2020 Holiday Gift Guide Is Here!

We are almost there friends! We have almost made it to the end of this strange and hard year.  As seasoned pediatric therapists and moms ourselves, carefully preparing our annual gift guide is one of our favorite things to do.

Play matters.

And it could be argued that it matters now more than ever for our children and for ourselves.

We’ve organized this year’s guide a little differently – by category vs. age – as we all develop at our own unique pace, and play is healthy and important for us at any age. While we ALWAYS consider a few factors when choosing (quality, cost, developmental appropriateness), we particularly try to choose FOREVER TOYS (more about what this means HERE ).Of special note, in this special time, when more children are learning at home and more families are spending more time indoors, we have chosen to include a category for toys that encourage and support academic learning through multi-sensory play and a category for family fun. 

We hope you will enjoy. We hope you will share. We hope that if you are purchasing gifts or providing suggestions for gifts for children you love, that you will remember that ultimately our presence are more important than our presents, that less is often more,  that toys are the tools of play and that play really does build brains (and joy!).

Listen along to get our commentary on this year’s list here:

 

ULTIMATE BABY LIST

 

1-2-3 Just Play With Me

1-2-3 Just Play With Me

 

GROSS MOTOR GIFTS

The Nugget

 

 

FINE MOTOR/VISUAL MOTOR GIFTS

 

 

LANGUAGE GIFTS

 

LEARNING FROM HOME GIFTS

 

TEEN GIFTS

 

FAMILY FUN GIFTS

Want more ideas? Check out our past lists from 2017  2018  and 2019

** this post contains affiliate links

FLAT Ms. Lacy

FLAT Ms. Lacy ready to be mailed out to some of her favorite little people!

I miss my little people! I miss interacting with them and their families. I miss their hugs! I miss seeing parents in person, in action. I even miss my commute! But in spite of all that I miss, I’m thankful to continue to provide EI services via tele therapy. Although tele therapy was a big PIVOT for me, I’m finding my way and feeling much more comfortable now than I did six weeks ago. I’m trying to stay focused on the positive and love seeing the continued progress with my little people, all credit to their amazing families who are taking the reigns and positively impacting their child’s growth and development in amazing ways!

Over the past weeks I’ve been thinking of ways to connect with my work families other than just our tele therapy visits. I’ve continued to leave birthday presents on doorsteps and mailed pictures and handouts when needed but wanted to do something more. Then I saw this idea and knew I had to do it! Some of the teachers at my kids’ elementary school created flat versions of themselves and mailed them to students with ideas of things to do with their flat teacher. Their idea was inspired by the book Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown. So I created a Flat version of myself and adapted ways to interact and play with Flat Ms. Lacy that are appropriate for toddlers.

I’ve had so much fun creating this! I hope my little ones enjoy the Flat me! It may not be the same as seeing me in person, but it’s a little something until we can be together again! Please feel free to download my activities and adapt them to yourself and the children you serve. Drop us a line on our Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter with your Flat therapy self! We would love to see you!

2019 Developmental Gift Guide

It’s the most wonderful (crazy) time of the year! We know it friends and we are here for you! We LOVE holiday toy recommending. It’s one of our favorite things to do. So let us help you check some things off your list by sharing some of our favorites you can pick up for some of your favorites.

Few things to remember:

  1. How we choose our favorite toys. Quality, price, how many areas of child development can be included in play with each item (the more the better), and the ability for the toy to be used numerous ways once a child’s creative muscle is flexed (we love forever toys). Many of these toys are toys we have enjoyed with our own children, toys we have tested in therapy sessions (stay tuned for a post on the numerous purposeful activities that can be done with the bean bags, rings, and cones!), or toys recommended from other therapists or parents!
  2. Choose wisely. Less really is more. Too many toys can overwhelm a child and limit their willingness to engage. In fact, we feel strongly any early childhood milestones can be taught with The 4 Essential  B’s (add the box the gift comes it and maybe there are 5!). So anything from this list is bonus fun.
  3. Individual Child and Stage vs. Age. In year’s past, we have shared our lists by age. This year we decided to try something a little different. Toys on this year’s list are listed from simple to more complex. Some toys included could be enjoyed by a 6 year old or a 42 year old (see Pass Back ball at the end of the list, a fan favorite of one of our husbands!). When you click the links below there is certainly a description and a recommended age but keep in mind that toys are the tools of learning. So just consider what stage the child you are buying for is in, what their current interests are, and choose accordingly. For more info on what big stores aren’t telling you about choosing toys (but therapists are) and a FREE handout, click here. 
  4. Don’t forget 1-2-3 Just Play With Me! Our mom inspired, therapist created tool is what we wanted to guide purposeful play and help educate and support each mini milestone when we first became parents. It’s used in every US state and in over 15 countries by parents, therapists, non profits, hospitals, and child care centers. Gift yourself or someone you love with it this holiday season. AND any orders through our website from midnight on Thursday 11/28 through midnight on Black Friday 11/29 will be DOUBLED for FREE. No code needed. We will just send you double of what you order. It’s a great time to stock up on a meaningful gift for friends or for you therapists to fill your waiting rooms with helpful materials! ** Keep in mind while we do sell through Amazon, this offer is only available through the website and only includes free shipping in the US (international customers can email for a shipping quote).

