Wednesday, July 24, 2019

On The Go Fun

Summer is here and with August right around the corner, I know a lot of families spend a lot of time traveling. August also ends up being the time of the year where (some) parents begin to panic about the lack of work their kids have been doing all summer and not being properly prepared for the upcoming school year. Traveling is a great time to practice the whole "make learning fun" concept by packing the right kinds of toys. It can be so easy to just occupy their time by giving them some kind of device, which is fine, but there are so many ways to keep kids entertained without having to be looking at a screen. Below, I share some of my favorite products out there that are easy to take along anywhere. They aren't bulky, heavy or take up a lot of space which is a crucial thing when you are traveling.

Car Seat Travel Tray-I haven't used this but wish I had had something like this for my daughter when she was younger. When she wasn't sleeping, she wanted to be drawing or playing on our long car rides and there was never an easy solution. This travel tray can be attached to your car seat (also can be used in a stroller or when out at a restaurant) over your child's lap and helps in keeping everything your child might need in their reach. This comes in especially handy if you are doing any kind of traveling without a spouse or someone who can be that person who can pick up dropped objects. This particular travel tray has sturdy walls and a raised front edge, has multiple storage areas and the waterproof tray is safe for your child to eat on. Be sure to stock your child's travel tray with their favorite art supplies, manipulative toys, stickers and anything else that will keep them entertained.

OOLY Play Again Reusable Sticker Sets-these are one of my favorite new discoveries of this year. OOLY never disappoints me so when I saw these reusable sticker sets a couple of months ago, I bought them all. Think Colorforms reinvented for kids today. Choose from four different sets: Dragon Racetrack, Space Critters, Mermaid Magic and Princess Garden. These incredibly well made sticker sets come with over 60 reusable stickers with a double-sided trifold scene board and can be stored in the sturdy case they come in. Great for throwing in a bag to keep your kids entertained while traveling. These sets are great for working on improving grasping skills, bilateral coordination, hand-eye coordination while encouraging creativity and imagination.

Teebee Play and Store Box-I have loved this storage box since I first saw it on Kickstarter years ago and my own daughter has used it when traveling to keep her Legos all in one place or keep her arts and crafts supplies from going all over the place. The box has a great design with two hinged lids that fold out to create play trays that can rest over your child's legs and a handle for kids to be able to carry from the car to anywhere else. There is also another tray that can be removed to fit on the front edge of the box. If you want to use it for Legos, it comes with a brick plate that you can place in one of the lids. The Teebee box can be used for whatever you want, especially those open-ended toys like action figures, Squigz, beads, etc..  The Teebee box is a great place to store products that will work on increasing grasp strength and manipulation skills while also encouraging creativity and imagination skills.

Squigz 2.0-I've been a fan of Squigz since they first came out years ago and not only use them at work all the time, I gift them to kids almost as much! These open-ended suction cup building toys are as much fun for the grownups as they are for the kids and are so great for working on a variety of developmental skills. Just like the original Squigz, you can push them together to build creations. When you pull them apart, you get the most satisfying Pop sound! The Squigz 2.0 have been updated so that they can not only stick to each other, but the new flat centers allow them to connect in more places. Not only do they stick to each other, they stick to a variety of surfaces (think car window, airplane trays or tables when eating out) making them a perfect on-the-go toy. Squigz work on improving fine motor skills such as grasp strength and manipulation skills, encourages spatial reasoning, creativity, imagination and visual motor and perceptual skills.

Feelings and Emotions Peg Doll Set-sometimes vacations can be challenging for the children I work with. Being away from their comfortable place and not following their familiar routines can cause anxiety for some kids and lead to some meltdowns. When a child is in mid-meltdown mode, they can lose the ability to express themselves. I am loving this peg doll set from Hope Learning Toys that can help children get through difficult times by being able to label and discuss how they are feeling at different times. This set comes with 5 peg dolls (sad, calm, angry, happy, worried) and birch discs with the feelings written on them and comes in a bag making it perfect for traveling.

Toy Story 4 Mini Potato Heads-this is one of my favorite new purchases of the summer and they are a huge hit with the kids I work with. First of all, whenever a huge movie comes out, I check out what kinds of toys are being sold as they always end up being really motivating for my kids. With Toy Story 4 being one of the biggest movies of the summer, I was so excited to see they had come out with these adorable set of mini Potato Heads. I have had a pretty large collection of the superhero themed mini Potato Heads and they are a huge hit in the gym. These are a really great on-the-go toy because they don't take up much space and easily thrown into a travel or diaper bag. They are great for working on improving fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills, improves bilateral coordination, visual motor and perceptual skills and works on executive functioning skills such as focus, attention, motor planning, organizational, problem solving and sequencing skills. An added bonus is that there can be some great opportunities for pretend play with these adorable figures.

OOLY Chromoblends Travel Watercolor Palette-just because you are on the road, it doesn't mean your little artists can't keep creating. This awesome travel size watercolor set comes complete with 24 watercolors, two water brushes and a built in watercolor palette. The water brushes fill up so you don't have to worry about cups of water if you are in a restaurant or on a plane/in a car. I love how small the packaging is making it easy to throw into a beach or travel bag keeping your kids entertained without a screen when they need some down time.

