Toys

  • A Passion for Play

    February is the
    time of year for professing your true love, and I am not too shy to admit that
    one of my greatest passions is play. As a pediatric occupational therapist, I
    spend many hours of my week at play with children. The trunk of my car is full
    of games, toys, and equipment like balls and cushions. I design activities to
    foster skills in children that have developmental delays or disorders that make
    learning and living more challenging for them. Surprisingly, I often have to remind
    parents and teachers that play is actually a child’s occupation. It is through
    play that they learn, use their imaginations, problem solve, enhance their
    muscular coordination and strength, regulate their emotions, and develop their
    sensory systems to understand the world around them. 

    My passion for
    play is a direct result of witnessing the negative effects of schools
    decreasing recess time for young children. Hence, I have become an advocate for
    more playtime in schools. In recent years, societies have moved away from play
    by placing more concern on risk aversion, separating from nature, and
    succumbing to elements of modern living like increased technology. In addition,
    the implementation of policies like No
    Child Left Behind
    has placed more emphasis on testing and assessment
    scores. This has forced schools to find more time in the day for instruction,
    which has led to reducing unstructured play opportunities and free time for
    children. Research, however, shows unfortunate consequences have developed from
    trying to improve education in this way. In fact Boston University psychologist
    and author, Peter Gray, has studied the link between a sharp rise in mental
    disorders and the decline of free play over the last 50 years.

    As more therapists and educators
    become passionate about play advocacy, more attention is brought to this
    important issue. Subsequently there are more positive stories in the
    news including a 1st grade teacher in Texas who recently
    experimented with adding more recess time during the day. Over the course of
    five months, she reported her students were more focused, more attentive, less
    fidgety, and less likely to have discipline issues. I can only hope that more
    schools rethink their recess policies and return to providing more time for
    students to rest and reset their minds.

    I hope you find
    this insightful. If your child struggles with a lack of play opportunities in
    school, consider consulting with an occupational therapist to develop a plan
    for your home. 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.

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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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  • Safe & Edible Toys for Tots

    When new parents start to purchase toys, the importance of safety starts to really set in mostly because of choking hazards.  It is common to see warnings on toys that have small parts because typically children under three years old and especially babies are not able to differentiate between edible and inedible objects.  Small children like to mouth objects as a normal part of their exploration and play skills.  This is how they learn and understand concepts like size and textures.  So as parents, you need to be careful and aware of what comes in the reach of a small child.  You also don’t want to completely avoid exposing your children to small things because they also need to develop hand skills for grasping objects and coordinating the use of both hands. 

    Here are some simple activities to practice with a toddler to encourage sensory and fine motor play:

    1. Picking up and holding pieces of dried fruit like apricots.
    2. Sliding chopsticks through strawberries.
    3. Picking out marshmallows from a container of dry pasta spirals.
    4. Stringing cheerios onto a pipe cleaner.
    5. Putting crackers into a small open jar or bottle. 

    Remember to consult with your pediatrician if your child continues to try to eat or mouth inedible objects after age three.  Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play Curator

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

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