Activities Archives | Play It Forward Therapy

Easy Strawberry Jam

Have you ever tasted a juicy, red ripe strawberry or eaten a plump raspberry that’s deliciously sweet and perfectly tart?   Wouldn’t it be wonderful to enjoy the taste of summer berries all year round?

If the thought of making jam seems complicated.  Check out this super easy, kid friendly strawberry jam recipe. Trust me … It’s “berry” easy!

Here’s what you’ll need:

– 2 mixing bowls
– Large Spoon
– Whisk
– Measuring Cups
– Knife
– Jam jars with lids (Ball or Kerr brand)

– 1 box of Sure Jell Less Sugar Pectin or Regular Pectin (Note: I prefer to use the Sure-Jell Less Sugar Pectin recipe)
– Fresh berries of choice (Quantities vary according to the specific berry recipe)
– Sugar
– Water

How does making jam support your child’s sensory and motor development?

Making jam addresses a variety of developmental skills from fine motor coordination, sensory exploration, feeding and practicing higher level executive functioning skills such as organization, sequencing, sustained attention and following directions.

Making homemade jam is a truly a sensory-motor experience and here’s how it helps…

Fine Motor Skills

  • Picking the berries is excellent practice for precision grasp. Plus, the more you pick, the more practice you get!


  • Pinching off the stems also requires some pinch strength and using both hands.

Utensil Use

  • Cutting the fruit helps kids practice utensil use. Slicing a berry is softer and much easier than cutting through a piece of meat. It’s a good place to start if your child is new to cutting


  • Mashing the berries using a potato masher requires the strength and endurance of your entire upper arm. Who knew that berry mashing builds up strength?!


  • Scooping and pouring ingredients such as sugar from a measuring cup into a bowl is great for eye hand coordination.

Strength and Endurance

  • Strength is also required to twist the jam jar lids off and on, which is an important skill for the lids on water bottle or other twist off containers.


  • Preparing jam has many opportunities to support a tactile sensory experience when it comes to interacting with different wet, soft and sticky textures. If you’re child doesn’t like to get their hands messy, using utensils or having them “clean up” to put things ingredients away is a strategy for getting them to touch the ingredients without having to eat them.


  • Mashing the berries requires body awareness and the ability to adjust how hard you mash them as well as providing proprioceptive input (deep pressure input into the joints and muscles of the arms).

Social Skills

  • This kitchen activity is great for working together and provides many opportunities for taking turns and waiting.


  • Freezer jam makes a lovely gift to share with family and friends. A jar of jam is always well received and a nice way for kids to share something they’ve made that others will enjoy.

Modifications and Substitutions:  If strawberries, aren’t your jam, you can also use any berry you like. I’ve made blackberry and blueberry jam too and used this jam in fresh fruit pies too.

Catch Those Wiggly Fish!

Catch Those Wiggly Fish!

Kids will love making their own mini fishing pole to reel in these wiggly fish. This fishing game craft helps kids practice fine motor skills, eye hand coordination, holding a pencil and tactile play to improve touch processing. Get your FREE Fish Template

You will need:

• Paper Fish Template CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD
• Scissors
• Paper clip
• Tape
• Markers or crayons
• Pencil
• Hole punch
• ½-1 cup of Salt
• Blue food coloring
• Plastic ziplock bag
• Small bowl or container


How to make the salt water

1. Pour the salt into the plastic, ziplock bag.
2. Add a few drops of blue food coloring.
3. Pinch and seal the bag closed.
4. Mix in the color. Use your hands to squeeze and mix the color into the salt until it is dyed blue.
5. Carefully pour or scoop the colored salt into a small bowl or container.

How to Make the Paper Fish

1. Color the fish.
2. Cut out the fish.
3. Punch a hole near the mouth.
How to make the fishing pole
1. Bend the paper clip into a hook shape.
2. Pull off a piece of tape.
3. Tape the paper clip to the end of the pencil.

How to play
Put the fish into the salt water and get ready to reel in your fish!

Other Ideas:

Put the salt water on a rimmed tray or baking sheet. Practice writing letters or drawing shapes in the sand using your pointer finger.

Pro Tips:

Practice holding your fishing pole as if you were holding a pencil with 3 fingers.  Check out the video to see how to hold the pencil.  Children 3 or younger may hold it with finger tips pointed down and that’s OK.

To make it easier

Coloring:  Draw a round outline around the fish to make it easier for young children to cut.  Be sure that your child is holding the scissors in a thumb up position.



