Our Favorite At-Home Occupational Therapy Exercises for Children
The FOCUS Fort Myers occupational therapists have years of education and experience in developing goals and a plan-of-care for our pediatric patients, with the goal of promoting the highest level of functioning in everyday life. But as parents, you don’t need a degree to carry these lessons over with at-home occupational therapy exercises. There are many ways you can help strengthen your child’s skills and development with occupational therapy exercises – most with items you probably have around the house, if you need anything at all. The idea is not just to improve your child’s development of independence and life skills, but to have fun and spend quality time doing it.
Some of the strengths and skills you can target with occupational therapy exercises at home include:
- Body awareness
- Visual perception skills
- Language skills
- Muscle strength
- Direction following
- Texture exploration
- Emotional regulation
Because every child is different, it’s important to discuss your plan for at-home occupational therapy exercises with your child’s FOCUS occupational therapist, to ensure safety and the best results.
At-Home Occupational Therapy Exercises for Language, Fine Motor and Sensory Skills
There are many ways you can help advance your child’s development of key motor, sensory and language skills with at-home occupational exercises. A couple suggestions:
- Sensory Bins. Children with autism or sensory processing disorders often display extreme aversion or sensitivity to certain textures.Sensory bins are a fun way to introduce them to a range of touch-related experiences. Gather up a number of random household items and put them into a plastic bin. Some ideas include uncooked beans or rice, cotton balls, coins, shredded paper, sand, marbles or popcorn. Be mindful of the unique sensory preferences of your child so they don’t get too quickly overwhelmed, but make sure it’s enough to challenge them. (Make sure also to always supervise this play to prevent possible choking.)
- Make play dough. This helps children learn to follow directions, regulate their emotions as you move through the various steps in order and helps fulfill their sensory diet. Make the dough by mixing 1 cup of fine salt and 1 cup of flour. Once combined, add 1/2 cup of water and kneed until dough is smooth.
At-Home Occupational Therapy Exercises for Visual, Social and Emotional Skills
Visual aids can be critical tools, particularly for children with autism in learning to regulate their emotions during transitions and sensory overload. Some at-home occupational therapy exercises to consider include:
- Coping skills flip-book. Identify a handful of ways that help your child when he or she is over-stimulated, frustrated or needs a break. These could be things like using a stress ball, going to a quiet space, reading a book or talking with an adult. Take photos of your child doing those things. Print and laminate them and link them together like a book with a loop ring.
- Video clips. Many children with disabilities struggle with social skills, often because it’s tough for them to understand what others may be thinking or feeling. One of the ways our FOCUS Fort Myers occupational therapists address this is by employing perspective-taking. Identify your child’s favorite cartoon character, look up video clips and use this as a way to motivate and engage them in a discussion of what the characters might be thinking or feeling. The goal is to use this visual tool to help them grasp differing emotions and perspectives.
- Emotional thermometer. Again, this is another visual tool that can help children with language delays and emotional regulation issues convey when they may be feeling frustrated or over-stimulated. Draw or trace the thermometer, color and label it. For example, start with tired/ exhausted. Next level up is calm and relaxed. Next is nervous, irritated or frustrated. Next is upset or angry. The last is exploding. Have your child help decorate it and/ or include faces that may help further this as a visual tool. Then work with your child to identify how they might be feeling at any given time.
For more ideas on at-home occupational therapy exercises, talk to our experienced pediatric occupational therapists at FOCUS in Fort Myers.
6 At-Home Occupational Therapy Techniques That Really Make a Difference, By Cara Koscinski, MOT, OTR/L, ADDitude Magazine
More Blog Entries:
Report: Hiring for Occupational Therapists on the Upswing, Oct. 22, 2018, Fort Myers Occupational Therapy Blog