As a new parent (or even old-time parent), it’s quite overwhelming to know what’s great for a child’s development, what’s likely to gather dust in the toy box, or what can just as well be replaced by pots and wooden spoons, or whatever safe things you already have at home.
It’s even more overwhelming when kids don’t enjoy age-appropriate games or activities, have difficulty engaging with peers in play, or battling to develop age-appropriate tasks. While occupational therapy is an option in these cases, there are also specialised toys that can assist in building essential skills in the home.
According to registered occupational therapist Dana Katz, educational toys, especially those that support fine motor, visual perceptual, planning and problem-solving skills can help to develop more refined, higher level learning skills.
“Skill development is essentially like building a pyramid, if the lower building blocks are in place, we can continue to build on that skill. If all the underlying skills like gross motor, sensory motor, focus, awareness of the two sides of the body and motor planning are in place developmentally and the child is able to process sensory information effectively, developmental toys and games can be valuable in supporting higher level skill development.”
To help in selecting the right toys for an OT child, here’s a guideline via Toy Kingdom of what sorts of toys are suitable and how they can assist in building skills:
(PS: Toy Kingdom also have a range of OT toys for kids age one and upwards. I’m giving two large Toy Kingdom vouchers next week for OT toys, so look out then).
1. Toys that encourage problem solving
Lego and building blocks are a good choice for developing children’s motor and problem solving skills, as it gives them a chance to try and figure things out for themselves. It’s important to also consider toys that will help build strength in children’s hands for example play dough scissors. This strength will be necessary to take on writing amongst other daily activities.
2 Things that feel "weird"
Toys with sticky or slimy surfaces help children to experiment with texture. This can be beneficial in ensuring children are more open to putting textured food in their mouths, and is also a great way for them to get their hands working.
3. Toys that require the use of both hands
Learning to use both hands well can help with colouring, cutting and writing. Wind-up toys are good example or even simply tossing and catching a ball.
4 Toys that encourage pretend play
Fantasy and play have long been used to stimulate creativity as well as social skills in children. By pretending to do or be something different, the child is practicing both verbal and non-verbal communication, harnessing the skills to socialise and cooperate with other children and adults. Toy Kingdom’s Shopkins range is a perfect set-up for children to play with pretend food and enjoy make-believe scenarios.
You can find Toy Kingdom at the following centres: Blue Route Mall ,V&A Waterfront, Canal Walk, Tyger Valley, Cavendish Square, Forest Hill, Gateway, Menlyn Park, Sandton City, Cresta, East Rand Mall, Centurion Mall.