Friendship Party

Friendship Party

Valentines Day is a sweet reminder to celebrate love and friendship!  The kids at the clinic love these friendship themed activities that can be practiced all year round. My kids and I host an annual Friendship Party to get to know classmates better or to reunite with friends they haven’t seen for a while.

These Friendship Party ideas are a throwback to the classic party games I remember as a kid (e.g. Pin the Tail On The Donkey, BINGO, Twister).  I’ve added my own “OT spin” on these classic games and carefully chosen activities that will incorporate sensory-motor and/or social skills practice.

Developing Sensory Motor Skills

The activities you’ll see in the video are perfect practice for a wide range of developmental skills. The highlighted activities address key areas of development such as:

  • Social skills, waiting, taking turns
  • Sustained attention & following directions
  • Body awareness and personal space
  • Reading or listening to a book about making & keeping friends

Social Skills

When it comes to social skills, it’s super important to teach kids how to make friends, how to be a good friend and how to keep friends.

Having kind and trusted friendships is essential to feeling connected and content in life… which is true for kids and grownups alike.

Playing these games is a fun way to practice listening, waiting, taking turns and following the group plan.


Party Activities

This collection includes our most beloved occupational therapy ideas that can be used for your next party or social skills group!.  



Kiss The Frog

Enjoy this updated Valentine Version party game inspired by the classic game of  “Pin The Tail on the Donkey”.  

Supplies:  White and green poster board, black pen, red, pink and yellow paper,  scissors, glue stick, double sided tape, sleep mask or scarf for the blindfold. 

Draw a frog on green poster board, cut out and glue onto the white poster board.  Cut out lots of lips and stick double sided tape onto one side.  

Each player is blindfolded and spun in a circle. The number of spins matches how old you are.  Then ready, aim, kiss! 

Using your sense of touch and body position, where will your kiss land?



Look and listen carefully..  Can you find a match on your board? Whoever gets 5 in a row is the winner!  Will it be you?

Supplies:  Bingo boards and markers

Bingo is a fun way to work on sustained attention, listening and visual perceptual skills to match the game piece with your board.

Picking up the game pieces to mark your spot refines a “pincer grasp” (index finger and thumb).

Play to win: Pencils, stickers or chewing gum make great OT approved prizes!

Here’s of my favorite books about kindness.  It teaches kids how everyone has an invisible bucket full of thoughts and feelings. 

We can fill other people’s buckets with good thoughts and feelings… Or sometimes we may dip from another person’s bucket.

It all depends on the choices we make and what we say or do. 

It gives kids another way to think about their actions and how they impact how others feel and how they feel about themselves.

A good question to ask your child, “Do you think that _____ was a bucket filler or a bucket dipper? 

How do you think that made ______ feel?”

Bucket Filling Craft

This cute and colorful craft is a sweet reminder of how kindness builds friendships and helps us get along with others. 

Plus, it’s excellent practice for fine motor skills too.

Supplies:  Clear plastic cups, fuzzy wire or ribbon, tape, markers, confetti, sequins, small plastic hearts or erasers.

Check out the video for how to make this Bucket Filling Craft to remind kids how to be “Bucket Fillers”.




If you’re looking for more party activities or treatment ideas check out the Activities category on our blog.

You may also like “Back to School Party” for ideas and activities to welcome the new school year.

Spooktacular Halloween OT Activities

Spooktacular Halloween OT Activities

Halloween is almost here!  Enjoy these festive “OT Tested and Kid Approved” Halloween activities while supporting your child’s development.   Discover the therapeutic benefits of these Halloween inspired therapy activities to do at home or in the clinic.

Pumpkin Bash

There’s something so satisfying about pounding pegs into a pumpkin!  Channel your child’s desire to hit or pound something with this Pumpkin Bash activity.  Using a wooden mallet to pound push-pins or golf tees into a pumpkin provides practice for fine motor skills and eye hand coordination. Picking up the push-pins or golf tees promotes a pincer grasp and overall hand and finger dexterity. CLICK HERE

Jack O’ Lantern Cookie

These cute Jack O’ Lantern Cookies are SO easy to make it’s scary! Use ready-made ingredients to assemble this Halloween cookie craft.  There are several skills that your child will practice assembling these adorable cookies Your child will improve fine motor skills while using a spoon to mix, a knife to spread and scissors to snip!   Mixing requires strength and the use of two hands (one to hold the container and the other to stir with a spoon).  Learning to hold a knife properly to spread the frosting and snipping candy straws with scissors is a fun way to improve utensil use. 

