Starfish Therapies

August 13, 2017

Find the Bucket


We love collaboration with other providers. We are lucky enough to have an OT company that we reciprocally share space with. This allows us to pick their brains and them to pick ours. One day they were talking about using our platform swing and how to work on visual motor skills and this activity was born. We of course have adapted it depending on what exactly we want to focus on that day, but I’ll give you the basics and then you can adapt at will!

We set up the platform swing and place a bucket of some sort underneath it. The child shouldn’t be able to see the bucket when the swing is at rest, but it should be right at the front of the swing so its easy to find when the swing is moving. Get some balls for the kiddo to drop into the bucket once the swing starts moving. This gets them to work on their visual motor skills, their timing, their motor planning and coordination.

To take it a step further you can change what position you have the child in on the swing. For our kiddo we start in prone prop, then move to quadruped, then high kneeling, then half kneeling. This lets them work on core strength, and balance.

We have the kiddo reach for the ball before they are able to drop it in the bucket. This encourages weight shifting, reaching, hand-eye coordination. They also have to hold their balance while they are weight shifted and the swing is moving which helps with righting reactions.

The dropping the ball in the bucket while the swing is moving, is of course the fun part! The kids find it hilarious to ‘find the bucket’ and get super excited whenever their ball makes it into the bucket!

Has anyone else done an activity like this? What variations have you used?

August 6, 2017

Feed the Woozle

Another game I have never played, but one of my therapists found a really fun way to use it to motivate one of our kiddos to work on stairs, and more specifically stairs while carrying things. You can take the general idea and use it for other activities you are trying to get kids to do!

We put the Woozle at the top of the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs the kiddo gets to roll the dice and figure out how many pieces of food he gets to take up to the Woozle (1, 2, or 3). [Note – also working on counting and numbers]

Once that has been determined he picks the food (which have amazing names – a favorite is the Lemon Flavored Underpants) and puts them in a cup (we use stacking cups). [Note – also working on fine motor skills]

He then carries the cup up the steps to the Woozle to feed him. The trick is that in order for the Woozle to know that its the kiddo approaching to feed him, and not a ‘bad guy’, he has to step on the taped x’s. Which of course encourage reciprocal stepping (occasionally the x’s get missed and we use our judgement if we want to repeat or let them go, especially if they are doing reciprocal anyway). [Note – and visual processing, coordination, motor planning, balance]

Once to the top, he feeds the Woozle and then comes back down the stairs holding the empty cup to fill back up with more food. [Note – also works on floor to stand and stand to floor each time, or squatting]

I don’t know about your kids, but ours think this is hysterical and love picking out which food they are going to give him, and they find it funny when he only gets one piece of food. Little do they realize that means they have to do more reps to get rid of all the food!

What other ways have you used Feed the Woozle?

August 20, 2013

Pipe Cleaner and Wikki Stick People

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 3:48 pm
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Wikki Stick People

Wikki Stick People

Pipe Cleaner Person

Pipe Cleaner Person

Kids can have fun creating people out of a ton of different materials.  Two of the materials we use are pipe cleaners and wikki sticks.
Areas it works on:
Fine Motor Dexterity: This activity incorporates a lot of pincer grasping and finger isolation in order to push the wikki sticks onto the white board and to twist the pipe cleaners together. Kids also needs bilateral hand use in order to twist the pipe cleaners together and stick the wikki sticks together. In addition, they can work on snipping with scissors to cut the wikki sticks and pipe cleaners to the appropriate length.
  • Alternative Ideas: If the kids are having a lot of difficulty in placing the pipe cleaners or wikki sticks, you can still work on finger isolation by placing them for them and then having them trace them with their index finger, so they are still attending to placement and shapes and working on pointing their finger. 
Body Awareness: Some kids are still working on learning where their body parts are and how they relate to the space around them. Working on visuals of the body can be a way to work on this and to have them be aware of things such as arms and legs come out of the body and not the head!
  • Alternative Ideas: You can play directional and movement games when placing the body part to make it more interactive. The kids have to place the arms and then raise their arms in the air, or they have to make a head and then turn their head side to side, to name a few options.
Visual Copying: You as the therapist, parent, etc. can build the person and see if the child can duplicate what you created allowing them to working on visual processing skills and eye-hand coordination.
  •  Alternative Ideas:  You can grade this activity to make it easier or harder for them.  This can be done by:  complete the person one step at a time in order to make sequencing easier for them or complete multiple steps and judge from their motor planning/sequencing skills whether the task needs to be graded up or down. 

