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How To Design an Effective OT Pediatric Toolbox

Having an effective OT toolbox can make that first job or Fieldwork in pediatrics much less daunting. But how do you decide what to bring?

Many occupational therapists work in dynamic settings such as schools or home health early intervention that require occupational therapists to move from one site to another all day long.

To help ease the pain, here are some ideas to help you create an effective OT toolbox. It might even spark some inspiration for interventions, too!

Fine Motor Box

It is super easy to make a grab-and-go fine motor box to engage the child while you set up an activity, or even for break time fun! Consider purchasing a miniature whiteboard marker and small eraser, spinning tops, and theraputty with beads inside.

You can store all these items in a wonton soup container for easy access for those busy days.

Writing Supplies

Save a small plastic container from your leftovers to fill with handwriting essentials. You are going to need a variety of pencil grips, pencil weights, adapted pencils, and twist-and-write pencils.

Theraputty or small hair elastics can provide resistance exercises for a child to warm up their fingers before jumping into handwriting!

You’re also going to want some sensory crayons (shaped as hexagons or triangles), a variety of scissors for different abilities, small strips of paper or sticky notes, and a 3-inch kids ruler.

Sensory Kit To-Go

A portable sensory kit can easily be created to foster a calm or alerting environment. You can fill old spice jars with Essential Oils and rice or beans to create personalized sensory items. For a calming scent try using lavender or vanilla, and for alerting scents, try orange, lemon zest, or cinnamon.

Blowing bubbles can also be used to foster a calming environment during a break, and having them catch bubbles allows for some alerting fun while challenging fine, gross, visual motor, and bilateral coordination skills!

Visual Motor

Spot It is a great, portable game that kids of all ages seem to enjoy. This activity fits well into any pediatric toolbox.

Take a clear water bottle and fill it with rice and small items such as figurines or marbles for the kids to find. Think of it as a handheld I-Spy game.

This activity challenges everything from figure-ground and visual perception to fine motor and bilateral coordination.

The kids love this one, and it is inexpensive. Remember to keep the parents involved in the therapy process with this great at home treatment activity!

Gross Motor

Therabands for kiddos are fun and easy to transport for classrooms and home visits. The Handee Band kit is great for this population and provides easy access to fine and gross motor work. It also gives kids extra sequencing and reading practice.

You can also use a regular or mini deck of yoga poses. Yoga is a must have for motor planning exercises, proprioceptive, or vestibular input in a space with otherwise limited resources!

Other toys and tools for gross motor interventions include obstacle courses, bowling, and almost any outdoor activity!

I also like to have a softball to practice rolling, kicking, or throwing to support the skills needed for their Physical Education classes at school, and for their bilateral/bimanual coordination and motor planning development at home visits.

Mental Health

Similar to sensory kits, there are many activities to help children and students regulate their own behavior. Try carrying around calming materials for breaks to promote a calm atmosphere such as bubbles, fidgets, auditory or visual timers, and a breathing chart from the Zones or Regulation.

All of your sensory materials can fit nicely in a small container for easy travel. I use a big Milano container left over from grad school!

What are some of your go-to tools or materials when traveling between schools, working at an outpatient clinic, or when doing home visits? Please leave your comments below!

About Lauren Elitzak, OTR/L, PT, DPT

Lauren Elitzak, OTR/L, PT, DPT
Lauren received her Master's in OT in 2012 & her Doctorate in PT in 2013. She enjoys working in pediatrics, and believes that her greatest teachers are the kids she works with!

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One comment

  1. This is a great article, Lauren! I had never thought of doing a portable sensory kit… Thanks!!!

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