Monday, January 30, 2017

New Year, New Toys

One of the things that tends to happen to me during holiday shopping for my daughter and other kids is that I end up getting lots of new things for work.  This is the time of the year where I begin to get bored with all my toys and games at work.  If I am getting bored, I imagine the kids are getting bored too.  After the holidays, I always roll out some new toys, games and activities and the kids are totally excited to come into therapy to see what new things await them.  I love the idea of starting the new year off with fresh toys and ideas and the kids are more motivated and engaged in our sessions because of them.  I sometimes even ask kids to bring in some of their favorite gifts that they got to share with me.  Not only are they excited to tell me all about their new things, I get to learn about other great products out there that I might not have heard about before.

During my holiday shopping, I discovered lots of new products.  That's what happens when you are in and out of tons of stores and spending too much time searching online.  So, while shopping for all the little ones on list this year, I also picked up lots of stuff for work.  Here are the things that have been the biggest hits so far:

Mame Ohagki Rainbow Beans-I am a total sucker for almost any wooden toys.  There is no stopping me from buying almost any rainbow wooden toys I stumble upon.  The rainbow bean set  by Mame Ohagki is a beautiful toy that comes with a bunch of little rainbow colored wooden beans, a bowl and a set of wooden chopsticks.  While this can be used to encourage free play and creativity, it is also great for working on developing fine motor and manipulation skills, hand-eye coordination and bilateral coordination skills.  You can have kids work on sorting the different colored beans into piles or have them work on their counting skills.  By using the chopsticks, they are also working on increasing their grasp strength.
*for some of my younger kids, I have found that they have a hard time using the chopsticks provided.  I will provide them with a set of Zoo Sticks to make sure they have more success and don't end up getting frustrated by the task. 

Magic Moves Electronic Wand-getting kids up and moving around is important all the time, but it's especially important during the winter months when kids are not outside as much.  Let's face it, kids would rather be watching television or playing on some kind of electronical device so they need to be motivated to get up and workout.  The Magic Moves wand by Educational Insights promotes movement, gross motor skills and following directions.  Kids give the wand a shake and it will callout one of 90 different movements that the child then has to act out.  They may be asked to slither like a snake, fly like a bird, stomp like a bear and loads of other things.  This can be used 1:1 or with a group of kids.  Another similar product is the Magic Moves Jammin' Gym which is similar but instead of acting out movements, kids have to follow the directions to complete exercise movements (including some warm-up tasks).  One of the cool things about the Jammin' Gym wand is that if you go to their website you can print out 3 different posters that give you a visual to go along with the exercises.

Tobbly Wobbly-I was sold by this toy by Fat Brain Toys when I saw that they used one of my all time favorite toys, Squigz, on it to make an adorable little creature.  Think of this as a modern day Mr. Potato Head.  Tobbly Wobbly is an egg-shaped toy that comes with a 14 different Squigz and a two sheets of reusable stickers (everything can be conveniently stored inside the toy).  The Squigz can be turned into legs, arms, ears and even hair.  Kids can work on improving fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills while also working on improving body awareness.  Additionally, kids are working on improving bilateral coordination skills, hand-eye coordination, imagination and creativity.  Sometimes, I have the kids draw a picture of their Tobbly Wobbly all completed, especially for those kids who are still having a hard time drawing a picture of a person.

Willy's Wiggly Web-when I was looking for cooperative games for my social skills group, I found this one by Peaceable Kingdom and felt like it was made for an occupational therapist.  In this cooperative game, kids work together to cut all the bugs free from the web before Willy the spider falls.  Kids not only get to work on cutting skills in a fun and creative way, they also work on improving hand-eye coordination, problems solving and organizational skills.  There are 3 levels of play so kids of all ages and skill levels can play whichever one that they will be successful.

Getting Ready to Write Gumball Grab-this is a great game by Lakeshore Learning that works on improving fine motor, visual motor and visual perceptual skills.  Additionally, kids can work on learning colors and counting skills.  The point of the game is quite simple:  be the first to fill your gumball machine by matching the colors.  I love how easily adaptable this game is based on the skill level of your child.  For example, if you have younger kids, you can remove the cards that have you take gumballs off of your mat and just use the ones that have the kids add gumballs.  If your kids are struggling using the grabbers that are provided with the game, Kids can use their fingers but make sure that you encourage them to use their "pinchers (thumb and pointer finger)" when they pick up the gumballs.

These are just a few of the new things that I have been playing with this first month back at work after the holidays.  The kids have been excited to test things out and I am happy to have some fresh things to do with the kids that have them motivated to participate in therapy.  Did your children receive anything wonderful this holiday season or did you find a gift while you were shopping that may be a good addition to my bag of tricks?  I love hearing about new toys, games and activities!  I am just a click away and am always excited to hear from you all.




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