Occupations of Childhood

See part 1 of this post, What is an occupational therapist?

I spend a lot of time explaining what I do as an occupational therapist — a lot.  It is understandable, given that our title is a bit vague and confusing in pediatrics.  Occupational therapy started with the philosophy that people need to engage in meaningful occupations to be healthy.  However, an “occupation” is not a 9-5 job.  An “occupation” is anything the occupies a person’s time that is meaningful.

So, as a pediatric occupational therapist I help children to be successful at childhood occupations.  What occupies a child’s time?  Anything children find meaningful: playing, learning, chores, and friendships…  the list is endless.

I could give a long list of potential occupations of children, but I think pictures are worth a thousand words to answer this question.  I followed my child for a few hours at the park, photographing what they found to be meaningful:

child eating

Occupation: eating snack

Child playing hide 'n seek

Occupation: playing hide ‘n seek

child learning to slide

Occupation: mastering the big kid slide

child on bridge

Occupation: searching for ducks

child digging in sand

Occupation: digging a huge hole, then filling it up again

child climbing tree stump

Occupation: tree climbing

child playing with cattail on bench

Occupation: exploring physics to balance the cattail

children running in park

Occupations: big sister is the leader, little sister is desperately trying to keep up

As an occupational therapist, I want to know if your child can do the things that are meaningful to them.  Can he run well enough to chase an older sibling? Can she understand social cues well enough to play hide ‘n seek? Can she motor plan well enough to use playground equipment safely?  Can he attend long enough to find the ducks in the pond?


The American Occupational Therapy Association has several publications with great information: