autism

  • New Fidget Spinner Varieties – Collect Them All!

    Any fidget fan will tell you—one spinner is not enough! Learning Express Toys carries spinners in a variety of patterns, shapes, weights and materials. New to our selection are LED spinners and glow-in-the-dark spinners, so you can spin day and night!

    Check out some of our latest fidget spinner and fidget cube styles to add to your collection.

    Glow-in-the-Dark Fidget Spinner

    Glow in the dark fidget spinnerThis Spinner Squad glow-in-the-dark spinner by Top Trenz spins for 2+ minutes! It features a high-quality injection molded POM frame. This spinner comes in a variety of colors and is perfect for after-hours spinning. Stack them up for an awesome glowing spin tower.

    LED Light-Up Spinners

    LED Light Up Fidget Spinner

    LED spinners by Trend America will impress all your friends! Spin up a light show day or night. The light-up spinners come in yellow, green, white, black and red and feature colored LEDs in each of the outer bearings.

     

    Aluminum Metallic Tri-Spinner

    Aluminum Metallic Tri-Spinner

    Aluminum spinners are lightweight, offer ninja-like speed, and they’re super quiet. These spinners come in metallic black, silver, gold, blue and pink.

    Camo Print Fidget Cube

    Camo Fidget Cube

    The camo print fidget cube comes in either a blue or green camo pattern. They’re perfect for fidgeting in the wild!

    We have many more styles to choose from in-store, from basketball pattern to princess print, heavier weighted spinners and more! Try before you buy and find the perfect spin.

    --Becki

  • Fidget Toys for Kids of All Ages

    Fidget Toys Collage

    The fidget toy has been around since the dawn of time.  The cave man fidgeted with rocks and sticks and today we fidget with more sophisticated items, such as stress balls, worry stones, paper clips, pens and anything we can get our hands on.

    We all have a lot of distractions; however, studies find that fidget toys help children and adults reduce stress and anxiety and increase concentration, attention and active listening.  Just look at the compelling research below!

    Children with ADHD benefit from fidget toys in the classroom for increased focus, learning and remembering. In a study by the University of Central Florida, “Kids with ADHD Must Squirm to Learn”, Mark Rapport says, “What we’ve found is that when they’re moving the most, the majority of them perform better. They have to move to maintain alertness.”

    In a recent Fidgety Block Facebook post, a Learning Express customer said, “I bought one for my son who has ADHD and this is awesome. Keeps him busy so he can concentrate.”

    The February 5, 2017 Columbus Dispatch article “Classes calmer as schools help kids reduce stress” says every classroom now has a bin full of "fidgets" — tiny toys such as squishy balls and water bottles filled with glitter liquid that children can handle while they listen or read.

    Adults also need such fidgety distractions at home and work. The article “The Science of Why We Fidget While We Work” indicates a correlation between working with our hands and increased memory and creativity.

    Learning Express Toys Best Fidget Toy Review: Fidgety Block

     

    One of the most sought after fidget tools today is the Fidgety Block.  The Fidgety Block is a unique six-sided block that you can click, glide, flip, breathe, roll and spin.

    Fidgety Block Collage of the Six Sided Block

    It takes all of the other fidget toys and rolls them into one grand tool that is perfect for kids and adults. Based on the video above, you would think this is a noisy toy, but in reality the buttons, switches and gears make little to no noise so nearby occupants will not be disturbed.

    Fidget toys are not a new phenomenon, but the Fidgety Block is the new can’t-put-down toy that has sensory benefits for everyone.

     

    Fidget Spinner Collage

    Fidget Spinner

    The Fidget Spinner is the latest Hot Trend in fidget toys.  The Fidget Spinner is the perfect fidget toy for restless hands.  It will hypnotize you as the toy spins faster and faster in your hand or on your desk.  The spinner is constructed with hybrid ceramic center bearings for longer spin time.  This increases the spin factor up to 1.5 minutes.  The toy is relatively quiet only making a weak swoosh sound.  This addicting toy should be top on your list of fidgety toys.

