Summer is here and many kids are excited for a break from the school schedule. Without the regular routine of school, summer days can get long and it can feel strenuous to keep kids busy. Many of us have heard the phrase “kids thrive on routine” and have seen first hand how true this can be. A list of occupational therapy activities are provided below to keep kids engaged, happy, and ready for the school year next year or in the short term, ready for a good night’s sleep!
Fine Motor Activities
Playing and learning with our hands is how we develop the dexterity needed for dressing and manipulating toys, precise movements with scissors and pencils, feeding independence, and more. Here are some fun ways to work on fine motor skills this summer:
- Working on a summery craft is a fun way to engage in fine motor activities. Make flowers by cutting out a large circle, rectangle for a stem, and glue together with a glue bottle for hand strength and bilateral coordination. Have your child finish by placing painted clothespins on the outside for pinch strength needed in utilizing utensils, strengthening fingers for a tripod pencil grasp, and more.
- Fine motor activities can be fun to do outside on the sidewalk. Try some chalk and work on drawing shapes, starting letters from the top, and tracing each other’s outline for fine motor precision! Another fun activity is painting on the sidewalk with sidewalk paint or just with paintbrushes and water.
- When it’s too warm to go out in the hot, summer sun, try some dress up with your child! Small and large buttons, zippers, snaps, and hooks involved in the clothing can help strengthen our muscles in our fingers as well as our dexterity skills.
Visual Motor Activities
Vision is used in almost everything a child does throughout their day. Strong visual skills are needed for a child to read, write, solve a math problem and keep track of information placed on the board in the classroom. Visual motor skills help a child keep up with peers when completing inside play, including boardgames and puzzles, and outside when participating in sports, riding a bike, and more.
- Water balloons are a fun way to work on eye-hand coordination. Play catch with both hands and see if your child can progress to playing with one hand. Make a target and see if your child can hit from short distances and work up to longer distances.
- A backyard or park scavenger hunt is a fun way for a child to work on visual matching, visual memory and scanning skills. Better yet, have your child work on visual spatial skills by giving directional challenges such as, “It is hidden behind the tree” or “It is located on the left side of the slide.” Add in some fine motor work with working together to write and draw the list of items.
If your child is in occupational therapy, you have probably heard of sensory integration. But if they’re not, you may be wondering what sensory means and why a therapist would include this in summer learning and engaging activities! Sensory processing is how our body takes in and responds to sensory information in our environment. This includes the five typical senses we think of: sight, touch, smell, hearing, and smell. Sensory also includes three more senses and one is vestibular input. Vestibular input is located in our inner ear and it tells us how our body is moving. Proprioceptive input is located in receptors in our muscles and joints and tells us where our body is in space, even if our eyes are closed. Last but not least, interoception is our internal sense of our body, it can tell us when we’re hungry or thirsty, in pain, and much more. These senses are the basis for us to respond to our environment and others successfully. Here are some fun ways to engage your child’s senses this summer!
- Summer is a beautiful time to work on our sense of touch, also called tactile input. Parents are often nervous about messy play in the house and in the summer, we can take these activities outside. Take out several bowls and fill them with water outside. Explore with food dye for fun visual input and allow your child to mix and pour the containers for proprioceptive play.
- Make bubble foam in a large container. Ingredients needed are bubble bath or body wash (tear free), food coloring, and water. Use twice as much bubble bath as water and put in a couple drops of food coloring. Add water toys, measuring cups, toy cars, or whatever your child desires that is washable!
- A big obstacle course is such a fun way to get the needed vestibular and proprioceptive input to stay regulated throughout the day! In summer, you can use scooters and bikes, jump ropes, hula hoops, hop scotch, and more. Let your child’s creativity shine and have them invent the course!
Self-regulation and Play Activities
Without the school routine and with many hours spent with siblings, children can become unregulated. To help your child get along with siblings and stay calm and happy, play and coping skills activities are listed below.
- Outdoors is a fun place to practice taking deep breaths. Take a deep breath in and blow out bubbles or find some colorful feathers in your craft area. Have your child take a deep breath in as they trace one side of the feather and blow out on the other side.
- Play pass or hot potato with your child with a large ball. Write with a dry erase marker on the ball a list of coping skills your child is working on developing or that has worked previously. Some ideas can include taking a break, going for a short walk, doing wall push-ups, yoga, listening to music, and much more! Have your child list the coping skill that is closest to their thumb!
The therapists and staff at Idaho Pediatric Therapy Clinic wish you a wonderful summer vacation!
Rachel Strauss, OTR/L
Bubble Trucks Sensory Activity. (n.d.). Retrieved June 30, 2019, from busytoddler.com.