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Craft Activities for Occupational Therapy - featured July 2, 2010

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Craft Activities for Occupational Therapy

By: Loren Shlaes, OT
Certified Teacher of the Alexander Technique

I'm always on the lookout for craft activities to do with the children I treat, and I have parents provide craft activities after school and on weekends as part of the child's home treatment plan. I find that crafts are helpful in supporting so many of the goals I set for them. They encourage the child to tolerate and work through frustration, refine eye hand coordination, and improve attention and concentration. Making a craft requires patience and problem solving, and gives the child material proof, something that he can share with others, that he is successful.

Here are some of my favorites that are easily available online or in most large toy stores:

Fuse Beads -- Perler beads, or fuse beads, encourage thumb and finger tip opposition, which is critical for writing and all fine motor control. It also requires and encourages patience and precision.

Potholders -- Weaving is a perceptual activity which encourages figure ground discrimination and requires the ability to self correct. The act of weaving is strengthening to the fingers. Make sure you use a metal loom. The plastic ones are too flimsy and frustrating.

Leather Lacing -- I remember lacing a purse and a pair of moccasins when I was in about fifth grade and wearing them proudly. Leather is grounding and soothing and although it is equally appropriate for both sexes, it is an especially good choice for boys, as leather supports masculinity. The action of sewing against resistance is strengthening to the muscles required for writing. Making sure that the stitches don't twist requires patience and coordination.

Critter Bead Animals -- I absolutely love this activity. Beading is wonderful for improving fine motor precision and bilateral coordination. Boys will do this without any complaint {as they would if required to string beads for necklaces} and the results are loved by everyone.

Wooden Models -- I buy ones at Michael's for a dollar. They're not available online. They are easy to put together and boys from small to large love them. I encourage the children to paint them. I crack the brush so that it's quite tiny and they are forced to hold it between thumb and forefinger, encouraging tip to tip opposition. Michael's also sells wonderful wooden dinosaur puzzles that you crack out of a stencil and put together using a numbered guide.

Felt Sewing Kits: These are especially good for working on bilateral coordination. The kids love the finished product.

Our Featured Author: Loren Shlaes, OT

Thanks to Loren Shlaes for providing us with these craft therapy ideas.

Loren Shlaes is a pediatric occupational therapist specializing in sensory integration and school related issues, particularly handwriting. She lives and practices in Manhattan. She blogs at

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