Since the onset of COVID-19, the job of an occupational therapist has wildly changed making it harder to meet with patients in person. But, have no fear! Despite the challenges occupational therapists (and really everyone in healthcare) have faced because of COVID-19, we wanted to remind you that there are plenty of household items to use for occupational therapy tools that your patients can use. Use this blog as a resource when trying to think of ways your patients can still practice occupational therapy during COVID-19.
Household Items to Use in Occupational Therapy to Help with Fine Motor Skills and Hand-Eye Coordination
Dry Spaghetti and Cheerios
At the top of our list of household items to use in occupational therapy are dry spaghetti and cheerios. For this task, tell your patient to place the dry spaghetti standing up straight in a base made out of playdough, styrofoam, or anything else that will secure the dry noodles. Then, have your patient try and put the Cheerios on the spaghetti almost like threading with a string. This task is great for patients that need help with their hand-eye coordination. You can even use beads instead of Cheerios if you would prefer, but Cheerios might be safer for little ones in case they try to ingest it.
Colander and Pipe Cleaners
Next on our list is a colander and pipe cleaners. This one can keep kids busy for quite a while and is great for patients or children who aren’t entirely ready for lacing beads or cheerios on spaghetti. For this task, the goal is to put the pipe cleaners into the holes of the colander to help with hand-eye coordination.
Chip Clips and a Plastic Container
For this task, any type of chip clip and plastic container will do. Have your patient practice squeezing the clips on and off the rim of a plastic container. While this example of household items to use for occupational therapy doesn’t seem like fun, it’s a great way to work hand-eye coordination. Plus, patients can be rewarded with chips after they reach their goal! For example, perhaps the patient’s goal is to place the chip clip on the plastic container 10, 20, or 50 times. Once they reach their goal, they can be rewarded with a handful of chips. And really, who doesn’t love a handful of chips.
Household Items to Use in Occupational Therapy to Help with Gross Motor Skills
Pillows, Cushions, and Blankets
These three items can be used to create obstacle courses for kids struggling with gross motor skills and muscle development. Crawling, jumping, and climbing through the obstacles can help with balance coordination as well as endurance. You can even use masking tape or duct tape to create a course. The best part about creating an obstacle course out of pillows, cushions, and blankets is that your patient won’t even realize they are practicing occupational therapy skills, instead they will think they are just playing and having fun… which they are… of course! *wink*
Yarn is another great household item to use in occupational therapy that can be very versatile. Similar to the pillows, cushions, and blankets technique, your patients can use yarn to create a course to crawl through to help with gross motor skills development and balance. Or your patients can also use yarn to help with fine motor skills. By working on threading yarn through beads or buttons, their hand dexterity and strength can be improved significantly.
Household Items to Use in Occupational Therapy to Help with Tactile Sensory Processing
Balloons and Fillers
To help with tactile sensory processing, balloons, and other household items can be very useful. Filling balloons with playdough, flour, beans, or rice provides different textures for kids. A great aspect of using balloons and fillers is that this too can be turned into a game. Tell the parents of your patients to try out different fillers in the balloons and then have the child guess what they think is in each balloon. Then, reward the patient for each filler they guess correctly.
Lastly, another way for patients to work on occupational therapy at home is by fingering painting with shaving cream. You’ve probably heard of (or seen) this used before. While this tactic may make a mess, it’s a great way for children to work on practicing, shapes, letters, writing words, drawing pictures, etc., at home. The possibilities are truly endless for this one, just be sure to warn your family’s patients about the mess!
While there are plenty of household items to use for occupational therapy. These are our favorites. What are some of yours?
Are you looking for a travel occupational therapy job? Browse these ot job listings and apply to the jobs that interest you!