occupational therapy

Occupational Therapy Activities to Try Outside This Spring
Occupational Therapy Activities to Try Outside This Spring 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

As the weather gets warmer and the sun shines a little brighter, it’s the perfect time to embrace the outdoors with your little ones. Spring offers so many opportunities for your family to get outside and explore a variety of activities designed to promote your child’s development, physical skills, and well-being. So, put on your shoes and jackets, breathe in the fresh air, and get ready to embark on a journey of learning, discovery, and fun with occupational therapy activities that are perfect for springtime adventure.

Play Sidewalk Chalk Games

Sidewalk chalk is so much fun to play with and allows your child’s creativity to shine through. But did you know that there are many things that you can do with chalk besides drawing pictures? For example, you can create mazes, play hopscotch, and even try tic-tac-toe! Other things that you can work on include helping your child learn their colors, numbers, letters, and shapes.

Make an Outdoor Obstacle Course

Get ready to burn off some energy—it’s time to set up an outdoor obstacle course for you and your family to enjoy! Gather items that you have around the house, such as hula hoops, cones, and jump ropes, and place them outside to create an obstacle course. For example, you could have your child jump from one hula hoop to another, try to walk across the jump rope balance beam, or knock over cones with a ball. For some added excitement, keep track of your child’s time and see if they can beat it on their next turn!

Start a Garden

Gardening with your little one is a great way to spend time outdoors this spring. Work with your child to pick out seeds you want to plant, and get ready to begin your gardening journey! Together, you can pour dirt into pots, plant the seeds, and then water them as needed. The joy your kids will experience nurturing these plants and witnessing their transformation into fruits and vegetables is bound to be a rewarding adventure!

Paint Hand Picked Rocks

This is a perfect activity to complete outside. First, you and your child can go on a hunt for the perfect rocks to paint. Whether you go for a walk to gather rocks or simply search in your own backyard, it’s still a great adventure. Next, spread out an old blanket or towel, sit down, and use your favorite acrylic paint to add designs and color to the rocks. You can get as creative as you like; create an animal face or even a pretty scene. Talk as you paint about what you are creating, the texture of the rocks, and even what each rock’s shape resembles. 

Happy Occupational Therapy Month! Follow us on our social media (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest) all April for tips, toys we love, resources, and more! Additionally, please don’t hesitate to contact us anytime to discuss if your child would benefit from pediatric therapy. Our team is here to support you and your child in any way we can.

3 Occupational Therapy Activities to Try Out This Spring
3 Occupational Therapy Activities to Try Out This Spring 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

April is Occupational Therapy Month, which is such a special time for our entire team. Occupational therapy is an instrumental part of helping children learn and grow, and it can significantly help those who have difficulties performing cognitive, physical, or sensory tasks. To kick off this year’s celebration, we wanted to share 3 occupational therapy activities you can try out with your little ones this spring. These activities will help your child work on their skills and allow you to spend quality time together. Enjoy!

1. Wash the Farm Animals 

Creating an adorable farm animal-themed sensory bin for your little one is very simple. First, grab a container, an unused toothbrush, small plastic farm animal toys, and Oreos. Next, crush the Oreos into a small bowl (this will look like mud), fill the container with water, and get ready for some fun! Your child can roll the animals around in the mud to get them dirty, and then use their fine motor and gross motor skills to clean each animal using the water and toothbrush. You can also have your kiddo work on their speech by asking them to name each animal and make the sound of that animal.

2. Make Paper Flowers

To make some beautiful paper flowers, you will need printer paper, tissue paper, glue, and crayons. To begin, have your child draw a flower on the paper without drawing the petals. Now, have your little one use their fine motor skills to carefully rip the tissue paper into petal-sized pieces and glue each of them onto their flower. Once they’re done, have your child use their speech skills to identify the flower’s color and size.

3. Outdoor Moves

For this final activity, you will need some paper, markers, and a good imagination. Start by cutting out 10 squares, and write down a different movement for your child to perform on each one. For example, you could write, spin around, reach for the sky, hop like a bunny, etc. Place each piece of paper face down on the grass, ask your child select one square at a time, and watch as they use their balance and gross motor skills to perform each move.

Happy Occupational Therapy Month!

Follow us on our social media (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest) all month for more occupational therapy tips, resources, and activities. As always, please don’t hesitate to contact us anytime to discuss if your child would benefit from pediatric therapy. Our team is here to support you and your child in any way we can.

