With the holidays fast approaching, we know there are plenty of little wish lists out there for our kiddos. But can you get them toys they want or will enjoy that also help them gain the skills they are working on in therapy? Let me shed some therapeutic light on the toy/game section of the store to help parents, grandparents, family friends, and even Santa Claus – he really enjoys what we as therapists have been able to teach him over the years!
No matter what the child receives, they will see a toy/game/FUN. However, with our “therapist eyes,” we see the many ways they can target the skills we are working on in therapy. The good news is, most of the time children don’t see toys/games in the same way therapists view them because they are distracted by the fun. However, adults are able to see the hidden benefits once we say our buzz words.
How a Kid Sees It: FUN, bright colors, makes “plop” sounds going in.
How a Therapist Sees It: matching shapes, problem-solving (orienting shape to get it to fit), grasp, language galore (in/out, identifying/naming shapes and colors, following directions, lid on/off, etc.)
Pretend Play Toys (dress up clothes, plastic food, play kitchen/house, etc.)
How a Kid Sees It: FUN, get to pretend to be mom/dad/teacher/chef/etc.
How a Therapist Sees It: soooooo many language skills during pretend play (perspective taking, following directions, inferencing, making associations, etc), working on putting on/taking off clothing, fine motor skills
Riding Toys (toddler car/rider, balance bike, big wheel bike, tricycle, bicycle, scooter, etc.)
How a Kid Sees It: FUN, get to drive (like mom/dad/adults), can go fast, get to move!
How a Therapist Sees It: hip mobility and positioning, building strength and new motor patterns, targeting balance reactions, coordination, motor planning, cognitive planning and problem-solving (“Where am I going to go?”, “Which direction?”, “Can I fit between those two objects?”), hand-eye coordination, language galore (stop, go, turn, fast, slow, push, etc.)
Connecting Toys (pop beads, Tinker Toys, Legos, Squigz, Construction Fort Building Kits, Build-Abouts Modular Fort Kit, marble tracks)
How a Kid Sees It: FUN, get to build and create masterpieces
How a Therapist Sees It: fine motor skills, upper extremity strengthening, midline play, cognitive and creative thinking, problem-solving, postural positioning, language galore (push, pull, build, up, down, colors, descriptions of what they are building, etc.)
How a Kid Sees It: FUN with family and/or friends
How a Therapist Sees It: social skills, turn-taking, frustration tolerance, winning/losing skills, language galore (my/your turn, go, stop, win/lose, counting, colors, skip, etc.), following directions and rules, strategizing/cognitive reasoning skills, executive functioning skills.
Searching Books (I Spy, Where’s Waldo?, etc.):
How a Kid Sees It: FUN challenge to find all the items listed
How a Therapist Sees It: visual scanning, problem-solving, inferencing, associations, language galore (look, find, see, hiding, where, etc.)
These are just a few ideas. The possibilities are endless. If my husband loses me in Target, he knows to always search the toy section because I will be looking for new options for my therapy kiddos! If you are in need of ideas to carry over any skills being targeted in therapy, please do not hesitate to ask your therapist. We are always willing to help disguise FUN into our work 😊
Jessica Orlick, MS, CCC-SLP
Speech Therapist/Clinical Director
Image Courtesy Pixabay/Title Added