Tag Archives: toys

Top Developmental Toy Ideas

By: Laura Van Zandt, MS, OTR/L and Sarah Peabody, Physical Therapist

Play is an essential piece to optimal child development as it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children. Walking through the toy aisle can be overwhelming, but it is important to choose a toy that is age-appropriate, promotes healthy development, and encourages positive behavior. View our favorite holiday toy selections below!

babyGifts for Infants:

  • Activity mat – Activity mats are great for promoting tummy time. Some have mirrors attached which helps the infant to lift his or her head up and engage in the mirror. Tummy time should start as early as possible for 3-5 minutes a couple times a day, building up the length and duration as the baby grows. Tummy time is essential to help your baby build the strength needed for rolling over, sitting up, crawling, and walking.
  • Black and white toys – For young infants (birth – 3 months), toys with high contrast are the most appealing, as their vision has not adapted to seeing colors yet. Around 5-6 months of age, bright and colorful toys are appropriate as infants will likely be able to see the full spectrum of colors.
  • Mirrors – These are a great resource for visual engagement.
  • Colorful rattles, O-ball, a textured toy – Toys that children can reach for and grasp are great to promote fine motor development. Toys that appeal to multiple senses are ideal for infants and promote positive sensory development. Infants enjoy exploring the feeling of new textures.

Gifts for Toddlers – The toys listed below help kids learn to understand patterns, problem solve, and develop competence and confidence.

  • Push toys – Ideal for the early toddler/young walking stage (bonus – with the one linked here, you can put objects into the push toy to weigh it down. Heavy work is great for building core strength!)
  • Sorting and Nesting Toys
  • Blocks, LEGOS, Magnetic Sets – Open-ended toys like these can be used in a variety of ways. Kids love to take things apart and add to structures at this age, and these toys will extend into the preschool years and beyond. This is also a great way to incorporate problem solving skills and provide opportunities for adult interaction into play.
  • Hand puppets – These are a great way to encourage interaction and communication in the young child.
  • Shape Sorters and Simple Puzzles– Shape sorters and early inset puzzles are great for toddlers. Interlocking puzzles of various sizes can be a great interactive toy for learning about all kinds of things. Look for puzzles that have large knobs for younger children or those that struggle with fine motor skills.  Puzzles are also great to help children develop their visual perceptual skills and become better problem solvers.

Gifts for Preschool Age Children:

  • doctorPlay sets – Play sets with little people, dolls, animals, etc can expand a child’s language and communication skills and help them make sense of the world by imitating adult behavior and encourages imagination.
  • Mini trampoline, scooter, tricycle – Improve a child’s gross motor skills and helps release their boundless energy.
  • Easel, markers & crayons – These are another great way for a child to use their imaginations and develop their fine motor skills.
  • Floor puzzles
  • Simple dress-up costumes – When kids play dress up, their imaginations really get to blossom. Instead of buying a specific cartoon/movie character dress up costume, buy a generic tutu or princess dress where a child can be multiple different characters all in one outfit.
  • Games- The nice thing about games is you can play them in a variety of ways. You don’t have to be stuck to the traditional rules. You can even use the games in pretend play. Here are just a few names of popular games used in therapy sessions: Pop the Pirate, Pop The Pig, Sneaky Snacky Squirrel, Scatterpillar, Jenga, Spot It, Hullabaloo, I Can Do That, Connect Four, Thumbs Up, Tricky Fingers, Boggle, Rush Hour, Gravity Maze, Quirkle, Blokus, Go Fish, Chutes and Ladders, and Dragon Dash.

Gifts for Elementary Age Children:

  • Dolls
  • Books – Reading will help advance a child’s language, vocabulary,  and social skills, while helping build coping feelings, and building their self-confidence levels.
  • Adventure/Building Toys – These are great for problem solving, critical thinking, and imagination.
  • Board Games – Don’t forget about the classic board games such as Sorry or Trouble that promote social interaction, turn-taking, and inclusion!
  • Bike

Never forget, a trip to the museum, theater, or special exhibit is a great gift too! Experiences can never be replaced with toys and the trip will stay with a child for a long time. Capture them with your phone or camera and you can pull them out to talk about and connect on a later date.

For more ideas, visit our Amazon wishlist that shares suggestions for multiple age range and child need. Most of the toys listed can be adapted in some way or used by children of all abilities.