Use Everyday Household Items During These Playful Occupational Therapy Activities
Use Everyday Household Items During These Playful Occupational Therapy Activities 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

Occupational therapy (OT) can be highly beneficial for your child. This is especially true if your little one faces sensory, cognitive, or physical challenges. OT is essential in helping your child learn and grow, which is why we look forward to celebrating Occupational Therapy Month each April. This month-long holiday provides the chance for us to share some helpful occupational therapy related tips, toys, resources, and activities. In honor of OT Month this year, we wanted to share some occupational therapy  activities that are fun and easy to do at home. The best part? These activities utilize items that you can find around your house! From constructing a sensory bin to making food necklaces and more. Here are some engaging, playful activities that use everyday items in inventive ways:

Make a Sensory Bin

Making a sensory bin from items around your house is an activity that your child is sure to love. They can help you decide what will go into the bin, and when the construction of the bin is complete, it’s sure to keep your kiddos entertained for a long time. One easy bin you can create is a “beach day bin.” Fill it with some brown sugar (sand), a bowl of water (the ocean), gummy bears (beachgoers), and some spoons (shovels). Your child will love pretending like they’re spending the day at the beach, and they can even shape and mold the brown sugar to create a brown sugar sandcastle!

Build a Blanket Fort and “Go Camping”

This activity is perfect for pretending like you’re camping in the wild in the comfort of your own home. Start by running around the house with your little one and collecting as many blankets as possible. Bring them into the living room, grab a few chairs, and make your fort! Help your child reach up high and tie the blankets onto the chairs, or tuck them into the couch cushions. Now, partake in some fun camping activities such as telling campfire stories, singing campfire songs, or consider even making some smores in the microwave!

Create Food Jewelry

One last OT-based activity you can try using items around your house is to create some delicious food jewelry. Find some string or yarn, and then gather food items that you can use to make your jewelry. Some ideas include noodles, round cereal, pretzels, or candy with a hole. Have your child carefully place each item onto their string one at a time, and then help them tie it to make a necklace or bracelet. When you’re all done, you and your little one can wear your jewelry and even sneak in a few bites!

Happy Occupational Therapy Month! Follow us on our social media (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest) for more occupational therapy tips, resources, and activities. If you’d like to discuss if your child would benefit from pediatric therapy, please do not hesitate to contact us. Our team is here to support children and families in any way that we can.

Outdoor Occupational Therapy Activities to Try This Spring
Outdoor Occupational Therapy Activities to Try This Spring 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

April is National Occupational Therapy Month and we are thrilled to start celebrating! Occupational therapy helps children and adults alike who have issues performing cognitive, physical, or sensory tasks, work towards being able to perform everyday tasks and activities on their own.

We’ve found that one of the best ways to work with your child on their occupational skills is to take part in activities as a family, and now that spring has finally arrived, it’s time to take some of those activities outdoors. As flowers bloom and the sun shines, we love to see our PTN families enjoy the nice weather, which is exactly why we wanted to share some fun activities that you can try this spring (and beyond) that your whole family will love – enjoy!

Rock Painting

Painting is a great way to work on your child’s fine motor skills.  To start, go on a nature walk and collect all sorts of interesting rocks. Decorate them with paint pens, chalk pens, or acrylic paints, depending on how messy you’d like to get. You can use Modpodge to seal your rocks so they last for seasons to come.  Once your rocks are dry you can add them to your garden or play hide and seek with them. 


Gardening is an awesome family spring activity and provides great opportunities for messy sensory play, problem solving, and strengthening! Include your little ones in on the fun by asking them to help decide what flowers to plant and having them scoop and fill the containers.  Once the flowers are planted, use a spray bottle to water the flowers and grass instead of a hose. A spray bottle requires fine motor strength and coordination to operate. 


Odds are you’ve tried hopscotch once or twice as a child, and for good reason! This is a wonderful activity to help work on your child’s balance and coordination while also helping them learn their numbers at the same time.

To begin, allow your kiddos to get creative by letting them help you draw a colorful hopscotch board using chalk. Drawing outdoors with chalk is a fun way to work on your child’s fine motor and handwriting skills.  When the board is complete, shout out a number that your child will need to hop to, and watch them hop, skip, and jump over to their number. Repeat over and over again until you’ve called each number at least once.  Wrap up the game by using your spray bottle to clean off the chalk from the sidewalk. 

Happy National Occupational Therapy Month!

Follow us on our social media (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest) all month long for more occupational therapy tips, resources, and activities. As always, please don’t hesitate to contact us at any time to discuss if your child would benefit from pediatric therapy. Our team is here to support both you and your child in any way that we can.

