With the abundant joys of giving and receiving during this holiday season, it is fitting that December is observed as Safe Toys and Gifts Month. Despite the humble origins of holiday observance, this time of year
has come to represent an important thing for many children: TOYS. However, like many well-intentioned products, not all toys are created equal. In the hands of little ones, toys typically elicit delight and curiosity- two important and
well-deserving experiences for children- but it is crucial that each and every package opened is inspected and approved by parents and caregivers to ensure the safety of its recipient.

In the most recent documented report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were an estimated 240,000 toy-related injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments and seven toy-related
deaths among children younger than 15 years old. While the CPSC closely monitors and regulates toys- which must follow CPSC standards if made in or imported into the United States after 1995- parents and caregivers must still be diligent about
choosing which toys and activities they will allow into the space of little loved ones.

The following are ways to practice caution when choosing and inspecting toys:

Avoid the obvious hazardous toys for children

  • Toys containing small parts are not suitable for children under 3 years of age. While most adults are aware of this guideline, do not be tempted to buy something with the intent to watch children’s play “like a hawk”. While play for
    children in this age group should always be supervised, children can place small hazardous parts in their mouths in the blink of an eye.

Follow guidelines

  • Remember that toys’ recommended ages are not based on a child’s intelligence or maturity, but on safety guidelines. If a child is not yet at the minimum age, do not buy it- or open it- until that age is reached.

Trust your gut

  • You know your child best. Especially for the consideration of parents of children with special needs, age guidelines listed on toys are based on developmental norms for children. Your child, despite falling within the listed age limit, may
    not yet have the cognitive, language, fine motor and/or sensory skills necessary to make the toy safe or functional. Choose toys that will challenge your child to hone and maintain critical learning skills, but safety as a consideration must
    be at the forefront.

Take responsibility

  • You may want to purchase or receive a toy that is not yet age-appropriate for a child for the educational gains you think your child can reap from it. If this is the case, take responsibility in directly facilitating play and in storing
    this toy in a space that your child cannot reach when play is finished.

Be communicative with family and friends

  • If family or friends ask what they can get your child, be open about your qualifications for safe toys. Many gift-givers, though well-intentioned, may not notice or may disregard age limits listed on toys. Be sure to mention that these
    limits are important to you.

Be gracious

  • If, despite your discussion with loved ones, your child receives a toy that is not age-appropriate, consider that the act is likely not malicious or disrespectful to you. Kindly thank the recipient, return it or store it away for future
    use, and kindly remind them at the next gift-giving event. Holiday shopping can be rushed and chaotic, and family members and friends may simply have overlooked the guidelines.

Supervise all play

  • Above all suggestions, the most important of these is to supervise the play of your child, particularly when they are very young and/or have special needs that interfere with their ability to use safe judgement when interacting
    with a toy or activity.

List of Safe Toys for Various Ages

Ages 3 and under:

Dimpl   (Buy Here)

  • Sensory toy featuring silicone bubbles built into a sturdy plastic frame
  • Encourages fine motor skills, sensory exploration, cause-effect learning
  • A truly beautiful keep-their-attention toy
  • Little fingers delight in the sensation of poking the silicone bubbles
  • Frame made of high quality ABS plastic
  • Bubbles made of 100% food-grade silicone
  • BPA-Free, fully safety tested

Ages 3 and under:

Suction Kupz   (Buy Here)

  • Set of 6 colorful silicone cups that feature suction cups on the bottom
  • Encourages fine motor skills, spatial reasoning, creativity, exploration, experimentation
  • Simple yet versatile open-ended play that lasts!
  • Feature suction cup on the bottom, suctioning brim on the top
  • Play in the tub, playroom, or at the table
  • Stick them to walls, windows, countertops
  • Made of 100% food-safe silicone – Kids can drink their juice from them!
  • BPA-Free, fully safety tested
  • Dishwasher safe!

