We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the therapeutic uses for table tennis and how to use table tennis (and table tennis equipment) to help children learn, but now we’ve got a story from a “school-based occupational therapist” about one of her go-to items in her therapy bag: ping pong balls…
Here are three examples of how you can use ping pong balls in OT treatment:
1. Have the child hold the ping pong ball with their thumb and index finger while making an “O” shape. Then have them maintain that “O” position as they pinch their fingertips together to make the ping pong ball go flying! This is excellent strengthening practice for kids with decreased strength in the thumb and/or web space between the thumb and index finger and can be really difficult at first [….]
2. Write a few letters all around the ping pong ball in permanent marker. Have the student hold the ball with their fingertips (maintaining an open web space and flexion in the fingers, and only the tips of all five fingers) and then rotate the ball to find a targeted letter with their thumb. For example, tell the student, “Find the F with your thumb.” You may even have to have them sit on their other hand so they aren’t tempted to use it to turn the ball! [….]
3. Place a ping pong ball on the table and have the student blow through a straw until the ball rolls off the table. The combination of blowing through a straw while coordinating the eyes to focus at midline is helpful for practicing convergence and visual tracking, both of which are needed for reading, writing, and copying. The physical act of taking a deep breath and then blowing out through the straw for multiple repetitions is also helpful for increasing attention and regulation.