The Ultimate Guide to Occupational Therapy Toys

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Wondering about occupational therapy toys to give as gifts? There are so many therapist-recommended toys that support development of skills!

Pediatric occupational therapy professionals are often asked about their recommendations for the best occupational therapy toys. Many times, parents are looking for holiday or birthday ideas or they want to pass on some gift ideas to grandparents that will help the child rather than collect dust. Today, I’ve got the ultimate list of therapeutic toy ideas, broken down into OT gift guides by skill area. So, if you’ve got a child who needs to develop specific skill areas, this enormous list of occupational therapy toys will serve you well!

Occupational therapy toys and therapeutic toys that help kids develop functional skills.

Occupational Therapy Toys

So, you may be wondering…how are toys used in occupational therapy? Well, that is a good question! Occupational therapy professionals work to help people become more independent in functional tasks. 

OTs work with all ages to help address the very skills that occupy a person’s time. In kids, that occupation is likely play. It’s through play that therapists build skills. Occupational therapists and Certified occupational therapy assistants use toys and games for many reasons. 

What is the purpose of toys in occupational therapy?

In occupational therapy sessions, you’ll see therapists using toys and games to develop areas of child development such as: 

  • Motor planning
  • Coordination
  • Balance
  • Positioning
  • Fine motor skills
  • Gross motor skills
  • Sensory needs and tolerance
  • Handwriting
  • Hand-Eye Coordination
  • Hand strength and dexterity
  • Cognitive skills
  • Problem solving
  • Strength and endurance
  • Executive functioning skills
  • Imaginative play and play development skills
  • Social emotional skills
  • Social skills
  • Bilateral coordination
  • Visual motor integration
  • Functional task development
  • Tummy time tolerance
  • Emotional needs
  • Self-regulation
  • Movement tolerance
  • SO much more!

In OT, toys are used to develop new skills and to help children move through skill levels as they develop and refine the areas listed above. Toys are a fun way to get little hands and little bodies building, growing, and developing!

Through play and with toys, children become more confident in their abilities. They are able to practice skill development in a low-pressure scenario that is fun, engaging, and motivating. When children play in therapy sessions, they are using novel games, puzzles, toys, and activities that help them to practice through play.

Toys can boost a child’s creativity and cognitive skills as they problem solve in games and toy use. They can strategize, and practice interactions with others with therapeutic toys.

Toys that are selected for therapy sessions can include a strong sensory components. Or, they can involve movement, motor skill development, bright colors, small items. Whether a therapist is using classic toys or novel therapeutic games and fun activities, the games therapists play are selected to meet the specific needs of the child or therapy participant.

Toys are some of the best equipment that occupational therapists use! 

Therapeutic Toy Ideas

I’ve designed this list of occupational therapy toys to be a resource for the pediatric occupational therapist looking for occupational therapy supplies, or fresh ideas for therapy equipment for the OT clinic. I’ve also created this OT gift guide as suggestions for therapy professionals to pass onto parents and caregivers looking for developmental toys to gift to children with needs.

The way this therapy toys gift guide works is by skill area. You’ll find links for toys specific to each skill area linked below. 

Over the years here on The OT Toolbox, we’ve created A LOT of therapy gift guides. 

All of these therapeutic toy ideas are broken down to describe each area of development and then to list out toy ideas that support that skill area. You’ll find links to each toy and a brief description on how that specific toy or game helps children to develop skills. Almost all of these toy ideas are available on Amazon, so you can easily fill your therapy room or toy room with therapeutic toys that build skills.

So, if you are looking for occupational therapy recommendations for best toys…look no further!

Occupational therapy toys gift guide 

Ready for the BEST occupational therapy toys? Select the area of child development which you are hoping to promote and then head to the link to read all about that area as well as to find links to purchase each toy.