Lee Sticker Puzzles-these sticker puzzles will always be a favorite of mine and are so perfect for travel. They come in different sizes making them appropriate for a wide range of kids. Look through the Sticker Puzzle collections and you will find all kinds of books featuring some of your kids favorite television and movie characters. Kids create pictures by placing a numbered sticker on the right place in the numbered grid. These are great for working on improving hand-eye coordination, visual tracking, visual motor and perceptual skills, grasping and manipulation skills and encourages focus, attention and organizational skills. The best part is that each book has 8 puzzles and will take up almost no room in your bags. Sets range from 15-42 stickers.

Orb Factory Sticky Mosaics-another one of my all-time favorite things ever! I discovered the sticky mosaic sets years ago and they have been a staple in my OT tool box ever since. While I encourage you to look for these at your favorite local toy stores if you have that as an option, Amazon has a great collection for you to peruse if you don't. Whether your kid is into dinosaurs or princesses, there are so many great sets to choose from. They get to make a picture using the various stickers by matching colored sticker to the matching number on the picture.Once they have completed their picture, they can hang it up to display which makes a kid feel so confident!

Sticky Mosaics are a great way to work on developing fine motor and grasping skills, visual motor and perceptual skills, encourages bilateral coordination and executive functioning skill such as focus, attention, planning and organizational skills.

Kid Made Modern Beach Bash Jewelry Kit-I happen to have a kid who really loves to create anytime she can, especially accessories! I am kind of obsessed with all things Kid Made Modern. If you don't know about them, you need to! They have this amazing mission to inspire kids (and their grownups) to find and enjoy being creative. All of their products are designed to give kids the opportunity to realize their creative spark, use their imagination and express themselves by providing them with a variety of craft materials. While they provide them with ideas, they also encourage kids to use their imagination to come up with their own creation.
While there are so many jewelry kits to choose from, the Beach Bash Jewelry Kit is one of my favorites, especially for the summer. Each set comes with everything you need to make fun summer related accessories. The durable case comes complete with different colored hemp cords, shell pendants, seashells, wooden and acrylic beds and an instruction guide to motivate your little designer.
These kits are awesome for working on improving fine motor and manipulation skills, bilateral coordination, hand-eye coordination, visual motor skills, encourages creativity and imagination skills and works on improving focus, attention and organizational skills. Another great thing is that as kids complete their jewelry, their confidence and self-esteem rise!

Glow Friends Neon Colouring Set-sometimes my daughter is perfectly content with the coloring pages that you may get a children's menu on at restaurants but most of the time she wants more than a couple of crayons and whatever they give you to color.  This coloring set by Tiger Tribe is a perfect for throwing in your bag, whether you are going out to eat or about to hop in a car or a plane for a long trip.  Each set comes in a sturdy box with a magnetic top and contains 36 coloring pages, 2 storage drawers, 3 sheets of stickers and 3 double sided markers.  Great for working on improving graphomotor skills, visual motor and visual perceptual skills and encourages creativity.  

Take-Along Games-this set by Peaceable Kingdom is great for keeping kids entertained while in a car/plane, at a restaurant or those down times at the pool or beach.  The set comes with 4 games that use reusable stickers (think Colorforms): Tic-Tac-Toe, Four-in-a-Row, Memory Match-up and On-the-Go Bingo.  In addition to keeping kids entertained, these are great for working on improving grasp strength and manipulation skills, improves hand-eye coordination and visual motor and visual perceptual skills and works on executive functioning skills.   

These are just a handful of the awesome things out there that not only make learning fun, they are easy to take when you are on the go. I know there are a ton more out there so if you are looking for specific ideas for your children, let me know. If you have toys, games or activities that are hits with your kids for traveling, I'd love to hear from you. I am always a click away and love hearing from you all!

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Write On! Summer Writing Ideas

The end of the school year is just around the corner and there is a level of excitement in the kids that I work with that is hard to contain. Kids are looking forward to spending their summers at camp, going on vacations or just getting a break from the daily grind of school and homework. For many kids, summer is supposed to be about resting and relaxing and not thinking about school. However, since many of the older kids I work with don't come to occupational therapy during the summer because of long camp days or spending the summer out of the city, it's important for me to come up with ideas and activities to keep them writing so they don't lose all the skills they have gained over the summer months. Many parents want to give their kids a break but also want to make sure their kids are ready for the upcoming school year. 

