Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Everything!

From my home to yours, Merry Everything!  Wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season to you all.  May Santa bring you and yours all that your heart desires.  If you need any last minute suggestions, don't forget to take a look at my holiday gift guide from this year.  I am always a click away if you need specific suggestions for a special someone.

I look forward to checking in in a couple of days and sharing some of my daughter's favorite gifts with you all.  I hope to hear from some of you with any wonderful gifts that you may have given or your child received this year.

In the meantime, take advantage of these days to spend time with those you love.  We have been reminded in the last couple of weeks how precious these days are so cherish this time together and make some lasting memories.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Bugs and Buttons, Oh My!


I discovered another great app from Little Bit Studio, creators of Bugs and Buttons.  Bugs and Bubbles is another fantastic app that is already one of Quinn's favorites.  Best part?  18+ games for only $2.99!  This app is colorful, motivating and will engage your child for hours on end.  Because there are so many games, they won't get bored quickly.  My favorite games so far are Whack'em, Pinch Garden and Follow Me.

Similar to the arcade game, Wack A Mole.  Bubbles come out of a blower and you have to pop them before they float off into space.  You have to beware of the ones that have bees inside them and not pop those.  I like that it starts off with just one bubble and then moves up to five bubbles at once.  Great for visual tracking, grasp development and focus/attention.

Pinch Garden:
A fun way to work on developing pinching and grasping skills.  Watch the flowers grow and when you see a bubble come out of it, pinch it and pop it.  I find pinch and grasp skills difficult to work on at times (the children get bored with the manipulative toys we work with) so when I find a game like this that has a pinching/grasping component, I am all over it.  An iPad can motivate the most unmotivated child!  

Follow Me:
This is a cute game that works on teaching letters.  There is a foggy window and a bug will fly to form each letter.  Once you trace the letter, the fog disappears.  They only do one part of the letter at a time and seems to follow the Handwriting Without Tears format.  If you are using this app on the iPad and working on pencil grip, be sure to use a stylus.  

I hope you enjoy this game as much as Quinn and I have been!!  Would love to hear from you all about your favorite game on this app and why.  I am just a click away!  

I am constantly on the lookout for new apps for the iPad that will motivate me, I mean the children, I work with.  It's overwhelming to sift through the thousands and thousands of apps out there and when I find a good one, I want to share it!

When creating my 2012 Gift Guide, I included an app recommended by Jacqueline Barredo, my speech therapist colleague.  Bugs and Buttons is worth the $2.99 price tag!  Not only does my 2 1/2 year old daughter love it, the children I see for occupational therapy (ranging from ages 4 to 7 years old) have all loved it and found mini games perfect for the goals that we were addressing.  Fair warning though, if you are afraid of bugs at all, this might not be your kind of game! The bugs look so realistic and I've found myself jump away from the screen at times at bugs coming at me!

Regardless, I've shared a few of my favorite mini games and the goals that they work on:

Pinch and Grab
One of my favorite mini games, Pinch and Grab, works on encouraging a fine pincer grasp.  Without a proper fine pincer grasp, a child has a difficult time developing an appropriate grasp when using writing instruments.  As you can see in the picture below, a child will eventually have to sort the bugs, cans and papers into the right containers so this will also work on sorting and organizational skills.   

Connect Dots
This is great to work on number recognition, sequencing, motor planning and organizational skills.  It also works on visual motor and visual perceptual skills.  You're encouraged to connect the dots to make a variety of animals and then watch the bugs parade around the completed picture.  I encourage children to use just their pointer finger to work on finger isolation and pointing skills. 

I have always thought this game is great for so many reasons, but let me share two of them.  First of all, it's a great social game and once children have mastered it, they can be completely independent.  Secondly, this is a great game for improving executive functioning, motor planning, sequencing and organizational skills.  When I play this game with my children, I encourage them to take their time and not rush into making a decision.  

These are just three of the 18 games on the Bugs and Buttons app for the iPhone, iPad and iTouch.  I highly encourage you to buy this game for your preschooler to school age child.  If you have any questions on what goals are addressed with each mini game and what would be most appropriate for your child, remember I am just a click away.  Also, please share your favorite mini games with us in the comment section of this post.  As always, I am happy to answer any questions you might have about this app or any other apps and toys that I have recommended.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Just scooting along

As I looked over my Annual Holiday Gift Guide, I realized I forgot to include one of my most favorite toys.  Living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan, I see a lot of kids on scooters.  It is a great way to get around for children and parents don't have to push a stroller around with them all the time.  Even better, you can have a younger child in the stroller and the older one scooting to your destination.

