A Guiding Star to Navigate Autism, Mental Health and Special Needs at Every Stage of Life
How to Do Occupational Therapy in a Small Living Space

How to Do Occupational Therapy in a Small Living Space

By Fraser Senior Occupational Therapist Kendra Williams and Pam Dewey • June 11, 2020

With everyone being home at the same time, people are adjusting to what feels like are much smaller confines of their living space — whether it’s a four-bedroom home, a condo or an apartment. For parents with children with physical, sensory or cognitive issues, you may also be trying to continue therapy at home through telehealth.

Occupational therapy helps individuals improve physical or mental limitations by performing daily activities. Therapies that require movement, like occupational therapy, are challenging in small living spaces. While at a Fraser clinic, children may use slides or swings during occupational therapy.

But with telehealth, your family may have only a few extra feet to move around in for therapy. Here are some occupational therapy activities Fraser Senior Occupational Therapist Kendra Williams suggests that work for families in smaller living spaces.

  • Fill a pillowcase with stuffed animals, and pull it up an incline or stairs.
  • Take the cushions off the sofa, put these on the floor and army crawl across the cushions.
  • Pull other children or heavy items around on a sheet or blanket across the floor.
  • Use shaving cream, which helps children who have a negative response to certain textures. You can have your child squish shaving cream between fingers and toes and rub across the body for a soothing, fun activity.
  • Perform household chores like vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, dusting, wiping off a table, cleaning windows or changing sheets on the bed.
  • Engage in baking activities where your child stirs the batter or kneads the dough.
  • Perform yard work like raking leaves, planting flowers or pulling up weeds. Or in an apartment, have your child help you plant seeds inside in empty egg cartons or other found materials.
  • Participate in activities like dancing or yoga.
  • Push against a wall and try to make it “move.”
  • While on hands and knees, color a rainbow with a piece of large paper on the floor or the sidewalk with chalk.
  • Use simple puzzles or shape sorters to provide structure to obstacle courses. Put all of the pieces on one end of the room and the puzzle board on the other. Next, have your child engage in a movement they enjoy like doing an animal walk, walking across “a balance beam” or jumping on “lily pad” pillows to retrieve puzzle pieces one at a time.
  • Create a sensory bin by filling a plastic tub with a carefully selected material to stimulate the senses. You could use a bucket with beans, colored rice, pom-poms or cotton balls, depending on your child’s preferences.

Your child’s occupational therapist can help personalize activities based on the materials you have on hand and on your space.

“Don’t get frustrated if something doesn’t work for your child,” Williams says. “Occupational therapy is all about learning what does and doesn’t work for children, so we can help them learn and grow.”