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About Busy Boards For Dementia & Alzheimer’s Patients

activity board for dementia

A busy board or activity board is a therapy component used for patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Items are grouped so the user can easily access and manipulate them.

If you’re going to put together an activity board for a senior parent or loved one with dementia, how do you do it?

Here’s how to make busy boards for dementia patients:

  • Determine which items will go on the board
  • Use medium-density fiberboard for the board itself
  • Mark holes where you’ll place the items
  • Secure items with a screwdriver, drill, or glue

How Do You Make A Busy Board For Dementia Patients?

Okay, you’ve decided that a busy board would benefit the dementia patient in your life.

Per the intro, here are the steps to follow to make your own activity board that will be sure to enrich a senior in a multitude of ways.

Decide Which Items Will Go On The Board

The busy board should be made of a durable material like medium-density fiberboard or MDF, which you can buy at any arts and crafts store.

You can also purchase MDF online.

Since it’s available in so many sizes, before you start shopping, you need to plan out the busy board.

That begins with determining which everyday items to put on the board. We’ll talk more about this more in the next section.

Gather Dementia Activity Board Items And Plan The Layout Of The Board

Just like a children’s fidget toy has various gadgets, your DIY activity board should contain familiar hardware.

We’ll go more in depth about what to include further down in this article.

Meanwhile, considers such things as a light switch, a barrel bolt, a bike chain lock with a key, a sash lock or similar items.

Once you’re sure what you want to add to the busy board, place the items on cardboard or even a large piece of newspaper.

Arrange the layout how you want it for the finished product.

Jot down measurements and maybe take a photo on your smartphone that you can use for reference later.

Buy The Particleboard And The Board Items

Now you can get shopping.

First, you need MDF. It’s okay if the particleboard is bigger than the measurements you took, as you can always cut the board down to size.

The MDF shouldn’t be smaller though or you’ll have to omit some items on the board.

If you don’t already own the items you’ll need, then you’ll have to buy those as well.

Paint The Board

This step is optional, but if you want to paint the activity board, now is the time to do it. Use nontoxic paint in bright colors and ensure it’s totally dry before you proceed.

Place The Items On The Board

You did a sample layout before, but you want to create another layout before you begin permanently installing the items.

This just confirms that everything on the activity board fits, which it should.

Once again, snap another photo with your smartphone so you can use it as a reference once you begin drilling, screwing, and gluing things in place.

Attach The Items To the Board

If you have a spare piece of MDF from cutting it down, start with that piece.

Run a screw through it with a drill.

  • Does the particleboard splinter?
  • Can you feel the screw from the other side?

You don’t want any hazards for your senior parent or loved one.

If drilling the screws isn’t quite working, then it’s on to Plan B: glue.

You won’t be able to affix heavier items to the busy board with glue, so that might mean readjusting the board’s layout and doing a bit more shopping to fill the board with lightweight activities.

Let The Board Dry

If you did use glue, then give it adequate time to dry before you hand off the activity board to the dementia patient.

What Do You Put On An Activity Board For Dementia Patients At Home?

Now, let’s talk about what should go on the busy board you’re putting together for a senior parent or loved one with dementia.

The activities should fine-tune their dexterity and hand-eye coordination while providing tactile sensations.

Here are some recommendations.


Flipping a switch off and on, even though it doesn’t do anything, can be very soothing to your senior.

Try the switch yourself before drilling it on the board. Does it flip easily? If not, then don’t include it.

The switch should also have smooth surfaces so your dementia patient doesn’t hurt themselves.


Shoe lacing via rivets attached to the activity board look good and are functional too. You can also replicate shoe lacing by fastening two rows of 3 to 4 D-rings that oppose each other onto the board.

As your senior practices tying and untying the laces, they can replicate these skills when tying their shoes. Ask them to tie knots, double-knots, and bows as well.


The inclusion of knobs on a busy board is just for something that feels good. Think carefully about the knob materials as you’re shopping.

A metal knob is going to feel smoother and cooler than a plastic knob. You can even buy a ridged knob for a truly tactile experience.


Grasping a zipper and opening it and then zippering it shut again is a good chance for your dementia patient to work on their hand dexterity.

The zipper should be attached to a piece of fabric; keep the zipper larger so your senior doesn’t get frustrated trying to use it.


Most craft stores should carry gears that you can include on the activity board. Like the laces, gears create intrigue around a busy board that might incline your senior to give the board a try.

Feel free to paint or draw on the gears if they’re all one color so they’re even more inviting to twist, pull, and rotate.


Bolt locks or deadbolts are a common feature on many activity boards. Their inclusion is more than just for soothing a dementia patient. Locks also have everyday use.

Your senior will be able to lock up their home tight and secure at night once their hands get used to locking and unlocking a deadbolt.


You can also include latches on the busy board, which seniors with dementia will use not only when playing with the board, but to lock up their home too.

Opening and closing a latch requires different dexterity skills than locking and unlocking a deadbolt, so both are good to add.


A simple plastic buckle on a fabric strip such as a pet collar might be easy for you to squeeze open, but that’s not necessarily true for seniors.

They’ll have to use their hand muscles to open the buckle and then secure the plastic slots together.

If your senior has a pet, leashing up their dog for a walk can become something that they no longer rely on assistance from others to do. That feels good for a senior, especially one who’s grappling with dementia.

Velcro Closures

Not all seniors can use laces, especially if they have conditions like arthritis that limit their dexterity. For them, they might have switched to Velcro footwear and clothing.

To encourage the easy use of Velcro, a few closures with the material would be a great inclusion on the activity board.

Squeeze Toys

Do you have a stress ball on your desk at work for those especially tough days? Squeezing the toy calms you down.

For that reason, a squeeze toy makes sense on an activity board. The act of squeezing can also strengthen your senior’s hand and wrist.

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