top of page
  • whitneylearot

Holiday Gift Guide to Target Developmental Skills

Disclosure: Posts may contain affiliate links for products that I use and love. If you choose to click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Please let me know if you ever have any questions about the products I promote. Thanks for your help in supporting the blog so I can continue to post free content!

What a year 2020 has been, and I don't know about y'all but Christmas has TOTALLY snuck up on me! If you're like me, and just now scurrying to make a Christmas list for the kids in your life, here are some of my favorite things to target developmental skills. These are items I use in therapy ALL the time, and I have sorted them by developmental skill area. I don't like to spend a ton of money on therapy items, so almost everything is under $20! There are a few things that are on the more expensive side, but let me remind you that many things can be recreated at home, and Christmas is NOT about how much money is spent!

Gift ideas to address gross motor skills:

Gross motor skills involve the use of the large muscles of the arms, legs, and torso, and are a foundational skill for all higher level skills. Kids rely on gross motor skills for everyday activities at home, school, and in the community, from jumping and running, to sitting at a desk, handwriting, and more! There is not a child that I work with that I don't target gross motor skills as a part of our treatment sessions, because they are so important for all of the other developmental skills. Here are my favorite gross motor toys and games to address motor planning, strength, endurance, balance, stability, and postural control:

  • Scooter board: I use this in therapy ALL the time! I love it as part of an obstacle course, or to use while completing a puzzle or other game. It is great for arm strength, bilateral coordination, and core strength, and provides great proprioceptive input.

  • Therapy ball: I love the peanut-shaped therapy ball because there are so many ways to use it. The child can be lying on their stomach looking at an I Spy book or moving forward and backward to complete a puzzle. The child can also be seated on the ball (either horizontally or vertically) to address core strength, bilateral coordination, and midline crossing while completing a task. These therapy balls are also a great alternate seating option while completing homework, etc.

  • Hippity Hop: The kids LOVE these, and they are so fun to incorporate into sessions to provide movement and proprioceptive input, build core strength, and improve motor planning and body awareness.

  • Weighted Balls: These are a go to in therapy sessions to provide calming heavy work, and target core and arm strength. I will have the kids jump on the floor or trampoline while holding them, roll them through a tunnel, toss them at a target, or complete arm exercises with them.

  • Mini trampoline: This is on the pricier side, but it is something I use all the time in sessions and would be great to incorporate in a home sensory room. Jumping provides both proprioceptive and vestibular input, and depending on the child's sensory system can be both calming and alerting. Many of my kids complete cognitive tasks better while moving, so I have kids who love to work on spelling words, etc. while jumping on the trampoline! It is great to incorporate within an obstacle course. Personally, I don't like the ones with handles. I find that kids that don't need them rely on them anyway, and most importantly they break so easily!

  • Balance beam: This balance beam is light and small enough to store easily in the home, but great to incorporate in an obstacle course or on its own to target balance and coordination. I love to have kids complete a puzzle or other task, walking the balance beam between, complete visual tasks while walking along the beam, etc. One of our go to activities is to place the fish on the floor, walk along the beam and go fishing as we go!

  • Balance board: This is a must-have for my older kiddos, especially when combining with visual skills. We love to play eye-hand coordination tasks with the tennis ball while balancing, work on visual tracking tasks, or with my younger ones just work on the balancing aspect!

  • Tunnel: I absolutely could not live without this tunnel! I love having kids of all ages crawl through it to work on core and upper extremity strength, weight bearing, and more, and it is great as part of an obstacle course. Best part is I can fold it up and take it with me anywhere I go! And it doesn't take up very much room at all to store.

  • Spot Markers - I mean I just call these jumping circles... and I love them not only for practicing one- and two-foot jumping, but also as markers! For instance, I may put the green one at the start of the obstacle course and the red at the end. Or use them so a child knows where to stand or sit while completing a task. I also love to have kids throw bean bags onto the matching colors, or sort fine motor materials on to the circles.

