OT Katie Approved Toy List 2019

I know some families have already begun holiday shopping. With the enticement of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, it’s hard to pass up the great deals everywhere. The toy industry is inundated with so many options that it can be overwhelming to navigate. Here is my list of great toy options for this holiday season. All of these toys are not only fun, but also addresses developmental play skills, fine motor strength and skills, visual motor processing and coordination skills, and cognitive development. I will break down the list by developmental age, but please know that you as the adult must use your best judgement to determine if a toy will be safe and manageable for your child. All of the toys listed are affiliate links for Amazon, which means that I will receive a small percentage of the purchase with no additional cost to you. As always, thank you for your trust and support, and I hope you will follow me on this blog with email notifications for new posts, as well as follow me on my Facebook or Instagram accounts. Now…let’s get started….

Newborns-1 yr old: The best thing for newborns is tummy time. Believe it or not, tummy time not only develops strength in the neck, arms, and core, but babies vision is also developing and becoming more mature. Once a baby is able to roll in both directions (tummy to back and back to tummy), tummy time can progress to supported sitting. While in sitting, babies are learning to grasp, bring things to their mouths and midline, and challenge their core strength with balancing their bodies in an upright seated position. Here are some great toys that can be used to encourage tummy time and supported sitting.

Toddlers (1-3 yrs old): The toddler stage name is derived from “to toddle”, which means to walk unsteadily, like a child of this age. This is an exciting time of great cognitive, emotional and social development. Boundaries and limits are tested and toddlers are also learning that they have a choice and voice to indicate their preferences. Although the parenting struggle is real during these years, the toddler years are also the most rewarding and fun as your little one experiences an explosion in language, learning, and personality development. These are the years that gross motor, fine motor, and visual motor skills are refined through play. Here are some great developmental toys and games for the toddler in your life.

Preschoolers (3-5 yrs old): This is when things really get fun with your little one. While preschoolers should still be playing with developmentally appropriate toys, most play during this stage is geared toward “pre-academic skills”. Pre-academic skills are foundational for learning that include:

  • being interested in books and enjoy being read to
  • understanding that letters and numbers are symbols that mean something
  • being able to retell basic parts of a story
  • identifying letters of the alphabet and its sounds
  • matching forms and letters
  • demonstrating an understanding of simple math concepts
  • scribbling
  • completing simple/complex sequences

At this age, most kids are influenced by commercialized products and toys. However, here are lesser commercialized toys and games that are developmentally appropriate for the preschool aged kiddos that promote pre-academic skills in a fun way. The amount of toys and games that are available for this age group is huge, so these are just a small sampling of what I like and would use at home or at work in my preschool.

Warmies® Microwavable French Lavender Scented Plush Hooty Snowy Owl
This stuffy can be warmed up and has a soothing lavender scent for a great sensory treat.
Little Tikes Build-a-House
I love play houses for kids, but this one caught my eye as your kids can incorporate their imagination and construction skills to build the playhouse.
National Geographic Little Kids
Nothing is more fun than getting more mail…this subscription is for preschool aged kids.

Kindergarten and Elementary Age: The possibilities for toys and games really expand for this age group and up, mainly because there are no longer any safety concerns with small toy parts. Most toys are still identified by an age recommendation primarily for the level of difficulty. Kids in these age ranges enjoy technology based computers games and apps that are educational for the most part. Also, you’ll find many more mass marketed and branded toys, such as Barbie, Nerf, Legos, and anything Disney related. Here is just a small sample of toys that caught my eye that aren’t mass marketed.

I Spy Letters
I Spy Letters
Nothing beats a good ol “I Spy” book to help train eyes to visually scan and attend to details.
Hama Beads and Pegboards in Tub (Pink)
Hama Beads and Pegboards in Tub (Pink)
This was one of my kids faves when they were younger. It’s cute to see kids fine motor skills really refine with this activity.
Mattel Games Blink – The World’s Fastest Game!
Mattel Games Blink – The World’s Fastest Game!
This game has almost a 90% rating of 5/5 stars from over a 1,000 reviewers. Check out this card game out as an alternative to Uno.
National Geographic Kids
National Geographic Kids
I don’t know any child who doesn’t think getting their own mail isn’t cool. A magazine subscription to an educational kids magazine is a great way for kids to learn something new every month. Seeing their own mail is also a good motivation for young elementary school kids to learn their address.
KidKraft Little Dreamers Reading Nook, Gray
KidKraft Little Dreamers Reading Nook, Gray
I’ve always wanted a window seat for my daughter, but I was never able to find anything as cute as this when she was younger. Here is a great reading nook that also serves as a bookshelf/organizer for your kids books and toys.