Fine motor toys

These fine motor toys and tools are designed to develop fine motor skill development, refined motor use of the hands, hand strength, eye hand coordination, and all of the motor skills using fine motor activities through play. Some of the toy ideas you’ll find described in this resource include:

  • Play dough
  • Beads
  • Peg boards
  • Pop beads
  • Chalk
  • Slime
  • Geoboards
  • Tweezer games
  • Board games
  • Construction toys
  • Paper tearing crafts
  • Puzzles
  • MUCH MORE

CLICK HERE to find all of the Fine Motor Toy Recommendations.

Gross Motor Toys

Therapists use Gross motor toys to work on coordination, motor planning, balance, position changes, sensory input though heavy work, and more. All of these areas are needed to kick, hop, jump, stoop, crawl, and play! Some general suggestions for occupational therapy and physical therapy toys include

  • Tunnels
  • Obstacle course materials
  • Jump ropes
  • Balance beams
  • Scooter board
  • Balance rocks
  • Midline play toys
  • Balls
  • Bouncing toys
  • Stilt walkers on rope
  • MUCH MORE

CLICK HERE to find all of the Gross Motor Toys and why each supports gross motor development in children through teens.

Occupational Therapy Toys to Develop Pencil Grasp

The hand strengthening toys and dexterity toys described in this list of pencil grasp toys support developmental needs to hold and write with a pencil. They are creative and motivating ways to work on pencil grasp, endurance in fine motor activities, and other fine motor tasks with creative and fun products. Try these OT toys to support pencil grasp development:

  • Beads
  • Scrape art 
  • Tweezer toys & games
  • Fusion beads
  • Kerplunk
  • Lacing card activities
  • Crumble art kits
  • MORE

CLICK HERE to read all about the Pencil Grasp Toys and how each toy recommendations supports specific skills needed for pencil grasp development. Pencil grasp toys:

Occupational Therapy Games for Pencil Grasp

Some kids are gamers but still need to develop the fine motor skills needed for a functional grasp. These games for pencil grasp ideas are great for younger kids through teens who are working on hand strength, dexterity, endurance, motor control to write with a pencil. Some game ideas recommended by OTs include:

  • Battleship
  • Checkers (pegboard version)
  • Tweezer games
  • Lightbright (use in tic/tac/toe!)
  • Wind-up toy races
  • MORE

CLICK HERE FOR Games for Pencil Grasp and games to fill your game closet but also develop the skills kids need to write. 

Toys for reluctant writers

Speaking of writing, sometimes kids HATE to write. That’s where these toys for reluctant writers come in. These ideas are great for the home, the classroom, or the clinic…anywhere you are working on writing skills but want to make the task meaningful and engaging…not a chore! The toys make writing FUN…and some don’t even seem like work at all. Here are toys for kids that hate to write:

  • Motivating writing toys
  • Journals with a lock
  • Fun pens
  • Scented markers
  • Messy writing toys
  • Easel toys
  • Toys on a vertical surface
  • Letter/note writing kits

CLICK HERE to find our recommended toys for reluctant writers…Let’s make handwriting fun and not a hated activity. 

Toys for spatial awareness

These toys for developing spatial awareness are designed to promote visual spatial skills needed for handwriting, eye-hand coordination, and moving the body in a given space. Sometimes children need to work on spatial awareness on a large or small scale. That’s where these fun toys come into play:

  • Building toys
  • Puzzle toys
  • Geoboard activities
  • Directional arrows
  • MORE

CLICK HERE to find the full list of spatial awareness toys. Kids will love these interactive activities for developing spatial awareness skills.  

Toys for visual tracking

Visual tracking is a visual processing skill and these toys help with visual tracking skills needed for copying written work, reading, and body coordination games like tag, catching a ball, riding a bike, and more. Try adding these visual tracking toys to your therapy toolbox to support reading fluency and comprehension, too.

  • Marble mazes
  • Labyrinth Games and toys
  • I Spy books
  • Tangram toys
  • Puzzles
  • Slow-motion balls
  • Catching and tossing games
  • MORE

CLICK HERE for all of the Visual Tracking Toys and Games. Support kids visual processing needs through fun and engaging activities. 

