Friday, November 30, 2012

More great holiday gift guides!

Queen Bee of Beverly Hills Designer Handbags Holiday
Photo Credit: Queen Bee of Beverly Hills

I've come across so many great gift guides this year, you should be able to find something fun (and therapeutic!) for all of the children on your list. 

Gift Guides by Occupational Therapists:

Dana Elliot is a pediatric occupational therapist who blogs at Embrace Your Chaos and she has got you covered this holiday season:

For more great suggestions from an occupational therapist, check out Mama OT's holiday gift guides:
10 Holiday Gift Ideas for Babies
10 Holiday Gift Ideas for Toddlers
10 Holiday Gift Ideas for Preschoolers

Pediatric OT Miss Mancy has created kits for children with autism. Check out the Fun Time Kit for fun fine motor activities, the Predictability is Key Kit for a customizable visual schedule, and the Quiet Time Kit for calming tools. Miss Mancy also gives you the option of creating your very own Holiday Kit, customized to meet your child's needs. Also be sure to check out the rest of Miss Mancy's shop for creative and fun activities to promote fine motor and handwriting skills. Many of the items are handmade by Miss Mancy herself!

Looking for some technological gifts? Glenda, of Glenda's Assistive Technology Information and More, has put together a comprehensive list of toy ideas and resources for children with disabilities.

Gift Guides by Pediatric Physical Therapists:

Stacy is a pediatric physical therapist who blogs at Starfish Therapies. She frequently blogs about toys she uses during therapy and in Toys, Toys, Toys and More Gift Ideas for the Holidays, she shares some toys she and her colleagues use in therapy.

Tana Jimenez, PT, has put together several toy lists, including ride-on toys.

Natalie, a pediatric physical therapist, of Beyond Basic Play has also recommended some toys that she uses in therapy, including this trike.

Gift Guide by a Speech Language Pathologist:

For language learning toys, check out Mindi's Holiday Gift Guide for infants to teens at Simply Stavish. I love that some of her suggestions (like Mr. Potato Head, LEGOs, and Snap Circuits) overlap with my own, which means you can get motor skill development and language skill development out of those toys!

Parent Recommendations:

As always, Ellen at Love That Max has put together a fantastic holiday gift guide for children with special needs. This guide is full of toy recommendations from parents of children with special needs, and it is divided into useful categories like toys that help with speech and communication, toys that help with gross motor skills, toys that help with fine motor skills, and many more.

No Times for Flashcards has a holiday gift guide with suggestions based on how much her own children like to play with the toys on the list. Looking for books for the children in your life? No Time for Flashcards has a guide for books, too!

Do you have any holiday gift guides to add to this list? Please share in the comments below!

*This post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide 2012 - Gifts for "sensory kids"

Has your child been called a "sensory kid?" Is your child always on the go? Constantly climbing, jumping, spinning, running? Or is your child overly sensitive to sensory stimulation, covering his ears in loud places or preferring to only wear soft clothes? Today I'm going to provide some gift suggestions for Sensory Seekers and Sensory Avoiders. Remember, you know your child's preferences best ant it is not uncommon for children to demonstrate behaviors of both sensory seeking and sensory avoiding.

Sensory Seekers:

Sensory Seekers are those kids that are always on the go. They may be climbing on furniture, jumping off of furniture, or touching everything they see. Sensory Seekers crave sensory information and need additional sensory input to regulate their bodies.

Original Toy Company Fold and Go Trampoline

- For the sensory seeker who is always jumping and on the go. A small trampoline, used with supervision, can provide the sensory input your child is seeking.

- A Rody Horse is fun to bounce around on, providing lots of movement, as well as vestibular input.

- Pillow Racers are a soft ride-on toy that are easy to maneuver in all directions, including spinning in a circle. Sensory seekers may enjoy the vestibular input provided by this toy.

- For little ones who love to swing, the Little Tykes Snug 'n Secure Swing is a great option.

- Edushape balls provide a great tactile experience for sensory seekers.

- A classic pounding bench develops hand eye coordination AND it provides proprioceptive feedback to the hands and arms, for those who seek additional input.

- I haven't actually seen Gelli Baff in action, but it looks like an interesting concept. It turns water into "goo" and back. Could be a good tactile activity for sensory seekers. Has anyone else tried this? [Update: This might not be the best for your plumbing. Please see the reader comments below]

- Does your child need a fidget to keep his or her hands busy? Zibbies are stuffed animals with koosh ball-like hair. 

Sensory Avoiders:

Sensory Avoiders are those kids who avoid sensations or become easily overwhelmed with too much sensory input. Too much sensory input may cause these children to tantrum or shut down.

- Sound blocking head phones can be just what the sensory avoider needs to get through certain situations, such as a noisy car ride or a wait in the reception area of the doctor's office. These also come in pink or blue.

- Seamless socks can work wonders for children who are bothered by tags and seems in their clothing. Also look for tagless clothes, which luckily is not hard to find these days, since most children's clothing has now gone tagless.

