OT Multipurpose Activity – DIY Clay Beads

As an Occupational therapist working at a day program where my clients are between 3-35 years old, our biggest focus is making activities not only developmentally appropriate but also age appropriate.

A lot of our older clients will go along with certain activities, but won’t really enjoy them or try their best if they aren’t meaningful to them. For a lot of these clients, we will pull on other skills and interests they have to modify an activity to create that interest and buy in. For example, a lot of our older clients benefit from learning kitchen skills like measuring, reading recipes, stirring etc, but on their own those skills don’t interest them. However, we have animals on site and these clients love helping them! So one of my favourite things to do is create an activity that has all these skills to practice, and then make it functional (like creating a fruit salad for the monkeys or baking simple apple donuts for the horses).

A theme that has been coming up with our youngest group has been fine motor skills. I know there are tons of activities you can do with beading, but the beads we have at work are too tiny for these clients (even the older clients have trouble with these) and you can only make so many cheerio bird feeders because some clients enjoy that tastey snack for themselves!

Last week I was home due to COVID exposure at work and decided to test out making my own beads so we could control the size of the beads, AND the older clients can work on those kitchen skills! Needless to say, I am excited about doing this with my clients this week and having a new set of beads for myself and the education specialist at work to use!

I hope you enjoy the recipe and the process of making the beads!

***Note these were a bit challenging to shape, but fun to make and a still look pretty rustic and awesome!

I used Kosher salt but any salt will do!

Materials

  • medium size bowl
  • latex free gloves (in case the feeling of dough is not a favourite sensory experience)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4-1 cup hot water
  • wooden skewer/chopstick
  • food colouring
  • parchment paper or aluminum foil
  • cookie sheet
  • acrylic paint (optional)
  • modge podge (can use water mixed with PVA glue instead – my craft store was out of modge podge!)

Instructions

  1. In a medium size bowl, combine flour and salt
  2. Add oil and hot water
  3. Mix with hands or spoon until pliable
  4. Continue to kneed the dough for 10-15 minutes until it is smooth and not sticky
  5. Separate dough into different batches – you can either add food colouring to each batch, or leave dough natural to paint them after they are cooked
  6. Roll the dough into balls (or other shapes!) and poke a wooden skewer through the centre – I used a chop stick so I could control whether I wanted a small or larger hole, as some of my clients will be stringing beads onto pipecleaners
  7. Place beads on a parchment paper lined (or aluminum foil lined) cookie sheet. ***Note, a website I looked at shared that aluminum foil stuck to their beads and left residue, this did not happen to me but just to be aware***
  8. Place beads in oven for 200 degrees for 1.5 hours
  9. After beads are cooled, you can paint them plain ones, and then glaze them with modge podge or a mixture of hot water and PVA glue.


Final product ! (my dough was a bit grittier because all I had was kosher salt!)

Overall OT benefits of this activity:

making the beads allows the clients to practice their kitchen skills (reading recipe, measuring ingredients, taking turns, mixing). This group I work with loves chatting so the process of forming the beads will allow for some comfortable conversation without eye contact (as many of my clients have autism, anxiety etc that makes eye contact uncomfortable), and they get that meaningful feeling of making something for the little guys. We also have some clients who are very sensory inclined, who would love to feel that sensory aspect of mixing the dough with their hands! Taking the beads and stringing them provides fine motor skills for both the younger clients, and the older ones if they choose, and can also be used for sorting, identifying colours etc.

Pre planning with the individuals who are making the beads is important to remind them that sometimes things don’t work out and that is OKAY. Sometimes activities are done for an end goal, but even if they don’t turn out, there was still the learning and enjoyment of making the craft!

What kind of crafts do you like to use to develop skills with your children/clients?

Published by maiiflowerr

Pronouns She/Her/they/them. I'm a millennial just trying to make a difference in the world, and create space for people to accept themselves and live their best lives. My fiancee, Sydney, and I are mothers to our two goofy cats, and the queens of creative adventures. I am an Occupational therapist, a dancer and a yoga instructor with a passion for supporting people and creating community.

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