4 Ways Occupational Therapy Helps Kids To Play

Play may not seem all that important, but for children it's the key to learning. Pediatric occupational therapy often relies on the use of toys and play to build fine motor (hand and finger) skills. Through play-based practices the pediatric occupational therapist, like one from Kleiser Therapy, can help your child to gain dexterity, develop eye-hand coordination and increase muscle control.

Why is this important in the early years? Without these skills, everything from getting dressed to doing schoolwork becomes a struggle. That said, occupational therapy provides ways to play for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and older children, according to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).

If your child isn't meeting movement milestones, has a developmental delay that affects motor control or a medical professional has referred you to an occupational therapist (OT), understanding how this type of therapy works is the first step to success. How can a pediatric OT help your child?

1. Adapting toys. The AOTA notes therapists can show parents how to adapt toys to facilitate play in a way that won't overwhelm the child. This doesn't mean you need to go out and buy a completely new set of toys to build your child's fine motor skills. Instead, the OT can take some of the toys your child already has and make adaptations or show you different ways to use them with your child.

2. Learning the basics. According to the website KidsHealth, pediatric OT's help children to build skills necessary for everyday life. These may include activities you take for granted, such as brushing teeth, putting on a shirt, using a spoon, drinking from a cup or hair-brushing. The pediatric OT may use games and play-based activities to help your child with these tasks, instead of just 'teaching' them to her.

3. Evaluating for special equipment. Not every child who needs occupational therapy also needs specialized or adapted equipment. The OT will spend time with your child assessing the situation and her needs. If your child does need special equipment, it may include bathing equipment, devices for dressing or other assistive options. This equipment can make your child's overall day easier and assist her with play as well.

4. Building sensory-processing skills. Along with basic fine motor abilities, the OT also helps your child with sensory-processing. Some toys or play activities may overwhelm your child's senses. The OT is sensitive this and can pick and choose techniques that minimize visual, tactile and auditory stress.

Pediatric occupational therapy takes play and turns it into a way to help your child learn. Through play-based activities, the OT helps your child to build skills, develop fine motor control and function independently.