Back to the Basics… Letting Kids be Kids This Summer

By: Anna Cole McTish OTD, OTR/L

Anyone else excited that summer is here? For me, summertime always brings back memories of a childhood filled with the freedom to just BE A KID. Summer is a special time of year for kids. The stress of school is lifted off their shoulders and they have the “freedom” to go outside, stay outside, be active, explore, be creative, and enjoy time with family and friends.

In Outpatient Pediatric OT, we often see an influx of patients this time of year because families now have the time to bring their children to therapy and/or they now have the time to commit to a weekly or every other week therapy frequency. Regardless of why a child is in therapy this summer, it is important to keep in mind that although the family now has extra time to devote to therapy, it doesn’t mean that we can’t let our pediatric patients still be kids. Why can’t we reach our goals and still allow kids to be kids this summer?

Below you will find a compilation of some activities that provide therapeutic benefit but are also FUN (for kids and parents)!

  1. Chalk – great for fine motor control/strength and handwriting. Want a little letter recognition and sensory input? Have the child write out the letters of the alphabet on the concrete. Once completed, have them jump or animal walk to a letter that you call out.
  2. Gardening – great for UE strength, fine motor control, counting, and sensory input. Have the child dig in the dirt to plant small seeds. No room for a garden? Have the child spray plants or water the grass with a squirt bottle to improve hand and finger strength.
  3. Wheelbarrow walk/animal walk races – great for UE strength and proprioceptive/vestibular input. Add grass or sand into the mix for some extra sensory input to those hands and feet!
  4. Flashlight tag – great for sensory input before bed and visual tracking
  5. Dance party – great for staying active during the day and providing opportunity for sensory input, coordination practice, and LE strengthening. Difficulty with following directions or motor planning? Make up some dance moves that the child has to follow.
  6. Painting – great for fine motor control. Want some additional tactile input? Paint with sticks, cotton balls, leaves, etc. Want to add some vestibular input? Have the child in the prone position on the swing and place the canvas underneath them for gentle back and forth strokes.
  7. Cone obstacle course – great for motor planning, balance, and proprioceptive/vestibular input. Have your child run, bike, skate, or scoot through and around the cones. Change up the cone pattern for a different activity.
  8. Water play – great for tactile input. Want to add some visual motor skills practice? Have the child pull out matching objects from the water tub.
  9. Outdoor messy snacks – great for exploration of new foods and tactile input. Make “ants on a log” with peanut butter and raisins…add tweezers to increase fine motor work. Make a necklace out of cereal bites. Paint with smashed raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries.
  10. Don’t forget about all of the fun summer sports that have therapeutic advantages such as swimming, volleyball, bike riding, horseback riding, basketball, etc.

Have fun this summer!!


Beck, Colleen. “Summer Occupational Therapy Activities.” The OT Toolbox, 3 May 2018,

Koscinksi, Cara. “20 Summer FUN Ideas (OT Approved!).” Pocket Occupational Therapist, 14 July 2018,

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