many forms!

Physical exercise and wellbeing

Adding physical exercise has benefits in many aspects of wellbeing. Take a look at the wellness wheel.

Physical exercise impacts mood. Research tells us that mood and physical health are related. And, mood is a predictor of well-being in many ways, including self-esteem. Self-esteem includes how positive a person feels about themselves. That aspect of emotional skills impact mental health in areas of an individual’s thoughts, emotions, values, and goals. And, a positive level of self-esteem carries over to having a positive attitude about themselves and the world around them.

Other components of mood include a growth mindset, mindfulness, contentment, positivity, motivation, happiness or emotional regulation, and curiosity. These are the components of emotional well-being. These components allow us to meet the demands of everyday life.

Many studies show that physical exercise impacts emotional well-being.

All of this plays a role in burnout in the workplace.

Physical exercise tips for getting started to promote wellbeing.

Tips for Physical Exercise and Wellbeing

Incorporating physical exercise into a lifestyle doesn’t need to be difficult. Below are some tips and strategies to integrate physical exercise into the day-to-day.

When a physical routine involves your interests, that makes it easier to stick with it.

Make it personal– Personally, my favorite physical exercise involves running and walking. When weather is bad or it’s too cold outdoors, I turn to my treadmill. I love to run along to music, podcasts, and even Netflix when running on the treadmill. What motivates you?

Make achievable goals– Adding physical exercise doesn’t mean you need to sign up for a 5K race. Just 5 or 10 minutes on the treadmill makes a big difference in mood and emotional well-being.

Plan it out– Schedule physical exercise into your day. When it’s written down, it becomes more real.

Start slow– Take a walk around the block. Begin with low intensity physical exercise. On the treadmill, begin with an achievable goal using the programing options. A low intensity routine might include a fast walk or slow run at 1% or 2% incline.

If you are looking for exercise equipment to add to your physical exercise toolbox, check out Horizon Fitness for equipment and accessories at all levels.

Affiliate links are included in this post, but I only recommend products that I own, and love!

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

Courneya, K.S., Friedenreich, C.M. Physical exercise and quality of life following cancer diagnosis: A literature review. ann. behav. med. 21, 171 (1999).

Gilani, S., & Feizabad, A. K. (2019). The effects of aerobic exercise training on mental health and self-esteem of type 2 diabetes mellitus patients. Health psychology research7(1), 6576.

Research on Screen Time for Kids

Research on screen time in kids

In this blog post, we’re talking research on screen time. Kids are exposed to screens, tablets, smartphones, laptops, etc. more and more, especially as education turns to online learning. What is the added screen time doing for our young kids? What does the science say about screen time limits. What exactly are the effects of screen time? Here, you’ll see just some of the facts about screens…and how to move forward to a more balanced life with screens.

Research on Screen Time for Kids

Getting familiar with what science says about the impact of screens on child development and the whole family is a great start in becoming a tech wise family.

We’ve done the research on wellness. We know that an unbalanced life leads to overload in physical, mental, or emotional health (as in other areas). Unbalanced screen use leads to so much more and the research is telling!

You’ll also want to check out our recent post on the symptoms of too much screen time. It’s astonishing how our kids are impacted!

Smartphones and tablets have only been around for about a decade or so…but we are at the point where our elementary school-aged children have been around screens for their entire life. Many have constant access to screens, whether it’s through entertaining apps or by watching videos or by observing the adults in their life have a screen device within arms reach as they communicate, work, play, manage the home, play, navigate the vehicle…the list goes on and on.

Occupational therapists who work with children everyday on areas like balance, coordination, regulation, sensory integration, motor skills. All of these areas are necessary for completion of functional tasks. It’s through play that OT professionals work on these much-needed areas. And, it’s play and activity in real-life activities that the balance of screen time needs to occur.

Research oN the Symptoms of Screen Time

The research is telling us even more devastating facts about screen time in kids:

Things like the increasing occurrence of toddlers and preschoolers who have poor achievement of developmental milestones in the areas of communication, motor skills, problem solving, and social skills.

Things like the direct association between screen time and child development.

Symptoms of screen use in kids and research on screens and development in children and teens.

