2018 Holiday Shopping Guide By Age & By Developmental Specialty

“What should I get them”
As therapists we hear this all the time.
You know what else we hear often?
“My kids don’t really play with toys.”

Here’s our 2 cents on this as professionals who believe in the power of play. We all play. All mammals. No matter how old. We were designed for play. It’s the best form of stress release. It recharges creative pathways. And most importantly, it brings JOY.

Sometimes as parents the hardest part is finding the right toy for the right kid (or adult). But we believe Santa has the perfect one for everyone. So here’s what we’ve done this week. We’ve made our lists and we’ve checked them twice.

We added toys we have in our homes. Toys we’ve learned about in patient’s homes. Toys recommended by therapists around the globe. And toys that span a large range of interests and prices. Because some toys, just like play, are timeless, we’ve keep some favorites from year to year and we’ve added in new finds.

This year we’ve added 4 NEW special lists. Families often ask us for toys for a specific developmental purpose so we decided to share with you what we share with them. In addition to our lists by age we’ve added lists that suggest specific toys to promote motor, language, and visual development. We also added in a list of favorite games because games promote desperately needed social skills and family game night should be celebrated regularly!

We’ve combined all our lists by age right here for you and hope you’ll find it helpful. What would you add to our lists? What do your kids love?

1 YEAR OLDS

2 YEAR OLDS

3-4 YEAR OLDS

5-7 YEAR OLDS

8-10 YEAR OLDS

10 & OLDER

MOTOR TOYS

LANGUAGE TOYS

VISION TOYS

LIST OF GAMES

Don’t forget 1-2-3 Just Play With Me for the expecting or new parents on your list! Empowering them with 3 years of education and purposeful play suggestions is a perfect and practical gift! We ship every day (free in the US. Contact for fair quotes internationally) and can include a customized gift card message just from you!

2018 Holiday Shopping Guide -Toys to Promote Language Development

“What should I get them???”
As therapists we hear this all the time.
You know what else we hear often?
“My kids don’t really play with toys.”

Here’s our 2 cents on this as professionals who believe in the power of play. We all play. All mammals. No matter how old. We were designed for play. It’s the best form of stress release. It recharges creative pathways. And most importantly, it brings JOY.

Sometimes as parents the hardest part is finding the right toy for the right kid (or adult). But we believe Santa has the perfect one for everyone .
So here’s what we’ve done this week.
We’ve made our lists and we’ve checked them twice.

We added toys we have in our homes. Toys we’ve learned about in patient’s homes. Toys recommended by therapists around the globe. And toys that span a large range of interests and prices.   Remember that toys and interest vary by age, so something on another list may really interest a child even if it is not included on the list for your child’s particular age.

We’ve given suggestions by age but here we are sharing some of our favorite LANGUAGE toys! However with toys to support language development it is MOST important to remember the magic is not in the toy but in the interaction you have with your child and the language  you model for your child while playing with the toy.  It is best to pick toys that do not light up, make sounds or talk for the child.  Often children are drawn to those types of toys (that require batteries to work) because of the flashing lights and sounds, however it takes the work out of the play and lessens your interaction with your child because the toy does that for you.  But YOU are and ALWAYS will be the best “toy” for your child to learn from!  These toys range from infant through preschool age.  We’ve picked toys that support join attention, offer opportunities for repetitive modeling of words, singing, early pretend play and vocabulary building.  But most importantly these toys are FUN and TIMELESS!   PLAY ON and Merry Christmas!!









2018 Holiday Shopping Guide – Toys To Promote Vision and Support Vision Loss

“What should I get them???”
As therapists we hear this all the time.
You know what else we hear often?
“My kids don’t really play with toys.”

Here’s our 2 cents on this as professionals who believe in the power of play. We all play. All mammals. No matter how old. We were designed for play. It’s the best form of stress release. It recharges creative pathways. And most importantly, it brings JOY.

Sometimes as parents the hardest part is finding the right toy for the right kid (or adult). But we believe Santa has the perfect one for everyone .
So here’s what we’ve done this week.
We’ve made our lists and we’ve checked them twice.

We added toys we have in our homes. Toys we’ve learned about in patient’s homes. Toys recommended by therapists around the globe. And toys that span a large range of interests and prices.   Remember that toys and interest vary by age, so something on another list may really interest a child even if it is not included on the list for your child’s particular age.

