Quite often paediatric OTs will stumble across an amazing toy that works on an area of development in a super fun and engaging way. What do we do with that information? We share it with our OT friends of course! But today I’m going to spill the beans and give you all a little insight into some of toys we have been loving this year. With Christmas just around the corner this is the perfect time to add some of these to your pre-schooler or kindy kids Christmas list.
Barrel of Monkeys
Barrel of Monkeys is a classic game, you might have even played with one yourself as a child. This game really challenges a child’s hand eye coordination (also called visual motor integration) as they attempt to place a monkey on the chain that keeps swinging!
This ability for your eyes to tell your brain what to do, and your brain to pass this information onto your muscles to tell your hands how to move is an important skill for a range of activities including writing, drawing and playing sports.
This game gets bonus points for strengthening little shoulders as they try to keep the monkey chain in the air for a few minutes. Strong shoulders are important to create a stable base of support for using our hands in activities like handwriting.
Little ears have to learn to take in all the sound around them and ignore the useless information (like a dog barking or a lawn mower), so they can tune in to the important things (like your mum calling your name). Our eyes have to learn a similar set of skills to ignore the useless things and just focus on the information that is important. We call this ‘visual perceptual skills’ and these skills help with things like not getting letters like ‘b’ and ‘d’ mixed up when writing, being able to read effectively or being able to tie our shoelaces. Spot it is a card game that targets these visual perceptual skills and although it’s listed as aged 7+ it is definitely a game 4-6 year old’s would enjoy, perhaps with just a little help from you.
If you have the space for it, there are tonnes of fun activities that can be completed on a scooter board and all those pulling, pushing, and staying balance movements work on back, tummy and neck muscles. These particular muscle groups are known as our core and postural muscles and strengthening these muscles is important because they are used when sitting on a mat or at a table in a classroom.
Memory Match Yoga
Memory match games target visual memory which is one of the visual perceptual skills mentioned earlier. But this game is also a great way to improve body awareness, which is the skill of knowing where our body is in space. By trying to put their own body into the yoga positions on the cards, kids are challenging their body awareness skills. Kids who don’t have good body awareness might find it difficult to play sport, sit on a mat without being too close to another or line up without bumping into someone else.
What’s My Body Clue
You might have learned in school about the five senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch, but we all have extra senses that most people don’t know about. One of these extra senses is called interoception and it is the sense of our internal body and includes things like the feeling of hunger or needing to go to the toilet. Interoception is also the feelings in our body that let us know what emotion we are experiencing, like our heart racing when we are scared or butterflies in our tummy when we are nervous. ‘What’s my Body Clue’ is a matching game that explores the interoceptive signals or ‘body clues’ we get with each emotion. For kids being able to identify emotions in themselves is an important skill that helps them remain calm and think through tricky situations.