Just walking into the Javits Center for Toy Fair 2017 is both thrilling and a jaw-dropping splendor to behold. From an Occupational Therapist’s perspective, it is like winning the lottery three times in a row. OT’s deal with human occupation or looking at how people spend their time – and not only what is preventing them from accomplishing their goals but also figuring out a plan of action so that they CAN. For children (and adults), play is a large part of how kids spend their time. Play is learning, play is fun, and play is the essential ingredient that reenergizes and gives us hope. Here are some of the most memorable products this year: The Pencil Grip, Inc. is world renown. Every pediatric clinician knows their name. They bring function alignment, and delight to children everywhere. Their line of pencil grips is simply the best. I have used them over styluses to help children with decreased prehensile patterns with writing implements to sustain proper grasp. They are comfortable, stylin’ and appropriate not only for children but also for adults who may struggle with grasp due to arthritic changes, etc. The Pencil Grip, Inc. also carries an incredible line of tempera markers, fidgets, and something new coming out soon. Primo Toy’s Cubetto is an absolutely adorable way to introduce sequencing and subsequently coding for kids of all abilities. Cubetto is a sweet robotic cube that is programmable through manipulatives placed on a tray. By bringing on board multiple systems it helps to make learning stick. Kids not only learn about problem-solving and reasoning but also if done with a group learn how to prioritize and negotiate. There is a stellar Teaching Guide as well as stories and other activity prompts to make Cubetto part of any child’s immediate top list of favorite toys. The bottom line is that Primo has developed something that can withstand the test of time by creating a character with universal play schemes and using nearly indestructible materials. Cubetto is a keeper! The booth that sent an arrow right to my heart was PunkinFutz. They brought the most playful spirit to of all things – compression garments. What are compression garments? They are vests, pants, and headbands that give the wearer a little squeeze to help individuals remain organized and ready to work by helping to release powerful neurotransmitters. Their playful accessories make a bold statement and stick right onto the vests – and by attaching Velcro to a child’s favorite toy or something soothing to a child, it becomes part of the outfit! They are wildly fun and innovative. Each garment is made from breathable materials (not neoprene), and the garments are “made with intention. Using socially responsible practices, our products are designed and produced domestically in workplaces that provide integrated and supportive employment.” This group deserves to be recognized for their groundbreaking work. What are you going to do to get digital isolation? You know – how to teach pointing, poking, and to make gestural requests? Well, Dimple Toys has come up with a unique approach that is loads of fun beyond standard window clings. Their poke and stick “Pushinz” can be used for learning shape recognition, upper body strengthening and endurance, and most of all the ability to isolate the fingers by poking and mounting the “Pushinz” on a variety of surfaces. They are very versatile and reasonably priced as a set can last years and is ready to go in any type of environment. Spin Tales™ by Tilt Textiles was a dream mix of storytelling with Augmented reality. Using textiles that are found in places where children congregate, such as a duvet cover for a bed or area rug for a cozy corner, stories come alive! The rug could be used in classrooms everywhere and encourages children to stretch and move with the characters on screen. Applications for working on such goals as motor planning and memory are abundant with Spin Tales. HandTRUX® was a run-away hit for the sandbox crew! These hand held “gloves” that can be used as diggers are just pure genius. Becoming a living backhoe, bulldozer or dump truck is a dream come true for many kids (Our clinic is set beside a garage for construction equipment – so we never need a motivator for learning to stand if by the window). These are the perfect play toy for those kids who not only love trucks and cars but are also reluctant to engage in messy play. Squee!!! Stages® learning materials have heard the cry of many therapists for a digital design copy and manipulative playset! Watching the block set being played in action, was simply thrilling. In addition, their link4fun series of vocabulary builders engage whole body movements making this an active learning tool. They have a comprehensive program that links vocabulary building cards to books, games, and technology. Now how can you top that? Gorilla Gym, an indoor gym system that connects to a door frame could be of benefit to many a family with children who have sensory needs. Whether your child is a sensory seeker or needs to work on coordinating their systems, this affordable unit has everything. There are a variety of packages to choose from that will fit a household’s need. And P.S. – this unit isn’t just for kids – check out their website for more info! There were many many other booths that displayed awesome products that could be used in any classroom or clinic. This Toy Fair of 2017, was certainly the best!
Written by Jo Booth
Jo Booth has been an Occupational Therapist for over 30 years and currently works in Pediatrics with early intervention. She sees kids newly diagnosed on the spectrum as well as medically fragile kids. She loves to move, explore and play every day; so that “her kids” grow up to be healthy independent learners.
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