In this article on teletherapy activity ideas for kids, you will learn how to enhance a variety of skills through basic, fun activities. OT is online more than ever in recent days and therapy services may be scrambling to identify occupational therapy activities that can serve children and families in the OT telehealth format. Children and therapists may both be familiar with some of these teletherapy activities, whereas others may be learning experiences for the entire family unit.
We will provide some teletherapy activities broken down by age range so that therapists can best enable functional performance and occupational engagement in the children they serve. To better understand teletherapy start with out recent post that explains the online therapy service.
Teletherapy Activities for Early Intervention
Let’s start with teletherapy for birth to three. Many therapists may struggle with understanding how early intervention services (also known as EI, or “birth to three”) can be provided virtually. The truth is, there is not much difference between teletherapy EI and standard EI programming, since both services are provided within the home and each place a heavy focus on family education.
Early intervention therapists can provide training, health information, and in-home strategies to assist with the care of children who demonstrate developmental delays, medical, concerns, or behavioral issues.
Therapists should ideally provide education that is unique to the child (and their family unit) covering topics such as positioning (for sleep, car seats, and play time), ways to enhance fine motor development and gross motor development, facilitating participation in self-care tasks, productive play, and more. Here are ways to work on fine motor skills in teletherapy.
In this way, the majority of the content that therapists provide families with will mimic traditional home training or home exercise programs (HEPs) that are provided as part of EI treatment.
Therapists in this setting can also provide children with exercises in some of the following areas, depending on their specific concern(s):
- Shape and object identification games
- Letter and number tracing
- Counting, sorting, and early comparing activities with animals, superheros, cartoons, shapes, etc.
- Pattern recognition activities
- Simple digital jigsaw puzzles
- Online games and apps
- Bingo activities with numbers, letters, and shapes
- Holiday-themed activities involving drawing shapes and forming them into objects
- Counting coins, playing shopping/store-related games
- Target games involving planning/aiming, throwing, and picking up
- Gross motor obstacle courses or chalk sensory walks
Here are some quick activity ideas that lend themselves nicely to teletherapy in early intervention:
Teletherapy Activities for Kindergarten-3rd Grade
Next, let’s talk teletherapy activities for Kindergarten through third grade. Children between the ages of 5 and 9 can also benefit from teletherapy activities to build and strengthen skills related to sensory regulation, behavior management, handwriting, self-care, and effective communication.
Teletherapy activities for kindergarten through 3rd grade can focus on addressing these concerns may include some of the following:
- Digital coloring pages
- “Find the differences” exercise involving comparisons between two similar images
- Object matching games
- Handwriting exercises
- Interactive versions of basic games such as Connect Four, tic-tac-toe,
- Cause-and-effect games to encourage early understanding of problem solving and right vs. wrong
- Worksheets prompting sequencing for basic activities (going to the movies, eating dinner, etc.)
- Basic human body educational activities (coloring pages, identification charts, and functional purpose)
- Education on “How does your engine run?” levels to assist in regulating emotions
- Traditional draw and cut activities
- Theraband and theragrip for basic strengthening
- Gross motor obstacle courses or sensory walks
Here are more quick OT telehealth ideas for primary grades:
TELeTherapy Activities for Grades 4-8
Occupational therapy telehealth for older grades can expand into further topics. While many of the K-3 activities can be modified for some older children, there are multiple teletherapy activities that can be used for children in this age range. Teletherapy activities for these children may focus on topics such as communication, behavior management, relationships, rule-following, self-care skills, and more.
Try some of these ideas in planning online therapy services for grades 4th through 8th grade:
- Word searches, jumbles, or crosswords
- More complex jigsaw puzzles and strategy-based games
- Story-based cause-and-effect activities
- Creative writing prompts to explore emotions
- Role identification
- Sports-based games and exploration of hobbies
Here are a few quick activity ideas for teletherapy in the older grades:
Areas That Therapists May Struggle to Address
There are certain areas that teletherapists may struggle to incorporate into teletherapy activities. The good news is, with a little creativity, therapists can ensure that the children they treat are receiving the well-rounded treatment they need to advance their skills in a range of areas.
Force modulation: Some games require the use of a tablet and stylus, which allows children to practice force modulation that cannot be addressed by typical point-and-click activities. Therapists can also encourage the use of alternative activities covering force modulation, such as clapping or hi-fives (if another person is present in the room). Therapists might provide prompts such as, “If it’s loud enough for me to hear – you are doing okay! If it makes your hand turn red and hurt – you are hitting too hard! If the two hands are barely touching – you aren’t hitting hard enough!”
Sensory regulation: This is best addressed when you have an e-helper present to aid during the session. However, with some simple planning ahead from a parent or teacher’s assistant, therapists can make sure their kiddo has the materials needed to work on this skill during the session. These e-helpers can provide children with a variety of sensory input (per therapist recommendation and supervision) including soothing music or nature sounds, various textured fabrics, weighted blankets, essential oils, brushing protocols, visually soothing colors, and much more.
Other strategies, such as brushing protocols, can even be trialed or implemented with children per therapist demonstration and instruction. All of this is, of course, best supplemented by educating parents, teachers, and other loved ones on the use of a sensory diet to maximize a child’s tolerance and regulation of sensory input.
If you are searching for additional resources to serve as inspiration or reference for teletherapy activities, check out some of the following websites:
- Understanding various teletherapy platforms
HELP KIDS UNDERSTAND TELETHERAPY
Amazon affiliate links are included below.
With the rise of telemedicine, the concept of teletherapy may be difficult for some children to grasp, especially those living with disabilities and those who are accustomed to traditional school-based therapy or outpatient rehab. Thankfully, there are resources available to guide children through this process and learn skills that make them stronger and more confident.
Why is there a person in my computer? is a child’s guide to understanding what teletherapy is and how it can help with a variety of medical concerns. This story follows Andrew, a child with visual deficits who is having difficulty playing hockey, performing well in school, and working on his art. He meets a therapist named Brittany who guides him through his first teletherapy session, and he loves it! This picture book helps children understand what teletherapy is, what makes it different from other therapies, and how it can help them live better lives. Children may also enjoy the supplemental activity guide complete with coloring pages, fact sheets, and more!
This blog post was written by Brittany Ferri. Brittany is an occupational therapist, author, and teletherapy professional. She is passionate about education, health promotion, and disease prevention for all. Brittany currently practices in community-based teletherapy for two platforms, one that serves pediatrics (geared toward mental health diagnoses and developmental delays) and one that serves adults. For more information, visit her company’s website at www.simplicityofhealth.com