Incorporating Occupational Therapy Into Your Child’s Daily Routines
Incorporating Occupational Therapy Into Your Child’s Daily Routines 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

Occupational therapy focuses on skills your child uses each day to take care of themselves. For example, brushing your teeth, putting on your own clothes, and holding a pencil are all occupational skills. Occupational skills often involve fine motor movements, like the ability to manipulate buttons or zippers. These skills can be particularly challenging for children with ADHD, sensory issues, or developmental delays. 

Play is also an occupational skill and there are many ways to develop your child’s fine motor skills at home. The first step is to consult with a pediatric occupational therapist to find out their suggestions for activities, reward systems, and rubrics by which you can measure progress. Your child may have particular skills they need help with, and your OT can recommend games and activities that will help to target those skills.

Beyond those specific recommendations, here are some guidelines to keep in mind when incorporating OT into your child’s daily routines:

1. Practice Opportunities Are Everywhere

Opportunities to practice self-care skills are around every corner. 

If you’re like most parents, you probably have a tendency to do things for your child that they aren’t able to do just yet – or that they aren’t able to do well. While this certainly isn’t a bad thing, it’s important to remember to let your child try to button their own jacket or put on their own shoes whenever possible. If there’s something your child wants to try and you have the time, stepping aside and allowing them to take the lead is sometimes the hardest task a parent can undertake, but it’s an important step.

Under the current circumstances, it’s likely that your children will be at home with you around the clock over the next few weeks. Try to set some time aside each day to allow your child to take the lead on tasks that you’d normally help them with, and instead, allow them to show you what they’re capable of.

2. Play is Therapy

When you’re picking out new toys for your child, look for toys that are both a lot of fun and that will help them practice their fine motor skills. For example, depending on your child’s age, you could get 

  • stuffed animals or sensory objects with zippers, buttons, and snaps
  • board games with pieces to be moved, dice to be rolled, or a spinner to spin
  • stacking blocks or Legos
  • a plastic tea set

All of these toys help children practice self-care skills while having fun.

3. Art is Therapy

Art projects are a great way to build fine motor skills while having fun and soothing the senses. Molding with kinetic sand, practicing cutting with age-appropriate scissors, and sticking things together with Elmer’s glue can all be rewarding and calming activities.

4. Rewards and Limits

For many kids, having a rewards chart for when they accomplish small goals is a great way to encourage more practice. It’s amazing how hard children will work for a cool sticker! And don’t forget to let them peel and place the sticker themselves!

That said, when incorporating OT into your child’s daily routine, it’s also important not to push too hard. For example, if you were to say that your child can’t have breakfast until she dresses herself, there’s very little chance that the ultimatum is going to end well. Look for opportunities to make practice fun as much as possible, and try not to demand too much of your child as they learn and grow at their own pace.

play therapy at home and school
At PTN, Therapists and Teachers are Partners during Your Child’s Journey
At PTN, Therapists and Teachers are Partners during Your Child’s Journey 1000 667 PTN Chicago

Now that the school year is back in full swing, you may be wondering about how much you should be communicating with your children’s teachers. Teachers, after all, are a lot like stand-in parents when your child is at school. They monitor behavior, offer rewards (and sometimes punishment), and can have a big impact upon the interests and habits that your child develops. Those can all be great influences, but if they aren’t lined up with what you’re teaching at home, problems can arise.

The situation only gets more complicated if your child participates in speech therapy or occupational therapy. With so many adults offering guidance and advice, it can be all too easy for signals to get crossed and messages to get mixed. That can lead to frustration for your child and for you.

That’s why at PTN we are so vigilant about working not just with children, but also with their parents and teachers. We see the adults – and older siblings – who spend the most time with our kids as partners in their overall development. By getting everyone on the same page, we can make occupational, speech, and physical therapy for kids more cohesive and effective.

Your Role in Your Child’s Occupational Therapy

The first way that we involve both parents and teachers in therapy sessions is by meeting with children in the environments they’re most comfortable in. That can include both the home and the classroom. We find that working with children on their “home turf” helps them feel more relaxed and confident. It also makes it that much easier for parents and/or teachers to participate. By observing, asking questions, and helping with various play-based therapeutic activities, you’ll be empowered to build upon your child’s development between sessions, and the same is true for teachers.

We also strive to keep the lines of communication as open as possible. We can meet with teachers to keep them up to date on the work your child is doing with us, and we can even provide them with written reports that they can reference whenever they need to.

If your child has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), we can provide our input and help ensure that any standards set at home or in the classroom are built upon in therapy sessions.

