Looking for the perfect children’s gift this holiday season? Little Hands Pediatric Therapy has you covered! Check out our therapists’ top picks below, including the skills that it can work on and how we play with it.
Speech-Language Pathologist, Kelli Atangan’s Pick:
Toy: Veterinarian Kit
Works On: Pretend play, following directions, emotions, early language skills, preschool language, asking questions, and more.
How We Play with It: Toddlers through preschoolers will enjoy this open-ended toy set. Practice early language skills using 1-2 words like “open, more, night-night, boo boo, all-better”. Bring your other stuffed animals and practice animal sounds (moo, woof, meow) and environmental noises (beep, mmmm, weee). Play with a grown-up or friend and take turns asking questions and following directions. Is the puppy sick? He must feel sad. Now he’s all-better. How does he feel?
Occupational Therapist, Katelyn Black’s Pick:
Works On: Fine motor/hand strengthening, color recognition, matching, direction following, forming shapes and letters, the list goes on!
How We Play with It: These are most commonly used by suctioning them to any flat surface (windows, doors, hard surface floor) and pulling them off. You can also stick them to each other! I have used them in many different ways, anywhere from creating “road ways” for obstacle courses, to finding them inside a sensory bin and sticking them to the window before pulling them off.
Speech-Language Pathologist, Amanda DeAngelis’ Pick:
Game: Race to the Treasure
Works On: Cooperative play, taking turns, articulation (“th” in “path,” “r” in “ogre,” “k” in “key,” among many others!), executive functioning, problem solving, letter and number identification (A-F, 1-6), expressive language
How We Play with It: My kids just love this game! We work hard at beating those dreaded ogres to unlock the treasure. This is a really great game to learn that playing games can be fun, whether we win or lose. Players work in a team so it’s an all or nothing kind of game. It really makes kids think about the best way to get from point A to B (executive functioning) and it’s great to talk about what we could have done differently if we lose the game to the ogres (problem solving). We talk out the actions as the game progresses (expressive language) and always use our best sounds when doing so (articulation)!
Occupational Therapist, Kristina Wilk’s Pick:
Toy: Lite Brite
Works On: Creative way to work on fine motor coordination, in – hand manipulation, sequencing, visual motor and visual processing skills.
How We Play with It: Build pictures that light up! You can use templates to make pictures, follow a pattern, and make letters or use your creativity and make your own design. More than one player can use this toy to work on social interaction skills such as turn taking. This old classic is still a lot of fun!
Speech-Language Pathologist, Angie Cloud’s Pick:
Toy: Food toy sets and sandwich sets
Works On: Imaginative play, following directions (especially sandwich), category knowledge, naming, cooperative play
How We Play with It: Child can decide to make a meal or even a picnic by him/herself or with a peer or adult. Food items can be what they are meant to be or something similar (ex a circle bread can be a cookie even!). The child can exercise control over what he/she chooses to make and “eat”. If playing with someone else he/she can participate in teamwork to make items or set a “table”. While playing with your child you can describe and/or categorize foods by type/group, color, taste, or whatever you want! You can even practice giving directions verbally or by making “recipes” to follow. Skills practiced in food play can carry over into helping make real meals! Playing with toy food can, in some cases, help picky eaters become more comfortable with new and different foods.
Occupational Therapist, Lindsay Borda’s Pick:
Toy: Hippity Hop Ball
Works On: Helps improve core stability, body awareness, and balance.
How We Play with It: The hippity hop ball’s sole purpose is for sitting on it, grasping its handle and hopping around, however, you can do many different things with this ball! The ball can be:
*used to hop around an obstacle course using pillows/cushions/chairs, etc.
*used as a chair when coloring at a table, watching t.v., reading, etc.
*you can roll over the ball on your tummy, push off with your feet and stop yourself with your hands on the floor, rocking back and forth.
*you can have someone roll the ball over your back, arms, and legs providing calming deep pressure and body awareness
* you can sit on the floor, reach hands back for support, raise your feet and kick the ball to a partner using both feet to work your core.
Speech-Language Pathologist, Gillian Lavigne’s Pick:
Tool: Chewy Tube (yellow, red, or green)
Works on: All kinds of feeding skills – chewing, biting, oral-facial stimulation, straw drinking. If you already have one from therapy- below are some new ideas for it!
How We Play with It: Place it on the molar area to promote chewing; dip it in something cold, sweet, sour, spicy and chew it, taste it, lick it, suck on it; tap it on your lips, cheeks, tongue, teeth for to improve sensory skills; work on correcting swallow postures & oral control by pretending to be a dog holding a bone and play tug of war! But no drooling doggy!; blow through the end of it to make it whistle, then suck something up with it, while working on straw drinking!
Occupational Therapist Brittany Simco’s Pick:
Game: Stack Up by Peaceable Kingdom
Works On: Fine motor skills, motor-planning and coordination
How We Play with It: This game one of my favorites to get kids playing together. It is a cooperative game, kids play as a team to build a block tower using a small dowel with a peg. This takes teamwork and coordination to complete and they are often tasked with simultaneous motor actions (sing Happy birthday while stacking, hold one hand in the air while stacking with your other hand). Lots of fun for kids to work together, practice coordination and fine motor skills to build the tower before “stack smasher” knocks it down. Peaceable kingdom makes great kids games, other favorites include Sneaky Snacky Squirrel and Sophie’s Seashell Scramble!
Speech-Language Pathologist, Katie Egan’s Pick:
Works On: Colors, matching, prepositions, fine motor skills, problem solving
How We Play with It: Legos can be used by preschoolers through school-age children. Work on following directions and prepositions: “pick up, put on, put next to, touch color, stack, look for a…”. Sort by color, size, and shape to work on descriptive vocabulary. Write letters on single blocks to work on building simple words. Add prefix or suffix to build bigger more complex word. Also a way to introduce letter pairs or welded letters. Pacing boards for smooth speech or increasing utterance length- tap on one lego per word or syllable.
More ideas for play with a purpose! Stocking Stuffers:
Learning Resources Jumbo Tweezers Set Of 12