There is research telling us that more hours per day spent on screens is linked to lower psychological well-being, in a way that presents in executive functioning skills as well as social/emotional development. Connections between lower self control, more distractibility, less emotional stability, difficulty making friends, and inability to finish tasks are all depicted.

There is research telling us that increased time spent with digital media in teenagers associated with higher odds of symptoms of ADHD. This may show up as some of they symptoms of too much screen time.

There are reports of increased mental health concerns and mental well-being. There are findings on the overall functioning of the brain that looks like distractibility, frustration, moodiness, and irritability.

You may have heard of the blue light emitted by personal electronic devices. Because children’s eyes absorb less short-wavelength light, more blue light reaches a child’s retina. Children, therefore, may be at higher risk for blue light retinal damage than adults. Blue light emitted from smartphones, tablets, and personal computers before bedtime can delay sleep onset, degrade sleep quality and impair alertness the following day. Limiting those devices before bedtime not only address sleep issues, but can help with overall wellness.

Our teenagers are impacted as well. Hours spent on screens leads to less sleep adequacy, which impacts learning, well-being, and development. Less adequate sleep impacts learning and cognitive skill-building. This occurs right during the age that social-emotional skills develop, executive functioning skill development is occurring, and communication skills are set to develop.

There have been studies completed that show increased depression symptoms, suicide-related outcomes, and suicide rates coinciding with screen use levels.

There is research revealing that brain scans of children who spend more than 7 hours per day on screens show premature cortical thinning of the brain. This is especially significant for our young children who often times, hold phones right up to their face, in a slouched position.

In one study with 18 year-old college students, individuals with internet gaming addiction showed less gray matter volume in several parts of the brain (bilateral anterior cingulate cortex, precuneus, supplementary motor area, superior parietal cortex, left dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex, left insula, and bilateral cerebellum) (Wang et al., 2015)

There are so many more devastating facts and figures that should make us terrified for the future of our children.

Research on screen time in kids

How to use research on screens to create a balance

Things are not hopeless. We are at a point where we must learn, work, communicate using devices. Screen time is inevitable. But, what we can control is the balance of real activities, movement, and play.

All of this information on the research being done on the impact of screens on development, is covered and explained in easy-to-understand language in the therapist-created course and 12-step program, Digital Devastation Solutions.

Digital Devastation Solutions is a tool created by an occupational therapist that can make a true impact on our kids. This course provides the means to balance screens while providing the framework to help kids thrive and master emotions, physical health, mental well-being. It is a formula for helping kids establish skills they need for executive functioning, learning, motor milestones, and so much more.

Digital Devastation Solutions is a way for families to balance excessive screen time use and improve their child’s development. The course covers everything you need to know about the astonishing research that’s been done on screen use in kids and gives a step-by-step plan.

You’ll gain a knowledge of exactly what happens to the brain on screens. You’ll be able to use this information so you can give kids what they really need to grow and develop.

Digital Devastation Solutions is an informative course AND 12 Step Plan for raising a happy, healthy child in the digital age. Kids and families can use that 12 step solution to balance screen time in this new COVID era.

Therapists can access a workshop and program that can be duplicated in your practice. You can use the workshop as a class for parents and share this powerful research and step-by-step program with those in your community.

Therapists can help balance screen time

As therapists, we are experts in wellness. We know the power of occupational balance. Having too much screen time throws that balance off in a way that impacts performance, task completion, mental health, emotional health, and physical well being. Occupational therapy professionals strive to empower clients and families with resources to combat screen overload.

Digital Devastation Solutions offers a therapist resource to use in practice. This is a tool to build a workshop for sale or community building while building a practice. Not only will this workshop educate your community and offer great value, it will position yourself as the expert to offer solutions which will build your OT business.

