As an OT or COTA, you can help bring fun and excitement to your school-based teletherapy sessions using online activities and videos via screen sharing. You’ll be able to see what your student is doing, if they stay in view. Getting set up for optimal viewing from the get-go is key, so work with your student and or their parent to find the boundaries of what you can see on your screen. You won’t have all of your toys and tricks there during sessions, so that means focusing on activities that require minimal equipment or things most students will have at home. Discussing what toys (games, puzzles, manipulatives, printers for worksheets etc.) the family has available for use during sessions can help you plan for what kinds of activities to incorporate into your session. This will vary from household to household, so it’s important to make parents part of the planning process so that everything will be ready when your session begins. Sending parents a reminder list of what to have available will help them be prepared. Having the parent or child give you a video tour of the playroom can help you get a good idea of what’s there!
Use What’s Already Available
Families may not have all of the “OT stuff” at home but they do have plenty of good substitutes. For fine motor activities, you can suggest some of these household items be made available:
- Instead of stringing beads, use penne pasta
- Have the child pick up coins and drop them in a piggy bank
- Work an ADL’s having your student dress a doll
- Use kitchen utensils like tongs or tweezers to pick up small objects
- Match up nuts and bolts
- Pick up beans and put them into a glass or jar—or glue to paper to make a design
- Rip paper into little pieces
- Stretch rubber bands around a can or jar
- Play with Legos, blocks or tinker toys.
- Incorporate clothes pins for a great pincer grasp strengthening activity.
Keep it Movin’!
If you are looking to incorporate some movement break/sensory prep activities, there are some great resources on Youtube.
Here are just a few examples of some of the Youtube content we found:
- 2 Minute Movement Break: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGoaNx2BqJs
- 2 Minute Kids Zoomba https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymigWt5TOV8
- Singing and Movement Video Links for Preschool-K: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMyyXCurk6jXXOWt2eKyCgg
Using Web-based Activities That are Already Out There
When it comes to visual skills, you won’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are loads of kids’ websites with free activities for anything from visual motor and visual perceptual to visual scanning.
- Website with loads of puzzles and games to work on visual skills: https://www.digipuzzle.net/main/kids/
- Free word search puzzles: https://thewordsearch.com/
- Don’t forget the old favorite, Highlights: https://www.highlightskids.com/
- Incorporate learning activities with hundreds of ready-made activities: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Browse/Search:distance%20learning/Type-of-Resource/Activities
Build in Some Sensory!
There are lots of opportunities to build some sensory activities into your session. Materials like shaving foam and squirty whipped cream can be smeared on a cookie sheet. The parent can put some objects into a pillowcase and the child can describe what they feel inside (without looking of course 😊). You can give the parent a recipe for home-made playdough (https://www.iheartnaptime.net/play-dough-recipe/), if they don’t have the real thing available. And the strengthening activities described below are easy ways to incorporate some proprioceptive in put into your session too!
Incorporating Core and Upper Extremity Strengthening Activities
Your students are going to have far more limited physical activity if they are confined at home, so finding ways to maintain and build strength is especially important. When it comes to working on core strengthening, think about using weight-bearing, static positions, such as quadruped or prone on elbows, so that you can get some core activation during an activity. For example, if the family has blocks or Legos available, the student can build a tower in one of these positions. Don’t forget the old favorites: The Superman, the Crab Walk, the Bear Crawl, planking. Here’s a few suggestions for making these activities fresh and new for home.
Have the student lay on his stomach on the floor and try to lift his arms up off of the floor so that his upper chest comes up too. Can he lift his legs off the ground? How about arms and legs at the same time? You can incorporate a song or Simon says into this.
Child is face up with only hands and feet touching the ground.
For extra work on core stability and body awareness, have child place something on his belly and see if he can crab walk without it falling off.
Let’s Meet the Challenge Together!
Teletherapy is going to stretch the creativity, and probably the patience, of school-based physical therapists across the country, but the benefits far outweigh the costs. This is an opportunity to build your skills as well as incorporate your students’ families by teaching them new activities. By increasing the engagement of family members, we will see more carryover of therapeutic activities in the home—and there is a lot of long-term benefit to that! If you’re looking for more ideas for parents and families, come visit our free parent and teacher resource libraries at https://mypts.com/parents-and-teachers/. Scroll to the bottom of the page to check out our Teletherapy resources, just for you.
For more on setting up your school-based teletherapy for success, check out our blog, An Intro to School-Based Teletherapy: Set Up for Success!, for all the tools and tips you’ll need!