(Top right) Put food in front of them and see what happens!
(Bottom left) Kinetic Sand is a little easier to clean up and just as fun!
(Bottom right) My favorite way to do tummy time!
When I got the text from my sister, "Do you want to guest blog for incorporating OT everyday?", I was more nervous than excited. This is the most complicated question to answer, ever! I'm an occupational therapist (OT)...do you know what that is? No? Don't worry- you're not the only one! It's hard to explain because OT is life -- literally! OT's help people of all ages be successful and increase independence/safety in their everyday lives, and participate in the things that are most important to them. When we are talking about kids, this may be play, school, dressing, eating, sleep, and more. Think about what your kid does every day- that is their 'occupation'!
Literally, everything your kid is doing all day could be worked on at OT! So narrowing it down to the 'Top 5 Way to Incorporate OT into Your Everyday Life" is a hard one for me... but I'm going to try my best! Here we go...
1. GET MESSY!
Seriously- don't stress out about your child being a perfectly clean angel! That's not normal! Messy play is important in developing your child's sensory system- the system that helps them take in and process all of the senses in their surroundings. I could go on and on with things that you can play and get messy with, but to name a few: shaving cream, ice, play-doh, paint, water tables/pools, mud, and snow. Put some of the messier things in an older cookie sheet to keep it somewhat contained and have a designated tablecloth for messes.
2. Tummy time
I'm pretty sure I could write a whole novel about this. Tummy time isn't just a buzzword- it has a lot of VERY important developmental implications, such as building visual skills, motor skills, and upper body/neck strength for head control (think- skills you need to read, copy from the board, and write!). The catch is that this doesn't stop being important once your baby can start sitting independently! Encourage even your older kids to color and play on their stomachs, do animal walks, and build 'Ninja Warrior' obstacle courses with cushions and blankets.
3. Arts and Crafts
Not only do arts and crafts usually incorporate some sort of sensory play (glue, paint, feathers), but it helps develop their fine motor skills for dressing and writing. Don't force your little ones to write letters, just let them be artists! Teach them a 'pinch grasp' and let them have at it with markers and crayons (preferably ones with a larger diameter for those little hands to handle!).
4. Encourage Independence
Parents LOVE their children and want to help them as much as they can- I get it, it's just how it is and I'm not going to change that! But we also need to challenge our kids to let them learn and grow. Let your child try and try again at every day tasks such as dressing, but don't let them get TOO frustrated. We call this 'grading a task' in the OT-world. Let them try to get their shoe off a few times- then put their hands in the right spot and do 50% of the effort for them. This goes for all dressing activities (putting on/off clothes, zippers, buttons) and feeding! Put the utensil in their hand- maybe load the spoon if they need help- and guide them. It might get messy, but they're learning!
5. Develop a Routine
When pediatric OT's aren't working on sensory integration, fine motor or gross motor skills, we're usually working on behaviors and transitions. When kids head off to school, they are thrown into a pretty rigid routine that they must follow every day. Routines help your children anticipate what's going to happen and when. Develop a fairly consistent routine (use a visual if that helps), and throw in a 'curve ball' every once in awhile, so they learn how to be flexible when things don't go as planned. It's never too early to have a routine!
So there you have it...a snippet of how to incorporate OT things into your everyday life. If you take away anything from this post, it would be this:
Go outside and play! Get away from the TVs, phones and iPads and explore. Let your kids just be kids! :)
Want to learn more about one of these topics or if your child may benefit from OT services? Feel free to shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org!