How have you worked on these concepts?  What other items have you used for creating people?

December 14, 2012

Duct Tape Tote and Wallet

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 12:00 pm
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duct tape purse1 duct tape purse2 duct tape wallet1 duct tape wallet2

As you can tell by reading my posts this week my nephew and I hung out over the weekend.  Well, my mom had bought various colors and patterns of Duct Tape and we decided to get crafty making a gift for his mom and one for himself as well!  We followed directions from these blogs (although for the tote we made our own straps):  Tote and Wallet.

I won’t bore you with the how-to’s since you can read that above.  I found these projects to be great for pattern recognition (my nephew picked out the pattern and was responsible for telling me which one was next for the tote).  We also worked on measuring to measure the correct lengths of tape as well as visual perceptual skills to know how to line up the tape to be even and/or to cover the fabric. We also got to work on cutting and tearing skills as we made the tape into the correct lengths.  He also picked out the size of the tote that he wanted.  We folded the fabric so he could get an idea and he would say bigger or smaller until we got it just right. He also asked to add the credit card pocket in his wallet so that he could put gift cards that he gets for the holidays in there (all his idea).

What was challenging was dealing with the tape with an almost 9 year old boy.  Duct tape is quite sticky and when it is lying sticky side up it sticks to everything, especially when someone is rolling the rolls of tape around or waving the ruler around or even just moving their hands around.  Also, its hard to set the tape down sticky side up because it is sticking to your fingers.  Despite the frustrations with tape is was worth it just to see how proud he was of the tote he designed for his mom!

PS – I would definitely recommend adult assistance with this project.

What projects have you made with Duct Tape?

December 6, 2012

Wrapping Presents

wrapping presents

I’m loving the holiday season and I definitely have presents on the brain (it could be because its my birthday too)!  With that said, what a great way to get kids involved and work on some fine motor skills than to have them help with wrapping the presents.  Not only will they work on the following skills but they will also have a ton of pride when they give the gifts to their teachers or therapists or friends or siblings or parents (I could go on and on but I’m sure you get my drift)!

They will work on:

  • Scissor skills to cut the paper
  • Spatial awareness for measuring how much paper they need
  • Visual motor skills to fold the paper and line up the edges
  • Bilateral coordination to use both hands to fold the paper, hold it still while applying tape, cutting the paper
  • Hand strengthening to firmly fold the edges and push down on the tape
  • And ripping tape (which is fun) works on a bunch of skills – grasp patterns, hand strength and bilateral upper extremity coordination

Now I know that it will probably take longer to wrap presents with your ‘helper’ but think of how much fun they will have and the skills they are working on!

December 3, 2012

Car Games

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 2:40 pm
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car trip

With the holiday season in full swing, your family may find itself spending some time in the car while traveling between various family members or other destinations. Here are some games that are fun and can work on skills such as visual discrimination, figure ground discrimination and visual form constancy.

When I used to travel with my family (and even when I moved cross country as an adult) one of my favorite games to play was the license plate game.  We loved to try to and find a license plate from all 50 states.  This tends to be more of an ongoing game though.  So if you have kids that can write or read, you can give them a list of the states and have them cross them off as they see them (or try to write the license plate number next to the state).  In our car Hawaii and Alaska were always especially exciting to find.  You could keep the list in the car so they can work on it each time they get in.

The alphabet game was another favorite.  When we got in the car we would start at the letter A and try to find each letter of the alphabet on the signs we drove by or the license plates we saw.  To make it more challenging we would disqualify license plates or we would say that the word needed to start with the letter.  You could make it a group activity or a competition between each person in the car.

Another game that doesn’t have to be just for the car but can be played there is ‘I Spy’.  Now this one may be trickier to play if you are driving on a freeway and you are picking objects outside.  You may want to leave the outside objects for low speed driving or when you are stuck in traffic and use inside items for freeway driving.  You can vary the game by picking specific objects that you spy or picking colors or objects that start with a certain letter.  You could also turn it into a game of categories.  I remember one time driving in the car with my mom and I had to do a school project on weather vanes and I had the best time locating weather vanes as we drove along and writing the different styles down for my project.  Think of all the categories you could come up with to have your kids look for!

