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Activities of Daily Living, or ADLs are the tasks that you do every day, such as get dressed, eat food, brush your hair, brush your teeth, clean your house, play with toys, go to work, go to school, etc.  Average people take these activities for granted because they are able to do them easily and automatically.  A person with a disability may find it difficult to do some of these activities.  Occupational Therapists work with the core problems that are keeping someone from doing these activities, and work on ways to make these activities easier for the client to perform.

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ADLs include:

  • dressing
  • feeding
  • grooming
  • hygiene
  • toileting
  • home skills
  • school skills
  • work hardening

Below are some activities that work on ADLs

A cute button penguin

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As the weather is cold, what better animal to work on buttoning than a penguin. I made this cute little felt penguin to have the kids practice their buttoning skills. The kids are always much more willing to practice fastening buttons when there is more interest to it that a strip of buttons. The cute…

connecting the bottom of a zipper

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When kids are learning to fasten zippers, they first learn to move the zipper back and forth on items such as a purse or little zippered bag, or the little pig bank that I made. This is an activity that uses two hands and good hand positioning, and is linear so it usually is learned…

Summer button sunflower

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I have been on a button activity kick for the past couple of months, and I just made a cute sunflower and a little blue forget-me-not flower. The sunflower has 10 buttons on the back to button on the flower petals, so it can be more of a challenge, but the little blue flower is…

Button challenge levels and an octopus buttoning activity

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I love octopuses and think that they are really fascinating animals. Because of all of their many legs, they lend themselves well to being a buttoning activity. I love buttoning as a skill builder because it works on so many skills all rolled into one activity, and some of the buttoning tasks are easier while…

buttoning practice with rainbow ice cream cone

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I am in a bit of a button activity obsession right now, so sorry if that is all that I talk about. I have been using a button ice cream cone with kids to work on buttoning skills, and have often wished that I had more colors (flavors) of ice cream for the kids to…

New button Ladybug

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I have not made any button activities for almost a year, and as the school year winds down and I see a light at the end of the tunnel with the potential for extra time on my hands during the summer, I decided to work on button activities. I made a ladybug last summer, but…

Painting as a functional skill

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When you think of painting, you don’t immediately jump to using it as a functional ADL skill, but it can be. In my painting activity, I used plastic bowls to hold the paint, so the kids had to squeeze out the right amount of paint into the bowl. They then could mix their colors and…

Making button letters and names

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I love working on skills while working on skills, so using letters and buttons together is a perfect combination. We can work on fine motor and motor planning skills while talking about letters and the letters of the child’s name. First you make a strip with buttons about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart. The…

Using a squeeze bulb for fine motor gardening

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The whole act of gardening is good for both the body and soul. Getting your hands dirty in the soil and digging is great for working your hands and for sensory calming. Pulling out vegetables and pulling out weeds can work the arms and trunk, but you can also work on the smaller muscles when…

Cute felt piggy bank with button slot and zipper

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In my constant quest to find new and fun ways to work on fine motor skills, I made an adorable little piggy bank out of felt. He has a little slot to put money or buttons into with a zipper in the back to take the money out. The kids enjoy putting money into the…

Tying with two colors

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Tying shoes is challenging for many kids, and there can be many diferent reasons why the tying is so hard. One of the quickest ways to help with tying shoes is to have two-colored laces. Why does it help to have two different colors on your laces? It provides a stronger visual difference between the…

Button turkey to practice buttoning

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It is time to get dressed and those buttons aren’t going to button themselves. It’s hard you say? How about we practice buttoning on something that is fun. I created this little button turkey with feathers that you can button on. He has six rainbow colored feathers that button onto the back of the turkey…

An Interesting Sleep Aid

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Sleep is so important and many of the kids that we work with have a lot of difficulty with sleep. I will tell you about Lucy, a teenager, who started having trouble falling asleep. It can take her upwards of four hours to fall asleep, and the quality of sleep that she has is variable….