There are a lot of great scooters out there now, but many of the children I work with who have difficulty with motor planning, bilateral coordination and self-regulation issues, often have trouble using them successfully.  When my daughter and I spent more time in the playgrounds, I noticed the Mini Kick Scooter and was so impressed how easily the smaller children were able to use it and safely scoot around not only the playground, but the sidewalks.  My daughter Quinn mastered the Mini Kick by the time she was two years old!  

I began to suggest it to any parent who asked me what scooter would be best for their child and I consistently heard from them how their children were able to master it easily.  While I'm no scooter expert, I believe what makes this scooter better than others has something to do with the two wheels up front and one in back helping with balance.  The wheels have quite a bit of "give" and take the uneven sidewalks and bumps with very little falling over.   If you have an older/bigger child who is in need of a scooter, Kick makes awesome scooters for you!

Scooters are great for so many reasons; they help build overall body strength, work on bilateral coordination and help to improve motor planning skills.  For children with sensory processing difficulties, I recommend that they scoot to school in the morning so they can get some deep input which helps them with organization and self-regulation.

When a child who typically struggles with these skills can master the scooter, it helps build increased confidence and self-esteem.  And when a parent can see their child master something that they typically have trouble with, they also get a boost in confidence.  There is no greater feeling than watching your child happy and successful.

Please be sure to check out your local toy stores as many of them carry this fantastic scooter.

I'm just a click away if you have any questions!  I encourage you to share this post on Facebook or Twitter. You (and your friends!) can also subscribe to this blog so you are the first to know when an update comes through!

If you have any experience with this, or another, scooter, please leave a comment and let me know how your child is enjoying it!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

MAC&Toys Annual Holiday Toy Recommendations

Dear Parents

I hope that this finds you well and enjoying the beginnings of the holiday season.  Since many people ask me what they should get their children for the holidays, I have put together a list of games, activities, books and iPad apps that might benefit your child.  If you look closely, you will see that I have included what kind of occupational therapy goals will be met for each gift.  I hope you find this helpful and please feel free to pass along to any of your friends, family and colleagues.  If you don't find something on here, or have specific questions I might be able to answer, please don't hesitate contacting me. 

While I have included links to and other big box stores, I encourage us all to try and support your local toys stores and businesses this season.  There are a lot of hidden treasures in these stores and I am sure that your business will mean the world to them.  I have included a list of NYC and Brooklyn toy stores that I shop at who have always been friendly and helpful.  

I hope that you all have a wonderful holiday season and that you have a very happy and healthy New Year.


Meghan’s Annual Holiday Toy Recommendations


Spot It/Spot It Junior
This is a great fast-paced game that works on matching, visual perceptual skills, motor planning and  modulation/regulation.  The point of the game is simple: find the one matching object on each of the cards. Sounds simple, but I find myself stumped every time I play!  Once children get the hang of it, they can be completely independent which helps facilitate language and improved social skills.

While I haven’t played this game, I've heard great things about it.  It's great for school age children and ideal for family play. And is described as a game of dice where players roll dice and draw cards to see what their moves are to be. It includes 25 blue dice, 25 green dice, 25 red dice, 25 white dice, 1 large die, 60 draw cards and a game grid. The first player to play all of his or her dice is the winner!

This is a great game for school age children that works on visual motor/perceptual skills, grasp skills, hand strength, following directions, etc. It's a simple game but very fun. Each player gets 10 dice and has to keep rolling until they get all the same number.  

Sneaky Squirrel
I love when I find a game that’s really great for toddlers/preschoolers. My daughter picked this out the other day. She loves it and my husband and I enjoy playing it with her. It's a cute game that works on color matching, following multi-step directions and grasp strength. It includes a cute set of Sneaky Squirrel grabbers that are used to pick up the acorns which work on grasp strength. It's a fun family game that I think even your older children will enjoy playing with the younger ones.

Wok N Roll
This is one of my all-time favorite games that is fun for all ages. It can be easily modified to use with preschoolers but can be made challenging enough for the older ones. It works on matching, eye-hand coordination, grasping skills and much more.  

Tumbling Monkeys
This is a version of Kerplunk, but you have to get the monkeys out of the tree instead of the marbles. It can be modified for children of varying ages, but is best for older preschoolers to young school age children. It can be made more challenging by having the children try and get the least number of monkeys. It's great for fine motor skills, including grasping and also works on motor planning, problem solving and visual motor and visual perceptual skills.  

This is another one of my all-time favorite games and a total classic. It works on eye-hand coordination and matching and visual perceptual skills. I like to hide the shapes in putty and make the children find them to work on increasing grasp strength at the same time.

