What Are the Different Types of Recreational Therapy Activities?

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  • Written By: Megan Shoop
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 20 February 2020
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Recreational therapy activities are generally enjoyable activities or games that help patients improve some aspect of their physical or mental well-being. These activities may include modified versions of familiar sports and games that have been specifically developed for physical therapy. Most involve physical effort of some kind, but some may be geared more toward mental healing and development. A recreational therapist is usually in charge of choosing the proper activities for each patient and for giving the patient resources to perform and excel at them.

Some of the most common recreational therapy activities are sports, like volleyball, basketball, and soccer. These are often modified in some way to make it easier for convalescents and handicapped individuals to play them. For instance, a modified version of volleyball may feature a large, air-filled ball and a lower net. Therapeutic versions of basketball may also feature lower nets, and modified soccer may allow players in wheelchairs to touch the ball with their hands. The goal of these modified sports is usually to improve patients’ endurance, strength, and, often, their moods.


Game systems that require the player to move as they play may also be used as recreational therapy activities. Playing tennis or bowling on a game system doesn’t usually require as much effort as the real version, but still helps the patient stretch and develop endurance. This may be particularly helpful to those trying to strengthen injured limbs and joints. For example, a recovering patient may not be able to pick up a bowling ball, but can handle a lightweight game controller easily.

Often, the therapist overseeing these activities shows the patient how to move and bend without injuring themselves. The therapist may also challenge the patient to stretch higher, run faster, or make broader movements as they heal. This kind of therapy often keeps the players motivated because they’re having fun.

Many kinds of recreational therapy activities are designed only for therapeutic use. These kinds of activities usually fall into two categories: physical and mental. Physical activities may include games that challenge the patient to walk a certain distance or throw a soft foam ball at a certain target. These games are often modified to become more challenging as the patient becomes stronger. For instance, he may have to run instead of walk or throw the ball further. Patients often have the chance to earn rewards during these games, which motivates them to try harder.

Mental recreational therapy activities may be as simple identifying objects of the same shape or color, or as complicated as putting together puzzles with many pieces. These activities are designed to strengthen a certain part of each patient’s mind. Those working on memory may be have to flip over cards to match images, while those working on motor skills may be asked to build towers. The most important part these activities is generally making them fun so the patient looks forward to therapy and can focus on getting well.


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