A Back To School List From a School-based Occupational Therapist (PDF included)
This past week my wife and I were browsing through our local Target. I am a school-based occupational therapist
and my wife is a now a 4th-grade teacher. Neither of us work in the school district we, or this target, reside in.
So given the fact that we both work in education, you can imagine our excitement when we found this setup at Target (pictured) and realized that each teacher at the nearby schools had a handout for needed school materials.
Literally, each teacher, from each school had a handout in those little slots noting what students in their class would need.
And while yes, I know, schools should be providing all the materials (hence, a FREE and appropriate public education) the reality is that teachers (and OTs) need help sometimes.
So yeah, I thought that was super cool. But it also got me thinking...
What if OTs got to make a back to school list for parents to have?
What would I put on my list of supplies Target puts out as Mr. Davies' list of occupational therapy supplies for your child.
So, I posted this picture to Instagram and asked @Target if I could put a list of OT supplies together for them including many items children could use to succeed in schools.
I can assure you, @Target did not respond... But some of you did! A few of you raised your hands, using emojis of course.
So then I started making a list and here it is. Keep in mind, this is not for any 1 age group...
Mr. Davies' List of OT materials to help kids succeed in school
Three different types of pencils
Small or broken crayons
A fidget (not a toy)
Accordion file folder
Something appropriate to chew
Words of encouragement
See our curated Amazon shopping list with these items
(Amazon Affiliate link that supports the OT School House)
Some of these, of course, seem obvious to you who are OTs and special education teachers, but others may not. So I'm going to do two things below.
First, I'm going to explain why each made the list. And then at the bottom of the post, you can download a cheat sheet of this list to do with as you will. So let's get started.
#1 Three Different Types of Pencils
Why 3 different types of pencils? Because you never know which one is going to work for a kid. Some kids do great with a small pencil, others prefer fat pencils. Who am I to judge. As adults we all have our preference, so why shouldn't our students. I am a believer in the idea that we all gravitate to what works for us. Hence, let your student have options and see what works for them.
Here are 3 pencils you may want to try out. (Click on the picture to view on Amazon)
#2 Small or Broken Crayons
Now, I love the look and smell of a brand new box of crayons as much as the next person. But sometimes we just have to break 'em.
Crayons that are broken into small pieces, or just small in general, help children on the verge of developing in-hand manipulation skills and functional a pencil grasp. So the next time you see broken crayons about to be thrown out, grab those suckers and let the kids go crazy with them.
Break some regular crayons or check out these tiny crayons.
#3 A Fidget (not a toy)
A toy is something a child actively engages with. It not only entices their hands but also their mind. A fidget, on the other hand, keeps the hand or hands busy with minimal exertion from the mind. Sometimes a fidget can even soothe the mind without even consciously trying to do so. Think of that coin in your pocket that you sometimes mindlessly flip in your pocket or the pen you click aimlessly at your morning meeting.
If your student may need a fidget, check out these "fidgets" on Amazon.
#4 Accordion File Folder
This is one for the kids who have some difficulty organizing their papers and homework. If you know a student who's binder really does look like the dog chewed it up, this may be something worth trying out. Find one that fits into the student's backpack and can be opened without having to take it out. Then, work with your student to label each section in a way that makes sense to the child.
Here's one from Amazon:
#5 Something Appropriate To Chew On
Many kids are soothed by chewing. Chewing can work like a fidget, except it occurs in the mouth as opposed to the child's hand. Some kids wear chewable necklaces while others prefer to chew on straws. I have frequently advocated for students to be able to chew gum at school. Sometimes, just providing the student with a crunchy snack can help. Either the teacher or the parent can provide these snacks.
Here are a few things on Amazon you might try with your students:
Stickers have so many uses! They with with everything from assisting preschoolers in refining their pincer grasps and bilateral hand skills to helping first graders with spacing between words. You can check out the entire post I wrote for more ideas on why stickers are so amazing and how you can use them to help your student(s).
Check out these Emoji stickers!
#7 Tablet Stylus
Every time a child uses a tablet, we have the opportunity to reinforce their use of a pencil by using a stylus. So many schools are putting iPads into the classroom, but they are are not looking at the fine motor side effects of using a tablet. I'm seeing too many kids using their middle finger when using a tablet as opposed to their index finger. Then when they go to pick up a coin, they use their middle finger for that as well. That makes it more difficult for them to manipulate that coin or other small items. By using a stylus, you prevent children from developing poor habits through tablet use.
Check out these styluses:
Here are some apps you may want to try out as well!
Let's be honest, there are a lot of loud noises at school. Be it the teacher, the proctor, or the bell installed back in the 80's, these things can hurt little ears. Even if it doesn't damage the physical structure of the inner ear, the noises can be very disruptive to a child's focus.
They are simple and discrete; for the right student, they can make a world of a difference. Some teachers and schools will even allow students to listen to music during independent work time.
#9 Words of Encouragement
The best thing about this one, it's free. Or at least it can be. I saw this idea years ago and I think it's too simple for any parent not to do it. Just write down a few words of encouragement on a colorful paper and stick it in your child's lunch pail. You can even "batch process" several of these weeks in advance. Make it more interesting by making a game out of it.
While it may not help a student focus more in class the moment they read it, feeling loved has never hurt a child's ability to succeed.
Here's some from Amazon if you'd like to save some time of need some for the days you are in a rush.
#10 Box or Stool
Have you ever gone into your student's classroom and noticed that they cannot reach the floor with their feet when seated properly in their chair. You likely take quick note of this without diving any deeper into the effects of this. From my years of experience, students who cannot touch the floor are more often wiggling in or rocking their chair, half sitting-half standing in their chairs, out of their seat completely.
While a correctly sized chair an desk is the best fix for this problem, it is often hard to come by in public schools. A quick fix can be a small step stool or solid box of some kind that the student can rest their feet on to feel stable in their chair.
When in a jam, you can even use this box:
Or you can purchase a small foot stool like this one:
#11 Wiggle Cushion
If your child still likes to move around a lot even with his/her feet stable on the ground or a box, you may want to try a Disc'O'Sit air cushion or wiggle cushion as I often call them. This air-filled disc is easy to fill with a pump and can withstand most kids playful attempt to pop it.
More importantly, it allows students to get their movement in while staying in their seat. It is ideal for the student that appears to be lost in space, but can then answer any question when called on.
Plus, it's easy to move to the floor during circle time. Just be sure that once you put it on the chair the child can still reach the floor.
And of course, you can find it on Amazon! Just click on the picture.
Sum It Up!
Alright, that's my 11 item list that I would suggest every parent look into for their student, even if they don't receive special education services. Nothing is crazy expensive and most teachers would be okay with them in the class so long as the student does not misuse them. You can see every item Here on our Amazon list.
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Thank you all for checking out this post. If you feel I missed something on my list, comment below. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Take care and I hope you have a great start to the school year!
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