We’ve given suggestions by age but here we are sharing some of our favorite VISION toys! Toys on this list include items that we or other therapist like using in children who have vision loss and/or are working to strengthen their visual abilities with conditions such as CVI. Just like kids, vision and visual abilities are very unique, so please consult with your child’s vision specialist, but here are some great ideas to try.   Here’s our picks for this group this year!

Dimpl Duo –

This sensory toy gets rave reviews. We love that it strengthens fine motor muscles and includes braille for early learners.

Baby Sees Colors Book-

Love this high contrast book including colors baby sees best early on.

Mini Rainmaker-

With simple activation of a soothly sound with touch, this is an easy choice.

Shakin Eggs-

Easy cause and effect toy with simple movements. Great for practicing imitation.

Orange Slinky-

Versatile for draping over just about anything, and in a color motivating to many with vision challenges, slinky is fun for grabbing and batting at.

 

Hearth Song Light Up Shoe Strings-

We love the fact that these illuminate feet to enhance motor skills with a highlighter for vision!

Heart Songs Liquid Color Tiles

While an investment as a set, these are sold individually and could be illuminated from behind for motivation for movement and exploring!

 

Rocket Tent-

Sometimes closing off the clutter of the world outside helps us see the beauty of the things we bring in…and tents like this fun one are a simple way to do just that.

Koosh Ball-

Easy to grab, easier to see, even more easy to play.

Mirror-

Babies loves to look at faces and what cuter one than their own!

Red Rope Lights-

These are a staple for any vision specialist and they can be used in a variety of ways to motivate play and illuminate a child’s day.

Red Pom Pom-

Shiny, textured, with a fun sound to touch. We are giving a cheer for this!

Speaker With Light Show-

Bring the vision party to any room with this great speaker.
** Do not use with children with seizure disorder without discussing with physician first.

2018 Holiday Shopping Guide – Toys To Promote Motor Development

“What should I get them???”
As therapists we hear this all the time.
You know what else we hear often?
“My kids don’t really play with toys.”

Here’s our 2 cents on this as professionals who believe in the power of play. We all play. All mammals. No matter how old. We were designed for play. It’s the best form of stress release. It recharges creative pathways. And most importantly, it brings JOY.

Sometimes as parents the hardest part is finding the right toy for the right kid (or adult). But we believe Santa has the perfect one for everyone .
So here’s what we’ve done this week.
We’ve made our lists and we’ve checked them twice.

We added toys we have in our homes. Toys we’ve learned about in patient’s homes. Toys recommended by therapists around the globe. And toys that span a large range of interests and prices.   Remember that toys and interest vary by age, so something on another list may really interest a child even if it is not included on the list for your child’s particular age.

We’ve given suggestions by age but here we are sharing some of our favorite MOTOR toys! Toys on this list include items that motivate kids to move – both with their larger muscles for gross motor movement (rolling, crawling,walking, running, jumping, climbing and more) and fine motor movement (pointing, plucking, squeezing, scooping and more!)   Here’s our picks for this group this year!

Poke A Dot Farm –

Wonderful for promoting isolation of the index finger for pointing – am important fine motor skill!

Hop & Count Hopscotch Rug-

Even when it’s chilly inside, kids can work on balancing and coordination while having fun! Could also be used in non traditional ways by having them jump to a particular color or number.

Climb & Crawl Foam Play Set-

Could be used in many ways from early positioning to toddler tumbling!

Keyboard Play Mat-

Add some music to jumping fun!

Hearthsong Liquid Tiles-
Love these for motivational moving from tummy time to jumping. While they are an investment for the whole set, they can be purchased individually and a few seem like fun!

Knobby Ball Set-
So many motor skills can be taught with a ball – every home should have at least 1! Catch, kick, games, turn taking and more!

Hoola Hoop-

A very simple but versatile toy, they can be used the traditional way or for crawling, stepping, or jumping over and through. Great for directional, “Simon Says” type play and balance and coordination.

Large Fitness Ball-

Great to positioning (with supervision) for young babies, bouncing and playing on for toddlers and kids of all ages, and even alternative seating for meals or homework. One of our favorite ways is playing games over the ball in a plank position to strengthen shoulders (great for handwriting!).

 

Stomp Rocket-

Fun for balance on one leg and jumping.

Tweezers and Eye Droppers-

Creative fun options are endless while strengthening those tiny hand muscles – color sorting games and activities, art creations, and early science (check out our Pinterest pages for ideas!).