If shopping online, remember AmazonSmile is a website operated by Amazon with the same products, prices, and shopping features as Amazon, but the difference is that when you shop on AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization of your choice. Please choose Easterseals Dupage & Fox Valley to help support our cause.

We wish you a Happy Holiday and New Year!

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General Tips for Selecting Developmental Toys for Children

By: Laura Van Zandt, MS, OTR/L and Sarah Peabody, Physical Therapist

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Time to decorate your home with seasonal decorations, listen to cheerful holiday music, start baking lots of yummy goodies, spend time with friends and family, and shop for the perfect holiday gifts. This time of year can bring merriment and stress! Especially when considering gift ideas for children.

If you are buying a toy for a child, it’s important to select something that is based on his/her individual need. Every child is unique. Purchasing a toy for a child with special needs involves taking into consideration the child’s unique developmental profile.

IMG_2343Children who lack fine motor skills often have trouble doing things with their hands, like holding a crayon, so they might enjoy toys with large knobs or big levers that will enable them to grasp them more easily. Children with social learning difficulties or sensory processing difficulties might prefer toys that offer movement or heavy work.

Children with physical disabilities might enjoy toys that have buttons and don’t require a lot of fine motor manipulation. They might also enjoy more arts and crafts that allow them to just move their arms without having to worry about holding onto something.

Choosing a toy that is age-appropriate, promotes healthy development, and encourages positive behavior works best. Use these tips below to help guide you for buying gifts for your child, a niece or nephew or other child:

General Tips for Selecting Developmental Toys for Children:

  1. Spanning multiple age ranges

Finding a multipurpose toy that spans multiple age ranges is a great investment. Toys that are meant for several ages and stages of childhood will be kept around and cherished for a long time.  For example, this Shape Sorter, can be used in late infancy as you place the shapes in and out of the box with the lid open. As your child grows into the toddler stage and enhances their fine motor skills, he or she will learn how to manipulate the shapes and place them in the appropriate spot. You can then incorporate colors, shapes, etc. all into one piece as they advance even more. Another example is magnetic letters. A child can use these at a young age to learn letters and sounds and as they grow into elementary years use them together to make words.

2. Be cautious of age recommendations

Many toys have a suggested age range based on the safety and developmental appropriateness for a child. These recommendations are based on the developmental abilities of an average child and may serve as a starting point for you when selecting a toy for your child. A toy should be challenging, but not frustrating. Likewise, if a toy is too simplistic and beyond your child’s abilities, he or she will quickly lose interest. Children learn and grow at various paces, and what might be an appropriate toy for one two-year-old child may not be for the next.

3. Promoting Exploration and Imagination

17_LilyPennyMaddy2.jpgResearch has found that toys that do “too much” don’t encourage children to use their imaginations. Stuffed animals that talk and sing only prompt the child to press a specific button which takes charge of the play scheme. Instead, look for a toy like blocks. Blocks can be stacked up to build a tower, knocked down by a dragon, lined up to make a city, the list goes on and on. The more your child has to problem solve and use his or her imagination, the more your child will learn through play.

4. Think, Move, and Interact

This generation loves to be entertained with screens. Instead of getting that Ipad or other video console, look for toys that provide opportunities for cooperative play that encourage the development of social skills and positive behaviors like taking turns. Board games are a great example!

5. Sensory Considerations

Toys that are tactile or visual can often help improve how a child processes the information. Music, varying textures, flashing lights, and colors can all improve the sensory appeal to your child. It is important to know the needs of your child because what is appealing for one child may be overstimulating for the next.

6. Promoting Inclusion

Toys that promote groupwork and peer interaction with other children are great to promote social skills and improve self-esteem and overall quality of life.

7. Think outside the box.

Toys don’t always have to be used in the conventional manner. For example, that food puzzle might be a little hard for your child to sit still and focus to complete, however, maybe your child would be motivated to find the pieces hidden in a tactile bin or exploring the house on a gross motor adventure to find the food. For children with physical disabilities, many battery operated toys can be adapted for switches. Check out this blog for directions and this link for purchasing battery interrupters.

If you child is younger, can you use that ring stacker to look through the circles together at each other. Or maybe the rings fit on different body parts. If your child is older, think about using the toys within movement activities.

8. Will the child make memories with it?

Giving experiences is becoming a new, more popular trend (for multiple reasons!). Taking time to explore local attractions can create long lasting memories and even new post-holiday traditions. Most businesses and even public libraries offer gift certificates to local attractions. This is a great way to really personalize a gift for your child.

