The Best of January

adminbilateral coordination, creativity, fine motor, grasping skills, hand eye coordination, imagination, norman and jules, ooly, open ended play, rose and rex, self esteem, social emotional learning, social skills Leave a Comment

It’s been a bit rough getting back into the swing of things at work. January is historically a tricky month because of all the paperwork that is required as children get ready for the upcoming school year. I know that sounds crazy since that is months and months away but that is the way in NYC. All of that to say that blogging has been put on the backburner and I’m ready to focus on it again.

Starting this month, I will be doing a monthly blog (along with more regular posts in February) with a wrap-up of some of my favorite things I discovered each month. This will include games, craft sets, activity books, story books and a variety of other things that were a hit with the kids at work. I will end each of these posts with a picture book recommendation that will focus on some kind of social emotional topic. Over the last couple of years, I have spent more time than I can count trying to curate a collection of books that will help children have a better understanding of a variety of social difficulties that they may face. I have found that even if children are having similar social difficulties, they can’t quite talk about it or problem solve when it is about them. But when you read a book and a character is struggling with something, they seem to find it easier to talk about.

I am really excited to share some of the products I discovered this month with all of you.

Learn To Write Stencils-a little while ago, my local toy store, Norman and Jules, shared a picture of these stencils on their Instagram page and I became obsessed. I have found finding good stencils can be really tricky and often times frustrating for kids. If they are too flimsy, they are hard for the kids to use. This set of 15 wooden stencils comes with a variety of simple lines that are all used in developing the letters of the alphabet or numbers and can encourage open-ended drawing. One of the things I like to do with them is have the kids look at them and think about what they look like. For example, there is one that looks like waves, another that looks like mountains and another that looks like the top of a castle.  My daughter, who is almost 9 years old, tested these out for me and I loved seeing how these simple lines helped to encourage her creative drawing process. I gave her a set of gel pens, some stickers and blank paper and let her run with her ideas. Learn To Write Stencils are also great for working on developing grasping skills, hand-eye coordination, bilateral coordination and visual motor and visual perceptual skills. They encourage creativity and imagination skills which helps with the development of self-esteem and confidence.

Grapat Nins Carla Wooden Figures Game-over the last few months, I have been adding more open-ended toys to my therapy sessions. I am a sucker for nice wooden toys and am pretty much can’t not buy something if there’s a rainbow them to it. This set of rainbow dolls is of my new favorites and I have loved watching my kids play with them. As you can see from the picture, the set comes with 6 colored peg dolls with matching discs and rings. I love how many occupational therapy skills can be worked on while also encouraging open-ended play in children. Some of the skills that can be worked on are color identification, sorting, categorizing, improving hand-eye coordination and grasping and manipulation skills. These are also great for improving focus, attention and self-regulation because you need to concentrate and take your time while stacking the rings and discs. I have found these are great to combine with some of my gross motor activities when at the gym. For example, I will have them sort and stack while lying prone in the net swing so we are adding a strengthening component to a fun fine motor activity.

Pencil Nose Game-I discovered this game at another local New York City toy store when looking for a game to entertain our New Year’s Eve guests. In this hilarious game, people wear a pair of glasses with a marker attached and have to draw a pictures listed on the cards they pick while being timed. They keep drawing as many as they can to rack up the most points. This game is definitely geared towards older children but could probably be adapted for younger children. For example, you could have the kids come up with a list of simple objects that they think they could draw and pick from those instead of the ones provided. One of the things I like about this is that it encourages kids to be silly and do something differently than typically expected. So many of the kids I work with, especially those older ones, struggle with being perfect or doing things just so so I like that this makes them step outside of their comfort zone and be silly.

OOLY DIY Eraser Kit-I love a good art kit and am pretty much obsessed with all of the art products from OOLY. This simple kit comes with 12 blocks of dough that can be molded into things to create erasers. There are several kinds of DIY Eraser Kits out there, but I really like this one because it is completely open-ended and encourages creativity and imagination skills. There are three simple steps in order to make your erasers:
1. Come up with what you want to make. This requires thinking about colors, size, etc.. Using their fingers, they mold the dough into what they would like to create.
2. Bake it for a short amount of time.
3. Erase!
In addition to encouraging creativity and imagination, it is great for working on improving fine motor skills such as grasping and in-hand manipulation skills. If you want to work on bilateral coordination with kids, provide the kids with a variety of safe tools (knife, fork, rolling pin, etc.) to use.
If you want to make an eraser to put on top of a pencil, you can stick a hole in the bottom before baking it.

LetterSchool Spelling Words App!-LetterSchool is my most used and most frequently recommended handwriting app so when I saw that they had developed a spelling app, I immediately downloaded it. It has quickly become a new favorite of mine and the kids. I find this to be perfect for my pre-kindergarten or kindergarten students who are just beginning to learn how read. Much like LetterSchool, this interactive game provides multiple opportunities for children to learn how to spell and read a variety of words. Kids learn how to read and spell hundreds of words that are grouped together by their ending sounds. They have to listen to the word and then drag the correct letter to complete the word. Once completed, each letter is spelled out while being matched up with fun animations and sounds. For each group of words, there are three levels of game, each becoming more challenging. I like to add a hands-on step by having the kids practice writing out the words either on paper, Boogie Board or dry erase board once they have completed each group of words.
The first five groups of words are free but I think that this app is one that is worth every cent!

The Snurtch by Sean Ferrell-this children’s book was new to me but came highly recommended to me by one of the awesome staff at Stories Bookshop and Storytelling Lab, my go-to for all of my children’s books for my social skills group, The Meetinghouse Juniors. Our social skills curriculum the last few weeks has been focused on Thinking vs. Saying when  talking to people. We are all guilty of saying things out loud that we think are innocent but may come out the wrong way and actually upset others. The Snurtch is one of the books we have read to help explain this concept to children. The gist of the story is that Ruthie, the main character, has big feelings and will say or do things that hurt the feelings of her teachers and peers. She says it isn’t her but is the Snurtch….this monster who makes her do all of these terrible things. This book brought up great conversations with our group about whether or not the Snurtch was a real thing or Sophie’s way of dealing with things when they are challenging. It was great to hear the kids talk about how Sophie could have done or said something differently that didn’t make her friends feel sad. It was a perfect book to read before launching into our activity about Thinking vs. Saying.

These are my favorite things for January 2019. I am really looking forward to putting these together each month. I am working on some other fun things this year that I think you’ll all love and find helpful. If there are things you are looking for, let me know. I love hearing from you all and am just a click away!

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