There are a lot ways to make handwriting seem less like work for kids. I like when there are activities they whole family can get involved in that way a child doesn't feel like they are being punished. Here are a couple of fun handwriting games you can play as a family:

Crossword Puzzles-these are great for practicing letter writing, sizing and spacing. 
Mad Libs-these are still one of my daughter's favorite things to do when in the car for long car rides. They are great for working on spelling and learning about identifying parts of speech (verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc.). It's also great for working on sizing of letters so they fit in the space they provide. 
Cryptograms-a cryptogram is a type of word puzzle that consists of a code in which a symbol or number is assigned to each letter of the alphabet in order to solve the code. These are not only great for practicing writing letters, it's also great for working on improving visual motor and visual tracking skills. You can find them online for printing out or can check out this book here

In addition to the ideas above, I am sharing some of my favorite activity books, journals and other products that are great for working on handwriting over the summer months. These are meant to help my older children who need to prepare for the increased expectations that they will be faced with in the upcoming school year. Many of these provide writing and story prompts to make it a bit easier for my kids who struggle with coming up with ideas. Sometimes kids get really nervous about how to start a story, but once given a little push, they have great ideas on how to create a full story. 

Super Powers! A Great Big Collection of 
Awesome Activities, Quirky Questions-calling on all kids to turn on their superpowers! This fun-filled book offers tons of wonderful way for kids to discover what really interests them, what makes them unique and what makes them so amazing just the way they are. With invitations to declare a superhero name, create a superhero tool kit and even write their own superhero legend, this book will light up the imagination of young kids-boosting their confidence and opening up their minds to big possibilities. When completed, parents have a wonderful keepsake of their child's unique personality.

And Then Story Starter Cards-And Then is a collection of 20 beginnings of stories that your children have to come up with how the story will end. Each of the cards in this box has a tantalizing start to a story that your child (with the help from friends, siblings or parents) will have to finish. After the And's up to your kids to figure out what happens next. Encourages self-expression, creativity and confidence as they work on developing good writing skills. 

I Like....A Great Big Book of Awesome Activities-inspire kids of all ages to write all about themselves and they things they like in this whimsically illustrated activity book. Features creative activities, intriguing questions, writing prompts and wild artwork. This is great for working on handwriting and drawing with kids over the summer months, perfect for taking along when traveling and a great way for your kid to get to know themselves even more. 

Cliffhanger Writing Prompts-this ready-to-use resource contains 30 exciting story starters that model good writing and help any student get past writer's block. The prompts provide scaffolding through rich characters, imaginative settings and and edge-of-your-seat cliffhanger. "And then...." students put their natural storytelling skills to work, dreaming up their own unique endings. Some of the writing prompts they will write about are: What's under the door in the floor? What are the voices in the root beer saying? What arrived via special delivery? 

Mindful Me Activity Book-being mindful won't take away your problems, but it can help you handle them. In this activity book, kids will learn to settle their thoughts and look inward through a series of fun writing prompts, games and meditation exercises. Serving as a guide to reflect upon the lessons learned in Mindful Me, it offers kids a place to record their reflections, creating a tangible account of how far they've grown in their meditation practice. 

Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book-with the Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself book, your child is the author, illustrator and the main character. Filled with loads of interactive pages and plenty of space to write you own life's story, this book is all you need to create your masterpieces. Another great book for kids to take with them while traveling, at the beach or when at a restaurant. 

Kid Made Modern Comic Book Kit-this DIY comic book kit has everything you need to create your own comic book. Whether you are writing about a superhero or making up some other fun's all right and all up to the writer. This kit is perfect for the graphic novel obsessed kid and provides endless possibilities to design their own colorful comic book. Your budding storyteller will have plenty of room to explore and customize their own 32-page comic book (or write a bunch of short comics). The set comes complete with a blank comic book, markers, stencil templates, rubber stamps, ink pads, bottles of ink and a storage box.

On The Go Stationery Kits-a fun way to get kids writing is by setting them up with a pen pal of sorts. Summer is a great time for this because there are so many kids who go to camp or friends who go away. And what kid doesn't love getting actual mail in the mailbox?? I love these sets from OOLY. They make a great gift for kids who are heading off to camp. Each kit comes complete with 8 letter sheets, 4 envelopes , 4 postcards, a notebook, a mechanical pencil, a four color click pen, a sheet of stickers and an eraser which can all be conveniently stored in the sturdy case it comes in. 

Share Your Smile-living with a 9 year old daughter who is completely obsessed with graphic novels, especially those written by Raina Telgemeir, we had to get this journal like book as soon as it came out. With guidance from Raina herself, kids get lots of tips from her about how to write and draw in this colorful, interactive journal. She teaches kids how to brainstorm ideas, make lists, paste in personal photos and encourages kids to use their imagination to create their own stories. In addition to all these great tips, there are a bunch of behind-the-scenes info from Raina and a sneak peak at her newest book coming out in the fall. This has been my go-to gift and it's been the biggest hit! I guarantee if you have a Raina fan in your life, they will be encouraged to write and create with this journal. 

I Am A Rebel Girl Journal-another recommendation based on my daughter loving it. We have been huge fans of the Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls books since they came out a couple of years ago (gladly been backing them on Kickstarter for each of their projects) and when the journal came out, we were psyched. This journal is filled with activities that challenge perspective, induce thoughts and prompt action. There are activities that encourage girls to love their bodies, write a letter to an elected representative and to interact with the absolutely beautiful artwork by female artists. This 224-page journal is perfect for working on developing writing skills while also empowering young girls. 

