Summer is here and travel is on the rise! As a school-based Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA/L), I often get asked at the end of the year what types of activities are recommended during the summer. Specifically, parents often ask me for activity recommendations for travel during the summer months.
As a parent to a 2.5-year-old myself, I can appreciate and relate to the need for activities to be entertaining and developmentally stimulating while also being compact and convenient for travel. I am excited to share with you my “on-the-go activity pack” that I always take with us on our trips.
Any fun stickers will do, but for us, dot stickers are a staple in our activity pack because they are so versatile and can be used with kiddos of all ages. For babies, they are endless entertainment as they explore what exactly the sticky object on their hand is and how to get it off. For toddlers, they are an amazing tool to start introducing academic skills such as color sorting as well as for working on fine motor finger skills. For older kiddos they can be used as manipulatives for worksheets such as putting stickers on the right answer or writing letters out on the dots and working on spelling.
2. Therapy Grade Putty
As a school-based COTA, one of the skills that we work on a lot is hand and finger strength. Building up the strength in the hands leads to improved stability and precision in skills such handwriting. My daughter loves when I hide “treasures” (pony beads, craft gems, small fidgets, etc) in her putty and she has to use her fingers and hands to dig them out. Therapy grade putty can be purchased online and provide great resistance to exercise the muscles. A more readily available alternative would be popular products such as Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty, slime, and Play-Doh.
3. Pom Poms and Tweezers
So light and hardly takes up space! Similarly to stickers, pom poms and tweezers can be incorporated into pretty much any activity and provide lots of fine motor stimulation. Tweezing and picking up pom poms, sorting them by color, and placing them on designated targets is an easy way to incorporate fine motor with visual motor skills.
4. On-the-Go Game: Rush Hour
Rush Hour by ThinkFun is one of my favorite recommendations to parents. This game comes in a convenient drawstring travel bag, hardly takes up space and provides lots of developmental stimulation. From fine motor skills of moving and manipulating the small vehicle pieces to visual motor stimulation as you match then move the vehicles in order to solve the puzzle, this game is filled with underlying skills that will help students in their academic performance.
5. Wikki Stix
Wax coated sticky manipulatives that provide endless minutes of fun. Currently, I use Wikki Stix with my daughter to work on visual motor and visual perceptual skills such as simple shape building. For older kiddos, they can use them to create art of their own or incorporate them into workbook pages. They don’t dry out so it is an easy product to travel with.
The last recommendation is more of a reminder than an activity. When we travel, we often up the amount of screen time we allow our children. As a parent to a toddler, I am definitely guilty of this as screen time captures my daughter’s attention for a short amount of time that otherwise, she may be disruptive to fellow traveling passengers. The most important thing for me during this time is to remember to cue her to take visual breaks every 10 minutes. Screen time generally captures a child’s attention so much so that they won’t even look up for extended periods. It is important for children to look up from the screen and “far” away to help relax the visual accommodation or “focusing” system. Eye stretches can also be done where they are asked to slowly move their eyes up, down, left, right, and in figure 8’s.
We hope you will find some enjoyable activities using our suggestions! Happy Traveling!
Lina Awshee, COTA/L, OVT, is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant practicing in a School-Based setting. Prior to becoming a COTA/L, Lina practiced as a Certified Optometric Vision Therapist for 8+ years in the pediatric setting. She is now a mommy to her 2.5 yr old toddler and enjoys finding ways to incorporate developmental skills into fun, everyday play activities. Lina enjoys sharing her activity ideas with fellow parents on her blog and Instagram.