Balance Pods-

Love how these can be moved for simple early motion coordination games (close together for a balance beam, farther apart for indoor stone skipping). Great challenge for older kids can be progressed (stand on one foot and play ball!).

Peg Boards-

Wonderful for fine motor strengthening and early “game” playing, patterns, simple math and more.

Animal Pop Blocks-

Loved these items for play on the go (restaurant, plane, car, church) because they have few parts. Great for hand strengthening and early language with animal sound imitation.

Dimpl-

The reviews on this fine motor gem are unanimously outstanding. I may just order one for myself for play on the go.

Crawling tunnel-

Wonderful for encouraging crawling and sensory exploration.

First Slide-

I’m a fan on these outside on warm days and inside on cooler ones. Will occupy kids for hours while working on safe climbing and filling sensory needs.

Trampoline-

As a parent, I wouldn’t have survived toddlerhood in the winter without this in my house. As a therapist, I love it for sensory needs and motor coordination and strengthening.

Shopping Cart-

My go to instead of push walkers for babies learning to walk. Allows for free movement and strengthening with the option of weighing down (and gradually reducing weight) as the child gets stronger and needs less help.

Floor Tiles-

So many homes have wood or tile floors leaving parents nervous and young babies hesitant to explore. I love these because they provide a softer surface that is also smooth, making early belly scooting and crawling on hands and knees simpler.

Activity Mat-

Love these for early reaching, batting, and rolling and this one in particular includes colors that baby sees first.

Indoor Swing-

Motor skills progress best when kids get plenty of opportunity to feed their sensory systems and swings are one of many ways to do just that.

DIY Adaptive Summer Seating

Equipment for individuals with special healthcare needs have come a long way. The field is always evolving to higher levels of performance and patient friendly options, but the problem generally still exists that many items are bulky, heavy, and expensive.

A family I work with in early intervention is well equipped with equipment to ensure that their daily activities as a family are as easy as possible, including adaptive seating and mobility options for community outings, playtime, and daily routines like bathing and eating.

With spring finally deciding to show up around here, this family (like many) is busy planning more ways to enjoy time together outside. One area they identified as a challenge was helping their son to sit on their deck and at the park or beach. Yes, they are fortunate to have specialized strollers, but the reality is that for a quick trip, something light or something that doesn’t take up the whole trunk was desired.

Today during our session, for under $10, his mother and I created something that filled the need for his family. If you or someone you know could benefit from something similar, we are happy to share what we did and what we learned.

Supplies:

1 simple plastic chair ($5):

TIPS:

Fit to size for your child.

We preferred one with the bottom lower than the knee area (to prevent sliding).

Highly recommend a chair with slits to help with attaching supports.

2 Pool Noodles ($1 each).

Scissors to cut noodles.

Two bags of large zip ties ($1.87 each).

Plastic or wire cutters to trim zip ties once attached.

 

Assembly:

  1. We chose to start with the child in the chair and observe his posture. Where did he struggle to maintain neutral and upright positioning?
  2. With him in the seat, cut noodles to accommodate his size and weaker areas. For him this included: back of head, on each side of the trunk under arm pits to base of hips (vertically), on sides of lap from knees to hips (horizontally), a smaller piece on top of these horizontal pieces to support the elbows as needed (these were added after the photo shown above), and a small piece in between the legs as a pummel to prevent sliding.
  3. Attached noodles with zip ties by lacing through chair slits (note: we realized after the fact, but it would be recommended to have the fastener part of the tie on the backside of the chair to prevent rubbing/irritating the skin). 
  4. We attached a loose scarf of moms through slits and around his upper trunk, not as a firm support, but a light reminder for him to avoid slouching.

We were thrilled with the results and so was he! With an adaptive tray he could easily access his I-pad (used for vision work and communication) in his new “desk!” His mom and I were quickly able to identify many potential uses – kicking in the baby pool, outdoor movies, on the sidelines at siblings games, at grandma’s house!

We believe play keeps us all happy, healthy, and smart! When I can help adapt something simple to make joyful activities easier for families, it’s just a really good day.

 

 

 

Share Your Story With Stones

Stones. Rocks. Pebbles. Boulders.

I love them. I don’t know why but I do. And I always have.

I love to see kids proudly tuck them in pockets. It reminds me of my “lucky hopscotch rock” I kept for months in my pocket.