So these are just a handful of the dozens and dozens of amazing products out there that can encourage young kids to want to write and create this summer. I chose ones that keep things light since it is summer and know that you have to motivate kids to work on these challenging things when they aren't being forced to. I also chose ones that allows them to use their imagination while also getting to know themselves a bit better. During the school year, their aren't too many opportunities to just write what you want which can often lead to kids resenting handwriting. By allowing your kids creative writing opportunities, you may find that they actually find it easier and will begin to develop a love for writing. 

If you have any other recommendations or ideas, please share them! I know that I am always on the lookout for great writing products and am sure my readers will love the suggestions as well. I am only a click away and love hearing from you all! 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Best of January

It's been a bit rough getting back into the swing of things at work. January is historically a tricky month because of all the paperwork that is required as children get ready for the upcoming school year. I know that sounds crazy since that is months and months away but that is the way in NYC. All of that to say that blogging has been put on the backburner and I'm ready to focus on it again.

Starting this month, I will be doing a monthly blog (along with more regular posts in February) with a wrap-up of some of my favorite things I discovered each month. This will include games, craft sets, activity books, story books and a variety of other things that were a hit with the kids at work. I will end each of these posts with a picture book recommendation that will focus on some kind of social emotional topic. Over the last couple of years, I have spent more time than I can count trying to curate a collection of books that will help children have a better understanding of a variety of social difficulties that they may face. I have found that even if children are having similar social difficulties, they can't quite talk about it or problem solve when it is about them. But when you read a book and a character is struggling with something, they seem to find it easier to talk about.

I am really excited to share some of the products I discovered this month with all of you.

Learn To Write Stencils-a little while ago, my local toy store, Norman and Jules, shared a picture of these stencils on their Instagram page and I became obsessed. I have found finding good stencils can be really tricky and often times frustrating for kids. If they are too flimsy, they are hard for the kids to use. This set of 15 wooden stencils comes with a variety of simple lines that are all used in developing the letters of the alphabet or numbers and can encourage open-ended drawing. One of the things I like to do with them is have the kids look at them and think about what they look like. For example, there is one that looks like waves, another that looks like mountains and another that looks like the top of a castle.  My daughter, who is almost 9 years old, tested these out for me and I loved seeing how these simple lines helped to encourage her creative drawing process. I gave her a set of gel pens, some stickers and blank paper and let her run with her ideas. Learn To Write Stencils are also great for working on developing grasping skills, hand-eye coordination, bilateral coordination and visual motor and visual perceptual skills. They encourage creativity and imagination skills which helps with the development of self-esteem and confidence.

Grapat Nins Carla Wooden Figures Game-over the last few months, I have been adding more open-ended toys to my therapy sessions. I am a sucker for nice wooden toys and am pretty much can't not buy something if there's a rainbow them to it. This set of rainbow dolls is of my new favorites and I have loved watching my kids play with them. As you can see from the picture, the set comes with 6 colored peg dolls with matching discs and rings. I love how many occupational therapy skills can be worked on while also encouraging open-ended play in children. Some of the skills that can be worked on are color identification, sorting, categorizing, improving hand-eye coordination and grasping and manipulation skills. These are also great for improving focus, attention and self-regulation because you need to concentrate and take your time while stacking the rings and discs. I have found these are great to combine with some of my gross motor activities when at the gym. For example, I will have them sort and stack while lying prone in the net swing so we are adding a strengthening component to a fun fine motor activity.

Pencil Nose Game-I discovered this game at another local New York City toy store when looking for a game to entertain our New Year's Eve guests. In this hilarious game, people wear a pair of glasses with a marker attached and have to draw a pictures listed on the cards they pick while being timed. They keep drawing as many as they can to rack up the most points. This game is definitely geared towards older children but could probably be adapted for younger children. For example, you could have the kids come up with a list of simple objects that they think they could draw and pick from those instead of the ones provided. One of the things I like about this is that it encourages kids to be silly and do something differently than typically expected. So many of the kids I work with, especially those older ones, struggle with being perfect or doing things just so so I like that this makes them step outside of their comfort zone and be silly.

OOLY DIY Eraser Kit-I love a good art kit and am pretty much obsessed with all of the art products from OOLY. This simple kit comes with 12 blocks of dough that can be molded into things to create erasers. There are several kinds of DIY Eraser Kits out there, but I really like this one because it is completely open-ended and encourages creativity and imagination skills. There are three simple steps in order to make your erasers:
1. Come up with what you want to make. This requires thinking about colors, size, etc.. Using their fingers, they mold the dough into what they would like to create.
2. Bake it for a short amount of time.
3. Erase!
In addition to encouraging creativity and imagination, it is great for working on improving fine motor skills such as grasping and in-hand manipulation skills. If you want to work on bilateral coordination with kids, provide the kids with a variety of safe tools (knife, fork, rolling pin, etc.) to use.
If you want to make an eraser to put on top of a pencil, you can stick a hole in the bottom before baking it.

