Portable Activity Ideas to Reach Every Resident, Everyday

Portable Activity Ideas to Reach Every Resident, Everyday

User Profile By Haley Burress   United States

Found In: Activities Articles One-on-One Coronavirus: Covid-19

Not every resident attends group activities, and it can be a serious struggle to find ways to get them engaged with recreation. Intentionally curated carts and baskets can increase your reach and keep your residents happily active.
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Not every resident attends group activities, and it can be a serious struggle to find ways to get them engaged with recreation. Intentionally curated carts and baskets can increase your reach and keep your residents happily active.

Why Activity Carts?

Residents come to your community with different preferences and challenges. While some seniors are social butterflies and love attending nearly every group activity on your calendar, most are more selective of what they attend. Without consistent activity participation, you can begin to get concerned about lack of involvement.

Short Term Stay Residents

Residents who stay in your community for short-term rehab (less than 100 days) are especially tricky to pull into activity programming. When these seniors aren’t participating in multiple therapy sessions each day, they are tired, in pain, or simply relaxing. An activity cart can be a way of intentionally giving them something to do during their downtime in the comfort of their own room. It is also a great way for them to see the smiling face of a Activity Professional or Volunteer each day.

Long Term Stay Residents

Sometimes, residents just prefer to be alone. This makes it especially difficult for Activity Professionals to find ways to engage them outside of a 1:1 program. Activity carts can provide engagement in their room, and a regular check-in with staff can be helpful to check for signs of isolation or depression.

How to Get Started

Activity carts or baskets are relatively easy to put together:

  • Start with a theme for each cart (we’ll give you some ideas later in this article)
  • Purchase supplies to fill the cart, or find hidden treasures in your activity closet or library
  • Assure you have the staff or volunteers to walk the carts around your community
  • Add the time you’ll constantly walk around with your cart to your activity calendar
  • Visit every room, every time and chart it as an activity
  • If someone is not in their room, note that in your records
  • Begin with just one cart three times per week and then work your way up

Cart Ideas

You can reach nearly every resident every time you grab your roving activity cart! Even if it is a short interaction, your regular check-in can do wonders for relationship building and involvement. Every community is different, and you may have to tweak some of these to fit your unique needs, but it’s a great start to get you (and your carts) rolling.

Technology Cart

This cart is ideal for your short-term stay residents. Allow them to take an item from your cart by checking it out so that you know where your equipment is at all times. This cart can be expensive in regards to supplies, but you can work with your Marketing department to slowly increase your supplies. After all, having access to these items is a HUGE selling point for potential new residents. For your Technology Cart, offer:

  • Tablets or laptops
  • Handheld electronic games (poker and solitaire are usually popular)
  • iPods already loaded with music playlists and podcasts
  • Headphones and/or earbuds
  • eReaders

Library Cart

Residents will love this door-to-door service, where they can stock up on new reading materials and adaptive equipment that makes reading easier on the eyes. You can include:

  • Books from your senior community library (ask for donations!)
  • Magazines
  • Inexpensive reading glasses
  • Magnifiers
  • Books on Tape (just be sure to officially check these out with residents so you know where they are when it is time to return them)

Something To Do Cart

Load up this cart with activities residents can enjoy in their rooms, independently. You can include anything that your residents have expressed an interest in, like:

  • Books and magazines
  • Crossword and Sudoku puzzles (with pencils)
  • Stationery and envelopes (with pens)
  • Crocheting hooks, knitting needles, yarn
  • Sketch pads with pastels
  • Decks of playing cards
  • Notebooks and pens/pencils
  • Your community’s activity calendar and highlighters

Hydration Cart

Team up with your dining and nursing department to make a serious effort to decrease dehydration in your community. Push this cart around mid-morning and even mid-afternoon if possible after picking it up from the dining department. You can include one “Drink Special” of the day, along with cups and straws, such as:

  • Pitchers of smoothies
  • Pitchers of spa water (water with slices of citrus fruits or veggies like cucumber)

You can swap out the drinks every once in a while and use cups of fruits or vegetables that are high in water content, such as:

  • Cucumber
  • Grapes
  • Watermelon

Holiday Cart

Swap out supplies on this holiday-themed cart, matching it with national or local events or traditions:

  • December holidays: cards and envelopes, individual crafts, holiday magazines
  • Spring holidays: themed word searches and crafts
  • Sporting events: related magazines or newspaper articles, word games, story prompts with a journal

Family Visit Cart

You can leave this cart or basket available for families to use near the front desk or activity room. Ask them to sign the items in and out so that you know where your supplies are, and so that you can chart the visit in your resident records. Switch out the offerings regularly, and consider including:

  • Playing cards
  • Board games
  • Puzzles
  • Plastic resealable bags with individual paper crafts inside (these are especially great for the residents to do with grandkids)
  • Magazines, especially ones that focus on reminiscing
  • Word games, like word searches or crosswords

Reaching every resident every day, even if for a small moment, will show benefits quickly. Let us know if you have a traveling activity cart in action, what you include, and what benefits you have noticed.

