TOP 5 Favorite Toys in his “bag of tricks” as an Occupational Therapist
Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood” -Fred Rogers
It’s no secret that play is REALLY important for children. While we may understand the benefit of play from our own experiences and childhood, even the American Academy of Pediatrics stressed the importance of play in a 2019 clinic report entitled The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in the importance of play in a 2019 clinic report entitled The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children. In the report, the AAP stressed that play promotes “social-emotional, cognitive, language, and self-regulation skills that build executive function and a prosocial play. Wow, Mr. Rogers was right! Play is serious stuff!
As a Pediatric Occupational Therapist, I work on developing the skills a child needs to participate in daily “occupations”, or activities that “occupy” their time. A child’s occupations include learning as a student, dressing and hygiene tasks, socializing and of course, play! Play helps a child develop motor coordination skills, and motor planning skills, they need to participate in activities at their highest level of ability. Play helps a child improve their sensory processing, flexibility, adaptability and problem-solving skills. Play is everything, and every single human being can play, and should play frequently.
Play doesn’t have to be formal or involve expensive toys. Play could be a board game or a roll down the hill. Play could be passing a ball back and forth or jumping on the bed. Play could be flashlight tag at bedtime or a scavenger hunt outside. As an OT, I play A LOT! Play is my most frequently used modality. I have a variety of toys in my “bag of tricks” to meet the needs of any child I have the honor of working, and playing, with. Here is a list of my TOP 5 favorite toys that I use in my work as an Occupational Therapist.
There are lots of different magnetic blocks on the market. These blocks require fine motor strength to separate and stack the blocks. You are working on constructional praxis (building) skills while using a lot of problem-solving, planning, and bi-lateral coordination skills, as well as your imagination! You can build a cage for your toy dinosaur, or a house for your favorite stuffed animal. You can even line the blocks up by color and make a rainbow, or train tracks, or whatever you can think of!
2) Tracing Light Pad
Does your child have a favorite character? They can trace it! Does your child have difficulty writing letters or words? They can trace it! You are only limited by your creativity with this light pad. And yes, you can put your magnetic blocks on them and watch them glow!
3) Fort Magic
Fort Magic is the ultimate ‘mom-created’ fort building kit for kids. The kit offers curved and straight pipes and various connectors that. You can build a castle, a tower, a train…whatever you can think of! My kids even made a lemonade stand! Buy some rolled paper and you can clip rolled paper to it for drawing and even MORE creativity.
4) Google Cardboard
Bring virtual reality into your home for under $10 with this product that fits in your backpack! Ride on a virtual roller coaster, scuba dive under the sea while a whale swims overhead or float in space and learn about the planets. This is an amazing (and amazingly affordable) virtual reality experience that uses your cell phone and apps to allow the user to have experiences all over the world, and the universe, without leaving your home.
5) Jungle Jumparoo
Jumping gives incredible proprioceptive and vestibular input to your “sensory seeker”, and your sensory avoider can experiment with having their feet leaving the ground while holding on to the bars. Keep it outside and attach a sprinkler to it for some amazing water play when the weather is warm. Because the participants can hold on and its low to the ground, the Jungle Jumparoo provides a much higher level of safety as compared to a typical backyard trampoline. Dozens of families have purchased Jumparoos after watching their kids play on them in OT, and I have also installed Jungle Jumparoos in multiple classrooms! The results? After jumping, focus improved! Jumping provides great sensory input to our bodies and teaches us how our bodies move in space. This product takes jumping to a whole new level and meets the various sensory needs of many kids.
Check out our “Holidays and Holideals” gift guide for more toy options
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This post originally appeared on our November/December 2021 Magazine