Holiday Gift Guide 2020 – The Hottest Therapist Recommended Toys (With Links!)

With the holiday season quickly approaching, we wanted to share with you some of our favorite games and toys that can help your child develop many skills. Many toys and games are great resources for therapy, and the best part is kids just think they’re playing!

Here Are Some Of Our Therapist Recommended Games And Toys, With Links To Find Them!

Kerplunk

Kerplunk Classic Kids Game with Marbles, Sticks and Game Unit, Easy-to-Learn, Makes a Great Gift for 5 Year Olds and Up

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I love the game Kerplunk and there are many reasons why this game has a therapeutic purpose. It works on impulse control and turn taking. There is a good amount of eye hand coordination that is required to get the sticks into the game tower. The game can work on color recognition as the players can be given specific color sticks to select. Visual perceptual skills are worked on by selecting specific color sticks while all of them are splayed out on the tabletop. Kerplunk can also be used to work on emotional regulation, getting the stick through the first hole can be a bit easy, but getting it through the other side, especially when more sticks are already in the tower can be very frustrating and lends itself to good conversations and strategy practice for regulation. Plus… the kids love when the marbles come crashing down. I give this game two thumbs up!

Whac-A-Mole

Whac-A-Mole Stack-A-Mole

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Whac-a-Mole, Stack-A-Mole is a fun and inexpensive game that allows children to work on learning colors as well as their visual-motor coordination (hand-eye coordination) skills and visual perceptual skills (visual memory and sequential memory)! It is also great for impulse control as it encourages children to look at the pattern they need to follow before just stacking random cups. It is great for children 3 and up!

Pop-It

Chuckle & Roar Pop it! - The Take Anywhere Bubble Popping Game

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This toy is meant to be a game, taking turns with a partner popping either one bubble or two bubbles, with whoever pops the last bubble being the winner. However, it also makes a wonderful sensory toy as it is essentially never-ending bubble wrap! Made of silicone, it is easy to wash by hand or in the dishwasher. This can be a great toy for practicing turn taking with your child. This can also be a great way to keep hands busy while working on other tasks!

Books

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Please consider purchasing several books for your child’s bookshelf. For younger children, alphabet and rhyming books are always a great choice. Several of my favorite authors are Jan Brett, Donald Crews, Lois Ehlert, Don and Audrey Wood, Ezra Jack Keats, and Dr. Seuss. These read aloud books contain a rich vocabulary and character development.  For older students consider books by Beverly Cleary, E.B.White, Roald Dahl, Lynne Reid Banks, and Gertrude Chandler Warner.  Finally, a hardcover dictionary can help kids problem solve, explore word order, develop alphabet skills, spelling, and context.  One of my favorite dictionaries is the MacMillan Fully Illustrated Dictionary For Children.

Boley 52 Piece Alphabet Dinosaurs

Boley 52 Piece Alphabet Dinosaurs - Educational Dinosaur Alphabet Matching Toy Set for Kids, Children, Toddlers - Great Learning Tool for Toddlers to Learn The Alphabet! Bucket Edition

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This toy helps develop multiple skills for children and is a fantastic toy. This giant tub of dinosaurs is at its core an uppercase and lowercase letter matching game. Each dinosaur has an uppercase letter and lowercase letter, simply pull apart the dinosaur, mix up all the pieces and let your child have fun finding and connecting the letters. Or for older children you can turn this into an obstacle course, place all the uppercase letters at the start of your obstacle, and have your child complete animal walks, crawl through a tunnel, zig zag through cones, or anything else obstacle like in your home to the other side of the room to collect the correct letter match and bring it back! When your child connects the letters together, they are working on bilateral coordination skills and hand dexterity! Overall a great fine motor skill development toy and letter learning toy! 

Janod Kubkid – 9 Blocks – Jungle Animals Puzzle

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This is a special kind of puzzle, that I usually refer to as a block puzzle. I like this game because it can form six different puzzles, keeping children engaged, while presenting a unique visual perceptual challenge. Children must turn each individual block until they find the correct image for the puzzle they are working on, as well as then turn that image to the correct orientation to complete the puzzle. This is also a great toy to get a younger child (about 2 years old) as they can stack and manipulate blocks, and then as they grow older, they can use it as a puzzle game. Great two in one game that I use with almost every client! 

Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog

Learning Resources Spike The Fine Motor Hedgehog, Sensory, Fine Motor Toy, Toys for Toddlers, Ages 18 months+

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This cute toy can be used in many ways!  It can be used to work on sorting and labeling colors.  You can count the spikes as you put them in, and it works on fine motor skills if your child puts them in and takes them out.  Recommended for 18 months to 4 years old. 

Squigz

Fat Brain Toys Squigz Starter Set, 24 Piece

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Squigz are seriously the best toy and are so versatile! These toys suction to any hard surface and kids love pulling them off.  You can put them on doors, windows, bathtubs, highchairs, or if you are feeling goofy, your forehead (kids think it’s hilarious!)  I start using this toy with little kids as soon as they can sit or stand and start with having them pull the Squigz off a surface.  You can work on saying “more” or naming colors.  With older kids, you can stack and build with the Squigz by ticking two ends together.  This toy is even fun for adults.  We created a whole family game around this toy where we throw them at our glass door and see who can get the most to stick! Hours of entertainment for a small price tag!

Robot Face Race

Educational Insights Robot Face Race, Fast Paced Color Recognition Matching Game, for Ages 4+

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This game will engage children and will secretly work on visual perceptual skills. Visual perceptual skills include; visual scanning, visual memory, visual discrimination, visual spatial relation, form constancy, visual closure, visual figure ground, sequential memory, and form constancy. This game also works on visual tracking skills, which is important for reading and writing tasks.

In Robot Face Race, a player will shake the randomizer to reveal the robot’s facial features.  From there, the players will scan the board and race to find the matching robot! If racing is too difficult, then teach the player to scan from left to right and to inspect each robot. If the board is too big and visually distracting for the player, fold the board or cover up the robots for better focus.

Pancake Pile-up

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The student picks a card that shows the order for stacking the pancakes. If done in a group, it can be a relay race. With an individual student, you can put a gross motor activity on the back of the pancake that the student would perform before stacking them, like 10 jumping jacks, hop on one foot 5 times, etc. (whatever would be appropriate for that student to work on). You can have the student carry the pancake on the spatula without it falling off as he/she walks on the balance beam or steps over objects as an added balance challenge. 

Bean Bag Frogs  

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These rubber, squishy frogs can be used in a variety of ways. Place them on a balance beam and have your student step over them or pick them up without stepping off of the balance beam. Use them in a relay: for example, hop down on one foot and throw the frog into a basket. Place the frogs around the room and have the student hop to the yellow frog, skip to the blue frog, jump to the red frog, etc. 

Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head

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I love using Mr. and/or Mrs. Potato Head during Speech Therapy because it is a fun toy that can be used to target a variety of speech and language goals. 

For speech sounds (articulation), you can use the different body parts/clothing items/accessories to elicit different target sounds (For example, the “R” sound= “What is this?” “It is her hair”, purse, ear, arm, earring, etc.”). Additionally, you can expand the speech sound activity by saying: “Make a sentence about Mrs. Potato Head’s ear/earring/arm/purse/hair”, and have the child talk about these different parts while focusing on their targeted speech sound and providing the appropriate cues and models as needed. This can also work great for auditory bombardment, as you (the adult) continuously produce their target speech sound(s) while describing the parts “You’re right! It is her hair. Her hair is yellow. Her hair is on top of her head,” etc.

For language, the toy can be used for easy labeling, as explained in the articulation example: (ex. “What is that?” “This is his hat/mouth/shoes, etc.”). For both Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, you can work on pronouns (ex. “Who has the hat? He has the hat.” “Who has the purse? She has the purse.”). When working on following directions, you can easily give the child a simple direction (ex. “Put on the nose.”) and multistep directions with descriptors (ex. “Put the blue shoes on before you put on the black hat.”). For requesting, you can hand the child the potato and withhold the body parts and accessories, then tell them to request which body part/accessory they would like until the Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head is complete. You can use Mr. Potato Head for turn-taking and sharing (ex. “First, you put on the shoes, then I will put on the hat.”). You can teach the child to coordinate with you to decide who will put what where on the Mr. Potato Head.

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