Dear Learning Expressions Readers,
It is with pride (and the excitement of a giddy kid on the first day of school) that we announce our Skill Builders for Children with Special Needs initiative! Skill Builders offers parents, professionals, friends, and caregivers toy suggestions to help children accomplish their developmental goals.
The idea for the initiative was born less out of creativity and more out of necessity. Learning Express Toys owners asked for guidance on how to advise customers looking for toys to build a particular skill, and we were shocked to learn that, according to the CDC, 1 in 6 children has a physical or intellectual developmental need.
We spent over a year researching and developing the best way to assist customers who are shopping for children with special needs. We worked with occupational therapists, play therapists, special needs educators, Learning Express Toys storeowners who have kids with special needs, and many others who’ve helped us make sure our recommendations would be valuable to shoppers.
We chose to focus on skills to build rather than on disabilities. What are your child’s strengths? In what areas is your child working to improve? We created the following eight skill building categories with the help of special needs experts…
- Fine motor
- Gross Motor
- Language and Speech
- Visual and Spatial Perception
- Social Skills and Self-Esteem
- Sensory Processing
- Oral Motor
We could explain each of these categories here, but we really want you to read about them in our new online publication, the Skill Building Toy Guide for Children with Special Needs.
The Toy Guide is a “magalog” (a magazine/catalog hybrid), that features 70 skill building toys. The magalog also features articles on a variety of special needs topics such as choosing a skill building toy and establishing a routine for your child. The Toy Guide is also packed with insight from parents, tips from kids with special needs, and plenty of information on how each included product helps build one or more skills.
The beauty of our skill building products is that they are inclusive play toys, or toys that can be enjoyed by children with and without special needs. This enables busy moms to find all of their holiday presents in one place, while kids of all developmental levels can feel included when playing with the same toys as their peers.
You can pick up the products featured in the Toy Guide at most Learning Express Toys locations. And the next time you’re in your local Learning Express store, you can appreciate the sights and sensations of each toy and see whether or not the product will work for the children in your life.
We’ve also developed training materials for Learning Express storeowners and staff members that cover the skill building categories. We created a training guide, webinars, and training videos with sample customer interactions.
We’d like to start right away with getting our skill building toys into kids’ hands, so we’re going to give away some fabulous skill building toys to two lucky winners!
To enter, all you need to do is comment on this blog post with a thought about our Skill Builders initiative. We’ll choose two winners randomly who will each receive:
A Sort & Snap Color Match by Melissa & Doug and five Playfoam Pods!
Sort & Snap Color Match- They’ll learn and laugh as they sort and snap! This wooden activity board
features ten double-sided picture cards and plenty of colored snap caps. Kids place like-colored snap caps into the holes to match the colored cards. Reverse the card and little ones can create their own color combos on the black and white pictures! Children will improve their visual and spatial perception skills by noticing how the pieces relate to the whole image. Kids will also strengthen their fine motor skills as they grip the pieces and snap them onto the base. Ages 2+
Playfoam- Build, shape, squish, and squeeze Playfoam! This play substance never dries out and doesn't stick to surfaces. Playfoam provides kids with a strong tactile experience. The pliable foam encourages sensory processing skills because as kids mold and squish the Playfoam in their hands, they are experiencing various sensations that help them gain a better understanding of their body in relationship to space. This tactile experience can enhance focus, and the bright colors encourage visual discernment. As kids build and mold with Playfoam, they increase finger strength and manipulation and improve their fine motor skills. Ages 3 +.
The winners will be announced on Friday, September 7. In the meantime, you can visit a participating Learning Express Toys to pick up a free Playfoam pod!
Thanks for reading!