No one is an island. Humans are, by nature, social creatures—and we depend on our communities to help us navigate and thrive as we travel through this thing called life.
But, with modern parenthood often feeling like a competition of self-sacrifice, it can feel really lonely to be a parent these days—as if you’re supposed to have it all together, with all the right answers at your fingertips.
And, if your child struggles with their learning or developmental skills, this can feel further isolating to parents. It’s easy to feel hard-pressed to find someone who understands and shares your issues and concerns.
The good news is—you’re not alone.
Not only are there many other families who share your struggles, there are a wealth of educational professionals who are waiting in the wings to help you and your child to understand, cope with, and overcome any issues you face.
One such professional is your friendly neighborhood occupational therapist.
If you’re not super familiar with the term, itself, or what exactly an occupational therapist does in the school setting—no worries! Trust us—you’re not alone in that, either.
If you’re interested in learning exactly how an occupational therapist can help and support your school-aged child, we created this article just for you! In it, you’ll learn all about the wide-ranging scope of practice OTs possess—and you’ll gain a deeper understanding of how they can support your family if and when you need them.
If you’re already well-versed in the value an OT can bring to your life—that’s great!
The focus of this article is to help involved parents like you to understand how you can support your child’s progress in their occupational therapy goals at home.
Home practice is an important driver of overall progress in therapy, and it tends to lead to even more positive outcomes.
That’s because therapeutic opportunities aren’t limited to the school day—your child can benefit from chances to target therapy goals and skills throughout their life, in every setting.
But, you may feel at a loss about how exactly to approach targeting your child’s OT goals at home. After all, you’re not an occupational therapist.
Thankfully, your OT doesn't expect you to be! But, we promise they’d be super happy if you’re willing to target some of their goals with your child while at home.
(Psst—if you’re interested in learning more about why your involvement in your child’s therapy is awesome, check out this article, all about how parental engagement in therapy boosts positive outcomes!)
Now that you’re clear on WHY it’s important and powerful for you to get involved in your child’s therapy, let’s explore some of the ways you can further your child’s progress toward their occupational therapy goals at home.
Targeting occupational therapy goals at home
Before we dive in, let’s get clear on one thing—your goal for home practice is simply to deepen and further the work your child is already doing with their OT.
Parent’s aren’t expected to reinvent the wheel or take the reins in your child’s therapy. But, your therapists do certainly appreciate your help and support with what they’re working to achieve with your child.
One of the best ways to get a grasp on how and what to work on with your child at home is to simply reach out to your child’s OT!
Because no two children are exactly alike—no two therapy plans are exactly the same.
Your occupational therapist will be able to give you ideas, insights, and even training to help you implement a successful companion OT program at home. They may also be able to offer you tools and resources to deepen what you’re addressing in your home setting.
At The Loop, our awesome occupational therapists customize each and every treatment plan to fit each unique child they serve. And, we love nothing more than collaborating with involved parents and caregivers—to ensure your child can reach their full potential and soar past their therapy goals.
Not only will each treatment be personalized for your child, so will the cues, supports, and strategies your therapist uses. That’s because we always meet you child where they are. And, we infuse our therapy with activities, supports, and tasks your child will find motivating and fun.
Because we work with children, boosting their enjoyment is always a part of our plan for therapy. After all—the more a child enjoys therapy, the better they’ll do!
Plus, the truly great thing about occupational therapy goals is that targeting them at home can be both natural AND really, really fun!
Let’s start by taking an overview of some of the biggest targets in the OT’s purview. Then, we’ll look at some home activities that address each of these skills.
What are the skills OT’s most often treat in children?
While occupational therapy is a strange title that doesn’t really capture what it is that OTs actually DO—it’s the title we’ve got.
Most OTs find it easier to simply explain the many areas and skills they’re qualified to treat.
So, what are the primary areas OTs address with school-aged children? Let’s round up each of these, and explain why they’re important in your child’s overall development.
OTs working with children are qualified to target and treat issues impacting—
Fine motor skills
Our body movements can be separated into two categories—gross motor and fine motor tasks. Gross motor tasks are those involving big movements in major body parts, such as the arms and legs. Think activities like running, jumping, and crawling.
