Hello OTs, COTAs, teachers, parents, and all that appreciate helping students succeed in school.
I wanted to share with you all two relatively cheap toys that are so versatile. To be honest, they tend to be my go to tools when things go awry. The best thing about them is that nearly every student enjoy using them and you can guide the child into using them in a way that develops skills.
Both of these toys not only inherently work on various fine motor and visual motor skills, but they also can give you an insight into their ability to imitate, copy, or independently create something from their own imagination.
They can be used to build shapes, letters, words, or any other mystical creation you or a student can think of.
So when your student is bored with the pencil and paper task, I recommend you pull one of these out of your magic bag.
So what are they?
The first toy:
I remember growing up, I loved playing with K'nex. And although I never had the patience to finish the giant roller coaster my parents bought for me as a birthday gift, I built many buildings, cars, and monsters over the years.
Never did I think back then though that I would be using K'nex 20 years later to help kids learn their name or how to complete simple and complex rotation skills. And I sure didn't know that the skill of snapping pieces of plastic together was so influential in many other things I did. (Must be why I can snap my fingers like a champ...)
Don't believe me?
Just ask the turkey a pair of students helped me to make last November. (Gobble Gobble)
Now, before you go to Target or Amazon to purchase a set of K'nex, you need to be sure to get the set that comes with the bendable pieces as seen in the turkey's feathers.
These bendable pieces really add to the versatility of the toy and as an educational specialist, they are a must. Without the bendable pieces, making several letters can be difficult to form.
If you'd like to purchase a set that includes the bendable pieces, you can use this link to purchase a set from Amazon
This set cost about $39, but it comes with enough pieces to use with group of four or more students.
PLUS PLUS Puzzle Pieces
Ranging from ~$8 to about $30 depending on the size of the container you get, PLUS PLUS (or Pixels as one of my 4th graders call them), is another toy that is just so versatile.
At first glance, they look like just a bunch of puzzle pieces that have to be put together in a specific way. But Nope, put them together any way you want, to form anything you can imagine.
Just like with K'nex, you can even build in 3D with them to make standing people, dinosaurs, or buildings.
PLUS PLUS is especially good for the slightly older kids (2nd-5th grade) who really need that motor planning and visual motor integration remediation. It takes a good amount of planning and attention to the pieces to get them to line up correctly.
I tend to use these as a a letter building activity, a body awareness activity (building a person or alien), or simply a fine motor reward that works on motoric separation of the hand, strengthening, pincer grasp, and in-hand manipulation skills.
You could also mix them in with your sensory bin and have your students collect as many as they can. Then they can play with all the pieces they found at the end of the session. Afterall, for many kids, PLUS PLUS is their favorite...
You can get your set of PLUS PLUS at Amazon here.
Be sure to have your students follow paper instructions or copy a design you previously made. If you have a student that always refuses to copy a design and wants to build their own thing, it may be that they have difficulty with planning or any number of visual processing skills. If copying a 5 piece PLUS PLUS design is difficult, imagine how difficult trying to copy a word or sentence might be for them.
So there you have two really great toys that students love and you can easily manipulate into a therapeutic activity to work on any number of fine motor, visual motor, or planning skills.
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Until next time,
Take care and keep on supporting your students.
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