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Welcome to Julie Billiart Schools, a family of K-8 coeducational, independent day schools for children with learning differences.

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Monday, December 14, 2020

Looking for Holiday Gift Inspiration? Here are 10 Sensory and Learning-Friendly Ideas!

By Sarah Richlak

Sure, every kid likes the latest superhero toy or video game, but what about thoughtful gifts that encourage learning, play, and exploration outside of the classroom? We talked with our friends at Learning Express Toys, as well as our own inhouse experts, to curate a list of 10 sensory and learning-friendly gift ideas to make your holiday shopping easier! The following gift ideas span across games, play toys, physical activity, art, and education.

If your holiday shopping is already complete, bookmark this list for future birthdays and holidays, or share it with a friend.

At Julie Billiart Schools, we know that what happens outside of academics is just as important as the lessons, quizzes, and class work. The importance of play nurtures our kids’ sense of curiosity and encourages them to activate different senses and abilities. These toys, suggested by our friends at Learning Express Toys of Westlake and by our JB Akron Occupational Therapist, JJ Schweikert, are designed to help kids tap into fine motor skills, practice emotional regulation, explore new concepts, and most of all - have fun!

These toys can be found online at various retailers. We recommend shopping locally and visiting Learning Express Toys of Westlake.

Kerplunk

Kerplunk works on impulse control and turn taking. There is a good amount of eye-hand coordination that is required to get the sticks into the game tower. The game can help with color recognition as the players can be given specific color sticks to select. Visual perceptual skills are practiced by selecting specific color sticks while all of them are splayed out on the tabletop. According to Schweikert, “Kerplunk can also be used to work on emotional regulation, getting the stick through the first hole can be a bit easy, but getting it through the other side, especially when more sticks are already in the tower can be very frustrating and lends itself to good conversations and strategy practice for regulation.”

Sensory Liquid Floor Tiles

Let your child walk barefoot on these fun floor tiles to address tactile sensation. You can also use the tiles for color recognition, sequencing games, and even motor planning.

Trouble

Trouble is a classic game that you may already have at home! There are different versions with cartoon characters, too, such as Paw Patrol, Disney, and others. This game works fine motor and hand strength. “It is a great game to teach turn taking, as well as emotional regulation (when someone lands on your marker and sends you back!)” said Schwiekert.

Let’s Go Fishing!

This game is great for eye hand coordination and emotional regulation, Schwiekert said, as players have to wait for the fish to open its mouth in order to catch it with a small fishing rod! The “fish tank” is moving as the child has to “catch” the fish with the rod.

Pop the Pig

This game works on hand strengthening and in-hand manipulation by having players roll the dice. “Pop the Pig can work on color recognition as well as visual perception skills”, according to Schwiekert. It also teaches turn taking/social skills. Plus, who doesn’t like to laugh at a crazy pink pig?

Light Brite

This artistic activity is quite a nostalgic choice! With a light-up board and colorful pegs, this gift addresses fine motor, cognitive skills, visual and spatial perception, and sensory processing developments. Give your child the opportunity to unleash their inner artist!

Door Pong

A toy originally designed for a child with autism to improve skills and coordination, Door Pong aids players with gross motor development, sensory processing, social skills and self-esteem, and visual and spatial perception. The only setup required is attaching the clamp of the toy to the top of any doorway and adjusting the string to the child’s level. Door Pong is a great way to work on hand-eye coordination!

Spooner Board

For another fun active gift, the Spooner Board improves core and leg strength, increases stability and balance, and works on those coordination and gross motor skills. This gift combines the boarding aspect of sports like snowboarding, skateboarding, and surfing. Such versatility! The best part- the Spooner Board is safe and easy to use inside.

Water Wow!

More art is never a bad thing, and The Water Wow! is a great artistic gift that can also double as an educational one. Portable, reusable, and no-mess means that whenever inspiration strikes, your child has a place to actualize it. There are tons of different notebooks to choose from, including alphabet practice, drawing, and adventure path reveal, which uncovers landscapes as your child draws. All you need is some water!

Magformers

An authenticated educational STEM toy, the Magformers are a great building toy that encourage tactile play. What makes this gift so cool is through magnetic technology, your child can connect and disconnect pieces easily. With the ability to change and redesign the included pieces, the possibilities are endless! This allows for another great opportunity to express imagination and address motor skills.

Toys and games are beneficial for all children, and those with learning and social challenges in particular may enjoy this list. Encouraging learning through play is always a great way to extend what your child learns in the classroom to their fun free time!
The holiday season is an exciting time for everyone, and we at Julie Billiart Schools would like to wish everyone a happy season of giving and holiday cheer.

open-quote Julie Billiart Schools has helped my child become a better version of himself. The teachers and therapists at JB really know and understand how to reach children who learn differently. close-quote

JB Parent

open-quote My kids love everything about JB and look forward to going to school every day and seeing their friends and teachers. JB is truly a one of a kind school enriching young lives everyday. close-quote

JB Parent

open-quote They have all the resources necessary, specialized to the individual learning of each child, and the heart that goes with it. I don't think we would have stayed in Ohio if it wasn't for JB! close-quote

JB Parent

open-quote Julie Billiart Schools gave us hope after our daughter was diagnosed with a learning disability. At JB, she thrived in the small classes, received necessary therapies, and developed the self-confidence to ask for help when she needed it. close-quote

JB Parent

open-quote I don’t think I will ever be able to put into words how grateful I am that you saw my daughter for all that she is today and all that she is yet to become. close-quote

Tammie Sommer

open-quote All of the teachers and staff at JB are patient and willing to take the extra time to make sure we, as parents, understand and are comfortable. close-quote

JB Parent

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