  • An already done for you marketing and education system. All you have to do is set up the class and then press play on the PowerPoint. It will come with a script so you will know exactly what to say. This will save you about 40 hours of time. (Value $4000)
  • Parent handouts including: Screen Survey, Technology Agreement, When to Get Professional Help and Chores Chart by Age (Value $500)
  • Marketing ideas and a Pre-Made flyer you can use to market your class (Value $300)
  • Developmental Screening Form (Value $500)
  • Access to a private Facebook group to share ideas and support
  • Added Bonus when you Pre-Order “Quick Start Guide: The Step by Step Checklist to Set Up your First Class”

Click here to read more about Digital Destination Solutions Program for use in therapy sessions and practice.

bonus for Digital Devastation Solutions course

>>Free Ways to Add Sensory Motor Activities to the Classroom

>>Scree Research Printable

>>Classroom Sensory Strategies Toolkit

>>Indoor Recess Sensory Diet Activities

>>Outdoor Sensory Diet Activities and Outdoor Challenges

>>School Sensory Checklist

>>How Play Builds Child Development Printable

When you purchase Digital Devastation Solutions through a link on this website, email with your receipt and you will be sent this bonus pack.

Wang H, Jin C, Yuan K, Shakir TM, Mao C, Niu X, Niu C, Guo L, Zhang MFront Behav Neurosci. 2015; 9():64.

Infant & Children’s Vision Resources supported by The American Optometric Association and Optometry Cares – The AOA Foundation . Blue Light Impact in Children [White paper].

Screen Time Checklist

free screen time checklist

How to balance screen time in a digital age is a HUGE question that therapists, teachers, and parents wonder about. Our kids are struggling. They are impacted by increased time on screens in ways that we may have not ever imagined. The research on screen time is profound. So how do we balance screen time when it seems to be everywhere: schools, distance learning requirements, social media, communication apps, games, television and movie streaming, and so much more? Today, I’m excited to share with you screen time checklist to use to help kids balance screen use with activity and responsibilities. This is a great tool to have in your toolbox as a tech wise family.

free screen time checklist

Screen Time Checklist

This free printable checklist can be customized to include tasks each child needs to complete before they have access to screens.

Add chores, homework, or other responsibilities to the list.

Add reading time, creative play such as journaling or art creation to the screen checklist.

Add household responsibilities such as making the bed, getting dressed, brushing teeth, or cleaning up the breakfast plates.

Add physical activity requirements such as outdoor play, exercise, going for a walk, or playing in the yard.

Open ended checklist for screen time

The task requirements were intentionally left blank so that you can add the time constrictions and activity requirements. Perhaps you would like to see face-to-face interactions to work on emotional well being.

Maybe your specific child or client needs sensory play in the way of tactile exploration or vestibular input. These activities can be written on the checklist so they have exposure each day.

Maybe your child needs to have heavy work in their sensory lifestyle. This can be added in the form of heavy work chores or sensory coping activities.

If executive functioning is a concern, maybe adding a cooking activity for each day would be a good requirement before screens.

If reading is important to add to your child’s day, try adding a book related activity to the list.

I wanted to make this checklist a motivating way to accomplish individual goals while also adding balance to digital time.

Becoming more aware of how much time a child spends in the way of face-to-face interaction, creative play, physical activity compared to screen time is one of the first steps in helping kids balance screens and address some of those symptoms of too much screen time.

Screen Time Checklist for Home and therapy

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

    Wellness Research

    Wellness research is important to discover and study when considering the health and wellbeing of kids and families.

    Well, there is one thing for sure. When it comes to practice, occupational therapists need evidence. Today, we’re talking about wellness research. We’re discussing aspects of wellness and well being based on the studies and the research that is out there. This wellness information will be a resource for anyone looking to serve and create a wellness plan..whether it be for a clinic, a classroom, an individual, or a family. I’ve dissected various health and wellness articles to bring you the evidence! Grab a cup of coffee or a big glass of ice water, relax, and check out these wellness studies. This post is part of our Wellness Challenge, where we cover all things health and wellbeing for kids and families.

    Wellness research is important to discover and study when considering the health and wellbeing of kids and families.

    Be sure to check out this post on the wellness wheel to discover the subcategories of wellbeing as well as balance/imbalance and how to determine a state of being.

    This post on Family Wellness is a good read, too. Discover wellbeing in the family as a unit or individual.

    Wellness Research on Child well being

    Occupational therapy practitioners can play a valuable and effective role in influencing the outcomes of child development supporting the health and well-being of families. A healthy family unit has an effect on positive child outcomes, development, and overall health.