Use this recipe for handwriting practice and executive functioning skills. Your child will benefit from the handwriting practice while practicing their sequencing skills to follow the directions for reach step.  Have your child write out the steps before making their cookie… this strategy has always been an effective incentive to write a neat and sequential recipe with a sweet reward at the end.  CLICK HERE 


Spooktacular Snacks

These cheesy quesadillas are to die for!  Use your favorite cheese and experiment with different types of tortillas or colored wraps.  Use scissors to cut out ghost and monster shapes.  Cutting through tortillas strengthens little hands because there’s more resistance than when cutting through paper.  Pro tip:  Remember thumbs on top when cutting. Add colorful toppings to make the faces. Talk about the colors and the different types of faces (scary, happy, sad) that you can make with various veggie ingredients!  CLICK HERE

Pumpkin Balloon Fidget

Is your child constantly touching things?  Does your student have trouble sitting still while listening or while waiting?   Do you ever find yourself saying, “Keep your hands to yourself!”  If the answer is yes, then this Pumpkin Balloon Fidget is a super sensory solution for fidgety kids. Whether your child is feeling anxious or seeking touch input, this little Pumpkin Fidget helps keep busy hands busy.  Or use a white balloon to make a cute, squishable ghost!  CLICK HERE

Keep in mind, from a sensory perspective, kids with sensory processing challenges appear as if they can’t seem to stop the need to keep touching things or constantly fidget when required to sit still.  When it comes to sensory processing, your child’s nervous system responds to stress, overwhelm, excitement, or in some cases boredom, in different ways.

In occupational therapy, we use fidgets to 1.)  Help kids maintain their focus  2.)  Help satisfy the need to constantly touch things  3.)  Strengthen hands and fingers by providing a repetitive resistance exercise (squeezing and pinching).  

Spooky Slime Recipe

Let’s get messy!  In occupational therapy we have a few good and gooey reasons to make slime!  Introducing different textures in a fun way can help some kids improve their tolerance to wet and sticky textures.  When your child can tolerate other wet and squishy textures such as finger paint and playdough, making slime may be a fun thing to try.  CLICK HERE

Playing with slime can help satisfy a kid’s sensory need to constantly touch things for kids who are sensory seekers for touch input and can have a calming, regulating effect.

Pushing, pulling, stretching, rolling and pinching slime strengthen hands and fingers by providing a repetitive resistance exercise.  Picking and pulling out hidden items out improves finger dexterity and precision.

Wishing you a safe and Happy Halloween!

Back To School Party

Back To School Party

How are you feeling about going back to school?

Do you have the back to school blues?  Feeling nervous?  Excited?  Or perhaps “nerve-cited” as one of my little clients described how she felt about starting kindergarten.  However you feel,  going back to school after summer break is a BIG transition for both kids and parents.  Kids may be excited to see friends they’ve missed over the summer, but feel unsure about other aspects of school.Feelings of worry or even anxiety in kids can be expected during this transition time.  Questions like… Who will be in my class?  Are my friends in my class?  Will I like my teacher?  Who will I sit with at lunch?  Who can I play with at recess?  What if I miss the bus?  All of these concerns are valid ones, so be sure to reassure your child by telling them that everything is figureoutable!

Transition Warnings

To address your child’s concerns, it helps to talk about it and come up with a plan if certain situations arise.  Your child may not be able to verbally express what his or her specific worries are, however most kids will benefit from knowing what to expect in new situations.  It’s extremely helpful to give them your child some advance notice of any changes in routine.  These are called “transition warnings”.

How to start the year calm and confident

Talk about an upcoming event or activity.   Or look at the calendar together to help prepare your child for what to expect.  For example, talk about the morning routine, practice walking to the bus stop, visit the campus before school starts etc…  Practice talking deep breaths to help keep a calm body and calm mind. Transition warnings and reassuring your child will help him or her feel more secure and confident at the start of a new school year.  

Keep on reading to learn how to host your own Back to School Party or play date with one or more friends!


Back to School Party

As a kid growing up, my brothers and sister and I would always be so sad when summer break came to an end.  It was a tough transition for all of us, yet always inevitable.  My mom had a tradition of hosting a Back to School Party to help us four kids welcome the school year with some fun and positivity.  We could invite all of our friends which was perfect for reuniting with friends before classes started.  Sometimes we hosted a party mid September which was a great way to see close friends who ended up in different classroom.

