Practical OT Activities for Home – Part 1

I love lists – they’re quick and easy to reference. So, I wanted to make a “glossary” of sorts to explain the jargon that appears in occupational therapy reports and to provide associated activities that can be worked on at home.

Therapy is significantly more effective when parents work alongside the therapist – since motor learning requires lots of practice and repetition!

In part one of this new three-part series, I discuss practical ways to help your child work on:

  • Postural Control
  • Low Muscle Tone
  • Fine Motor Coordination
  • Bilateral Integration
  • Motor Planning

Postural Control

In Plain English

Postural control is the ability to hold your body up in an upright position, relative to gravity. Kids need this skill for stability in sitting for writing tasks.

Helpful Strategies

  • Ensure that your child is for writing: Feet flat on the floor
    • Knees and hips at 900
    • Back supported against the chair
    • Shoulders relaxed with arms resting on the desk
  • Try different positions for writing:
    • Standing
    • Kneeling
    • Lying on stomach, propped up on elbows

Beneficial Activities

  • Animal walks – crab walks, frog jumps, bunny hops, bear walks
  • Wheelbarrow walks
  • Play games:
    • Twister
    • Hopscotch
    • Tug of War
  • Bicycle movement with legs while lying on one’s back

 Low Muscle Tone

What Is It?

Low muscle tone is “floppy” or flaccid tension/resistance in muscles. Common features of low muscle tone are decreased strength, decreased endurance, hyper-flexibility of joints. Kids with low muscle tone might have decreased stamina or endurance for sitting/writing activities.

Strategies to Help

  • Build strength and endurance through gross motor play
  • Be supportive if your child appears tired
  • Add anti-gravity positions for fine motor tasks: i.e., writing on a vertical surface or while lying on one’s back

Activities to Try

  • Wheelbarrow walks
  • Monkey bars
  • Sit-ups
  • Push-ups
  • Pushing/pulling against another person
  • Working on a vertical surface (i.e., blackboard, easel)
  • Working above the shoulder level
    • Putting away things in cupboards
    • Hanging clothes
    • Washing windows
    • Wiping whiteboards, blackboards
  • For hand strengthening:
    • Playdoh/theraputty
    • Clothes pegs
    • Opening and closing lids on jars
    • Squeezing/wringing water out of a sponge
    • Use a spray bottle

Fine Motor Coordination

What Is It?

Fine motor coordination is the ability to use the small muscles in your fingers, hands, and wrists for activities. At school, kids need fine motor coordination skills to use blocks, scissors or rulers, to draw and to write.

Strategies to Help

  • Avoid light toys; provide toys that are solid and have some weight to them to provide more fine motor control
  • Provide activities that will allow your child to persevere and not get frustrated
  • Provide opportunities for fine motor practice in daily life: zippers, buttons, opening/closing ziplock bags, opening jars
  • Give verbal reminders for which fingers to use
  • Help stabilize an object while they are working on it if needed

Activities to Try

  • Threading activities onto a string or pipe cleaner: beads, straws, macaroni, Cheerios
  • Tearing paper
  • Crafts:
    • cutting
    • gluing
    • knitting
    • crochet
    • origami
  • Coloring
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Playdoh/theraputty exercises
  • Spinning tops
  • Wind-up toys
  • Turning coins over, putting coins in a coin slot
  • Using tweezers or tongs to put objects from one container into another
  • Cat’s cradle
  • Games:
    • Pick up Sticks
    • Card games
    • Mancala
  • Rolling marbles
  • Mazes
  • Using eye droppers
  • Snapping fingers
  • Blocks, Legos

Bilateral Integration

What Is It?

Bilateral integration is the ability to use both sides of your body (arms, legs), in a coordinated fashion in an activity. This is an important skill at school for tasks such as catching/throwing a ball, cutting, drawing, or writing.

Strategies to Help

  • Make sure your child is using the “helper hand” to stabilize the paper for writing
  • Gradually add complexity to movements:
    • Start with the same movement using both hands together i.e. placing pegs in a pegboard
    • Then add activities where one hand is doing one thing, and the other hand is doing another i.e., cutting, gluing, using a ruler
  • Place objects on your child’s non-dominant side and encourage them to cross their body midline (with their dominant hand) to reach them

Activities to Try

  • Catching/throwing: various sized balls, beanbags
  • Tearing paper
  • Playdoh
  • Threading activities
  • Blocks, Legos
  • Using stencils for tracing
  • Household chores:
    • Sweeping
    • Vacuuming
    • Wiping tables
  • Marching, cross crawling (hand touches knee on same side and opposite side)
    • Drying dishes
  • Tummy taps (tapping tummy with one hand, moving in circles on head with the other hand)
  • Games/Toys that use 2 hands in a controlled manner
  • Jump-rope
  • Jumping jacks
    • Jenga
    • Mr. Potato Head
    • Pick up sticks

 Motor Planning

What Is It?

Motor planning is the ability to understand a task (called ideation), plan an action for the task (called organization), and carry out the action (called execution). Many things that kids do at school require motor planning skills: cutting, drawing, handwriting.

Strategies to Help

  • Break down tasks into smaller steps; practice these steps
  • Repetition is helpful
  • Hands-on help might be necessary at first
  • Provide feedback on the task, such as what went well and what they could do to improve

Activities to Try

  • Obstacle courses
  • Animal walks: crab walk, bear walk, bunny hops, frog jumps
  • Skipping
  • Game: Twister
  • Jumping jacks
  • Catching/throwing: various sized balls, beanbags
  • Fine Motor planning:
    • Cut and paste activities
    • Using scotch tape
    • Tying knots, shoelaces
    • Origami
    • Dot to dot
    • Mazes
    • Block construction
    • Jigsaw puzzles

Ready set …. start practicing!

Note: In the next two blog posts, we will talk about: home activities for sensory skills, and for visual-motor skills.

How can I help you?