    Parent Resources for Wellness- We know that child well being is dependent on various factors. There are wellness articles that covers in depth, all of the factors that play into overall child health. This article discusses considerations such as parental resources, parental mental health, parental relationship quality, parenting quality, and father involvement play an important role in child well being. Likewise, the different family types also likely plays a role, as does family stability and instability. 

    Socioeconomic Factors- Similarly, one study looked at socioeconomic considerations and location as a prediction of well being. It was determined that residing in rural and remote communities may predict the psychological wellness of children and adolescents. The findings from this study (conducted in Australia) concluded that affordable, universal, and accessible services, such as early intervention is needed for children and families living in rural and remote communities is warranted particularly for low income families. These services may balance the discrepancy of mental wellness scores between rural and urban communities.

    This evidence-based research on wellness tools are ways to help kids master balance, learning, and function.

    wellness TOOLS

    Wellness studies have been conducted on specific wellness strategies. Components of wellness such as emotional wellness, physical wellness, etc. can be addressed using holistic or psychological interventions such as deep breathing, sensory-based coping tools, or mindfulness. Complementary integrative and holistic therapy approaches may include music, massage, guided imagery, or deep breathing to minimize stress. 

    Deep Breathing- This study addressed the impact of deep breathing on stress. Imbalance on various aspects of health and well being can result in stress or overload. The results from the study indicate that deep breathing techniques are capable to create an improvement in mood and stress. This has been found in both self-reported evaluations, as well as objective parameters including heart rate and salivary cortisol levels.

    Mindfulness- While not a research study or wellness article, this video on mindfulness shares examples of mindfulness-based interventions for children. One study explored whether implementing a mindfulness-based program in kindergarten classrooms influenced self-regulation and
    behaviors related to social and emotional competence. It showed that children from classrooms that had participated in a mindfulness-based program showed significant gains in self-regulation and became more prosocial and less hyperactive. Additionally, children that had participated in the mindfulness-based program showed more empathy. The mindfulness-based program also made an impact on children’s maladaptive behaviors related to difficulties in self-regulation (i.e., hyperactivity)

    Brain BreaksThis study assessed the use of brain breaks in the classroom to determine effectiveness in the learning experience, self-awareness, self-efficacy, and self-confidence through physical activity. Students participated by using video exercises. The study indicates that exercise habits and holistic wellness tools of brain break activities, along with personal motivation and motivation provided by others impact children’s attitudes for physical activity, motivation, internalization of movement habits as well as self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-efficacy. The study recommends frequent use of classroom based brain breaks as a positive impact on several developmental aspects, as a tool for active break and motivation for physical activity, and as a meaningful tool for establishing cross-subject relations, integration, holistic learning and development.

    Deep BreathingThis study assessed the use of yoga deep breathing strategies to impact anxiety and attention in pre-teens. There are several deep breathing strategies that were analyzed while they ere used during the beginning of each school day. The study found that high frequency yoga breathing can improve the ability to focus and shift attention, while reducing anxiety.

    Yoga studies

    Yoga is known to impact health and wellbeing on many facets. One study found that people who practiced yoga were more likely to do so for wellness reasons than to treat a specific health condition and report better health and wellness as a result. Yoga has many benefits when used in the classroom, including improved psychological well-being, reduced rates of being overweight or obese, children being calmer and more attentive, more at ease, and completing assigned tasks successfully.

    This study on yoga found that chronic pain and yoga have significant but opposite effects on the physical structure of the brain. 

    Discover the research on wellness programs that can be used to promote health and well being in kids and famililies.

    wellness plans and Programs

    Thinking of setting up a wellness program? It’s a fantastic idea! Creating a structured and reproducible wellness plan is an option for intervention, consultation, or coaching. Here is what the research says about wellness plans:

    Wellness Plans- In creating a workplace wellness plan, the involvement of leadership matters. This study determined that employees’ perceptions of leadership and their involvement in supporting health promotion impacts employee involvement. Factors such as perceived job stress levels and health behaviors are related to leadership participation in wellness activities.