Cheering you on as you roll through your hallways spreading encouragement and activity!

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Comments   Post a Comment

Sandy 22nd Dec 2022 Support Worker
I’m LOVING Goldencarers for inspiration and ideas, I’ve been working in a nursing home for a month as an activities Co ordinator. An activities cart sounds a great idea, I have been using a wooden ‘activities tray’ with handles going from room to room, but keep having to go back to the activities room for different bits, so going to try the cart idea for the new year! Thank you for ideas!
Melissa 29th Oct 2022
I work in an assisted living facility. I will be activity director soon and There are some residents that absolutely will not leave there rooms so I was thinking maybe a foot soak /lotion massage/paint toe nails and can do hands as well. Do you think that is something worth trying?
Della 24th Oct 2022 Activities Coordinator
We have a nutrition/ hydration station at The Hollies in Retford I so love our nutrition/ hydration days :-)
Talita 31st Oct 2022
Thank you so much for sharing this picture Della, this looks amazing!
Della 18th Oct 2022 Activities Coordinator
This one is £30 very similar to the one I use from ikea they have a few to pick from. xx
Talita 24th Oct 2022
Thank you Della x
Sally 24th Jun 2022 Activities Coordinator
I would love to set up activity carts in the home. Can anyone recommend a good cart to purchase for this or can you show me examples of what you use in your homes. I was thinking about using a 3 tiered one but not sure how sturdy they would be. Thank you
Susan 7th Jul 2022 Activity Director
Hi Sally
I think a three shelf cart is a good idea
It does depend on what you’re going to use the cart for
You can get a cart from Amazon or from the supplier that others in your facility use
I like carts but I like bags also
Bags are more portable than carts and easier to pick up and go
Just like with carts
You can have bags for different occasions such as a card game bag making cards or other art projects a game bag etc
If you give me some specifics then I can help you further
Susan 10th Feb 2021 Activity Director
Hi Sandy
It sounds like you have been through a lot and it’s not over yet but it seems that you are making the best of things
Let us know how things go and if you find anything really helpful
Sandy 10th Feb 2021 Life Enrichment Coordinator
I'm grateful to be on Carers where I can get ideas and support from people who have similar challenges. Having enough time and supplies, to prepare a cart or carts can be a little daunting. I did prepare a cart about 2 months ago and barely used it because I got ill with Covid, and was out for a couple of weeks and even after returning to work, it took a while to have enough energy to try something new. Then the quarantine was lifted and we were able to get together for activities again, (though still keeping a distance). Now we're quarantined again and I've been spending one one one time with residents while keeping my distance. I was able to interest a few of the residents in some paper games andI'm going to try Bingo from the hallway, with them in their rooms, just a few at a time. I'll let you know how it goe.
Sandy 12th Jan 2021 Life Enrichment Coordinator
I appreciate any and all ideas. I'm new to Carers and am excited about the possibilities. I am the only activity person at my place, so it's always difficult to get everything done I'd like to do.
Susan 12th Jan 2021 Activity Director
Hi Sandy
Try some of these ideas
Sandy 12th Jan 2021 Life Enrichment Coordinator
Just got the word that we are locked down again. We were able to do more activities for a while, but now it's back to one on one. I'm new on Carers, but am very excited to get ideas from evryone. I'm the only activity person here, so I need to have lots of ideas that I can refer to in order to keep everyone active in some way. Thank you for any information you can give me.
Margaret 1st Jun 2020 Activities Co-Ordinator
HI everyone Greetings from a beautiful sunny day in Ireland
Just wondering would anyone have a photo of a cart they use for there portable shop
Thank You
Mag x
Carla 24th May 2020 Activity Assitant
Thank you ladies, I also am a lone activity assistant and greatly appreciate this site, my director is on fmla. She has not been there since this whole thing started, she has been dealing with her own health battle. Is all your calendars activity carts or do you switch it up. Residents are in rooms. It has been so hard to get to everyone. I am at a long term facility. Alot of declines. Any help appreciated
Susan 25th May 2020 Activity Director
Hi Carla
Hang in there
I am sure you are doing a great job
I would take the lead from the residents
Can they tell you what they’d like to do??
I am sure they are all different
Do these residents have dementia??
Sometime you can only spend a few minutes with each person but that is better than nothing
Are there volunteers??
Try to get family members involved
At the very least they could send cards or call their love ones
Do you have any technology to help you out??
Let us know how it is going and if you have more specific questions about activities that you do
Solange 25th May 2020 Diversional Therapist
Hi Carla, I am sorry about your Director - may she get well soon. Have you thought about having Hallway activities? Residents sit at the door entrance of their rooms so they can see each other at a distance. Offer activities like a sing-along, poetry reading, read aloud short stories and jokes, chair exercises, Roll a Ball game (give each resident a pool noodle and throw a small beach ball in the hallway for them to pass around), themed quizzes, Finish the Proverbs, True or False, High Tea, Threesome, and Bingo. You could also offer a competition: enlarge one Spot the Differences or Hidden objects and give each resident a copy; whoever finds the most differences or hidden things first is the winner. A token prize to the winner is optional.
Brenda Parish 15th May 2020
I created a "Sunshine Cart" from an old med-cart...painted a cheerful sun with butterflies and clouds on it.
Susan 15th May 2020 Activity Director
Great idea Brenda
Could you share a picture of this for us
Susan 18th Oct 2019 Activity Director
These are good ideas Jill
Jill 17th Oct 2019 Recreational Aide
Ideas for carts. Bags with old eyeglasses to be cleaned
Small spoons to be polished you can use the ones people collect on vacation
Old jewelry to be sorted ie watches bracelets clip on earrings
100 piece puzzles or less not to childish but larger pieces
A lot of these items can be obtained by donation or from second hand stores
Cloth napkins to be folded
Possibilities are endless and helpful to isolated residents
Katie 9th Aug 2019 Activity Coordinator

