Incorporate Therapy Activities into Everyday Life!

There are many ways to incorporate therapy activities into everyday life; even with little or no supplies! There are a many benefits to embedding developmental strategies into your family’s daily routine. They include:

  1. Your child will feel involved and empowered to help with activities around the house.
  2. Your child will learn to use language not only during playtime, but during daily routines, as well.
  3. Allows your child to acquire and learn language in real life contexts. This increases generalization of language skills that are learned in therapy into everyday life.

Activity #1: Laundry

  • Sort laundry items into categories such as socks, shirts, hats, etc. Have your child imitate these words as you sort!
  • Ask your child to verbally identify items by function. For example “Show me something you wear on your feet!” if you are looking for your child to show you the socks. If your child needs support, offer choices! For example “Do you wear a sock or shirt on your feet?”
  • This helps your child increase awareness of their body parts and the function of each!
  • Make the activity silly by wearing the wrong item on your feet and have your child imitate “No!”.
  • Ask your child to verbally identify if the clothes are “cold” or “hot” coming out of the dryer! Make it silly by having your child imitate or exclaim “ouch!” as you pretend to ‘burn’ your finger on the hot clothes from the dryer!

Activity #2: Reading before bed

  • As you read a story to your child before bed, pause before turning the page and ask your child to point to the characters on the page.
  • Have your child imitate animal noises (“Moo!” or “Baa”) or car/train noises (“Beep Beep” or “Choo-Choo”) if they are found within the book. 

Activity #3: Morning Routines/Breakfast

  • Give choices on clothing items to wear. “Would you like to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt?” This helps increase independence as they learn to help dress themselves.
  • Ask your child to request what he or she needs from you to brush their teeth or comb their hair, etc. “What do we need to brush our teeth? We need ourtoothbrush! Your turn! Try toothbrush
  • Have your child make choices on what to drink at breakfast. “Would you like to drink milk or juice?”
  • Have your child imitate simple words or phrases related to breakfast. These could include “eat more”, “drink milk”, “yum”, or “juice”!
  • In addition, this helps your child work on gaining independence with feeding and using sippy cups.

Featured Learning Toy: Alphabet Nesting and Stacking Blocks


Melissa & Doug Deluxe Alphabet Nesting and Stacking Blocks

These nesting blocks help young children work on early problem solving skills. They also grow with kids and provide countless opportunities for language development. You can take turns stacking them up to practice social skills, work on imitating early play sounds using the animals pictured on the sides, or use the largest cubes to sort like objects (all cars in one, all trains in another). You can even turn the boxes on their sides to create “garages” for a child’s transportation vehicles to build pretend play skills!

Ask an Expert: How can we motivate our child to speak?

How can we motivate our child to speak? He doesn’t seem to have any interest in imitating our words.

One way to increase motivation is to use toys and activities that your child is interested in, such as cars, trains, dolls or animals. Withholding and requesting high interest toys is a great way to encourage your child to use their words to get what he/she wants. To do this, withhold the desired item until your child attempts to vocalize the request for the activity or object!

Another tactic is playing with a toy that has lots of accessories or pieces. Then have your child verbally ask for each item they need to play with. If your child isn’t responding, model the correct word until your child understands that they are expected to imitate in order to receive the item you are withholding.

Featured Learning Toy: Farm & Animals

Farm and Animals

This toy is great for eliciting imitation and spontaneous production of animal noises and other simple sounds, such as “mmm,” or other eating/drinking noises.  It is an excellent activity for facilitating pretend play, such as feeding the animals or having them run, jump, etc. It is also great for learning new simple vocabulary by labeling objects and animal body parts. This versatile toy is perfect for children ages 1-3, as you can appropriately adjust expectations for your child’s responses.

Ask an Expert: My child is getting frustrated

I thought once he started speech therapy his language would explode immediately. Now my child is just acting more frustrated with his language skills.

Practice, practice, practice! Now that your child is being asked to use their language more often, they are more likely to get frustrated since you are making them work harder to get what they want. Now, instead of pointing and using gestures, your child is being required to vocalize and use more words. Continuing to model language for your child, providing choices in which he/she is required to use language, and encouraging your child to use their words to request items will all help promote continued language use. Repetition is key, and remember, building language skills takes time and practice!

Who needs toys when we have our own creativity?


Imaginative play is crucial for both cognitive and language development, and the good news is that you can engage in pretend play with your child almost anywhere with little to no supplies! One activity that kids love is to play “grocery store” with food already in your home. Set up food around the room and give your child a bag, box, or bowl (anything you have handy!) for them to carry food in. You can work on vocabulary, action words, requesting, and turn taking, so it is a great way to encourage language development.

How can I prepare my child to succeed in preschool?



Therapists often receive this question from parents of little ones ready to begin their journey into school. You may be asking yourself, “Is my child ready for preschool?”, “Am I ready to send them to preschool?”, or “Does my child need to attend preschool?”

The preschool environment sets a foundation for your child’s academic success by providing opportunities to interact and engage with peers, participate in structured learning activities, and increase independence. Here are five social-emotional skills to encourage as you prepare your child to enter this new environment.


