Recreational Therapy Activities for All Ages

Any recreational therapy (RT) program is worth its weight in gold when it is person centered, even when it is intergenerational. RT programs are dynamic when they change constantly to meet the needs of the individuals involved. And, of course, they change according to season, holidays, and cultural celebrations related to the participants and the community. The purpose of RT programs are to (1) provide stimulation; (2) promote physical, cognitive, and/or emotional health; (3) enhance, to an extent, each individual’s physical and mental status; and to (4) promote each person’s self-respect by providing a means for self-expression, personal responsibility, and choice. (Activities Keep Me Going & Going … Vol. 1. Miller, Mary E., Peckham, Charles W., Peckham, Arline B. Otterbein Homes, OH. 1998)

Although most recreational therapy programs exist within skilled nursing facilities, assisted living centers, or hospitals, there are a myriad of recreational activities that can be done independently at home or as part of a group in the community and that may be adapted for people with disabilities of all ages. Here we will share some of the types of recreational therapy activities:

  • Pet Therapy – It has been found that coming in contact with pets/animals can benefit people physically, mentally, and emotionally. Whether it is a dog, horse, cat, or dolphin, pets can have a positive impact on everyone’s lives. We did a search on our database on pet therapy and found articles that range from articles on pet therapy in daily school life to pet therapy and the elderly. If you would like to participate in a pet therapy program in your area, visit the American Kennel Club for a list (alphabetical) of organizations throughout the US.
  • Art TherapyArt therapy is the therapeutic use of making art. Art therapy is beneficial in many areas, including mental health, hand-eye coordination, cognitive health, and self-expression. Arts and crafts stores such as Michael’s or A.C. Moore hold classes for all levels. You can also find local ceramic studios or painting studios that will be happy to help you create some art. We ran a search in REHABDATA and found several articles on the benefits of art therapy. Visit the American Art Therapy Association for more information and to find an art therapist in your area.
  • Music Therapy Music therapy can help with speech, physical activity, cognitive and emotional health, self-expression, and communication. Music therapy has been shown to help children and adults with varying types of disabilities – from Alzheimer’s disease to autism spectrum disorder to stroke to Prader-Willi syndrome and so on. Check your local community center, YMCA, or local parks and recreation agency to find out about concerts or classes going on in your area. Our REHABDATA search brought us over 160 articles on music therapy. If you would like to find a music therapist in your area, please visit the American Music Therapy Association.
  • Physical Activities – Physical activities within recreational therapy include gardening, dancing (including integrative dance), seated tai chi, adapted yoga, and so on. During the summer, one can visit many of the nation’s parks for adapted out-door activities such as hiking, biking, or boating (visit The National Park Service to learn more about accessibility for park visitors). Our search in REHABDATA produced several articles on recreation, sports, and outdoor activities for people of all ages with disabilities.

These are just a few types of recreational activities. We ran a quick search in our collection on recreational therapy and found several articles that range from social and community participation to hippo-therapy to multisensory programs and more. If you would like to learn more about recreational therapy, please visit Therapeutic Recreation’s website or peruse through our blog for other posts on this topic.

Please Note: We do ask that you speak with your primary care physician before attempting the physical activities.

About mpgarcia

I'm the Bilingual Information/Media Specialist at NARIC.
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3 Responses to Recreational Therapy Activities for All Ages

  1. Pingback: Answered Questions: Monthly News for the Disability Community | Collection Spotlight from the National Rehabilitation Information Center

  2. Pingback: International Recreational Therapy Month – Empowering Recreational Therapists | Collection Spotlight from the National Rehabilitation Information Center

  3. Pingback: If you liked “Recreational Therapy Activities for All Ages” | Collection Spotlight from the National Rehabilitation Information Center

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