LetterSchool Spelling Words App!-LetterSchool is my most used and most frequently recommended handwriting app so when I saw that they had developed a spelling app, I immediately downloaded it. It has quickly become a new favorite of mine and the kids. I find this to be perfect for my pre-kindergarten or kindergarten students who are just beginning to learn how read. Much like LetterSchool, this interactive game provides multiple opportunities for children to learn how to spell and read a variety of words. Kids learn how to read and spell hundreds of words that are grouped together by their ending sounds. They have to listen to the word and then drag the correct letter to complete the word. Once completed, each letter is spelled out while being matched up with fun animations and sounds. For each group of words, there are three levels of game, each becoming more challenging. I like to add a hands-on step by having the kids practice writing out the words either on paper, Boogie Board or dry erase board once they have completed each group of words.
The first five groups of words are free but I think that this app is one that is worth every cent!

The Snurtch by Sean Ferrell-this children's book was new to me but came highly recommended to me by one of the awesome staff at Stories Bookshop and Storytelling Lab, my go-to for all of my children's books for my social skills group, The Meetinghouse Juniors. Our social skills curriculum the last few weeks has been focused on Thinking vs. Saying when  talking to people. We are all guilty of saying things out loud that we think are innocent but may come out the wrong way and actually upset others. The Snurtch is one of the books we have read to help explain this concept to children. The gist of the story is that Ruthie, the main character, has big feelings and will say or do things that hurt the feelings of her teachers and peers. She says it isn't her but is the Snurtch....this monster who makes her do all of these terrible things. This book brought up great conversations with our group about whether or not the Snurtch was a real thing or Sophie's way of dealing with things when they are challenging. It was great to hear the kids talk about how Sophie could have done or said something differently that didn't make her friends feel sad. It was a perfect book to read before launching into our activity about Thinking vs. Saying.

These are my favorite things for January 2019. I am really looking forward to putting these together each month. I am working on some other fun things this year that I think you'll all love and find helpful. If there are things you are looking for, let me know. I love hearing from you all and am just a click away!

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Small Stuff-Stocking Stuffers and Small Gifts

There are lots of times when you just need a small gift for people on your list or you are looking for some new and really fun things to fill up a stocking with. Today, I share a bunch of my favorite small gifts that are all kid tested and approved. Everything recommended have some kind of therapeutic benefit but the kids won't even know it! Whether it be helping with the development of fine motor and grasping skills or provide time for sensory exploration, all of the items recommended are guaranteed to make your kids happy. The thing I love about these small gifts is that they can be taken on the go to keep your kids entertained when necessary.

1. Ninja Erasers
2. Yummy Yummy Scented Glitter Gel Pens
3. Tenzi Dice Game
4. Pinch Me Therapy Dough
5. Wikki Stix
6. Bop It Micro 
7. Mad Mattr
8. Marker Pens 

1. Sticker Puzzles
2. Meteor Monster
3. Discovery Putty 
4. Build Your Own Alphabet Straw
5. Do-Overs Erasable Highlighters 
6. 32 Ways to Dress Fox Activity Book
7. Pop Tubes
8. On The Go Monster Kit

1. Kiko and Wakka Water Game 
2. Kid Made Modern Bits & Pieces Jewelry Kit
3. Melting Snowman
4. DIY Window Cling Art Kit
5. Eraser Puzzles
6. I Am a Rebel Girl Journal 
7. Zoo Sticks
8. Animal Poppers 

1. Tegu Rainbow Magnetic Tram Set
2. Orb Soft N' Slow Squishies
3. Teebee Play and Store Box
4. The Offbits Building Sets
5. Mad Libs/Mad Libs Juniors 
6. Wubble Fulla Sensory Balls
7. Kid Made Modern Comic Book Kit
8. Donut Pom Pom Maker 

While I have links for all of these items, I have to tell you that most of them were purchased at my local toy stores here in New York City. Your local toy and book stores are often treasure troves for wonderful gifts. While I like to support my local toy stores all year long, I find it extra important this time of the year. If any of you have found anything amazing, please share! I am only a click away and love hearing from you all.

Wishing you all a very happy, healthy and fun-filled holiday season!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

2018 Holiday Gift Guide-This and That

In this installment of the 2018 Holiday Gift Guide, I share a bunch of my favorite toys, games and craft sets. I have also included a handful of my favorite monthly subscriptions. This is a new addition to my list and it is something I am really excited about. There are a lot of great ones out there and the ones I included are ones that are ideal for children who may need to work on improving fine motor and sensory processing skills. The fun thing about these subscriptions are that they give kids something to look forward to each month after the holidays are over.

