The craft portion of my gift guide is always a big hit with my families as they are always on the lookout for things to do with their kids at home that will help with the development of skills. Many times, kids will avoid doing "work" with their parents but if you can find a fun craft set, the "work" is actually hidden and they tend to not put up a fight about it. I have found that even with my own daughter who had fine motor and grasping delays when she was younger, she was motivated by something that she could show off and use once it was completed. Below, I share some of my favorite arts and craft sets for kids of all ages. Many of these things can be thrown in a bag to keep your kids entertained and occupied while traveling, out to eat or waiting in waiting rooms.
Sticky Mosaics by Orb Factory-these continue to make my list year after year. They are not only wonderful for working towards a variety of occupational therapy goals, they are something that kids love to make and show off when they are completed. There are a ton of different kits to choose from including sets for younger children. Each set comes with a handful of cardboard pictures with numbers on them. Each number corresponds with a different colored sticker that gets placed on top of the number. Sticky Mosaics are great for working on improving grasping and manipulation skills, increases grasp strength, improves hand-eye coordination, visual motor and visual perceptual skills and spatial awareness. Additionally, they are great for working on improving executive functioning skills like focus, attention, organizational and planning skills. The best part is that kids self-esteem and confidence soar when they finally complete the activity.
OOLY 3-D Colorables-I know something is a hit when my 7 year old daughter begs me to not take it to work with me! The 3-D Colorables are one of her favorite things to color these days and I love that the kids can play with them after they are all colored in. 3-D Colorables are these really cool inflatable paper toys that can be colored in and then blown up using a straw. There a bunch of different sets but I think my two favorites are the World Peace Dolls and the Rockin' Guitar.
Kids can work on improving hand-eye coordination, visual motor and visual perceptual skills, improves graphomotor skills and can work on improving focus, attentional and organizational skills all while encouraging them to be creative and use their imagination. Once they are completed, they are great for encouraging pretend play.
OOLY also has the best markers to color these in with. For older kids, the Perfectly Permanent Double Ended Markers are great for adding bright colors and details. For younger kids, the Stackables Stacking Markers are ideal for encouraging the smaller hands to hold a writing instrument appropriately.
Whipple Craft Creations-thanks to one of my co-workers, I discovered Whipple Craft Creations. I had seen them in my local toy store but hadn't tried them. A couple of weeks ago, my daughter and her friend tried them out and gave them two thumbs up! Kids can create and decorate different kinds of tasty treats that can then be turned into jewelry or keychains. Using the signature Whipple creme, think a pastry decorating bag, kids can ice their "baked goods" and then decorate them with beads and rhinestones. This is a great craft activity to work on improving bilateral coordination, increasing grasp strength and manipulation skills, improves hand-eye coordination, visual motor and visual perceptual skills and works on improving focus, attention and organizational skills. Kids confidence and self-esteem soar as they become more comfortable with the icing bag and they can make different kinds of decorations.
Arts and Crafts Library-while some kids are more comfortable with a structured craft activity, some are happier with something that allows them to be more creative and imaginative. The Arts and Crafts Library by Kids Made Modern contains over 1200 arts and crafts supplies (beads, pompoms, sequins, pipe cleaners, felt pieces, googly eyes, glue, etc.) for your little artist to make jewelry, sculptures or whatever else they can think of. The best part is that it all comes in a sturdy carrying case so you don't have to worry about things getting messy and all over the place. Kids can work on improving fine motor skills such as grasp strength and manipulation skills, bilateral coordination, hand-eye coordination, visual motor and perceptual skills all while working on being more creative.
Fashion Plates/Action Plates-this is one of those toys that brings me back to my childhood! My little girl has aspirations to be a fashion designer when she grows up so when I gave these to her, she was super excited. Fashion plates encourage creativity while working on improving fine motor, visual motor and perceptual skills, graphomotor skills, bilateral coordination and executive functioning skills such as focus, attention and organizational skills. If you have a kid who isn't into design, be sure to check out the Action Plates which lets kids design their own superhero!
Donut Pom-Pom Maker-I have an abundance of yarn at home so when my daughter showed an interest in making pom-poms, I did some research. While scouring the Rose & Rex website, I stumbled upon the Donut Pom-Pom maker and was sold. I have tried out a handful of pom pom makers and while I was able to easily use it, my daughter didn't and would become frustrated and give up. This was the first one where she was able to do it on her own.