Make Button Flowers

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Flowers make a great spring time activity, and there are so many ways to incorporate flowers into therapy to work on fine motor, visual motor, and coordination. I have many flower activities, such as ones that use clothes pins, but today we are using buttons in our flower activity. It is so simple to make…

UnBuckle Me

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At Therapy Fun Zone, we focus a lot on activities for children that develop their skills. However, I was recently contacted by an Occupational Therapist, who has invented a new product to help adults who struggle to unbuckle their child’s car seats. I expect many of you will know someone in your family who can…

Using the Button Sandwich for Sequencing and Writing

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I love using the button food for practicing buttoning and working on fine motor and visual perceptual skills. I made some order forms so that the kids can practice writing and sequencing their sandwich toppings as well. The kids can take your order and put the fixings on the sandwich. I also made some sandwich…

Seasons Button Tree

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I have added another button activity to my arsenal of fun things to button. This one is a seasonal tree, so you can button on the different seasons. It includes white snow for winter, green for spring, orange and red for fall, and fruit of red or orange for summer. The tree itself I made…

Button Felt Christmas Tree

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Felt button activities are fun to use when working on buttoning skills, and a Christmas tree lends itself really well to buttoning. I made a button Christmas tree, and you can button the circle ornaments onto the tree. To make your own, you just need some green felt for the tree, brown felt for the…

Make a Button Snow Man

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Kids like buttoning different things like a pizza, sandwich, and ice cream. I am constantly working on new buttoning activities, and have just finished making a snow man. It is adorable, and perfect for buttoning since there are lots of parts that need buttoning on. You have to button on the body and head, three…

The Visual Motor Aspect of Buttons and Zippers

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Buttoning Progression When you are good at fastening buttons, you can do it with your eyes close, and probably don’t look at all when fastening your pants. It takes some time and practice to get to the point of being able to button completely by touch, and a lot of vision is used when young…

Fine Motor Skills For Mealtimes

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From the beginning stages of a baby learning to pick up a piece of puffed cereal and feed itself, to an older child cutting vegetables to help prepare food, there are a variety of fine motor skills that are used and needed during meal times. In fact, self feeding is a great way to work…

Adolescent Hygiene Challenges

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Adolescence is a time when kids are starting to reach a level of maturity where they begin to be more self sufficient in hygiene, and they have a bunch of brand new hygiene issues starting due to changing hormones. When you have kids that have challenges, then it can take more time to adjust to…

A Button Snake With Lots of Buttons

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Button snakes are a very simple way to practice buttoning. They have a ribbon and a button on the end and you string pieces of fabric onto the string. I made one with different types of fabric, and now have a new one that has multiple buttons down a string for a bit more of…

Things You can do at Home to Help Your Child In School

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Being able to function and participate in school will mean different things for different kids. So, it is best to look at your child and see what it is that they will need to work on in school, and then you can support the teacher to help your child work on those areas.   First…

Working on More Button Activities

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I have been working on more button activities and I think that my button S’mores are perfect for summer pretend play. I was able to get the marshmallow a little squishy and puffy by layering felt circles. I is a perfect addition to anyone’s felt food collection, and would be fun to practice buttoning on….

A Fun Summer Buttoning Ice Cream Cone

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I have been working on a bunch of different buttoning activities and thought I would share the ones that I made this week. I made some bananas that you can unbutton from the bunch, an ice cream cone to button the scoops on, some pancakes with syrup and butter, and some eggs that you button…

New Button Pizzas and Patterns to Make Your Own

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The button pizza, sandwich and oreo are so great for working on fine motor and motor planning skills in a fun way.  I ran out of the button food available in the shop quite a while ago, and have found it difficult to find a sewing manufacturer that is affordable.  So I have been developing…

Work on Dressing Skills Through Play Activities

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Dressing skills are the bread and butter of the Occupational Therapy profession, but not every setting or session is an appropriate time or place to have your client get dressed or undressed.  I used to joke around with a Physical Therapist that we hoped our clients weren’t going to incorporate the skills we were jointly…

The Roll of OT in Driving Readiness with Adolescents most At Risk

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The important role of Pediatric Occupational Therapy in “Driving Readiness” with Adolescents Most At Risk This is a guest post written by Missy Menzes, occupational therapist and founder of Extra Credit! LLC. For teenagers, driving is a sort of rite of passage. It indicates transitioning into adulthood and offers a sense of freedom at various…