     

    Light up Slinky

    Light-up Slinky

    When I hear the word Slinky, my first thought goes to the unforgettable Slinky jingle, “What walks down stairs, alone or in pairs and makes a slinkity sound...”  Slinky has evolved since that commercial. Here is the next generation Slinky/fidget toy, Light-Up Slinky!  As you stretch it like an accordion, make it walk down stairs, bounce it from hand to hand or just pick it up and let it slink back down, you become mesmerized by the feel, look and classic sound of the Slinky.  Turn off the light and you can watch and relax with a psychedelic light show as you play.

     

    Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty Easter Mini Tins

    Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty

    Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty provides a variety of sensory experiences: It’s smooth to the touch, but can be twisted or molded to be bumpy or textured. If you pull it slowly, it stretches, but if you pull it quickly, it snaps with a satisfying noise. Certain colors of Thinking Putty are color-changing based on heat or light, providing visual stimulation as well.  Another perfect fidget toy.

    Mom and Dad: As the kids try your patience, these fidget toys are the perfect way to de-stress.  If the kids need calming, don’t let them borrow your toy--you can always find a supply of fidget toys for each member of the family at your local Learning Express Toy Store location.

    Fidget away!

  • Why Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty Is So Addictive

    Collage of Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty stylesI was always a bit fidgety as a kid. I would chew on my braid, bite my nails and crack my knuckles (despite frequent warnings that it would give me arthritis). My hands just needed something to do, especially during long assemblies at school.

    As an adult, I’ve mostly overcome these bad habits – and discovered fidget toys instead. I have three or four of them scattered around my desk, and Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty is my new favorite.

    Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty is a gooey sensory substance that’s perfect for kneading, stretching and molding – without making a mess or drying out. It comes in an ever-growing variety of colors, many with special properties like UV reactivity, heat sensitivity and magnetic force! A favorite of kids and adults, it’s one of our Fall Top Toys.

    Three words come to mind to describe why Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty is so addictive – “sensory,” “scientific” and “soothing.”

    Great for sensory processing

    Sensory toys are toys that feed the sensory cravings many children have, particularly those with autism. Children with sensory processing disorders are under-responsive to sensation, and benefit from tactile toys exploring texture, touch and pressure.

    Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty provides a variety of sensory experiences: It’s smooth to the touch, but can be twisted or molded to be bumpy or textured. If you pull it slowly, it stretches, but if you pull it quickly, it snaps with a satisfying noise. Certain colors of Thinking Putty are color-changing based on heat or light, providing visual stimulation as well.

    A girl and a boy play with Crazy Aaron's Thinking PuttyA variety of scientific experiments

    Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty behaves like a liquid, a plastic solid, an elastic solid and a shattering solid depending on how you interact with it! It’s a dilatant compound, which means it becomes solid under the influence of pressure. Try experiments like shattering the putty with a hammer, making putty balloons, painting with heat and more! (Be sure kids are supervised during all experiments.)

    Super Magnetic putty comes with a ceramic magnet that attracts the putty, inspiring fascination as the putty oozes toward the magnet.

    Help your child self-soothe

    Fidget toys are self-regulation tools that can reduce anxiety and stress and increase focus. Playing with a small handful of Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty provides the movement and tactile input necessary for learning in some children. It’s a healthy alternative to behaviors like nail biting, and can help keep kids on task while keeping their bodies relaxed.

    This fall, don’t miss Crazy Aaron’s Halloween Thinking Putty colors, Ectoplasm and Mostly Ghostly! Ectoplasm is a translucent, paranormal green that glows a speckled green in the dark, and Mostly Ghostly gives off a spooky white glow in the dark that shifts in hue as it fades.

    Until next “slime,”

    Becki

  • Thinking Inside the Box: Rice as a Sensory Play Learning Tool [Activities]

    Rice as a Sensory Play Learning Tool

    Working towards imaginative play with our kids who have special needs requires us parents and caretakers to be a little more creative when it comes to playtime. We are always looking for new ways to coax them into joining us, and remain hopeful that they are learning new skills along the way.

