Choose Toys like a Therapist…and Little Pnuts Giveaway!

If you are new to Twodaloo, you may not know that I spent several years as a speech-language pathologist before taking on my new role as a stay at home mom.  I find that I draw upon my career knowledge every day as I parent my own children, and not always in the ways you might expect. Working in the public school system, I managed large caseloads including students with a wide range of ages and disorders.  In a single day I might work with preschoolers on language development, third graders on the “r” sound, articulation with students in the deaf education program, and social skills with students with autism spectrum disorders…all before lunchtime!

Back in my therapy days!

To be able to see all the children on my caseload for the appropriate amount of time each week, I had to work with them in groups.  Although each group had a very different focus, I quickly realized that I didn’t have time to think of separate activities for each group every day. Instead, I learned how to pick one or two activities and use them creatively all day to address a diverse list of goals.  This type of flexible thinking has come in handy when choosing toys for my own children.  My therapist brain appreciates toys that can be used in a wide variety of ways with children in different stages of development.  My Mommy brain likes them because I know they are stimulating and will grow with my children…in other words, they give me lots of “bang for my buck!” Next time you are shopping for toys for your tots, ask yourself a few simple questions to be sure you are thinking like a therapist.

Does this toy have “good bones?”

Toys with good bones are built to last- made of sturdy materials that will hold up to many hours of play.  They are attractive yet simply designed…less details leave more room for imagination and improvisation.  Toys with lots of “bells and whistles” can actually limit your child’s creativity, in turn limiting the opportunities for stimulating play.

This Hape First Shapes Puzzle is a perfect example of a toy with good bones.  It is simple, pleasing to the eye, and its chunky pieces are made of sturdy wood.

Can you see uses for the toy beyond the obvious/intended purpose?

Spend a minute or two looking at potential toys.  Do they spark your imagination?  When I look at a new toy I immediately begin thinking of different ways it could be used during play time.  If I can’t come up with several ideas right away, I know it may be time to move on.  Not every toy in your collection has to be this versatile, but if the majority are, you can actually save money by cutting down on the amount of toys you need to keep your children occupied.

Here are some ways we have used the Hape First Shapes Puzzle during play:

Here, little man is using the toy for its intended purpose.

In this photo I have upped the ante on the activity by placing each piece into a container with a variety of types of lids. The twins got fine motor practice by attempting to open the lids themselves; if they had trouble they practiced their communication skills by asking me for “help” and “open” using speech/sign.  This technique is called creating communicative temptations and is used quite often by speech-language pathologists.

Here Sydney is using a puzzle piece to stamp shapes into some glitter slime. In the picture below she is using it the same way but with play dough.

Other ways we have used this toy in play:

  • Color matching
  • Stacking (combined with other blocks)
  • Making “lilypads” for our toy frogs to jump on
  • Pretending they are cookies and “feeding” them to each other and to a puppet

It may be hard at first to think outside of the box when choosing toys, but after you have done it for awhile it will become second nature to think like a therapist!

Still need some help?

Why not let someone do the choosing for you?

The Hape First Shapes Puzzle was part of a Little Pnuts Toddler Special Delivery that I received in September.  Little Pnuts is a toy subscription service that takes the guesswork out of choosing toys for your 0-5 year old.  The concept is simple; subscribers receive quarterly shipments containing 3-5 toys that are carefully selected for your child based on age, gender, and developmental level.  For more about Little Pnuts and why we are such big fans, read my review here.

Wanna try it out for yourself? Melissa, the fabulous (and generous) founder of Little Pnuts, has offered to give away one Little Pnuts Special Delivery (ships December 10) for your age of choice to a lucky Twodaloo reader, just in time for the holidays!

To enter, here’s what you need to do:

  • Leave a comment telling us what makes you most excited about winning a Little Pnuts special delivery!
  • Become a follower of Twodaloo via email subscription, Facebook, and/or Twitter. Only Facebook is mandatory, but the more ways you follow, the more chances to win!
  • Follow Little Pnuts via Facebook and Twitter (if you have an account).  Melissa shares tons of great early childhood activity links every day, so you won’t regret signing up to receive her feed!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck! Entries must be posted by Friday, 11/16 at midnight.  Winner will be announced Sunday, 11/18.


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  1. i just loved all the toys on littlepnuts when you first posted about them- i was really disappointed to see they don’t ship internationally yet. we would love some of the toys on littlepnuts to keep us busy whilst Jamie goes through her chemo.

    • Thanks, Jandi! Just wanted to let you know that beginning with the December 10th shipment, Little Pnuts is now shipping internationally! Glad this allows more people to enjoy the great toys they are delivering.

