Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Building Your Way To Fun

Sneak peak #3 to his year's holiday gift guide....building blocks and other manipulative toys.  These toys might be my favorite to play with at work and to give as gifts.  All the ones I have recommended are ones that you can find in local toy stores (support your local small businesses!!) and ones that should last you a really long time.  How many of you still have your alphabet blocks, lincoln logs or tinker toys from growing up?  I have chosen manipulative toys that should hold up like those have for so many of us.

Blocks and manipulative toys are great for so many reasons.  First of all, they stimulate creative and imaginative play.  They also encourage social interaction and cooperative play when used in group settings.  As far os occupational therapy skills, they can be used to work on a million things including bilateral coordination, eye-hand coordination, visual motor and visual perceptual skills, focus and attention and fine motor skills such as hand strength and increasing in-hand manipulation skills.  I love that these toys can be used in a therapeutic setting and then brought into the home so families can have fun with their kids while working on the skills that we are focusing on during our sessions.  Check out my list below and have fun building and creating!

Tegu Blocks-these blocks are one of my absolute favorite gifts to give kids.  I have had these in my own home since my daughter could sit up and play with toys.  These wooden blocks have a magnet inside so they can stick to each other.  They come in a variety of shapes and colors and now there are sets available where you can build cars and robots.  I love that any age child can be successful when using the blocks.  Great for working on improving fine motor skills, bilateral coordination, problem solving and imaginative play.  Can be played with independently or in a group.  If you are in Park Slope, check out the toy store Norman & Jules who has the best selection of Tegu Blocks in NYC!  During the summer, they have an outdoor space with a giant board to allow kids to make some of the coolest Tegu Block designs!
MagnaTiles-these have been on my list year after year.  These plastic tiles have magnets build into them so they can stick together to build 2-D and 3-D creations.  They are great for working on improving fine motor skills, bilateral coordination and visual motor and perceptual skills.  They come in a variety of shapes and colors so you can work on color and shape recognition when using them.  Additionally, Magna-Tiles help promote imaginative play and creativity.  Children can play with them independently or in small groups to work on encouraging teamwork and compromise.  Magna-Tiles are pricey but they will last you forever since they are so durable and well made.  I have had the same set of Magna-Tiles in my office for at least 6 years and they look as new as they did when I first bought them and they have literally been used by hundreds of kids.
Ogobild Bits- I discovered this Brooklyn-based company last holiday season when I saw them at one of the many amazing holiday markets all over the city.  If you have kids who love building, but you have enough Lego sets, this is a great gift for them!  There are small and large sets and each comes with a bunch of suggested items to build.  Great for working on building a child's imagination skills while building the muscles of the hands!  I have used them in my social skills group both with preschoolers and school age kids and they had an absolute blast.  Ideal for working on building grasp Ogobild with Animate Studio kits which are great for your older kids who may be interested in learning more about stop motion animation moviemaking.
strength and manipulation skills, bilateral coordination, eye-hand coordination and visual motor and perceptual skills.  These are super durable building toys that you will have for years and years to come.  OgoSports keeps expanding this line and have a bunch of new ones this year, including two
LaQ- I discovered this awesome manipulative building set this summer after a trip to The Bronx Zoo.  For the Lego lovers, this is another great toy.  These are actually flat shapes that snap together to make a ton of different shapes.  For tons of different patterns to make cars, animals, people, etc. using these different shaped blocks, clink here.  My kids love them and I don't see them getting too frustrated when it gets difficult to follow the directions.  Better suited for the older kids I work with (often too difficult for the preschoolers, especially those with fine motor difficulties).
Lego Duplo Read and Build- Legos seem to be another one of those toys that never get old.  When I discovered the Lego Duplo Read and Build Sets, I was so excited.  These sets are perfect for those smaller hands
that have difficulty with the small size Legos.  The accompanying instructions are great because they give very clear visuals on how to build the different objects (jungle and farm animals, bugs/caterpillar, a fairy tale and a car set) in the book.  This requires a child to organize their work, plan what they are doing and follow visual directions.  Great for working on improving grasp strength and bilateral coordination skills, visual motor and visual perceptual skills.  I love that kids have to follow along with the story while building the different objects which works on focus and attentional skills.
Pencil Grip Popbeads-I love these small popbeads!  They are great for working on increasing grasp strength and bilateral coordination skills.  These popbeads are bright in color and the kids love them.  For younger kids working on identifying colors, you can use these to work on that.  Also great for working on visual perceptual skills such as matching and sequencing.
Squigz/Squigz Benders/pipSquigz-these manipulative toys by Fat Brain Toys will bring hours of fun to your little ones!  Actually, you will love playing with them as much as your kids do!  These suction cup connecting toys will stick to each other and to almost any surface.  Use them in the bathtub or on your child's high chair.  You can push them together and pull them apart to make wonderful creations to stimulate your children's imagination skills.  The kids get a real kick out of the sound that they make when they pop apart!  They are also great for working on hand strengthening, bilateral coordination and eye hand coordination. Check out the different sets available to see which is best for your little one.
Hugs Links-these well made linking toys are great for kids as young as 3 months and as old as 3 years.  What you work on while playing with them at different ages is different, but they are versatile and well made.  B.Toys created a set of 24 colorful links that click together to build a rattle for the younger ones or a chain for the older ones.  Great for developing bilateral coordination, fine motor skills and upper extremity strength.

So, here are some of my favorite manipulative toys perfect for gift giving this year.  Not only are they great for working on a ton of occupational therapy goals, they are all well built and durable toys that should withstand the wear and tear over the years.

If you have any recommendations that should be added to this list, please email me.  I love hearing from you and appreciate people sharing new toys and ideas with me.  I am just a click away and hope to hear from you!

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