    Kids with Autism can be very obsessive and ritualistic. When my daughter Kiki was a toddler, she had two primary obsessions: Disney's 101 Dalmatians & Barney. For the other children in her early intervention classroom it was Thomas the Train, wheels, doors, or computers.

    Growing up, the idea of getting Kiki on the floor with me to play with an ABC puzzle was a hopeless dream. I couldn't even get her to settle down on my lap for a book. Instead I had to wrangle her in, and sometimes play all by my lonesome just to model what fun could look like!

    When it came to learning, there was NO way she would sit with me and do a wooden puzzle, color pictures, or flashcards. She was on the go 24/7 and permanently set to "full speed ahead". In order to help her grow and develop, I had to tap into her "likes" (i.e. her other preferred activities) and HIDE learning into every experience.

    A Box of Rice: An Easy Sensory Play Tool!

    Kiki craved sensory experiences. She loved the water and watching things fall. She would grab handfuls of leaves and sit there letting them fall out of her hand again and again—watching them fall from every angle, studying as if she were a motion analyst. Her Occupational Therapist suggested we make a rice box for sensory play. Literally, a box filled with rice.

    rice in child's hands

    I bought a huge Rubbermaid tub (the kind that can slide under a bed) and filled it half way full with rice. We would have Kiki sit in the box (with her Dalmatians of course!) then pick up the rice and watch it fall. We would add tools to the box so that she could grasp, hold, and squeeze various handles to promote fine motor skills and pour the rice onto her arm or toes.  As she grasped at measuring cups and wooden spoons, we benefited from an increase in eye contact—almost as if she was saying "thank you."

    Learning ABCs and More through Sensory Play ABCs and rice

    Flash-forward two years. Kiki is almost five years old and we need to work on our school readiness. We need to learn counting, ABCs, sorting, matching, and sequencing... but she would not color, write, or sit still long enough to work on these things. I wanted her to learn and recognize her ABCs, not just to be able to sing the song. I knew that she was a visual/sensory kiddo who needed as many senses engaged in order to process, learn, and most importantly WANT to participate.

    I took our wooden alphabet puzzle and hid just the first few letters of the alphabet deep into the rice. She saw me bury it. Little Miss Aloof was watching me carefully, and she heard me squeal with excitement when I recovered the letter A from the dangerous depths of rice! Even though she always seemed to be tuned out and ignoring me, she would listen and watch from the corner of her eye.

    Ultimately, she accepted the challenge and recovered letter A from the rice. When she retrieved the letter I said "A" and placed it into the tray where it belonged. I then took all the letters out and started to bury more and more letters, using language like, "Oh no! Where's letter B?" I like to refer to this exercise as thinking INSIDE the box, inside the box of rice that is!

    More Skill-Building Rice Box Activities

    Other examples of learning that can be done inside the box of rice are:

    1. Fine motor activities. With Wooden Lacing Beads or any stacking puzzles, bury the pieces in the rice and, as you retrieve them, recite the color or shape before placing on the lacing string/stick. Helpful OT hint: Stringing beads onto lace can be very challenging for our kiddos with low tone or limited mobility in their hands. Our OT suggested that we string the wooden beads (or spools) onto a wooden chopstick or pencil to help build the fine motor muscles necessary to ultimately lace on a string. We don't want our kids to get too frustrated or we lose the opportunity.

    2. Shape recognition. Work on shape recognition by hiding different wooden shape puzzle pieces in the rice box.

    PlayFoam and ABCs

    3. Mummify That Toy! One of our favorite games and another sensory play opportunity was called Mummify that Toy! Take one of your child's cherished favorites and cover it 100% completely in dough. I love Playfoam, as it doesn't make a mess and leaves no damage behind. Roll it into a size so that your child cannot even recognize what lies below that dough! Use colorful language as you start to pick and dig out the item, "Uh oh, where's my Thomas the Train?" Make it into a song, "Oh where oh where can my Thomas Train Be, oh where oh where can he be?" As you start to reveal and uncover the toy, follow it up with more language,"Here it is!" or "I found your Thomas Train!" Have your child cover the toy up and start the process over again for great social, language, and fine motor fun!

