4 Ways to Game-ify Your Next Pediatric PT Session

You already know that you can’t phone it in when working with kids. You’ve gotta be enthusiastic, motivated, and ready to bring your energy and positive attitude to every therapy session. But let’s be honest: There are times when your best just isn’t cutting it. You’ve done everything but stand on your head, and yet you’re still met with crossed arms and pouty lips. Now what?

How can you motivate your youngest patients when smiles have faded, motivation has plummeted, and even your most encouraging words aren’t enough to get through the session?

Maybe it’s time you start thinking less like an adult and more like a kid. In short, it’s time to turn your next pediatric PT session into a game!

We’ve rounded up some ideas that are sure to keep your pediatric patients interested and entertained while still benefitting from the valuable physical therapies you provide. Don’t forget to share your successes with parents, who can also use your tricks of the trade to keep up the physical therapy exercises at home.

1 – Put Your Pride Aside and Get Into a Serious Game of “Simon Says”

Weave their physical therapy exercises into your game of Simon Says, but don’t hesitate to add some fun into the mix with silly requests. “Simon says, meow like a cat.” Or maybe, “Simon says, make a silly face.” You get the idea. To make this a fun time for your PT kids, you’ll have to take one for the team and allow your patient to play Simon, too. Be fully prepared to hop like a frog, do the chicken dance, or rub your tummy and pat your head.

2 – Set up an Obstacle Course or Series of Physical Challenges

Remember Double Dare on Nickelodeon? That’s what you’re after here, minus the mess. You’re going to have to get creative on this one, but consider everything from throwing rings on to a cone to riding a tricycle through a maze to throwing balls into a series of baskets. Not all portions of the obstacle course need to be related to their physical therapy. You’ll get the most bang for your buck if you weave their physical therapy exercises into other fun challenges they’ll need to complete to get to the end of the obstacle course.

3 – Get Your Freeze Dance Groove On

Here’s a fun play on the traditional freeze dance. For each portion of the song, you and your patient will complete specific PT exercises. But when the music stops, everybody freezes! When the music starts up again, a new exercise is introduced. With your younger patients, lively nursery rhymes do the trick. With your older pediatric patients, have them recommend songs from their favorite artists.

4 – Give It a Spin or Bust Out the Rock, Paper, Scissors Routine

This age-old game of Rock, Paper, Scissors never seems to get old. Here’s how to get the fun started: If you win a round, your patient must complete a set of exercises. If they win a round, you have to do something silly. Have a list of silly options they can choose from, so you can keep the game going and keep them on track. Or similarly, create a spinner game that involves—you guessed it—a board with different options on it. Some of the options will have PT exercises that your patient must complete, while others might have a fun reward. Or, use a spinner with numbers on it and allow the kiddos to spin to determine how many of each exercise they’ll complete. Often times, a game this simple is just enough for kids to feel in control and motivated to continue.