Starting a YouTube Channel as a Pediatric Therapist

Learn more about starting a YouTube channel as a pediatric therapist!

As part of our series on Side Hustle Ideas for Pediatric Therapists, we are doing a deeper dive into some of our favorite hustlers in the business.  These therapists have worked tirelessly to grow and develop their businesses from the ground up, adding creative new elements businesses along the way!

In this post, we’ll hear from Dana Cary, owner and founder of The OT Guide YouTube channel.  Dana started her YouTube channel from scratch when her schools shut down at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Now she’s reaching thousands of subscribers with her videos about child development, kids activities, teletherapy, and more!

What we love about Dana’s videos is how approachable and practical they are – perfect for busy therapists, teachers, and parents.  No need to sit through a lengthy explanation or a lot of background information.  Dana gets right to the point and provides quick, actionable ideas and tips that you can put into use right away!

We’re excited to have Dana here today to tell us, in her own words, what it’s like to own and run her YouTube channel.  Take it away Dana!

Starting a YouTube Channel as a Pediatric Therapist

I remember the day perfectly – it was one of those rare gray days in San Diego when I got the chilling email notification stating that my schools were shutting down due to COVID-19.  I pondered what the shutting down of schools would look like and what it would mean. Not only what this would mean for me personally, but for all of my loved ones – my family, my friends, my co-workers, my students and their families.

How were we all going to get through this? How were my students going to handle being at home? These questions swirled around my head like a sandstorm.

During these early COVID days, my school district asked all faculty and staff to send resources home to parents since we hadn’t yet rolled out teletherapy services. I scoured YouTube for fun activities that my students and their parents could do together to address some of their fine motor goals, but I soon noticed two major problems:

1) The YouTube videos were missing the mark – they weren’t explaining things adequately, or they were too long, or they were too boring

2) I wasn’t busy enough. I needed to do something, I needed to feel like I was helping.

This is when I came up with the idea to make my own YouTube videos – they would be brief, informative, and creative. My activities would only require the most basic household materials, so anyone could follow along and do them.  Not only would this help my families, but it would keep me busy and give me a greater sense of purpose. I can do this, I told myself, channeling my inner Rosie the Riveter.

Stoked that I had found a solution to my growing sense of helplessness, boredom, and unease, I grabbed my computer, turned on “iMovie,” and pressed the green record button.

I recorded easy craft videos for preschoolers – like how to make a quick puzzle out of a cereal box, or how to use playdough to promote fine motor skills, or easy ways to address core strengthening and balance at home.

I then progressed to caregiver education videos that addressed topics such as how to teach your toddler to get dressed and the best types of homemade pencil grips.

Eventually, my channel grew into a hub for fellow therapists who wanted free and fresh activities for teletherapy and distance learning.  I covered everything from how to use Jamboard for teletherapy, to how to gamify your teletherapy practice by using popular kids characters and references, including Pokemon, Minecraft, Fortnite, and Mario.

I quickly realized that being a “YouTuber” is a ton of work. First I had to come up with the video idea, then I had to record myself and edit out all of my “umms” and “uhhs”, then I had to make an alluring thumbnail. Each of these tasks are difficult and time-consuming.  But after I started making my videos and posting them, I noticed people actually liked them!

I started getting emails. Lots of them.

First from the parents of my students, then from caregivers and therapists around the world.  People thanking me for making my videos and saying that I was helping them during COVID.  The original purpose of this YouTube project, to keep busy and make myself useful, was actually being realized! I set my mind to something, I followed through, and it was happening! Rosie and I were doing it!

As my channel continues to grow, my mission has remained the same.  I want it to always be a place where I provide useful resources related to childhood development for caregivers, teachers, and therapists.

It may not always be my own activities or ideas that I share – I will share anyone’s ideas if they’re useful and beneficial to the public (if you are someone that provides useful tips for parents and therapists, contact me and I can help you spread your message).

If you’re a parent, teacher, or therapist looking for pediatric OT resources and activities, head over to my YouTube channel @TheOTGuide for some inspiration!

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Claire Heffron is co-author at The Inspired Treehouse and a pediatric occupational therapist in a preschool/primary school setting. She began her career with a bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism but quickly changed course to pursue graduate studies in occupational therapy. She has been practicing therapy for 10 years in public and specialized preschool/primary school settings. She is a mom to three funny, noisy boys and relies on yoga, good food, and time outside to bring her back to center.

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