    When working to develop your child’s skill set, don’t be afraid to get silly, be creative, and remember that sometimes we gotta just think INSIDE the box! The ultimate goal is to make the playtime fun, and hope that our kids are learning new skills along the way. And don't forget to check out the Learning Express Skill Building Toy Guide for Children with Special Needs.

    Thanks for reading!

    Colleen Hendon, Learning Express Toys Manager

    Roseville, CA

     

  • 6 Ways to Teach Kindness [Activities]

    6 Ways to Teach Kindness My mother-in-law lives alone in a suburban neighborhood. She needs help shoveling her snow from her driveway and steps or mowing her lawn, but she refuses to move to a condo. Why? Because she doesn’t want to leave her beloved neighbors.

    Her neighbors have two children whom she has watched grow up, and they’ve been helping her out for years. The kids have brought her meals when she was sick, stopped by with gifts on Christmas Eve and helped her move a giant television out of the house.

    They are, in a word, kind. But where did they learn such kindness?

    Children have a natural desire to help others, according to David Schonfeld, M.D.:

    "At first, children like to help others because it helps them get what they want. Next, they do so because they get praise. Finally, they begin to anticipate the needs of others, and it becomes intrinsically rewarding to do nice things for people in their lives." --David Schonfeld, M.D., 14 Little Ways to Encourage Kindness, Parents

    Of course, all kids need reinforcement of their kind behavior to develop into compassionate teens and adults.

    In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are six ways to teach kindness that parents can use to encourage the trait in their children.

    child bringing donations to charity Contributing to toy drives or donating to food banks are great ways for kids to learn about helping others.

    1. Help friends and neighbors

    Adults often lend a hand to friends, neighbors or family members who are ill, who just had a baby or who are moving. Gets kids involved by asking for their help with baking a casserole or putting together a gift basket.  Even young children can lay down the noodles for a lasagna, and help pick out items at the grocery store. Bring the gift over together and let your child ring the doorbell to deliver it.

    2. Model kindness

    Talk through hypothetical ethical dilemmas together at dinner, such as a conflict between friends at school. Explain that kindness is a priority, and discuss ideas for resolving the situation with kindness. In day-to-day interactions, model politeness and gratitude by being friendly to store associates, servers, bus drivers, etc. Be sure your children do the same.

    3. Donate toys and food

    Donating money to charitable organizations is important, but tangible items such as toys and food are an easy way to get your child involved in donating. Your child can pick out toys for a toy drive, and identify foods to buy from your local food pantry’s needs list. Teach your child compassion by asking him how he would feel if he had no toys, or not enough to eat.

    4. Start a Kindness Jar

    Reward your child’s small acts of kindness by adding a pom pom (or other small object) to a jar when you see her helping her little brother or finding Dad’s missing watch. Translate these recognitions of kindness into lessons on compassion when you see her being unkind. Ask her, “How would you feel if someone did that to you?”

    5. Modify activities

    Teach your child compassion for people with disabilities by modifying activities to simulate challenges. Try painting by holding a paintbrush in your mouth, watching TV while wearing earplugs, or reading upside down to help your child empathize with people with different needs. Check out these videos simulating sensory overload to better understand those with autism.

    6. Read books about kindness

    The book Unlikely Friendships: 47 Unlikely Stories from the Animal Kingdom demonstrates that even creatures that are not alike can be friends. American Girl’s: A Smart Girl’s Guide series, such as Friendship Troubles, covers bullying, fights with friends and overcoming differences. Discuss the books and how they relate to real-life situations.

    Kind heart of a child Children naturally want to help others.

    This Valentine’s Day, show your love for not only your family, but the wider world by talking about compassion and kindness with your kids!

    Warmly,

    Becki