Top Picks by Goal
Top Picks by Goals is intended to give therapists, teachers, and parents an idea of toys, games, or apps that may address the specific needs of an individual. They are merely a reference point and are not a substitute for therapy or a qualified professional. The lists consist of helpful of media I have personally used and found to be of benefit.
Visual attention develops as a child begins to visually target, track, and process relevant information. Babies love to study faces, and by doing so learn to imitate the actions and expressions of others and make sense of the world around them. For children having difficulty with attention playing on their bellies helps develop trunk and upper body muscles, head and neck control, and the ability to converge their eyes on a target. Being on the belly allows gravity to act on the body and provides stability as well as decreases extraneous input.
Toys and Games
- Picture Books or Coloring Books
- Simple Puzzles
- Splat Mats filled with water or gel. They are easily home-made or purchased. The Gel Pad Elements from Fun and Function or the Gel Aquarium are 2 examples.
- Balloons, Bubbles, and Balls
- Mirror Play is always a lot of fun!
Visual-Motor Integration is the ability to synchronize the visual system with movement. It is commonly referred to as eye-hand and/or eye-body coordination. It is a precursor to the ability to orient oneself, navigate space, and read and write in a smooth and coordinated manner. Sometimes bringing on board the auditory system will help guide a child through space and often using rhythm to perform certain tasks will help a child sync their systems.
Toys and Games
- Obstacle courses
- Tag – Jungle Rumba – The Action-Packed Tag game uses brightly colored “flags” to collect. They can be used to collect a certain color or any other combination of colors
- Ball Skills
- Completing Dot to Dot or Maze Activities or Simple Arts and Crafts – involving drawing, coloring, cutting, and pasting
- Roxs by A-Champs at playroxs.com or #GetKidsMoving is a real-life gaming console
- Vehicles - My First App
- Eggroll Games – has many adaptable puzzles in almost any interest area of a child
- Vizuvizu – RelationShapes
- Dexteria VMI – Binary Labs
- Zyrobotics specializes in customizable games where you can adapt the visual motor demands to a student’s ability so that they can be successful and motivated to refine visual motor abilities
Pre-Handwriting skills encompass the ability to:
- maintain postural control to freely use the arms and hands
- eye-hand coordination
- ability to grasp a writing utensil - (can be adaptive)
- grade control or force (i.e.to not rip the paper)
- make discernible markings
- imitate or copy strokes or simple shapes
Toys and games
The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game helps build up hand and arm muscles and the ability to eye-hand coordination. Gameplay consists of using oversized tweezers to help the Sneaky squirrels stash away acorns. Color recognition and matching skills are also challenged.
Kids love filling containers with tiny objects. I use seasonal objects to change the pace to keep it fun. Tiny river pebbles, marbles, pasta, coins, beans, are all good objects to use in a water bottle or plastic container. We've even used brightly colored straws in a parmesan cheese container.
Using vertical surfaces such as an easel, chalkboard, or sliding glass door helps build up wrist muscles and promotes a more mature grasp.
Following a pathway with small cars helps build precision and the ability to grade force. You can also draw a pathway (or scribble) and try to run your car over the design.
Coloring and mazes help kids learn about motor planning and altering plans in the midst of doing. Coloring by matching shapes with colors also reinforces sorting and categorization skills.
Dr. Panda's Racers
MiniLab Ltd - Artie's Magic Pencil
LaboLado - Labo Car Designer(4y+)
Dexteria Jr. Fine Motor Skill Development for Toddlers and PreSchoolers - Binary Labs
The ability to write is a complex feat. Many demands are placed on a child to perform. The primary cause for problems with legibility is that the hand is not ready to use a tool in a precise way. As with pre-writing skills, the visual and motor systems need to be in sync as well as basic hand strength and endurance. Many times, a child's hands are not fully developed for tool use, and this results in poor penmanship. Hand skills begin with belly positioning and being able to weight shift from one hand to another. A child who has a slightly fisted position of the hand when crawling or on the belly is beginning to form the arches in their hands that lead to tool use. This promotes what is called hand separation skills and leads to refinement of fine motor skills. Positioning is crucial and a chair where a child has adequate foot support (preferably) feet that are flat on the floor and hips and knees bent at 90˚. Upper arms should rest comfortably on the table with elbows bent. This facilitates dissociation of the arm to grade and coordinates the ability to write and color.
Toys and Games
Connect 4 by Hasbro or placing coins to a bank teaches precision and facilitates grasp. The best banks are metal ones that make a satisfying sound when all that cash hits the bottom. Kids love playing with money, and the more pennies you have, the more Ka-Chings you get to hear!
Using shortened crayons or markers for coloring promotes a static tripod/refined tripod grasp
Magnetic or other Letter Building Shapes such as those from Fundanoodle or Handwriting Without Tears. These are lines and half circle shapes that can be combined to form the letters of the alphabet.
Sidewalk Chalk for drawing, making boundaries for games such as hopscotch, four square, or simple games of following a line that is drawn are great ways to get that weight bearing and weight shifting on the upper body, and help coordinate the movement and visual systems.
Keeping Score with any game such as Yahtzee Jr. or placing check marks for turns taken during a game. It can be on an easel, chalkboard, or any other surface you deem suitable.
Essare’s Ready to Print is an all-inclusive Handwriting app. It is the gold standard in the field of therapy. It teaches basic visual motor skills in addition to forming letters. It breaks handwriting down into finely sequenced steps.
Writing Wizard by L’Escapadou is a beautifully crafted app. This is a developer that really knows kids and what motivates them. After preparing kids by waking up their muscles – they always seem to view this app as a reward – and I am not changing their minds on that idea!
Trish LLC’s Start Dot Handwriting is a gem of an app. It has a story behind every letter and how it is made. Kids love the letter stories, and parents can choose between learning to form letters using a kinesthetic approach or a more traditional ABC approach.
Dexteria by Binary Labs truly develops fine motor skills by strengthening the hand, visual targeting, and beginning letter formation. It was created by Occupational Therapists and their attention to detail in regard to development is absolutely flawless.
Kindermatica’s Yum-Yum Letters and Numbers is an app that kids choose again and again for its play value. There are activities for letter formation within all 4 seasons that appeal to kids in this app as well as games used as a reward for achievement. Tracing letters in different presentations also helps kids generalize and apply skills in novel situations.
Handwriting Heroes is a marvel of an app. The approach is new and logical. By teaching learning lowercase letter formation, kids are better prepared for writing as we mostly use lower case letters to communicate. This app also uses letter stories to form a letter…and I must say they are hilarious and kid friendly.