Norman & Jules, my favorite toy store in Park Slope. I was sold by just seeing the picture for the mu Magnetic Comic Strip Kit that they posted. I couldn't get there fast enough and when I did, I was delighted to see that there were two kits. I quickly purchased both the Original and the Aquamarine series and rushed off to see my 9 year old who was going to love them.
There are so many things to love about this toy. I love anything that requires a child to use their imagination; more importantly, I love a toy that requires imagination AND no electronics. I feel like so many kids depend on electronics these days and while I do use them during my sessions with kids, I like to do as much hands on work as possible. Many of the older kids that are on my caseload are seeing me to work on handwriting and organizational skills so it is much more important that work on the iPad is kept to a minimum. These magnetic comic strip kits are a perfect way to work on handwriting, organizational skills and other executive functioning goals. They can be used on a fridge or any other magnetic surface but can also be used on the floor or a table.
Each kit comes with over 20 different magnets. There are also blank magnets and speech bubble magnets included in each kit so the comic creator can add their own pictures and write their story out. Depending on the age and skill level of the child you are working with, you can come up with specific requirements for their comic strip. For example, you might tell a child that they need to use 8 magnets that are provided and then use a certain number of blank magnets and speech bubbles. For those school age children who have difficulty with organizing his/her work and thoughts, giving them those specific instructions might help them be more successful with this activity. I have already tried it with some of my kids and have noticed that when I let them do what they want without any direction from me, they have more difficulty focusing and keeping their story flowing. Like many of us, simple directions and guidelines will often guide us to be more successful in almost all of our work.
Here are a few more occupational therapy goals that can be worked on using the mu Magnetic Comic Strip kits:
Improve Grasping Skills-this is a great activity to work on handwriting and for those kids who have a poor grasp but love comics, can be easily tricked into working on holding that marker the correct way if they are doing something fun. While each set comes with their own dry erase marker, I also would have these smaller sized dry erase markers on hand; remember that sometimes the shorter a writing instrument is, the more likely you will see an expected grasp.
Improve Organizational Skills-so many of the school age kids I work with are struggling with organizing their work. They have fantastic, I mean REALLY fantastic ideas, but get so distracted that they don't get their point across the way they intended to. Sometimes they are so anxious to just get it finished and share it that they forget to focus on the important details that keep a story flowing. Try and have the children you are working with pick out a certain number of magnets before even beginning and then have them talk through their idea before they even begin writing and drawing. With time, you can take away some of the prep work but to begin with, it is important to help guide our kids and give them good organizational skills that they can not only use with this activity but with their homework and schoolwork.
Improve Graphomotor Skills-this is a great activity to work on both handwriting and drawing skills. In addition to having a variety of awesome magnets, you have 4 blank magnets and 2 speech bubbles to fill in on your own. When I have used these, I have asked that the child be sure to write a certain amount of sentences and draw a certain number of pictures. They must make sure that whatever they draw relates to the magnets that they have chosen. For many of my older kids, they are so worried about being perfect and right that they avoid most drawing and handwriting activities. I find that when they are given specific instructions in addition to being able to be creative, they can be more successful.
Improve Upper Extremity Strength-I often have children with decreased upper extremity/hand strength work on a raised surface to work on strengthening those muscles. It tends to get harder to ask a 8 or 9 year old to work on an easel because they think it is childish. Have the children you are working with put these on the fridge while standing up....make them put their magnets up as high as they can without it being a strain. They will be so busy creating that they won't even realize that they are working on building up those arm muscles!
Improve Social Skills-this is a great activity for a dyad or small group of kids to do together. They can come up with a story as a team and each be designated one speech bubble and two blank magnetic squares. The most important thing is that they work together to come up with a story and do all they can to stick to the story at hand so that when they are putting it all together at the end that it makes sense. This may require compromise and flexibility...something that so many of the kids we work with struggle with.
As I mentioned earlier, I purchased my sets at Norman & Jules in Park Slope. If you can't get to the store in person, then be sure to check them out online. I promise you that you will find more than you intended if you spend enough time in their store or on their website! In addition to having an amazing selection of toys, books and craft sets, they donate a portion of all their yearly sales to The March of Dimes in honor of their daughter and her friends who were all born prematurely.
I would love to hear from you and am only a click away. I love the idea of using comics for my older kids who need to work on handwriting, drawing and executive functioning skills. Do any of you have any other great create your own comic kits to share with me and my readers? I love hearing from all of you and really appreciate all your comments and suggestions. They not only help me but also benefit all the kids I work with!