2022 Holiday Gift Guide-Arts and Crafts and STEAM Kits

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This is one of my favorite gift guides to put together each year because when I am not working, you can find me knitting, baking or crafting with my daughter. I’ve always tried to bring craft and STEAM activities into my sessions because they can work on so many developmental and occupational therapy goals in a way that makes it motivating and fun. When I choose craft sets or STEAM kits, I am looking for products that will work on developing fine motor, visual motor and visual perceptual skills and work on executive functioning skills while encouraging creativity and imagination skills. I also try and find things that not only have clear-cut directions, but can also be open-ended and encourage children to use the materials to do their own thing. Research has shown that crafting, regardless of what the materials or medium is and the age of the person, can improve self-confidence, reduce their stress level, improve their mood and help them feel calm in more challenging moments. Below you will find some of my favorite crafting and STEAM kits.

  1. Crazy Aarons Mixed By Me Thinking Putty Set-As an occupational therapist, putty is a staple in your tool box and Aaron’s Thinking Putty is one of the most exceptional brands out there. First of all, the story behind this company is wonderful: the founder of the company was once in the finance world and decided to pivot and start this company and hires people with developmental and cognitive delays to give them an opportunity to lead a meaningful work life. I am a longtime fan of all things Aaron’s Thinking Putty and always feel like they need to be on my gift guides. This Mixed By Me Kit is a fun one for any of your sensory seeking little ones and let’s them make three of their very own putty creations. Each kit comes with 3 tins of clear Thinking Putty, 6 colored pencils to color and design their own labels and a bunch of different elements and mix-ins to make the putty your very own. Putty is great for working on increasing grasp strength and manipulation skills and this kit adds the benefit of being able to work on executive functioning skills such as improving organizational skills, planning and task completion.
  2. Bright Beads Jewelry Kit-Every little crafter in your life would love this bead kit from Kid Made Modern. First of all, one of the things I like about all of their kits are that they come in a very sturdy storage case so you don’t have to worry about the beads and supplies getting all over the place. This particular kit comes with over 800 assorted beads, metal rings, elastic cords and key rings so kids can create whatever they want. Beading has many benefits including helping develop fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills, encourages hand-eye coordination, bilateral coordination, improves visual motor skills and works on improving focus, attention, planning and organization skills. While this kit encourages more open-ended creativity, if you want to work on sequencing or patterns, you can give them patterns to follow.
  3. Gem Sticker Set –There are two things that kids really love: stickers and shiny things. I have been doing these diamond painting stickers with some of my older kids this year and they have been such a big hit. This kit comes with 50 sticker templates, a variety of colored gems, diamond pencils, trays for the gems and a special glue to help pick up the gems to place on the sticky templates. Kids create stickers by placing the gem that coincides with the numbers on the template to create their final product. These kits are great for working on improving fine motor and grasping skills, improves hand-eye coordination, visual motor and visual tracking skills and is great for working on executive functioning skills such as focus, attention and organizational skills. At the end, they have this awesome sticker which builds confidence and self-esteem.
  4. Create-A-Sticker Machine-Sticking with the kids love sticker theme, I have had this sticker machine for years and have one at work and at home because it’s been such a hit. This machine is super easy to use and doesn’t require any heat so it is safe for even young creators. I have used this many ways to work on making working on tricky things for my kids more motivating. For example, if I have a child who is really into princesses or superheroes, I will find pictures for them to color and then turn it into a sticker. For kids who are working on letter and number recognition, I will make bubble letters and have them color them in and then turn them into stickers. This is great for working on improving coloring, drawing and other graphomotor skills, works on improving visual motor skills, encourages bilateral coordination and works on executive functioning skills such as focus, attention, following directions and task completion.
  5. Arts and Crafts Library-There are a handful of items on my gift guides make it on year after year and this kit is one of them. I am obsessed with this open-ended craft kit because it is appropriate for children of all ages and developmental levels. The kit comes with over 1000 pieces of art supplies including peg dolls, beads, wooden loose pieces, felt squares, sequins, pom-poms, googly eyes, pipe cleaners and so much more to create whatever comes to your little artists mind. As with most Kid Made Modern kits, it comes in a sturdy storage case so you don’t have to worry about kids making a huge mess. While there are suggestions on what you can make, this is really about encouraging kids to use their imagination and creativity to make their own creations. This kit is great for working on developing fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills while improving executive functioning skills such as focus, attention, planning, task completion and organizational skills.
  6. Paint and Peel Jelly Stickers-I really don’t think you can go wrong with the gift of stickers. Kids of all ages look forward to getting a sticker after a therapy session and I use them for handwriting prompts and they are always a huge motivator. Another big hit at our gym are ColorForms or any form of reusable stickers. So when I saw this DIY sticker kit, I knew it had to be on my list. Like all Klutz craft kits, they come with all you need to make your own stickers. There are lots of designs for kids to trace or if they are ready, they can make their own designs. This kit comes with 4 colors of jelly paint and lots of accessories like googly eyes and rhinestones. Once dry, these stickers will stick to mirrors, windows, water bottles, computer screens and so much more. This sticker set works on developing fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills, encourages hand-eye coordination, visual motor and visual perceptual skills, improves executive functioning skills such as focus, attention and organizational skills. Additionally, it encourages creativity and imagination skills.