**if you order directly from the Rose & Rex website, your purchase will provide 2 toys to a child in need.
Of Unusual Kind Paper Doll Kits-If you have a girly-girl (more appropriate for kids 6 and older) who loves fashion, then this is the perfect gift for them. Over the years, I have been on the hunt for the perfect paper doll sets. I have found great ones, but then you have to cut them all out and I get tired or bored and push them to the side to never be played with by my daughter. What I love about these paper dolls is that kids can pop all the pieces out instead of cutting them and then can be easily stored in the durable envelope that comes with each doll. All of the dolls have bendable/replaceable joints meaning they can move when playing with them. Outfits can be mixed and matched and everything is held in place with small brads (which is what allows the dolls to move around). Great for working on increasing fine motor and grasping skills, improves visual motor and perceptual skills, improves hand-eye coordination and helps to work on improving focus, attention, planning and organizational skills. Also encourages creativity and imagination while your child dresses the doll and brings her to life.
Nickelodeon Super Slimy Slime Kit-slime making continues to be all the rage with kids of all ages and if you are like me, you would rather just get a kit that has all of the supplies needed to make your own slime. This set by Cra-Z-Art comes with everything you need, including a spoon and mixing bowl, so you don't have to worry about using or ruining any of your own stuff. The best part about slime making is that it is a motivating activity that kids will want to do and can work on a ton of occupational therapy goals such as improving executive functioning skills (focus, attention, planning and organizational skills), improves visual motor and perceptual skills and once completed, is a great fine motor strengthening tool.
Dabitz Learner Desk Top-this is one of my favorite additions to this year's gift guide and great for older children who love to craft. Basically, kids take a picture of whatever they want, convert it to a pixelated image using the app that you can download and then print it out. It comes out of the printer with a pattern to follow using the 12 dabbers (special markers). Kids use the dabbers to fill in the picture (each color coordinates with a certain letter) This set comes in a portable case for your kids to take on the go and will keep your kids entertained for hours. It works on improving graphomotor skills, visual motor and visual perceptual skills, hand-eye coordination and executive functioning skills such as focus, attention, planning and organizational skills.
Pottery Cool Studio-I have been on the lookout for a good pottery craft kit for a while and this one comes with glowing reviews from many parents and their kids. It is easy enough for kids to be able to do on their own (with supervision obviously) and comes with everything they need for 6 different projects (a jewelry holder, puppy picture holder, turtle dish, smart phone speaker, cupcake pencil holder and a pencil topper). Simply place the clay onto the turntable, spray with water and watch it spin and take its shape. Once it is done air-drying, kids can then paint and decorate their piece any way they want. This is not only great for encouraging creativity, it is a perfect craft activity to work on improving bilateral coordination, hand-eye coordination, visual motor and visual perceptual skills and improving executive functioning skills such as focus, attention, motor planning, time management and organizational skills. At the end, kids have a masterpiece that they created with their own hands which leads to increased confidence and self-esteem.
Holographic Mixed By Me Thinking Putty Kit-I have been a big fan of Aaron's Thinking Putty for years and especially love how this company provides meaningful jobs to adults with developmental disabilities. I love all of the Thinking Putty sets but am a huge fan of their DIY sets that have come out in a few years. More importantly, I have tested this out with a lot of kids of varying ages and they all love it. Each kit includes 5 tins of clear putty, 3 glitter concentrates, 3 sparkle effects, 6 colored pencils, a mixing mat with suggestions for the kids to follow and 5 blank labels that kids can customize once they finish making their putty. Kids simply mix ingredients together and then they can play. This is great for working on increasing grasp strength and manipulation skills, hand-eye coordination and improves focus, attention, planning and organizational skills. It also encourages creativity by them making up their own names for the creations and works on graphomotor skills as they decorate their labes. The best part is that once the kids are done making their own putty, it lasts forever.
Common Loon Stencil Mega Pack-this is one of the my favorite things at one of my favorite stores, Norman and Jules. This is one of the greatest stencil sets out there. Each Mega Pack contains 5 different stencil rulers with different themes and a coloring poster in it's own little case. Some of the themes are robots, gardens and space. Kids can use the stencils to draw on blank paper or can add details onto the coloring posters. I love how you can throw one of these in your bag and take them along with you to keep your kids entertained. These are great for encouraging imagination and creativity while also working on improving bilateral coordination, graphomotor skills, hand-eye coordination and focus, attention, planning and organizational skills.
