Gift Guide 2018: Occupational Therapist Recommended Toys (with links)

With the holiday season quickly approaching, we wanted to share with you some of our favorite toys and gifts that can help your little one develop their fine motor skills. There are so many toys out today that can be great therapeutic tools, however, the kids never have to know about that… they just think they are playing and having fun!!!! This is just a few ideas of some gifts that come with the added benefit of fine motor development.

Creative Construction Toys

The ever popular construction toys are a favorite among children and therapists alike. This could include Lego’s, Duplo Blocks, wooden blocks, magnetic tiles,  pop beads, and one of the many connector type toys on the market.

Why are these good you ask?… many reasons. They help to develop your child’s grasping patterns (see image below for a guide to the developmental progression of grasp patterns by age). On a basic level, these types of toys can help develop and strengthen the muscles of the hands that are so important for skills such as managing buttons and zippers to legible handwriting. They can be used to help with color identification with the younger ones. They can help develop visual motor skills by having the child see both a printed design on the box or a 3-d model you create and show them, and then they have to attempt to duplicate the design.


Board Games

There are many different board games out there today but there tends to be some tried and true commonalities between them. There is almost always turn taking in board games. This can help your child develop the socially appropriate skill of taking turns, letting others have a try, listening and waiting. Typically the players get their turn and have to either: roll the dice, spin the spinner, or pick a card. Rolling a dice is a good way to encourage bilateral coordination as both hands need to come to the midline to accomplish a goal.

A person’s midline is nothing more than an imaginary line down the center of the body. Crossing midline is an important skill because it lets us know that the two sides of the brain are communicating, as well as so many daily functions that require this skill (putting on your socks, writing, swinging a bat…).

Many games include some type of fine motor manipulation skills, such as: picking up small pieces and moving them, twisting and turning knobs, and pushing buttons (just thinking about how that can help your child button their pants and shirts, zip their coats, wash their hands, and even writing makes my heart smile)! Here is a list within a list… (I know, right?)… of some games to target some of the specific skills:

Grasp Patterns: Connect Four, Pop the Pig, Battleship, Perfection, card games like Uno.

Hand strength: Pop the Pig, Operation, Cranium (they get to use molding dough), Soggy Doggy (they have to twist the bathtub knob).

Visual Challenge Toys

While some of these may seem a bit more therapeutic and a little less fun and gamey… the kids love them anyways! Some examples of visual challenge games include: Spot-it, Eye Found it, Where’s Waldo, Guess Who, and Memory Match. These are great toys to use to help develop your child’s visual perceptual skills.

Visual perceptual is simply put as the brains interpretation of what it is seeing. These skills are used for a wide variety of things, such as: getting dressed, being able to find that one specific sock on the floor covered in many other clothing items and toys, reading, writing, coloring, drawing, completing math problems, depth perception, driving… and so many other things that we take for granted.

I hope you have found some of these suggestions useful and helpful when heading out among the masses to fine that perfect gift, or when watching the processing wheel go round and round after you clicked the checkout button. Just remember most every toy and game out there has some form of fine and/or visual motor skill development built into it, just play, have fun, and enjoy your time with your kids!

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