Friday, May 15, 2015

One Potato, Two Potato, Mini Potatoes....SCORE!

There are some toys that will never get old.  They will get thrown in the back of a closet or put in storage for a while, but you'll never throw it away and when you take it out again, you are reminded just how great said toy is.  One of those toys for me is Mr. Potato Head.  The original one has been in every gym and school I have worked in.  While you can still get the original Mr. Potato Head in almost every toy store you walk into, you will see that there are many newer versions of this toy.  There are the princesses, Star Wars characters and several others.  One of the best parts about Mr. Potato Head is that no matter what set you have, they can be used on any potato and you can mix and match the pieces to be as creative as your child wants it to be.

Recently, one of my co-workers at Heads Up brought in these mini Marvel Mr. Potato Heads and I can't get enough of them.  I mean, the kids can't get enough of them!  First of all, they are tiny and super light-weight and a set of four potatoes with their interchangeable outfits can be thrown in a bag for those of you who do any kind of traveling therapy.  Secondly, it doesn't matter what the kids age or gender is, all of them love playing with them.  After I purchased the mini potatoes, I spent some time on Amazon and discovered that there are a ton of these mini potatoes, including Transformers and a bunch of other super heroes.  It's amazing how motivated the kids are to use these mini Potato
Heads and how many ways they can be used in a therapeutic setting.  They are great for working on problem solving and improving organizational skills.  Each potato comes with three pieces:  a helmet/mask, arms and legs.  It's important that the kids put the pieces on in a certain order or they won't work (the arms are held in place by the legs so it is important that they put the arms on first).  Some of the kids get frustrated when first using them but it's a good chance to work on encouraging kids to learn how to ask for help and work on improving their frustration tolerance.  To work on improving organizational skills, I will dump out all the pieces and have the kids sort them into characters.

It's been really fun to see how all the different therapists in my gym have been using these in their treatment.  Since I work with two physical therapists, I've noticed that they are using them in obstacle courses....walking across balance beams, jumping on a hopscotch board, etc..  In my treatment, I have been using them while having kids on a slowly moving swing (to work on improving trunk control/strength).  I have also put them on a large therapy ball to work on improving trunk strength by making them reach backwards and then pulling themselves back up (with assistance from me) to a sitting position.  I've also put the pieces at the top of a ramp that they have to climb up and then crash into a big pillow before putting the pieces onto the potato.

In addition to what I have already mentioned, the mini Potato Head toys can work on the following occupational therapy goals:

Improve Body Awareness-one of the things I like to use Mr. Potato Head with is to work on improving body awareness.  Parents of typically developing children may not understand just how difficult it might be for children with sensory and body awareness issues to be able to learn body parts.  Use Mr. Potato Head to get kids to begin understanding what body parts look like and where they are on a body.  For kids who are struggling with this, I will have them put the pieces in, point them out on me and then show them in a mirror where they are on their own body.
Increase Grasp Strength/Manipulation Skills-the pieces are tiny enough that a child can work on improving manipulation skills.  And while the pieces aren't hard to put in, they do require that you use some strength to push them in and take them out.  
Improve Bilateral Coordination-it doesn't matter what size or version of Mr. Potato Head you have, it's a great toy to work on improving bilateral coordination skills.  It's nearly impossible to put the pieces in only using one hand.  If you are working on developing a hand preference, encourage the kids to hold the potato with their non-dominant hand and use their dominant hand to pick up the pieces, push them into place and then to remove them.  If you have a child who struggles with crossing midline, be sure to put the pieces in a place where they are forced to cross midline to reach for them.
Improve Social Skills-if you work with small groups of kids, these are a great toy to use with them.  They can build the potatoes and then do some role playing with them.  It's a good opportunity for working on turn taking, compromising and being a flexible friend.  For example, one child might want to put all of the characters back together as they are meant to be and another one might want to mix and match the pieces to make their own superheroes.  

One thing that I have seen but haven't tried (yet) is to use Playdoh to make your own potatoes and then take the pieces and put them onto it.  This is great for working on building up hand strength and bilateral coordination skills as well.  I definitely plan on trying this with some of my kids next week!  One thing I would like to try with some of my older kids who are working on handwriting is have them make their own superhero mixing all the pieces up.  They will have to come up with a name, a super power and then write a short story about them.

Those of you who read my blog know that when I find something great, be it an app, toy, activity book, etc., I must share it.  My favorite thing about these mini Potato Heads are they are not that expensive and can work on a ton of therapeutic goals in a way that the kids don't even know they are working.  They are so motivated by these toys that the work is truly hidden from them.  It's a real bonus for everyone involved.  With summer coming up and lots of people traveling, they are a great, light weight toy that can be thrown into a bag without taking up space.  They can be good for the car or plane or whatever mode of transportation you may be using.

If you are looking for your own mini Potato Heads, you can find them on  I have also found a few of the Transformer ones in CVS.  I know that you can find them in many of the big box stores like Walmart and Target.

If you have any questions or comments, I'm always a click away and love hearing from you all!

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