Lifesize Lego Batman playonwords.comI’ve always been a speech therapist who uses “off the shelf” toys not “therapy” toys to engage kids with special needs. They deserve to have the most exciting and fun toys and games to play with AND playing with products for typically developing children attracts typical peers to join our play, upping the language input. Here are some products I saw at the Toy Fair that could be helpful to all kids, including those with special needs:

Gorilla Gym is a swing, climb, play all day indoor gym system that fits in a doorway. I hung out on the swing during the show and found it to be a very relaxing sensory experience! This adaptable system is impressively sturdy for kids and adults and offers kid attachments–rings, climbing ladder, trapeze swing and rope– for a variety of activities. Many kids I worked with showed more progress when they were moving and active while working on speech and language goals and this system could be very beneficial for physical therapists and special ed teachers to keep in the classroom.

Walking through the Toy Fair in the afternoon, I was starving and came upon Little Kids’ Little Kids Magic Kitchen SlushiesMagic Kitchen demonstration. After we made ice pops and ice cream they asked my help palming the slushy so it would turn to ice. Seemed like an engaging sensory experience for kids!

Puppets are a wonderful way to grab kids’ attention whether in a therapy session or during story time in a circle of kids. Folkmanis never disappoints with their come-alive animals from all around the world, teaching us amazing facts about precious creatures. Their new “Stage Dog” has a prominent tongue as fingers can open the mouth wide to give kids an added visual as to where to place their tongue in sound production during speech therapy. I was introduced to Living Puppets lovable large characters with fingers, arms and mouths to animate.  Some children with special needs will talk more easily to an animated puppet than to a person as it is less threatening to them. A class of kindergarteners might listen a Living Puppets, playonwords.comlittle longer to directions, or a story when the puppet is moving, pointing and conversing with them. Ask any librarian what her props are for story hour!

Pacific Play Tents’ new Animal Chairs would be a nice option for sitting and paying attention in the classroom for kids that might need some sensory input, It felt like I was sitting in a sling chair and very cozy and relaxing at the end of my day at the Toy Fair.

I had a great time visiting Cloud b at the Toy Fair, maker of cuddly plush animals who offer a unique sensory experience for kids to comfort them through sound, touch and sight. Their new “Super Max” is a special turtle named for a boy with brain cancer. The turtle who radiates stars and three colors is covered in plastic so it can accompany a child to the hospital and be kept sterile. A portion of the profits are given to this boy’s foundation. By the way, I asked how he was doing and he is in remission.