Little Lux DIY Necklace Kits-one of my daughters favorite gifts was her Fashion Designer necklace from one of her friends. Not only does she love jewelry, she's totally into fashion design and creating accessories. Little Lux is run by an 8 year old little girl and her father; together they have created some of the most adorable children's jewelry. The Fashion Designer necklace allows little fashionistas to design their own fashion necklace; they can use the markers to color in and decorate her clothing. Not only does it encourage creativity, it works on improving graphomotor skills, hand-eye coordination, visual motor and visual perceptual skills. There are a two other sets that come with all the materials and supplies needed to make their very own necklace; it not only includes a wooden object to color (cherries and palm tree) but comes with a handful of beads for them to put on their necklace to make it all their own.
Over the years, I have collected more coloring and activity books than I can count. When it comes to activity books, there are literally hundreds to choose from but finding the right ones can be be really tricky. Below, I share a handful of my favorite activity books for children. These have been tested out by my daughter and the kids I work with and are the ones that I never get complaints about when I pull them out. For me, a great activity book is one that engages children and gets their creative juices flowing. They also allow them to work on developing writing and drawing skills in a motivating way. I find the best ones are those that are not just about writing, coloring or drawing but incorporate all of those kinds of activities throughout the book.
Ordinary People Change the World Sticker Activity Book-one of my favorite sets of children's books are the Ordinary People Change the World books by Brad Meltzer. My daughter has learned so much about important historical figures by reading them so when I saw that there was an activity book, I knew it had to make my gift guide this year. You don't have to have read the books (but I do highly recommend those as well) to be able to use this activity book. Kids will learn about a variety of historical figures and then can test their knowledge through a bunch of different kinds of games and activities. This is not only great for increasing your child's knowledge about some of our country's most important people, but is also great for working on improving handwriting skills, visual motor and perceptual activities and executive functioning skills such as focus, attention and organizational skills.
MishMania Activity Books-finding a new series of activity books is like hitting the jackpot for me. I was in a local bookstore during the summer when I found the MishMania books and was immediately drawn to them. As of right now, the following books are available with more in the works in years to come.
Rain, Rain, Go Away
Cool As A Cucumber
Hit The Road
Each books comes with pages and pages of fun activities including coloring, drawing, cutting, etc.. One of my favorite activities is in the Monster Madness book where kids have to cut out all different pictures of monsters to play a matching game. These books are great for school age kids (kindergarten to 3rd or 4th grade depending on their skill level). There are many activities that kids can do on their own but also several in each book that can be done with siblings or friends (matching activities for example).
Usborne Write and Draw Your Own Comics-if you are looking for a fun way to encourage kids to want to learn how to draw and write, I highly recommend using a comic book format. For some reason, my kids who dread writing seem to enjoy this format to work on graphomotor skills. I've seen a bunch of DIY comic books, but The Write and Draw Your Own Comics by Usborne is my favorite because it provides prompts and ideas to get kids started. Many of the kids I work with need that extra push to get their imagination and creative juices flowing but once they are given that push, they soar. In addition to be a fun way to work on improving writing skills, it's great for working on improving focus, attention, planning and organizational skills. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, kids confidence and self-esteem around writing improve as they become more successful.
Me: A Compendium: A Fill In Journal For Kids-this fill in the blank journal is geared towards the preschool set of kids and helps them to identify all their unique qualities. If kids can write themselves, have them fill in answers themselves (do not focus on the spelling); if they can't write, do it for them. What I like about this book is that on many of the pages, kids can either write or draw their answers. This book is filled with kid-friendly illustrations that get the kids thinking about things about themselves, things they like and how they might see different images. For example, one page has a picture of two pieces of bread and they have to draw what they like inside of their sandwich. Another page has a picture of a person and they have to either draw or write what's in their brain right now.
Kids will work on developing graphomotor skills, creativity and executive functioning skills such as focus, attention and organizational skills. This is a fun book to do with your child and can stimulate conversational skills, confidence and self-esteem as they complete each page.
I could honestly go on and on with arts and craft and activity book suggestions but had to stop myself! Truth be told, I personally love all of the things recommended on this list and look forward to doing them with my daughter or with the kids at work. One of the great things about the items here is that while they work on developing a variety of developmental skills, they are also wonderful for developing confidence and self-esteem in kids. As they see things come to life because of their hard work, they become more motivated to try more challenging things.
Do you have any amazing arts and crafts sets or activity books that you just love? I am always on the lookout for finding new things to incorporate into my sessions and love hearing from others. I am always a click away and love hearing from each and every one of you.