- For children who do not like to get their hands messy, Crayola's Mess Free Markers are a good option. The only downside is, you will also need the appropriate paper to go with these markers.

- An indoor child-size tent can create the perfect getaway or quiet spot for the sensory avoider. Throw some soft pillows and blankets inside to create a safe sensory spot for your child.

Gifts for the Sensory Seeker or Sensory Avoider:

Some toys can be appropriate for both Sensory Seekers and Sensory Avoiders. Here are a few examples.

That's Not My Puppy (Usborne Touchy-Feely Board Books)

- For sensory avoiders of tactile input, Touch and Feel books are a safe way to slowly experience a variety of textures. For sensory seekers, the tactile input provided by Touch and Feel books can be more engaging than a typical board book.

- For older children who like to swing, this hammock swing from IKEA provides vestibular input. Sensory avoiders may enjoy the cozy getaway that a hammock swing provides.

Sensory Books:

There are now several books that help explain sensory "issues" to children. Similar to a social story, these books allow the child to relate to a character who is experiencing the same sensory sensitivities as him/herself.
- Sensitive Sam shares a typical day in Sam's life, in which his over sensitivity causes distress in his life. Sam's teacher recommends that he go to an occupational therapist, and OT is also described in a non-threatening, kid-friendly way.
- Arnie and His School Tools tells the story of Arnie, who is an active boy who had trouble paying attention in school until he was given the sensory tools he needed to meet his sensory needs.

- Squirmy Wormy tells the story of Tyler, who has autism and sensory processing disorder. Tyler learns about sensory processing disorder and what he can do to help himself feel better.

- Why Does Izzy Cover Her Ears? shows how Izzy learns to cope with sensory overload in her new school. This is the only sensory book that I have come across that features a girl as the main character.

Please add to the list! What are must-haves for the sensory seekers or sensory avoiders in your life?

Looking for even more ideas? Be sure to check out my Amazon Store!

*This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Parent's Perspective - More Than Words

Let's give a BIG welcome to Stacey, from More Than Words! Stacey is mom to 9 year old Carter who has a developmental disability and is non-verbal. Stacey is also a fierce advocate for those who communicate differently. I LOVE her words of advice for therapists! Read on to find out what it is.

Our life in five words:

Busy, positive, loving, fun, routine.

Four qualities I look for in a therapist:

  1. Positive attitude.
  2. Motivating.
  3. Open and honest, a good communicator, keeps me informed.
  4. Sees my son's potential, holds high expectations, raises the bar and challenges my son to work toward reaching his full potential.

Three resources I can't live without:

  1. Vantage Lite speech device & Prentke Romich AAC Language Lab website.
  2. PrAACtical AAC blog 
  3. AAC Institute Parents Corner

Two words (or more!) of advice for therapists working with children who are non-verbal, with developmental disabilities:

"Not being able to speak is not the same as having nothing to say." - Rosemary Crossley

A word of advice for the parents of a child who is non-verbal:

  • Don't follow the 'let's wait and see' approach taken by some professionals.
  • Don't "let years of precious time go by without providing [your child] with the tools they need to be successful communicators and learners." (from Early Intervention and Augmentative Communication article)  
  • Everyone communicates - so find the best way for your child to do so.
  • Get started early and don't give up.

One dream for my child:

That he reach his fullest potential and live a happy and fulfilling life.

What I do to rest and recharge:

  • Date night with my husband.
  • Get together with friends.
  • Walk.
  • Blast my music and dance!      

Stacey, thanks so much for stopping by to share your perspective! Readers, be sure to visit Stacey's blog at You can also follow Stacey on Facebook or Twitter @MoreThnWords

Holiday Gift Guide 2012 - Gifts to promote gross motor development

Today I am sharing toys and games that help promote the development of gross motor skills. Gross motor skills include so much more than just walking. Read on for suggestions to get your child crawling, throwing, jumping, pedaling, and more!


Babies develop SO much in the first year of life. Rolling, sitting, crawling, are some suggestions to help develop those skills.

- There are SO many activity tables out there for babies, which means it is fairly easy to find a gently used one at a thrift store, a yard sale, or on Craigslist. Activity tables can be used to develop a variety of gross motor skills (tummy time, sitting, standing), and as a bonus, they also help develop fine motor and cognitive skills too!

- The Step Start Walk 'n Ride is a push toy that converts into a ride on toy. While this toy is not the most sturdy for very early walkers, it is great for children with special needs who need a little extra practice with walking before it becomes a solid skill. Then fold it into the ride on toy to further develop gross motor skills!

- The design of the Oball makes it easy for little hands to grasp and the sound of the beads inside the ball makes the ball even more interesting to babies. The Oball is a great introduction to early ball skills.

- This is another great "baby's first ball" to introduce early ball skills, such as rolling and grasping the ball. The tags and the high contrast fabric make the ball even more engaging for babies.

- The VTech Move and Crawl Activity Ball is engaging and motivating, encouraging your child to crawl after it. As an added bonus, the buttons and tags help develop fine motor and cognitive skills, too!


Anyone who knows a toddler knows that they are on the move! Below are some toy suggestions to focus that energy on developing specific gross motor skills.