Hed Bandz
Hedbanz is not only fun, but very educational. It's a great game to work on social skill development and improving speech and language skills. Children work in pairs or teams to answer questions/come up with clues in order to figure out what is on the headband. It's great for working on problem solving, speech and language development and a bunch of other things.

Shopping List
This is a great game for children between the ages of 3 to 7. It encourages expressive vocabulary, memory, matching skills and visual scanning skills. Children go "shopping" for what is on their shopping list. The person to fill their cart with the items on their list first is the winner.

You will find this game in every speech therapist’s office. Children never get bored with this matching game. I recently discovered Travel Zingo which is great for the younger kids because you can modify the size of the board. It works on matching skills, eye-hand coordination, visual motor and visual perceptual skills.  Also great for working on speech and language development by identifying pictures.  

This company makes a ton of fantastic wooden games that I love to use in therapy. I love that they don’t have a ton of bells and whistles, but are clever and different and the kids love them. Below are a couple of my favorites but take a look at their website and see all the great games they have.

A version of Kerplunk or Tumblin’ Monkeys which is great for developing eye-hand coordination, improving grasping skills, motor planning and sequencing skills. Play it with friends and you can work on important social skills such as turn taking, winning/losing and how to help friends. It's great for preschoolers and young school age children but would also keep the attention of older kids as well.  

Stormy Seas
A fun game of balance. Children must get all the cargo on the ship without letting them fall off which is great for problem solving, eye-hand coordination and visual motor skills. It can work on modulation and regulation by helping a child slow down before making decisions and is a great game to play in teams to encourage children to make decisions together in coming up with a game plan.


Read and Build Lego
This is one of my new favorite Lego products. I have always felt that there weren't enough for the little ones and it was like they read my mind!  Duplo has created a series of books and you have to create an animal on each page. Great for sequencing, following directions and increasing grasp strength and improving in-hand manipulation skills. I have actually done this in groups of two to encourage team-work, taking turns and social skill development.  

B. Toys Bristle Block Spinaroos
We all remember bristle blocks from growing up, right? This company is my new favorite. Their toys are very well made and claim to be environmentally friendly. These manipulative toys would be perfect for your toddlers but I have a feeling your older kids will spend hours working on them as well. Spinaroos are great for improving bilateral coordination.

Balancing Blocks
I picked these blocks up before the hurricane last month and both my 2 ½ year old daughter and my husband played with them for hours and hours. They are made by a Brooklyn-based company (woot woot) and I am all about supporting local businesses these days.  I love blocks and manipulative toys because they work on motor planning, eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, play skills, creative play and many other things. Since these come in different colors and sizes, you can also use them to teach children colors and concepts, such as big and little. These blocks are so well made that you will be able to keep them forever!

B. Toys Symphony in B
If you have a music-loving toddler, I highly recommend this toy. My daughter received it for her 2nd birthday and while it was a little challenging and required help from me or my husband, she loved it from the very beginning. There are a bunch of musical instruments that you need to fit into the correct spot so you can work on matching and shape recognition. The songs are fun, and because you can control the volume and speed, it can be great to help calm a child down if they are hyper and need to regulate themselves.  

B. Toys Pop Arty
I have included this toy on my last for the last couple of years. B. Toys creates the coolest toys and the bright colors and shapes are really motivating for the kids. This toy in particular is good for school age children as the pieces are small and could be tough to put together independently. You can use these beads for working on increasing grasp and hand strength, improving in-hand manipulation skills, eye-hand coordination, sequencing, motor planning and visual motor/perceptual skills.

Fisher Price Peppa the Pig House
My 2 ½ year old daughter was given this toy and she loves it (as do I). This little doll house has a bunch of furniture that has two sides (for example, the bed has two sides:  one where the bed is made, the other it is not). It's great for fine motor skill development, improving imaginative play and developing social skill development. Not to mention for speech and language development for toddlers and preschoolers!

Ned’s Head
This is a great game for school age kids. It works on tactile exploration, matching, etc. Kids use their hands to find hidden objects in Ned’s heads.  

Kid O Magnatab Letter and Number Boards
I l
ove these boards and think they are great way to work on handwriting (both letters and numbers) in a fun way for the kids. I am a big fan of multi-sensory ways to learn how to write and this is a great one. The magnet stylus helps encourage proper grasping on writing instruments and all the boards have arrows that show the proper way to write the letters.  

Memory Match 16
I love this wooden matching game that comes with eight different boards for you to choose from with varying levels of difficulty.  As a mom who loves games that don’t take up much space or have a lot of parts, I love that this matching game doesn't have a million cards to get lost. It works on matching, memory, visual motor and visual perceptual skills and is great for working on social skill development.  