    Wellness in Schools- Wellness programs in the schools benefit employees, too. One study was conducted based on the fact that promotion of wellbeing among employees in the elementary school setting can support students’ health and academic success. In the case of school wellness, teachers and school employees can serve as role models for students. Between busy schedules, exhaustion and high job demands, poor food options, and limitations in time for movement or exercise, there is a high need for school wellness plans.

    Classroom Wellness- While this study examined a wellness strategy among college students, the findings are interesting. The study combined wellness education and extra time to practice, reflect on, discuss, and assess wellness skills. Students were led through meditative practice (e.g., yoga, tai chi, sensory nature walks), and workshops on nutrition, sleep, and other wellness topics. By gaining first hand experience in wellness strategies, students were able to fulfill aspects of overall wellbeing, including mental, physical, and intellectual subcategories.

    Wellness Rooms– While this study looked at wellness rooms as a tool for surgical nurses in order to reduce workplace stress. Like nurses, occupational therapists and teachers tend to feel a lot of burn out in their professions. The term occupational stress predicts “burn out”. Occupational stress refers to high demands of the job related to work rhythm and intensity), lack of control over the work process, and low social support from managers and peers, all of which may lead to distress and sickness. The “wellness room” included space for rest, physical activity, aesthetic care such as makeup, body massage and skin cleansing, breakfast, free moment for conversation and workers’ interaction, Auricular acupuncture, and lectures and workshops on stress management and coping. This sounds like a wellness program that could be hosted by and created by occupational therapy practitioners!

    Wellness via Teletherapy- This article describes a wellness program designed to support families and caregivers of children with Autism spectrum disorder. The unique telehealth program addresses the higher stress levels occurring among caregivers of children with ASD and other developmental disorders by offering effective coping strategies to improve overall health. Through interviews and virtual sessions, caregivers were able to come up with health goals, reflect on needs, and develop strategies alongside an occupational therapist. Wellness strategies were integrated into daily routines to improve motivation, meaning, and follow-through. By participating in the program, mothers were able to consider their own wellbeing and implement wellness strategies while supporting the unique needs of their child.

    Workplace Wellness Programs- Do they work? How does wellness in the workplace look? Employee health and wellness programs can be a powerful tool in workplace wellbeing. This study analyzed whether workplace health promotion programs work and how to design a plan that makes for a well-executed program and found that wellness programs that are based on evidence-based principles can achieve positive health and financial outcomes. The study concluded that a favorable workplace culture fosters effectiveness and use of best practice can maximize workplace well being activities. What’s more is that this study found that medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs and that absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73 for every dollar spent. These are interesting findings, aren’t they?

    This wellness research covers health and wellness programs, wellness tools, wellbeing in schools, and much more.

    So, how can you use this information to design a wellness program or a plan to promote health and well being in kids, families, or in the classroom? There is a lot to think about!

    Be sure to join us in the Wellness Challenge here on the website as we go through all things health and wellbeing for kids and those who serve them.

    Wellness Research References:

    Baicker K, Cutler D, Song Z. Workplace wellness programs can generate savings. Health Aff (Millwood). 2010;29(2):304‐311. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2009.0626

    Goetzel RZ, Henke RM, Tabrizi M, et al. Do workplace health promotion (wellness) programs work?. J Occup Environ Med. 2014;56(9):927‐934. doi:10.1097/JOM.0000000000000276

    Hoert J, Herd AM, Hambrick M. The Role of Leadership Support for Health Promotion in Employee Wellness Program Participation, Perceived Job Stress, and Health Behaviors. Am J Health Promot. 2018;32(4):1054‐1061. doi:10.1177/0890117116677798

    Jacques, João Paulo Belini, Ribeiro, Renata Perfeito, Scholze, Alessandro Rolim, Galdino, Maria José Quina, Martins, Júlia Trevisan, & Ribeiro, Benedita Gonçalves de Assis. (2018). Wellness room as a strategy to reduce occupational stress: quasi-experimental study. Revista Brasileira de Enfermagem71(Suppl. 1), 483-489.

