Starting out as a new grad OT practitioner, I was thrown face first into the unknown.
No amount of textbooks or tests could prepare me for the hands-on experience I was about to get at my first job in a pediatric outpatient clinic. I felt unprepared and constantly lost. Even with the great mentors and colleagues I had surrounding me, it was ultimately up to me to forge my own therapist path. There’s not one “right” way to be a therapist, especially when it comes to working with kids. I was forced to think on the fly, come up with interventions that I had completely made up, and see if they worked or not.
As a new grad, I was in a lot of debt, so money was tight and I was desperately in need of supplies. While my clinic provided plenty for us, I knew I would need my own down the road. That’s why I’ve taken the time to come up with the 10 items I use the most in my practice (and what I wish I had going into my first day as an OT).
You can create a huge variety of treatments using just these 10 items, as simple as they sound. The following are my tried and true OT items:
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Squigz are these cute little suction toys that I use at least once a day with my clients. They sell mini-squigz, but in my opinion, they don’t stick as well to surfaces. Some ways I like to use them are to stick them to the wall and have my clients pull them off by color, you can sort them, you can use them in an obstacle course, they stick to whiteboards and you can draw pictures or mazes around them, you can work other muscles by sticking them to the underside of a table, you can stick them to your forehead! The possibilities are endless.
Crayola Pip-Squeaks Markers are the smallest markers I’ve found on the market so far. I encourage kiddos to use smaller writing utensils because it often helps them progress from holding with their whole hand, to using their fingers in a more mature grasp pattern. For some kiddos, these may still be too long and they’ll be able to hold them with their whole hand, but this is a good introduction to using smaller writing tools.
I use golf pencils for the same reason I use Pip-Squeaks markers. I like these because they already have erasers on them.
Bean bags can be used to work on catching/throwing skills, but also other skills you may not think of at first glance. You can balance them on different body parts (while going through an obstacle course), you can pick them up with your feet while sitting and that works on core strength.
This one is probably super obvious, but I like having a handheld whiteboard that can move around the clinic with us. I use mine to write visual schedules, reward charts, practice handwriting, play pictionary, and for children who have hyperlexia, it helps them visually see what request I am making of them.
Everyone loves bubbles. I like using a bubble gun because 1: it’s germ-safe, and 2: it works on fine motor skills. Obviously regular bubbles work great too (especially for oral-motor skills), but in my experience the bubble gun is way more popular with the little ones.
Tweezers are definitely a must-have. I use tweezers in almost every aspect of my sessions. I use them during messy play, I use them when doing obstacle courses, I use them during feeding sessions, the list goes on. If a kiddo doesn’t want to touch a certain food, I’ll let them pick it up with tweezers. If we’re doing a puzzle, I’ll put the pieces in a bucket and we’ll “fish” them out with tweezers. Anytime I have a lesson that incorporates tiny items, I’ll throw in some tweezers to add a fine motor strength component.
This one is obvious, but can be used in a lot of different ways. If we’re not making a craft and cutting the paper, we can simply practice ripping paper, which works on bilateral skills. We can crumple the paper into small balls and blow them along the table in a race to the end. We can learn origami, we can throw it in the air like confetti and then use our fingers (or tweezers!) to pick up the pieces and do it all over again. The possibilities are endless
If you are making crafts, glue is a must. I personally prefer glue sticks over glue bottles, because they don’t dry up or get stuck as often as bottles do. They’re also less messy (for when you’re not doing messy play). I prefer the purple glue sticks simply because visually it’s better to know where to stick things.
Scissors are also a no-brainer, but there are A LOT of types of scissors. These loop scissors are great for kiddos who are just being introduced to cutting, or have limited use of their hands. You only need to squeeze down on the scissors to cut. Eventually when hand strength increases, you can move onto standard scissors which you can find at the dollar store, but these are my favorite “intro” scissors.
Overall, if I had all of these in my “OT box” as a new grad, I’d feel prepared. I would be able to use my imagination to create meaningful sessions that worked on the variety of goals each of my clients had.
What are some items you would include in your OT box? Let me know in the comments!