Occupational therapy doesn’t have to be a tedious process. When occupational therapy feels more like fun than therapy, you’re more likely to maintain focus on the task so that your fine motor skills actually progress toward your goals more efficiently. The American Occupational Therapy Association outlines some of those goals and provides some tips at www.aota.org. We would like to offer the following activities that can be done in the office, or at home that are fun and helpful in enhancing your fine motor skills:
If you enjoy being in the kitchen, the actions and motions of a simple recipe offers a variety of great OT exercises. Take these favorites for example:
- Pancakes - The tasks of measuring ingredients, stirring and especially flipping work several fine motor skills along with eye-hand coordination. Pancake recipes can be tailored to special dietary needs too.
- Pizza - Again, measuring and mixing the ingredients requires work with fine motor skills. The dough gets sticky and thick during the mixing phase, so you can work on hand and arm strength too. Kneading and flattening out the dough is also a great sensory exercise while adding toppings boosts hand-eye coordination and rewards you with something tasty.
- Cookies - If building hand and muscle strength is an issue, cookie dough’s thickness provides an extra challenge. You can address sensory and coordination issues by rolling out and cutting shapes, rolling dough into balls, or using spoons to scoop and drop dough onto the pan in rows.
Note: If food is a tricky issue, you can enjoy many of the same benefits by making salt dough sculptures. This activity still requires the fine motor skills involved in measuring ingredients with the strength building of mixing the thick dough, then rolling it out, forming and cutting shapes and decorating the finished product with paint or other decorative materials.
- Decorating Cookies or Cupcakes
When food is still a great motivator, but you’re short on time, use pre-made cookies or cupcakes and lay out all of decorating tools: spatulas for spreading frosting, sprinkles, icing bags with different tips to pipe various frosting designs, etc. Squeezing the bag and doing all the fine motor actions necessary to create flowers, swirls, or to write words provides a fun challenge with a delicious reward.
- Blanket Tying
Making a tied fleece blanket is an activity that is enjoyable and has a great reward at the end. Everybody loves a soft blanket to snuggle under. The feel of the fleece fabric comforts on a sensory level, and after the knots are tied, you can either keep the blanket or give it to a loved one. Knot tying challenges hand-eye coordination; tying the blanket requires several knots, so you can see your improvement as you progress.
- Card Making
Card making is a great activity for any holiday, birthday or just because. Making cards to share with loved ones provides numerous occupational therapy skill-building opportunities. You can cut designs out of paper, glue them to card stock, paint, add other decorations and write a note inside. Even inserting cards into envelopes exercises hand-eye coordination.
Research shows that making art on any level improves cognitive function, relieves stress, and boosts memory processing - in addition to the obvious fine-motor skills involved with dipping brushes into paint and applying them to a canvas, rock or other surfaces. Consider color-by-numbers or free form painting using different media (watercolor paints, oils, etc.). Then, simply enjoy the creative process.
These are only a few possible creative and artistic endeavors for OT. There are literally hundreds of others including everything from dying Easter eggs to making homemade Gak, or calming sparkly bottles. Consult with your occupational therapist to offer suggestions for creative activities and opportunities that appeal to you in order to build skills in a fun way, either at home, or in the office.
Care First Rehab in Cary, NC provides on-location and clinic therapy services including physical, occupational, pediatric, speech, massage, sports injury and more. Contact Pragati Sonker at (919) 460-1921 to schedule your therapy appointment.