The “little” holiday gifts are sometimes the hardest to think of…
Opening my stocking on Christmas morning was one of my favorite parts of the holiday. My mom always stuffed my stocking with little nail polishes, socks, and other tiny fun things, all individually wrapped. I’m sure she spent a fortune and a ton of time wrapping every little thing, only to the five of us rip through the stockings in less than five minutes. As we all grew up and moved out, the stocking tradition stopped, which was soooo sad. Oh well! Life goes on!
As I ran to the dollar store yesterday to get some tinfoil pans for the ten pounds of mashed potatoes I need to make for Thursday, I was struck by all the awesome Sensory stuff at the Dollar Tree. In the spirit of the holiday season, I decided to share some of my Dollar Store know-how for all you moms out there who need to stuff a stocking for your sensory kid!
Some of this stuff is “non-traditional”, but shouldn’t stockings be individualized to the child?
So if something seems weird but might be something your child loves, go for it.
StressBalls – Tactile and great as a fidget (also great for hand strength)
Koosh balls– Tactile and great as a fidget (some kids are very defensive to Koosh balls for some reason)
Silly Putty – Stretchy and tactile, heavy work for little hands. (also great for hand strength)
Fake Play-Doh– I say fake because it is imitation play-doh and it’s definitely not as good as the real thing. However, it is still fun to squeeze, squish and create with. It just won’t last too long.
Silly String – Tactile- Kind of wet and cold when it squirts; (AMAZING for hand strength – see spray snow) and so fun to play with in the snow!
Shaving Cream – For finger painting, sensory squeeze bags, or the moon sand recipe below, etc.
Body Lotion – For massages, deep pressure and tactile input (can help calm and get little ones to sleep) Dollar Tree has princess lotion!
Hair gel – For finger painting, sensory squeeze bags, etc.
Slime/Gak – These little eggs of goo are usually in the same aisle as the stress balls – they are wet, smelly, slimy, and the containers are hard to open (need 2 hands and great practice for opening lunch/juice boxes, etc.)
Loofah – Great in the bathtub or out, loofahs can be great for tactile and sensory input
Nail files – This is a tough one to sell for any kid, but a sensory kid really can be defensive when it comes to nail hygiene. For girls, the promise of glittery nail polish or polish that is “Anna and Elsa’s” favorite color can help persuade them for a little, soak, scrub, and file. For boys, sometimes watching mom or dad or an older brother can be a little helpful. If they really hate getting their nails clipped and or filed, try to do it after a bath and use a buffer instead of a nail file (until they tolerate it).
Velvet color by number– These are fuzzy and fun for kids who enjoy coloring and the tactile feedback helps kids to color within the lines
Scratch Art – These vary by store but the concept is the same, grab your scratcher (with a perfect pencil grasp, of course) and scratch the paper until some fabulous art shows through. It’s fun.
Chalkboard games – Many of these from the Dollar Store are cheap and don’t last long. But writing with chalk provides kinesthetic feedback that kids don’t get to experience with dry erase, pencil, writing on a tablet, etc. It is fun and if used consistently, can really help a child’s motor skills.
Cornstarch – This is a weird one, and your kid may think you’re crazy.
1) You can use cornstarch to make “oobleck” ( a Dr. Suess favorite – look up the book and here is the link to the recipe)
2) You can make moon sand
Bubblewrap – So, so, fun. I bring bubble wrap to my classes sometimes when I want to strengthen a pincer or pencil grasp. The weak kids always want to “rip” the plastic with their nails. Not on my watch! Get those “pinchers” moving.
Stretchy Bugs, Animals, Creatures, etc. – These are great fidgets for a kid who needs to have something in their hands all the time.
“Fidgets” – I consider mini koosh balls, tops, jacks, mini Slinkys, etc. all to be fidgets. They are small and keep little hands busy when mouths are supposed to be quiet (teacher is talking, waiting in waiting room, sitting in movie theater, etc.)
