Thursday, December 17, 2009

Here Comes Santa Claus: Toy Ideas for Kids with Dyspraxia

Finding the right toys for your child's Christmas or holiday gift or even their birthday can be a challenge. With most kids there's so much they want, but usually only so much you can afford. If your child has Dyspraxia or another developmental condition, you probably find yourself needing to purchase toys that can help with your child's fine motor and vestibular development in addition to the fun toys they want.

If you are trying to keep your toy spending in check by combining fun with functionality, you might want to consider some of the toys below. By and large, they are toys that were recommended to me for my son Brendan by our occupational therapist. There are a few I found while researching this post that seem cool. For the most part, they are for kids with mild to moderate levels of impairment. And for the record, I have not been paid or otherwise endorsed by the makers of any of these toys, nor was I asked to include any specific toys in this post. It's all me, Baby....

The first is the Plasma Car. I had not heard of this until our therapist recommended it, but it looks like a lot of fun. MeMe will be giving this to Brendan for Christmas this year and I hope he will enjoy it and that it will help him develop more spatial awareness. The Plasma Car is a ride-on toy that uses no batteries or leg power. It uses kinetic energy and centrifugal force from the rotation of the steering wheel to move. It's great for kids who need vestibular stimulation and can also help with motor planning issues. And because it doesn't use leg power, it's great for kids with poor leg strength who have trouble pedaling.

Next on my list are Wedgits. Wedgits are great multi-dimensional building blocks (for lack of a more fitting term). You can use them with your kids to help them see and repeat sequences and to recreate structures you build. Brendan got these for Christmas from MeMe last year and has really enjoyed them. They were his favorite thing to play with during therapy, so it was a no-brainer to add them to the list.

Perhaps not quite as much fun, but a great tool for building upper body strength and aiding in motor planning is the Scooter Board. We don't have this yet, but depending on how things go when we resume OT in January, we might end up with one. I do know Brendan loves using it and anything that makes at-home therapy fun and easy for me, wins in my opinion, because so often it's a battle to get him to do our home exercises.

I guess you can see that vestibular and motor planning issues take up a lot of room in my head. We also struggle with hand strength and fine motor coordination, as well. The next item, while very basic, is basically where you want to start when you're trying to help your little one build up the strength and flexibility in their hands to do something like grip a pencil. We spent a lot of time when Brendan was 4 and 5 playing with clay and Play-Doh hoping to improve his hand strength.

For the child who is a bit older – maybe Kindergarten or first grade or older – the nifty Spyrogyro pen is really cool. It encourages them to hold the pen properly and the chunky grip makes it easier to hold it the right way. Also, when the harder the child presses down on the pen, the smaller the shapes they draw get, giving them a better sense of how hard or how lightly they are pressing. This would be a cool stocking stuffer.

Thanks to it's just being plain silly, Mr. Potato Head is a great tool for helping develop fine motor skills that transcends age to some extent. My silly almost-seven-year old loves it as much as his three-year old baby brother. It's great at forcing them to pick up and manipulate small pieces. It can be frustrating at first, but the more they play with it, you'll see improvement.

I'll try to add more to my list as we go along, but for now, for those of you looking for last minute gift ideas for your Dyspraxic children or other kids with development issues, here are a few to get you started. Good luck! And Merry Christmas!