9. Fun!

Last but not least, make sure the toys are engaging and fun. Do not force a toy upon a child. If they appear not interested in a certain toy, leave it for a few days and re-introduce it at another time. Keeping the toys fun will ultimately make the learning fun for your child.

Visit this blog next week, for more of our specific toy recommendations! You can also search our previous blogs for each year’s toy recommendations like here and here. Happy Holidays! For more information on Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley visit eastersealsdfvr.org.

 

Get Your Little One Walking

By: Bridget Hobbs PT, DPT

A child’s first year of life is so full of milestones… first smiles, first solid foods, and the first time s/he sits up on his/her own.  As the first year is coming to a close, many parents desire to see their little one taking their first steps around the time of their first birthday.  The typical window for children taking their first steps is anytime between 9 and 15 months, which is a big spectrum of time.

Below are some things that parents or caregivers can do with their child to help them get walking when they are showing signs that they are ready.

  • Set a good foundation for your baby. Walking involves strength from the entire body, not just the legs.  Believe it or not, creeping on hands and knees is an important milestone to achieve before walking.  Also, climbing over obstacles, such as couch cushions or parents’ legs is another good way to help build a solid core, or base for walking.  You can also help build strength in the core, arms and legs by teaching your child to crawl up steps. Try placing a favorite toy on the landing as motivation.
  • 01_Lucas_Vasquez2After a child learns to pull up and stand at the couch or coffee table, place toys away from their body so that the child has to rotate their body away from the support surface to reach for the toy. This technique will not only help build important rotator muscles in their trunk but will also gradually encourage them to stand with less support.
  • Once your child is standing supported holding onto furniture, have them practice little squat to stand movements. For example, motivate your child by placing a stacking ring at the height of their knees. While supporting them at their waist, encourage them to bend at their knees and hips to pick up the ring and then stand back up to help them place the ring on the stacking toy.
  • When your child is pulling up to stand, cruising side to side along furniture and starting to experiment with standing on their own, they are likely ready to start taking some steps. Hold onto one end of a hula hoop or small ring and encourage your child to hold onto the other side. While facing your child, encourage them to take a few steps while holding onto the ring for support.  You can also use a motivator, such as walking to pop bubbles or to grasp a puff snack as encouragement to get your child to talk some steps.
  • Weighing down a push toy, such as a small shopping cart or ride on toy will provide them the support they need to take forward steps. Often times these toys will move too fast, causing a child to face-plant forward if they are not weighted down, so place a gallon of milk or carton of orange juice in the shopping cart or ride on toy to help with this.

02_Josephine_Huard.jpg_waterIf your child is not showing any signs of pre-walking skills, such as pulling up to stand, walking along furniture or walking with hand held assist, and they are at the age when many of their peers are starting to walk, it’s always good to talk to your pediatrician about possible reasons why they are late to walking.

To learn more about  Physical Therapy and play-based therapy services at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, visit our website.

 

Back to Sleep: Tummy to Play

By: Cassidy McCoy, PT

The Back to Sleep campaign rolled out in 1994 as an initiative to decrease the risk of SID, or sudden infant death syndrome. While this campaign has been successful in decreasing the incidence of SIDS, most people forget to finish the full sentence. Back to Sleep, Tummy to Play!

Placing your infant on their back during sleep times is safe practice, having your infant on their belly while they are awake (and being monitored) is very important for development.

Tummy time can promote:

  • Strong muscles in the trunk, arms and back, including strong neck muscles resulting in good head control
  • Development of appropriate spinal extension and rotation, which are both pre-requisites for walking
  • Initiation of exploring one’s environment, starting with vision and leading to reaching out for objects, rolling and eventually crawling

If a child remains on their back for a majority of their day it can lead to complications such as torticollosis, plagiocephaly or brachicephaly.  These issues can lead to developmental delay, including asymmetries with crawling and walking.

What if my child hates being placed on their tummy?

TakeThreePhotography_05202010-123
Photo from Take Three Photography

Use some technique to make it a little easier for them!

  • You lay in a recline or semi-reclined position and place your child on your chest. Being in a reclined position eliminates some of the resistance of gravity, making it easier for your child to lift their head. This can also be used as great bonding time with your infant.
  • Have your infant lay over a boppy pillow, so the pillow is under their chest with their arms and shoulders in front. This position is similar to having them lay on your chest, decreasing the resistance of gravity.

Making tummy time fun!                  

The more time your child spends on their tummy the more they will enjoy it.