Grow In Water Pills – I buy these pills a lot when I’m at the Dollar Store – they look like aspirin, but when they are submerged in hot water, the plastic coating around them starts to melt, and then a little sponge in the shape of a bug, dinosaur, etc., pops out for kids to play with. Because I am always looking for ways to work on hand strength, I put a bunch in a tupperware and then give my students Travel Size Water Bottles filled with hot water so they can squeeze, squeeze, squeeze until their hands get tired. I’m so mean, right!? But they love it and then they get to have water play. Also, the sponges can be used later for painting activities, etc. You can do a lot with these little guys – and they are usually 9 pills for a buck – what a bargain!
Grow in Water Animals – Same concept as above. But they are bigger and cost $1 each – and they will definitely take up more room in the stocking (that’s always a plus!)
Mechanical pencils -There is something thrilling about replacing the broken lead of a mechanical pencil. That is the first few times. After that, you start to get annoyed and then think… Maybe I shouldn’t press so hard…If you have a child that presses way too hard when he or she writes, give these a try. The feedback from the break may be a help with that habit. If your child is in the second grade or older, I suggest trying to get them to change the lead themselves. Resist the urge to automatically do it for them. Maybe they will be able to do it.
Highlighters – Kids love highlighters. I think it is because they are mostly a “grown-up” thing. However, highlighters can be great to help kids with copying, “highlight one line blue, copy it, next line yellow, copy, etc… They can also be great to help outline a shape when your child needs to “cut on the line”. They can help highlight where to write when they need to skip spaces or write smaller. They are even good to make boxes to keep your letters and words spaced properly.
Flashlights – What kid doesn’t love their “own” flashlight? It may seem like a weird gift, but you can explain that it is their special flashlight to use if the lights ever go out. You can also use it to work on visual tracking and scanning, games like I spy, ( turn the lights off in the living room, “I spy, Daddy!, I spy, the TV set!, etc.” Your child has to move the beam of light (aka. tracking) and then settle on the object he is looking for.
Basting Brush – Again, this one is a little weird, but it is basically a plastic paint brush. The bristles are a different texture for your “multi-sensory” kid and it can be just another tool to have fun and paint with. Besides, your child doesn’t even know what basting is.
Spray Snow – Spray Snow can provide hours of fun, but obviously, your child needs to be chaperoned. Aerosol cans like these can be dangerous, but I love the position that the little hand needs to take in order to get it to “squirt”. It is EXTREMELY difficult to hold the cylinder of a can in your thumb, middle, ring, and pinky while your index sits on and squeezes the cap. This one is for older kids (like 8 and up).
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Okay, I am going to include this because so many children have weak oral motor skills and it can impact their speech, eating habits, and oral hygiene. That said, your house will be very loud and potentially obnoxious if you stuff your kids’ stockings with these toys. BUT! in the spirit of the holidays…. it is supposed to be all about the kids, right? Maybe confiscate the loud ones for “another day” when they can go outside or in the soundproof basement, etc.
Whistles – in the party favor section, there are a lot of different whistles, princess, whistles, hunting “duck” whistles, etc.
Blow toys- not sure what these babies are called exactly, but you have to control your breath so the ball goes up but not too far, etc. This works on force modulation (if you remember from last week) and breath control.
Balloons – Kids love balloons and there are a million ways to play with them. You can put them in their gift and then offer to blow one up and they are likely to play with the balloon longer than your other present. For older kids, trying to blow up a balloon is a major deal, and something we totally take for granted. Many dollar stores have them multi-colored bags or one color, which can be fun if you get your child to “help decorate” for the holidays.
Blow outs – these look like the annoying noise makers from New Years Eve, but way bigger.
Novelty straws – Straws are a great way to work on “sucking” and oral motor “strengthening”. The Dollar Store has fun ones for both boys and girls.
Noise Horns – Again, so annoying but so strangely addicting…
Musical Instruments – On this particular trip to the Dollar Tree, there were a lot of recorders. Blowing would be work alone, but then you have the eye-hand coordination to try to cover up the holes at the same time.
Happy Thanksgiving! ~Miss Jaime, O.T.