During my most recent position as a pediatric OT volunteer, I was able to observe the therapists using all kinds of games, toys and activities to work on fine motor, gross motor, cognitive, social and other skills with their young clients. My mentor Helen was always challenging me, asking me to consider how I could use a toy differently to work on a different skill or how I might go about using a particular game during a session to help a child work on his or her goals. Coming up with answers to her queries was sometimes exhausting, but I appreciated the mental workout and the exercise’s applicability to my future treatment sessions!
One of my favorite “tools” that Helen used was the “Extreme Bop-it” game. After I had played a few rounds of Bop-it with her young clients, Helen asked me how I thought the game could be used to work on different functional skills. I pondered the question for a moment or two and gave a brief answer, not quite understanding how useful a treatment tool it could be. I continued to play Bop-it for the rest of the time I volunteered, and I never really gave the question another thought.
Fast forward to a few days ago, during my family vacation in East Texas. I was out thrift shopping (one of my favorite occupations!) and I was about to leave the store when I spotted…Bop-it! (I’m sure the people in the aisle near me had no idea why I was freaking out about some old ‘90’s toy, but I was super excited!) I debated whether or not to buy it for just a second before I plopped it on the counter and bought it for less than two bucks.
When I got back in the car with my older brother, I excitedly asked him if he wanted to play and we spent several hilarious minutes sitting in the parking lot playing Bop-it! When I blurted out that it was the first therapy tool I had ever really purchased for myself, his blank stare informed me that I could use that moment to provide a little OT education. So I told my brother all about my future career and how I would be using games like Bop-it and other everyday items to help people regain their independence and continue engaging in the activities they loved. When I finally stopped my “all about OT” spiel to draw a breath, he was grinning from ear to ear and told me how cool my career was and how excited he was for me to start helping people! It was a great sibling moment, and I added one more person to the list of earth-dwellers that have heard of occupational therapy!
I am now the proud owner of one gently-used game of Extreme Bop-it, and I can’t wait to email Helen and let her know that I’m following in her very fun footsteps! With this one small purchase came the huge realization that in just a couple of years I will be an officially licensed and registered occupational therapist – which means I’d better start building my collection of therapy tools now! And personally, I think Bop-it is a really great (and truly meaningful) first tool to add to my belt. At first I had trouble understanding how this challenging toy could be used to benefit a child in therapy, but as time went on – and as I played more games of Bop-it –I began to think about this game and many others more like an occupational therapist.
To me, my game of Bop-it is more than just a toy – it is a fun, tangible reminder of my continually-developing understanding of OT. After Helen’s mentorship and my own experiences, I now see the potential in this game to build fine motor, gross motor, social and cognitive skills. I also see it being used to encourage social interactions and build frustration tolerance, as well as improving coordination and strength. So who knew that a chance find at a thrift store would fall into my lap and convince me all over again that occupational therapy is where I am meant to be!