Skip Hop Alphabet Zoo Match & Play Puzzle and ABC House Blocks
I must admit, this is a bit of a selfish entry although I do stand by this toy 100%!  It has nothing to do with the cute little model in the picture.  Skip Hop,  a NYC-based company, has come out with a series of wooden toys that are a lot of fun. They are simple and keep my daughter engaged forever.  

Legos and Legos Friends

You can never go wrong with the Lego products. They are timeless and will be in your child’s toy collection forever to be kept for future generations! They are great for working on improving motor planning, organizational skills, sequencing and executive functioning skills. Also great for working on improving grasp strength and in-hand manipulation skills, eye-hand coordination, visual motor and visual perceptual skills. Now that they have introduced a girl's line, there are even more options for boys and girls!

Lego Games
Over the last few years, Lego has come up with a series of strategy and board games. They have been a huge hit with my older kids, kindergarten and up, and will work on all the same things that regular Legos do. Apart from what I listed above, Legos can address language and friendship skills as well.  My favorites: Wild Wool, Ninjago and Pirate Plank.

Arts and Crafts

Orb Factory Mosaic Toys
These mosaics have been on my list for the last several years. They are motivating to all kids and the final product is awesome. It works on fine motor skill development, especially grasping and improving finger strength. Additionally, these toys work on eye-hand coordination, matching skills, visual motor and visual perceptual skills.  Each year they come up with more and more activities, and there are varying levels, so you can get these for your preschooler or school age child.  

Loop De Loop Friendship Bracelet Maker
I'm not sure if you have all noticed how popular friendship bracelets have become but I see them on all my children at work these days. For some of our children with fine motor and motor planning difficulties, this activity can be very frustrating and prevent them from trying. The good news is this little machine helps create the perfect friendship bracelet and once children get the hang of it, they can be independent. It still requires a child to organize and plan out the project, but will work on improving in-hand manipulation skills, bilateral coordination, improving eye-hand coordination and visual motor and visual perceptual skills. If they try and do it too quickly, children will not be able to make the bracelet, so it will also work on improving modulation and decreasing impulsive behaviors.   

Crazy Crayons Eco Stars
I love these crayons not only because they are environmentally friendly, but because they are great for encouraging a proper grasp on a writing instrument.  The bright colors and fun shape get almost all my kids to color and have fun doing it!

Write Me A Story-Eeboo
I am always looking for fun ways to motivate my kids to write in general, but with my older kids, to write
stories. I love this series of books because they give you a bunch of stickers to choose from (ranging from 3-7 stickers), put them in order and then challenge you to write a story using the stickers. This is great for school age children who struggle with coming up with ideas and the sequencing of stories. Stickers are fun and I love that each story, even if using the same stickers, will always be different.  

Cootie Catchers
I love this project for so many reasons. I can remember doing these with my girlfriends a million years ago and love that they have come back in full force. As an occupational therapist, I love all the skills that making these can work on:  handwriting, folding, increasing grasp strength and in-hand manipulation skills...I could go on and on.  My speech therapy friends would love the language it could stimulate and the friendship skills it could encourage. Here are two different options: one is more geared towards girls, but the other has good ones for boys as well.  

Taro’s Origami Studio
This place is an awesome origami studio that has recently been featured in the New York Times.  Origami can be really challenging, but I took a client here for her birthday who really struggles with these kinds of activities. The staff was amazing and her private lesson couldn't have been more motivating and encouraging for her. She left with her “Yellow Origami” belt and a tremendous amount of pride. This place is definitely worth making the trip to Brooklyn! Origami is great for so many things: eye-hand coordination, sequencing, motor planning, grasp and finger strengthening, improving in-hand manipulation skills and many others. When a child completes a complicated origami pattern, the sense of pride they feel is priceless.

Imagine That Coloring Book
This is a great coloring book that will inspire your child to color, draw and use their imagination. It's a big hit with my older preschoolers and young school age children. You can use this with the star crayons for a perfect combo! It works on improving imagination skills, fine motor skills, grasping skills, eye-hand coordination and visual motor and visual perceptual skills. The pictures are motivating enough that you can really stimulate language development as well. The author, Lazoo, has a series of drawing and coloring books that I also highly recommend:  Squiggles, Holes, Incredible Stickers. All can be found on their website under Books.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Finish this Activity Book
I am a huge Mo Willems fan and when I saw this book, I flipped out! It offers a ton of different activities that will keep your preschooler and/or school age child entertained for hours. It helps develop creative writing and imagination skills, language development and can even be done in multiples to work on social skill development and encouraging teamwork. It will also work on eye-hand coordination, handwriting, visual motor and visual perceptual skills.  

