Play & Learning: My Favorite Things for Physical Play

Last week I shared toys for manipulative play. This week I am going to continue sharing some of my favorite things with you! This time we are looking at toys for physical play!  Get ready to move!!!

Great Toys for Physical Play:

  • Balls While a ball is a favorite toy for me (and all the kiddos I work with) I do not have a favorite ball. It depends on the child I'm working with, their developmental skills, and their personality. There are balls with rivets that can help with sensory issues, balls that light up, ball that are huge, balls that are small. You pick! The one I'm sharing with you here is great for sensory due to the rivets, light weight, but it can also be stretched! Lots of fun things, but it's also $10. A child can have just a much fun with a ball from the dollar store.
  • Catch Me Crabbie How adorable is this crab?!? My aunt actually bought this toy for my daughter. I loved it so much, I've bought 2 more for Tiny Feet. Haha! When you press the button on his head, he plays a jingle & goes crawling across your floor. This is such a great gross motor activity! I use it with babies and toddlers, whether we're reaching for the toy, crawling, walking, or running after him! The activation button is great for cause and effect as well!
  • Pop Up Tunnel Kids love crawling in, crawling through and playing games such as peek-a-boo. Really the possibilities are as endless as your imagination. We pretend to be fish swimming in the river or a truck going through a tunnel. I use this with my crawlers, but the older kiddos love it as well! If you turn it vertically and hold it in place, your child can practice seeing how high her or she can jump!
  • Melissa & Doug Chomp & Clack Alligator Push Toy These little alligators open and close their mouths as your child is pushing it forward! Very durable (it's Melissa and Doug!) Perfect for that child who is cruising along furniture but not ready for walking independently! Really, any push toy is great, but this one is my favorite!
  • Push Mower I would say all boys love this toy, but really, all the girls love it too! It's a great outdoor toy for the back yard. It has a place for bubbles. The faster you go, the more bubbles come out! Perfect for the ones who are walking or just beginning to walk! It promotes more independence and working towards that faster walk/run.
  • Melissa & Doug Dust! Sweep! Mop! This set is lots of fun for your little one to "help" you clean your house. Model cleaning activities and they can follow right along with you! It's a great set for siblings because between the broom, mop, brush, and dust pan, there is something for everyone! Once again, it's Melissa & Doug, so you know you're getting a high quality, durable toy!
  • Slide with Stairs One of the skills I'm constantly asking parents about is, "How does your child do with stairs? Does he alternate his feet? Does he hold on to the rail?" A toy like this is a great way to make these gross motor skills play rather then routine. Through play, it becomes fun and children practice over and over again! And of course, you go up the stairs to get the reward of sliding down! Excellent reinforcer! The one I'm recommending also has a swing!
  • Balance Bike This one might seem a little scary at first, but really, a great way to teach your child to ride a bike. With a balance bike, you'll never have to worry about training wheels! You can look around at different designs; some are for children as young as a year and a half. The balance bike pictured is the one my son has. It has been great for us! If you make the purchase, know that is takes most kids a month to get the hang of it (and they just keep getting better)!

Each of the toys listed have a link to Amazon so you can see more details of what I'm recommending. However, as you guys know, I'm a thrifty lady, and I always shop around before purchasing!

We all know that for physical play, you don't necessarily need a toy. So here are... 

Some of My Favorite Activities for Physical Play-

  • A riveting game of tag! We run circles in our house trying to catch one another! 
  • Duck, Duck, Goose! While they may not completely understand, tapping each other on the head and running in a circle is always loads of fun!
  • Jumping in rain puddles! I know the Mom in all of us wants to hold back on this... BUT... Life is short, go put on your rain boots, and get a little messy with your kiddo! You won't regret it! The look on your kid's face will be enough.

What about you? What are your favorite toys and activities for physical play?

