It’s no secret that many children enjoy playing on their parents’ phones and tablets. While there are many apps that help teach problem solving skills or work on fine motor and visual perceptual skills, there are huge benefits from “real” play. Studies have shown toddlers and children learn better when actively engaged in play. You can use some of the themes and challenges of your child’s favorite apps by translating them to reality. Here are some ideas to start:
Angry Birds: save boxes from cereal, rice, and spaghetti. Weigh down the boxes by placing a baggie with a small amount of rice or sand inside the box and tape it shut. Gather small stuffed animals or socks to take the place of the pigs and use bean bags or balls to act as birds. Have your child build his own fortress for the pigs with the boxes, adding other items such as cookie sheets or plastic cutting boards for additional reinforcement. Then bomb birds away! How many birds will it take to demolish the pig’s fortress?
Mario Kart: create your own race track with obstacles. Mark a start/finish line with a beach towel on the ground and arrange garden hoses or long ropes on the ground in a large oval to indicate the borders of the track. Use placemats, Frisbees or cones as obstacles to avoid. Have your child ride his bike or push his scooter around the track and reward points based on time and accuracy.
As the holidays are fast approaching, we wanted to take the opportunity to offer some tips about choosing toys and games for your child. Here are some guidelines for how we choose new toys and activities for the clinic.
1. Will it last?
o Does the item appear sturdy? Are there small pieces to break off and get lost? If they do break off and get lost, can the toy still be used?
2. Can it be used in multiple ways?
o Does the toy lend itself to multiple options for play? For example, bean bags can be used for target games, scavenger hunts, hopscotch and more. Jump ropes can be used by one person or a group people, be turned into a wiggly snake, or be used as a boundary line.
3. Does it appeal to a wide age range?
o Is the product going to be used for a month and tossed aside by a young child who is quickly developing new skills? Can the item “grow” with your child by adjusting the height or the complexity of the task?
4. Does it offer multiple types of sensory input (without becoming too overwhelming?)
o For example, try musical instruments which provide opportunity to practice motor coordination while exploring auditory and tactile input, as opposed to items which play music and have blinking lights after simply pressing a button.
5. Can it travel easily?
o Wiki sticks, Play Doh and travel sized board games can provide structure while waiting at a restaurant or at a sibling’s sports practice.
6. Does it allow the child to create their own play schemes?
o Matchbox cars or barn play sets allow the child to come up with their own ideas for play. Baby dolls or other toys that “talk” may direct the play time for your child.
Why We Love It: The perfect blend of visual perceptual, fine motor and motor planning skills, Rush Hour is a favorite for staff and children. The concept is simple: place the cars on the grid to match a picture, then slide the cars to allow the ice cream truck to drive out the door. There are 40 cards of increasing difficulty, with each level building on the problem solving lessons learned in previous scenarios. Puzzles can be solved again and again because it is practically impossible to remember the solution sequence.
This is a great activity for children who get lost in multi-step tasks and those who need to work on their problem solving skills. Take the game a step further by hiding the pieces in a bucket of dried beans, creating a scavenger hunt around the room or having your child “deliver” the pieces little by little by riding their bike, doing animal walks or even an obstacle course. Also, the solutions are printed on the back of each card. If your child is learning the concepts of left and right, give the instructions to solve the card and have your child follow them.
Why the Kids Love It: This is one of the most requested games in the clinic. Younger children enjoy the concept of rescuing the ice cream truck, and older children enjoy the challenge of harder levels. The game pieces are brightly colored, but not juvenile. There is a real sense of mastery as the child moves from “Beginner” towards “Expert” levels.
Manufacturer Age Recommendations: 6-8 years
Our Age Recommendations: Younger children (4-5) can copy the grid like a puzzle. Older children (9-11) with visual perceptual and motor planning difficulties may benefit from this “Jr” version of Rush Hour before moving to the more advanced edition.
Available in toy stores and online.