    Johnson, Jeannine & Bauman, Connie & Pociask, Sarah. (2019). Teaching the Whole Student: Integrating Wellness Education into the Academic Classroom. Student Success. 10. 92-103. 10.5204/ssj.v10i3.1418.

    Perciavalle V, Blandini M, Fecarotta P, et al. The role of deep breathing on stress. Neurol Sci. 2017;38(3):451‐458. doi:10.1007/s10072-016-2790-8

    Peters, I., Handley, T., Oakley, K., Lutkin, S., & Perkins, D. (2019). Social determinants of psychological wellness for children and adolescents in rural NSW. BMC public health19(1), 1616.

    Popeska, B., Jovanova-Mitkovska, S., Chin, M. K., Edginton, C. R., Mo Ching Mok, M., & Gontarev, S. (2018). Implementation of Brain Breaks® in the Classroom and Effects on Attitudes toward Physical Activity in a Macedonian School Setting. International journal of environmental research and public health15(6), 1127.

    Schultz, N. S., Chui, K., Economos, C. D., Lichtenstein, A. H., Volpe, S. L., & Sacheck, J. M. (2019). A Qualitative Investigation of Factors that Influence School Employee Health Behaviors: Implications for Wellness Programming. The Journal of school health89(11), 890–898.

    Sood, D., Comer-HaGans, D., Barnec, A., Dowling, K., Kozy, K., Pranske, L., … & Tietz, A. (2018). An innovative approach to promote health and well-being of caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder. SIS Quarterly Practice Connections3(3), 14–15.

    Viglas, M. (2015). Benefits of a mindfulness-based program in early childhood classrooms (Order No. 3709578). Available from Health Research Premium Collection. (1699340731). Retrieved from

    Waldfogel, J., Craigie, T. A., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2010). Fragile families and child wellbeing. The Future of children20(2), 87–112.

    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

    Family Wellness

    Family wellness is an important piece of the family life. Use these tips for wellness strategies to inspire healthy living and family activities for well being.

    Today’s stop on the family wellness challenge is the starting point in a journey to “well” being. This is something that I LOVE to talk about and something that comes naturally to occupational therapists. Join our wellness challenge that is a guide to family wellness, a path to mindfulness and regulation, and a means to integrate coping tools across the family unit and all that it is.

    Family wellness is an important piece of the family life. Use these tips for wellness strategies to inspire healthy living and family activities for well being.

    Family Wellness

    So, what does family wellness look like? How can families improve wellness as a whole? The family unit is a diverse thing, so when it comes to health and wellness, individual needs can be just as diverse. What works for one family may not work for another. What is a comprehensive strategy for one family will look totally different for another. The wellness challenge happening here on The OT Toolbox site is just that: A diverse toolkit designed to serve families of all sizes, backgrounds, and ethnicity.

    “The contribution of a family toward a person’s well-being
    is clearest at both ends of the life span. The natural dependency of childhood and the consequences of secondary aging among older persons result in caregiving
    needs that arc frequently met by family members, At
    times, the role of the family as nurturer and change agent
    is so central that the family becomes the focus of intervention.”

    (Humphry, R., Gonzalez, S., Taylor, E., 1993)

    Occupational Therapy and Wellness

    OTs are experts in using a holistic approach to function, across the lifespan. In other words, Occupational therapists helps people in any skill or task that occupies their time. To help individuals build skills and achieve goals, OTs practice with a “whole body” approach. Helping people of all ages physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually is part of the job. Holistic approaches such as yoga, mindfulness, coaching, Reiki, massage, acupressure, guided imagery, meditation, reflexology, massage therapy, aromatherapy…The list could go on and on. These are all mind/body/spirit approaches that integrate the whole body into function.

    The variety of holistic approaches serves well the family unit and it’s fabric and variety of interests, talents, and strengths.

    Getting families involved in practice is essential and just one part of the process.

    Occupational therapists involve the family and parents in child-centered goals and incorporate family well being and quality of life for the whole family. Family routines and daily activities impact the child as well as the whole family. Therapists can help with overall functioning through use of wellness and holistic strategies.