  7. Peg A Pattern-I am always on the lookout for fun and motivating fine motor toys and love this Peg A Pattern kit from Fat Brain Toys. What I like about this particular pegboard pattern kit is that they give you templates to follow or allow you to make a design of your own. This set comes with 10 animal scenes with an accompanying pattern to follow. You can also make your own designs using the board and pegs provided. Another thing you can do with this is encourage kids to practice making shapes, letters and numbers! Kids work on developing fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills, improve hand-eye coordination, visual motor, visual perceptual and visual scanning skills, encourages spatial reasoning and creativity and imagination when kids make their own designs.
  8. Rainbow Loom Mega-Combo Set-I was super excited this summer to see the Rainbow Loom having a comeback. There were so many kids at the beach with their looms making bracelets for family and friends or to sell to fellow beach goers! I was a huge fan of these kits when they first came out because I loved how many occupational therapy goals could be worked on when using it. First of all, I am always happy when a craft kit has a tool that you have to hold like a writing instrument because it makes working on grasp skills more fun and less of a job. This set comes with thousands of different colored loom bands, different tools to make the bracelets/necklaces, charms and all of the other materials needed to make tons of jewelry. It also comes with easy to follow step-by-step visual directions which I think is really important for kids to feel successful. Kids feel so proud of themselves when they complete their bracelet or necklace and they are working on improving fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills, encourage hand-eye and bilateral coordination skills, improve visual motor skills and can work on executive functioning skills such as focus, attention, organization, planning, following directions, sequencing and task completion.
  9. First Robot Factory-I am finding that kids are getting into STEAM activities at a much younger age and this one targeted for kids 5 and older is a great option and works on so many developmental skills. Kids follow step-by-step illustrated assembly instructions to put together robots. Using connecting blocks, kids work on developing and improving fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills as they put the robots together. Once put together, they can move when you attach them to the motor powered box. Additionally, putting these robots together works on improving visual motor and visual perceptual skills and works on improving executive functioning skills such as focus, attention, planning, organization, increasing frustration tolerance and task completion.
  10. Crayola Sprinkle Art Shaker-I haven’t tried this one yet but have had my eyes on it and think it will be a hit with so many of the kids I work with. I mean, when it comes to Crayola products, they rarely aren’t a hit. What I love about this one is that they have figured out a way to contain any mess which is huge in my books. This portable art set allows kids to decorate pictures that are already provided or ones they draw themselves and decorate them with glue and sprinkles. Kids trace over lines and then close the lid and shake out the desired color of sprinkles; once done, they will magically go back into their container. This is a great way to motivate kids to draw….or maybe even practice writing letters, numbers or making shapes! Additionally, this is a great way to work on improving visual motor and visual perceptual skills, improve hand-eye and bilateral coordination and work on executive functioning skills such as focus, attention, planning and organization.
  11. Stampies -These fit into so many gift guide categories but I felt like this is the most appropriate. I love when a toy can be used in a variety of ways and the We Might Be Tiny Stampies set checks off so many boxes. First of all, I love that they can be used for food (baking cookies), with play dough or can find its way into any kind of sensory play like using paint or ink pads. This set comes with 15 interchangeable silicone animal stamps that kids can put on and off (great for working on improving grasping and manipulation skills) a super sturdy wooden stamper. While learning about all kinds of different animals, kids are encouraged to use their imagination as they use different materials to come up with scenes or stories. This cute and versatile set is also great for working on improving bilateral coordination skills and encouraging executive functioning skills such as planning and organizational skills.
  12. Surprise Ride Monthly Craft Kit-If you are looking for a big ticket item for a crafty kid in your life, I highly recommend this subscription kit from Fat Brain Toys. When my daughter was younger, she looked forward to the surprise package that would arrive each month when gifted a subscription. I wish this kit was available when she was younger because it’s really fantastic and encourages creativity and imagination while working on developing a ton of skills. All of the kits include everything necessary to complete the monthly project including materials, a reading book, a little keepsake and step-by-step photo instructions. Some of the topics covered are science, history, animals, geography, fantasy and so much more. While putting these kits together kids are working on developing fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills, improving hand-eye coordination, visual motor and visual perceptual skills and works on improving executive functioning skills such as focus, attention, planning, organization and task completion. In the end, they have a really fun project that will boost their confidence and self-esteem.

I have shared some of my favorite craft and STEAM kits but there are SO many more out there. If you are looking for something more specific for your child or someone you are buying for this year, please feel free to email me at otmeghan@gmail.com. I love hearing from you and sharing ideas. As I mention in all of my gift guides, please go to your local toy stores and ask them for their best sellers. They may not have what I have suggested but they know what is popular and if you have a child with any kind of developmental delays, they will be able to steer you in the right direction and help you find something that your child will be successful with. It’s important to choose things that will provide the “just right” challenge because if you get something that is too hard for your child to do they will start to avoid these kinds of activities. As I have mentioned in some of my other gift guides, my favorite stores in the New York City are are Lulu’s Cuts and Toys, Norman and Jules, Little Things Toy Store, West Side Kids, Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store and Stationery and Toy World.

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