November 29, 2012

Cutting Straws

This post was written by Sarah Girard OTR/L

Cutting can be a frustrating task for some of our kids. It requires motor planning, fine motor strength, bilateral hand use, and visual motor skills. I’ve found it more attention grabbing with kids if I’m switching up materials that we are using to cut with. Cutting straws has been very entertaining for some of my little guys. When you cut a straw piece, it launches either up in the air or in a random direction away from the child. When it launches towards you as a therapist or a parent , it is usually followed by a series of giggles and a request to do it again. Once the entire straw is cut, I’ve been turning it into a beading activity. They can string them onto pipe cleaners, shoe laces, etc. the beading piece of this activity works on eye-hand coordination, modulation and bilateral hand use. In the end they have a product of all their hard work to take home.

November 12, 2012

More Gift Ideas for the Holidays

Here are some other toys I have written about in the past that may be great gifts for the holidays.  We try to give you lots of options for using each toy so that you can have ideas on how to maximize its benefit and fun with your child!  Despite the fact that I have put them in categories below, most of them are cross disciplinary and work on multiple things at the same time.

Some of them have a larger focus on movement and gross motor:


Head to Toe Game

Stomp Rocket

Some incorporate oral motor control as well as other factors:



Some have more to do with fine motor control:

Blocks (maybe add a little velcro)

Shape Sorter

And some work on visual motor coordination:


Building Toys

November 9, 2012

Scaterpillar Scramble

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 10:59 pm
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I just discovered a new game, thanks to one of our OT’s.  It’s Scaterpillar Scramble by Hasbro.  Of course looking at it with a PT mindset, I love it because it has lots of marbles that a kiddo can try to use which means lots of repetitions of any activity I want them to do because of course after each repetition they get to put a marble on the caterpillars hand!  The OT side of our office love it for different reasons.

They love that the tweezers/tongs let kids work on the mechanics of a tripod grasp. It is a pretty light tweezer/tong so if you are looking to work on strengthening you may need to pick up a separate one elsewhere.  It also requires precision and fine motor control.  When kids are working on control its amazing how many of them (and adults too) have increased shakiness in their hand.  You can limit the frustration by only putting one or two marbles out and having the kids try to place them on the bottom hands (which are easier) and then they can have the caterpillar dance (if they tolerate sound well) when they complete the specified number so they get a built in reward.  You can increase the challenge by increasing the number of marbles, having them move up higher on the caterpillar hands, and/or having it ‘dance’ while you try to put the marbles in place.

The marbles come in different colors because the game is meant to be a race between players but the colors can provide a good visual cue for the child as they work on their visual motor control by trying to precisely place the marble on the hand.  If you have two kids you can have them work on turn taking putting the marbles on.

I love discovering new games!  What have you used this game for?

November 6, 2012

Using the Super Skipper

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 12:00 pm
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The Super Skipper is a great tool to work on jumping, coordination, timing, and visual perceptual skills to name a few.  Just to warn you there is music that goes along with it, so if your child is sensitive to auditory input, they may not like this toy.  There are 3 speeds that it operates at with a different song for each speed as well as a distinct noise that happens when the turning wand arm gets knocked off the base.

We have used it with kiddos who aren’t able to jump yet and they just practice being able to step over an obstacle as it approaches them.  Its a great way to practice noticing your environment and obstacles that may be approaching.  We have also used it with kiddos who are able to jump and we want them to practice the timing of being able to jump over an object as it is moving towards them (think jump rope but in a different context).  Finally we have used it with kiddos who have weakness on one side more than the other and are working on skills like hopping.  We have them practice hopping on their weaker side over the turning wand.  As the kids practice these skills we make it fun by counting to see how many times they are successful and try to build on that each time.  For kids who are doing it regularly we will keep a chart so they can see their progress.

What’s interesting to watch is how their abilities change as the speed of the wand changes.  For the girl in the picture she was able to jump over it when it was on the slowest speed but as soon as it increased to the next speed she moved to the end of the wand so that she was only barely jumping over it (basically she was jumping next to it).  With hand hold assistance and increased cuing she was able to jump over the wand at the faster speed but it was more of a challenge for her because of her change in perception of the moving target.

This if you think about it is relevant to kids out in their day to day environments as well.  For many, they are able to recognize a change in their environment when it happens in a slow and controlled manner so that they can then react to it.  If it happens faster or in a more crowded situation it is harder to react in a timely fashion, or possibly harder to even recognize the change that is happening.  By using a tool such as the super skipper kids get to practice in a graded manner being able to visually attend to something and then react in a timely manner, while weaning down on verbal and tactile cues.

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