Like many pediatric occupational therapists (OTs) in the field today, you probably consider your tablet an essential part of your bag of tricks. Tablets are great for keeping notes, organizing schedules and assessing new patients. Using tablets, pediatric OTs can access indispensable tools for aiding treatment and development. Plus, few things rival the chance to engage children with a favorite game or app – if tablet games can boost children’s skills, everyone wins!
There are plenty of great app options to try with your students. And there continue to be new ones rolling out as we write. So, to save you time and help narrow your list to a few essentials, here are our app picks for those in pediatric OT jobs.
- Dexteria – When you visit the website for this family of apps, you’ll be greeted by rave reviews from parents and fellow therapists, as well as numerous industry awards. These apps are specifically designed to help children with many skills, including fine motor, reading and math concepts. Also from the Dexteria company comes P.O.V. (Point of View), which is a set of activities that teach spatial reasoning skills through fun, challenging, interactive activities. It’s a favorite among many professionals. Most Dexteria apps are available from the iTunes store and Google Play. Check them out at http://www.dexteria.net/.
- iDoodle Card – This one is fun and FREE! It encourages young minds to work on basic visual motor and visual perceptual skills using 54 different drawing activities—including mazes, coloring, drawing, and freehand. The app offers six primary-colored markers and an eraser. As a cool bonus, users can save their creations with screenshots that can be referenced outside of the app. Look for this one in the iTunes store.
- Cut the Buttons – Packing a satisfying punch, Cut the Buttons challenges little hands to use virtual scissors to cut buttons off fabric snippets using thumb and forefinger. There’s even a container at the bottom to catch the falling buttons. Children must also stay on the lookout for screws that will dull their scissors. Because it’s so engaging, time on this app is great for in-session work or as a reward for a job well done. Cut the Buttons is available from iTunes and the Google Play store.
- Fluidity – Like a virtual lava lamp, this app calms and soothes while treating kids to a beautiful and interactive experience. Users control the flow and change colors with the tips of their fingers. Fluidity combines visual stimulation with fine motor practice. It’s also free and available on iTunes.
- iWrite Words – Packed with activities that teach children to write, this app improves fine motor skills and handwriting. It’s an excellent basic letter tracing app (children can also opt to trace words), that provides visual and auditory feedback, alerting children when they’re staying on the lines or straying from the lines. It also auto-corrects, sending back to the beginning of the letter if they’re forming it incorrectly. Find this low-cost app on iTunes.
- Highlights Hidden Pictures – There’s a reason Hidden Pictures from Highlights Magazine continues to be a classic favorite—children simply love them! And now this well-known visual perception activity is an app with over 50 hidden picture activities to work on figure ground skills. As children find the hidden pictures and touch them on the screen, they turn from black and white to color. When they finish the whole puzzle, the entire picture comes to life with color! Download this one from the Highlights App Store at https://www.highlights.com/store/apps.
- Pocket Pond – For little nature lovers, this app provides an enjoyable way to brush up on some skills. Children can listen to the sounds of nature while interacting with frogs and fish on the screen. Encourage them to use their fingers to scare, watch and feed the critters. The water even ripples in response to touch! Download your own pond from the iTunes or GooglePlay stores.
- Annoying Sounds App – For those that are bothered or distracted by certain sounds, this app may help with desensitization. With it, you can let children listen to different sounds and then turn the volume down, up, or off as much as they like. The Annoying Sounds app is FREE to download from both the Google Play and iTunes store.
- Slide and Spin – This app was specifically designed for toddlers ages 1.5 and up. It’s a great fine motor skill boost for four basic motions—turning, sliding, spinning, and pushing of a button. All you need to do is turn it on and encourage little hands to simply slide, spin or push one of the four buttons to reveal hidden surprises. Check it out in the iTunes app store!
- Sightwords – No need to bog yourself down with a big bag of old fashioned word cards. Bolster reading skills this with this app that includes 315 words categorized by age group. You can download it FREE from both the iTunes store and the Google Play Store.
- Songify – We all know that songs have incredible power over memory, which is why they can be incredible tools for improving speech and language. This app builds on that idea to turn everyday phrases and words into songs! Children will have fun singing along while talking and practicing their speech and language.
Do *you* have a favorite occupational therapy app that didn’t make the list? Please share your experiences—what’s worked and what hasn’t—with us. We strongly believe that your input makes our community stronger and enhances the lives of those we serve. Please comment below!