- The Gertie Ball has a fun, knobby texture, and is easy for toddlers learning to catch and throw.

- Catch the butterflys in the net to develop eye hand coordination.

- This bowling set from Melissa and Doug is another toy that helps develop eye hand coordination.

- The wide base of this scooter does make it a good first scooter, providing extra support and stability for toddlers who want to use a scooter, but don't quite have the balance for a more "grown up" scooter.


Preschoolers continue to move and explore their environment. It is at this age that children begin to show even more independence in activities that require gross motor skills, like riding a tricycle.

Original Toy Company Fold and Go Trampoline

- A trampoline with a handle is great for developing leg strength and gross motor skills.

- This scooter is the next step up from My First Scooter. The narrower base of this scooter helps develop balance and coordination.

- A tricycle further develops leg strength, balance and coordination, preparing children for bike riding skills. 

- This kickball by Melissa and Doug is a little smaller than a traditional kickball, making it easier for those just learning how to kick.

- This basketball hoop by Fisher Price will grow with your child as his or her skills develop.

- Feed the Woozle is an interactive game that not only promotes gross motor development, it also develops counting skills, fine motor skills, body awareness, turn taking, and more! 

- Super Stretchy ABCs is like Twister for preschoolers. Works on letter recognition and gross motor skills!

School-age Children:

Once children reach school age,gross motor skills become even more refined and complex. Developing balance and coordination will help develop the skills required to ride a bike or play organized sports.

- I would say a Razor Scooter is the final step in scooters. The narrow base of this scooter really challenges balance and coordination skills.

- Twister is a fun way to work on left/right skills as well as gross motor skills.

- I use a balance board almost everyday in therapy to work on core strength and balance skills. This monkey balance board is fun for young children.

- The Wobble Deck is a more advanced balance board. It "wobbles" in all directions and is like Simon Says meets a balance board. 

Looking for even more ideas? Be sure to check out my Amazon Store!

*This post contains affiliate links.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide 2012 - Gifts to promote fine motor development

Today I am sharing toys and games to promote the development of fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are the foundation for many self-help skills, such as zipping, buttoning and shoe tying, as well as the precursor to many school skills, such as handwriting skills scissor use. Read on for toy and games suggestions to develop fine motor skills.


Babies explore their environment through reaching, grasping, and sensory exploration. Here are a few toy suggestion to help facilitate that development. 

- Infant rings develop early reaching and grasping skills.

- Rattles are also great for developing reaching and grasping skills, as well as visual tracking.

- For the older babies in your life, a toy piggy bank is great for further developing hand eye coordination.


Toddlers are learning to use both of their hands together and to coordinate both sides of their bodies to do more complex activities.

- Lacing beads is a great way to develop bilateral coordination skills (using both hands together). These beads from Melissa and Doug are great (and you really can't go wrong with any Melissa and Doug toy).

- There are many great recipes available for play dough (like this DIY Jello Play Dough), but the original is great too! Play Doh and Play Doh accessories, like this set from Melissa and Doug, are great for developing hand muscles and early tool use.

- A classic pounding bench works on developing hand eye coordination. 

- Toddlers are beginning to color, but that coloring sometimes extends to every surface of the house! If you'd like to avoid that, Mess Free Markers are a good option. The only downside is, you will also need the appropriate paper to go with these markers.


Preschoolers like to build, use their imagination, and love to let their artistic abilities shine. Why not further develop fine motor skills while building, playing imaginative games and creating pieces of art?

- I love the Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game! This is a great first board game. I love that it works on counting and color skills, AND has a fun squirrel tong that develops fine motor skills, too!

- A Potato Head (whether it's a Mr. or a Mrs.) is a great way to work on body parts and fine motor skills at the same time. With all of the different Potato Heads out there, you are sure to find one to please your child.

- Little markers are great for little hands to promote an appropriate grasp. Crayola Pip Squeaks fit the bill perfectly.

- Using a vertical surface when coloring, like an easel, places the wrist in extension and strengthens little hands to get them ready for writing.

 - DUPLO bricks develop hand muscles and fine motor skills, while encouraging creativity.

School-age Children:

School-age children are fine tuning their motor skills, as well as learning more complex fine motor movements. Building toys and games are a great way to promote these skills.

- Operation is a classic game that requires fine motor precision to play. This is probably not the best choice if your child is sensitive to sounds.

- LEGO bricks develop hand muscles and fine motor skills and are the next step up from DUPLO bricks. With so many great LEGO sets to choose from, I'm sure you can find a set that matches your child's interests.

- For the budding engineer in your life, Snap Circuits and Snap Circuits, Jr develop fine motor and visual motor skills, while creating working electronic circuits and devices.

- I'm not recommending Silly Putty just because I love classic toys from my childhood. Silly Putty is a fun way to develop hand muscles. Hide small beads in the Silly Putty and have your child locate them for more of a challenge. Silly Putty also makes a great stocking stuffer!

Looking for even more ideas? Be sure to check out my Amazon Store!

*This post contains affiliate links.

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