Sunday, December 28, 2014

All Lit Up!

So Santa was really good to my girl this year.  He not only brought her all of the crazy things she asked for (he failed on the real live unicorn but she is keeping her fingers crossed he comes through next year), he also brought the toys her mom would have wished for.  He must have known that I had some concerns about her fine motor skills and the way she grasps objects.  With that in mind, he brought her the new/updated Lite Brite.  I wasn't sure if it would be a hit with her (or me for that matter).  I tend to not like the updated versions of great games...remember how they updated Perfection so instead of 25 shapes to match you only have 9?  Total bummer of an update.   I'm happy to report that all of the updates made to this latest version of Lite Brite are good ones...ones that actually make this an amazing toy for not only my little girl, but also for the kids that I work with that have fine motor, visual motor or sensory processing difficulties.

I have been a huge fan of Lite Brite since I began working as an OT.  In the almost 15 years since I began working in schools and private practice, I have tried just about every version that has come out! Many of them may be in storage in my basement right now but for one reason or another, haven't made it out of the basement to my office.  While I loved the original version of Lite Brite, it was large and took up a lot of space.  And you were limited to how you could use it because it needed to be plugged in in order to work.  The screen was also large, so it took several sessions to finish the picture and often times, it would get messed up and the kids wouldn't want to fix it.  I'll admit, that I haven't been using it much in therapy lately because I have found a lot of other things to use that will accomplish the same goals.  I'm excited to bring Lite Brite back into the rotation at work in the new year!

First, let me tell you about all the new features of the Lite Brite:
*the magic screen blocks the light when pegs are removed, making it easier for kids to make their own designs.  I can't wait to try having kids practice making letters, numbers and shapes with this
*the templates are reusable.  I used to get so upset that once the design was completed, you couldn't easily use it again.  Not only are the templates reusable, the paper is thicker and more durable for multiple uses.
*templates are smaller making it easier for children to complete a design in one sitting if you want.
*the board comes with 8 templates but there are also two refill sets you can buy each with another 8 templates and pegs that go with the them.  Check out the Lite Brite Underwater and Lite Brite Animal refill sets.
*the pegs now come in different shapes and designs to help make more detailed and realistic looking pictures.  There are also animal and nature pegs.
*the storage box can be attached and detached for the actual Lite Brite unit.  One of the versions I have has a door that flips open and with just a little bit of a bump, they would all fall out and get everywhere.  For some of my younger kids, I like to dump out all the pegs onto a flat surface so they can see better.
*the square/flat shape makes it great for us therapists to be creative with where and how we have the kids use this.  I plan on having kids work on a design while lying on their belly on the net swing or putting it up on an inclined surface so they have to reach up to place the pegs in.

In addition to everything I have already mentioned, the Lite Brite is great for working on a variety of occupational therapy goals including:
Improve Fine Motor Skills-the reason I have always loved Lite Brite was because it was a great tool to work on improving grasping skills in a motivating way.  It's also great for working on improving grasp strength and in-hand manipulation skills.  Depending on what your goals are for a child, you can adapt your rules for completion of the template.  For example, if you want to work on improving grasp strength, have a child use a pair of zoo sticks to pick out the peg that they need.  If you have a child working on developing more mature in-hand manipulation skills, give them a certain number of pegs they have to pick up at a time and challenge them not to drop them from their palm while they are putting the pegs in the board.
Improve Visual Motor/Perceptual Skills-one of the things I really like about this new version is that the pegs not only come in varying colors, but different shapes and designs as well.  This requires a child to be attentive to what shape they are looking for to complete their design.  It's also great for working on visual tracking and visual discrimination since the pieces are hard to distinguish at times.  A child needs to pay careful attention to whether or not they need a square or circle peg which can be tricking to do sometimes.
Improve Executive Functioning Skills-unlike some of the older versions of Lite Brite, this one offers smaller sized designs that can realistically be completed in one sitting for some of the older children I work with.  This can be a great way to work on improving attention and focus.  Additionally, you can work on improving organizational skills by changing your expectations for the kids.  For example, you can have a child pick one color to work on at at time and have them count, find and sort all the pegs they will need.
Improve Social Skills-I've always found that Lite Brite can be a great activity to do with a small group of children because it requires turn taking, helping each other out and can foster conversation. Especially when working with older and more

I know that everyone is probably on toy overload right now and the idea of adding something else into their collection is the last thing you are thinking about.  However, if you are looking for a new toy to add to your bag of tricks at work in 2015, I highly recommend the new and improved Lite Brite.

