By: Lindsey Murphy, OTR/L
As the holiday season rapidly approaches, advertisements for the newest gadgets and most coveted toys are abundant. Commercials describe the latest features on each new toy and encourage kids to add those items to their lists. In the world of pediatric occupational therapy, many toys have therapeutic benefits in addition to entertainment attributes. At PK Therapy, we have compiled a list of gift recommendations as well as explanations of the specific skills that are developed with each item.
Vestibular input involves the movement of one’s head in space and can contain spinning motions (rotary vestibular), back and force motions (linear vestibular), and up and down motions. This motion is very regulating to the nervous system and is excellent to incorporate into a child’s sensory diet. A hammock pod or other partially or fully enclosed indoor swings can improve regulation. The Gorilla Gym Kids Package provides swinging input while also encouraging other heavy work exercises.
Heavy work activities are critical for promoting sensory self-regulation. Crawling through tunnels, riding on a scooter, jumping on a bungee jumper or miniature indoor trampoline, walking with monster feet, hopping on a hippity hop, crashing on a crash pad, or other gross motor activities can provide the input that a child’s sensory system is craving.
To develop fine motor skills, increasing grip strength and improving intrinsic muscle use is critical. The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game is a board game and Going Buggy is a fine motor activity that develop scissors skills and grasp patterns by encouraging the use of tongs to pick up small objects. Hasbro Scatterpillar Scramble or the Giggle Wiggle games promote in hand manipulation, or the skill of successfully moving items throughout the hand, and then releasing objects onto a target. Theraputty increases hand, grip, and pinch strength and can be utilized in a variety of therapeutic and entertaining ways. Ker Plunk!, Hi-Ho Cherry-O, and Let’s Go Fishing improve fine motor coordination, midline crossing, pressure gradation, and grasp patterns.
Visual motor skills are a critical part of a child’s daily activities. Judging how much space to use during tasks, forming letters, determining the size and shape of an item, matching patterns, cutting out or coloring items within the lines, etc. are all critical components of visual motor skills. The Quick Cups Board Game increases hand-eye coordination, midline crossing, spatial relations, figure ground, and visual perceptual skills. Tangrams or Light Bright games increase both fine motor coordination and visual motor skills. For children that enjoy playing with magnets, building with Magformers or Legos can develop visual perceptual skills, or the ability to correctly interpret and organize visual information in a meaningful way. Spot It can improve figure ground skills, or the ability to find a desired object within a busy background. Elefun develops hand-eye coordination, spatial relations, and visual attention. Zoom Ball increases hand-eye coordination, eye tracking, and impulse control.
Sensory tools are very handy items for home, school, road trips, community outings, and other places. Wiggle Seat or Move N Sit cushions allow movement while sitting in order to improve focus and self-regulation. Hand fidgets such as Khoosh balls, Fidgetz, soybean keychains, squishy stress balls, Pop Toobs, and Fidget Cubes can promote attention and decrease fidgeting behavior by keeping the hands active. Weighted animals, blankets, lap pads, neck pillows, and bracelets can improve self-regulation by providing calming deep pressure. Jigglers, chew necklaces, whistles, chewable pencil toppers, and other items can improve oral motor skills while providing an outlet for oral seeking. I-Spy bottles, Liquid Motion Bubblers, and ViewMasters are portable and calming visual tools.
While shopping to find the perfect gift items for this holiday season, do not hesitate to ask the occupational therapists at PK Therapy for additional suggestions! Happy holidays from our PK Therapy family to yours.
DISCLAIMER: PK Therapy LLC and its therapist and employees do not endorse and have not tested the products, websites, or companies which are linked above. We are giving these as ideas for you and your child. Please make sure each of these products are appropriate for you and your family prior to purchasing. There may be some links that have changed since we have published the newsletter, forgive us for any bad links.