• Coastal Therapy

Coastal's Christmas Shopping List

Here at Coastal, our shelves are full of fun, skill-building, and educational games for all ages! Want to make skill development and learning fun at home? Fortunately, it is that time of year again, and a frequent question we get from our parents is, “What should I get my child for Christmas?” We are here to help! Here are some of our favorite games and toys that are great for building those OT, speech, and language skills!

Occupational Therapy

We love play-dough! It is a fun and easy tool for play, development, and learning. Manipulating playdough helps to strengthen hand muscles and develop control over the fingers. It is great for sensory exploration and helps develop our visual motor skills for learning and writing our shapes, numbers and letters.

There are a variety of ways to use play-dough.

  • Flatten it. There are many ways to do so, but using bare hands or a rolling pin will do! This is a great way to build shoulder/arm strength and work on bilateral coordination. It also supports the development of body awareness and is calming from the sensory input to the muscles and joints by the act of pushing. We also call this “heavy work”.

  • Cookie cutters. This teaches kids about pressure and force. They have to apply just the right amount of force for the image to appear, but avoid cutting all the way through the dough. Many kiddos have a difficult time grading the amount of force needed to complete certain activities such as handwriting, closing containers, and hugging our friends.

  • Roll a snake or ball. This provides practice for bilateral coordination skills. Roll the play-dough into a snake, using two hands as it is rolled out onto the table. To make it more challenging, roll in between the palms of both hands moving back and forth in opposite directions. Rolling a ball between the palms is even more challenging because it requires a circular movement pattern and the appropriate amount of force. Rolling small balls with 3 fingers encourages the tripod grasp for holding writing utensils!

  • Build shapes, letters, and numbers: This is a great way to learn the correct formation of our letters, numbers and shapes. Form pieces of play-dough into tall and short straight lines and big and small curves and put them together to create letters. Another great way to learn letters is to use a pencil and write in the play-dough. This is great for hand strengthening and provides a multi-sensory approach.

  • Hide and find: Hide small items such as beads or coins in the ball of play-dough and have your kids find all of the items with or without their eyes open :) Manipulating the play-dough is a great exercise for the fingers and hands! When they locate the items, encourage them to use the pads of the index and thumb (pincer grasp) to pinch and pull out.

  • Snip it: Using play-dough is a great way to introduce cutting skills! Cutting through play-dough formed into a snake or pancake is great for hand strengthening and to practice the motion of opening and closing the scissors. You can progress to cutting along lines and shapes carved in the play dough. Always encourage proper positioning of the scissors, making sure fingers are in the correct loops and to keep both hands in the “thumbs up” position.

Floor Puzzles

Large piece floor puzzles are a great way to get your child’s whole body involved. It requires them to look all around the floor, reach, move, and re-position their body. Their fine motor and visual motor skills are put to work, as they have to precisely fit the pieces together. In addition to motor benefits, puzzles provide a great learning opportunity for executing a task, start to finish. A child has to strategize and problem solve. When the problem becomes bigger than the solution, they are given the chance to practice emotional regulation, as they learn patience and are rewarded for their hard work and dedication.


  1. Provide the child with 2-3 pieces at a time to arrange and fit together. Once different sections of the puzzle have been built, your child can fill in the gaps, including the outside edges.

  2. First, have the child sort the pieces by those with straight edges and those without. Next, find the corners and place them correctly, using the picture on the box for reference. Build the outside of the puzzle before the inside. Show your child how to look for pieces with similar colors to match them up. This uses visual discrimination skills, as well as, figure ground perception.

*For an added challenge, have the child lay over an exercise ball using his/her arms for support. Weight-bearing facilitates strength and stability through the shoulders, arms, and hands. It is also great proprioceptive input to help our kiddos with body awareness and is very calming.


The classic and interactive game, Twister, addresses SO many great skills. It builds basic motor skills such as coordination and balance and helps to strengthen the core, arm, and hand muscles. Twister teaches discrimination between left and right, motor planning, crossing the midline, and body awareness. Another wonderful benefit of this interactive game is helping children to develop their social skills. It requires teamwork, and teaches children to work together, negotiate rules, take turns, and challenge each other.

Twister is appropriate for most ages, as it can be modified by adjusting the amount of assistance and instruction given.


  • Make it a sensory experience! Use a variety of textures to develop sensory discrimination. On the Twister mat, there are six circles of each color (blue, red, green, and yellow). Collect a variety of 6 different textures and cut into squares that fit inside each circle (the color can still be seen). When the spinner lands on a color, tell your child to put their hand/foot on a certain texture. For example, “Right foot on bumpy red.”

  • Letters, numbers, and sight words! Twister is easy to adapt by writing on individual circles with a dry-erase marker. Adapt the game to meet your needs. Fill in each circle with a target sight word, letter of alphabet, number, and feelings.


Yoga is great for building strength, stability and endurance! To keep the body in position, many muscles are engaged at the same time, especially our core muscles. Core strength and trunk stability play such an important role in fine motor development. The stronger a child’s core, the better control they will have of their bodies including their fine motor skills! Many poses require weight bearing through the arms and hands. Balancing weight on open palms helps to strengthen the intrinsic hand muscles, which gives us the ability to write and manage clothing fasteners. In addition to gross and fine motor benefits, yoga is wonderful for getting that much needed sensory input! Maintaining your weight through your arms and legs gives your body proprioceptive input, which is great for body awareness and is also extremely calming. Many poses entail inversion of the head which gives the vestibular system a rush of input, which many of our kids seek. However, being upside down is not the only way to engage the vestibular system. Yoga requires balance, which our vestibular system is responsible for.

