Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Let's Face It, This is Fun!

I was at Little Things Toy Store in Brooklyn the other day looking for something for Quinn.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something I had never seen and had to have it immediately.  The Magnetibook Crazy Face, created by a french company called Janod, is a brilliantly designed game where you have to complete a face out of magnets.  There are a bunch of cards with pictures of people and then you have to sort through a variety of face pieces to make a match with the card.  There are clowns, girls, boys, sports players and silly faces so it can be appropriate for any child.

A common occupational therapy goal with preschoolers is to improve body awareness.  Children who have body awareness issues often have a difficult time drawing pictures of people because they don't have a clear understanding of their own body and what it looks like.  As a child goes through occupational therapy and their body strength improves, so does their body awareness and their ability to draw pictures of people.  This game, Crazy Face, is a great way to help improve both of these skills.  In addition, it helps to improve visual perceptual and matching skills.  Using a bunch of magnetic face pieces, you are asked to copy a card with a picture of a face on it.  You can grade the challenge for each child; for example, you can show the child the card and have them sort through all the magnets and pick out the right pieces or have the right pieces laid out for them and have them put them in the right place.  I truly love a game/toy that allows you to easily grade the activity for each child's skill level so that makes this toy even more appealing.

When I am in the gym, I like to make this part of an obstacle course.  I have the children do some swings, climb up the ladder to collect a magnet and then crawl through a tunnel where the board is waiting.  Sometimes all that sensory input helps organize them and give them a clearer idea of where their body is in space and they are more successful with putting the piece in the right place.  I have already tried this with a handful of my children at work and they love it!  When it was time to put it away and move onto something else, they asked for another turn.  I say that is a true sign of a fun toy!

I found this toy at a local toy store in Park Slope.  As always, try supporting your local toy stores when you can.  If you can't find it, ask them to order it for you.  

If you have any questions, I am just a click away.  If you are looking for some other games similar to this, I would love to help you find them.  Don't hesitate contacting me with any toy, game or iPad/iPhone app questions you might have.  

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Question from a Reader

What do you think of magformers? Owen played with some at a store on his birthday so we bought some for Christmas. They are pricy, made in China, and you need to buy multiple sets for them to work best.  Looking for your professional input .  
Julie L.  mother of 4 year old Own

When I decided to start this blog, I had hoped that I would be able to answer specific questions for my readers.  I was excited when a friend of me from high school contacted me with the question above.  I hope that this is just the first of many questions I will be asked.  

I am actually a big fan of Magformers and toys similar to them, such as MagnaTiles.  As Julie points out, they are pricey and in order to maximize your building experience, you should have at least 2-3 sets.  However, they are very well made and if treated well, should last forever.  They are the kind of toy I imagine can be passed onto your children's children and will bring as much enjoyment to them as they did to your own child.  A child can play with them independently or with friends or their grownups.  I have known children to play with them for hours on end, creating stories and adventures which is always so much fun to see in this age of technology.  

Magformers and MagnaTiles are a wonderful toy that allows a child to use their imaginations when building with them.  The sky is the limit when playing with them and can also work on so many occupational therapy goals at the same time.  My favorite kind of toy....one that can help a child achieve their goals but encourage fun, teamwork and creativity. 

Here are just a few of the goals that could be focused on when using these toys.  

*Color, shape and size recognition-great way to practice and generalize skills that you are teaching a child outside of "play"
*Bilateral coordination-encourage a child to use two hands when putting the pieces together
*Work on patterning and sequencing-have a child copy patterns, either colors or shapes.  Fun way to work on a skill that may be more challenging for a child
*Improve attention and ability to focus, decrease frustration tolerance-see how long your child can attend to the task; if it seems like this is proving to be a challenge to them, help them come up with strategies in order to be more successful and to become less frustrated
*Improve visual motor and visual perceptual skills-have your child try and copy designs you give them.  Both MagnaTiles and Magformers (check out their showroom) have great links that can give you and your child a bunch of ideas.  As they get better at completing the designs, increase the challenge
*Improve social skills and ability to work with a friend-often times children have a lot of difficulty giving up "control" when building with these kinds of toys.  Encourage children to work on a creation together and then being able to share that with a group.  You may be required to offer more assistance in the beginning but once the children realize how much better and bigger their designs can be when working together, the more fun they will have and less support will be required.  

