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OPEN ENDED MULTI-USE TOYS FROM A THERAPIST'S PERSPECTIVE

BY DAIRIAN Roberts, OTR/L, CLEC, NCS

*Disclaimer: This information is strictly for educational purposes and not to be taken as medical advice. If you are concerned about your child’s development, please reach out to your primary care provider.

As an Occupational Therapist working with infants, I commonly receive questions on how to promote development and prevent delays. These are definitely loaded (albeit understandable) questions!

The best way to promote development is to be proactive (but not obsessive) about building skills through play. Every baby is different so try not to hold general milestones as hard deadlines, but rather, guidelines for when your baby should approach or reach certain skills. Toys are a great way to enhance learning through play.

The general statement I use when educating parents on toys is: the more the toy does, the less your baby has to do.

We want toys that are not just cause and effect, but encourage the baby to explore, tinker, play, create, and imagine. Wee Gallery’s soft block and wooden tray puzzle are great examples of open ended, multi-use toys that can be used to promote various skills.

An open ended toy, like Wee Gallery’s soft block, allows your baby to play how she sees fit. This means there are no strict instructions for use and your baby is allowed to explore, affording many opportunities to practice gross motor and fine motor skills. These foundational skills involve the big movements and small, refined movements that we use throughout the day without even thinking about it. The Wee Gallery soft block also promotes a multisensory approach to play by including different textures, visuals, and sounds. A multisensory approach enhances your baby’s experience by activating more pathways in her brain.

My little squish is currently 10 months and she had a blast making the leaves crinkle, twisting the block to look at all the sides, and throwing the block into a container! She’s been perfecting her fine motor skills, such as the pincer grasp, while pulling the loops and peeling the flower petals apart to make them crinkle. She also really enjoys just picking up the block and putting it down in different places around the house. I highly recommend Wee Gallery’s soft block as a toy that can grow with your child, saving you money!

A multi-use toy, like Wee Gallery’s wooden tray puzzle, is a therapy favorite. We love a good puzzle. Although squish is just getting into the concept of puzzles and how they work, it’s never too early to provide good opportunities for modeling. This means she watches me place the pieces in the shapes and tries to do it herself. Even if she doesn’t get it right, she can still practice different grasping patterns by holding the different shapes. Again, the goal is to provide more opportunities to practice fine and gross motor skills. We also enjoy naming the puzzle pieces to promote language, and counting. My preschooler even joins in on the play by spelling and making animal sounds.

I love the quality of Wee Gallery items because they last for the long run. Both toys will be treasured assets to your toy collection, promoting development, social engagement, and quality time. 

Dairian ROBERTS is an Occupational Therapist that specializes in infant feeding and development. She loves educating and empowering parents to make informed choices that will promote development and overall wellness. She is a wife and mother of two, residing in Los Angeles, CA. When not working, Dairian loves trying new baking recipes with her toddler.