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7 Valentine's Day Activities to Do With Your OT Patients

occupational therapy activities

7 Valentine's Day Activities to Do With Your OT Patients

by Alana Luna, Contributor

Valentine's Day activities may not seem to have immediate relevance to occupational therapy, but there is more than one way to encourage recovery after an illness, injury or disability. Occupational therapists spend a lot of time creating exercises designed to increase independence, allowing clients to get a better handle on activities of daily living such as personal hygiene, functional mobility, eating and getting dressed.

By incorporating activities that are as fun as they are useful in terms of building skills and refining movement, OTs can keep patients engaged while also working toward key therapeutic goals. On Valentine's Day, that means finding ways to marry love and work.

1. Name that song: romance edition

There's a strong link between music and cognitive function. Take advantage of that connection by offering a guessing game suitable for the season. Make a playlist of love-themed songs (collect old-school ballads or limit your list to songs that have "love" in the title), play a bar or three for participants and whoever names the song quickest gets the points. Bonus if you can offer this lyrical diversion in a group setting to really get the competitive juices flowing.

2. Have an expert host a flower-arranging class

"Crossing the midline," when an individual reaches across the invisible center of their body to do something on the opposite side, encourages the right and left sides of the brain to stay in communication. That communication helps with things like coordination and balance. Tasks like flower arranging that involve crossing the midline are sneaky therapeutic tools that are enjoyable as well as valuable. Pick those flowers from a garden and you have an even more effective endeavor. Give the resulting bouquet to a special someone and everyone wins.

3. Make stained glass hearts

It only takes a box of tissue paper, some scissors, construction paper and a few other easy-to-find office supplies to make these stained glass hearts. Both the scissor skills and the repetitive nature of carefully placing and gluing small pieces of tissue can be therapeutic, and the finished product looks marvelous in a kitchen window or hanging in a well-lit hospital room.

4. Color inside the lines

Adult coloring books may be trendy, but there's more to whipping out markers and crayons than simply taking part in a fad. Coloring comes with a whole host of benefits including increasing focus and reducing anxiety the same way meditation might. Pick up some Valentine's Day coloring books from the store or print out pages from the internet and let patients scribble their way to mental clarity.

5. Swap traditional Valentine's Day cards for adorable origami

Writing names on store-bought Valentine's Day cards is a good way to work hand-eye coordination, grip and overall hand function, three skills essential for everyday activities like taking the cap off the toothpaste tube or wielding a hairbrush, but folding origami is even better. Print out folding instructions for origami hearts and other Valentine's-inspired designs and you'll have mini works of art that double as gifts.

6. Bake a bunch of sweet treats

Cooking calls for multiple processes, each incorporating a different skill set. Measuring ingredients and adding them to the bowl requires hand-eye coordination, decorating cookies requires fine motor skills and following a recipe requires organizational skills. Even if you don't have access to a working oven, you can lay out prebaked cookies, icing and sprinkles and have a Valentine's cookie decorating party or bring bowls of chocolate ganache and ramekins of toppings such as crushed walnuts, shredded coconut and cocoa powder so everyone can roll their own homemade truffles.

7. OT Valentine's Day activities for kids

Pediatric OTs have the often-difficult job of dreaming up activities that satisfy therapeutic requirements while also keeping little ones entertained and engaged. Valentine's Day adds another layer of complexity but also opportunities for fun, especially when you help your pint-sized patients make homemade play dough in pretty shades of pink and purple or thread red, pink and white beads onto pipe cleaners using mini-tongs or tweezers.

For patients eager to return to their "normal" routines, occupational therapy can be the key to a faster, more comprehensive recovery, and infusing therapy sessions with a little holiday cheer can be even more motivating. If you're looking for new ways to make a difference, browse the occupational therapy jobs currently available at Med Travelers.

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