I love to create and craft with them. I especially love to paint on them (a favorite I used to do with my mom and later with my kids).

But one of my favorite’s is to create story stones.

Using (free) rocks and a simple black marker, you can create a variety of children’s favorite objects or people and let them line them up and then create a story based on the order they created.

I recently did this with my cousin’s son. He is just 3 years old but is creative, articulate, and thoughtful and was pretty fascinated by the “game.” He made me tell about 10 different stories based on the various arrangements of rocks he laid down. When I asked him to take a turn, he wasn’t quite ready, but a short while later, I found him creating his own story with his special rocks for his Papap (who just woke up and wasn’t sure what was going on!).

I love story stones because they are simple, cheap, build vocabulary, help focus attention to task, and are fun! As a child gets older or understands the process of the “game,” stones can easily be added to develop more complex plots and details. And you can search for the perfect stones on walks and hikes! This is a great activity to introduce around 15 months but may be especially meaningful as a child’s vocabulary increases rapidly between 2-3 years old.

 

This story went something like…..

Once Thomas the Train had a best friend, a little boy named Gabriel. Gabriel loved trucks and cars. He lived in a house with his mom and dad and baby brother and their dog named Ethan (he filled in this detail!).  One sunny day Gabriel and Ethan went on a walk and chased birds at the park.

Simple. Easy. Fun. and a purposeful way to play.

Try exploring new mileSTONES today with story stones — and send us your pictures. We’d love to hear from your little authors!

For more ideas of pairing milestones with with purposeful play, grab your copy of 1-2-3 Just Play With Me today! (As always FREE Shipping in the US).

 

Earth Day Discoveries – what you can learn about your family and your world.

Have you ever heard the term biophilia?

Edward O. Wilson introduced this concept based on his work, describing biophilia as the notion that that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. 

Simple really if you break down the word. Bio=life, including organisms, species, habitats, processes and objects in their natural surroundings. And Philia= attraction or positive feeling toward.

Do you think Mr. Wilson considered the need for sunscreen without cancer causing agents and natural bug sprays, the increase in child predators creeping in suburban neighborhoods, increased presence of bullies, the risks of getting nice clothing dirty, getting precious children dirty, the norm of fenced yards providing safe perimeters, expectation of themed and scheduled playdates, and the fact that no adult is available to be present every single minute of every single daylight hour in order for a child to play?

This leads to the question of — are we interfering with a child’s natural biophilia? Or our own for that matter?

Earth day is coming up on Sunday April 22, 2018. What better day to discover your family’s natural biophilia?

Don’t know where to start? Here are some ideas that might please your whole crew.

  1. Hike.
  2. Freeze Tag.
  3. Climb a tree (you know you’d still love to).
  4. Find some big rocks and sit and read.
  5. Go fishing.
  6. Try geocaching (our fav!) More here.
  7. Go on a nature treasure hunt and fill buckets with treasures.
  8. Wade in a stream with rain boots and record all the organisms you find.
  9. Bird watching. Print a sheet of birds common to your area and let the kids circle what you see.
  10. Set up a drawing or painting station in the yard and create art inspired by nature’s beauty.
  11. Collect rocks – simply to save or to build or create with later.
  12. Hit the lake or river with a boat or float.
  13. Bike – in your neighborhood or local trail.
  14. Beautify – choose a park or street to clean up/remove trash.
  15. Be brave and actually let them play in the mud (they’ll never forget it).
  16. Visit a local orchard or farm and learn how real food grows.
  17. Skip rocks in a stream.
  18. Grab large flat pieces of cardboard and slide down the best grassy hill near you.
  19. Plant a simple potted garden on your porch or in your yard that everyone can help care for.
  20. Gaze at the clouds and tell stories about what you see.

According to the Child Mind Institute, the average American child is said to spend 4 to 7 minutes a day in unstructured play outdoors, and over 7 hours a day in front of a screen. Simply put – people (children included) are happier and healthy when they engage with their outdoor environment. No better day to start than today!

 

Opt Outside and Discover a New Treasure – Geocaching!

Motivated to get your family outside this spring? Geocaching is a great way for the whole family to PLAY!

Regarded as the world’s greatest treasure hunt, there are geocaches (or hidden treasures) all around the world – likely in and among places where you are every day. Encouraging discovery, exploration, and adventure, geocaching encourages staying healthy and being outside with friends and family.  My children LOVE geocaching and I LOVE that they want to do something with us that doesn’t involve staring at a screen. My husband first discovered it and we quickly learned how easy and fun it is to do!