Toys for visual scanning

Visual scanning is another visual processing ability that is needed for functional tasks and learning. These toys to support visual scanning skills help kids to scan for needed information in a learning task, finding information in written text, scanning for items in a backpack or drawer, and searching the visual field for information. All of these needs relate to visual motor integration that is needed for function, learning, and participation in daily occupations. Try adding these toys to your therapy toolbox to work on these abilities:

  • Hidden pictures activities
  • BINGO games
  • Spot it games
  • I Spy books
  • Bead maze toys
  • Where’s Waldo books
  • MORE

CLICK HERE for the full list of visual scanning toys and why these activities support functional tasks.

Toys for sensory play

Sensory products and sensory toys are a valuable tool to address sensory needs, add to a play-based sensory diet, use for sensory seekers or sensory avoiders in the classroom or home. These sensory toys support sensory processing disorder, or can be used for self-regulation or coping strategies, too. Sensory activities in therapy involves play, and you can use these sensory-based toys to support needs in the home, too.

  • Messy play toys
  • Water play toys
  • Slime and play dough
  • Crafting materials
  • Heavy work movement toys
  • Sensory equipment
  • Balance beams
  • Bouncing toys
  • MORE

CLICK HERE for sensory toys recommended by occupational therapists and the WHY behind sensory equipment for the home. 

Toys for tactile challenges

Occupational therapists love to use tactile sensory toys to challenge the sensory system of touch. In this way we can help to calm the sensory system that is hyper-responsive with toys that offer calming, heavy work through the tactile sense. Or, we can alert the sensory system using tactile input that is alerting and “wakes up” the body through the sense of touch. These relate to functional tasks so that children can interact with others and participate in daily occupations. Check out these tactile toys: 

  • Kinetic sand
  • Bean bags
  • Sand art
  • Messy art materials
  • Glue
  • MORE

CLICK HERE to read about our tactile sensory toy recommendations.

Bilateral coordination toys

Sometimes forgotten, but oh, so important is the bilateral coordination skills needed for integrating both sides of the hands in functional tasks. Whether it be toys for midline play, trunk mobility activities, or toys and game that use both sides of the body in gross motor fine motor activities, these favorite toys support bilateral coordination skills. Check out these bilateral coordination activities and toys:

  • Foozeball games
  • Zoom ball
  • Target activities
  • Instrument toys
  • Bow and arrow toys
  • Sewing or lacing activities
  • Rock em Sock em Robots
  • MORE

CLICK HERE to read all of our bilateral coordination toy recommendations.

Games for Executive Functioning Skills

We’ve got TWO resources here on the website on games to support attention, memory, organization, impulse control, planning, prioritization, etc. Check out this resource on games for executive functioning and this second resource with MORE games to improve executive function. Some of our favorite games include:

  • Checkers
  • Self-control games
  • Distraction
  • Consequences
  • Memory
  • Ticket to Ride
  • Labyrinth
  • Code Names
  • and MORE

CLICK HERE for one list of EF games and HERE for more executive functioning games.

Toys for wrist extension & stability

Wrist extension and stability is an important fine motor skill needed for functional tasks like clothing fasteners, tying shoes, typing, writing, coloring, manipulating small objects, fastening a seat belt, and so much more. These toys to improve wrist extension and stability will help with these motor skills. Check out these toy ideas:

  • Kerplunk
  • Floor games (also great for tummy time activities for babies and toddlers)
  • Big artwork activities
  • Twister
  • Stamps
  • Darts
  • MORE

CLICK HERE for more wrist stability and extension games that kids will love.

OCcupational Therapy Toys for visual perception

Working on visual perception and visual motor integration through play allows children to develop the skills they need for learning, reading, and function with every day toys. These toys for visual perceptual skills are fun ways to do just that! Grab some of these toys:

  • Mazes
  • Building toys
  • Stickers
  • Puzzle toys
  • MORE

CLICK HERE for more visual perceptual skills toys to support child developments.