To learn more about occupational therapy in Chicago, give our office a call. Whether you’re seeking an initial assessment or want to learn about ongoing play therapy, we are happy to answer any questions you may have.

aquatic therapy chicago
Fun in the Sun with Aquatic Therapy
Fun in the Sun with Aquatic Therapy 1200 1018 PTN Chicago

As the weather continues to warm up, more and more children are heading to the lake, ocean, or pool to enjoy fun in the water. If your child has mobility issues or other developmental issues, they might feel left out of this play, but in many cases, they don’t need to be!

Playing in the water with your child is a wonderful way to help them improve their strength, relax their muscles and mind, and gain social skills in an environment that is both stimulating and calming.

Aquatic therapy is the term used for physical therapy that happens in water, usually a pool. Our therapists love working with children in the water, because aquatic therapy has a number of benefits over land-based therapy for many children:

  • Water reduces your body weight by about 90%, making it easier to move in the water and alleviating painful stress on joints. Many children with muscle or mobility issues are able to move with a greater range of motion in the water.
  • Being submersed in water places a gentle pressure all over the body that can be very calming, much like a weighted blanket.
  • Playing in the water is fun! Mixing up physical therapy sessions with a dip in the pool is a great way to add some excitement and joy to play therapy.

If you’ve never engaged in water therapy with your child before, you might want to start by reaching out to a trained physical therapist. Our aquatic therapists in Chicago can show you how to safely get your child into and out of the water and teach you proper techniques for keeping your child safe while in the water. Safety should always be your top concern in the pool!

Next, an aquatic therapist can show you a variety of games and exercises that you can enjoy in the water with your little one. Here are some examples:

  • Building leg strength: While you hold their body facing away from you, you can have your child put their feet on the pool wall and push backward, helping build muscle strength and coordination.
  • Improving mobility: Practicing walking or running in water that is about waist deep is a great way to build mobility skills in an environment where it won’t hurt if you take a tumble. Plus, the water adds extra resistance, helping build strength.
  • Blowing bubbles: Learning how to blow bubbles in water is a lot of fun and helps with social engagement and lung capacity.

Newborn babies all the way up to the elderly can benefit from aquatic therapy. To learn more about our Chicago aquatic therapy sessions, contact our team today.  You can also check out our Aquatic Therapy for Kids and Water Play boards on Pinterest for some great ideas on how you and your child can have fun in the water this summer!

occupational therapy and autism
How Our Occupational Therapists Support Children with Autism
How Our Occupational Therapists Support Children with Autism 1000 750 Triston Kee

Being a parent is never easy. It comes with its own rewards and challenges, and those rewards and challenges can be significantly amplified when you have a child with autism. Fortunately, many children on the autism spectrum have a legally protected right to occupational therapy through public schools, and many more can receive fully covered private occupational therapy through health insurance and federal and state programs. This therapy can be incredibly helpful for both the children and their parents.

Occupational therapy focuses on helping people perform everyday activities that are needed to get by. People recovering from injuries, dealing with mental illness, and people with developmental delays can all benefit from occupational therapy.

In the context of autism, occupational therapy can be an important tool for gaining skills that might come more readily to children who aren’t on the autism spectrum. These skills can include learning to play with other children, learning to listen to instructions, communicating basic needs, and feeding, bathing, and dressing oneself.

In our Chicago pediatric therapy practice, we regularly work with families who are affected by autism. The process starts with assessment. An initial assessment can include discussion with the parents and teachers about behavior patterns, observed problem areas, any diagnosed medical conditions, and questions and concerns. The goal is to determine where the biggest concerns lie and to create an intervention plan that will work for both the child and the family.

Meeting Children and Families Where They’re At

When working with kids with autism, we like to meet with them in environments where they feel most comfortable to help reduce stress, encourage positive associations, and make the whole process easier for everyone. We’ll often work with children in their homes, back yards, or even favorite local parks.

Specific therapies that can be helpful for children with autism often start with identifying any underlying sensory issues and creating games or routines that help address those issues. An estimated 80% of children with autism have sensory processing issues, which means that these children have trouble filtering out sounds, sensations, and/or sights that overwhelm them. (Imagine listening to thumping music all day with a strobe light blaring in your vision, and you might begin to understand why some children with autism act out.) Understanding what sensory issues may be at play makes it easier to address those issues with tools like weighted blankets, massage, and soft tag-free clothing that help children feel more relaxed and at ease in their own skins.

Working with the family is also an important part of occupational therapy for children with autism. As a parent, caretaker, or sibling, it can be very easy to get overwhelmed and have trouble empathizing with certain behaviors. An occupational therapist can help by showing the whole family how to incorporate play therapy and more positive responses into their existing routines at home.

If you’re looking for occupational therapy in Chicago for your child, please give our office a call. We’d be happy to answer any questions and provide more information and resources.

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