While you might be able to find some "deals" on Amazon, I suggest checking out your local toy stores and supporting small businesses when possible.  I have seen them at many of the smaller local toy stores that I like to shop in both in Brooklyn and Manhattan.  

Thank you Julie for your question and hope that I can answer many more in the near future.  Please remember, I am just a click away and love answering questions, talking about toys and learning about toys that you may have discovered as well.   

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Oh Go, OgoSports!

Happy New Year to you all.  I hope that the holiday season treated you all well and that the new year brings you much health and happiness.

Thanks to a dear friend (Thank you Alice Szigethy), I was recently introduced to a Brooklyn based toy company.  Two common interests that Alice and I have is our love of children and finding really cool toys/products for said children.  When she told me about OgoSport, I had to check them out.  She had seen them at one of the holiday markets in New York City and was already on the prowl to sell them at her store in Lake Hopatcong, Main Lake Market.  Without even seeing their products in person, I ordered half a dozen toys online and anxiously awaited their arrival.  I am fairly certain that I played with the OGOBILD Kit much longer than my almost 3 year old daughter!  This product is reasonably priced ($16-$34 for varying sets) and very well made which is another bonus.

Being a pediatric occupational therapist, I am constantly on the search for cool toys that will work on improving fine motor skills and build hand strength.  The tricky part is finding toys that will accomplish that without being present as "work", but will be fun for the children.   If I can find toys that will do that, I see progress so much faster with them.  These OGOBILD toys do just that.  One of the things I love about them is that they are easy enough for the younger children (toddler age) to push the pieces in and out but challenging enough that the older children can still have fun and enjoy them as well.  What I love most is that while they give you ideas on what to build, you can really encourage a child to use their imagination when using the OGOBILD toys.  There is a ton of therapeutic value behind these toys and I can't wait to start using them with my kids at work.

What will OGOBILD toys work on?

*Increase grasp strength and in-hand manipulation skills-encourages using a fine pincer grasp which helps in improving strength and being better able to use your hands.
*Improve eye-hand coordination-being able to put the pieces together
*Improve bilateral coordination -must use two hands to hold the pieces in order to put them together
*Improve visual motor/perceptual skills-being able to follow the step by step picture directions; finding the right pieces when all spread out
*Improve attention-by adding more pieces to a project, you can increase how long they attend to the task at hand
*Improves motor planning, sequencing and organizational skills-being able to follow the steps accurately and putting things into order will help with improving a child's ability to sequence and organize themselves for successful completion of the task at hand
*Facilitate imagination skills-once the project is complete, I would have a child tell a story about their finished product.  Does it have a name?  Where does it live?  Build more characters and create a story.
*Improve social skills/ability to work with a friend-have children who struggle with play/social skills, work with a partner to complete a project.  A grownup can supervise, but should really stand back as much as possible in order to let the children resolve conflicts.
*Improve confidence and self-esteem-when a child is able to complete a task, especially one that might be a bit more challenging, it builds confidence and encourages them to try new and even more difficult things.  I love seeing a child's face when they have accomplished something they thought impossible.  And what happens after that is always amazing!  They are more willing to try new things with less encouragement from a grownup.

Check these toys out....I know they won't disappoint!  I would be interested in hearing feedback from all of you what your children think of them.  Maybe even share some pictures!  As always, I am just a click away if you want to email me with any specific questions or thoughts.

I am really excited to take my blog to the next level this year.  I have a lot of things to share with you all and hope that my ideas help your child or the children you work with become more confident with themselves.