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53 Creative Occupational Therapy Examples for OTAs

Gwen Davis-Barrios
Reviewed by Dr. Crystal Young
Mar 25, 2024

Occupational therapy (OT) is hard work for professionals and patients alike. As an Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA), you will utilize fun therapy interventions that will keep a diverse community of patients engaged, enjoying therapy, and building skills for activities of daily living (ADL). Here are 53 creative OT treatment ideas to add to your OT activity toolkit.

Occupational Therapy Ideas for Kids

Children’s ADL center around playing and learning. While it’s not all fun and games, pediatric OTAs gamify many therapeutic interventions. These pediatric OT treatment ideas are designed to keep kids both entertained and learning.

Occupational Therapy Games for Kids

1. Pictionary

Most children love drawing, and it’s a great OT fine motor activity.

2. Charades

Acting can develop fine and gross motor skills, and it gives children with different communication skills the opportunity to get a point across.

3. Role-playing

Role-playing encourages patients to communicate effectively and practice humor and assertiveness. You can practice using “I” statements, as well as prepare for challenging or stimulating settings like school, field trips, stores, and more.

4. Dress up

Kids love using their imaginations, and dressing up is a favorite OT idea for preschoolers. Dressing is also an important age-appropriate functional activity and an opportunity to work on motor skills.

5. Board games

Board games are great for communication, social skills, motor skills, reading, and more. You can also modify board games to suit your individual patient’s needs by customizing cards or the game’s rules.

6. Build with Legos or blocks

Not only do Legos and blocks encourage motor skills, they also can serve as a launch point for conversation practice. Kids love talking about their creations.

7. Fold paper airplanes

Folding paper airplanes or other origami activities is great for motor skill development. You can also make a game of trying to land the airplanes in a basket, experiment with different airplane designs, or see which airplanes can fly the farthest.

8. Phone games

There are some great phone games that walk children through OT exercises and can motivate them to keep learning and building strength.

Sensory Engagement Ideas for Pediatric Occupational Therapy

9. Play doh

Play doh encourages motor skills and creativity. The texture also makes play doh a great OT tool for autistic kids who may have additional sensory needs.

10. Water balloons

Tossing water balloons is a kid favorite. So much so that it makes the challenge of filling and tying them worth it to some kids who struggle with fine motor skills.

11. Scratch and sniff sticker collage

When looking for sensory OT project ideas, don’t forget about smell! Scratch and sniff stickers are fun, easy, and can help kids practice putting words to smells.

12. Sensory bins or sandboxes

A sandbox or a big tub filled with beads, dried beans, rice, or other tactile materials can be calming for children. It’s an especially fun OT activity for autistic individuals or those with sensory processing disorder.

13. Taste test foods

Everyone loves snack time. Try taste testing foods that are sweet, salty, sour, and bitter, then give your pediatric OT patients the chance to describe the flavors.

14. Finger painting

Finger painting combines sensory play with creativity and self-expression, making it a great OT idea for preschoolers to older kids and beyond.

15. Confetti

Make confetti by tearing up paper, using a hole punch, and (if appropriate) practicing with scissors. You may even practice the functional skill of vacuuming or sweeping up after playtime is over.

16. Vibration for lip closure

Some children struggle to close their lips, which leads to excessive drooling. The simple touch of an oral motor tool can give them enough body awareness to close their lips.

17. Suck up animal crackers with straws

We’re back to snack time! This activity builds oral motor musculature, requires precision and concentration, and offers immediate sensory feedback.

18. Blowing bubbles

Bubble blowing also works on oral muscles. Plus, it’s delightful.

Adapting Tools for Kids

19. Cheerios and Froot Loops

String cereal on a pipe cleaner or other string for an edible, accessible kids’ fashion statement. As a bonus, this is great for fine motor development.

20. Loops for practicing dressing

Dressing is an important skill for children, but you don’t want them disrobing in the clinic to practice. Use loops like bracelets, wristbands, cut off strips of fabric or ribbing from old t-shirts, or elastic bands to practice threading your patients’ hands and feet through the opening.

21. Button strips

Cut the button band of an old shirt to practice buttoning. A range of button sizes helps children of varying motor skill levels succeed with this OT idea.

22. Highlighter bookmark

Kids’ eyes can get lost on the page, making reading a struggle. A small strip of transparent colored plastic helps kids keep their place in a book.

Occupational Therapy Ideas for Adults

Adults with diverse ranges of abilities and backgrounds will come into your OT practice. Creatively applying OT activity ideas will allow you to help a vast population of adults. OT can even be applied in unconventional settings like prisons and homeless shelters, or with individuals with hoarding disorder or gaming addiction. Really, there’s no limit to the power of a creative OTA.

Many of these OT activity examples could be appropriate therapeutic interventions for children and seniors too, so don’t limit yourself to the listed categories.

Occupational Therapy Games for Adults

23. Sports

Sports turn exercise into a game, making it much more fun, engaging, and social than solitary treadmill jogging. Especially for injured patients, sports can be an excellent OT rehab activity.

24. Play catch

It’s a classic for a reason. Catch helps develop motor skills and can give patients something to do with their hands while having a conversation. If it’s not safe to start with a ball, balloon toss is a fun alternative!

25. Feats of strength

Here’s another way to gamify exercise. Set out an obstacle course, make a high jumping challenge, or begin an arm-wrestling tournament. A little friendly competition can motivate your patients to move.

26. Personal records

Competition isn’t for everyone. Some patients may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of comparing their activity to yours or a friend’s. Working to beat their own personal record takes away the pressure.