Looking back, I see this was a genius way to start the school year and my sister and I have carried on this annual Back To School Party tradition with our own children.  It’s a special event to help with the transition of summer ending and welcoming the fall.

Click here for your FREE Back to School Party Shopping List

Party Activities

All of these “party activities” are therapeutic and address key areas of development such as social skills, drawing, writing, listening, paying attention, memory, self-regulation, time saving tips for packing lunches and inspiration for making and keeping friends! 

Show and Tell Activity

This activity is great for social skills practice, listening to others, introducing yourself and speaking in a group.

Supplies:  markers, crayons, paper bag, tape

Directions:  Ask the kids to draw a picture of their favorite summer memory or activity.  Tape or staple the picture to the bag (which will be used to take home party favors and snacks). Ask each child to introduce him or herself and take a turn to “show and tell” about their picture.  Some questions to ask the children: What did you do?  Who were you with?  What was your favorite part?  Another idea for younger children is to decorate a colored folder with stickers.





Memory Game

This game addresses visual memory skills, sustained attention, focus and hand writing.

Supplies:  Tray or Cookie sheet, random small household items and school supplies

Directions:  Practice your concentration and memory skills by studying a tray of objects such as school supplies or other small items for about 30 seconds.  When the tray is taken away, write down as many objects as you can remember.  When all the kids are done writing down their answers, have them count them up and write the total down on their paper.  Ask them to raise their hand if they found 1 item, then 2 items, etc.  The last person raising their hand has remembered the most and wins the game.




Lunch Time Notes

Surprise your child by writing an upbeat message on a fun napkin!

Supplies:  Different colored napkins or cute napkins with fun designs, colored sharpies or markers

Directions:  Give each child the same set of napkins for the total number of kids.  For example, if there are 6 kids at the party, then give each child 6 napkins.   Each child writes down a positive message on each of their napkins.  Once everyone has written a message on their napkin set, each kid gives one of their napkins to the other kids.  When packing lunches, put one of these special napkins in your child’s lunch box to brighten their day.

Sensory Science

Use your taste buds to make a hypothesis?  What flavor jelly bean do you think you have?

Supplies:  Jelly Belly candy, paper and pencil

A hypothesis is an educated guess!  In this game use your sense of smell and taste to guess what flavor jelly bean you have.  Each child gets 4-5 jelly beans and writes down on a piece of paper what flavor they think they have.  Once everyone has completed their hypotheses, look on the back of the package to see if you were correct!

Making and Keeping Friends

Time at school is the perfect opportunity to meet new friends and to learn how to be a good friend.  Kids enjoy story time which is a great time to introduce social skills concepts and talking about feelings.  Social skills and empathy are two skills that will help your child be successful at school too!  One of my favorite series are the Bucket Filling Books by Carol McCloud.  The lessons teach kids about caring, sharing and being kind.  This positive behavior is rewarding and brings happiness to the giver and receiver!

Pack a Snack

Supplies:  Variety of snacks and baggies.  Pro tip:  Use reusable snack bags and containers which are environmentally friendly to reduce, reuse or recycle.

Make packing lunches less of a chore by recruiting lunch helpers!  At the start of the week, put out snack options along with sandwich bags/containers.  We tend to buy big bags or containers of snacks, which are often more economical and less packaging is better for the environment.  Each child packs their own snack and drinks for the week and puts it into a container or bag labeled with their name.  Packing little snacks in advance turns out to be a big time saver on those busy mornings when you’re rushing out the door!



Personal Packs

It always helps to have a little comfort and clean in your backpack!  One area of occupational therapy is self-care and teaching kids the basics of grooming and hygiene.  These personal care packs work great in a pinch. As party favors, each child receives a pencil pouch filled with hand sanitizer, a small tissue pack, cute bandaids and a few pieces of emergency candy to share with a friend or to cheer them up. Other Personal Care Pack item ideas: hair rubber band, nail file, face or hand wipes, gum or breath mints.

Pack it light, wear it right!

If you enjoyed these Back to School Ideas, be sure to check out how to choose the best backpack for your child!  Does your child ever complain his or her backpack is too heavy?  How much does it weigh?  How can you lighten the load?  Learn more about the American Occupational Therapy’s Recommendations for the best and most ergonomic ways to carry a back pack.  Plus a bonus handout for moms on how to best hold a purse to prevent discomfort and avoid injury.  Click here to read more.

P.S.  If you’re looking for more party activities or treatment ideas check out the Activities section on our blog.

Click here to download your FREE Back to School Party Shopping List

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