Regular Occupational Therapy sessions are vitally important, but you can easily, and inexpensively, magnify the benefit by incorporating easy and fun activities into your family routine, and your children will just think they are ‘playing’.
These four OT activities will support children who have sensory processing difficulties, Autism Spectrum Disorder and motor skills challenges.
Four Extra OT (Occupational Therapy) activities you can use at home for your children
A crash mat is a great piece of equipment which ensures a child is safe to engage in beneficial risk-taking behaviours. Some benefits of using a crash mat at home:
- Some children find crashing/deep pressure (proprioception) input to be calming and organising for their central nervous system. This makes learning come more easily and increases their ability to cope within their environment.
- ‘Crashing’ can provide beneficial input to improve body and spatial awareness.
- Climbing or walking over a crash mat can also support development of core strength, balance and coordination on an uneven surface.
Activities to do with the crash mat:
- Jump and crash (if safe and possible)
- Run and crash
- Climb, crawl or walk over
- Climb or crawl under the crash mat
- Push or pull the crash mat
To make a crash mat:
- An old quilt cover (single or double work well).
- Fill the quilt cover generously with sponge offcuts from Clarke Rubber (how much you need depends on the size of your quilt cover).
A scooter board is a useful piece of equipment which supports a child to develop their upper limb strength and endurance, postural and core strength, motor planning, bilateral motor coordination, body awareness and sensory regulation (proprioception and vestibular input). It’s also irresistible to many children.
It is important that a child’s safety is monitored while using a scooter board (do not stand on it as it is not designed for this).
Activities to do with the scooter board:
- Sitting or kneeling on the board and scooting around
- Laying on the board on tummy (prone)
- Scooter board human bowling lying on tummy (with plastic skittles)
- Ride down a small slope lying on tummy (ensure safety)
- Towing with rope while seated
- Obstacle course (on tummy or kneeling)
To purchase a scooter board:
- Kmart sells scooter boards for around $16.
- Bunnings also sell ‘move it’ wheel dollies for around $25, which can be used in the same way
Theraputty is an easy-to-use tool at home that will support a child to develop their fine motor strength, bilateral coordination and touch perception. Theraputty provides a greater level of resistance than playdough or plasticine so it’s great for hand strengthening.
Activities to do with Theraputty:
- Finding treasure (hidden beads inside the putty)
- Roll out a sausage with two hands
- Work on scissor skills by cutting up the putty
- Make shapes, animals or letters with the putty
Warning: Theraputty is gravitational, if you leave in on a surface it will ‘melt’ and spread out. It is best to store in a plastic container to avoid it getting stuck to clothes, carpet or any material furniture.
Shaving cream is another great tool to use at home to develop visual-motor skills, fine motor skills and handwriting skills (such as pre-writing and letter formation). Shaving cream is often a great motivator to practice these skills with children who may be reluctant to pick up a pencil and paper, or having difficulty sitting at a table for an extended period of time. Messy play, such as shaving cream, can also help support children with tactile sensitivity.
Activities to do with shaving cream:
- Writing letters, numbers, words or drawing pictures.
- Writing/drawing on a vertical surface (this will further support upper limb strength and postural control).
- Shaving cream ice-skating with bare feet: ensure this is done a safe space as it can get very slippery.
- If a child is not ready to put their fingers/hands in the shaving cream, let them push a toy car or animal through it.
Home brand type shaving cream is only about $3 from the major supermarkets.
All four of the activities above can be beneficial and inexpensive ways to extend the benefit you get from therapy, but even better, you can have a lot of fun!