How Play Makes Therapy Better

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Let’s compare two therapy sessions.  Billy has hemiplegia and needs to work on using his left hand, as well as using both hands together.  The therapist gets out some pom poms and has Billy pick them up from one side of the table that he is sitting at, and has him put them into a…

Modifications for Potty Training

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Your sweet toddler has shown all of the signs for being ready to potty train, and you are excited to get started when you realize they are going to fall right off (or in) the toilet.  Toileting and potty training is often challenging with typical kids, but can be even more challenging when there are…

Toddler age Potty Training Tips

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Here are some tips that have helped me with potty training both my own kids and some of the kids that I have worked with. Naked Time · Have some “naked time” at home when able to be well supervised. You want your child to feel what is happening and feel the sensation of getting…

Tips on Shaving for Teenagers who have Hemiparesis

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This is a guest post by Marie Logan, OTR/L about teenagers and shaving when they have hemiparesis.  As children mature into teenagers there are undoubtedly times of transition that can be a bit awkward for them as well as their parents. As they grow older we expect our teenagers to begin to take care of…

Ribbon Christmas Tree

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This ribbon Christmas tree activity is the most awesome therapy activity ever. It incorporates practicing tying into a nice craft that looks beautiful when it is done. The kids all loved it, and they were all very proud of what they had accomplished. Most of the kids started the activity by saying that they didn’t…

Ez Pz Bowl

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When working with kids on feeding skills, one challenge is keeping the bowl from sliding around.  When I saw this ezpz bowl, I saw that it would be a perfect solution to the problem of bowls moving around too much.  It really stays in place very well. Looking For More? Try these categories ADL Fine…

Clothesline Matching

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A simple and fun activity for young kids is hanging play clothes on a clothesline. This activity happens to be great for targeting fine motor skills, finger strength, and visual perception. It is a lot harder than you think to hold clothes up to the clothesline, get it in the right position, while pinching open…

Using Motor Skills While Making Ice Cream

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We have a challenge this summer to make things and experiment with making different stuff.  We decided to start off our challenge with making ice cream, and the first type of ice cream that we made only needs 3 ingredients, some ziplock baggies, ice, salt, and physical activity. Ingredients: 1/2 cup of heavy cream 1…

Sleep is So Important

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Sleep is an incredibly important factor to healthy development, but a large number of kids do not get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation in children can result in hyperactivity, inattention, impulsivity, oppositional behavior, moodiness, irritability, and difficulty waking up in the morning. Below is a list of the amount of sleep that is recommended for each…

Delicious Strawberry Play Dough

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When working with kids who have food aversions, I like to do some fun activities with food that provide some of the sensory experience of food, but in a fun atmosphere without the required eating of the food. I want the fun item to be edible though in case we can get some tasting of…

Adapting With Sugru

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Have you heard of Sugru? It is an Occupational Therapist’s dream come true – really it is. These are the things that we dream about. Sugru is a mold-able rubber that dries in 24hrs, and is then very strong. It sticks to practically everything while you are molding it, so it is great for adapting…

Rubbery Marshmallow Play Dough

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I have joined some other bloggers to share recipes and posts about sensory dough called the Twelve Months of Sensory Dough, and this month’s play dough is snow dough. When I think of snow, I think of white, and since marshmallow fluff worked so well in the sweet potato play dough, then I thought I…

Picky Eating and Transitioning to New Foods

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In Occupational Therapy, we work with eating, and often work with kids that don’t like to eat food.  Sometimes the problem is due to muscle difficulties, but every once in a while, I see a client who does not have the underlying muscle weakness, and they have the oral sensory defensiveness to tastes and textures…

Sensory Painting with Pasta and Edible Paint

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When working with a sensory group with food aversions, I needed to make the activities fun as well as give exposure to some of the sensations that go along with food.  I wanted to have the food textures, smells and tastes available while making the activity about creating and not about eating.  I chose cooked…