  • Get down on their level! Position yourself to be in line with your child’s eye site
  • Place different toys on the floor that are motivating for your infant to play with, such as music toys or light up toys. The toys can be placed to either side of your infant’s head or directly in front of them.
  • Babies love looking at themselves! If you have a mirror or a toy with a mirror attached, place it on the floor in a position where they can see themselves.
  • Make sure you have enough space for your baby to explore. It starts with just lifting the head and will progress to turning 180 degrees on their bellies to crawling!

For more information on Physical Therapy and play-based therapy services at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, visit our website: http://www.easterseals.com/dfv/our-programs/medical-rehabilitation/physical-therapy.html

My OT Christmas List

By: Laura Bueche, MOT OTR/L

If you are looking for the perfect holiday gift for your child, here are some ideas to give your little one the input they are looking for over winter break. I also included other helpful websites, stores and catalogs for children with special needs.

Heavy Work and Movement

sensory_ot

Cuddle Me Sensory Tunnel– Great for therapy requiring tactile input and crawling practice as well as for sensory seeking kids to cuddle in for comfort. $49.99

scooter-blog.jpgScooter board– Develops sensory processing, coordination, balance and agility skills. $19.25

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Mini Kids Trampoline– Helps with muscle development, coordination and sensory processing. $68.99

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Wiggle Sit Cushion– provides subtle movement input and is a great seating option that often helps with focusing, while developing balance skills and trunk control. $14.90

 Deep Pressure Toys

 

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Weighted toys– A great sensory diet addition that provides comforting deep pressure input. $36.00

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Body Sock– excellent for providing calming/organizing deep pressure input, and for developing motor planning, spatial, and body awareness. $31.98

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Weighted blankets– Can calm anxiety and ease stress for some children with autism, sensory processing disorder, developmental disorders, and more. $ Prices vary

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Vibrating Pillow– Provides a sense of calm. $17.95

Balance and Coordination Toys

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Balance Board– helps develop the necessary skills for normal childhood activities which require good balance and coordination. $19.95

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Velcro Toss– Great for practicing motor-planning and timing skills. $8.49

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Zoom Ballgreat for bilateral coordination, motor planning skills, shoulder stability, and building upper body and core strength. $13.99

balance-stepping_otBalance stepping stones– Helps to improve balancing and coordination abilities. $29.49

 Tactile Exploration Toys

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Fidgets– Great for calming and alerting, to promote focusing and concentration, decrease stress, increase tactile awareness of fingers/hands and as a way to keep fidgeting fingers busy. $ Price Varies

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Water Beads – These make for fun sensory activities. $5.95

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Kinetic Sand– Great for a calming sensory experience and for tactile therapy play. $12.99

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Be Amazing Insta-Snow Jar– great for use in sensory tables for early childhood. $9.89

Adapted Toys

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Santa’s Little Hackers– A seasonal toy drive to adapt toys,  making simple modifications to the electronics of toys and giving them away. These adaptations make the toys accessible to individuals with disabilities so they can play independently.

Other Adapted Toy Resources:

Adaptive Tech SolutionsAdaptive Tech Solutions is a therapist owned and operated company that provides adapted equipment for individuals with disabilities at affordable prices.

Beyond Play: Features switch toys which are wonderful way to teach cause and effect and can help children develop a sense of control over their environment and self-esteem.

Other Resources:

I’m looking forward to checking out this new store in the Chicago area, Spectrum Toy Store.

Toys R Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids – Prepared by the National Lekotek Center, the catalogue is available at your local “R” Us store.

And last but not least, view our Amazon Wishlist for therapist recommended toys and games for all children’s developmental stages at bit.ly/eswishlist.

Holiday Gifts and Toys For Kids

holiday

By: Jennifer Tripoli M.S., CCC-SLP

With the holidays right around the corner, everyone is beginning to purchase gifts for their loved ones. Christmas is a special time for kids (Santa is coming!) and you are probably looking for toy/game ideas that are worth your money. Not only do we wish to purchase toys that are children want, but also toys that are developmentally and educationally beneficial as well. Before you run out to the stores to get your hands on those “hot toys” (and fight those crowds!!), lets consider a few guidelines.

  • Is the toy developmentally appropriate for your child?

Just because a certain toy is the “it” toy, this doesn’t mean all children should have it.  Does your child have the skills to play with the toy in a productive way? You should buy toys that the child can play with functionally at this point in their development.

  • Will this toy grow with your child?