If you are interested in hunting down a geocache, simply go the official geocaching website or app and discover marked caches close to where ever you are (even if you are on vacation!).  Using the app, GPS, or if you are brave a good old fashioned compass (we don’t do this!), search for the desired cache using clues and location information. You might agree with us that the search for the cache is almost as fun as finding it, but once you actually locate it, it is customary to record the date, your name, and a message if you like in the log (small notebook) that usually accompanies most caches. If the cache also includes a collection of “treasures,” it is tradition to take one only if you leave one in return. Some examples are small erasers, stickers, bracelets, seashells etc. You can be creative with what you leave or you can find things inside your car like we’ve done from time time (keeping it real). Some caches are in official geocache containers and some are in tupperware – you never know what you’ll find!

Whether you been searching for caches for years or head out on your maiden hunt this week, we’d love to see the pictures of the treasures your family discovers.

 

FOREVER TOYS – What are they and where can you find them?

If you have ever asked Nicole and I for toy recommendations then you are familiar with the term “FOREVER TOYS”. FOREVER TOYS are what Nicole and I lovingly refer to as toys that stand the test of time (and we don’t just mean durability). FOREVER TOYS are those toys that kids can play with for many years, at multiple stages in development; toys that don’t take batteries to work but a child’s imagination instead!

Forever toys are harder to find in mainstream toy stores.  They are NOT toys related to the most popular kids’ movie or television show or iPad app.  They are toys that have no identification to a character.  They are toys that don’t require batteries.  They are toys that occupy their space on the toy store shelf for many years because they appeal to all generations no matter what the latest trend in toy manufacturing.  FOREVER TOYS are most commonly found in small, locally owned toy stores that understand the importance of these types of toys to our kids’ growth and development.  On your next shopping trip take a look at what’s on the shelves of the toy aisles.  Look more critically for toys that will challenge your child, toys that don’t do it all for them.  Consider these types of toys for their next birthday or holiday.  Your child’s imagination will blossom and no doubt, their creativity will impress you!

My mother-in-law saved these Construx toys that once belonged to my husband for many years. My son loves them! With them he has created a multitude of things from a “backpack buddy robot” to a bow and arrow. Although Fisher Price no longer makes Construx, they would qualify as a FOREVER TOY in my book! This building toy could be used to supplement a math lesson about shapes, connected to create a fence to contain toy animals, shaped into letters for a multi-sensory spelling lesson, or used to create weapons for a pretend battle just as my son did!  Manufactured over 30 years ago, Construx have stood the test of time and are most definitely what Nicole and I consider a FOREVER TOY!

What toys do your kids have that would be considered a FOREVER TOY? Do the toys your kids gravitate toward most stretch their imagination and challenge their creativity?

Owen proudly displaying his creations!

An ax, bow and arrow, shield and sword – all made with imagination and Construx!

A Must Have Baby Book (with a purpose).

When we created 1-2-3 Just Play With Me, we did so with some very specific considerations. One was choosing a card format vs. a book because while the content on those cards are therapist inspired, we created the product we wanted (and had time for) as busy moms AND therapists.

One benefit we envisioned was the ability to stick a few at a time (appropriate for baby’s age and/or stage) on the refrigerator or nursery shelf,  empowering families to learn the many beautiful details of early development by playing with their baby purposefully, while being present in that specific moment in time and not getting overwhelmed with the many changes that come in the first few years.

 

Along the way, we’ve discovered (with the help of many of you) more creatives ways our sweet cards could be practical in every day life. One of our favorites is using the cards as your personal “baby book.”  As you enjoy reading detailed milestones to watch for at each age and in each developmental domain, customize your cards with what you are seeing your baby doing! Add first words, dates that milestones were achieved, and funny or cute experiences.  That’s right take a pen right to those beautiful cards!  Not only will you have a detailed account of your baby’s development, you can also share their individual developmental path with your pediatrician at your child’s next appointment.

 

Don’t have your copy of 1-2-3 Just Play With Me yet? Pick one up for you, or as a gift and explore why Today’s Parent calls 1-2-3 Just Play With Me a “Product That Will Make New Parent’s Lives Easier.” (Also available via Amazon Prime, in ebook format, and select retailers).