The Recycling Occupational Therapist is only $25.00 with free shipping with Paypal

Offer only applies in continental United States

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Many Uses of Sensory Pull Handles

Source: Sensory Pull Activity for Children with Autism or Sensory Processing Disorders by RecyclingOT

This is one of the easiest therapy tools I have ever designed and made and I love it because i can use it in numerous ways.  Its also small,  light and quick to make out of detergent bottle handles and a strip of fabric.  Simply cut the handles as shown int he photos. Thread the fabric through the center handle (white in the photo) and tie ends to the other two bottles (green and red in the photo) .

If your goal is to develop a palmar grasp present the handle to the person and help him to gasp and pull while you  hold the white center handle. The person will experience the immediate success of pulling so that the fabric moves a short distance. This works very well in a small group activity where you take turns moving from one individual to the next. The children (or adults) have minimal demands placed on them since their turn is brief and they get to watch others have their turns.

I have used this activity while children are sitting on a horse facingforwards, sideways or backwards and while kneeling and standing on top of the horse. I have incorporated pulling the handles while they do sit-ups and while prone-moving into prone extension. You can do similar reaching activities that challenge the person's postural control using a swing or bolster.
Pulling hard on anything provides proprioceptive stimulation to muscles and joints. I discovered that some individuals are quite strong and can pull to the point of ripping the fabric. So I have used extra wide and strong materials to use this in an activity between older individuals who benefit from pulling hard while at the same time following my directions to let go of their handle (i.e. red) while the other person takes a turn pulling (i.e. green handle). This set-up promotes social skills ! 
One of the videos shows a client swinging on a hammock in a sensory room. He learned to maintain his grasp while I pulled hard enough to move the swing.
I also reinforce directionality concepts when I tell clients to pull upward or downward, left or right, even diagonally. Then I position the handle so that they don't have an option other than to follow my directions.

If you have enjoyed this post-please share my website, courses, books and toys on your blogs and Facebook pages................

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Motor Planning to remove shapes from long flat strips

I love this activity because it develops many skills and can be used in different ways according to the child or adults abilities. I cut the long white strip from a large bleach bottle by cutting in a spiral direction and then cutting again to even it out and make smooth. The shapes can vary in size and have 1 or 2 notches.  They are inserted onto the plastic strip in much the same way as one would string beads. But the flat shapes are easier to grasp and manipulate and do not roll away. The notches can be extra large if you need to make this easier. The notches can also be small and snug so that the person has to use force to pull them off- nice proprioceptive sensory stimulation....Very young children or older individuals with developmental delays can simply remove the shapes to insert into a container with a slotted lid. This works on skills to use the hands together and develops eye-hand coordination needed to insert the shapes into the slot. It also works on motor planning since as you can see in the video it can be challenging to plan how to move the shape closest to the end where it will be removed. Attaching the shapes that have 2 notches is a bit like weaving, only easier because there are only 2 notches to weave through. Some individuals will be able to create a color or shape pattern as they weave the shapes in a sequence. One woman who has higher level skills enjoyed weaving them on so that a gentleman sitting next to her could pull them off to insert into a container.  She enjoys having the helper role, so this worked well for her. The gentleman loves to insert pennies into a bottle slot and does that every day. This new activity is similar and familiar enough to give him comfort but it is more cognitively challenging, more interesting since he has to sequence removing each shape before inserting them. this is a perfect example of creating slight variation to a familiar task.   
You can also see how removing shapes from my "Weavable Toys" shapes worked on similar skills.
This is also a great activity to promote upper extremity reaching and exercise for people who spend a lot of time sitting.  

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Using Pool Noodles to Adapt Ring Stacks

I have been making a variety of different ring stacks over the years. I also use swimming noodles a lot when creating activities. The PT at work recently brought in some very nice old noodles while cleaning out her basement and I ended up making some rings to stack out of them.

They also work well when stringing them onto thick cord. I happened to have this plastic cane left over from some other activity. I wedged it inside the oatmeal container. The cane is very long and extends all the way to the bottom. Inside the container the cane is wedged inside a section of noodle that is wrapped up in a bag of sand. So this is now heavy enough to not easily topple over. I also added a bit of the red duct tape to make the tip of the candy cane softer.  

