Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Toys for Fun and Learning. (Toys)

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Toys for Fun and Learning. (Toys)

Article excerpt

As soon as I saw your request for toy ideas, I knew you were talking to me. My neighbors joke that I adapt so many toys, I'm going to have to build my friends a shed just to hold them all! I make and adapt toys for my friends' son, Hank, who is 11 now and has 5q-syndrome which means he is missing a segment of the long arm of his fifth chromosome. As a result he has poor muscle tone, poor coordination, and can speak only a few words. He can't walk, but can crawl.

One of my goals was to design toys that would encourage Hank to use his index finger so he would increase his strength and coordination for pointing and keyboarding. The first toy to encourage this skill used musical buttons recessed into holes that require the user to poke his/her finger into the hole to activate the sound. I purchased musical buttons at a craft store. I than found a small sturdy, flat box. I made three round finger sized holes in the lid and then aligned them with three finger-length plastic tubes cut from 35 mm film canisters. I glued one music button at the bottom of each tube. I then used foam to pad the tubes in place, glued the lid onto the box and decoupaged a colorful design on the outside. When all three buttons are activated in rapid succession, there is a delightful cacophony! My son gave me the highest praise that a toymaker can hear--that this was the most annoying toy he could imagine!

"Woolly Willie." is a toy that uses a magnet to rearrange iron filings into various hairdos and whiskers. I sewed a finger-sized fabric tube with a magnet sewn into the tip The user slips the tube on like a glove finger, and can use the tip of his/her finger to draw on "Woolly Willie." I also made some fatter magnetic sticks than the tiny one supplied with the toy by gluing magnets to the tip of a short segment of one-inch PVC pipe.

My next toy will be custom finger puppets. I'm going to take photos of the faces of Hank's family, friends, and pets and scan them into my computer, then crop and resize them to fingertip size and print them onto T-shirt transfer paper. I'll then sew some fabric puppets (just simple white tubes will be fine) and iron the faces onto them. And then--voila!--custom finger puppets.

Hank also loves noise and shiny objects. One of his favorite toys was made from a shiny coffee can with a lid. I took three small balls (ping pong balls or plastic cat toy balls with jingle bells inside them. I cut a hole in the lid a little larger than the balls. Now Hank can drop the balls in and make noise while practicing hand coordination. …

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