Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Toys for Learning and Development

In our last post we offered gift suggestions for teachers. Today we look at two sources for gifts for children with special learning needs. We hope you find these helpful as you do your holiday shopping!

Learning should and can be fun. Even if learning vulnerabilities exists, it is entirely possible to help develop your child’s skills in an engaging, play-based manner. Toys are an interactive, screen free way to develop and hone critical areas of child development. As a teacher, some of my favorite play-based learning materials came from Melissa and Doug and Plan Toys. This article primarily focuses on toys for special education purposes. However, it is important to note that all children will benefit from play-based developmental learning. So, although these resources are deemed effective for students with diverse learning needs, they will also be beneficial for the overall development of all children.

If you are looking to acquire play based learning materials for your home or classroom, the first resource to explore is Melissa and Doug, an award-winning American toy company that offers an array of toys designed for special needs students as well as typically developing children. The toys detailed in their special education section were selected from Melissa and Doug’s traditional toy line by Dr. Melissa Liguori, for parents and special educators to use develop their students’ unique skills. Melissa and Doug offers toys across a number of developmental categories, including, social and emotional, oral, gross and fine motor skills, cognitive skills, speech and language, life skills and sensory awareness. Beyond detailing each toy, each developmental skill category is also explained by Dr. Liguori and tips are offered on how to implement and utilize the resources available. For an even deeper analysis and more robust skill building tips I found that as an educator the Melissa and Doug Special Needs Toy Guide was an invaluable resource.

Your next resource to explore is Plan Toys, another award winning toy company that prides itself on designing green, sustainable and safe wooden toys for young children. On the Plan Toys website you will find listings of toys that promote learning across different key areas of child development. Many of the categories are similar to Melissa and Doug, and unlike the former there isn’t any additional material on how to implement the resources. However, the materials that Plan toys offers that I have found to be valuable are a variety of their toys for concentration, their sign language alphabet tiles, their braille alphabet tiles and their mood memo toy for helping express emotions.

Learning is fun, and it doesn’t have to look like traditional pencil and paper work. There are a variety of resources and methods to promote skill development while playing. Enjoy exploring all the alternative learning materials available.

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