  • Bean bags: You can't beat bean bags for some good ol' eye-hand coordination. Simple throw and catch, matching games, etc. are always a fun addition to an obstacle course!

Gift ideas to address fine motor skills:

Fine motor skills are the movements we make using the small muscles in our hands and wrists. Fine motor skills are important for many everyday tasks including eating, handwriting, and cutting. Kids that struggle with these tasks may have weak fine motor skills including coordination and strength, bilateral coordination, grasping skills, fine motor planning, and more. All of these skills are foundational skills for handwriting, reading, self-care tasks (e.g. buttons and zippers), and more! These toys and games are some of my favorites for addressing fine motor and visual-motor skills.

  • Let's start by remembering the basics:

    • Coloring books and activity books: When I was a kid we LOVED the Fun Pads, word searches, coloring books, and more. I remember always having them in the car for long car rides, and having challenges at home with my sisters on who could complete the word search the fastest, etc. Let's bring back the simple concept of a Fun Pad! I find great activity books at the Target dollar spot and the Dollar Tree all the time.

    • Arts and Crafts: You really can't beat good old arts and crafts! Put together a whole bin or basket of materials (e.g. feathers, pipe cleaners, paint, paint brushes, pom poms, glitter glue, Q-tips, popsicle sticks, glue, sequins, scissors, construction paper, beads, stickers, etc.) and let your child's imagination and creativity run wild. You could also include some specific examples of arts and crafts activity for your child to make!

  • Easel: An easel is wonderful tool because it helps to promote wrist extension and stabilization which is important for a mature writing grasp. Children can paint, draw, write, etc. on a vertical surface instead of horizontal. If the large standing easel is too much or too big, the table easel is a great alternative.

  • Wikki Stix: I seriously LOVE these things! They are bendable wax sticks so they stick to almost any surface. I love to use them to make shapes, letters, pictures, words, etc. Even just rolling them into a ball makes for great fine motor skills!

  • Geoboard: These are great for visual motor skills and imitating various shapes, as well as the fine motor skills for using the rubberbands.

  • Squigz: These are such a fun and simple tool that are so great for working on fine motor strength and coordination, and bilateral coordination!

  • Pop beads: One of my favorite tools to work on more precise fine motor movements such as grasp and strength, translation, and manipulation skills.

  • Magic doodle mats: These are pure gold! If you want to let your child color/write/doodle, and encourage them to do it on their belly (great for many reasons), and not make a mess, this is the thing for you!

  • Board and card games: In my family we are VERY BIG on board games!! I am pretty sure I have played every board or card game there ever was. Not only are games good for fine motor skills, but they are great for social skills, following directions, taking turns, executive functioning, and more! Here are some of my absolute favorites:

    • Don't Break the Ice: I love this one for grasping skills, body awareness and control, and especially for those kiddos who need to work on frustration tolerance!

  • HiHo Cherry - O: This is a great game for pincer grasp, and fine motor strength and coordination. It's simple enough so young kids can play as well!

  • Pop Up Pirate: Every single one of the kids I work with loves this game! It's great for grasping and bilateral coordination skills, and is another simple one for younger kiddos. There are other variations such as Jumping Jack and Porcupine Pop.

  • Sneaky Snacky Squirrel - I love the tongs that come with this game, they are great for fine motor strength and coordination!

  • Connect Four: I love combining this game with gross motor tasks such as seated on a therapy ball, on belly over a therapy ball, or to work on midline crossing or bilateral coordination skills. I have even used dry erase markers to add shapes or letter to the pieces! I love using it with little ones even before they don't understand the four-in-a-row concept but just to work on putting the pieces in for eye-hand coordination.

  • Blink: This is a fantastic game for visual perceptual skills! It is a fast-paced game so I love how it works on dual attention and focus.

  • Spot It: This is another great visual perceptual game and there are TONS of varieties. I usually use the basic one because it has letters, so I can also target letter recognition.

