Time with students during occupational therapy sessions is precious. Depending on the student, you may only see them once a week. This may be within an individual or group setting. Sometimes occupational therapy is pushed into the classroom to help with fine motor skills during classroom time. This means that it is important to build a strong relationship with families at home. There are ways to share occupational therapy activities and hand exercises which will strengthen fine motor movement.
Building Up Hand Strength
Occupational therapy practice needs to continue at home. This doesn’t have to be work for the kids, it means sharing fun exercises which will work on their hand strength and control. Kids love slime, dough, and everything similar to this. Send home a container of one of the options for them to use and keep. In addition to this, give them a recipe so they can make more. Even the process of mixing the dough can be great work for the hands. Suggest different ways to play and work with their hands. Perhaps they can roll the dough into letters, shapes, or make something special. You can also put small gems inside the dough for them to use pincer grasp practice to maneuver them out. Then once done, all muscles can mix them back in.
Something a bit different is using a tennis ball to make it race it up a wall. Students can sit or stand at the wall They use their fingertips on the ball and make it walk up the wall by alternating one hand after the other. If kids use a timer, they can race their own times to see how fast they can get from point A to B. This is a fine motor activity which builds upper extremity strength and range of motion. It also encourages bilateral hand use and wrist extension.
Additional ways to work on building hand strength would be to send home shoe tying cards with tips and tricks. This skill is very difficult for many kids would benefit from additional time. Another helpful exercise would include a doll who has buttons, zippers, ties, and more. These functional skills are often needed for self-care and good for younger kids to practice at home.
Adding Sensory to OT Home Exercises
Sensory integration is helpful for a lot of students. Many times, this will allow them to be more actively engaged activities. An easy way to do this is to make a traveling sensory bin. This could change with the season, but in general it would have items mixed in with beads, beans, rice, or something similar. Perhaps you put in some jingle bells for students to use tweezers to remove. This motion will work on their finger strength while also working on hand and eye coordination. Families can also add or make their own sensory bins which can be used with specific exercises which will benefit their children.
Another option is to send home a bingo card with a variety of exercise activities to practice at home. Once completed, they may color it in. Once students complete a bingo, parents can sign off and they can bring it into the next occupational therapy session to earn some kind of reward. Bingo could include scissor games, wipe board activities, the items above, or anything else that may work specifically for your students’ individual needs.
How do you handle sending home exercises for occupational therapy students to do at home? Please share any successes you have had below in the comments, and if you are looking for a new occupational therapy position, start your search here!