27. Bowling

Some patients will see right through your gamified attempts to get them moving. Bowling with friends makes a fun OT group activity.

28. Jigsaw puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles work your patient’s brain and their fingers. They are an excellent OT fine motor activity, providing a peaceful backdrop for conversation practice.

29. Jeopardy

You can customize Jeopardy (trivia) for all kinds of skills and situations. Your patient struggles with meal prep or grocery shopping? Make it a trivia game. Self-care and household tasks are overwhelming. Jeopardy makes conversations about frustrating topics fun.

30. Coupon clipping games

Money management is an important ADL. Turn coupon clipping into a game and a functional activity by looking for the cheapest vegetable, planning a hypothetical party with food from coupons, or organizing a meal plan with coupons.

Sensory Engagement Ideas for Adults in Occupational Therapy

31. Animal assisted OT

Animal assisted OT helps patients of all ages. Petting a dog or cat is a soothing sensory engagement activity, and clients love it.

32. Go for a walk

The great outdoors are full of sensory stimuli. Point out different colors and textures in the wildlife you see, and literally stop to smell the roses.

33. Tend a garden

Putting your hands in the soil can be calming, and you could even work up a sweat while pulling weeds. What’s more, it’s rewarding to watch your very own veggies, fruits, or flowers grow.

34. Music therapy

Go to concerts or recitals. Some clients will enjoy making music together or singing karaoke, so music is a creative and fun OT intervention.

35. Cooking

Even outside of OT, many adults struggle to cook healthy, delicious meals for themselves. Make a simple meal plan and help your patient shop for and prepare their favorite food.

36. Bead crafts

Beading develops fine motor skills and gives your patients the opportunity to create something they can be proud of and wear to express themselves.

Adapting Tools for Adults in Occupational Therapy

37. Tennis ball paint brush

Everyone needs art! Stick a paintbrush through a tennis ball. Gripping a large, soft ball is much easier than gripping a slender, slippery stick.

38. Foam tube toothbrush

The same principle applies here as with the paintbrush. Toothbrushes can be hard to hold, so make a foam grip.

39. Soap in a stocking

Put a bar of soap in a long stocking and tie it around the shower bar. The soap will be easy to find, easy to grab, won’t slip out of your patients’ grip, and will lather well.

Geriatric Occupational Therapy Treatment Ideas

Many OT treatment ideas for geriatrics revolve around day-to-day comfort and safety, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. It’s just as important to enjoy life at 90 as it is at nine.

Occupational Therapy Games for Seniors

40. Bingo

Not to play into stereotypes, but Bingo is a great OT game for seniors. It’s social, and placing the little chips makes it an effective OT fine motor activity.

41. Crafts

If your patients already know a craft like knitting or crochet, they might enjoy teaching you. This boosts their confidence, is functional, and is great for fine motor skills.

42. Collage

Print of family photos or use magazine clippings to make collages. This is an opportunity to talk about their family or memories, making it an OT treatment for dementia.

43. Matching games

Another fun OT treatment for dementia is matching games, where you turn over two cards and try to remember where the match is. These come in all kinds of cute designs and can keep your patients’ memories sharp.

44. Crossword puzzles

Everyone loves showing off their expertise. Find themed crossword puzzles that let your patients’ niche knowledge shine. Themed crossword puzzles are also great for autistic patients with a special interest.

Sensory Engagement Ideas for Seniors in Occupational Therapy

45. Manicures and pedicures

A little pampering can lift your patients’ moods. Manicures can help geriatric patients feel elegant, and they also provide sensory engagement. Orthopedic patients especially benefit from pedicures, because their feet can be painful and need extra TLC.

46. Install bird feeders

Visual stimulation is important, especially for seniors or people who spend much of their time in one room. Bird feeders outside the windows provide a cheerful source of entertainment. If your patient is crafty, you could even make or decorate one together and practice motor skills.

Adapting Tools for Geriatric Occupational Therapy Patients

47. Pool noodle card holders

Styrofoam pool noodles are an OTA’s best friend. Cut a “slice” of the noodle, add a parallel slit, and viola! Play Gin Rummy with no hands!

48. Foam tubes for crochet hooks

We talked about modifying toothbrushes and paintbrushes to make them easier to grip. Try the same trick on crochet hooks so that your geriatric patients can maintain their creative hobbies, even with tired hands.

49. Bells

Some patients with Alzheimer’s have a tendency to wander or get lost. Bells on doors can help their care team keep an eye on (or ear) them. Adding a curtain over a door can disguise it and help prevent elopement.

50. Fall-proof the house

You may need to modify aspects of your patients’ homes to make them safer for seniors. One step you can take is removing all throw rugs, which are a serious tripping hazard.

51. Night lights

Place night lights in bedrooms, bathrooms, hallways, and any areas where your patients may need to walk after dark. Darkness is a falling hazard and geriatric patients often struggle with balance, so all safeguards against falls are helpful.

52. Button lights in closets

After a lifetime of collecting, closets can become cluttered. Adding an easy-to-use, battery-operated light makes it easier for geriatric OT patients to access their belongings and lowers their risk of pulling heavy objects onto themselves.

53. Shower seats

Shower seats are a simple and effective OT tool. The shower can be slippery and is a common site for falling injuries. OT patients who have had hip replacements or struggle with balance especially benefit from shower seats.

Want to keep improving as an OTA? Joyce’s OTA program helps students navigate the job opportunities that follow your training. By using creative OT ideas learned from your education and applying this list of therapeutic interventions, you will enhance your clients’ ADL.

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