Toys for math skills

Kids that struggle with math can benefit from math toys while building skills and concepts through play. These math toys also have motor skills benefits, allowing kids to incorporate eye hand coordination and input with multisensory learning. These are great additions to the classroom or home to support math learning:

  • Card games
  • Adding games
  • Building anc construction toys
  • Monopoly
  • Tangram toys
  • MORE

CLICK HERE for the full list of multisensory math toys and games.

Occupational therapy Toys for scissor skills

Children that struggle with scissor skills can get tired of working on cutting with scissors day after day. That’s where these toys for developing scissor skills comes into play. Use the games and activities to work on scissor control and use in fun and engaging activities that are low-stress because they are meaningful!

  • Craft materials
  • Tong activities
  • Fine motor games
  • Hand strengthening toys
  • Jacks
  • Toys that encourage separation of the sides of the hand

CLICK HERE for our list of toys for scissor skills.

Toys for dressing skills

OTs work on daily functional tasks and self-care, including getting oneself dressed each day is part of that independence level. Occupational therapists use toys to support functional tasks like self-dressing as a fun way to build skills kids need. Try these toys for dressing skills:

  • Buttoning toys
  • Zippering toys
  • Clothing fastener dolls
  • Manipulation boards and puzzles
  • Hand strengtheinng activities

CLICK HERE for more fun toys to support dressing skills.

Toys for coloring skills

Children that have weak fine motor skills complain of fatigue and pain during coloring tasks. That’s why these toys to support coloring skills work on these very areas. Kids that HATE to color will love to play with these engaging toys and games, all while building hand strength, eye-hand coordination, and motor planning skills through play. Try some of these coloring toys:

  • Scented markers
  • Messy art activities
  • Large coloring pages
  • Easel
  • Watercolors activities
  • Meaningful and motivating coloring books
  • MORE

CLICK HERE for our list of toys to promote coloring skills and the WHY behind these toy selections.

Magnet Toys

Kids love these awesome magnet toys but don’t realize the fine motor work and hand strengthening they are developing through play. Kids are challenged with weaker fine motor skills more than ever before. These magnet toys promote fine motor strength and coordination through fun and engaging magnet play:

  • Magnet blocks
  • Magnet science activities
  • Magnet building toys
  • Magnet puzzles
  • Magnetic letters and numbers
  • Fridge activities
  • MORE

CLICK HERE for more magnet toys that build skills.

Keychain Fidget Toys

 These keychain fidget toys are the perfect stocking stuffers. Use these mini fidget toys for all the benefits of fidget tools for attention, focus, and play, on a small scale. You can attach these keychain fidgets to backpacks, beltloops, shoes, or jackets. Use them as coping tools on the school bus, in the classroom, during circle time, or when learning in the classroom.

  • Keychain pea pod
  • keychain pop it
  • Keychain bead toy
  • keychain buckle loops
  • MORE

CLICK HERE for more keychain fidget toys that kids can use in any environment.

Fidget Toys

Fidget toys seem to be the new “it toy”, especially the Pop Its that are everywhere. But did you know that occupational therapists have been using fidget toys for years to address stress, anxiety, focus, attention, sensory processing needs, fine motor skills, and more? These fidget toys are tools to support the many needs of kids so they can function in the classroom or home.

  • Pop Its
  • Stress balls
  • Stretch band toys
  • Click toys
  • FIdget spinners
  • Pencil topper fidgets
  • Finger traps
  • Wikki Sstix
  • MORE

CLICK HERE for all of our fidget toy recommendations.

OT Toy Gift Guides

So? Did you find some new toys to add to your therapy collection? These toys are sure to be a hit this holiday season or birthday…and kids won’t even know they are building skills!

Want a free printable page of these links in Google sheet? Click this link to make a copy of your own. Use it to share with parents, grandparents, aunts, and anyone asking about developmentally appropriate birthday gift ideas or holiday gift ideas for the kids you serve!

Occupational Therapy Toys Gift Guide- Ideas for Kids

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

occupational therapy toys