Since April is Occupational Therapy (OT) Month, our occupational therapists thought it was the perfect time to share some fun types of activities that parents can use to incorporate more occupational therapy at home into their children’s daily routines. Not only will your child enjoy them, but they each have a therapeutic objective in mind as well.
1. Help Your Child Draw, Create or Work on Vertical Surfaces
Having your children perform tasks on vertical surfaces like chalk boards, white boards, easels and even your kitchen refrigerator can have many therapeutic benefits. These include:
- Improved Visual Attention: The task is closer to your child’s eye giving them a better view of their work and improving their visual attention.
- Efficient Grasping Patterns: Working on a vertical surface naturally promotes efficient grasping patterns on writing utensils as it encourages your child to stabilize their hand against the writing surface and promotes slight wrist extension.
- Improved Posture: Upright posture engages core musculature.
- Better Shoulder/Elbow Stability: Working on vertical surfaces, children use large arm movements that encourage the strengthening of upper extremities.
- Bilateral Coordination: Vertical surface activities encourage your child to use both of their hands: one to work with and one to stabilize.
- Sensory: “Fidgety” kids may work better at a vertical surface as they often work better while standing rather than sitting.
Vertical Surface Activities to Try:
- Draw on a chalk board
- Wash Windows
- Play with shaving cream on a mirror or window
- Paint on an easel
- Trace stencils
- Play with magnets on a magnet board
Tip: Encourage your child to change their positions often – switching between standing, sitting and kneeling – while working at the vertical surface.
2. Use Lollipops to Help Your Picky Eater Try New Foods
A common question our OTs hear is, “How do I get my child to try more foods?” When working with “picky eaters,” we often have to think outside of the box and encourage children to explore foods by using all of their senses when they are ready.
Sometimes a little creativity and fun can go a long way. Here are some ideas for using lollipops to encourage your child to try novel or non-preferred foods.
- Touching: A child who is resistant to touching novel foods with their bare hands can begin touching the food with a lollipop, treating the lollipop as an extension of their finger.
- Trying Variety: Children can try lollipops of all shapes, colors, sizes, and textures to help them expand their food preferences.
- Dipping: Dipping lollipops in crumbs, dips, or liquids can make non-preferred foods seem less intimidating to your child, as well provide an opportunity for them to explore mixed textures.
- Mouth Mapping: You or your child can place the lollipop in different parts of their mouth for them to locate it with their tongue. This helps the child create a “map” of their mouth. Using a mirror during this activity can provide a visual cue to help enhance their experience.
- Describing: Having your child describe how a preferred food, such as a lollipop, looks, smells, feels, and tastes provides a great foundation for describing non-preferred foods.
Tip: Remember to follow your child’s lead and never force feeding experiences!
3. Encourage Various Activities that Foster Visual Motor Integration
Visual motor integration is the ability for your child’s hands and eyes to work together to guide their movements. Their eyes tell their brain how to move, and then their brain tells their hands to move there. Visual motor integration is important for handwriting, playing, feeding, and much more.
Here are five different activities that can help improve your children visual motor skills:
- Word Searches, “I Spy” Games, and Hidden Pictures: These can improve visual scanning, where the eye looks top to bottom or left to right, which is important to pick out relevant information.
- Mazes: Finishing a maze on paper requires the eyes to tell the hands how to move just the right distance without going over the edge.
- Coloring by Number: This activity helps guide your child’s hands to color just the right amount to fill in each space without going over the edges.
- Playing Catch: Visual motor skills aren’t just for tabletop! Throwing a ball back and forth requires your child’s eyes to tell their hands which way to move when the ball is coming towards them. Modify this activity by using a balloon as it’s bigger and falls more slowly!
- Puzzles: Your child’s eyes work to tell their hands which piece goes where, and which way to turn a piece to make it fit together (or into the slot for wooden puzzles).
About NAPA Center
At NAPA Center, we take an individualized approach to occupational therapy because we understand that each child is unique with very specific needs. We embrace differences with an understanding that individualized programs work better. For this reason, no two therapeutic programs are alike. If your child needs our services, we will work closely with you to select the best therapies for them, creating a customized program specific to your child’s needs and your family’s goals. Let your child’s journey begin today by contacting us to learn more.