Easel-one of the greatest gifts my daughter got for one of her first Christmas' was an easel. She had it for years so it was certainly worth the investment of getting a really good one. Working on an incline is great for developing upper extremity strength, trunk control and encourages grasping skills. I am going to recommend two different ones depending on what kind of space you have. For those of you have a significant amount of space, this Wooden Art Easel from Crate Kids. One side has a black chalkboard, the other has a white board and there is a place for a roll of paper on the top for painting and drawing. There is also plenty of storage space in the frame to store your paints and paintbrushes. If you don't have quite as much space, Crate Kids has this awesome Table Top Easel which features a chalkboard on one side, magnetic white board on the other, a dowel on the bottom that holds a roll of paper and space to hold four paint cups. The nice thing about this one is that if you don't have the real estate to keep an easel out permanently this one folds up for easy storage.
Here are some of my favorite craft accessories that can be paired with an easel and are perfect for kids of all ages. 
*OOLY Chunkie Paint Sticks
*'lil Poster Paint Pods
*Chroma Blends Watercolor Paint Set
*Mumbo Jumbo Chunky Markers
*'lil Paint Brush Set
*Washable Paint Set

I Can Do That! Activity Books-I am totally addicted to these activity books for preschoolers from Lazoo. Even better, my kids love them and are so motivated to work on challenging fine motor and graphomotor skills. Finding good activity books can be difficult so when I do find them, I love to share them with everyone I know. The books described below are small and can be thrown in a bag, keeping kids entertained while in the car, traveling or when in restuarants.
I Can Do That! Erasable Art-this coloring book is perfect for keeping kids entertained on the go. The pictures are simple but of familiar objects.
*I like to have my kids use these neon gel highlighters from Ooly. Not only are they great for kids who might have decreased grasp strength because it doesn't require much pressure for the colors to show up, they are easy for kids to erase. The bonus for the kids is that they smell delightful!
I Can Do That! Origami-this super simple cutting and folding projects for preschoolers helps develop cutting skills and folding skills which are great for developing fine motor and grasping skills. There are a bunch of activities with no more than 3 steps where kids can turn pictures into something else.
I Can Do That! Stickers-this is another favorite of the kids at work. I mean, anytime you include stickers in a project it's sure to be a big hit! Kids not only work on developing fine motor, grasping and coordination skills, they can work on problem-solving, early math and reasoning skills through the simple activities. Another great thing about this is that the stickers are reusable so it isn't a one and done kind of thing.

Wooden Magnetic Earth Tiles-I am a huge fan of Magna-Tiles and have given them as first birthday gifts countless times. However, I love the idea of non-plastic options so when I found these, I was psyched. Earth tiles are made from a durable, sustainable wood with magnets hidden inside so they easily stick to each other. These open-ended building toys encourage creativity and imagination skills, help with developing fine motor and grasping skills, improves bilateral coordination, hand-eye coordination and visual motor skills. At the same time, young children can learn about shapes with these triangular and square shaped blocks.

Squigz-a holiday gift guide wouldn't be complete without mentioning Squigz. For younger kids, be sure to check out pipSquigz and the Suction Kupz. These oversized suction cup toys will keep your kids entertained for hours  while helping develop fine motor and grasping skills (and can even help with giving some relief when teething). Each one of the pipSquiz is a different shape, has a different tactile experience and a different sound. The Suction Kupz come in a set of 6 and can be used to put other little toys in, house snacks or just be used as a toy to explore. They are both perfect for keeping kids engaged while sitting in their stroller or high chair or even while getting bathed. For older kids, there are a whole series of Squigz from Fat Brain Toys. These open ended toys are great for working on developing grasping skills and bilateral coordination, improve hand-eye coordination, focus and attention and encourage kids to be more creative and imaginative. These are great to keep in your bag for long car trips as they can stick to windows and provide your child with hours of entertainment.

Lalaboom Pop Beads-I love when I find a traditional toy that has been given a bit of a modern update to it. I can remember playing with the Fisher-Price pop beads as a child and still recommend pop beads to parents who are looking for developmental toys for their babes. I was killing time at the beginning of the year and scouring Fat Brain Toys when I stumbled upon the Lalaboom beads. These snap together beads are a great way for young children to work on increasing grasp and upper extremity strength, improves bilateral coordination, motor planning skills and hand-eye coordination. What's nice about these beads are that they each have a different texture on the outside making it an opportunity for sensory exploration. The other great thing about them is that each bead is actually two parts and can be screwed apart and they can mix and match beads. So as kids grow, the way they can play with this toy changes and becomes increasingly more challenging.

Bright Basics Peg Garden-peg boards are so great for developing fine motor and grasping skills, hand-eye coordination and focus and attention in children as young as 1 years old but are oftentimes so simple that they don't always hold the interest of children for long. Educational Insights has a way of making this important toy more fun for kids. Last year, I featured the Learning Resources Peg Friends Stacking Farm set (which I still use multiple times per week at work). I am in love with this garden themed pegboard which comes with 15 flower pegs and 12 different insects that they can place on top of the flowers. This is great for improving hand-eye coordination, visual motor skills and focus and attentional skills. What's nice about this pegboard set is that it can be graded to work on different kinds of skills such as sorting the flowers by color, matching the bugs, counting and color identification.

Yeti, Set, Go!-this new game from Play Monster is a mix between Hungry, Hungry Hippos and Yeti in My Spaghetti and has been a huge hit with my kids at work. This goal of this four player game is to be the first player to get all of your meatballs on the mountain ledges. Kids put the meatball on the Yeti's foot, aim in the right place and push the head down. The trick is that if you hit the head to soft the meatball won't go anywhere and if you push too hard it will fly across the room! This game is great for working on hand-eye coordination, visual motor skills, focus, attention and self-regulation.

