Large Farm Jumbo Knob Puzzle By Melissa & Doug
What it is: Farm characters on a wooden board with oversize, easy-to-grasp knobs
Reviewed by: Braden, 1, who has Down syndrome
"Braden was very interested in this and happy with it--he liked everything about it!" says his mom, Christine, of Blessed Again. "We are working on finger activity, and it's great for his fine-motor skills. The size of the knobs helps so much. With other puzzles, he swats at them. But he manipulated the pieces very well! I loved watching his little fingers just mold themselves around the knob."
My First LEGO Set by LEGO
What it is: A 231-piece set of classic LEGO bricks with windows, a door, a mini figure, wheels, a propellor and a building plate
Reviewed by: Norrin, 5, who has autism
"Norrin has poor fine motor skills and difficulty with imaginative play. Legos have been really helpful in addressing both," says his mom, Lisa, of Autism Wonderland. "Up until recently we've used the bigger ones, afraid that the smaller pieces would be difficult for Norrin. However, he's done really well manipulating the smaller pieces in this set. It's forcing him to use his pincer grasp and improve his hand strength. He's having fun! Even though I can see it's difficult for him, he's really trying to put pieces together and take them apart. I set aside some really small pieces as he still tends to mouth small objects. Legos have also been important for imaginative play. He likes to create 'the balloons with the house' (he enjoys the movie Up). He also builds rocket ships and planes with propellers. He really likes the extras this has--the door, the windows, wheels and propellers. They made his planes and helicopters come to life!"
ColorStudio HD with iMarker Digital Stylus by Crayola and Griffin
What it is: A chunky, felt-tipped pen for your iPad that works with the ColorStudio app as a marker, pen, crayon and paintbrush. As your kid colors, music, animated characters, and visual effects bring the pages to life.
Reviewed by: Zoey, 7, who has Phelan-McDermid Syndrome and developmental delays
"This is an activity that Zoey has used over and over again," says her mom, Sara. "Not only does it help with skills she is currently working on, including fine-motor skills, cause and effect and learning colors, but it incorporates coloring, which she loves. The coloring pages have built-in animation, also great. It made this so much more than just a simple app for painting or drawing."
Lace A Lei by Alex
What it is: A kit with 80 felt shapes for making three colorful necklaces (hula lessons not included)
Reviewed by: Addison, 5, who has Trisomy 9 and global delays
"Addison was intrigued by all of the colorful pieces," says her mom, Debbie. "She had to use a pincer grasp to put each felt piece on the lei, which we did hand over hand. This is a fine-motor skill she works on a lot. Her attention span is rather short, so we had to come back to it, but she liked the finished product! I liked that the box included 3 different options, two of which were gender-neutral, so her older brother was able to make a lei, too."
Little People Wheelies Zig the Big Rig by Fisher-Price
What it is: A talking truck with 50 sounds and phrases such as "Load 'em up, move 'em out" and "fender bender." The eyes, eyebrow, ears and mouth all move; the mouth lights up with sound and headlights flash. The side gate releases by pushing the truck's hood, which launches the cars. Comes with a Wheelies mini vehicle kids can load onto the truck; others sold separately.
Reviewed by: Trevor, 2, who has developmental delays and sensory processing disorder
"Trevor loves cause and effect toys, so Zig is perfect for him," says his mom, Jordan, of Motherhood and Other Adventures. "He can push the top of the truck to make the cars race or shut the gate, push the truck or touch the bumper to hear the truck talk and see it light up. We're really working on wrist rotation, so I did hand-over-hand to help him turn his wrist and line up the cars properly on the tracks in the rear of the truck--there's room for 6 cars. The button to make the cars race is big and easy to push, so he could easily make the cars race. We're also working on oral-motor movements, so the fact that Zig has a moving mouth with visible tongue is great. While Trevor was playing I could ask him to stick out his tongue, just like Zig does. He has a hard time doing this, but he was able to stick his tongue out a couple of times. Trevor usually isn't a big fan of age-appropriate toys, but he really took to Zig. It was the first thing he went for when he woke up in the morning!"
