Play It Forward Therapy

Friendship Party

Valentines Day is a sweet reminder to celebrate love and friendship! The kids at the clinic love these friendship themed activities that can be practiced all year round. My kids and I host an annual Friendship Party to get to know classmates better or to reunite with friends they haven’t seen for a while.

These Friendship Party ideas are a throwback to the classic party games I remember as a kid (e.g. Pin the Tail On The Donkey, BINGO, Twister). I’ve added my own “OT spin” on these classic games and carefully chosen activities that will incorporate sensory-motor and/or social skills practice. This collection includes our most beloved occupational therapy ideas that can be used for your next party or social skills group.  The activities featured in the video are perfect practice for a wide range of developmental skills. 

Benefits of Friendship Themed Activities

  • Developing sensory motor skills 
  • Practicing social skills, waiting, taking turns
  • Using sustained attention & following directions
  • Increasing body awareness and practicing personal space concepts
  • Talking about friendships after reading or listening to a book about making & keeping friends

Social Skills

One of the key elements to making and keeping friends is social skills!  It’s super important to teach kids the skills needed for how to make friends, how to be a good friend and how to keep friends.  Having kind and trusted friendships is essential to feeling connected and content in life… which is true for kids and grownups alike.   For example, at the clinic the kids not only had fun navigating through an obstacle course, they also navigated through  a variety of real life social situations.  

Here are some examples for the types of specific social skills you can easily practice and coach kids through during play group situations.  Start by setting expectations and add some structure to the session.  This may simply be verbally telling kids what to expect and the activities coming up.  Using a more structured strategy is also very effective and it also involves collaboration, exchange of ideas and giving the child a sense of control.  For example, before starting you can ask  the kids, “What do you want to do?  What do you want to do first?  What shall we do next?” .  

Allow each child to contribute and collaborate towards making a group plan.  For children who benefit from visual schedules, write or draw simple symbols (for non readers)  on on a white board or an easel for everyone to see.  If a child is deviating from the group plan, then you can remind them to refer back to the “Group Plan”  if needed to help stay focused and on track.  An added therapeutic benefit, is this type of set up also helps with executive functioning by following directions, sequencing and time management.

Social skills practice with coaching from the therapist may include:

  • Meeting and introducing yourself to a new child in the play area. Or perhaps just a simple wave hello.
  • Sharing equipment.  Waiting patiently for a turn.
  • Practicing politeness and self advocacy such as saying “Excuse me”, “Can I go next?” “Thanks”
  • Learning what is appropriate to say when you win a game.  Say “Good game” instead of “Ha Ha, I won.”
  • Learning how to be a good sport by saying “Good Game”, even if you lose a game.  Instead of pouting, say “It’s OK. Maybe next time.”  

Playing these games is a fun way to practice social skills such as listening, waiting, taking turns and following the group plan.  Plus, it’s a natural way to encourage social skills in a supportive, play based and natural  environment.  Can you see why occupational therapists have so much fun at work?


Friendship Party Occupational Therapy Activities

Kiss The Frog

Enjoy this updated Valentine Version party game inspired by the classic game of  “Pin The Tail on the Donkey”.  

Supplies:  White and green poster board, black pen, red, pink and yellow paper,  scissors, glue stick, double sided tape, sleep mask or scarf for the blindfold. 

  • Draw a frog on green poster board, cut out and glue onto the white poster board.  Cut out lots of lips and stick double sided tape onto one side.  
  • Each player is blindfolded and spun in a circle. The number of spins matches how old you are.  Then ready, aim, kiss! 
  • Using your sense of touch and body position, where will your kiss land?


Look and listen carefully..  Can you find a match on your board? Whoever gets 5 in a row is the winner!  Will it be you?

Supplies:  Bingo boards and markers

  • Bingo is a fun way to work on sustained attention, listening and visual perceptual skills to match the game piece with your board.
  • Picking up the game pieces to mark your spot refines a “pincer grasp” (index finger and thumb).
  • Play to win: Pencils, stickers or chewing gum make great OT approved prizes!


Book Title:  Have you Filled a Bucket Today

Here’s of my favorite books about kindness.  It teaches kids how everyone has an invisible bucket full of thoughts and feelings. 

  • We can fill other people’s buckets with good thoughts and feelings… Or sometimes we may dip from another person’s bucket.
  • It all depends on the choices we make and what we say or do. 
  • It gives kids another way to think about their actions and how they impact how others feel and how they feel about themselves.
  • A good question to ask your child, “Do you think that _____ was a bucket filler or a bucket dipper? 
  • How do you think that made ______ feel?”

Bucket Filling Craft

This cute and colorful craft is a sweet reminder of how kindness builds friendships and helps us get along with others. 

  • Plus, it’s excellent practice for fine motor skills too.
  • Supplies:  Clear plastic cups, fuzzy wire or ribbon, tape, markers, confetti, sequins, small plastic hearts or erasers.
  • Check out the video for how to make this Bucket Filling Craft to remind kids how to be “Bucket Fillers”.