 

So without further wait – here is our

2019 OFFICIAL HOLIDAY TOY LIST. 

Black and White Mirror

 

Ring Stack

Shaky Eggs  

Playskool Pop Up Toy

Simple Balls

Shopping Cart

 

 

 

 

 

Stacking Cups 

Rainbow Stacker

 

 

 

 

 

Nesting Garage Boxes

Jack In The Box 

Spinagain Toy

Poke A Dot Book

Suction Cups 

Shape Sorter

Bristle Blocks

 

 

 

 

 

Smart Max

Pound And Tap Bench 

Piggy Bank

Rocker Board

 

 

 

 

 

Ball Pit 

And balls

Music Set 

Water Bead and Animal Set

Crawling Tunnel 

Egg Match Set

Easel

Alphabots

 

 

 

 

 

Maze Cube

 

 

 

 

 

Gears! Gears! Gears!

 

 

 

 

 

Science Experiment Set

 

 

 

 

 

Rubiks Cube

 

 

 

 

 

Perfection

 

 

 

 

 

Battleship

 

 

 

 

 

Ring Toss/Bean Bag Set

 

Block Set 

Dr. Kit 

Magnet Tiles

Stepping Stones

Drip Drip Bath 

 

Magnet Creation Station 

 

 

 

 

 

Play House Cleaning Set 

Trampoline

Kazoo

Sky Nook

Wooden Coffee Maker 

Fruit Abacus

 

 

 

 

 

 

Counting Bear 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vet Set 

 

Dinosaurs

I Can Do That Game

 

 

 

 

 

Spot It Card Game

 

 

 

 

 

TellTale Card Game

 

 

 

 

 

Stomp Rocket 

 

Bug Catcher/Magnifier 

Root Viewer 

Toss & Catch

Magic Set 

Bazooka Blower 

 

Velcro Dino

Nerf Gun Target Set

Wall Coloring Sheet

Bop It

Cloud Message Board

Pass Back Football

Play Sounds & Words Handout

Play Sounds & Words

Before little ones start saying words they imitate sounds and silliness (think blowing raspberries). In my sessions with families I often model some of these Play Sounds & Words but wanted to create a handout I could leave with them so parents can tailor their silly play with their little one to encourage more verbal imitation. Each of these sounds and words should be said with emphasis and accompanied by a dramatic gesture.

*Attention grabbing crazy is what we’re going for here folks, both to get baby’s attention and to up the entertainment value for all!

Have fun and Play on!

Click on the link above to download.

 

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.

2018 Holiday Shopping List – GAMES

“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 GAMES! Games are often forgotten as something fun to do with friends and family and are so important to learn social skills (Buh-bye screens, Hello eye contact!), turn taking, and negotiation as well as problem solving, strategy formation and many other important skills!  Here’s our picks for this group this year!

 

What 1-2-3 Just Play With Me Can do for YOU!

At first glance or mention you might think 1-2-3 Just Play With Me is just for new parents.  However, over the years since developing it we have discovered that 1-2-3 Just Play With Me is essential and supplemental to many other “professions” besides parenting.  Take a look, where can 1-2-3 Just Play With Me fit into your life? How can it enhance the “job” you are doing with an infant or toddler?  1-2-3 Just Play With Me is a “toolbox” of knowledge that benefits so many!  Be sure to sign up for our newsletter and take advantage of our FREE shipping!  Where can we send your 1-2-3 Just Play With Me box too?!

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.

 

 

 

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.