Therapy putty is a product specifically designed for hands and is loved by physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and hand therapists alike! It’s used by people who are suffering from hand problems, including carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, or in children to increase dexterity, fine motor skills, and hand strength.
Many therapists find this tool effective because it can be used to help improve both fine and gross motor skills as well as sensory processing. Theraputty is also used by those who have been experiencing hand fatigue from holding small objects or from texting too much on their phones.
Theraputty also comes in different colors, textures, smells, and flavors so how could you not love it? In this article, we’ll be looking at what is it, who uses it, why it’s different from normal putty, if it dries out, and much more.
What Exactly is Theraputty?
Theraputty is made up of a BPA and Phthalate free material that allows it to hold its shape when you squeeze it or mold it in your hands. When left by itself, therapy putty will return back to its original form which makes it really fun to play with! Did we mention there are over 100 colors and options available?
Who Uses Therapy Putty?
Therapy Putty is predominantly used by occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and hand therapists in order to help their clients through rehabilitation, prehab, or increase hand strength. However, it’s also used by those who are concerned about the high levels of stress they may be experiencing or as an effective sensory strategy.
Different names for Theraputty
Theraputty vs. Therapeutic Putty vs. Physio Putty vs. Hand Putty vs Sensory Putty vs Stress Putty. These are a few names we call therapy putty. There are many different variations out there! And mostly, it’s semantics, however, there are different putty types.
For 90% of applications Therapy Putty, Therapeutic Putty, Physio Putty, and Hand Putty are the same stuff. These are hospital-grade putties that have been created with the need to maintain consistency of firmness and with longevity in mind.
Sensory Putty is used for sensory processing applications, which means it is designed with different visual and tactile stimulations to assist the individual. Therefore, whilst Therapy Putty can be used for sensory processing applications, you don’t necessarily need therapy putty & a lot of therapists, parents and teachers can use normal putty or playdough as sensory putty.
Stress putty or silly putty is intended for stress ball purposes, so these are softer than most commercially available therapy putties.
In saying this, many people use these terms interchangeably so it is important to understand the difference and know what you are getting.
What makes Theraputty different from Playdough?
Theraputty has a much more consistent texture and consistency when compared to normal putty or playdough. Therapy can come in specific resistance levels from Extra-Soft, Soft, Medium, to Firm. It also comes in shapes, sizes, and weights too.
The consistent resistance levels assist in being able to increase difficulties within a hand program, as well as being able to target specific areas of the hand/wrist. This means, an individual can use different putty to help them develop their finger strength and grip strength.
Playdough or silly putty can often be found in the shops. They often are softer in texture and therefore harder to alter the toughness of the putty. In saying this, normal putty and playdough can be effective tools for younger primary school aged children as they are still developing their hand muscles and may not need the toughness of typical theraputty.
Soft vs Hard Therapy Putty
Whether to purchase soft or hard therapy putty depends on who is going to be using it and the application in which it’s going to be used. Many therapists and OTs will use both soft and hard therapy putties with their clients, as it depends on the goals and needs of the client.
Some children require more firmness and feedback than others, so if your child likes a firmer texture, then hard therapy putty is ideal for them. Soft therapy putty is best for younger children or if someone suffers from low muscle tone.
Theraputty Hand Exercises
Theraputty hand exercises are highly specific to the individual and their needs, the current level of function & their goals. Theraputty exercises are often used to help children with limited fine motor skills gain finger strengthening and grip strength in their hand muscles. Improved fine motor skills are going to help them with fine motor tasks like doing up buttons and handwriting. Here are the three most common therapy putty activities for kids:
Find Treasure in the Putty
To do this activity, get the child to:
- Flatten the putty out like a pizza base.
- Hide small beads into the putty (about 2-5 beads).*
- Roll the putty into a ball.
- Using their pincer grip, find the beads in the putty.
*NOTE: Please be careful with using small beads, especially if there are young children around.
To do this activity, get the child to:
- Roll the putty with the palm of their hand
- Make a ball
- Make a square
- Make a triangle
Eccentric Finger Extensions
To do this activity, get the child to:
- Roll the putty into a snake
- Connect the two ends together to make a small circle
- Put their fingers together, in the center of the circle
- Widen the circle using the back of their fingers by eccentrically (widening) their fingers
How much does putty cost?