Googly Eyes Game-finding games for older children can be a challenge. How many times do kids roll their eyes when parents suggest a game night? The key to this not happening is finding a super fun game. Googly Eyes is just that. Players pick a card with a word on it and have to draw a picture. The challenge is that they are wearing glasses (three different lenses) that alter their vision making it much harder to draw what they are supposed to. Kids roll the dice, move their pieces and where they land will determine which set of lenses they have to use to draw their picture. This is not only a fun game, it is a great way to work on graphomotor skills without the pressure of things having to be perfect.

Panda Rollers-this game is geared towards preschoolers and is a really fun way to work on improving visual skills such as visual discrimination, visual tracking and visual motor skills. Kids shake the dice and race to be the first player to match your panda face cards to the colors of the dice shown. The first one to correctly make their panda face receives a reward tile. The person with the most tiles is the winner. This game is also great for working on improving social skills such as being a good winner/loser and turn taking.

Bop-It-I have to admit I am a bit of a sucker for toys that were popular when I was younger. Bop-It was one of those toys that always provided me with that just right challenge and I now love using it with my kids at work. It is one of my go-to toys to work on developing executive functioning skills and to help with increasing frustration tolerance. While there are quite a few to choose from these days, I think the original is the best, especially for kids who might have decreased frustration tolerance or difficulty with focus and attention. In addition to being great for working on executive functioning skills, it is a fun tool to help develop fine motor and grasping skills, improves hand-eye coordination and improves bilateral coordination.

Simon Game-another oldie but goodie and a great game for older school age children who are on your list this year. This is another game that I encourage parents to get for their kids who need to work on improving executive functioning skills. The Simon game is an electronic game where the players have to watch a light sequence and then repeat it in the correct order. The more they can repeat, the higher their score is. In addition to working on executive functioning skills, playing the Simon game also works on hand-eye coordination, visual motor skills, sequencing and can work on increasing grasp strength and manipulation skills.

Giant Coloring Posters-these are still one of my favorite things as it is a gift that can last a long time and can be done with friends and family making it a true collaborative project. There are a ton to choose from but my friends over at Norman & Jules have a great selection from a company called Omy that I like the best. Other than the obvious goal of working on improving graphomotor skills, there are a ton of other skills that can be worked on using these giant coloring posters. For example, if you hang it on a wall, kids can work on a vertical surface which is great for building upper extremity strength and shoulder stability and improves core strength. Additionally, it can be a wonderful social activity. We have actually had one one year in my social skills group and it was really fun to watch the kids talk about what they were coloring, what colors they were choosing and having to compromise when someone else might have wanted to color in part of the picture that someone else might have wanted.

Kid Made Modern Arts and Crafts Supply Library-this craft kit is easily one of my most favorite gifts and I actually use it at work on a daily basis. This kit comes with over 1,200 different art supplies including pom-poms, beads, various kinds of pipe-cleaners, googly eyes, felt pieces and SO much more. The best part about it is that it comes in a super sturdy case with compartments for everything. While they give you a simple guide with some ideas of things you can make, this kit is intended to ignite creativity and encourages kids to come up with their own ideas. I have loved seeing how my kids have looked through all the supplies, make a plan and then bring their idea to life. Not only are they working on developing fine motor and grasping skills, they are working on improving executive functioning skills such as task initiation, planning and prioritizing and organizational skills.

Orb Factory Sticky Mosaics-these are a long time favorite of mine and they have recently added a bunch of new sets. Sticky Mosaics are a great activity for working on developing grasping skills, increases grasp strength and manipulation skills, improves hand-eye coordination, visual motor and perceptual skills, visual tracking and focus, attention and organizational skills. As kids complete their pictures by matching the stickers to the correct number, their confidence and self-esteem soar as they see their hard work turn into something that they can hang up and display. Be sure to check out local toy stores for these. I have found that they are in lots of the local small businesses here in the New York City area.

DIY Pin and Flair Set-this DIY kit was a gift my daughter received last year for her birthday and she loved it. Kids can color, cut and then bake (think Shrinky Dinks) 18 different pins or other kinds of accessories. This simple activity encourages kids to be creative and express themselves through their color choices and design while working on improving coloring skills, executive functioning skills and increasing confidence and self-esteem.

Chalk Blocks-if you are a regular reader, you know that I am a sucker for a good set of blocks. I am totally obsessed with this set of wooden chalkboard building blocks. Each set comes with 7 blocks, dustless chalk (which lasts longer than conventional chalk), a set of mini paint brushes and a chalk sharpener. What I love about these are kids can work on handwriting and drawing skills while also encouraging creativity and imagination skills. Building with any kind of blocks is also great for developing executive functioning skills such as planning, problem solving and task completion.