    The tools used to promote wellness can be many things depending on each individual’s interests, needs, strengths, and weaknesses. We will get into each aspect of wellness throughout this challenge, as well as cover a resource of tools to add to your “wellness toolbox”. These strategies and tips can be used in therapy practice, in the classroom, or in the home.

    Family Wellness Wheel

    Wellness for families looks like wellness in a possibly more integrative position. Check out this post that describes what a wellness wheel is.

    For families, there are many individuals that make up the family unit. Wellness depends on each member but also each family member together as a unit. A balanced lifestyle involves all of the members together.

    Family wellness can be impacted by physical needs of a member of the family. Societal contributions, environmental impacts, income, backgrounds, and occupations of each member can contribute to family well being.

    Within the family, each member will also have their own specific wellness integration that defines emotional, physical, mental, intellectual health and wellness.

    In our wellness challenge, we are covering many areas that integrate together:

    • emotional management
    • attitude and mindset
    • mindfulness
    • beliefs and values
    • health and fitness
    • habits and healthy choices
    • exercise
    • nutrition
    • empathy
    • awareness of others
    • social development
    • learning and cognition
    • goal setting
    • creativity
    • executive functioning
    • participation in daily tasks
    • play, learning, and hobbies
    • self-care

    There are many other aspects of family wellness that this challenge does not cover. Some considerations may include finances and environmental safety.

    Family wellness includes all aspects of well being. Use this information on family healthy lifestyles to empower families to make healthy choices in activities.

    Family Wellness in Action

    Occupational therapists are skilled at empowering families into a balanced state of wellness. The American Occupational Therapy Association’s Vision 2025 (2017) necessitates that OT professionals promote “health, well-being, and quality of life for all people, populations, and communities through effective solutions that facilitate participation in everyday living”.

    Occupational therapy practitioners are important pieces to the wellness puzzle. Therapy professionals impact occupational justice, overall health, and well being of the individual as well as the family. Quality of life on an individual basis and as a family unit are based on integration of wellness wheel components. Occupational therapy practitioners are experts in thinking outside the box and addressing weaknesses or areas of need by using occupation and adaptation across all components (emotional, physical, mental, intellectual, etc.)

    For the family, wellness looks like integration of individuals and family members with the awareness and acceptance of factors such as poverty, social and environmental concerns, occupational deprivation, and many other considerations.

    Family wellness activities for the whole family

    Family wellness activities

    By promoting a safe and enriching environment, families can support healthy development and better outcomes for children and the entire family unit. By allowing for opportunities for children and the family to engage in meaningful occupations, including play and learning, with occupational justice, families can thrive.

    1. Make wellness FUN. This wellness bingo game is a great way to get the whole family involved in health and wellness activities.

    2. Try a family exercise. A walk together in the evening is a nice way to wind down and reflect on the day.

    3. Visit parks and playgrounds together. Explore nature, run, climb, throw a ball, take a hike. The physical activity options are limitless!

    4. Cook together. Cooking offers an opportunity to try new foods and talk about healthy food options.

    5. Commit to a screen-free day. As a family, working together on a goal like going screen-free for 24 hours means commitment and practice in goal-making. Take away the screens and see what you can fill that time with…puzzles, reading books, playing with sidewalk chalk, visiting neighbors…all ways to fill those emotional, mental, intellectual, and physical buckets!

    A common theme in family wellness is grit, determination, perseverance, and occupational well being across all members. The options for family wellness activities are limitless and based on overall health and well being of the family…with a goal for better quality of life!

    Occupational therapy practitioners should consider promotion and prevention models, such as public health and positive youth development, to moderate the effects of poverty through building resilience.


    American Occupational Therapy Association. (2017). Vision 2025. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71, 7103420010.

    Humphry, R., Gonzalez, S., Taylor, E. (1993). Family Involvement in Practice: Issues and Attitudes. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy. 587-593. vol 47, Number 7. link

    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

    Wellness Bingo

    Wellness bingo game to use to build overall well being and a balanced health and wellness state.

    When it comes to child wellness and family wellness, there can be a lot of work that needs done to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Child well being can be adversely impacted by myriad causes: childhood trauma, parent lifestyle, poverty, screen over-use, and other stressors. Here, you will find a Wellness Bingo activity to help with health and wellness in kids and families. This resource is one that can be used over and over again as a means to address occupational imbalance, or overload in one area of the wellness wheel.