  2. I like that they pick the toys for you and I don’t have to think about it. I spend way too much time stressing over everything I buy for the twins!

  3. I had never heard of this company before I saw it on your blog. Thank you for sharing! I’m always looking for more open ended type toys for the kiddos.

  4. Cathy Harms says:

    I’m so excited about this giveaway! I’d love to get my boy/girl two-year-old twins a package from Pnuts and know that their getting high quality toys that meet their educational milestones. We are big into play-based learning and these toys would be perfect for that. I’m a follower of Twodaloo on Facebook and have just followed Pnuts on Facebook too.

  5. Sarah Jenkins says:

    This is an amazing giveaway! I love your tips for using toys & how to pick better toys……I would love to have these for my 3 & almost 2 yr old.

  6. Amanda Nied says:

    I love that the toys from Little Pnuts are engaging in creative and thought provoking ways, rather than loud, flashing, blinking ways. The imagination is a great tool. Thanks for bringing this company to my attention. We’d love to have a special delivery at our door!

  7. I like the durability of the toys, not having to stress over finding the perfect commercialized toy and that your imagination seems to be your only limitation. Thanks for opportunity!

  8. I’ve spent SO much time researching educational, non-flashy toys for our toddler. With #2 due soon, a Little Pnuts delivery would definitely save some precious time!

  9. Sheena Mawson says:

    Love the toys….Hape has the coolest stuff! I also spent some time on the little pnuts page and the boxes look fabulous!!

  10. Adeline Carlisle says:

    Great post! So informative! It’s been one of my goals to be a more intentional mom and put more thoughts into the things I do with my children at home. You have given me great ideas on how to choose toys and how to expand their uses. I’ve looked into the Little Pnuts deliveries and I am going to request it from one of the grandparents 😉 Thanks!

  11. Ashlea Stickane says:

    Aside from using the toys for our son, it has given me great ideas for toys to buy for him and my nephews/nieces for Christmas. I have been wanting to get our son some at-home learning tools but didn’t know where to start. Winning the toys would create months and years of learning for our son!

  12. Jesseca Jackson says:

    I would be beyond excited to get a Little Pnuts delivery! My almost 2 year old son likes to constantly be engaged in something, and this would help with number 2 on the way. He would have educational things to play with while mommy adjusts to a new normal!

  13. What makes me most excited about receiving the toys is the fact that my kids will love them!

  14. it looks like a great way to discover new brands of quality toys!

  15. Being able to discover new toy brands.

  16. Daune Sunday says:

    I’m most excited about being able to try new toys for my LO besides all the big named brands out there like fisher price etc… :-)

  17. I am ALWAYS looking for interesting, WELL MADE toys for my wee ones! They both LOVE puzzles and I’m so intrigued by all that Little PNuts has to offer.

  18. Little Pnuts sounds like a great concept and would love to try out some new toys for my 18 mth old! Tired of guessing at which toys are great and helpful for learning

  19. Terri Moore says:

    What makes me most excited about winning a Little Pnuts special delivery is the fun of seeing my grand-daughter playing with it and using all the imagnative ways of using it that you showed. Toys should be open-ended like that. thank you for a wonderful giveaway!

  20. domestic diva says:

    I like open ended toys — and this would be a great way to try something new.

  21. I would love to have some new, durable toys for my toddler! I love toys that encourage imaginative play, and all the ones you’ve received from them look awesome!

  22. Shelly Johnson says:

    I think the part that excites me the most is that you are getting toys that are specifically picked for your childs age and abilities. There are so many toys available and it does it hard to pick something that is both the right are range and safe for your child. Knowing these toys have been inspected and built with those factors in mind, gives you a feeling of relief knowing that work has been done for you, and you can feel safe knowing they are playing with safe and wonderful toys. Not to mention who doesnt love getting a big package in the mail! :)

  23. I have been debating purchasing a subscription to little pnuts for a while now, but wanted to sample a box first. Needless to say I went to youtube for unveiling videos but still wouldnt go for it and begin a subscription. I would love to win a box to see if little pnuts is perfect like i think it will be! I am in process of adopting a 7 month old who has extreme developmental delays and would love to try out some of the educational toys!

  24. Carolyn Zimmerman says:

    My favorite toys are ones that do not make sounds, interactive between both kids, and ones that make them use their imaginations. I also love wooden toys! I would love to get a box of Little Pnuts toys for my kiddos!! (I know that I don’t always comment, but I always read your blog from your FB posts :).)

  25. These toys are fabulous. And the websites having amazing information.

  26. I’ve never heard of this before, it looks really cool!

  27. I am overwhelmed by the endless options of toys out there. Little pnuts is exactly what I need.


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