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As the universe evolves and scientists explore the vastness of space, they have made numerous discoveries. One such discovery is Dark Matter: an unseen, unidentified type of matter. Then you have Ordinary Matter: everything you can see and touch. But a new type of Mattr has been discovered in Sweden: Mad Mattr! I imagine the scientists that created Mad Mattr accidentally combined two different compounds, and in a puff of smoke, created this incredibly fluffy and soft material that stimulates your sense of touch. I can only suggest you dig your fingers into this luscious material.
It’s very difficult to describe how this “Doh that Flows” feels. You can feel the minute grains that are sand like, but it’s more of a dough than sand. However, it doesn’t have the stickiness or the residue of a traditional dough. It’s super soft and very smooth when compacted and fluffy when separated.
Mad Mattr is great for shaping, molding and building. When the Mattr is compacted, it maintains its shape like clay - it can be cut and molded - but stretch this compound, and it looks like the molecular structure of the dough is disintegrating! In this stretched state, the dough is super soft and fluffy and will flow through your fingers like sand on the beach. It will even float!
If you are looking for a sensory toy for your child, Mad Mattr will deliver. This toy will allow your child to knead the dough to improve finger strength and manipulation and strengthen his or her fine motor skills. This dough is a great fidget tool that will enhance focus and help develop sensory processing skills.
Mad Mattr is wheat, gluten and casein free. It’s easy to clean up. When small pieces of dough become separated from a larger piece, just dot them up with the larger piece of dough. If the Mattr gets on the floor or carpet, a quick vacuuming will make the Mattr disappear. The best part of Mad Mattr is that it never dries out!
Mad Mattr is an addicting and unique modeling compound that you and your child need to experience. It will open up a universe of molding possibilities. You will not want to put the Mattr down!
Enjoy the madness!
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.
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
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.
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
September is right around the corner and that means that Learning Express Toys will be celebrating its 27th birthday!
Having originally set our roots in Massachusetts so many years ago, we have steadily expanded throughout the country, establishing strong relationships with truly amazing customers and communities along the way. Our customers are our number one priority and we are thrilled to be celebrating 27 years of play, growth, and friendship with you!
In honor of the occasion, we have designed a special, birthday-themed, September catalog full of fabulous toys and fantastic promotions. Kids will go crazy over our featured products and can enjoy hunting for the Top Toy symbol across all 16 catalog pages, identifying the best of the best products.
I have the great pleasure of revealing new Top Toys each week and am excited to review two of our most amazing tactile toys this week—Sands Alive and PlushCraft Kits.
Sands Alive It’s no surprise that Sands Alive has once again made our list of Top Toys. This unique sensory kit is a perpetual customer and staff favorite. The sand, which starts out as a light and fluffy substance, can be molded into solid, smooth shapes or sifted into fine granules. Often used by occupational therapists, Sands Alive excites the senses and allows kids to explore new ways to play and build.
There are many different Sands Alive kits to choose from, including the original starter and deluxe sets, 3D Sands Alive sets that include a 3D background and glasses, and Sands Alive Neon Frenzy which glows vibrantly under a UV black light. But the most popular of these sets is the new Sands Alive Sweet Shoppe. The Sweet Shoppe comes with molds in a variety of sweet shapes including cakes, cupcakes, and ice cream. Kids can serve their imaginary customers delicious desserts using the play tray or cake server and experiment with personal recipes.
PlushCraft Pillow Kits PlushCraft Pillow kits are all the rage at Learning Express Toys! Kids can choose from a wide assortment of designs and craft-by-number to create adorable and plush, decorative pillows. The kits include a pillow with numbered slots, a stylus, and a variety of fabric-based materials. Following the numbered pattern, kids can use the stylus to push the fabric pieces into their corresponding slot. This fun, sensory activity can provide hours of entertainment for children ages 5+.
Among the most popular designs are the Fancy Fish, and Petal Pillow. These two kits provide a more unique tactile experience as the designs feature different materials such as felt, Velcro, and thread. And Learning Express Toys is excited to introduce our new, exclusive kit—the Shaggy Pillow Pony! This pony features a completely new PlushCraft material: long strips of fabric that create the pony’s lush, colorful mane and add a whole new sensory element to this delightful pillow.
Make sure to visit your local store to check out these tantalizing tactile toys and stay tuned for more Top Toy Reviews throughout September in celebration of our birthday.
Thanks for reading!