Ten At-Home Occupational Therapy Activities That Can Make a Difference

April 23, 2020

Note: This information is accurate at the time of publishing. Please refer to the COVID-19 page on the Lurie Children’s website for continually updated information and resources for patient families, healthcare providers and general information on the virus and keeping families healthy.

During this time, parents with children facing health challenges play a significant role in supervising school work, connecting their children online and helping them with physical exercises. Like many children staying home, your child may be missing out on services they typically receive, including occupational therapy. 

Since April is Occupational Therapy (OT) Month, our occupational therapists are here to share some fun, simple activities that parents can use to incorporate more occupational therapy at home into their children’s daily routines. From working on fine motor skills to improving core strength to encouraging messy play, these therapeutic activities will help promote independence and develop life skills.

  1. Incorporate regular and frequent movement breaks: This can look different based on the age of the child, but some examples include log rolling, bear crawling, jumping up and down on a trampoline, and swinging. 
  2. Create a letter bead necklace: For this activity, have your child find the letters of his or her name on letter beads. Hide their selected letter beads in Play-Doh and so they can work on finding them. Once they find all the beads, they can create a necklace!
  3. Find the cotton ball: Place cotton balls within a whisk, and have your child pull them out from between the wire loops. This activity can help promote fine motor skills and visual perception skills.
  4. Clean the windows: Fill a spray bottle with water and have them “clean” the windows! They can also spray a sponge with a spray bottle and then practice wringing out the sponge. Encourage your child to change their positions often – switching between standing, sitting and kneeling.
  5. Create an ornament: You can create a fun decoration while your child can practice cutting simple shapes! With adult supervision, you can use a hole punch to punch holes along the perimeter and lace the shape to create an ornament.
  6. Play “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”: Have your child sit on the floor, facing either the adult or another child, each holding onto one end of a jump rope or onto each other’s wrists. As both sing the song, one person leans back as the other leans forward and then the opposite, similar to a see-saw motion.
  7. Practice a kangaroo kick: To practice, you will need a large therapy ball or a similar-sized bouncy ball. Have your child lie on back with their feet in the air, forearms resting on the surface. You can throw a large therapy ball toward the child’s feet, encouraging them to kick the ball upward and back towards you. 
  8. Play indoor limbo: Limbo isn’t just a party game! Use items around your house, like a broom between two chairs, to play a round of limbo. Make sure that your child leans backward in walking under the stick to ensure they are using their core abdominal muscles.
  9. Create a papier-mâché piñata: To create a papier-mache pinata, dip strips of newspaper into papier-mâché flour/water mixture and places them on an inflated balloon. Cover the entire surface except for a small opening at the top and leave it to harden for at least 24 hours. Once it’s dry, use the small opening at the top for popping the balloon. Paint and decorate the pinata, and fill with candy for a fun surprise!
  10. Make your own playdough: Making playdough is not only enjoyable for kids, but it also addresses many important skills. Mix flour, water, salt, food coloring, and vegetable oil together. Have your child participate in mixing using their fingers or a spoon. If they do not like the feeling of touching the material, allow them to use a utensil, like a spoon, to help stir. Reassure the child by showing them it is safe to touch the messy items and keep a towel nearby to allow them to wipe their own hands.