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  • Top 5 Equipment Recommendations for Parents of Young Children

    As an occupational therapist with close to 20 years of experience working with parents of young children, I often get […]

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  • Heads, Tummies, & Tails: A Smart Guide to Printing Lowercase Letters

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    THE BACKSTORY:

    Heads,
    Tummies & Tails: A Smart Guide to Printing Lowercase Letters was developed to improve the handwriting of children by providing therapeutic techniques to assist in their learning. One of the
    most common errors that occur with children’s handwriting is the alignment of
    letters.  This refers to how the letters
    are placed in relation to each other and also the lines used to assist with
    maintaining the letters in a straight line.  
    Unlike uppercase letters, which are all drawn from the top and fit
    inside the same space, lowercase letters vary more and, as a result, are more
    confusing.

    In this book, lowercase letters are separated into three groups to help children
    relate the letters to the lines on which they were writing. In addition, ten action word phrases are used to help a child memorize how to form individual letters. This provides a multisensory approach as the child feels the motion of the pencil, hears the words, and sees the strokes as they are being formed into letters. In addition, there is a helpful mascot cheering along as a child works his or her way through the book.  

    This
    workbook was created to help parents, educators, and occupational therapists. Its concept is smart and effective and should be
    introduced around 5 years of age when children typically begin
    learning lowercase letters. It is intended to be completed after its companion workbook for uppercase letters. The separation of uppercase and lowercase letters leads to greater success. 

    THE CONCEPT:

    The 26
    lowercase letters of the alphabet are separated into three alignment groups: Heads,
    Tummies, & Tails
    .

    Lowercase letters that
    ascend or “touch the top line” are in the Heads group. These are
    the following 7 letters: b d f h k l t. Ask Your
    Child:  Which letters touch the top line
    like the monkey’s head?

    Lowercase letters that
    remain at the middle or “mark the middle line” are in the Tummies group.

    These are the following 14
    letters: a c e i m n o r s u v w x z. Ask Your Child:  Which letters stay in the middle like the
    monkey’s tummy?

    Lowercase letters that
    descend or “break through the bottom line” are in the Tails group.

    These are the following 5
    letters: g j p q y.
    Ask Your Child:  Which letters break through the bottom line
    like the monkey’s tail? 

         

     

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    The 26 uppercase letters of the alphabet can be formed using ten simple phrases called Action Words: Add a Dot, Break Through, Curve Around, Make an Ear, Make a Hook Down, Make a Hook Up, Slide Down, Slide Up, Zip Down, and Zoom Across.

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    THE SET-UP:

    First introduce the Action Words pages. They are used to introduce the language used for the formation of the curved and straight lines. The Coloring Pages are then used as introductions to the different groups. The groups do not need to be completed in the order they are presented.

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    Next, each letter will have a page within a group. Action words printed in bold should be said aloud to guide the child. Using a character voice makes it more fun and encourages the child to say the words as well. There are also alignment circles on these pages that match the placement of the monkey’s head, tummy and tail. They help to encourage proper placement of letters.

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    Lastly, there are additional pages including reviews of the groups, copying words, and activity pages. The workbook also includes a visual chart and a guide with all the action words for the 26 letters on one page.

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    Visit www.playapy.com to purchase the award-winning Heads, Tummies, & Tails and its companion workbook Treasure C.H.E.S.T.: A Smart Guide to Printing Uppercase Letters.

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  • Treasure C.H.E.S.T.: A Smart Guide to Printing Uppercase Letters

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    THE BACKSTORY:  

    Treasure
    C.H.E.S.T.: A Smart Guide to Printing Uppercase Letters was developed to improve the handwriting of children by providing specific therapeutic techniques. One of the most common errors that occur with children’s
    handwriting is the formation and directionality of letters. This refers to the direction the child moves
    the pencil to form letters. Since all
    uppercase letters begin on the top line, it makes sense to associate letters by
    groups according to the curved or straight lines used to form them.

    The uppercase letters are separated into six groups to
    help children relate the letters to common objects. In addition, seven action word phrases are used to help a child memorize how to form individual letters. This provides a multisensory approach as the child feels the motion of the pencil, hears the words, and sees the strokes as they are being formed into letters. In addition, there is a helpful mascot cheering along as a child works his or her way through the book.  

    This workbook was created to help parents, educators, and occupational therapists.  Its concept is smart and
    effective and can be introduced as early as 4 years of age when children
    typically begin to draw simple shapes. However, it is most
    effective when started around age 5 or when a child is able to neatly and
    easily copy strokes on command and has strong foundational skills including a
    functional pencil grasp. It is meant to be completed before its companion workbook for lowercase letters. 

    THE CONCEPT:

    The 26 uppercase letters of the alphabet are separated into six formation groups that spell out the acronym CHEST: Clocks, Hats & Hooks, Ears, Slides, & Trees.

    C is for Clocks. These 5 letters curve around like a circular clock: C G O Q S.              

    H is for Hats. These 5 letters have a line across the top like a hat: E F I T Z.

    H is also for Hooks.  These 2 letters curve up like a hook: J U.

    E is for Ears. These 4 letters have a bump on the right side like an ear: B D P R.

    S is for Slides. These 5 letters slide down to the side like a playground slide: A V W X Y.