Below is a photo of a very simple noodle ring stack, obviously made by wedging the noodle inside a box. The rings can be cut out of various round cardboard containers such as the oatmeal box or  use round plastic cut out of detergent bottles or coffee can lids. 
One wonderful thing about these noodles is that you can push a motor from a pen or toothbrush inside it.Here is a picture of a vibrating ring stack with the blue noodle wedged inside an OJ bottle.  I had this pink spiral shaped object hanging around in the attic for years. It was originally part of a toy helicopter that involved pulling and shooting something into the sky.  There must be a lot of little toys like that around with such a spiral shape to use in a spiral ring stack like the one shown below. I wedged  and taped the pink spiral into a tube I had and then wedged that inside the noodle. Add tape to secure all in place and you can certainly adapt to the height and size that you need. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Weighted Bottle Activities

I was very impressed to see the how the staff at my new adult day services program integrates movement and proprioceptive input into the day using plastic containers filled with sand.

Unfortunately , you will need to turn your head if on a computer or turn your tablet or phone to see the photo correctly. But as you can hopefully see, they used a lot of plastic coffee containers and some detergent bottles (not show in the photo).

The containers are lined up on the floor against the wall and the individuals pick them up to place onto the cart. Sometimes they walk across the room to do this. I have also put bands around the containers that they need to stretch to remove. These activities not only give sensory feedback, helps with sensory modulation and decreasing problematic behaviors, they also strengthen and increase physical endurance overall. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The "LIKE" Box

Here is an activity designed to develop motor planning skills since the person needs to move the shapes first horizontally and then vertically to make them go down. Some of my clients were able to color match.

One young  lady named this activity the "Like box" because she liked it. She has cerebral palsy and uses her left hand to stabilize materials. This activity also benefited another client who avoids using his hands together- he did this well to stabilize the plastic strip while inserting the shape. I think that some of my blind clients will like this, too. Some will add the shapes-other will remove them to insert into a container.

I cut the strips from large bottles so that there is an L shape on one end and a flat base on the other. After I cut a notch into the top of the box, I inserted the tip of the L shapes and the larger base of the strip  presses against the bottom of the box. I taped the bottoms in place from inside the box. After all the color strips are attached I crammed pieces of cardboard so that all is snug inside and also this added weight to the box to prevent sliding on the table. Then I covered all sides with the black contact paper.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Placing Swirly Bottles into Box Sections

 I knew that the little plastic pieces that are punched out during production of my Weavable Toys would come in handy. I asked my friend the designer/manufacturer to save them. You can see the process in the first photo. then I inserted some inside a water bottle filled about halfway with tap water (after I drank the spring water up). I secured the cap in place with duct tape. My clients have been enjoying shake, swirl and then placing them inside the box sections. These boxes are readily available at liquor stores, so  if they are destroyed they can be easily replaced.  


Sunday, October 13, 2013

World OT Day !!

 World OT Day!

I am offering these blog posts to be used on the Blog Carnival in celebration of : World OT Day.

This year is going to be the third annual World OT Day Blog Carnival! World OT Day is celebrated on October 27th every year, which is coming up fast!

They are:

These posts relate to how occupational therapists love using movement and weighted adaptations to promote body awareness and skill .

Thanks to Linda at

Monday, October 7, 2013

Card Holder

I evaluated a woman today who has hemiplegia and no use of her left hand. She said that she wanted to be able to play cards without everyone seeing them.

I told her that I would try to adapt something out of an egg carton, but realize that I do not have an empty one.

Instead, I cut  3 sides of a small cardboard box and taped to create the triangular shape. I cut another piece of cardboard that had a folded side attached to it. then I taped it all in place so that the cards rest on the rim created by the side of a box. 

I love how boxes are so readily available and I can choose the size that enables me to create the type of angles I want. This one ended up being pretty stable. I think that she will like it !

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Ring Stacks

Its fun to explore different types of ring stacks to use with older children and adults with developmental disabilities. I recently evaluated a young man who uses a lateral grip and it was easier for him to grasp flat donut shapes than 3 dimensional rings.

I wedged the motor to the Sguiggly Wiggly motorized pen inside the noodle  and the sound and vibration helped him to focus on the task and make it more interesting.

The photos show a tall pole ring stack made out of PCV pipe. It is sunk into a coffee can (now old and rusted) to stabilize. I was able to push a swimming noodle over the pipe to add a nicer texture and color. I then taped the additional blue noodle to the top because I wanted it to be higher- to use with the client while standing and then was able to push the motor inside the noodle opening.

You can also use fabric rings as shown in the picture but my client preferred the flat plastic ones. I have made many rings by filling socks with plastic bags and stitching closed. I added that colorful duct tape to a few spots where the noodle ripped.

If you are working with an individual who needs to sit while working, try pushing a dowel or noodle inside a bottle so that the person can grasp the handle with one hand to stabilize while placing rings.

