Providing neurological occupational therapy within the COVID-19 stay at home rules: Over 200 activities for brain injury survivors and their families!
Here’s a list of over 200 ideas that brain injury survivors and their families could consider, with remote support, if need be, from their neuro occupational therapist:
Contact people you know by phone, email or social media and try to do this every day, remembering that there’s more to talk about than COVID-19! You could consider starting a book or poetry club or maybe even a discussion forum.
Perhaps you could start a competition or post regular updates on a shared interest via phone, email or social media?
To help with visual processing, attention and concentration. Traditional card games help to challenge our cognitive skills, have a go at finding matching pairs while challenging memory, particularly short-term memory.
- Dobble: a simple matching game that tests visual scanning and processing skills.
- Go Fish, Solitaire and Hearts: these card games involve pattern recognition, memory skills and varying levels of strategic thinking.
- UNO: improve number and colour recognition and strategy and planning skills by matching a card you have with the card on the table - and be the first to have no cards left!
Board games are a social affair. They challenge our cognitive and executive skills but also facilitate positive social communication, challenging our expressive and receptive language skills within a one to one activity or as part of a group. For clients with brain injury language and social communication can be challenging, more so with family members, so ensure everyone is clear regarding the rules and support positive communication at all times.
- Chess: no one game the same, this games classic tests cognitive skills, particularly memory, reasoning and attention.
- Chinese Checkers: use cognitive skills to move all your pegs to the opposite side before your opponents.
- Draughts: fine motor skills and strategic thinking come into play with this game.
- Othello: another war between black and white counters and a challenge for fine motor skills, planning and strategy.
- Risk: as its name suggests, this game involves risk-taking, forward planning and some serious decision making as you try to ‘take over the world’.
- Scattergories: word-finding/retrieval abilities, organisation and recall are involved in this race-against-the-clock (or untimed) game – a particular help with language difficulties.
- Scrabble: a bit more effort needed with this word-building game which challenges several cognitive skills including problem-solving, memory, strategy and cognitive flexibility.
Neurological illness or injury can impact on the brains ability to control our physical movements. Fine finger movements can be particularly challenging. These movements are essential for everyday function, so practising and refining these movements will help you win the game but also to look after yourself better!
- Connect 4: planning and logic skills are challenged in this game which also improves gross and fine dexterity.
- Dominoes: an ancient tile-matching game that requires visual scanning and planning skills.
- Jenga: practise fine motor skills, attention and planning while removing blocks without toppling the tower.
- Mastermind: guess your opponent’s four-colour peg code through elimination using deductive logic skills.
Puzzles test our visual perceptual skills including figure-ground, visual memory and visual sequential memory. They also support our fine motor skills and sustained attention. Having a puzzle out for the whole family to work on offers the opportunity for a shared sense of achievement and teamwork.
- Jigsaws: designed for all ages, abilities and interests, jigsaws also help to develop logical thinking, hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
- Crosswords: themed, blocked, coded, cryptic; crosswords come in several shapes, sizes and levels of complexity, but all of them are cognitively challenging.
- Mind Trap: riddles, picture puzzles and brain teasers abound in this game which can be played alone or with others and comes in several versions of varying complexity.
- Sudoku: improves problem-solving and number skills with different levels of difficulty.
- Tetris: a free online tile-matching game that employs visuospatial processing, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities.
Throw yourself into a different role in drama games such as charades. Play them via video call with family, friends or support staff!
Apps - click the image above for our 20 apps to boost brain injury rehabilitation article.
Smart Technology provides access to specialist apps to support specific therapeutic interventions on a broad range of areas. Hand and eye co-ordination is also a focus for many of these applications which is a bonus!
MyTherappy: this outstanding online NHS resource is packed with over 120 apps that have been NHS reviewed and star rated for use in:
- Stroke and brain injury recovery.
- Occupational health.
- Supporting independent living.
Most of the apps are free. The others – 24 of them - cost between 60p and £199.99. Users will need access to Apple iOS, Android or Windows, depending on the app.
The apps are divided into specialist areas, including:
- Arms and fingers.
- Eating and drinking.
- Doing things.
- Being active.
Find the inspirational MyTherappy here: https://www.my-therappy.co.uk/
Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, Sega and Apple all offer gaming devices and an array of age-rated games that may provide cognitive challenges.
With all the focus on SMART and new technology often the value of our everyday activities are overlooked. The complexity of daily tasks and craft activities have long been regarded the focus of occupational therapy, the roots of the occupational therapy profession and the value of activities can be traced back to the first world war.
- Cooking: baking and cake/biscuit decorating, recipe ideas, meal planning and special occasions.
- Jewellery making: bead craft, yarn bracelets, salt dough pendants.
- Textiles: sewing, knitting, crochet, embroidery, quilting, weaving.
- Sculpting/construction: try Play-Doh or clay (there are lots of online recipes for homemade versions if need be) or ice, sand or mud, or build something out of paper, card or toy building blocks. Check out origami!
- Painting and drawing: creating with crayons, chalk, charcoal, pencils, watercolours, oils, pastels (and even wall or face paints with proper supervision) doesn’t just boost brain activity – it’s fun for all ages and abilities. Just select a suitable surface!