Sweet Potato Play Dough

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This Summer, I was running a group with kids that avoid food, so we played with all kinds of foods to get some pleasant associations with the smells and tastes. I wanted to make every day food into a fun activity, and one of the things we did was make play dough out of sweet…

Delicious Sensory Peanut Butter Play Dough

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When working with kids who have food aversions, I work on having fun with food items. To make this delicious peanut butter play dough, I put the ingredients in a bowl and let the kids mix it all together. If you have a concern about peanut allergies, you can use sun butter instead of the…

Taste Testing New Foods

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When working with kids who are reluctant eaters, they often are afraid to even taste new foods.  They may have had a negative experience at one point with a certain type or flavor of food, and so they avoid trying it again.  I will often start by giving the kids permission to spit it out…

Sensory Bird Feeders

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A fun way to incorporate different sensory experiences, including food experiences, is to make pine cone bird feeders. I have three different types to make that each utilize a slightly different sensory experience. To start with, you attach a pipe cleaner to the top of the pine cone in order to hang the pine cone…

The WOW Cup is Really Cool

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You see infomercials, and can’t believe all of the claims they have, so when I saw the WOW cup, I got it to test it out and see if it really did work. I have to say, the Wow Cup works, and it is really cool. It does not spill at all, and you sip…

Honey Bear Cup

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In some therapy circles, the honey bear is an obvious adaptation that is used to help kids learn to drink from a straw. I was unaware of this great use of a honey bear for many many years, and it was kind of a “duh” moment when I learned about using it. You don’t actually…

Greeper Laces Never Come Untied

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Tying shoes is an important skill to learn, and there are many tricks that can be used, which I have posted about before. At some point, you may decide that the process of tying is no longer the goal, but just having your shoes tied is the important part. Greeper laces are an awesome adaptation…

Shoelaces to help with learning to tie shoes

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I love sharing products that were created by therapists.  Last year I did a post about some little practice shoes called Loopers Laces.  The practice shoes were not meant to be worn, but just meant to be practiced with and help with the process of learning to tie shoes.  Now there are new shoelaces made…

Play with Scooping Ice Cream for Skill Development

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Scooping is an important skill to have, and can easily be worked on in a fun and playful way. I decided to have fun with it with an ice cream scooping session, using large home made pom poms as the scoops of ice cream. I neglected to make toppings which the child working on the…

Loopeez 2 color laces and Give-away

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I have done several posts on tying shoes; shoe tying methods, tips and tricks for tying shoes, and printable practice shoe. In my post about tips and tricks, I mentioned Loopeez, but had never tried them. In the time since I wrote that post, Loopeez has sent me a sample of the product to try…

Teaching Shoe Tying: Tips and Tricks

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Tying shoes is a very complex skill that can be very difficult to learn. There are so many skill areas that are used when tying shoes, that if you have a deficit in one of those skills, then you will have trouble tying shoes. Not only does it require fine motor skills, you need good…

Shoe Tying Methods

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There are essentially two standard methods of tying shoes, (and then there is my own non-standard method). You have the one loop method, the two loop method (bunny ears), and my own version for kids that have significant delays, and can’t succeed with the other methods is the Push and Tie (PAT) method (I had…

Shoe Tying Printable Practice Shoe

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When practicing shoe tying, it is best to have the shoe sitting in front of the child either on the floor or the table. I don’t always have a shoe with me (I have been known to take my own shoe off to use for practice), so I made a shoe printable and attached it…

Felt Pizza to Work on Button Skills

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I have a client that needs to work on buttoning skills, and I found that I do not have many buttoning activities that are appropriate and fun for older kids. When I heard another therapist mention that the pepperoni pizza buttoning activity is her favorite, I searched the internet and came up blank. I therefore…

Practicing Tying Shoes with Loopers Laces

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Occupational Therapists create stuff. It’s what we do. I am thrilled to share products that have been conceived and created by other OTs. Today’s product is Loopers Laces, which was created specifically to help with working on learning to tie shoes. The Loopers Shoelace tying system comes with 2 little mini practice shes that are…