But fine motor skills are equally as important, albeit a bit more subtle. Fine motor skills center around all the little, intricate movements we make with our hands and wrists. These small movements are absolutely essential to navigating our daily lives, and they’re a hallmark of what an OT is highly skilled to treat.
Sensory processing skills
Sensory processing is the system your brain uses to make sense of the world around
you. It not only involves our five senses, but how we feel about, organize, interpret, and
integrate our sensory experiences.
Body coordination skills
In order to successfully navigate the world, our body must not only know where
it is in space, but also be able to plan, organize, and coordinate the necessary
movements to accomplish daily tasks.
In some cases, issues with coordination skills can complicate a child’s life and
Upper body strength and stability
Upper body strength and stability are vital for your overall range of motion and flexibility. These muscles are also vital for posture. A weak core can even lead to issues with balance.
OTs are trained to target muscle groups in the upper body, including—the abdominal muscles, the diaphragm, the arms, forearms, chest, hands, and the muscles that wrap around the spine.
Hand-eye coordination skills
Our eyes and hands have to work together, and have a shorthand (if you’ll pardon the pun) to successfully complete tasks requiring speed and accuracy.
Like a feedback loop, the visual system takes in information through the eyes, and then communicates it to the body. It gives the hands a plan to execute, related to the info it’s received.
Hand-eye coordination skills are vital for tasks like throwing and catching a ball, eating, drinking, and performing daily tasks like brushing your teeth and hair, and even getting dressed.
What are some activities I can use to target these OT skills with my child at home?
Now that you have a clear understanding of the skills that fall under an occupational therapist’s scope of practice, let’s look at how you can target specific OT skills at home, with the goal of deepening and expediting your child’s progress in their occupational therapy treatment.
The best part of most of these home carryover activity suggestions—they’re not only beneficial, they’re FUN!
Take a look at our suggestions, and see if you can add even more to the list.
Activities to target fine motor skills at home
Playing with finger puppets
Having a thumb war
Playing a game of finger soccer
Playing with Play-Doh, kinetic sand, Silly Putty, or modeling clay
Playing with and assembling Lego
Working on cutting skills with kid-safe scissors
Peeling and sticking stickers
Making pictures and drawings together
Playing a game of cards
Home activities to target sensory processing skills
Practicing some beginner-friendly yoga poses
Setting up a sensory bin, using household items like rice or dry beans
Interacting physically with favorite stuffed animals (like giving them a hug)
Physical tasks like jumping on a trampoline, playing on a playground, or running laps
Trying a weighted blanket (of a child-appropriate weight)
Home activities for body and hand-eye coordination skills
Learn a new dance together with a fun, kid-friendly soundtrack. Kid-friendly bands like Koo Koo Kanga Roo have super fun dance videos on YouTube you can enjoy together!
Play a game of catch
Use a jump rope
Play hand drums
Make shapes with Lego and blocks
Blow and pop bubbles
Play a game of “Simon Says”
Do a tracing activity
Targeting upper body strength and stability activities at home
Balancing on a balance ball
Riding a bike
Playing on a jungle gym
Laying on the tummy when playing with toys
Having a crawling or crab walking race
These are just some ideas to get your home practice off to a great start!
And, of course, it’s always best to involve your OT in the process of home therapy. They’ll not only be able to tell you which tasks are the best and safest for you to focus on, they’ll also be able to offer you advice, training, and even materials to take your home practice activities to the next level!
One thing’s for sure—you’ll never get bored finding new, fun ways to target your child’s occupational therapy goals at home!
Plus, with The Loop as your trusted partner in top-quality therapy—you’ll always have access to the very best in speech, language, behavioral, and occupational therapy support. Your family can also rely on our amazing array of educational support services, including—learning remediation, executive function coaching, and educational consultation and advocacy services.
Want to stay in The Loop? Keep up with us on social media by following along @theLoopSLL, reach out with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org, or keep an eye on our website and blog for great new content on topics of interest.