    Wellness bingo game to use to build overall well being and a balanced health and wellness state.

    For help in promoting wellness as a therapy practitioner, as a parent, or as a teacher, please do join us in our Wellness Challenge.

    Wellness Bingo

    Research tells us that family dynamics such as parent interaction, family mental health, father involvement, and other concerns can have a major impact on child health and wellness. The wellness BINGO game below can be a tool to address challenges in emotional wellness, physical wellness, mental wellness, and all aspects of overall wellbeing.

    Use this Bingo game as a strategy during a wellness week or as part of a wellness program. I’ve tried to make this health and well being game one that works for children, families, and students. However, the tool can be adapted and used in the workplace or when looking for workplace wellness ideas.

    Wellness Bingo Card Topics

    The various wellness dimensions included in this BINGO game are based on the topics covered in our Wellness Challenge. You’ll find the following areas covered by completing the bingo board:

    Emotional Wellness- Emotional well being is a state of healthy emotions while managing challenges and coping effectively. Maintaining an awareness of self across environments and situations. Coping with stressors and allowing emotions to not impact function or tasks. Having an awareness of self and self-regard.

    Physical Wellness- Physical wellness refers to a healthy relationship with health, exercise, and nutrition. The ability to maintain a balance between physical activity (exercise), rest, nutrition, and overall health. Self-care in dealing with stress. Part of physical well being is the ability to recognize this balance and adjust when needed. Physical wellness can incorporate nutritional wellness which may be separated into it’s own wellness wheel pie piece.

    Social Wellness- The ability to maintain a healthy social network that can give support and in which you are able to provide support in return. The ability to establish a sense of belonging. Building and maintaining positive relationships with others. The ability to deal with conflict appropriately. Taking other’s opinions, experiences, and perspectives into consideration with empathy while maintaining a healthy level of love and respect for yourself. Having good communication skills.

    Occupational Wellness- Occupational wellness is an important concept for OTs. The balance of work, chores, play, hobbies, functional tasks like self-care or hygiene, home management, finances, etc. Maintaining fulfillment and balance between all of one’s occupations (or the things that occupy one’s time) is essential to well being and stress.

    Intellectual Wellness- Being open to new ideas and new concepts is important in the area of intellectual wellness. Learning new things with an open mind in order to gain knowledge and learn new skills. Fostering hobbies and taking the time to read to acquire information based on hobbies, interests, or work. Recognizing that others have different backgrounds and experiences that can be a learning opportunity.

    Spiritual Wellness- Spiritual awareness and wellness is a state of recognizing one’s beliefs, personal mission, and faith. A spiritual investment allows you to guide your decision based on ethics and purpose. Allows for peace and joy in making decisions while finding meaning in life. Understanding that you and others have purpose in life and that your own spiritual connection may be different than others.

    You can see how some of these wellness concepts blend into one another!

    Because of that interconnectedness, you will see that the Wellness Bingo has a mixed set of wellness challenges that can address different aspects of well being.

    Wellness Bingo Challenge

    This wellness bingo challenge is designed to make things easy on you. Why? Because adding more to our daily to-do lists can be the cause of lifestyle imbalance. Our goal here is to focus on occupational balance…or the ability to participate fully in daily task requirements at an optimal state. When occupational balance is off, there may be stress, anxiety, and a wellness wheel that is off kilter!

    So…to use this wellness bingo game, there are no rules!

    Try to do one of the squares each day or each week. Try to fill the whole game card or just one row. Allow the whole family to play together and fill the card in more quickly. It’s completely up to you!

    On the wellness bingo card, there are activities that boost many areas that improve the wellness components described above. Check out these resources to read more on the topics that are covered:




    self care


    healthy habits

    and so much more.

    Want this Wellness Bingo card to print off and use? It’s part of our Wellness Challenge. Join the challenge and gain access to this free printable.

    In the challenge, we’re talking all things wellness. The BINGO card is offered as a free resource on DAY 2 of the Wellness Challenge. Click here to join us!