Friday, December 7, 2012

Smart occupational therapy ideas for kids from the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital team

Max has been immersed in therapy since he was a month old when Mindy, the physical therapist from Early Intervention, started visiting. Occupational and speech therapy followed within the year; vision therapy, too.

Before I had Max, I'd never known anyone except elderly people who got therapy. Through my work with All Kids Can, I recently learned that kids and teens with cancer, sickle cell disease and pediatric HIV/AIDS get these therapies, too, at the CVS Caremark Rehabilitation Services Center at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.

Kids with catastrophic diseases can develop developmental, cognitive or physical impairments from their illness, as well as the treatments used to save their lives. The hospital's staff of audiologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech-language pathologists help some 75 patients every day; the hospital treats about 7800 kids every year.

Always interested in OT exercises, I asked the department to share what they do to help encourage fine-motor skills and all I can say is, I'm picking up clothespins this weekend!

• Pick up objects like blocks and cotton balls with tongs and move them from one container to another.
• Pick up small objects like beads with tweezers.
• Make snowflakes with paper.
• Put clothespins on the edge of boxes, rims of cans or on sheets up of paper, then take the clothespins off. Or use them to pin up clothes.
• "Clean" a surface with sprayer bottles or sponges.
• Play "paper flick basketball"—roll small pieces of paper into a ball and use a fingertip to flicks them at a target.
• Pop bubble wrap.
• Play with LEGOs.
• String beads of different sizes onto a shoelace.
• Make a macaroni necklace.
• Roll a pencil or marble between thumb and fingers without dropping it.

If you've been in a CVS lately, you probably know about the store's fundraiser to support the St. Jude Thanks & Giving campaign. Customers can add $1 or $3 to their purchase at registers, or donate $1 if they're checking out online. In recent years, the campaign has raised more than $31 million dollars to support the hospital's work. (Fact: It costs $1.8 million dollars a day to run the hospital, and families do not pay for anything, including treatment, care, travel and housing).

The campaign ends Saturday. I don't know about you, but I don't need much of a reason to head over to CVS—I find cruising the aisles seriously relaxing. But this? It's a Very Good Reason to drop by.

This is one of a series of posts sponsored by CVS Caremark All Kids Can, a commitment to helping children of all abilities be the best they can be. Like them on Facebook!

Image: Flickr/AshkanPhotography


  1. Ooooh! Thank you for these great ideas. I observed my daughter's OT session this week and she had a blast finding hidden small objects inside a big ball of play-dough. First, she had to use her finger to tear through the dough to find two hidden little bears, then she used a plastic knife to cut it. I saw her working on strength and strategy at the same time. She was so excited too.

  2. What's great about these methods is that they're not just restricted to kids on therapy. With a little adjustment, I think they can also be applied in rehabilitating adults that suffered from serious accidents.


Thanks for sharing!