I did a little experimentation with this one- I wedged a small plastic bottle to the top of the plastic tube. This small bottle (sold holding saline water) is filled with water and colorful plastic pieces. I can shake it to get the person's attention.    The person I used it with today LOVED it.

You can purchase a long clear plastic tube to cut up and use in making ring stacks. They are sold in hardware stores to hold long florescent light bulbs. I fill these with colorful objects.

Lastly, I share a photo of a ring stack made by wedging part of a pool noodle into a box. This is a very fast and easy activity to make and you can use cardboard or plastic tubes if you have them available instead of the noodle.

The individuals may then decorate the box with paint, gluing  tissue paper, stickers or contact paper. then when the box gets lost or breaks, its very easy and inexpensive to make a new one.......


Monday, September 30, 2013

Straw Holder


I need a straw holder to try out with a client and do not have the patience to order one. Nor do I want to spend 20 dollars!!! I just cut the shape from two  sides of a detergent bottle and punched holes. I can quickly make new ones when they get lost and adjust the size and location of the holes as needed. It stabilized the straw nicely when I drank out of this, so I think it will work  with the client.
Having something new to try makes work fun!
I use a heavy duty hole puncher from an office supply store and leather shears- from a sewing or office supply store.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Few Apple Fine motor Activities

These apples are easy to make by cutting colorful juice, detergent or dishwasher soap bottles. Choose green, yellow or red bottles to vary your types of apples. 

Children and adults with disabilities of all ages will enjoy these crafts while developing eye hand coordination. In fact, children as young as 1-2 years of age may pull the worms out of the apples. Weaving the worms back inside will develop dexterity as children use these during pretend play..... 
The video shows 3 different apple fine motor activities. Pushing the circles into holes in the large apple develops the strong fingers required to grasp a writing tool effectively. Apple lacing puzzles may have as few as 3 pieces or several to lace onto the large apple frame.  Vary the colors used to make orange pumpkins, yellow zucchini or green acorn squash! 

Source: Make Your Own Apple Toys for Preschoolers by RecyclingOT on Rumble

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Weaving onto round strips

My 4 year old client  is able to weave the plastic shapes from the Weavable Toys: Basic Shapes kit (she is weaving a pink one in thepicture) onto a round strip (blue in picture) with just a little bit of help pushing the tip through the 2nd notch. This is a great way to work on motor planning skills and bilateral coordination.
I have recently begun working at a program with adults who have developmental disabilities. I was impressed with some of the sensory activities designed to get them moving. One activity is to move large containers filled with sand to different locations.  I made this lacing activity by cutting up a large container (its white) into one very long strip.  I am going to try to find a weighted container that fits inside so that it will stay in one spot. Then I will see if some of the individuals who need sensory input like pulling the shapes off to insert into containers. They will need to extend their arms above the head in order to pull these off while standing. 
 I cut the weaving shapes such as the bananas and goldfish shown in photos from plastic that I cut from detergent bottles. I decided to make them identifiable objects- so made blue stars, yellow bananas, gold fish, green apples and red hearts. I think that some of the individuals will enjoy sorting these after removal. Weaving them back onto the strip will be another motor planning task to explore. Although I continue to enjoy designing and making activities out of recycled materials, notice that the weaving strip and shapes that the girl above is using were professionally manufactured. I assume that many folks do not want to make these themselves. My prototypes are a softer, more flexible, easier to weave plastic and the notches are perfectly consistent in size and spacing.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Retro Baby: A Book Review

Dr. Anne Zachry has long been sharing her expertise on her pediatric occupational therapy tips blog at:
 Now parents can benefit from her wisdom by reading Retro Baby (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2013).  Like many in the early childhood development field, Dr. Zachry is concerned about the impact of the commercialization of baby development. The solution is getting back to baby basics…..
Advertisements have been around a long time, but parents today are inundated with messages coming from stores, televisions, tablets and Iphone screens-telling them what expensive positioning device or learning tools speed up development, enabling babies to compete in our complex world. Retro Baby is here to refute the claims and share the facts about child development. This guide actually teaches parents how to prevent harming their children! So let’s take a look at this Retro World……
Dr. Zachry begins by comparing the parent of a generation ago who might have purchased 1 or 2 items, perhaps a stroller or baby backpack to use during a walk. Today the choices are overwhelming and expensive as parents are told to buy positioning devices (i.e. bouncy seats, jumpers, walkers and learning saucers). These devices take time away from the sensory stimulation gained from active movement while held or on the floor.
 Retro Baby explores the impact of smart toys and the so called educational television shows and DVDs that are supposed to produce baby Einsteins. I love how the author researches the facts, provides references for further study and then simplifies concepts for readers in the ‘Truth Be Told” sections. For example, babies don’t need electronic toys….. "a simple set of building blocks provides endless entertainment and is wonderful for baby’s visual and motor skill development.”  
Readers, of course need to not only learn what pitfalls to avoid, but how to get back to basics such as:
·        Providing a variety of safe, stimulating tummy time activities and why this is sooooo important!
·        Stimulating the visual system to develop depth perception and eye-hand coordination
·        Positioning to avoid skull deformities and torticollis
·        Suspended mobiles to stimulate visual tracking, listening and focusing
·        Baby massage
·        Activities to improve head control and focus such as singing Patty Cake with baby sitting on parent’s belly  