Using a Visual Barrier When Doing Fine Motor Tasks

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The other day I was having a student practicing fastening some buttons, and he was very focused on tugging and pulling, and was not feeling the fabric and button with his fingers. I then covered his hands to try and get him to just feel where the button hole was and try to get the…

I have Button Food and I’m ready to play

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Kids love to play pretend, and playing with pretend food is one of the most fun pretend games.  Felt food is fun to play with, but what if you could work on skills at the same time?  It has been about a year and a half since I first posted about my felt button food. …

The right bite feeding therapy tool

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How many kids do you work with that try to stuff a whole huge cracker into their mouth?  How many times have you been bitten when working on taking bites of food (never for me, but I have been bitten doing other oral motor activities).  Ark has just introduced a new product called the Right…

Tying Ribbon to Make a Spring Tree

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I loved the activity that I did where the kids had to tie ribbon onto a stick to make a tree. The activity turned out beautiful, and it really targeted the tying skill, which is usually a pretty difficult skill to attain. Since then, I have been thinking about other activities that would target tying,…

Mixing straw drinking fun with fine motor fun

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How could you get any more OT than mixing an oral motor, ADL, and fine motor activity into one.  I found these build your own straws called Pipeline at Bed Bath and Beyond, and just had to try them.  They seem to be the same thing as the Strawz that I found on Amazon too….

Having fun with straw drinking

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Drinking from a straw can be a challenge for some kids, and it can be a scary thing for those who don’t know what to do or expect.  An OT friend of mine named Sharon mentioned that she and the kids love to use the Got Milk Magic Flavored Straws when working on straw drinking….

Marshmallow Men

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We made some men out of marshmallows and toothpicks, and they were delicious.  We used multiple sizes of marshmallows for the different parts, and connected the parts with toothpicks. Some of these men were looking very funny, but they all tasted good in the end.  This is a fun food play activity to combine food…

Pine Cone Bird Feeder and Spreading with a Knife

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Spreading can be a challenge for many kids, so here is a fun activity that helps practice. You use a pine cone and attach a wire or string to the top of it so that you can hang it once it is finished. You then spread peanut butter all over the pine cone. It can…

Vibration For Oral Motor Stimulation

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I am seeing a little girl who enjoys eating, but she does not yet move her tongue to the side (tongue lateralization) in order to move her food around in her mouth. I will often use vibration in the mouth to stimulate more tongue and cheek movement. Sometimes I will have parents get a baby…

Dycem: It’s the stickiest

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I haven’t used Dycem for years since I haven’t been in a clinic for years. When I work on my own and in other people’s houses, I tend to use whatever is available there. For those who don’t know what Dycem is, it is a sticky non-slip rubber that can be placed to stabilize objects,…

Spaghetti Painting for Sensory Problems

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I have a few kids that I see who do not like food. I like to use food as a play tool in order to help make food their friend because they need to accept being around food, so using spaghetti noodles as a painting tool is a fun activity. Some kids love it immediately,…

Car Wash

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When the weather is warm, it is always fun to play in the water. Here is a fun activity that has water play, with some self-care skills and fine motor skills all mixed into one activity. When washing your hands, you use visual perception and motor planning to see and physically scrub the dirt off…

Cooking For Therapy

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I am working on doing a feeding group and integrating some simple food play/cooking/interaction.  With the population that I am working with, there will not be a lot of full blown cooking involved, but we will have fun with food.  We will play with messy food, and make things out of food materials. In my…

Cutting with a knife and fork

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Cutting with a knife and fork is more difficult than many people realize.  It requires good knife grip and positioning, which involves motor planning.  You must also exert the right amount of pressure on the knife, which involves sensory perception. Good toys for working on cutting with a knife are those Wooden Cutting food toys…

Digital Piggy Bank

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I love using money in therapy, since it provides lots of opportunity to work on fine motor skills and visual perceptual skills. I had a little client that had a great time putting coins into this digital piggy bank. The benefit of this bank compared to a regular bank, is that in order for the…

Practice Buttoning with Felt Sandwich

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I was inspired by making the buttoning pizza to make more food that requires buttoning. I see a whole line of fun button food in my future. Here is a sandwich that I made. It is very similar to the button snake and button oreo that I made, but it has more layers like a…

