Saturday, July 2, 2011

ACTIVITIES ON THE ANGLE: Melissa and Doug, Let's Play!

'Melissa and Doug' is a company with great ideas, quality products and good customer service.  I have always been very happy with their learning toys and constantly wanting to see what they will come up with next.  Being that they are so durable, they really stand the test of time.  When I have purchased these items, new or used, I have been amazed at how engaging they are for children. 

Being that I have been very happy with many of their items, I thought I would share some of my favorites.  Also, there are several of the items that are quick and easy to adapt for those with autism to suit the needs of the individual.

One of my favorite puzzles for beginners!  I love the large handle for hands of all sizes and the pictures underneath are perfect for those not yet visually differentiating between shapes.  Very sturdy puzzle that will last many more years to come!

This shape puzzle is great to help with those starting to differentiate shapes.  The colors are an extra visual cue to help complete correctly.  Stabilizing puzzles on cardboard (such as this copier paper box lid) is a good way to have everything contained.  Also, standing the pieces up with Sticky/Ticky-Tack (used for hanging posters) is a good way to help the individual grab one puzzle piece at a time.

These blocks make the sound of the corresponding animal when the two halves are matched correctly.  Being that there are different animals on every side of the cubes, it could be overwhelming initially to some.  Covering up several of the animals with paper at first can help the child gain the concept before moving on to all the animals.

These are fun puzzles that take a little more attention to detail.  Each piece can fit in the cars or animals it is not intended for.  Therefore, it is important to look at the colors and patterns.  To adapt this, you can color copy the pieces and tape them underneath to give more visual information.  Also, stabilizing the puzzle to a box lid is a good way to keep everything organized and easier to complete.

This puzzle, and many similar ones through 'Melissa and Doug', makes the animal sound when matched correctly.  The pictures are underneath on this item so it helps with matching.  If you are unfamiliar with sound puzzles, be forewarned that they can drive you bonkers!  Many times the puzzle will make noises even when just sitting on a shelf.  Luckily many more recent puzzles have on/off switches to avoid this annoyance :) 

Another favorite!  These individual inset puzzles help with spelling some of the first words.  It can be adjusted easily to suit each child's needs.  Limiting the number of letters for only a few word puzzles at a time can help initially.

Adorable boat with animals, two by two

Each animal fits into a space on the boat on either side, top or bottom.  For readers, the animal name can be placed above the hole where that animal fits.  The same can be done with a picture of that animal for non-readers. The wooden animals can be used for matching to one another, counting or other activities.

Great set of sturdy blocks for endless uses.  Color matching, counting or building come easy with this set!

These blocks are a hit!  They are fun for stacking but also can build on skills as the child grows and develops more mathematical abilities.  Each block features quantities of each number (Such as four dolphins for the number four block).  Additionally, the number is on one side and the number word is on another. 

A few ways to adapt: 
  • Direct match of the numbers; 1 to number 1 with Velcro
  • Number word matching
  • Addition and subtraction; having the objects on each block helps when finding the answer
  • Putting into the correct sequence within the included wooden box; each number can be printed on the box under each block to start out

Whack a ball
Fun activity and it excites kids to see where the will pop out at the bottom.  You can work on receptive language by asking the individual to "Hit the red ball", "Hit the yellow ball", etc.  Also, color coding at the top of the ball toy for color matching is easy with construction paper.

Stacking Rings
To help build the tower in the specific sequence, a picture of the completed toy can be used to refer to.  Also, coloring the wooden stick for where each color will go can make it a color matching activity.

Farm Maze
This farm maze has animals that can be moved around the board but not removed.  Each animal, and farmer, has to be taken to their corresponding 'home'.  It can be kind of confusing for some kids on what to do so I have had to structure it a few different ways.

I printed out pictures of the animals on the board, glued them to index cards and put them on a metal ring.  Flipping through the cards, the child can take each animal to it's home one at a time.  I used clip art images of each animal but you can also copy or scan the pieces to be more of an exact match.  Also, the pictures can be taped on each item's home on the board to help initially understand the concept.

Trash into task!  Using an unwanted piece of cardboard, the pictures can be used in an interactive 'Old MacDonald' song.  Not the prettiest activity but functional.  Working with a parent or teacher, the child sings the song and the adult moves each animal to the right.  Then, the cow or other animal can be moved on the maze to their home.  When each animal is done, it is put into the envelope and the next one is moved over.
Using paper clips on a sturdy surface, such as cardboard, is an easy way to organize materials.  Taping the paper clips on the back of the board helps them from moving around.  A simple envelope with the flap folded in can be taped onto the board.  To open the 'pocket', use an Exacto knife after it's been taped.

Food Groups
'Melissa and Doug' have lots of wooden food sets and this is one of them.  The four wooden baskets are included.

Teaching food groups can be a fun sorting activity.  Taping images found online on each basket shows where each food can go.

For this child, it was not an independent activity and teaching about the different food groups will take some practice.  Also, other play foods can be added in to give more examples of each food group.

Hopefully you can gain a few ideas for structuring activities at home.  You may have some of these items or feel free to adapt another toy in a similar way!  We have several companies that are great for task materials and this is definitely one of them.  We would love to hear what has worked for your child as well so feel free to comment or email us!



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  2. Where did you get the counting blocks? The one in the boxed set? Or do you know the brand?