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Observing Play Preferences

Play, at its best, is self-directed. As a result, children develop personal preferences while engaging in a variety of different types of play. Observing children engaged in spontaneous play allows us to learn what they like to do. Knowing this, we can provide opportunities and props that support and enrich their preferred play experiences and show that we’re paying attention and respecting their choices.

Because children develop at different paces and are drawn to different activities, kiddos of the same age display markedly different competencies even when all are developing within typical ranges. One 12 month old may be so fascinated by the different ways to open and close the fasteners on a lock box that he has no interest in walking. Another is on his feet happily exploring his environment from a new perspective.

The first child’s passion requires figuring out how the locks work and using his fingers and hands. Mastery incorporates cognitive, problem solving, and small motor skills, perhaps beyond developmental expectations. The second delights in having gotten the hang of walking and focuses on learning more ways to move his body. Mastery requires developing gross motor skills – balance, coordination, and strength. When learning anything new, our focus and concentration are on the task at hand. Mastery requires trial and error, repetition, and time to process what we’re learning.  Once we’ve achieved one goal, we’re ready for another. Personal needs and preferences often dictate what we choose.

Through observation, we also learn what a child shies away from, and this gives us valuable insights too. Observing your child when she’s playing spontaneously is the best way to learn her play preferences. Take note of what she does most often and what toys or other objects she incorporates into her play.

Does she enjoy artistic pursuits, music, or dance? Fantasy? Imaginative Play? Is she drawn to activities that involve analytical thinking – sorting, classifying, categorizing? Does “puzzling” over spatial relationships intrigue her? What about building with blocks? Does she prefer fine motor activities or gross motor ones? Does she like sensory play?

Observing a child at play not only gives us insights into her preferences, but it also reminds us that play is essential. Children learn while playing. The more children engage in self-directed play, the more experiential learning they do. Kids naturally learn how to learn through play. So encourage children to play.

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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How to Make Coloring Inclusive

Children build skills while playing. Think cause and effect, eye-hand coordination, fine and gross motor, cognitive, language, problem solving, social and more. PlayopolisToys sells toys that engage the senses and invite open-ended, child directed play.

Children learn while playing, each at his or her own pace. They explore what’s at hand, whether a puddle of muddy water after a rain or blocks. They devise, execute, assess, and adapt their plans based upon their experiences. When playing with others, children sharpen their social skills, learn to communicate, negotiate, and cooperate.

Because play builds bridges among children with diverse abilities, PlayopolisToys sells toys that appeal to and work well for a wide range of abilities and preferences. Inclusive play reduces social isolation among children with disabilities and raises awareness and acceptance of individual differences.

A classic childhood activity for enhancing fine motor skills is coloring. Raised line drawings for coloringColorSENSEation features 12 raised line drawings perfect for use with crayons, markers, watercolor, or tempera paints. Each spiral-bound book includes the printed word and Braille for each design, along with a plastic page protector. Raised lines enhance spatial awareness and give structure. Beneficial to both children and adults, ColorSensation develops eye-hand coordination, fine motor, cognitive, language, color concept, and spatial awareness skills, provides visual and tactile stimulation, and enhances social engagement. Ideal for the visually-impaired, these spiral bound coloring books benefit anyone working to develop fine motor control or who simply learns best through touch. With ColorSENSEation coloring becomes inclusive and meaningful for a wider audience.

 

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Play Is Essential

PlayopolisToys is an inclusive place where all citizens of play, children and children at heart, including those with special needs, find engaging toys that delight the senses, invite exploration and discovery, and build skills. We’ve created a Pinterest board, Play is Essential, brimming with quotes, research, even two videos that support this belief.

When speaking of play, we’re referring to open-ended experiences emerging naturally from a child’s interest. It’s self directed, non-scripted, and creative. When children become engaged in play and are allowed time and space to “take it to the limit,” they grow their minds and their bodies, becoming creative and imaginative problem solvers. They develop cognitive, language, emotional, and social competencies as well as fine and gross motor skills. And they enjoy the process. They’re excited about what they’ve learned and eager to learn more.

Children delight in play and learn through play. They learn because they play. Childhood is a time of exploration and discovery, figuring out how the world works, and acquiring skills. The best play occurs when children have opportunity to assess possibilities and decide what to do. Freedom to choose allows children to pursue personal interests. Excited by possibilities, they delve deeper, become more involved, and gain insight and knowledge.

Provide opportunities. Observe. You’ll be amazed.

quote from Plato

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

 

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What’s in a Name?

Recently a friend asked why we changed the name of our business from Playworks to PlayopolisToys. She also wanted to know what our new name means to us. When I told her, she insisted that everyone coming to our website would like to know too. So, here’s the scoop…

We wanted a name we could trademark, one that kept the emphasis on play. Polis refers to the city states of ancient Greece. Think of Athens and its exceptional creativity in drama, literature, and poetry, architectural design, mathematics, and philosophy. We liked the idea of creating an inclusive place for all citizens of play, whether children or children at heart, including those with special needs. Children delight in play and learn through play. And adults who value play do too. At PlayopolisToys, we provide citizens of play with engaging toys that delight the senses and invite exploration and discovery.