OTis, the OT Gorilla, teaches children traditional and original yoga poses in a fun and engaging way! In YogaRilla, there are 55 cards, and each card depicts a pose. On the back of the card there are directions, as well as adaptations for children not able to manage the standard pose, and also extra activity suggestions.


  • Look and do!: Simply look at the picture and try your best to make your body look exactly like OTis!

  • Listen and do!: Have someone read the clues on the back, and try your best to do what they say! Your body should look like OTis after all the clues are given.

Sort and Snap- Ages 2+

This Melissa & Doug set highlights color recognition, visual perception, and fine motor skills. This wooden activity board features 10 double-sided picture cards and 64 colored snap caps. Match like-colored snap caps into the holes to match the colored cards. Visual/spatial perception skills help us notice how the snaps relate to the whole image. To facilitate those fine motor skills, encourage picking up and snapping in the pieces by using the thumb, index and middle finger.


  • Vertical Surface: Prop up the activity board in a vertical plane while your child inserts/removes the snaps into and from the board. Read the benefits below:

  • Wrist Extension/Pencil Grasp: Working on a vertical surface naturally puts the wrist in an extended position which facilitates hand stabilization for better pencil grasp and control of writing utensils.

  • Shoulder/Elbow Stability: The use of vertical surfaces encourage strength and flexibility throughout the joints and muscles of the upper extremities. Even the hand gets a workout as it works against gravity.

  • Visual Attention and Hand-Eye Coordination: Working on a vertical surface brings the task closer to the child’s eyes. This helps kids who have difficulty maintaining visual attention to activities and can help to encourage hand-eye coordination, as the child has a better view of what they are doing!


Mr. Potato Head

Mr. Potato Head is another classic toy that provides many developmental benefits! As children play with Mr. Potato head, we can encourage those language and fine motor skills!

Playing with Mr. Potato head facilitates the development of body awareness. Ask your child to identify body parts by asking, “Where are the eyes?” then “Where are your eyes?”, and continue for all parts. You can also target spatial awareness by learning positional terms such as on, off, next to, on top of, behind, and in front of. For example, Potato’s nose is in the middle, and his hat goes on top. We can also start to identify function of body parts (senses), by asking “What do we smell with?” or “What do we hear with?” as a prompt for selecting body parts and for conversation. Another way to target language skills is by asking what/where/who questions. For example, What do we wear on our head?” “Where are Mr. Potato’s ears?” and “Who is wearing glasses?”


For age 7+, this can be used to target use of question forms, categories, memory, and problem-solving. Hedbanz is a multi-player (2-6 player) game of “What am I?”. Each player wears a picture card in their headband. They need to ask questions to figure out what they are. “Am I an animal?” “Am I a person?” This game targets deductive reasoning and questioning, as they learn to begin with more general questions and get more specific as they narrow down their answer.


  • Provide visual: Use the sample question cards to help younger players or those who need some examples, “Could I be a pet?”

  • Categorize: Sort the cards by category...Food, Animals, Bugs, and Things

  • Compare and Contrast: Choose two cards from the same category and lay them side by side. Discuss what makes the items the same and different. Make a diagram for visual learners.

Farm Animals

Another way to address speech and language skills is to create a fun basket containing a variety of animals (puppets, stuffed animals, etc). The best ones to include are those common farm animals; cow, horse, duck, dog, sheep, bee, fish, frog, and mouse. This fun and interactive basket address various speech and language concepts such imitating sounds, receptive & expressive language skills, following directions, and answering WH and YES/NO questions. Below are examples for each targeted skill:

Goals of play:

  • Receptive/expressive vocabulary: identifying animals names and animal sounds

  • Increase imitations &/or spontaneous: oral motor & motoric movements, in addition to verbalizations

  • Asking/answering basic "what/where" questions

  • Identifying animals with verbally given descriptions: "what animal says moo & gives us milk?"

  • Following directions, such as "Can you give me the cow and the dog?"

We hope this list of therapeutic games and toys will provide hours of fun for your kiddos! Happy shopping!


Coastal Connection blog post contributor, Lanna Koop OTR/L

Lanna joined the Coastal team in 2017. Lanna, originally from Ohio, attended The Ohio State University where she earned her undergraduate degree in Human Development and Family Science with a minor in early childhood education. She continued her education to pursue her Masters degree in Occupational Therapy from Shawnee State University in southern Ohio. Lanna completed her fieldwork at the Cleveland Clinic and at a School for children with Autism and other developmental disabilities. After completing her educational coursework, Lanna’s love for travel and the mountains took her to New Hampshire when she gained experience in a skilled nursing and rehab center. She moved to Jacksonville in 2015 with her husband, and whole heartedly chose to pursue her love of working with children, serving in a variety of schools and private pediatric clinics around the area.

Lanna has experience with a variety of diagnoses including, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Apraxia, Sensory Processing Disorder, genetic disorders, and developmental delays. Some of her professional education include courses in the Astronaut Training program, the Integrated Listening System Practitioner Training, Solving the Puzzle of Autism: Using Tactile Therapy Techniques (Talk Tools), Nutrition and Autism, and Handwriting Without Tears.

Lanna loves having the opportunity to be a part of each one of her patient’s story, and sharing in the successes, small and big. She believes one of the best feelings in the world is being a part of the progress. She loves that occupational therapy is both an art and a science, allowing her to be creative coming up with fun activities to implement individualized approaches to help her clients reach their goals.

In her free time, Lanna loves spending time with her husband and their energetic border collie, Isabella, riding bikes and playing at the beach.