Top Recommended Toys from an OT – Christmas Ideas for Kids

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During the holidays, I love helping my clients’ families (I’m a pediatric occupational therapist) choose toys for their little ones at the holidays. Getting to know a child’s interests and strengths, while capitalizing on the opportunity to grow and foster progress, is a pretty cool thing. OT recommended toys are toys that can help a child connect socially, improve their sensory systems, or strengthen their motor skills.

Here are recommended toys from an OT – CoVID style. 

Because of CoVID, I’m anticipating long days ahead at home. Since our typical haunts are closed for safety and extra-curricular activities are remote, I’m focused on what gets them off screens. I’m worried about screen time that is required of them in addition to the lack of social interaction with friends. I also worry about the developmental opportunities that they are missing being home so much. In the spirit of safety in the outdoors, relaxing and connecting with family, stimulating sensory systems and overall mental health — here are some of my gift ideas to share with you.

Outdoor Winter Toys

I can’t believe that I’m praying for snow this year! But the white stuff will make playing outside so much better. Are you prepared for a winter outside – gear-wise? Read here for suggestions to keep kids warm and playing outside. And here is my outdoor toy picks from last year. 

Amazon.com : Sled Legs Wearable Snow Sleds – Fun Winter Accessories with Leg  Support – Family Friendly Winter Activities – Exciting Winter Fun in The  Snow (Action Green, Large) : Sports & Outdoors   

  • Snow shoes – You can even find tiny foam animal shaped ones for littles!
  • Skiing & Snowboarding – cross country or downhill skis, a snowboard
  • ice skates  
  • LL Bean’s winter wagon setmain, view 1 of 1
  • Snow Building Tools – Try a snowball maker, snow fort building blocks, castle molds or a snowman kit. There are even snow art (paint) sets!

Indoor Movement Toys

I often help clients build indoor swing setups for their kids. Now more than over, I am seeing families attach things from their ceilings and doorways to give their kids another opportunity to move. These OT recommended toys bring a lot of fun indoors.

  • Gorilla Gym goes in your doorway and offers several attachment to change up the experience
  • Ride-on toys – this is the year to make the kitchen or basement your race track. I love the Plasma Car, Roller Racer/Flying Turtle, but anything with wheels will do.
  • Skateboards, scooters, hoverboards, pogo sticks and roller skates for older kids
  • Bilibo seat, balance bike, sit-n-spin, pogo jumpers, balance boards for younger kids
  • A Hugglepod swing with stand for those that don’t have ceiling-mount option. I love that this swing is enclosed offers some privacy for “down” time to relax
  • Gymnastics-type equipment – like folding mats, a balance beam, tunnel, stepping stones, mini-trampoline, or any obstacle-course builder.

Creative Toys and Kits

  • Fort Building – There are so many to choose from! I wish I could get this castle set! My son got a DIY set once that we still use. You can always stick with flat sheets, clothes pins, chip clips, a lantern and a flashlight!
  • Subscription boxes – These OT recommended toys are great to ask the grandparents for. We tend to stockpile them for rainy days! We have done Kiwi Crate. Additionally, I’ve heard good things about Little Passports, and Spangler Science. Literati is great for a monthly book club and as an OT I would love to try the Sensory Theraplay Box! The sky is the limit when it comes to these. A local NH mom just started Cheeky Marie with boxes to focus on powerful women who have shaped our world (RBG,  Jane Gooddall, Frida Kahlo, Marie Curie, etc).
  • Block Sets – Try options like Magnatiles, Picasso Tiles, Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, Tegu Blocks, Marble Runs, Lego, or Plus Plus Blocks.
  • Color-in boxes (an art project and dramatic play in one), play tent, 
  • Nugget OK so this was designed by an OT and are so popular, but they are often backordered (plan ahead for next year or a birthday). Its a couch, a bed, a fort, a mountain, a crash pad, a reading nook. The creative options for this one is HUGE and it uses all of their muscles to move it and my kids play with it for HOURS.  

Sensory Toys – My go-to Stocking Stuffers!

At my house, we capitalize on lengthy afternoon baths to kill some time and calm down before the witching hours descend on us. For some extra bath fun I add shaving cream, bath bombs, and bath crayons amongst our regular brigade of toys, cups and containers. I also love these light-up bath cubes, for added sensory play while we dim the lights. These are all great stocking stuffers!

  • Putty – this seems to me a mainstay of the toy shops lately, its easy to find! Similar to silly putty, this “thinking” putty can keep fingers busy during the remote learning too. 
  • Visual toys like lava lamps, gyro wheel, liquid bubbler, hand-held water games, glitter wands
  • Tactile or Messy play – in addition to finger paint, shaving cream, moon sand and slime, try Snow Powder, Water Beads, Model Magic, play dirt, clay and good old play-doh.

Games

Our family started a family game night …. all we have is loads of time together these days, and I’m trying to embrace it. I hope that we look back on these times and find the silver lining of simpler times, and more connectedness. Being an OT who is always working on social skills like turn taking and gracious winning/losing with my clients, I love the classics. Candy Land, Go Fish, Connect Four, Old Maid, Uno, Simon, Bop-It, Don’t Break the Ice, Scrabble, Bananagrams, Trouble, Operation, Charades, Monopoly, Bingo, and Battleship have always been in my office closet. There are so many cool new games on the market (I can’t always keep up). Many of them are cooperative (meaning everyone works together to win) or have some elements that work more on motor skills or academics, etc. 

What are you getting your kids for Christmas? I’d love to hear some if your ideas, too. Happy shopping everybody!

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