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Skill Building Toy Picks from Pediatric Occupational Therapist Meghan Corridan

As a pediatric occupational therapist, I have a bit of a problem: I can't stop looking for new toys. There is always some treasure to be found when checking out toy stores and toy websites.

Finding a fabulous new toy gives me all kinds of good feelings; discovering a fabulous new toy that works on developing fine motor skills can actually make me feel giddy!

I was lucky enough to meet Allie from Rose and Rex a couple of months ago at a pop-up shop in Brooklyn. I was instantly drawn to her table because of her beautiful and unique products, which you rarely see in toy stores. After chatting with Allie for a bit, I realized we had a mutual desire to find great products that encourage play and developmental skills, and to share them with parents. I have spent a lot of time on Rose and Rex, have found loads of products, and have recommended them to many people. Below, I share some of my favorites that are great for working on improving fine motor, visual motor and perceptual skills, while also encouraging play skills.  

Mame Ohagki Rainbow Beans-This is one of my favorite toys on Rose and Rex. Not only is it one of the most beautiful toys I have ever laid my eyes on, it helps to develop fine motor, manipulation, and visual skills in a really fun way. The set comes with rainbow colored beans, a wooden bowl, and a pair of chopsticks. There are many ways to play with the game: teach younger kids colors while sorting, introduce math skills by collecting a certain number of beans, and build strength in those little muscles in the hands while manipulating the chopsticks. 

What A Wonderful World Really Big Coloring Poster-You just can't go wrong with any of these giant coloring posters. These are so great for working on improving graphomotor skills and visual motor/perceptual skills. I have been recommending these posters to parents of older children to encourage collaborative play between siblings or on playdates.   

Crepe Shop- I am totally obsessed with this toy that works on improving fine motor, collaboration and imagination skills. Each set comes with four fabric crepes, food toppings, paper holders, and a wooden crepe pan with a rake and a chalkboard to write on. Each crepe has a different kind of tie to work on manipulation and problem solving skills. I love that older kids can work on improving handwriting skills by writing out the type of crepe they have created.  

Design Your Own Superhero Cape- I've always been a big fan of all the craft sets by Seedlings. This particular kit is a big hit amongst all the superhero fans in my life. Each kit comes complete with a blank cape and all the supplies (glue, felt, etc.) needed to create your very own cape; great for working on improving fine motor skills with the cutting and gluing. For some of my older kids, I encourage them to come up with a plan and draw out what they want their cape to look like, which is great for working on organizational and other executive functioning skills. Once the cape is complete, they can act out their superpower!

The Dollhouse Book-The Dollhouse Book is one of the most brilliant activity books I have seen in a while.  It's especially great for those parents who don't have the space at home for a giant dollhouse. There are 30 blank pages for kids to draw, paint, decorate, etc. In addition to having my own daughter draw her dream rooms in this book, we have used stickers and washi tape to help accessorize. Great for working on improving graphomotor and visual motor skills, as well as encouraging creativity and play skills in children of all ages.  

I know how much pressure there is to find a good gift for a special child in your life.  Parents of children who have fine motor difficulties often feel even more pressure to make sure that they are providing as much opportunity for their children to work on developing age appropriate skills. 

As you can see in the toys that I picked out, there are so many great products out there that can encourage and motivate kids to work on developing these skills in a way that doesn't have to be therapeutic or laborious.

It's important to keep in mind that kids just want to have fun and each of the products above will provide hours of fun while hiding the "work" that they are actually doing.

About the Author

Meghan is mom to the amazing Quinn Eloise and wife to the most supportive husband who loves to play with all the toys she brings home to test out!  She has been a pediatric occupational therapist in  New York City since 2001 and has worked with some of the coolest kids in the city.  Each of the kids has played a role in her love for finding awesome toys that help develop age-appropriate fine motor, visual motor and perceptual skills and encourage social and play skills.  In addition to her private practice, Meghan is one of the founding members of The Meeting House, a recreational after school program for children who have social difficulties.

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