- Photography: pick a topic that interests you (people, food, fashion, nature, etc) and start collecting pictures from the internet or other resources around you to create a scrapbook or to print out to make a wall collage. If you have access to a camera, learn more about how it works, or start a photo project focusing on a topic that interests you.
- Drama: read or write a play by yourself or with others and act out the characters!
Reading and writing
- Re-visit books you’ve read or explore websites that offer book/audiobook subscriptions to expand reading opportunities alone or with others.
- Write your own story/poem/song.
- Start a diary.
- Suggest a writing/reading competition with people you know.
- Have a go at calligraphy.
The evidence base supporting the therapeutic use of music for people with neurological conditions is growing. It is hard to ignore however the feelings of wellbeing that we all get from listening to a favourite piece of music. These music-focused activities can be done alone or with a group.
- Try a new musical instrument or listen to something different – a radio, tv or internet channel or a podcast or webinar.
- Sing along/dance to your favourite tune.
- Take/create a music quiz – name that tune!
- Try writing a song or start a songwriting competition.
Enjoy the outdoors
Depending on individual health and residential circumstances, and as long as we are all abiding by coronavirus safety rules by staying 2 metres apart, try to get some fresh air every day – even if it means enjoying it on a doorstep or through an open window.
Enjoy this safely in your outside areas or start a new indoor gardening project from seeds or cuttings, making the most of windowsills, balconies and doorsteps.
Don’t forget to tend to wildlife if you can...it’s a busy season for nature!
Spend some time observing the wildlife outside your window. Take photographs or draw something you see. Spring is a wonderful time to start nature watching!
If you have pets, now is a good time to start doing what Dr Dolittle did best – talk to them!
Our pets provide us with companionship whatever is happening around the world so share your worries with them – they won’t mind!
It’s also a chance to give pets some extra TLC:
- Give their homes/beds a Spring clean.
- Give their homes/beds a makeover.
- Give them a good clean/grooming!
- Make them a new toy, accessory or ‘fashion’ item.
- If you can train your pet, teach them some new moves or help them out of some bad habits.
- If you exercise your pet outdoors, follow COVID-19 safety advice.
- Start a pet diary, adding photos or drawings, to record interesting moments in their lives...it’s amazing what they get up to when they think we’re not watching!
If you’re going outdoors for exercise, follow COVID-19 safety advice.
Mobilising in whichever way possible is intrinsic to well-being and being confined to small spaces doesn’t mean you can’t.
- Walking/mobilising: even if it means doing circuits of your home, make physical movement part of your everyday routine, if possible.
- Online: there is a wealth of online video tutorials for all ages, abilities and circumstances offering step-by-step guidance in health and fitness activities such as Pilates, yoga, and dance.
- Consoles: if you have access to a gaming console, there are dance and fitness ‘games’ you can try, some of them inter-actively.
- Yoga/Thai Chi/Pilates: these low impact activities can help build strength and balance and can be adapted for all ages and abilities, including wheelchair users.
- Bowls/boules/petanque: can be played on any flat surface with a reasonable amount of space.
- Home-made Mini golf: turn even a small room into a mini-golf course using household items as ‘clubs’ and obstacles, with cups, placed on their sides, as ‘holes’.
- ‘Table’ tennis/’bat’ and ball: any small bouncy ball, a wooden spoon and a table or wall will do – but clear away breakables first!
- Indoor/outdoor basketball: cheap to buy or make your own out of a metal clothes hanger (bent into a hoop and hung over a door), using a rolled-up paper ball as the ball. Or turn a wastepaper bin into the target!
- Giant Jenga: like Jenga, but with bigger blocks for outdoor play.
- Giant Chess: like chess but with bigger pieces for outdoor play.
- Kubb: a bit like skittles with wooden blocks and batons, this outdoor game tests eye-hand coordination and reasoning.
- Quoits: there are indoor and outdoor versions of this ring toss game that also encourages hand-eye coordination and deduction.
Now, perhaps more than ever is a good time for all of us to incorporate more relaxation into our days to help ease any feelings of stress, anxiety or depression. The benefits of mindfulness are being supported by a growing body of evidence.
- Focused breathing: do this anywhere, anytime but every day is best. The NHS explains how here: NHS - stress, anxiety and depression - ways to relieve stress at home
- Yoga/Thai Chi/Pilates/stretching: they may also be a gentle way to exercise, but these easily adapted activities are also great for encouraging relaxation.
- Massage: a tried-and-tested means of stress relief that also can ease musculoskeletal problems.
- Meditation: from mindfulness to progressive relaxation, there are many ways to use meditation to bring calm to your day.
A clean sweep
Is there something you would like to improve in your physical environment that you could start planning for or begin?
March, traditionally, is a time to start Spring cleaning but, this year, amid COVID-19 hygiene and safeguarding advice to help stop the pandemic, it’s a must.
Perhaps you could re-arrange a room as well, or consider any home repairs or improvements that could be carried out now or in the future?
Try something new!
- Pick anything from this activities ideas list that you’d like to have a go at or think about something else you’d like to try.
- Have a look at online educational/vocational/leisure courses you could do or start working towards.
- Start a collection – things people say, favourite stuff, funny moments, fab photos; it could be anything!
- Set a new goal – for you, for your family, for anything important to you right now!
If you need help with access or guidance relating to any activity idea, contact your neuro occupational therapist who will be more than happy to help.
Stay as busy as you can and in contact with others… but above all - STAY SAFE!