Toys can be very expensive nowadays, so we want to purchase toys that will grow with a child. Will your child enjoy this toy not only right now, but in the future? Are there a variety of different ways this toy can be played with? An example of a toy that may grow with a child is an animal set and barn. Toddlers may play with this toy by placing the animals in and out of the barn or learning the animal sounds. Older children may play the animals by creating stories or more complex play schemes with the barn.

  • How expensive is the toy?

Just because a toy is expensive does not mean it is the best toy for a child! Many of the best toys for children are in expensive such as blocks, balls, pretend play musical instruments, stuffed animals, etc. If you are on a budget, here are some toys you can make at home for next to nothing and even use some of those old things you have laying around the house! Click here for ideas!

  • Does the toy require batteries? Is it electronic?

My favorite toys for younger kids often don’t require any batteries!  Sometimes the toys do everything and anything and do not allow for the child to learn or do something independently. I think the best toys are old fashioned, basic toys. These toys don’t always make sounds, move, or have flashing lights!

  • Does the toy promote exploration and problem solving skills?

Toys that allow your child to figure out something by themselves should be given! E.g. Puzzles (for all ages), shape sorters (younger children), Playdough, building kits, etc.

  • Other questions to ask: Does the toy promote/allow for physical activity? Is the toy safe for child’s age/developmental level? Does the toy/game promote educational concepts? Is the toy durable?

Toy Ideas by Age

1-3 years

  • Musical instruments
  • Bubbles
  • Balls
  • Fisher Price play sets (bus, airplane)
  • Farm with animals (here) OR zoo with animals (here)
  • Elefun Game (here), Elefun ball popper toy (here)
  • Fisher Price Spiral Race Track (here)
  • Cause/effect type toys
  • Blocks (here or here)
  • Ball/hammer toys (here)
  • Stacking buckets (here)
  • Books with simple illustrations and early vocabulary
  • Basic wooden puzzles with early vocabulary (animals, vehicles, food, etc.)

*Note- Due to the “electronic age” many toy companies are pushing electronic/computer/ipad based activities for children under the age of 2 years. The American Academy of Pediatrics does NOT support the use of electronics for children under the age of 2 years.

For more information visit: http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/Babies-and-Toddlers-Should-Learn-from-Play-Not-Screens.aspx

3-6 years (preschool and kindergarten age)

  • Dollhouse (any with family)
  • Pretend play dress up outfits- firefighter, cook, police officer, vet, etc. (here)
  • Doll/stuffed animal/puppets with clothes/accessories
  • Farm/zoo with animals
  • Play food with microwave
  • Stove, grocery cart, cash register, tea set, sandwich making set, etc.
  • Train set with city
  • Basic turn-taking games (Barnyard Bingo 3+, Zingo 4+, Candyland 3+, Chutes and Ladder 3+, Hi Ho Cheerio 3+, Diggity Dog 3+, etc.)
  • More complex puzzles that require higher level problem solving
  • Toys/games that target academic concepts (colors, shapes, numbers, letter, etc.)
  • Books with more pictures and words (compared to toddler books)
  • Play-doh and play-doh sets
  • Block set that allow for more creative/complex building
  • Art supplies, crayons, coloring books, etc.

6-9 years

  • Lego sets (look at age and complexity)
  • Board games (HedBanz, Operation, Zingo, Guess Who, Monopoly Junior, Charades game, Blurt, memory games, Trouble, Don’t Say It, etc.)
  • Books with more complex story lines- beginning chapter books
  • Games that encourage physical activity- basketball nets, soccer goals, baseball equipment, etc.
  • Art/craft materials to improve creativity

9 years +

  • Thinking games such as Chess, Sodoku, crossword puzzles, Checkers, Scrabble, Jeopardy, Catchphrase, Bop it!, Boggle
  • More complex Lego/building sets
  • Apple/Android apps or computer games (they aren’t all bad!) that target executive functions such as problem solving (apps- Cut the Rope, Rush Hour, Tetris, apps that aren’t just a game but actually make you THINK!) Click here for more on “executive functions” (here)
  • Check out Marbles-the Brain Store or other stores like it for unique games/activities that workout your brain! (Here)

Other Resources:

Click here for Toys R Us guide for differently abled kids!

Safety tips for toys: http://toysrusinc.com/safety/tips/

Please visit my previous post on 3 classic games for targeting speech and language skills! here

Want ideas for speech and language? Please visit the Easter Seals DuPage Speech/Language Department’s Pinterest page! here