Archive for December, 2011

December 20th, 2011

Blocks, a Ball and a Book-a Christmas Story

At this time of year many of us are extra generous.  We contribute more to the local food bank or drop coins in the kettle when we pass the Santa ringing bells.  Sometimes it’s hard to decide which charities to support.  This year the decision was easy. I work with children under the age of 6. Earlier this month I had arranged to assess a child at his home.  In the city where I work many families struggle to make ends meet, especially single parents and new immigrants.  This family was from another country-both parents going to English classes so they could get eventually get good jobs. At my visit to their modest basement suite I discovered they had children ages 5, 3 and 2 years.  The 3 year-old  I was there to see is blind. I asked the Dad to bring out their  toys.  (I always want to demonstrate therapy techniques by using the toys they have on hand.)

He brought out a broken jeep, a very small ball and a shape sorter with no shapes to be found. I had to think a little harder this time. Eventually we talked about singing and music and telling stories-activities that they were already having fun with-no toys required.

After I left I thought of other ideas-isn’t that always the way?   Many household objects make good toys. Here are some ideas for different ages and stages:

  • The banging stage:  pots and pans and wooden spoons
  • The putting in and dumping stage: the laundry basket
  • Creative play stage:  dress-ups using old hats, shoes etc.;  build a fort using chairs and sheets

Toys don’t have to be fancy, electronic or costs hundreds of dollars to be entertaining and educational. I wanted to give this family what I thought would be the toy basics, so I came up with the list in the title. There are essays and books written about the importance of these kind of toys, but here’s my 2 cents worth -the condensed version:

Blocks:  Good for fine motor, visual motor coordination, creative thinking. Can be used to teach colours, counting and concepts like “up”and “tall”.  Good for teaching words like “mine”, “fall down”.

Ball:  Good for gross motor (kicking) , fine motor(throwing) , turn taking and social interaction.  Good for teaching words like “my turn”, “catch” and my favourite “ready, set, throw!”

Book: Research has shown that one of the the number of books in the house relates to how well a child does with reading .  What more can I say?  Even the child who is blind will benefit, because he will eventually be exposed to braille.  The book for him is a touchy-feeling one, so he’ll be able to learn concepts like “soft” and “rough”.  He’ll also learn about turning pages.

It’s a good time of year to think about what’s important-sometimes keeping it simple is better.