The Button Factory
I thought this activity was going to be really hard for my kids, but they loved it. It's a great and quick activity for school age children. The very cool looking fabric buttons take minutes to make. If a child has difficulty with cutting, they may require some assistance. But it's great for working on sequencing and motor planning, executive functioning and eye-hand coordination.  Also works on cutting skills and increasing grasp strength and in-hand manipulation skills.  


While there is still a lot of conflict on using technology in therapy, I have become a huge supporter.  I don’t use it all the time and often will use it as a reward for some of my children.  There are thousands of apps out there that can actually really help your child.  In addition, the iPad/iPhone apps really do encourage a child to work on important skills such as finger isolation, grasping, visual motor and visual perceptual skills, following multi-step directions...the list goes on and on.  If used properly, technology can truly help your child’s skills and confidence.  

Tally Tots
This is a great app for your little ones who are working on learning their letters.  Super motivating and little games that go along with each number

Alpha Tots

Same as above but works on learning the letters of the alphabet.  This game keeps the attention of the little ones forever!

Bubble Guppies
This is a great game for preschool age children.  It works on matching, sequencing, following multi-step directions and I find that the familiar characters from the show are really motivating.


Cute game for preschoolers/early learners that works on matching, following multi-step directions, sequencing, etc..  Cute little characters and fun games that will keep your toddler engaged for a long time!

Don’t Let the Pigeon Run this App

For any of you who are familiar with the author Mo Willems, you will love this application.  This can be good for toddlers up to 2nd/3rd grade.  You get to be the author of your very own Don’t Let This Pigeon book.  There is a cute mini lesson that teaches you step by step how to draw the pigeon character found in all the books.  Worth every penny it costs!


This is more appropriate for school age children.  Created by an occupational therapist, this app works on improving fine motor skills such as grasping skills, handwriting and in-hand manipulation skills.  Cute mini games that will keep the attention of your child while working on important skills at the same time.


My absolute favorite handwriting app out there.  Works on upper and lower case letters and numbers.  Offers 3 different settings, including Handwriting Without Tears.  This game is motivating enough that it keeps ALL my kids interested and excited with handwriting.  There are three different ways to learn each letter which I have found to be very helpful for learning the letters/numbers.

Clay Jam
A new app I just discovered.  Definitely more suited for the school age children.  A really fun and simple (and totally addictive) game.  I would use this to work on finger isolation, problem solving, following multi-step directions and visual motor and visual perceptual skills.

Albert HD

A cute series of mini games that works on a variety of things.  Great for school age games.  Works on a ton of skills, including, but not limited to motor planning, visual motor and visual perceptual skills, eye-hand coordination, following multi-step directions, modulation/regulation, etc...

Fruit Ninja

I usually use this game with my school age children as a fun way to work on visual motor and visual perceptual skills, finger isolation, modulation/regulation and a bunch of other things.  In addition, it’s a game that many children their same age peers play so it helps in building confidence.

Cut the Rope

Another great game for school age children to work on visual motor/perceptual skills, motor planning and sequencing.

Bejeweled Blitz

Another great game for school age children to work on visual motor/perceptual skills, motor planning and sequencing.

Below are speech therapy specific applications suggested by my speech therapy friends:

The Monster at the End of this App

Speech with Milo- G
reat for sequencing and articulation

The Juno Company

Zanny-Born to Run

Bugs and Buttons 
An educational game for preschoolers that works on sorting, connecting the dots and color recognition  

My Play Home

Local Toy Stores to Support

This year, more than others, I am reminded how important it is to support our local small businesses.  Although I mostly include links for Amazon or other big box stores, I always recommend shopping at your local toy store to keep our communities fun and unique.

I've listed a handful of toy stores below. And since I live in Brooklyn, you'll see a majority of these are based in my own backyard. However, if you have additional local stores that supply these toys that are so helpful to our children, feel free to email me. I'm always looking for stores to support and recommend.


Norman and Jules
Area Kids *multiple locations in Brooklyn & New York City
Little Things and Little Things Too
Acorn Toys
Toy Space

Upper East Side
Mary Arnold Toys

Upper West Side

Toy and Stationery World
West Side Kids

Union Square(ish)
Kidding Around *multiple locations in New York City and New Jersey

I know this is a long list. But I hope that, more than anything, you've gotten guidance on fun and important toys to make this holiday season easier for you to navigate. It can be an overwhelming time for all of us, but this should get you well on your way to selecting toys which are fun and play an integral part in your child's development.

I'm just a click away. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Happy happy holidays from my family to yours,