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Jan Davis shares her latest treatment and teaching tips with resources for therapists, faculty and students. 

Grab & Go: Treatment Ideas for Busy Therapists

Jan Davis

Tired of doing the same therapy day after day? Need some new ideas that are more client-centered, easy to 'grab & use' in any setting, and don't break the bank?

It's easy to see why activities such as stacking cones, doing puzzles or playing games are commonly used in clinics. They are easily available, have multiple ways to be incorporated into therapy, and they aren't 'bad' therapy or 'wrong' for the patient. In fact, I used to use them a lot.

But are they the best choice for our patients? They certainly can be used to help prepare a patient for movement, but they don't provide the essential information needed to plan and carry out functional tasks required in daily life. Functional therapeutic activities, taken from real life, help patients bridge the gap between skills acquired in therapy and skills needed for home.

I always have my patient pour their own water from the pitcher into the cup. I have been doing this ever since I took your course four or five years ago!

Research supports the use of Enriched Environments (more on that in another post), but today's limited budgets and nearly impossible productivity standards, leave therapists with little time to be creative.

So I've put together some examples that might help give you some inspiration to transition from the 'old' activities used in your clinic to some 'new' ideas. These therapeutic activities are not expensive, easy to have on a shelf ready to 'Grab and Go' and are just a few ideas that may help you if you are looking for new ideas for treatment.


Keep a jewelry box on the shelf of old costume jewelry. Older patients respond to familiar objects from their past. Great for fine motor, cognitive skills (sorting and matching) and figure ground skills.


A box of old tools are familiar to men and can also be used for sorting (for electrical, plumbing or other tasks), fine or gross motor and even figure ground. Having tools on hand can make it easier to be creative and more client-centered in any setting.


Bread machines are a good replacement for those of you without a kitchen at your facility. And the aroma of fresh made bread will guide your patients right to therapy!


Shining shoes is a great activity for older men. Keep a bag or box with a can of shoe polish, a brush and a rag on the shelf. They can work in sitting or standing, unilateral or bilateral, in their room or in the gym. Great for high level and low level patients.


If you have a small juicer, a cutting board and a knife - all you'll need is an orange or two and this activity has the extra reward of fresh juice! Tip: For safety put sharp knives in the weak hand and guide with your hand over theirs. 


Gardening is an activity that all ages enjoy. Most SNFs and rehab centers have an outdoor area that can be used for activities encouraging standing balance and gait. Keep a pair of snippers, gloves and hand tools ready and give it a try!

Budget Solutions

On a limited budget? I've had success asking for donations from stores, asking the hospital auxiliary or residence council for help and purchasing items from the dollar store. I've even had florists donate flowers that were past their prime!