I’ve not had a lot of motivation or inspiration to write much at all for a long time now, though I do actually like blogging. When I have the flow going I find it very enjoyable and rewarding, and I’ve also had lots of feedback that people like to read about our experiences and how we do things. So I thought I would try something different and write about what we are currently doing, playing with, eating, etc. Possibly boring – but I guess we’ll see!
Elva is now 18 months and is highly motivated by toys and play. She’s pulling to stand, beginning to cruise, and starting to really develop her fine motor skills. She’s interacting and engaging in play with others, and learning to communicate her wants and needs. Its a really beautiful and fun stage! At the moment Elva sees her physio once a month, and her key worker comes once a fortnight. Her key worker is an OT, but she doesn’t really do any work with Elva. She observes and interacts with her, and then gives suggestions of what we could do to help aid her development toward goals that we have chosen. Consequently, a large part of Elva’s therapy is designed and implemented by us. Had you told me this earlier on I would have felt quite stressed at that level of responsibility, but I’ve discovered that it’s actually quite fun!
We have found a few toys recently that have been particularly well loved, and all of them can be picked up at Kmart! Even better, 2 of them were just $5 each!
Bright Starts ‘spin n’ slide ball popper’.
$39 from Kmart.
WHAT IS IT?
A ball popper is set up like a water park for plastic balls. There are 2 slides that lead down to the blue ‘pool’ turntable. The turntable spins the balls out to the chute and down to the popper, which pops them up to the top of the red slide. And repeat.
HOW WE USE IT.
The popper is frequently over zealous in its popping, and so balls often end up on the floor instead of down the slide. We sit it on a box that is a good height for Elva to pull up on, tall enough that she needs to bend down to get the balls on the floor but low enough that she can reach all parts of the toy when she’s standing. And Elva loves it! The up, down action required for retrieving and and returning the balls is fabulous for her core strength and movement, and picking up and placing the balls back onto or into the toy utilises her fine motor skills.
As its electronic and the popper feeds itself it doesn’t require intense parental involvement for play. It’s good to have a couple of these options up your sleeve for when you need to run off to the toilet on a particularly needy day! It’s attention grabbing and quickly rewarding which encourages the child to keep returning for more. Elva finds it really exciting.
This toy is noisy. It is so obnoxiously noisy that big sister Rory often begs to turn it off. Imagine a plastic ball popper rave. It’s that noisy. I tend to avoid noisy plastic toys, but this one has been so successful in encouraging both fine and gross motor skills that its getting a pass.
$5 per pack from Kmart.
WHAT IS IT?
13 different wooden animal shapes in a square plastic tube. They are small and brightly coloured.
HOW WE USE IT.
Elva’s most favourite game with these she actually made up herself. We had been playing with them very basically, she would pick one up and I would name the animal and the colour of the block. As I was packing them away into the tube, Elva started helping. I hadn’t expected her to have the fine motor skills necessary to put the animals into a less than 3cm by 3cm square hole, but she clearly does! Her intense concentration as she works at packing them all away is a wonderful thing.
After seeing how well the first pack was received I started thinking that the animals were a perfect size for matching games, so I bought a second pack. I had assumed that matching games were far and above what Elva was capable of, but I figured that I could introduce the concept for now and it would start the process for games later on down the track. As it turns out, I was underestimating my girl again. I tipped out both packs of animals and then started showing her the pairs. I picked up a single pair and said “the same”, and put them down together away from the rest. Elva picked up 2 different animals and I said “different”. She threw one behind her and I looked down to pick up the next pair. When I looked back at her she was holding the matching pair! I showered her with praise, but wondered whether it was a fluke. She had trouble picking out further pairs unassisted, until I realised that I was expecting an awful lot of her and that I should narrow down the options considerably. So I cut right back and offered her 4 tiles to make 2 pairs, and she got it immediately.
I picked these animals up on a whim. As it turns out, these have been one of the most enjoyed and versatile toys I have bought Elva to date. They are perfect for her now, but equally hold the attention of her 4 year old sister. Both girls have created their own games with them. As they are small and come in their own carry case they are also easily portable. And they cost just $5!
You have to purchase 2 packs in order to get pairs. I am struggling for a negative for these!
Chunky Safari Puzzle.
$5 from Kmart.
WHAT IS IT?
Wooden animal puzzle depicting a stylised ‘safari’ scene. The animal pieces can stand alone outside of the puzzle board for different play opportunities.
HOW WE USE IT.
The girls play together beautifully with this one. As the animal pieces are bigger and more detailed Rory encourages Elva to pick them up, talks to her about the animals, the colours etc and makes up stories. They ‘chat’ about them, and Rory puts the pieces back into the puzzle board and Elva gets them out again. I plan to start using this one for animal recognition, asking Elva to ‘find the lion’ for example.
Big, easily distinguishable pieces that are eye catching and fun. Versatile. Aside from being a puzzle suitable for 2-3 year olds the pieces are big enough to be suitable for younger babies, but also stand alone allowing for older children to play more complex games.
Not easy to pack away or transport, but at $5 you can’t really go too far wrong!
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