Starfish Therapies

January 10, 2012

How to Make Therapy Fun – Ways to Motivate Past the ‘No’!

In the last couple of years I have had to stretch my imagination to get kids to accomplish the tasks I want them to in therapy.  I completely understand, why would they want to keep practicing something that is challenging for them, over and over and over?  Well I have come up with a few ideas that seem to be working especially for the kids that fall in the 4-8 age range but I am always open to more ideas!  These can be used for physical therapy (which is how I use them) or other settings where you are trying to get your child to buy into doing/practicing what you want them to do!

Spinners -Recently I have been using a spinner to help with activity selection.  The high tech version that I started using was the Spinnerz app that Your Therapy Source talked about in one of their blogs.  I downloaded it and have been shouting its praises until my coworker went to download it and it wasn’t in the app store.  I’m hoping this is a temporary thing and they bring it back but I think you can apply the ideas to other electronic customizable spinners or even make your own low tech ones (great use for old game board spinners).  The beauty of this is you can add whatever tasks you want the child to work on.  I have made indoor activity lists and I have made outdoor activity lists.  We got a little fancier and added a second spinner that counted 1-10 so that after the exercise was chosen the child then spun the ‘how many’ spinner to find out.  Its amazing.  If I had asked the child to do 10 reps of push-ups there would have been lots of whining, with the spinner its became fun!  It gets even easier if you let them help you come up with the tasks on there.  (Just think of the possibilities – you could put your kids chores on a spinner and see what they are going to have to do that day!)


Dice – A great tool I’ve found for selecting how many reps and sets are a pair of dice.  You can use an iphone app (there are a lot out there, some even simulate rolling real dice) for a high tech set if your kiddo has a hard time with hand use or if they just really like tech things, or you can use two dice.  I have been using a dry erase board where we come up with activities for the day and then for each activity we will roll two dice.  One will tell us how many reps and one will tell us how many sets.  This way the kiddo feels like they are part of the decision making process.  They also love crossing the items off the dry erase board when they are finished!  Another use for dice would be to make some cardboard dice or to put stickers on real dice and write the various activities you want to accomplish on each side.  The second one can be for determining how many.

Sticker Charts – When I was having a really tough time with a kiddo I started using a sticker chart.  The kiddo and I sat down together and listed the activities that we had been working on that needed to be practiced and came up with a list of about 7 items with one of the items being ‘extra activity’.  I then drew columns next to each activity and if we did that activity that session at the end we got to put a sticker next to it. Our agreement is that once all the squares on the sticker board are filled in we will have a ‘fun’ day.  The best part about this is that our ‘fun’ day will still work on skills that I want.  Our options were – using the Wii, dance party, or going to the clinic (I see this kiddo at home and there is definitely an aura of magic about the clinic!).

Jenga – So, I’ve mentioned this idea before but I thought I’d add it to this post.  We have revamped our Jenga set so that most of the pieces have a colored shape on them.  Some of them are still blank.  Depending on the age and the skill level of the child you can have them actually play Jenga (works on fine motor control and finger isolation) or you can just have them pick a block out of a bucket.  I showed my kiddo the shapes and colors ahead of time and we used the dry erase board to make a chart.  We assigned activities to the shapes and number values to the colors.  When I asked what we should do about the blank ones we decided to just assign a set activity to them (in this case it was to do 3 jumping jacks).  Part of the fun is wondering what activity is going to come up.

Those are just a few of the ideas I have come up with.  I’m sure I will have to continue to stretch my creative powers to continue to keep up with these kids that are so savvy at negotiation!  Please feel free to share ideas you have come up with.


  1. […] – I have already touched on this one in How to Make Therapy Fun – Ways to Motivate Past the ‘No’. I just can’t resist posting it because it was so great and I hope someone will find another […]

    Pingback by Using Apps in PT « Starfish Therapies — January 30, 2012 @ 12:16 pm | Reply

  2. This post is awesome! I am lucky to have stumbled upon it! I am an Occupational Therapist new to pediatrics. One of the stresses I have always had was how to tap the child’s motivation to achieve the session goals. These will be great additions to my toolkit. Thanks.
    Stephan Bourassa OT

    Comment by Stephan Bourassa — February 18, 2012 @ 7:05 pm | Reply

  3. This page truly has all of the info I needed about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

    Comment by how do you make an app — March 21, 2012 @ 4:19 am | Reply

  4. […] talked about using sticker charts before and we make use of them in many ways.  We have some kids who have ongoing ones that will […]

    Pingback by Stickers – So Simple, Yet So Effective « Starfish Therapies — May 15, 2012 @ 3:51 pm | Reply

  5. […] can use sticker charts so they buy into practicing the things they need to work on.  I talk about ways to motivate kids in another blog post I […]

    Pingback by Home Exercise Programs – Ideas to Increase Compliance « Starfish Therapies — August 14, 2012 @ 9:11 am | Reply

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