If your child works with an occupational therapist (OT)--or even if he doesn't--you're practically guaranteed to find at least one perfect gift for him on this holiday gift guide curated by my sister Meghan, an OT in New York City and mom of a 4-year-old little girl. She originally started this list in the form of an email, as a service to the parents of the children she works with (who range in age from 2 to 12 and have minor fine-motor/manipulation delays, developmental delays, Down syndrome, autism, sensory processing disorder, and ADD/ADHD). She includes toys, games, crafts, and apps, and takes great care to explain exactly what skills it builds, which children will benefit most, and tips to get the most from it. "My goal is to find products that will be fun for the kids, that parents won't mind spending money on, and will encourage both cognitive and creative development," Meghan says. Her first list was such a hit, she now works on it nearly year-round, and unveils it right around Thanksgiving on her blog, MAC & Toys. This year's collection is bigger than ever, so I asked her to pick her absolute favorites of all the picks making their debut on her list. Here they are:
This has been a huge hit with the kids I work with. They love digging through this magical putty and finding treats or animals. I like to have the kids pretend to be explorers and talk about what they're finding. Even better: Kids who may need to work on making their hands stronger can do just that while playing with it.
I love doing crafts with my own child and the children I work with. This New Zealand-based company began seven years ago with the simple goal of creating products that would encourage hours of creative and imaginative play for kids of all ages. Each kit (and there are so many wonderful ones to choose from) comes with all the supplies needed to make your own SuperHero Cape, Snow Globe, Bird House, or many other magical things. For those busy parents who may not be so crafty, this is the perfect thing to make you feel like Martha Stewart!
3. Boogie Board
Remember Etch-A-Sketch and Magna Doodle boards? Those toys still bring hours of entertainment to kids. A couple of years ago, my daughter received a Boogie Board as a gift and we've been playing with it since. I brought one to my office to use with the kids and it's been really popular. Whether it be for practicing writing letters or numbers, drawing pictures, or making lists, this lightweight and easily portable writing tablet allows for hours of creative fun and it's great for long car/plane rides, waiting at the doctor's office, or to just chill out on the couch with. And it's perfect for all ages.
These suction cup construction toys are super fun, and motivating for kids of any age. Whether you decide to get the starter or deluxe set, these toys will not only be relaxing but provide some sensory (auditory and tactile) stimulation that will keep your kids entertained for hours. It encourages creativity, fine-motor skills, and social interaction. They are incredibly versatile and can be used on walls, bathtubs, windows, table and desktops. Be sure to check out Squigz Benders and pipSquigz.
In my practice, I have embraced the use of the iPad into sessions, since it's often motivating for some of my older and more challenging kids. One of my new favorite iPad accessories is the Osmo Game System, especially the Tangrams set. What I love most is that my kids who really struggle with visual perceptual and visual motor activities--and often avoid things like puzzles--have found this particular Tangram set to be more fun and less like work. Arrange the tangible puzzle pieces into matching on-screen shapes to unlock more puzzles. Kids can play individually or against a friend. Watch your child's self-esteem and confidence grow after she successfully completes each puzzle.
6. Kinetic Sand
At this time of year, when we're cold and dealing with snow, what's better than feeling like you're playing at the beach? WABA Fun has created this amazing moldable sand that kids can mold into objects, flatten with a rolling pin, cut into shapes with cookie cutters, and hide objects in. There are lots of imitators out there, but be sure to splurge and get the real stuff since it will last longer (WABA guarantees it will never dry out) and has nothing in it that may cause allergic reactions.
Photo via Shutterstock.