    T is for Trees. These 5 letters zip straight down and have branches like a tree: H K L M N.

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    The
    26 uppercase letters of the alphabet can be formed using seven simple phrases called Action
    Words: Curve Around, Make an Ear, Make a Hook, Slide Down, Slide Up,
    Zip Down, and Zoom Across.

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    THE SET-UP:

    First
    introduce the Action Words pages. They are used to introduce the language used
    for the formation of the curved and straight lines. The Coloring Pages are then used as introductions
    to the different groups. The groups do not need to be completed in the
    order they are presented.

    image

    Next, each letter will have a page within a group. Action words printed in bold
    should be said aloud to guide the
    child. Using a parrot voice makes it
    more fun and encourages the child to say the words as well.  

    image

    Lastly, there are additional pages including reviews of the groups, copying words, and activity pages. The workbook also includes a visual chart and a guide with all the action words for the 26 letters on one page.

    image

    Visit www.playapy.com to purchase the award-winning Treasure C.H.E.S.T. and its companion workbook Heads, Tummies, & Tails: A Smart Guide to Printing Lowercase Letters.

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    Watch this video for an example of a child using the Action Words.

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  • ‘Tis the Season for Toy Making

    It is commonly
    known that the holiday shopping season is very important to the toy industry.
    Just last year U.S. retail sales of toys topped $18 billion. Interestingly, there is
    a trend that could save you money instead of having you spend it if you gift
    your child the opportunity to embrace his or her creativity. The biggest theme
    from this year’s Toy Fair in New York seemed to be maker toys, playthings that
    encourage children to create, innovate, and design which they make and modify
    with their own hands. These toys often consist of constructional pieces and may
    include initial instructions to start a project but also allow for a child to
    take on the challenge to create something new.

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    As an
    occupational therapist, I am in the position to play with children daily to
    prepare them for the responsibilities they face in school and at home. I
    consistently recommend to parents constructional toys and craft activities
    because the benefits are numerous. They improve the developmental skills of the
    hands, enhance thinking and strategy skills, keep a child engaged for long
    periods of time, increase self-confidence and self-esteem, and are fun and
    educational simultaneously. These benefits are not only good preparation for
    their childhood learning but for their future. Many businesses are now
    employing concepts like design thinking and prototyping to solve problems and
    improve products and services. In November, the city of Miami hosted Miami Make
    Week, where individuals signed up to join teams to make innovative solutions
    for the home that save resources. Participants also attended workshops and
    lectures on additional topics including robotics, 3D printing, software
    development, and traditional craftsmanship. It is great to see that this is how
    the future leaders of the world will be working, using creativity involving
    both the mind and the hands.

    For this year’s
    holiday season, I invite parents to think outside the traditional wrapped box
    and consider giving your child an open box full of items to create with
    including: cardboard, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, paper clips, construction
    paper, glue, markers, tape, scissors, and aluminium foil just to start. If this
    is too abstract or your child is too young, consider buying constructional toys
    or maker sets that give your child the chance to be creative and build. There
    are many brands like Lego, ThinkFun, WabaFun, and Funnybone Toys selling
    products that encourage the imagination and can turn your little ones into the hard-working,
    toy-making elves they are meant to be.

    I hope you find
    this tip helpful. If your child struggles with activities with that involve
    planning, creating, building, assembling, or completing age-appropriate tasks,
    talk to your pediatrician about consulting with an occupational therapist. Have
    a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play
    Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational
    therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more
    information about Playapy services and products, visit
    www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

     ***Check out this video for some inspiration.***

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  • Holiday Tips for Toy Buying in a Tech World

    The holidays are quickly approaching, and parents have toy buying on their minds. With the fast-paced advancement of technology, gift giving has become an expensive and overwhelming process that seems to generate more anxiety than joy to the world. Parents want the best for their children and are willing to purchase the newest products, but sometimes simplicity is superior. Numerous studies have shown that the increased use of technology has resulted in a decline in critical thinking and cognitive skills, attention span, and the ability to self-regulate. In addition, the use of technology in small children can limit the time spent using their hands in ways that develop the muscles needed for skills like handwriting and shoelace tying. In fact the late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple and the visionary behind the iPhone and the iPad, understood that fostering a young child’s creativity and imagination involves also limiting time with technology. He was known as a low-tech parent as are many tech executives in Silicon Valley that have adopted this parenting style.

    So how can a parent feel empowered and balance the love of technology without causing any harm this holiday season? Here are some tips to consider.

    1. Limit Use Time: Restrict infants aged 0-2 years completely from technology, 3 to 5 years olds to no more than one hour per day, and 6 to 18 year old to 2 hours per day according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Society of Pediatrics.
    2. Choose Educational Games: Purchase apps that help to develop math, reading, and other developmental skills including games that encourage problem solving and strategy.
    3. Purchase Timeless Toys: Select games and toys that involve constructing, building, or creating. Toys that don’t require batteries or wifi like blocks, dolls, board games, and card games also encourage proper social skills that are neglected from too much tech time.

    Holiday toy buying can seem like an exercise in list checking, but taking the time to make intelligent choices about technology can also encourage play to be smart as well as simple, affordable, and healthy for your child. I hope you find these tips helpful. Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more information, visit www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

     

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