There are many different types of putty and you can buy them in different sizes. However, a typical hospital-grade like putty (about 3oz or 85grams) work is about $15 AUD.
Difference between Homemade Therapy Putty and Store-Bought Putty
When it comes to homemade vs. store-bought therapy putty, store-bought is always going to work best in a therapeutic setting where a therapist needs to prescribe a specific firmness/strength to an individual. However homemade putty is an awesome sensory input, and can be a great tool for those who just can’t justify spending the money on a little piece of goop.
That being said, if you look after your therapy putty, it will last you. I’ve had mine for 2 years, being used with kids weekly and it’s got no signs of dying on me.
Homemade Therapy Putty Recipe
Many people choose to make their own therapy putty at home, and this is a simple and great exercise in patience. But it’s also an excellent opportunity for kids who like sensory play and tactile exploration.
Some common ingredients used in making homemade therapy putty include:
- Finger Paint
- Shaving Cream
- Liquid Soap
- Baking Soda
- Olive Oil
- Essential Oils/Food Coloring/glycerin-based Flavoring Extracts.
For an exact recipe and the steps to follow, I suggest you check out American Stroke’s recipe.
Where to Buy Theraputty Australia?
A common question people have is where to buy therapy putty in Australia. For this, I would suggest either checking out the online therapy stores such as The Therapy Store, SkillBuilders or MyDiffability. Or searching other online for various retailers that sell it, including Amazon. A lot of physios and OTs make orders to therapy stores, so you may be able to buy some through their clinics.
Does Theraputty Dry Out?
Your therapy putty won’t dry out if you look after it. Keep your therapy putty covered up in a vacuum-sealed container after use.
A common misconception is that therapy putty will dry up and harden over long periods of time, but this isn’t always true. Most parents still notice that their therapy putty loses its properties once it has been kneaded over and over again. But this is usually more to do with it being left out overnight, the putty getting dirty, and excessively oily hands that haven’t been washed before using the putty.
How can make my Theraputty Last Longer?
Hospital-grade putty typically last longer compared to store bought putty like from Kmart. In saying this, there are other things that you can do to make your theraputty last longer:
- As mentioned above, it is important to keep a tight seal on the container to make sure your theraputty doesn’t try out.
- Make sure you wash your hand before using the putty. More dirty and oils in the putty can ruin the putty.
How Do I Get Theraputty Off My Child’s Clothes?
As with many things that kids play with, sometimes it will get stuck on their clothes. There are a few effective strategies to help get putty off your child’s clothing.
Before you try these strategies, try and get as much putty off as possible with your hands.
- Pour 90% rubbing alcohol on the clothing and use a butter knife to scrape off the putty.
- Freeze the putty by putting the clothing in the freezer or rubbing ice along the putty. This can help harden the putty and it ends up cracking off the clothing.
- Mix 1 part white vinegar and 2 part water. Dampen the cloth with this solution and gently rub the putty with this cloth.
- Use a larger ball of putty and rub it along the putty. This sounds counter-intuitive but it does work in removing additional putty off the clothing.
Therapy putty is an incredibly useful tool for those looking to improve hand strength, dexterity and fine motor skills. It’s also great for relieving stress or as a sensory strategy. With over 100 colors and options available, you have a lot of choices when it comes to finding the best therapy putty for your needs. Whether you need something that provides firmness and longevity or something softer like Stress Putty, there are many options out there so make sure to do your research before deciding on which one is right for you!
In addition to being a great stress relief tool, hand therapy putty is also incredibly versatile in terms of exercise options. There are many hand therapy putty exercises that can help improve hand strength, dexterity, and fine motor skills. Occupational therapy putty is a popular choice for those undergoing physical therapy, but it can also be incorporated into your daily exercise routine for ongoing benefits.
If you’re looking to harden silly putty for a more challenging workout, adding a small amount of glue mixture can do the trick. Alternatively, if you prefer a softer putty for stress relief, you can warm up the putty by immersing it in very hot water.
When choosing therapy putty, it’s important to consider factors such as firmness and longevity against specific needs. Some putty types, such as stress putty, are softer and may not be as durable for exercise-based therapy. Doing your research and speaking with a healthcare professional can help you determine which putty is right for you and your goals.
Overall, therapy putty is an effective and affordable tool for improving hand function and providing stress relief. With so many options available, it’s easy to find the right therapy putty for your needs.