I hope you enjoyed my short list of “OT Katie” approved toy list. Don’t fret if you’ve already completed your holiday shopping…just save this list in your back pocket for future birthdays and holiday gifts next year. I had such a great time perusing Amazon for these great toys and games. Thanks for checking out my list and feel free to post any questions or other awesome toy ideas!! Also, don’t forget to “follow” me on my Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and please subscribe to my blog for immediate notice when new blog posts are published.

Why I Love This Activity…

Photo Cred on IG: @play.and.lear.activities

While perusing Instagram one day, I ran into this awesome activity idea by @play.and.learn.activities. I couldn’t help but become a huge fan of this simple idea of using everyday home items to create a developmental play and learn activity. In the picture you’ll see what looks like a tray filled with toys and a yarn web to make it more challenging for the little one to retrieve the toys. However, as a pediatric occupational therapist, my brain got super excited at the many developmental skills this activity addresses and the different ways to upgrade and downgrade this activity to customize it to different children’s abilities. To upgrade and downgrade an activity means to make the task more difficult (upgrade) or more easy (downgrade).

The pure thought process of thinking of what developmental milestones and functional skills are addressed in a specific activity, and how to upgrade/downgrade the activity is called “task analysis” in the OT world. It’s such an integral part of our profession, and what sets us OTs apart from other therapies, that my grad school program had an entire class designated to teach us this important skill. While it’s been a while since I’ve done a detailed task analysis for an activity like I did in grad school, it’s still a thought process I use everyday to determine my daily treatment activities.

For this particular activity, I love how the baby has to maintain an appropriate upright sitting posture, which is difficult for babies with lower tone and core strength to be able to do. In this picture, you see the baby stabilize sitting up by using the non-working arm as a support, thus helping to bear weight and strengthen this arm, while the working hand is reaching into the tray to retrieve toys. Notice that I didn’t say dominant and non-dominant hand because at this young age, there is no expectation of hand dominance being established. In fact, developmental speaking, babies are learning to use both hands collaboratively and interchangeably. Hand preference begins around ages 2-4, but hand dominance is not established until about 6 years of age. Visual processing and motor planning is addressed in this activity by looking at a target toy, planning how to approach the toy, and managing the retrieval of toy through the “web”. Fine motor strength and skill is addressed with the type of grasp and ability to maintain grasp until the toy is pulled out.

Here is a developmental milestone chart for your reference. Please remember that developmental milestones are just guidelines as each child is unique in developing at his/her own pace.

To upgrade this activity: -add more webbing -use smaller toys -use tools for retrieval (ex: tongs, scoop, chopsticks) -extend play opportunity by retrieving puzzle pieces or snap together toys

To downgrade this activity: -use less webbing -use less toys -use bigger sized toys,

In case you need some supplies to get you started, here are affiliated links for products that will get you started on creating your own version of this fun activity. All of the toys listed below can also be used in other creative play schemes as well. Please comment if you’d like more informational posts about task analysis, pediatric occupational therapy, or more developmental play ideas. Enjoy!

My First Blog Post

Welcome and nice to meet you!

Hello!! Thank you so much for joining me on my first blog post. I’m so excited to share my passion for everything related to who I am….so, who am I?? Well, I’m a wife to an amazing husband, a mom to a vivacious teen daughter and spunky son, a follower of Christ, and the main reason that I even started my social media platform and blog….drum roll….you guessed it…an occupational therapist!!! Everything you see on my blog, my Facebook page, and Instagram page will be related to what I know, what I’ve learned, and what I love.

A little history about my professional life…I graduated with a Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy in 2002…seems like a lifetime ago…I began working with adults in inpatient rehab for 3 years before I switched to pediatric occupational therapy in a school setting. That switch was the hardest thing for me at that time, but it was a choice made to foster a better work schedule as my husband and I were planning on building our family. Every day for the first 6 months, I doubted my choice to switch from adults to kids…even in grad school, I swore that I wouldn’t work in pediatrics, and now here I was trying to figure out the workings of children. With the help of an awesome mentor, colleagues, and special education team, I was able to grow in confidence with my skills and now I can’t imagine not ever working with children. I’m so thankful for my medical rehab background and I still love keeping that part of brain challenged, so you may also see some posts related to adult therapy in the future.

I can’t wait to keep sharing my experiences, thoughts, and lessons learned a pediatric occupational therapist, mom, and wife. And, don’t be surprised if I sprinkle in tidbits about lifestyle trends and even about my spiritual journey because that all makes me who I am. Please follow me on FB and IG @otkatieyoon and subscribe to my emails for updated blog posts and happenings. See you soon!

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.