Now that I have shared my favorite gift that my child received this year, I would love to hear from any of you about yours.  I'm certainly not in any rush to buy new toys for home, but as the new year approaches, I want to have fresh ideas to motivate my kids at work to continue to work towards reaching their goals.  More importantly, I want to make sure they are having fun while with me at the gym!  I am only a click away and love hearing from each and every one of you!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Big Kids Still Like Toys!

As I finish up my holiday shopping this weekend, I realize that many of the kids that I give to have gotten older and require the next level of gifts.  Because many of these kids are picky about what they wear, I tend to avoid buying clothes.  Buying toys for older kids/tweens can be tricky but there are so many great things out there to choose from.  I love finding things that allow kids to be creative and think outside of the box.  They spend enough time engaged in school activities that they have to complete a certain way that I want to give things that allow kids to think, create and will build self-esteem and confidence.  And while it's probably way easier to get gift cards, I love seeing kids actually open up real gifts.  

Here are a few of my favorite things you can get for the older kids that work not only work on a variety of skills, but are kid tested and approved for lots of fun!

Project Kid-do you have a crafter on your hands?  If you do, Project Kid is a perfect gift for them.  This book is filled with over 100 activities that can be completed using many items in your home.  Kids can learn how to weave, make pom poms and design many things to decorate the home or bedroom.  I love the Rubber-Band art and Puff-Pain Window Clings projects and plan on doing these with my older kids at work.  To make this an even better gift, go through the book and pick out an activity you think the recipient will enjoy and buy all the supplies needed to complete it to give with the gift to get them started.  

Diggin Wobble Deck-this gross motor gift is designed to get kids up and moving around.  It is also great for working on improving executive functioning skills such as following directions, memory and focus/attention.  Essentially, this is a balance board and Simon Says game combined.  The board has five numbered, colored edges and each one has a sound associated with it.  It will call out numbers, colors and sounds a child has to shift their weight so that part of the board touches the ground.  There are three modes and multiple difficulty settings so kids can be constantly challenged.  

Fashion Design Kits-Creativity for Kids by Faber Castell has some amazing craft kits and I especially love the ones they have for older kids.  This kit comes with all the supplies needed to design and create a dress.  I like this one because it includes a 12" dress mannequin that you can put your dress on once it is completed.  Not only does it come with fabric samples and thread but all kinds of fun embellishments so a kid can be as creative as they want.  Great for not only working on all kinds of fine motor skills, but also great for working on executive functioning skills and encouraging creativity.  Follow this link to see all the different fashion and fiber sets you can choose from!

Spirograph Deluxe-I remember spending hours and hours playing with my Spirograph sets as a child
and I love that this game is still around.  Choose from the gears and wheels, place it on your paper and create whirling and spiraling patterns.  I like to give kids blank cards and have them design the covers of their own stationary.  Kids never get bored with this activity because each time they do it, they can create something new and wonderful.  The set comes with gears and wheels, colored pens, paper and comes in a box perfect for storing everything.  If you want to add something to the gift, get a bunch of different colored blank cards and envelopes so the recipient can create their own stationary.  Great for working on bilateral coordination skills, improve eye-hand coordination and graphomotor skills.  

Make Your Own Comic-Lulu Jr. is an amazing company that has created products that encourage creativity, builds self-esteem and strengthens literacy and writings kills.  This awesome comic book kit gives kids the chance to write, illustrate and publish their very own book.  Once their story is complete and they have finished filling in all the pages, they send it in to Lulu Jr and they will print the comic out so it looks like a real comic book!  What could be more motivating and exciting for kids than to see something they have created turned into a real book?  

Little Bits Kits-for those kids who are interested in learning more about science, engineering and building things, look no further.  The base kit comes with 10 color-coded modules that when snapped together, can make over 150, 000 circuit combinations.  There are other kits to choose from which allow you to do different kinds of engineering activities.  Kids are encouraged to design tons of different circuit sequences and come up with imaginative uses for those circuits including making a dimmer switch, a motorized car and a night light.  

So here are a few of my top picks for the bigger kids you may have to shop for.  While I know that many of the kids say they are too old for toys, I don't believe that you are ever too old to get toys at the holidays!  Do you have any other great gifts that you like to give older kids in your life?  I would love to hear from you about what has been a hit with your tweens.  I am just a click away and love hearing from you all and getting new ideas!  

If you are still shopping and looking for more ideas, be sure to check out my complete 2014 Holiday Gift Guide.  You will find dozens and dozens of toys and games here for children of all ages.