Dr. Zachry also includes a wealth of information and activities that address concerns such as:
·        Overcoming “tummy-time “ resistance
·        Positioning and stretching strategies for babies with skull deformities or torticollis
·        When and how to swaddle a baby safely
·        How to choose safe equipment such as changing tables and cribs
Chapters 6-10 focus on the Retro activities baby boomers such as myself grew up with -when high tech meant Captain Kangaroo on television…. These chapters include a wealth of developmental activities such as
·        Playing horsey while bouncing on mama’s knees-for sensory stimulation and developing trunk strength
·        Pulling scarves out of containers-to develop fine-motor control
·        “Rock-On” activity- to develop standing balance and;
·        “Shop’til you drop” activity -to develop squatting skills
As the Recycling Occupational Therapist, of course I love Dr. Zachry’s low cost, yet effective approach and frequent use of home-made learning toys/activities.  I highly recommend this book to the discerning parents who want to provide sensory rich “Retro” learning environments.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Great Therapy Dog info!

I recently came across and want to share the website
This is a pediatric occupational therapy clinic that integrates a therapy dog named Tinder into the treatment sessions.
Check out this page to see a few of the ways a therapy dog helps to:
*make therapy fun
*provide sensory stimulation
*reduce anxiety
*motivate and engage

Here is an example of how Tinder is used as a prop while a child practices buttoning skills...

Check out lots of other great photos on their FaceBook page:

and videos, too....


Monday, September 9, 2013

How to Use Weavable Toys- Basic Shapes

Weavable Toys (patent Pending) by RecyclingOT, LLC are available via Paypal on my website:
 page: They cost $20.00 and for a limited time shipping is free within the continental U.S. 
Note: Boards are approximately 6 inches in width and height.  
Activities can be graded according to the child's abilities:
  1. Younger children may simply remove the colorful shapes from the white strips
  2. or remove the shapes from the white strips that are woven through the boards (circle, square, rectangle and triangle). It is generally easier to develop dexterity by teaching children to first develop skills to remove the shapes. (Many 3 and 4 year olds can do this).
  3. Teach how to weave the shapes onto only the white strips without using boards or
  4. Weave the white strips through the black boards without using the shapes
  5. Finally- after practice the child is ready to weave the colorful shapes onto the white strips while weaving onto the board... (these last 3 activities are suitable for children 4-6 years of age).

Notice how the green shape on top is woven into the board using the same notches as the orange shape below it on the other side........ Pretty tricky!

The mushroom shaped tips on the strips woven into the squares and circles prevent them from falling out while weaving.

 More challenging activities include:
1. Sequencing color patterns
2. Copying designs from another board or a photo of a board
3. Trace around the shapes or boards with woven shapes as though they were stencils. then see if the child can color them in to look like the design they had woven into the board.
4. Press Wikki Stix or pipe cleaners around the borders. Remove and color in.
4. Looking at the photo such as the one on the left and visualize how the lavender stars look on the other side. Then weave to create the designs on both sides. This might be the most challenging of all !

 These materials can be used by typically developing children to develop eye-hand coordination and visual-perceptual skills. However, they are also ideal in helping children with challenges to learn how shapes are formed. All children can enjoy choosing how to arrange their shapes and colors for creativity and learning!


Monday, August 26, 2013

Alphabet Soup by Lyn Armstrong OTR/L

I am thrilled to have discovered occupational therapist Lyn Armstrong's website and book.

