Games & Toys Worth Buying for Therapy

If you work with younger children, you know the value of using games and toys to not only target goals, facilitate the generalization of skills, but most importantly, to keep your students focused, engaged, and attentive during the session!

Initially, I was making crafting activities for my kids but quickly realized that they only care about paper and crayons for so long. When I began to incorporate more toys, manipulatives, and games I was able to present more trials, target multiple goals, and keep them entertained with a single activity for the whole duration of the session. Granted, now I like to do more than one activity during the session, but it still feels good to know that an activity can be extended as needed.

Here I am including a list of toys that have made their way into my sessions and that the children have absolutely loved! I am always seeking discounts, promos, and deals on toys and games because let’s face it, the expenses do add up!

Game: Pancake Pile-Up!
Age Range: 3+
Price:~$17 via Amazon & Target
Review: 5 out of 5 stars: I absolutely LOVE this game and can adapt it to meet so many different goals! You can simply have the child match the pancakes on the card to the actual pancakes on the plate. You can target following directions, sequencing, categories, increasing utterance length, and engage in pretend play. If you’re doing a group session and there is enough space available, you can turn it into a relay race and have the two students run from one end of the room to select the pancakes and stack them on the plate! This game is such great fun, I’ve used it with students from ages 3 to 10. If I was still working with high schoolers, I’d find a grade-level text related to pancakes or cooking, and have them recall details from the story using textual evidence before racing to make the match using only the spatula and keeping one hand behind their backs!

Game: Magnetic Puzzles
Age Range: 3+
Price: Varies by size and brand. I purchased this one at Marshall’s for ~$4.99 and it is selling on Amazon for $9.
Review: 4 out of 5 stars: Magnetic puzzles are a wonderful activity that can be done after doing a structured task or storybook. There are so many different kinds of puzzles that can complement any theme you are using in your session. This week I used this “bug catching” magnetic puzzle with my book about a nature hunt. To make this fun and exciting, I created a small “nature hunt” activity, where I hid the puzzle pieces around the room and gave them clues and hints (1-2 step directions) to help them find the pieces. For some students, it was more appropriate to simply place the pieces on the floor next to their chairs and have them complete the puzzle on the table. Regardless, this activity was motivating and engaging and allowed me to compliment the book while working on concepts such as increasing vocabulary among many other concepts. One of the downfalls when using magnetic puzzles is having to find a Ziploc bag or somewhere to store the puzzle pieces so they don’t fall or go missing.

Game: Kinetic Sand
Age Range: 3+ Use caution with younger children who are prone to putting items in their mouths. This is NOT safe to eat!
Price: Varies ~$9 for a 1lb bag but can increase depending on size and accessories. I purchased a bag of green and blue at Marshall’s for less than $8.
Review: 4 out of 5 stars: Kinetic sand has been great at helping my students stay motivated when engaging in a structured task or working on literacy skills. At times it becomes a struggle to maintain their focus when we use books, but the Kinetic Sand has been a wonderful reinforcement. This sand is smooth, soft, mildly sticky, and extremely relaxing to play with. I often use the sand as “grass” if it’s green or “water” if it’s blue and incorporate it into a book (as shown above). While reading the story, the child practices labeling the animals and we place them on the grass. At the end of the story, we can sequence, follow directions, practice prepositions, and answer WH questions with the animals in the sand. My students love to bury the animals and look for them after. Although this sand is very fun and engaging for the students, it does tend to stick to your hands. Also, since it is so smooth, soft, and easy to manipulate it is difficult for the sand to hold its shape if you use molds (I had this struggle during a beach lesson when we tried to make a sandcastle). Needless to say, it’s still a fun and interactive activity that can be used to add a sensory component to your session.

Activity: Do-A-Dot Art & Paints
Age Range: 3+ years
Price: Varies depending on how many you want to purchase, it can usually be around ~$10, but I have seen it cheaper at art supply stores
Review: 3 out of 5 Stars: These paints are a great way to add a little color to your therapy sessions! I enjoy using them because children love to use new coloring supplies that aren’t crayons and markers. These Do-A-Dot paints are easy to use and most of the time don’t make a big mess! What’s also great is that there are many FREE templates and printable worksheets that are available via Google and Teachers Pay Teachers that can be printed and used in the therapy session. I often use them to have the students monitor their progress if they are targeting certain speech sounds, or answering questions about a story. When using them just be mindful that it can be tricky to wash off after use. I’ve tried to remove the paint from little fingers and hands using a wet wipe, but have needed some good old soap, water, and hand scrubbing to get it off.

Game: Pop Up Pirate!
Age Range: 4+
Price: ~$6 via Ebay up to ~$15 on Amazon
Review: 4 out of 5 Stars: This game is wonderful, I often use this with a book about pirates or to target articulation. The child places the swords into the pirate until it pops up! The game is exciting because you never know when the pirate will pop and often times the child isn’t the only one startled by the popping pirate. However, there have been instances when all the swords have been inserted into the barrel and the pirate does not pop, leaving a confused child wondering what will happen next. Also, you should also be mindful that some kids get scared when the pirate pops out, so sometimes it’s not the best game for younger children or those who are sensitive to sounds or unexpected events.

What are your favorite games and activities that you like to use in therapy? Drop a comment below!