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!
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.