Play & Learning: Picking the Right Activity

In Early Intervention, we use activity-based learning which simply means we assist families in creating learning opportunities by embedding curriculum items in naturally occurring routines, activities, and settings. So when you sit down to play with your child, how do you decide what to play? 

Picking the Right Activity: Questions to ask yourself

  • What developmental milestone do we want to work on? In Early Intervention, we always work on skills that are important to the family and their daily routines. So think about it, what is important to you? What would you like to see your child doing?

    • To further help with selecting the developmental milestone you would like to address, think through: Is this skill developmentally appropriate?  The CDC offers excellent resources on developmental milestones by age. Definitely check it out if you are not sure what you could be working on with your child!

    • In addition and closely related to the last question: Is this an emerging skill for my child? Your child is not going to go from rolling over to walking. Instead, an appropriate milestone to work on after your child is rolling over might be sitting with support. All children develop at different rates, so while developmental appropriateness is important, determining the next skill in the progression of developmental milestones is critical. 

  • What is the best way to teach this skill?

    • Do we need a toy? 90 percent of preschool children’s play in the United States involves a toy. However, don't let this rule out other opportunities during play. For example, when a baby is learning to crawl, placing a toy he or she loves just out of reach is a great method to encourage crawling. However, you can switch it up by offering a yummy snack (my kids were always motivated by puffs) or simply the smile on your face your arms outstretched as you verbally encourage your child to crawl towards you. So be creative! 

      • If you decide you do need a toy, think through your child's interests. Professor Trawick-Smith (Professor of Early Childhood Education at the Center for Early Childhood Education at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic, Connecticut) found "many of the toys nominated by parents and teachers that were used most often and in the most complex ways by boys. This included items that seemed gender-neutral from an adult perspective. What set the highest-scoring toys apart was that they prompted problem solving, social interaction, and creative expression in both boys and girls. Interestingly, toys that have traditionally been viewed as male oriented—construction toys and toy vehicles, for example—elicited the highest quality play among girls." ("What the Research Says: Impact of Specific Toys on Play") Remember when selecting toys, that blocks, Legos, etc, are not just for boys!

      • In addition, Professor Trawick-Smith gave one rule of thumb for families in selecting toys that emerged from his studies- Basic is better! ("What the Research Says: Impact of Specific Toys on Play")

      • Continue monitoring the effectiveness of the toy. Some toys have a powerful influence on children’s thinking, interaction with peers, and creative expression. Other toys do not. Once toys are selected, teachers can carefully observe their impact on children’s play. Do toys elicit a good balance of play behaviors, across social, intellectual, and creative areas of development? ("What the Research Says: Impact of Specific Toys on Play")

I hope this blog post has gotten you thinking about what you would like your child to begin working on and brainstorming activities and/or toys you could use to begin working with your child on these skills. Going forward in this series we still will be taking a look at how to scaffold learning during play, some great places to find toys, and some of my favorite toys you can use to address different developmental milestones!


What the Research Says: Impact of Specific Toys on Play | National Association for the Education of Young Children | NAEYC. (n.d.). Retrieved January 12, 2017, from

What will my first visit be like?

For me, the drive to meet a new family is kind of like the excited anticipation of Christmas Eve. I love meeting new families! I've never met a child or family that I didn't learn from. Every one is different- different strengths, different needs, different concerns...

I enjoy getting to know a family, working together with them to develop an individualized program that meets their specific needs. That is what the initial visit is all about!

Your Early Interventionist typically comes to your home for the Initial visit. When parents work outside the home, we can come to your work, meet at a restaurant, etc. Here are key components of this time together!