Alphabet Blocks-i'm always on the hunt for tools that make learning and writing letters and shapes more motivating for kids. A few months ago, my friends over at Rose and Rex send me this set of alphabet blocks that has quickly become a favorite of the kids at work. These oversized wooden blocks have hand-painted letters, numbers and shapes on all the sides. What makes these unique is that one side of each block is painted in chalkboard paint which kids can use to practice their writing skills. I have had kids practice writing their names by filling in blank letters or have them fill in missing letters of common sight words. They love that after they are done, they love that they can erase it.

Eeboo Pretend Play Stickers-one thing we know about the holidays is that we end up with a ton of cardboard boxes of different sizes. One of my daughter's favorite things to do to this day is to use these boxes to build all kinds of things with. The hours that were spent making and creating were some of our favorite and most creative hours. When I discovered these pretend play stickers by Eeboo, I was ecstatic. Many of the kids I work with are too young or have trouble with initiating play and these are perfect for them. There are 3 sets to choose from (Car, Kitchen, Spaceship) and each comes with 5 sheets of reusable stickers. In addition to being a perfect tool for encouraging pretend play, creativity and imagination skills, it is great for working on improving fine motor and grasping skills, hand-eye coordination and visual motor skills. It's also a great social skills tool!

Design and Drill-this is a big hit with so many of the kids I work with and I love how many ways it can be used to address therapeutic goals. There are a ton of great sets to choose from depending on what your child's interests are. They have sets that use a battery operated drill or a screwdriver that requires children to use more muscle power but the goal of each of them is pretty much the same. Using the drill or screwdriver, kids fill in the holes with different colored bolts. Kids can either follow patterns provided with each set or create their own designs. Some of the sets have you decorate robots, princess crowns, etc. and others that are just a blank canvas for the kids to fill in. These are great for working on increasing grasp strength, improves visual motor and perceptual skills and helps with focus, attentional and organizational skills.

Buggzle-I like this puzzle game for a variety of reasons. First of all, I like that it is small and can be thrown in a bag to keep kids entertained while waiting for an appointment, while traveling or in a restaurant. Kids pick one of the 40 challenge cards and then have to use the puzzle pieces to make their bug match what is shown on the card. This game is a great way to work on developing fine motor and grasping skills, encourages spatial reasoning, hand-eye coordination, problem-solving, critical thinking, focus, attention and organizational skills.

Sensory TheraPlay Box-this is something I discovered last year and tried out myself for work and I now look forward to the email each month telling me this sensory subscription box is on it's way. First of all, I have been introduced to a countless number of new products that have had been such a positive addition to my practice. It's also given me a ton of tools to be able to recommend to other therapists and families I work with. Each month I receive a box arrives at my door with 5-7 sensory tools hand-picked by the occupational therapist who started this product. I have received fidget toys, special kinds of putty and play doh and home exercise plans to name just a few. While this subscription box was intended for children on the spectrum or for children with sensory processing difficulties, I have been introduced to so many great products that help children of all abilities.

Pipsticks Sticker Club-this is one of my daughter's favorite things she has ever gotten. Each month, she receives an envelope filled with 15 sheets of unique stickers, a pre-stamped postcard (that she often uses to send her cousins or a friend), an activity booklet and a reusable pouch to store everything in. In addition to kids just loving stickers, using them has a lot of therapeutic value and they don't even know it. They are great for working on improving grasping skills, improves visual skills, improves hand-eye coordination and can encourage creativity. I can't tell you the number of hours my daughter and her friends have spent endless hours creating stories and comics using her Pipstick sticker collection.

Mrs. Grossman's Sticker Club-this is another awesome sticker club but one that I recommend for younger kids. Very much like Pipsticks, this monthly subscription comes with at least 15 sheets of Mrs. Grossman's stickers. What's fun about this sticker club is that in addition to getting new stickers, they include classic and not-yet released stickers. Like I mentioned above, using stickers has a lot of therapeutic value and they don't even know it. They are great for working on improving grasping skills, improves visual skills, improves hand-eye coordination and can encourage creativity.

We Craft Box-I have a kid who is really into her arts and crafts but we don't always know what to do with the supplies that we have lying around our house. There are a lot of families out there that would like to be into crafting but don't know where to start. When I discovered the We Craft Box I thought of so many of the kids I work with now who would love to get a box filled with all the supplies necessary to complete 2-3 themed crafts for two children. What I really love about this is that they come with photo directions so kids can follow them independently (with supervision from an adult) when possible. For older siblings, they can help develop confidence and self-esteem by helping their younger siblings to complete their craft projects. This gift that keeps on giving is great for developing fine motor and grasping skills, encourages creativity and imagination skills, works on visual motor, and perceptual skills and SO many other developmental skills.

There is so much more that I could have added to this list! If there is something specific that you are looking for, I have a lot more gift ideas that are great for working on a variety of skills. Just remember, I am only a click away and love hearing from everyone. Don't hesitate reaching out with specific ideas for your children!

The most important thing I look for when I put this list together is that the products don't seem like a therapy exercise for the kids. An added bonus is when they can be something that children of all ages and abilities can enjoy. Sometimes it might mean you have to adjust the rules or expectations for some children to be successful, but those adjustments are simple.