I was also honored to learn that she knew who I was and had been sharing my books with parents at her training workshops!!!
These workshops- geared towards groups, impart information to enhance the classroom environment and home instruction, and to improve the child's educational progress.  Click on the link above for the list of workshop topics or email her for more information at

Alphabet Soup by Lyn Armstrong is a compilation of fun activities to develop an interest in letters. It is written for parents who want to help their young children build foundational concepts  such as:
  • 1. letters stand for an object's name
  • 2. letters are a means of communication
  • 3. letters are part of everyday life
  • 4. letter learning can be fun
Children learn these concepts best by putting away workbooks and pencils and engaging in fun, creative play activities. I love how the author begins by describing how to motivate children by beginning with familiar tasks and teaching to develop trust, learning and finally proficiency.  Each activity includes:
  • materials needed
  • how to construct and use/play
  • what developmental skills are worked on (i.e. gross motor, fine motor, perceptual, language, tactile etc.)  

Activities are designed to appeal to a young child's interest in play experiences such as ball games,  driving toy cars or pretend play with dragons. The video below demonstrates an example of how Air Hockey using the nasal syringe develops hand strength, visual tracking, social skills and handwriting as the boy keeps score.

Alphabet Soup also focuses on using visualization and stories to learn and remember letter formations. For example, a story about going fishing with lowercase c, a, d, and g  involves a fairy godmother waving her magic wand to turn Mr. c into an a. Now that letter a has one little foot to hop around on!

The book's illustrations are fun and describe the games well. Beginning on page 57 readers will enjoy bonus lists of activities that develop
  • strength
  • organization and sequencing skills
  • bilateral hand use
  • finger dexterity
  • pre-writing skills such as making letters out of dough 
and how to adapt commercially available games to work on different skills
  • removing the Cootie (by Hasbro) bugs from play dough
  • sorting ants from Ants in the Pants (Hasbro) according to color
  • placing matching letters on Don't Break the Ice (Hasbro) ice cubes to hit.

Armstrong also sells sturdy alphabet playing cards that can be used to play traditional games such as Go Fish. Since the children will be using easy to identify letters, games reinforce letter identification and discrimination.
I recommend Alphabet Soup for 75 pages of activities and teaching strategies that develop many foundational skills required for reading and writing. Young children deserve fun and games and this book provides exactly that!

Check out a long list of helpful blog posts at:

Friday, July 26, 2013

Phonics Phone from bottle Handles

I came across this blog about phonics phones. I had never heard of this before but Face book Friends say they are fun and can help improve reading fluency since they amplify sound and can help children focus and pay attention to sounds while they speak or read. This nice teacher explains in her blog why and how to make them out of PCV pipes....

So I had to try this out by cutting up a couple of handles from detergent bottles. I pushed one inside the other and taped in place with the snazzy duct tape. You can easily adjust for size. I will add tape to the 2 ends to make extra smooth but wanted to show you how it looked first.  I have to say that it does nicely amplify sound. But I have no idea if it provides the same result as the ones made from pcv pipe or purchased. I can easily make them out of different color bottles and let children choose colors and have their very own for hygiene purposes. I think that the one I just made is actually from handles cut from very large OJ bottles. I collect the handles thinking that I will have a use and here we go.... 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Opening Button Squares

I brought some button squares to try out with my older clients 2 girls are 4 years old and the first child in the video is a 3 year old boy.  Button squares are easier to manipulate than the buttons on clothing. The child can bring them right up to the face and grasp close to the button and button hole without the clothing getting in the way. I cut the "buttons" out of detergent bottles so that they can be extra large.

You will see in the video the towel that  I sometimes use during hippotherapy. I sewed  blue and red pockets to them so that the children can color match when opening up the button squares.  I also like teaching them to sequence taking each piece from the respective pockets to fasten. I was amazed to find that one little girl visually attended and motor planned to unbutton. Only a few months ago she was pulling and not paying attention to positioning the materials. So I think that someone at home and school must be working on this, also...... 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Untying cord to Remove Rings

 My focus today was to teach my older clients to untie loose knots to remove small rings. First I made some rings the size I wanted by cutting up as shampoo bottle.

 My 4 year old had very good attention and effort today. She listened and persisted when I told her to move around  the blue and red cords (actually strips of fleece that feel great) rather than just tugging to untie the knots . I'm sure that there are many different ways to practice this skill, but this was one that didn't lend itself to hand-over-hand teaching. I just made sure that the knots were loose enough so that they could succeed pretty quickly before being discouraged.

The children loved the reward of stacking the rings on top of the cat toy mouse. It makes a nice mouse sound and the kids need to stabilize the spring while placing the ring.

 Placing the rings was at just the right level for the 2 year old in the video- teaching her to use her hands together .