Happy Holidays! For some parents, choosing gifts for their children can be an overwhelming challenge! As occupational therapists, we know that play is the primary work of children and an important way to develop skills. And just as any tool, toys can serve a purpose in promoting healthy child development. We have put together some suggestions for toys and games that support the growth of sustained attention and focus.
- Puzzles – Jigsaw puzzles are great toys, that can be graded, or adjusted in difficulty, easily. A clear goal, and the ability to transfer previously learned strategies to more challenging puzzles make this a toy that a child can learn to complete independently. For beginners, non-interlocking and 2 piece interlocking puzzles can be an introduction to the toy. Increasing the number of pieces adds both to the difficulty as well as the length of the task. Setting up a large puzzle in a central location lets the whole family get in on the fun!
- Building Blocks – Legos™, wooden blocks, log building toys, magnetic blocks, oh my! All of these are great tools that children can use to develop fine and visual motor skills, imagination, and sustained attention! Following visual, step-by-step directions can be a lot of fun when you end up with a neat helicopter or log cabin!
- Crafts -Rubber band looms are a very popular toy right now, and along with many other crafts, can help children engage with a task over an extended period of time. There are many craft kits available for children of all ages. Loom or hand knitting, crochet, or model kits all provide opportunities for children to gradually begin working independently, and can be a “just-right challenge,” with readily-available support from an adult.
- Strategy Games – Like puzzles, board games have a clearly defined endpoint, which can help children practice sticking with a more difficult task. For games that support attention and focus, look for board games that require a slightly longer time investment, and incorporate a logical thinking or strategy component. Examples of board games that may benefit focus include checkers, chess, Monopoly. A quick search online for “strategy games for children” reveals so many more!
- Memory Games – These games engage children and encourage focus on a single, sustained activity. Memory and Simon can be great games that progress and challenge children. Technology, including iPad and Android apps, also offer options for memory games. For a game that addresses multiple skills at once, check out Listen Close Articulation! Developed by a speech-language pathologist, this game can allow children to practice both memory and targeted speech sounds.
- Preparatory Toys – Play that incorporates sensory input can also help more active children get ready to focus and learn. Yoga is one fun way to add movement into a child’s day! For more gift ideas, MamaOT has created a list of the “Ultimate List of Gifts for Sensory Seekers.” This list is full of great suggestions for children who are looking for extra sensory input, which can be utilized before more cognitively demanding activities!
Do you have any suggestions for other toys that develop sustained attention?