Early intervention. Two words that you’ve more than likely heard once or twice. The magical key to success in ensuring your child fulfils their upmost potential. But, what an overwhelming sense of pressure it can place on parents.
Often you can walk away from a therapy session with what feels like a never ending ‘to do’ list that describes all the skills that you need to work on with your child.
In the beginning days when we first began incorporating therapy at home, I wasted so much money on flash toys and therapy gadgets. I wanted so badly to make therapy fun for my daughter and figured that this was my best option.
While they worked to an extent it didn’t take long for the novelty to wear off. The new flash toy is no longer what they see; it is now seen as a piece of therapy equipment. Therapy is hard and frustrating, so the appeal of ‘therapy toys’ doesn’t last long.
Finally, it hit me! My daughter didn’t need any of these toys she just needed to play. From that moment we focused on play…PLAY with a side of therapy, not the other way around.
Time to think outside the box, get creative and use things that are affordable and assessable for everyday use. Turns out there is absolutely no need to spend up big. Cheap dollar stores are my jam! I could spend ages browsing around and finding creative objects to incorporate into therapy. Think a fly swatter for a bat, balloons to use for physio, pipe cleaners for literally everything, stamps for bimanual play, cookie cutter to use with playdough, ice cube trays for fine motor play, and don’t even get me started on all the crafty materials on offer. Therapy play doesn’t need to be expensive!
Here is a list of items that we constantly use repeatedly to practice different skills for home therapy.
Raid the kitchen cupboards. If you gave a child, the choice of making music with a plastic toy drum set or a saucepan and spoon chances are they will take the latter option. Something so satisfying about playing with things that are perhaps ‘off limits. I know all my girls were obsessed with playing in the Tupperware drawers when they were younger. So, for therapy play I often used items from the kitchen. Think plastic cups for towers, ice cube trays or pegs for fine motor skills, cups and jugs for water play, cooking utensils to make noise or plastic bowls to hide small toys under. Consider things outside the norm of ‘typical play’ and the options are endless for therapy engagement.
- cookie cutters (playdough cutters or paint stamps)
- flour (add some water for sensory play)
- rice, grains, and pasta (add some cups and tubes for a fine motor sensory experience)
- cotton balls (Post them inside a paper towel roll for fine motor practice)
- food colouring (add to homemade playdough or paints)
- laundry basket (great for a throwing target for gross motor practice)
- plastic food containers (hide things inside to work o bimanual play)
- photos (are great to make home physio motivating games)
- measuring spoons and jug (easy water sensory play experience)
- outdoor natural materials (use for sensory art or practice cutting skills and cut leaves)
- shaving crème (sensory play favourite)
- pegs (best tool for fine motor play)
- aluminium foil (practice bimanual and fine motor skills by ripping or use as a painting surface)
- Tupperware (make towers to knock down)
- Socks (work great for throwing and unlike balls won’t break things inside the house)
We always use recycled materials for therapy play. Gone are the days where a milk carton is just a milk carton, when you think outside the box, they can also become hurdles, a music shaker, bowling pins, weights, a rocket ship…. anything really. My husband often even checks before throwing things out “Do you need this?” ha-ha. The great thing about using recycled materials is that you don’t need to worry if they get dirtied or broken as you were getting rid of them anyway.
- egg cartons (perfect for fine motor sorting)
- milk cartons (all the things)
- empty boxes e.g. cereal boxes (building towers or as a knock down motivator)
- lids of baby wipes (posting things in and out to work on bimanual skills)
- bubble wrap (a great gross motor motivator)
- air bags from packaging (stamping and popping)
- paper towel and wrapping paper rolls (posting items)
- shoe boxes (dramatic playhouses)
- lids from pasta jars, juices, squeezy yogurts (fine motor play)
- empty herb jars (craft shakers)
Cheap craft materials
One of my favourite things to do it visit the cheap dollar stores they are FULL of never-ending ideas on items that can be easily incorporated into therapy. Often, they can also be used repeatedly too and are SO cost effective. Stacking paper cups to knock down to encourage crawling, elastic bands on paper cups to encourage two-handed play, painting on butchers’ paper against a wall for some standing practice, stickers on dining chairs to encourage side stepping and cruising along furniture and pipe cleaners and paddle pop sticks for ALL the things...
1. pipe cleaners (great for threading beads onto)
- coloured sticky tape (home-made obstacle course)
- paint (great for standing play, painting on the window works a treat)
- cellophane (great collage material)
- butchers’ paper (sensory play painting, make a giant find a word)
- bluetac (encourage physio play by sticking things to walls)
- buttons (great to thread onto a toothpick)
- crepe paper (stick in a hallway to make hurdles)
- playdoh (sensory play and fine motor skills)
- a variety of different sized balls (gross motor and fine motor play)
- paper cups (wonderful to hide toys)
- plates (great to practice cutting or to squeeze pegs onto)
- elastic bands (stretch over cups to practice bimanual play)
- stickers (playing with stickers is a great pre-writing development activity)