  • My favorite games for handwriting: Let's face it, most kids don't like handwriting. So anytime I can find a fun way to incorporate handwriting into a game is a win!

    • Guess Who?: I just love this classic! There are so many new variations, but I like the old school one the best (which I actually can't find on Amazon). I have the kids write their questions to turn it into a handwriting game.

  • Hedbanz: This is a great game for auditory memory, cognition and visual skills, and again I incorporate handwriting by having the child write the questions or guesses, depending on the child's level/age.

Gift ideas to address sensory processing:

Sensory processing is the way in which our body and brain receive, organize, and respond to sensory input from the environment, in order to behave in a meaningful and consistent manner. In order to successfully complete any task, the body needs to process the information from the environment and respond appropriately. Sensory processing is the foundation for learning and is crucial to a child's development. Here are some of my favorite sensory tools: (Note, many of the gross motor toys and games listed above also provide great sensory input!)

  • Weighted lap pads: I love these to help calm and regulate children while completing tasks. I often place it on a child's lap while sitting, or on their back while lying on their belly completing work.

  • Fidgets: Small objects that a child can play, or fidget, with, can help the child to regulate and attend during school or other tasks. Often I use objects from the Dollar Tree! But, here are some specific examples:

  • Wiggle seat: I love these for kiddos who have difficulty sitting still, and have many kids who use them regularly in the classroom or at home

  • One of my favorite tools for kids at home and school is a calm-down corner. Not a time out chair, but a calm-down corner, a place to use sensory tools to calm their body when having a meltdown, tantrum, or sensory overload. And I love using bean bag chairs for the corner as it provides a safe space for a child who may kick, hit, flail, head bang, etc. The calm down corner could include the fidgets, the weighted lap pad, a pinwheel for blowing/taking deep breaths, a rain stick (see below), sensory bottles, headphones, etc. Anything that helps your child to calm!

  • Kinetic sand: Kids absolutely love to play in kinetic sand, and who could blame them? The sand makes for a great base for a sensory bin, or just to play with by itself. It is also fun to have some play doh tools (or the tools that come with this set) to play along. I even have kids draw shapes or write in it!

  • Sand/water table: I just love sensory bins, water play, etc. which can be done with any large bowl/bin, but if you are looking for something specific this sand table is a great option!

  • Lycra tunnel: Crawling through a lycra tunnel provides calming deep pressure input, combined with proprioceptive input, and can be very regulating for children. I also love to use this tunnel along with other tasks or part of an obstacle course.

  • Lycra swing: If you have somewhere for a swing in your house or backyard, a cocoon swing is my favorite for the deep pressure it provides. This is the one I have and I love it!

  • Body sock: The body sock is a great alternative to the swing. The child can literally climb inside of the lycra fabric and as they stretch and move, it provides deep pressure and proprioceptive input!

  • Rain stick: This is one of my favorite sensory calming tools, and I often suggest it to be included in home and school calm down corners.

Don't forget about my OT-based multi-sensory activity kits that address sensory processing, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, handwriting, and more! Check them out and order by clicking this link:

Gift ideas for babies and toddlers:

I don't want to leave the little ones out! I know many of the above mentioned toys are for older toddlers/kids, so here are a few of my favorite toys for the little ones:

  • Ring stacker and shape sorter: these are two of my favorite toys to work with little ones!

  • Stacking blocks and sensory balls: These stacking blocks are the perfect size and texture for little ones just learning, and I love the addition of the sensory balls and buddies that provide various tactile input and textures!

  • Dump n' go truck: There is just something about this toy...I love it, the kids love it! Great for the beginning skill of put in/take out.

  • Hedgehog: This is not only the cutest toy ever, but putting the pegs in and taking them out are important developmental skills, and this just makes it that much more fun!

  • Lacing apple: I just love this lacing toy for little ones to work on beginning bilateral coordination skills, and the best part is the caterpillar is attached and no pieces will get lost!

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas!

53 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page