Rock Star Pediatric Occupational Therapy Practitioners are often on a VERY limited budget. Budget-friendly pediatric OT tools that work on multiple areas are a great investment. And my favorite spot to get them?
THE DOLLAR STORE!
The Dollar Tree, 5 Below, or the “budget’ section of Walmart, Target, etc. are all wonderful places to find fun, cheap therapy tools. I regularly use these must-have supplies with my students. Make sure to check out my list of fidgets from the dollar store, too!
These are the 10 Dollar Store Therapy Tools Every OT has to have:
Work on fine motor skills to deal and manipulate, bilateral coordination to hold and deal, visual perceptual skills, and more! Teach your kids to build card houses, play go fish, or lay out the cards to play the game "Spit," one of my all-time favorite OT card games.
Play "keep it up" or "bat the balloon." Write sight words on the balloon and play "hot potato." Have the children stuff the balloons with beans to make a simple D-I-Y stress ball. Plus they fit in your pocket — score!
3. Painters Tape or Washi Tape
Make a balance stripe or a hopscotch board on the floor, create an obstacle course, or teach children to peel tape off the table to work on fine motor skills. Make an X on the wall and teach your kids to throw at a target. The possibilities are endless. And don't forget to tape your worksheets and pegboards to a visual surface to promote shoulder and wrist stability!
4. Pegboard or pegboard games (Lite brite, secret code, battleship, etc.)
Look in the "Party Favors" section of the dollar store, Target, or Five Below. These games are an easy way to work on fine motor skills, visual perception, dexterity, and turn taking all at once.
5. Pool Noodles
Where do I begin? Use pool noodles to adjust a child's chair/seat position, create a foot fidget, or act as a resistive material to stick buttons in. It's soooo versatile!
6. Kitchen Tongs
Perfect for working on hand strength, opening and closing these to grab pompoms, slices of pool noodle, or anything else works on the same muscles needs to manipulate a pair of scissors. These tools are great for improving motor skills that impact handwriting.
7. Turkey Baster
This can be difficult for weak hands, but very fun for kids to squeeze the air out of the turkey baster to blow pieces of crumpled up tissue across the table, into the end goal (made with painters tape on the table). You can also use it with two bowls of water- put a dash of food dye in one and have the child squeeze the water from the other bowl and transfer it to the food dye bowl - watch the colors change.
8. Dry Erase Markers
The dollar store sells small dry erase in 3 packs, which is great because they come in different colors, and they're so cheap you can buy enough for the whole class, or have back up for those kids who always forget to put the cap back on. If you are willing to buck up for a laminator, you will be in heaven - and you can use the same materials over and over. This one is my favorite - it's cheap, small, and works great!
9. Seasonal Craft stuff
About 6 times a year the Dollar Store changes up their craft section to colors of the season (pastel for Springs, red and green for December, etc.) This is a great time to get your beads, pom poms, craft sticks, stickers, etc. Get a bunch and use it all year long - red pom poms work for Valentine's Day and July 4th, too!
10. Seasonal Party Favors and Holiday stuff
Same as above, make sure to get any little holiday things that you can use as fine motor manipulatives, plastic heart table scatter at Valentine's Day. Change up your motor centers to go with the time of the year and make it more fun for your kids.
11. Cabinet liner
Whoops- I know I said ten but I also love cabinet liners! Use it as dycem to keep stuff (slantboards, etc.) steady on the desk, for kids who always knock the pencil case off the desk, or on the desk seat to keep wiggly bottoms on the chair! It works!
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