Vehicles Sound Blocks by Melissa & Doug
What it is: Wooden blocks that make six different vehicle sounds when the pictures match up
Reviewed by: Paolo, 4, who has Down syndrome, autism and global apraxia that affects his motor planning and speech
"Paolo immediately liked the pictures on the blocks and spent time intently looking at those," says his mom, Heidi. "He got very excited when I showed him how they could make sounds. In therapy and at home, we have been working with stacking and he knew right away he could do that. The size and shape of the blocks were easy for him to pick up and put them in the tray by himself. Both of us liked the fact that it was only two blocks; because there weren't so many pieces, he was really able to focus and not get overwhelmed. Paolo wasn't able to match the pictures on his own, but there is so much more you can do with this than matching and we love a toy that can grow with our child! We did the matching together--when he put in one block I would go hand over hand with him to pick up the other and show him how to rotate and match the pictures, and he loved when it made a sound. Of course, the smartypants figured that if he repeatedly hit the toy it continued to make the sound too! This toy was a winner."
The Roller Racer R Sport Model by Mason Corporation
What it is: A self-propelled scooter with a molded seat that can be used indoors and outdoors on any hard, smooth surface; it's popular in schools, day-care centers, physical therapy clinics, roller rinks and more. Has a "rams-horn" design handlebars and bumper wheels to protect surfaces when riding indoors. Designed for kids ages 4 to 12, with a weight limit of 250 pounds; made in the USA.
Reviewed by: Sarah Kate, 8, who has cerebral palsy
"Sarah Kate has always had a desire to do things like ride a bike, but struggled with being able to propel herself due to the weakness caused by spasticity in her legs," says her mom, Andi, of Bringing The Sunshine. "Over the years, her upper-body strength developed to compensate for the weakness in her lower body. The Roller Racer is propelled by holding onto the handlebars and swinging from side to side, using the upper body only, so she was strong enough to use it and wasn't disappointed, as she has been in the past with other toys. There aren't too many core-trunk strengthening exercises that Katie enjoys (me either, for that matter, LOL!), and the Roller Racer's chief strength is in its use of the core. Her physical therapist observed her riding it and agreed. Sarah Kate has a tendency to tense up her arms and shoulders when she feels off balance. I noticed that unless I prompted her to relax, she unintentionally limited the range of motion in her arms, which limited her ability to move the toy. With practice, she was able to improve! She really enjoyed the feeling of being able to zoom down the sidewalk. For a kid who's never been able to feel the wind in her hair running across the yard, a toy that gives her that feeling is a good thing."
Shopping Cart by Little Tikes
What it is: A mini version of what you use at the supermarket, only without kids in it begging you to get them cookies. Toys not included.
Reviewed by: Daniel, 25 months, who has periventricular leukomalacia and gross motor delays
Max had this exact toy as a tot; our PT recommended weighing it down with cans when he was learning to walk, and he'd cruise around the house, on a perennial trip to the grocery store. Like him, Daniel has used it for learning to walk and balance. "It's fairly stable, with a wide base, so he never seemed to get off balance," says his mom, Kim. "He was able to push it easily. I loved that it was a good height. He's on the smaller side for his age, but he's still too tall for the traditional baby/toddler walker toys. He had to bend over to use them which didn't do any good, since he already has balance and posture challenges. We used it to play store and put some items up high and down low, then had him place them in the cart--a good way to work in PT activities!"
Voice Rockrz by First Act
What it is: A microphone that has three different voice effects (Hi-Note, Echo-Tastic and Robot-Riffic); tap the included accessories onto the spot on the microphone to change the voice. Also has the roar of a crowd and drumroll sound effects. Kids can plug in an mp3 player and sing along.
Reviewed by: Sam, 6, who has PDD-NOS, sensory processing disorder and apraxia/dyspraxia
"Practicing words and sentences with a microphone is right up my little rock star's alley!" says his mom, Cathy. "He likes that he can hear his own voice, with different effects. His favorite was the robot voice, which he used almost exclusively. The cheering sound is popular--he loves when someone cheers for him! Since the normal low volume is still a bit loud for him, I put tape over the speaker, which helped. He's been making up songs to sing about things he is doing. This is a big step, since he is just starting to speak in sentences. For him to come up with a song on his own is wonderful. We have been really pleased with the creativity the Voice Rockrz has inspired."
Ringling Bros. Flash Card Set by Discovery Bay Games
What it is: A set of oversize flash cards (8" x 10") with artwork of animals to help teach kids numbers one to 25.
Reviewed by: Maddox, 3, who has global developmental delays
"We've never had flash cards this large before, and Maddox was interested in them and the bright colors," says his mom, Jillian. "We are working on recognition of numbers 1 to 10, counting on fingers and understanding what each number value represents. I showed these cards to him, explained the number of objects on the card, showed him how many fingers each object represented and used his fingers.