Can anyone in the UK suggest where to purchase a similar cart?

Susan 9th Aug 2019 Activity Director
Maybe you can try a local supermarket
Della 18th Oct 2022 Activities Coordinator
Ikea did have a few x
Barbara 6th Mar 2019 Recreation Coordinator
Ok! Bought my colorful cart and named it 'Fun on the Run'! Have started stocking it with
Word search, crosswords, adult coloring books and markers, 1 lb weights, stretchy bands.
Also will incorporate my Music & Memory Program with MP3 players loaded with different genres of music, ie. big band, classical, opera, etc.

I have a few questions for those of you who are already using a cart:
1. Do you stay in the room and work with a resident?
2. Do you drop off items and if so do they keep them or do you wait a few days to get them back? Do you sign out items?
Thanks so much for your input and comments/suggestions!
Darla 9th Mar 2019 Recreation and Rehab Manager
For Barbara.

Activity Documentation = leave items for resident/client

Therapeutic Recreation = remain with resident/client and document # of minutes of therapy in the MDS (or other medical system required documentation process for your country).

I found the cart useful for "Residents at Risk" of isolation.

Adding to the rolling cart each day - yesterday I purchased a small carrying caddy for hand massage and pamper kit. Lotions (hospital issued) and added my own essential oils of lavender(calming) and orange citrus(stimulation).

A fishing game for the fellows - magentic cardboard fish and short bamboo poles with dental floss and magnets tied to bottom.

Calendars (free) from the local stores; muscle cars collector cars calendar; motorcycles calendar; and big rig semi trucks calendar; beautiful flowers calendar; and inspirational message(scenery) calendars.

I post the Residents at Risk and their room #s for other therapists/staff to use.

Have Fun with your cart!

Talita 9th Mar 2019
Love the photo Barb, thanks so much for sharing!
Ms 1st Mar 2019 Activities Assistant
Fabulous ideas! Thank you for presenting them in such a well-organized way! I've already collected several items which would be the basis for a "Something To Do Cart". You've provided ideas for additional things to include. I'd not thought of using a cart for the many one-on-one's that I do. Unfortunately, the activities director is of no help. You folks out here on Golden Carers are my mentors. As a budding activities assistant, I'm ever so grateful and gratified to see things working for the residents I care for.
Haley 5th Mar 2019 Recreation Therapist And Writer
I'm so thankful you found the article useful! I'm sorry that you feel you aren't getting the mentor relationship from your Activity Director right now - it can be frustrating when you want to learn new things but cannot find an invested teacher. So happy you can find that type of inspiration right here on Golden Carers - your residents will benefit from your hard work.
Ms 12th Mar 2019 Activities Assistant
Thank you again Haley! Much gratitude for our on-line support & tribe!
Darla 27th Feb 2019 Recreation and Rehab Manager
Very useful ideas. I had a rolling cart set up in past, but the focus was on large group activities and entertainment.
Now that I am focusing on Therapeutic Recreation and Residents are risk of isolation once again, I feel a fresh energy to get something in place! Your ideas are helpful and thought provoking.

Thank You Haley.
Haley 1st Mar 2019 Recreation Therapist And Writer
Thank YOU Darla! I love that you are taking a fresh approach - we can all use a bit of new inspiration every now and again. Let me know how it goes!
Barbara 27th Feb 2019 Recreation Coordinator
I'm on this!
Haley 1st Mar 2019 Recreation Therapist And Writer
Yay! I hope your residents love it, Barbara!
Jane 26th Feb 2019 Activity Director
This is a great idea! Thank you. You could add some sports trading cards to the cart, depending on the season. Eg. Baseball cards in the spring.
Haley 1st Mar 2019 Recreation Therapist And Writer
That's a great idea, Jane - any sports memorabilia would be a good addition.
Jonna 26th Feb 2019 LS360 Director
Love this idea!!
Haley 1st Mar 2019 Recreation Therapist And Writer
Yay! I hope you can implement some of it in your community, Jonna!
Haley 24th Feb 2019 Recreation Therapist And Writer
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