When we speak of play, we’re referring to open-ended experiences that emerge naturally from a child’s interest. It’s self directed, non-scripted, and creative. When children become engaged in play and are allowed time and space to “take it to the limit,” they grow their minds and their bodies, becoming creative and imaginative problem solvers. They develop cognitive, language, emotional, and social competencies as well as fine and gross motor skills. And they enjoy the process. They’re excited about what they’ve learned and eager to learn more.

 

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Why Buy Toys at PlayopolisToys.com?

 

PlayopolisToys aims to save our customers both time and money. We price our toys competitively and offer periodic specials, thus saving you money. The toys at PlayopolisToys appeal to children and invite the open-ended, self-directed play that builds skills. Safe and durable, the toys have proven value.

Our website provides extensive information about the toys we sell and how each supports child development and provides healthy play experiences. Further information on choosing toys and the benefits of play is available through our blog posts. This saves you time when you’re looking for appealing toys for the children in your life. Have questions about a toy? Call 877.579.9300 toll-free or email christina@PlayopolisToys.com. We’re here to help.

We know all children learn differently and offer toys with universal design to maximize sensory awareness as well as gross and fine motor, cognitive, language, and social skills development among children with diverse abilities. These toys also offer distraction and multi-sensory stimulation, particularly beneficial to children with special needs.

PlayopolisToys sells toys that encourage children to play, discover what happens as a result of their actions, and build skills. Finding toys that appeal to the sense of touch is as easy as entering “tactile toys” in the search box. Or pull down the By Type menu and click on Tactile.

Play is essential to the well-being of all children. It’s how they learn. Toys build bridges among differently-abled children. Inclusive play reduces social isolation among children with special needs and increases awareness and acceptance of diverse needs. Whatever your toy needs, PlayopolisToys likely has something to offer.

 

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Shape Sorters for Toddlers

We’ve explored stack and nest toys. Now let’s look at shape sorters. Simplicity is key when buying for a child between 12 and 36 months of age, and hand/eye coordination, fine and gross motor skills and the process of distinguishing among colors, shapes, and sizes are in their infancy.

The classic Ambi Lock A Block offers primary color and basic shape identification and matching opportunities. High contrast between the bright white top and the color matched, raised rims outlining each opening facilitates “hitting the target.” Three dimensional shapes drop more easily into place than shaped dowel pieces that require precise fitting. Includes two each of three shapes. Retrieve shapes through the door on the front of the sorting block. Permanently attached key fits smoothly in the lock and turns easily; lock clicks as the key turns. The lock and key add another dimension to play. For some children, my son being one, that feature alone makes Lock A Block a favorite.

This shape sorter is particularly appealing to children with low vision who benefit from the high contrast and raised rims. The sound of the shapes hitting the bottom of the block and of the key turning in the lock provides auditory re-enforcement for the blind and visually impaired.

I know early interventionists who make cardboard covers for Lock A Block that initially expose only the round opening. Later they exchange that for a cover exposing two openings. Once the child can successfully distinguish between two shapes, they remove the cover and offer the third. This versatility makes Lock A Block a must have when working with children with special needs.

Sound Puzzle Box is another toddler favorite. Each shape–circle, square, triangle–makes a sound as it slides down a clear tube. Such auditory feedback makes Sound Puzzle Box particularly valuable for children who are blind or visually impaired. Since the shapes  require precise fitting, this shape sorter offers more challenge than Lock A Block.

Even more challenging is Musical Shape Sorter, a double-sided shape sorter featuring a peek-a-boo safety mirror, clicking dial, and counting beads on the back and four distinct shapes, each featuring a different animal insert, on the front. Each shape doubles as a rattle and makes its own distinctive sound. Set the dial to play either animal sounds or four different melodies as the child fits shapes into their respective spot. Such versatility extends the usefulness of the toy. Multiple auditory responses make this an ideal shape sorter for the blind or visually impaired. Large, easy grip carry handle. On/off switch. Includes two AAA batteries. Although I prefer no batteries required toys, addressing the developmental needs of differently abled children requires exceptions.

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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More than Popular Toys

All children want to fit in, to be accepted members of their peer group. This can be challenging for children with disabilities.  Having a popular toy can help a child with disabilities feel she’s one of the group, but that’s not enough.

Play is a universal childhood activity with the power to bring together children with diverse abilities. Adults have a responsibility to see that it does. We have an obligation to plan activities that enable children with a range of abilities to participate successfully. The rewards outweigh the challenges.

Jacob’s Rib-it-Ball encourages inclusive active play and social engagement among differently able children and adolescents and easily accommodates wheelchair users. With its unique, patented ribs, Jacob’s Rib-It-Ball makes grabbing easy even for the smallest hands. Lightweight, the ball is fun and easy to throw even for children with limited muscle strength. Made from crisp material that naturally crinkles when touched for auditory stimulation. High contrast colors appeal to children with low vision and autism. Develops eye-hand coordination, fine and gross motor skills, forearm rotation, trunk extension and flexion, grasp and release timing, whole body strength, and visual and auditory processing. 

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play