  • Getting to know one another: We will share information with you about our company, our owners and your Early Interventionist. We take time to play with the child and start letting them become familiar with us.
  • Learning about your child: If BabyNet had the assessment completed, we will review the results. We will also complete another assessment (HELP or Carolina) while playing with your child and asking questions of you. This is a great time for you to be noticing things your child is doing developmentally as well as some skills that you would like to work on. If your child has been diagnosed with a special need, we will review this as well. We will ask you to share your concerns for your child. We know that you are the expert on your child, and the sharing of your knowledge is invaluable.
  • Learning about your family: BabyNet completes a Family Assessment before you are referred to a Early Intervention provide. We will go over this together in order for your Early Interventionist to find out what services you currently have, if there are siblings (we can always include siblings in our Special Instruction!), etc. 
  • Complete paperwork: With the initation of a new service, there is much paperwork. Some of the documents to be gone over include:
    • Service Coordinator/Early Interventionist Provider Choice- You always have choice regarding which company you use, if you want another EI, or if you no longer wish to continue the service. By signing this form, you are consenting for the selected Early Intervention company to provide services.
    • Consent to Release & HIPAA- You sign consent regarding who we are allowed to send/receive information.
    • Written Prior Notice- You always have the right to 7 days notice before we have a meeting, complete an assessment, make any changes to the IFSP, etc. However, if you would like to complete an IFSP review before 7 days notice, you can sign your consent. This is often done at the first visit in order to get services going as quickly as possible.
    • BabyNet Child and Family Rights- A booklet stating all of your rights as a family in the BabyNet system.
    • Safety Checklist- A quick yes/no checklist informing parents of recommended practices to keep children safe.
  • Developing appropriate goals: Together we will develop an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). This is an educational document that plans out the services that your child will receive. The plan is individualized to your child's needs and your concerns. The assessments your child has received will be listed and then we develop IFSP "outcomes" or goals. You get to select goals, and these are what your Early Interventionist will teach you strategies for during Special Instruction.
  • Developing appropriate services: After reviewed assessments and developing goals, we will review services that can be used to help meet these goals. Family Training and Service Coordination will be listed in this section. In addition, some services that might be pursued and listed are vision/hearing evaluations, foreign language interpretations, Physical Therapy Evaluation, etc.
  • Reviewing the Transition process: Transition to the school district begins at age 2. At each IFSP review, we will review the process of transitioning to the school district. We will add more on Transition in a later series.
  • Scheduling of 1st Family Training visit.

It is important for you to know that while an Individualized Family Service Plan is a legal, educational document, it is also a plan for current services and needs. As your child progresses or your concerns change, we can always revisit the IFSP to adjust goals and services to make updates!

The Initial visit typically requires 1.5-2.5 hours.

What did my child just qualify for?

"My child qualifies for Early Intervention services. What does that mean?"

Early Intervention is really a two part service including Special Instruction & Service Coordination. If someone asks me what Early Intervention is or what an Early Interventionist does, my one sentence explanation is-

We equip parents with strategies and services in order to help children meet developmental goals.

Special Instruction is a time where your Early Interventionist will share research-based strategies with you to help your child meet developmental goals. Lets pick this apart a bit more-

  • Special Instruction, also known as Family Training. You may hear both terms, but they're the same thing.
  • Time: Special Instruction is provided four times a month, for an hour each time.
  • Research-based activities: So much of what we do will look like play first glance. However, all of our activities are based on research. Your Early Interventionist is there to teach you the most effective means of accomplishing goals. We'll share the research with you and teach you the benefits!
  • Goals: Much more on this later, but... You select the goals for your child. We are here to teach you what skills come next developmentally, but you choose the specific goals based on the concerns you have for your child.  

Service Coordination is when your Early Interventionist connects you with services that meet the needs of your family and your child. What types of services might your Early Interventionist help you get connected with?

  • BabyNet 16 Services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, etc. (look for future blog post!)
  • Medicaid, TEFRA
  • Housinge
  • Autism Testing
  • ABA Therapy
  • Parent Support (i.e. Family Connections)
  • Head Start, Early Head Start, Private Preschool
  • Transition to the School District at age 3

Special Instruction (Strategies) + Service Coordination (Services) = Early Intervention