Practice Buttoning with Felt Oreo Cookies

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I was inspired by making the buttoning pizza to make more food that requires buttoning. I see a whole line of fun button food in my future. Here is an oreo cookie that I made. It is very similar to the button snake, but looks like an oreo. One difference from the button snake is…

Button Snake

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When learning to button, it is easier to button large buttons on fabric that you are holding rather than fabric that is on your body. In order to practice this skill, I made a “button snake”. It is a very simple activity of squares of fabric with button holes in the center. I then stitched…

Button Push Ins

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When working on buttoning skills, there is a progression of skill mastery. Pushing buttons or coins into a container is the first step. Putting coins into a piggy bank slot is the easiest, and then pushing buttons or coins into a recycled butter tub is the next. One reason using the butter container is good…

Marshmallow Painting for Fine Motor Skills

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Painting is often good therapy, but you can kick it up a notch by using marshmallows as the painting tool. You can grade the type of grip used by using the large marshmallows or the mini marshmallows. You can use regular paint on paper and just dip the marshmallow in and make designs on the…

Peanut Butter Playdough Recipe:

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Playing with playdoh is fun, and if you can eat the playdoh when you are done, it can be even more fun.  It is also a good way to play with food for kids that have problems with eating. Ingredients: 1 cup of smooth/creamy peanut butter 2 cups of powdered sugar 1/2 cup honey Mix…

Ice Cream Cone Christmas Trees

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One of the Kindergarten classes that I visited today was making Christmas Trees out of ice cream cones. First you get a sugar cone, the kind with the pointy tip. Then you spread green frosting all over the cone. You can use red licorice strings as garland, and sprinkle it with colored sugar sprinkles. This…

Cake Pops, a cooking activity with sensory and fine motor

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I have seen these cake pops around the internet, and they look so cute.  I thought that it would be fun to have a holiday party and decorate cake pops.  Instead of a cookie party, we would do cake pops.  As I was making them, I was thinking about the therapy involved.  You could only…

Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses

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When I used to work in an outpatient clinic environment, I used to have the kids make these gingerbread type of houses out of graham crackers.  It was a fun, christmasy activity that was good therapy at the same time.  It was also out of the ordinary, and the kids loved it. You use graham…

Why bouncing is good for eating skills

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When talking about oral-motor skills and eating, you don’t usually think immediately of bouncing on a ball as a treatment technique. Well, think again. Bouncing on a large therapy ball, either supported or unsupported, stimulates muscle co-contractions. These muscle contractions are all over the body to achieve stability while bouncing, so the bouncing on the…

Using Stickers in Therapy

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When pulling up pants or getting your shirt aligned, or trying to get your socks on, sometimes it is just hard to reach some spots. I am not sure why, but stickers are a big motivator for kids. Some children with tactile hypersensitivity do not like having stickers put on their skin, which of course…

Quick Tip; necklaces to simulate dressing

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Use Necklaces to simulate getting a shirt over your head, and bracelets to simulate getting a sock on toes. Looking For More? Try these categories ADL Fine Motor Visual Perceptual Sensory Motor Planning Oral Motor

Fasten-ator

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Here is a therapist who created the fasten-ator.  Her website is www.school-ot.com.  Her name is Jennifer Dodge.  Here is what she says on her site about her product. “I designed and sewed up the prototype (in the picture above) for this after trying to work with a 5th grade boy who had Downs Syndrome. He…

Tea Party

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A tea party is fun for both young and old.  It is even more fun when you use a nice china tea set and fancy linens.  It can be really fun and motivating when real food and real drink is used.  Preparation and clean-up is of course a big part of the activity, and can really target…

Gag reflex or not?

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I have done many evaluations for feeding and oral motor skills where I am called in because the child is gagging on solid food.  Many times this is the case, and we have to work on desensitizing to lumpy food, and work on oral motor skills so that they can move the lumps around in their…

Looking For More? Try these categories

ADL

Fine Motor

Visual Perceptual

Sensory

Motor Planning

Oral Motor