Allyson Locke M.S., OTR/L & Sarah Glovasky M.S., OTR/L
Summer is fast approaching but that doesn’t mean kids need to lose the skills they developed over the last academic year! Last year, we posted a blog filled with summer activity ideas geared toward preventing the “summer slide”. As therapists, we know summer activities provide numerous opportunities to develop and build skills that will be needed for the upcoming school year in fun and non threatening ways. So we are bringing back the topic with this new post. New this year are more activity ideas and contributions from Sarah Glovasky M.S., OTR/L! As always appropriate supervision is recommended!
Messy play is a great way to develop the sensory skills needed for important school tasks like handwriting and social interactions. Summer is the best time for these messy activities because they can be done outside leaving the mess outdoors. An added bonus is that it is usually warm enough for a quick wash with the hose before going back inside. A few ideas to try:
Hide objects (like rocks, sticks, or mini animals) in a pile of mud, shaving cream, or leaves. How fast can you find them? How many can you find in 10 seconds? Not only is this a great sensory activity it helps strengthen the visual perceptual skills needed for academic tasks like reading!
Stomp in rain puddles, roll down a grassy hill, or skip through a soft patch of dirt. These big body movements help develop the vestibular and proprioceptive systems which are so important for self regulation!
When it is too hot or too rainy to go outside there are still plenty of opportunities for sensory exploration that are a bit less messy!
Make a sensory collage with items found in the recycling bin or use the Sensory Collage Kit! How many different textures can you incorporate? What textures do you like to feel? As a bonus, ripping, crumpling and rolling paper, tissue, and cardboard are all great ways to strengthen the muscle of the hand. For more ways to use recycled materials check out Second Hand Therapies.
Art projects afford great opportunities to develop the small muscles in the hand. This muscle development is critical for academic tasks like writing with a pencil and cutting with scissors. Get creative with your art projects, try:
3D Art. Three dimensional art helps kids build form and space concepts. Building a fairy castle outside is a great way to learn about size concepts. Inside, building with blocks, clay or even pillow cushions is a great way to explore how these concepts work. To add a sensory component try using scented dough!
Tie-Dye Prints: This is a great outdoor activity! First color an old bed sheet or large piece of paper with washable markers. Next use a spray bottle, filled with water, to squirt the drawing. Watch the colors mix and swirl together! Using a spray bottle not only helps build the muscles in the hands it is also great for bilateral coordination! For a smaller scale version, use an eyedropper to wet the paper!
Draw pictures in the dirt or other mediums like pudding (great for kids who like to explore with their mouth!) Use a stick, rocks, or fingers to draw with! We still love the Ed Emberly drawing books when you need drawing inspiration, stencils are another helpful tool! Drawing is so important for early writers and is great for visual perceptual development!
Making Bubble Art! Make bubble paint by putting a small amount of bubbles and a dab or two of food coloring in a bowl (use different bowls for different colors). Use a bubble wand and dip it into your favorite color. Blow the colored bubbles right at plain paper and watch the designs come alive!
Play Catch! Chasing after, stomping on, and catching bubbles are great ways to get some extra energy out. It is also a great way to develop eye-hand coordination and the visual skills needed to complete academic tasks like copying from the board. To make bubbles easier to catch try using Touchbubbles!
Make A Mountain of Bubbles! For a fun indoor activity, fill a small dish bin or other similar size, shallow bucket with lots of dish soap and a few inches of water. Use a straw to slowly blow into the water to make a mountain of bubbles. To really work the muscles in the mouth try a long straw or one with lots of twists like the Krazy Drinking Straws or Connector Straws.
With these fun activity ideas the learning doesn’t have to stop when school is out. Keep skills sharp and be ready for the upcoming school year!
Are you looking for activities that are portable, fun and that can help your kiddos improve their skills? In this post, pediatric physical therapist, Laurie Gombash PT, M.Ed. shares her three therapy bag “must haves”!
Body Awareness Fun Deck
The Body Awareness Fun Deck contains 56 cards that feature OTis the OT gorilla in different poses. These cards work on body scheme, spatial awareness, and visual perceptual skills. There are 5 levels of difficulty. Laurie’s Pro Tip: Use these cards at the beginning of the school year to get an idea of how students are doing since the last time they were seen!
The Move Your Body Fun Deck contains 58 cards featuring a variety of movement activities. These cards help improve children’s strength, their balance, their coordination, and their motor planning.
The Fun Deck cards are a great option when doing push-in services, check out these activity ideas.
Pick, Demonstrate, & Imitate
The therapist or teacher fans out a set of cards from the desired Fun Deck.
Students take turns choosing a card and then placing themselves in the position depicted on the card.
All of the other students imitate the student.
Secure a desired number of Fun Deck cards to a board (for example cardboard or a portable whiteboard).
Children take turns pointing to the card to make a choice.
The child who made the choice is the leader, leading other students in the movement activity.
Pro Tip: Pointing to make a choice is a great time to work on finger isolation!
The Fun Deck cards are a must have for your therapy tool bag! They come in a small, sturdy tin making them very portable. They are great for push in therapy sessions and can be used with children of all abilities. In addition, Fun Deck cards can be used across a variety of disciplines including occupational and physical therapists! How will you use Fun Deck cards in your therapy practice?
Summer activities are filled with opportunities for the continued development of skills learned during the previous academic year. Summer activities also provide numerous opportunities to develop and build skills that will be needed for the upcoming school year.
Play Ball! The visual tracking and coordination needed to accurately catch and throw a ball is linked to academic skills like copying from the board and handwriting. Help develop these vital skill areas with simple ball games. For beginners try using Magicatch or Gertie Balls; these types of balls are easier to catch and help to build confidence while ball skills are developing. Build strength and increase body awareness using a weighted ball for a backyard bowling game! Add a sensory element with Porcupine Balls, Koosh Balls, or Slush Balls.
Draw! Drawing offers many opportunities to develop visual perceptual skills and fine motor control, essential elements needed for handwriting. Step by step drawing books, like How To Draw or the Ed Emberly drawing books are great ways to work on these skills along with working on direction following. In the summertime you can get extra creative with drawing mediums and canvases. Sidewalk chalk or drawing pictures in the sand are great options for warmer days. On rainy days, there are many options for indoor art projects! Tape drawing paper to the wall or the under sides of a table to help develop shoulder strength and stability. Try drawing pictures in shaving cream or whipped cream for a fun sensory experience.
Solve a Puzzle!Dot to Dot Books, Hidden Picture Activities, and Mazes are great rainy-day or long car ride boredom busters! They also offer opportunities to build visual perceptual skills and fine motor control that are essential for neat and legible handwriting.
Cooking & Crafts! Students in older grades will be expected to follow schedules and take on large, multi step projects. Crafts and cooking activities are great ways to prepare for these challenging expectations. These activities offer opportunities for learning how to follow sequential steps, manage time, and problem solve. Try the free Make & Eat Activities from Sensational Fun!
Play a Game! With so many game options available there is no limit to the skills you can work on! Target executive function skills with the game Rush Hour, work on handwriting skills with Letter Treasure Hunt, develop directionality skills with the game Left Center Right, or work on grammar skills with the game NOVENOPS! For more ideas check out Therapros’s handy guide, Gear Up For Games!
Keep skills sharp and prepare for the upcoming school year with summer fun!