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How Household Materials Can Be Used For Occupational Therapy Goals

In occupational therapy sessions, we often use common materials and games to make our sessions therapeutic and fun.

Here are some ways that you can use materials and equipment that you may have lying around at home to help your children reach their occupational therapy goals:

Children play household games

  1. Board Games Board games are a great way to help your children develop their social skills and fine motor skills. Board games can be a way to improve eye contact, turn taking, and sharing. Many board games, such as Battleship, Trouble, and Perfection, involve small pieces that need to be placed into the game board. By having your child use his fingers to manipulate these pieces, it can help him understand how to hold small objects which can facilitate learning how to properly hold writing utensils. In addition to helping to hold small pieces, it can also assist your child to develop other fine motor skills, such as manual dexterity and in hand manipulation skills. For example, you can have your child hold onto several of the pieces with one hand and put them into the game board one by one. Using board games that also have cards, such as Sorry, can also help improve manual dexterity by means of shuffling, dealing, and manipulating the cards without dropping them or revealing them to the other players.
  2. Play-Doh Play-Doh is a wonderful tool to improve fine motor skills in children. Play-Doh can be used as a medium to practice writing, drawing, and cutting. You can trace different geometric forms (circle, square, and triangle) into the Play-Doh with a pencil and have you child copy the shapes in another piece of flattened Play-Doh and cut them out with scissors. Using Play-Doh to practice drawing and cutting is often a good precursor to writing with a pencil and paper as the texture of Play-Doh is more resistive which makes cutting and tracing easier. Play-Doh can also be used to help strengthen the small muscles in their hands by rolling it into a snake, ball, and flattening it into a pancake.
  3. Puzzles Puzzles can be used to help your children improve their visual-perceptual skills which is important for many school tasks, such as copying things from the board and finding items in their desk. The complexity of puzzles can very greatly, from simple large peg puzzles in a wooden form to 100 piece jigsaw puzzles. If you have an older child, using a complex jigsaw puzzle can be a great way to work on planning, sequencing, organizing, and problem-solving skills.
  4. Playground equipment Using the playground or the jungle gym in the backyard is the perfect way to help your children increase their core strength, upper body strength, and bilateral coordination. This will help build up the strength in your children’s larger muscles so that when they have to work at their desk or a table, their core and upper body will have the stability and endurance to sit and complete fine motor activities.
  5. Balls Playing catch, kicking, dribbling, and volleyball are just a few of the many ways balls can be therapeutic. All of these activities involve using eye-hand coordination, balance, and core strength which are great skills to have for a variety of gross motor and fine motor activities. These activities can also help with ocular motor skills as your child needs to track the object through space.

There are many types of equipment and materials used during therapy that can be adapted to meet the needs of your child. You can find these materials and many more around your house in order to improve your child’s skills so he or she can be successful in school and play activities!

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5 Swings Used in your Child’s Therapy Sessions

Oftentimes, parents probably wonder ‘what makes the swings and equipment at my child’s therapy different than the swings at the  playground’?  The answer is that each of the swings used in the therapy gym are able to be used in a much safer and controlled Little girl sleeping in hammockenvironment, as the therapists are able to place mats and pillows under and around the swings, and the therapist can therefore challenge how the child engages in the activity and moves and manipulates his body (e.g. hanging underneath the barrel swing).  Similarly, the swings used in the therapy gym are able to be hung on a rotating hook to allow the child and the swing to move in a variety of planes and directions, providing the child with a greater amount of vestibular and proprioceptive input.

Below are explanations of 5 of the swings therapists use throughout your child’s therapy sessions to help best understand the benefits of using the therapy equipment

  1. Superman swing: The superman swing is also referred to as our prone extension swing, meaning that the child is lying in a prone position (on his belly with his arms and legs extended). The superman swing is suspended high enough off of the floor so that the child has to weight bear through his upper body (shoulders, arms, hands). We often refer to this position as using his ‘wheelbarrow’ arms. This position helps to improve upper body strength, neck strength, trunk control, and multi-tasking/motor planning, as the child is typically playing some sort of board game or activity while maintaining this prone extension position in the swing. As the child gets stronger, he shoots to remain in the swing for longer and longer durations.
  2. Cuddle swing: The cuddle swing is mostly used for self-regulation and calming, as it mimics a hammock, in that it completely surrounds, engulfs, and molds to the child’s body. While in the swing children often feel extremely secure and at ease as the swing provides them with a squeezing sensation- much like a big bear hug from mom or dad. The cuddle swing can provide the child with slow rhythmic movement, which can be very relaxing for a child, especially when he is feeling anxious or when his body is moving too quickly. The cuddle swing can also provide a child with more intense vestibular input, as the child can be spun in circles, when he is seeking more fast-paced input.
  3. Rainbow swing: The rainbow swing looks exactly how it sounds, as it has 4 different colored layers, which the child can crawl in and out of. The rainbow swing provides a rhythmic motion when the child lies on his back or stomach in one position, while the therapist swings him back and forth. Similarly, the child can start at one end of the swing and crawl through like a resistive suspended tunnel, until he reaches the other end and can crash out onto a pile of pillows. This serves as a heavy work activity and can ideally help to increase his attention and body awareness.
  4. Frog swing: The frog swing looks exactly like a playground swing, in which a child needs to pump his legs or be pushed by a therapist to get his momentum going. Typically, the child is instructed to listen for a ‘magic word’ before jumping off of the swing to crash into a pile of large floor pillows (e.g. ready, set, and ‘go’). This activity helps to work on following directions and motor planning, as the child must figure out how to get his body off of the swing at the correct timing to land on the pillows.
  5. T-swing: The t-swing looks like an upside down letter “T”, and may also be referred to as a barrel swing. The child is required to wrap his arms and legs around the barrel like a koala bear and hold on as tight as he can while the therapist is pushing and swinging him. This swing helps to work on entire body strengthening and endurance, and it also requires motor planning and body awareness in order to assume the correct position initially to get onto the swing.

As therapists, we find that the swings listed above are extremely motivating for our clients to use, and serve many distinct purposes; as such, equipment truly helps us to better reach our client’s goals (e.g. following directions; attention; body awareness; self-regulation).  The swings are also a great reward for clients to work towards throughout a therapy session, as they see all of the other children playing on them, and they want to partake in the fun too.  Feel free to ask your child’s therapist if you can come-in and peak at the therapy gym during your child’s session to help you to best understand the treatment process.

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