3 Occupational Therapy Games to Improve Motor Development

April 25, 2019

In celebration of April as Occupational Therapy Month, MGA Homecare clinicians want to encourage parents to join in on the fun of motor development.

“Many of the skills I practice with my patients are taught and learned in the form of a game,” said Brie Georger, an occupational therapist in Colorado Springs. “These can be a simple and easy way to have fun as a family and watch your little one grow into new skills.”

This April and beyond, continue developing your child’s therapy skills by heading outside or gathering around the dinner table for family game night with these three occupational therapist-approved activities:

 

Bubble Balooza

As summer approaches and temperatures start to climb, it’s the perfect chance to take playtime outdoors. Playing with bubbles is a simple and inexpensive activity that gets children moving outside of the home. Brie Georger, OT, walked us through some of her patient's favorite way to have a day of fun in the sun with bubbles. Here are her instructions:

Number of players: 2+

Space required: A clear and open space is best. Try a backyard or heading to your local park.

What you’ll need: You will need a container of bubbles and a bubble wand. If you’d like to DIY your bubble solution, head to The Herbal Spoon for a non-toxic bubble recipe.

How to play: Parents can blow bubbles while their little one tries to catch or pop them with their hands. After a few minutes, try switching roles and have your child blow bubbles while parents pop and catch.

Therapy skills being used: Visual scanning and tracking take place when watching the bubbles float in the air. If working on sensory toleration, bubbles are a liquid solution to touch and feel. Additionally, the pinching and holding of the bubble wand works on fine motor skills. Lastly, coordination of breath is used when blowing on the bubble wand.

 

Walk Like an Animal

This next game is a great way for children to blow off steam and get extra energy out before sitting down for dinner or quiet learning time.

“My patients love being goofy while acting like animals,” said Brie. “I like to use this activity to get their giggles and wiggles out before sitting quietly and focusing.”

Number of players: 2+

Space required: Similar to Bubble Balooza, Walk Like an Animal can be played in any open space away from obstacles such as furniture or walls.

What you’ll need: This game requires a unique set of cards. Brie has made her own set of movement demonstration images. You can also use animal flash cards and create your own movements to act out the behaviors of each animal.

Animal Activity Card

How to play: Lay your set of movement cards face down on the ground. Have your child choose a card, flip it over, then act it out for 30 seconds. Each turn, switch between who picks a card and who acts it out.

Therapy skills being used: Following directions and sensory are the main point of focus for this game. It includes sequencing and motor planning.

“As my patients grow, I use this game to track their level of motor skill development,” said Brie. “This allows me to better plan for future activities we will work on.”

 

Trouble with a Twist

Our last game is a therapeutic rendition of the classic board game, Trouble. Jenny Jamo, COTA/L, OTS, a clinical educator for therapy in Colorado Springs, has put a fun and creative twist on this family favorite.

Number of players: 2 - 4 

Space required: Trouble should be played on a flat surface such as a table top or smooth floor.

“If we play at a table, I make sure my patients are seated in the proper position for writing,” said Jenny. “This helps kids learn and practice alignment.”

What you’ll need: You will need a complete copy of the Trouble board game as well as a large pair of children’s tweezers.

How to play: As you play Trouble, have your child pick up and move their game pieces using the tweezers. Tip: You can put cloth or tape at the tip of the tweezers to provide extra grip. Have your kids pop the dice bubble with the pads of their thumb, middle and pointer finger touching. Instead of the dice bubble, you can also put standard game dice in a small, open box and shake it to roll. 

Therapy skills being used: The modifications in this game are to develop writing skills. Instead of using the palm of their hand to push on the dice bubble, using the tips of their fingers strengthens muscles to better hold writing utensils. Additionally, holding and using the tweezers works toward a steady grip of holding a pencil.

When it comes to incorporating more therapeutic activities into the daily lives of children, our OTs say it’s a simple change of viewpoint.

“Although they are developmental exercises, games are a great way for kids to learn and grow without them even realizing it! At the end of the day, what kids tend to remember most are the laughs and time spent together.”

At MGA Homecare, we use play to improve foundational skills and increase a child’s independence so they can live the best life possible. To learn more about MGA Homecare’s occupational therapy services, head to MGAHomecare.com.