1) Interaction with peers

Children learn how to engage and play with peers appropriately (sharing, turn-taking, compromising) during classroom interactions. You can encourage appropriate peer interactions within your current surroundings by seeking out opportunities that allow your child to practice engaging with peers. Some ideas include: playing simple turn-taking games with siblings or friends, bringing chalk or bubbles to share at the park, or attending a neighborhood play date.


2) Separating in familiar surroundings

If your child feels comfortable separating from you in familiar surroundings, he or she will have an easier time separating when it is time to enter the classroom. To prepare your child for this transition, begin to schedule short periods of time throughout the week that provide opportunities to practice.


3) Following simple directions

Preschool teachers will provide simple directions throughout the day to support learning. Your child’s ability to follow adult-directed activities, such as listening, understanding, and following simple directions is necessary for success. You can help prepare your child by giving simple directions throughout the day and helping them follow through (i.e. “go wash your hands” or “bring me your shoes”).


4) Anticipating routines

Preschool classrooms often follow a daily routine (circle time, story time, free play, and snack time). Building predictability into your daily schedule will help your child anticipate this. For example, create and follow a consistent bedtime routine or read a book together each day after breakfast.


5) Caring for simple needs

The preschool setting requires children to demonstrate basic self-care skills, such as washing their hands or eating meals without assistance. Build your child’s confidence in his or her ability to do things independently by providing opportunities throughout the day to practice self-care skills.


If you have concerns about your child’s emerging skills in these areas, consider enrolling them in a class through your neighborhood park district or attend our social-language playgroup where we target these specific preschool readiness skills.


Take a look at our Playgroups!

Ask an Expert: Parent Intervention

Why is it important for parents/caregivers to participate in Early Intervention Therapy sessions?

It is pretty obvious that Early Interventionists love working with your adorable little ones, but we love working with the parents/caregivers, too! The hour we spend with your child every week is incredibly valuable, however there are 167 more hours during that week that you can expand upon! Most, if not all, of the activities therapists do with your child can and should be repeated throughout the week to ensure your child getting the most out of their therapy. You may see therapists use certain strategies or language during sessions that could be helpful in another part of your child’s routine.  We encourage you to ask your therapists how you can adapt these approaches into your daily life.

Helping My Child With Transitions

getting ready

What counts as a transition? 

Transitions are the times in the day that your child moves from one activity to the next. When looking at a typical daily schedule, transitions occur from the moment your child wakes all the way through his or her bedtime routine. Examples of transitions include:

  • Getting dressed
  • Leaving the park
  • Sitting down for a meal
  • Cleaning up
  • Preparing for bed

Why does my child have difficulties with transitions?

It is important to first determine that your child’s basic needs have been met; is my child hungry, tired, or sick? If you answered “yes”, then the expectations at that time may be unrealistic for your child to follow. Before beginning a behavior routine, ensure that your child is at his or her best ability to successfully participate.

Many children struggle with transitions as their environment moves at a quicker pace, and their desire for independence grows. The demands placed on your child become stressful, developing frustration for both you and your child. This is when a power struggle begins!

Children with disabilities, such as autism, may have a greater need for predictability, difficulty when a pattern is interrupted, or trouble with understanding what activity is coming next.

How do I turn my child into a transition master?

There is great news – trouble with transitions is NOT a new problem. Many therapists, teachers, and parents use tried and true methods for helping children move from one activity to the next.

Consistency: If a transition occurs frequently (e.g. bedtime, brushing teeth), it is important to make the transition as consistent as possible. For example, if your child avoids brushing his or her teeth, make the expectation known that brushing teeth occurs as soon as your child wakes up and before reading a book at night. Once your child knows the routine, the difficulties following it disappear.

Provide (limited) choices: When it comes time to clean up an activity, you can ask your child “Do you want to clean up by yourself or would you like me to help you?” At first, your child might ignore you or begin to tantrum. When this happens, calmly use hand-over-hand assistance to help your child put their toy away. It is essential for your child to learn to follow your directions! At first, you may become more upset; however, your child will quickly learn to successfully follow instructions.

Use visuals: It is often helpful for a child to understand what is coming next. A visual schedule using pictures of each activity for the day will prepare a child for what is coming next. A timer will allow your child to understand what “two more minutes” means and prepare accordingly.

Allow your child to feel heard: When your child is upset, explain that you understand. For example, you can say, “I can see that you are feeling sad.” I know that you were having fun with your cars! Right now it is time for lunch. We can play with your cars tomorrow”. This not only allows you to demonstrate empathy, but also gives your child a model for appropriate language to express him or herself.

If you have further questions regarding transitions or other behavior concerns, please contact a social worker at Playworks Therapy to help meet your needs!

Ask an Expert: But, my child doesn’t have an occupation??

My child doesn’t have an occupation, why does she/he need occupational therapy?

Social Work Web

Occupations can be defined as “activities that people engage in throughout their daily lives to fulfill their time and give life meaning” (AOTA, 2008). For young children these occupations can include activities of daily living (dressing, eating), play, rest and sleep, and social interaction. If something is preventing a child from participation in these occupations such as a diagnosis or developmental delay, occupational therapy can help. Occupational therapists are trained to modify the environment, develop skills, and promote meaningful engagement in all the areas of occupation for children.

References: Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process (2008). The American Occupational Therapy Association, Bethesda, MD.