Ages 3 and under:

Pop Blocs Farm Animals   (Buy Here)

  • Set of 5 soft plastic mix-and-match animal friends
  • Encourages sensory development, tactile strength, emotional connection
  • Palm-sized pieces easy to grasp, varied textures excite the senses
  • Heads and tails snap together to complete animals or mix and match
  • Fully compatible with all other Pop Blocs sets
  • Includes fun extension activities for kids and parents to play and learn together
  • High quality materials, strong, safe, friendly for all

Ages 3+ years:

Squigz   (Buy Here)

  • A lively toy innovation – new Suction Construction!
  • Encourages creativity, fine motor skills, interaction, playful experimentation
  • Provides relaxation and sensory stimulation
  • Pieces connect easily and POP! apart
  • Gratifying fun for bathtub, walls, windows, school lockers, tabletops, desktops
  • High quality silicone rubber
  • Leaves no residue or marks on surfaces
  • Enjoyment for a wide range of ages
  • Made of 100% silicone (BPA-free, latex-free)

Ages 3+ years:

Magnetic Alphatab (Buy Here)

  • Letter printing toy with magnets and pen stylus
  • Encourages correct letter formation
  • Tactile and sound reinforcement
  • Easy to follow arrows indicate path to follow
  • Erases with the tip of a finger!
  • Magnets are securely contained inside the Magnatab toy

Ages 3+ years:

Melissa & Doug See & Spell Phonics Puzzle (Buy Here)

  • A Pre-Reading, First Literacy Toy
  • Manipulative puzzle pieces ideal for first learning experiences
  • Hands-on exploration & Montessori-like approach to early learning
  • Essential letter recognition, phonics, beginning reading through play
  • Improves fine motor skills
  • Builds confidence; Entertaining for self play
  • No-fail, puzzle format appeals to young children
  • High quality wooden learning toy

Ages 5+ years:

Red Light, Green Light, 1-2-3!   (Buy Here)

  • Card game of playing cards in a sequential order
  • Encourages number skills, fast thinking, cooperative play
  • Kids love the rush of playing their cards as fast as they can
  • Cards must be played in order of red light, green light, 1, 2, 3
  • High quality materials and construction for exceptional game play

Ages 5+ years:

Reptangles   (Buy Here)

  • A highly evolved multi-channel building system
  • Build mathematical thinking; capture imagination – 2 turtles combine in 100 ways!
  • Build geometric masterpieces; Construct simple to complex polyhedra
  • Thousands of play possibilities evoke innovation & curiosity
  • Outstanding ingenuity, modern design, endless construction appeal
  • Adheres to all necessary safety standards for both the US & Europe

Ages 8+ years:

Pencil Nose (Buy Here)

  • Party game of drawing pictures with your nose while your teammates guess what you’re drawing
  • Encourages family bonding, cooperative play, coordination, creativity, quick thinking, communication skills
  • Find out who truly has a nose for drawing!
  • Pick a card, fit it into the slot on the board, put on the “Pencil Nose”, try drawing the picture
  • Teammates try to guess what you’re drawing – Pick another card after each correct guess
  • Try to make as many correct guesses as possible before the time runs out
  • When time runs out, it’s the other team’s turn – Whichever team gets the most correct guesses wins a point
  • High quality materials – Lasting durability, exceptional gameplay experience

Ages 11+ years:

Shake & Make – Words   (Buy Here)

  • Mini dice game of rolling random letters and racing to make words
  • Encourages quick thinking, vocabulary skills, creativity, problem-solving
  • Shake the dome to roll the dice
  • Whoever yells out a 4 letter word that uses the letters on the dice wins a point
  • Whoever wins the most points wins the game
  • Includes one Shake & Make Words dice dome
  • High quality design and materials – Lasting durability

For helpful gift-giving suggestions for children with special needs, visit Fat Brain Toys’ website here
to view a large variety of toys, listed under subtopics for various disorders, including Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADD/ADHD, Sensory Integration Disorder, Speech-Language Delay, Spina Bifida, Vision Impairment and more.

Other December events and tips:

-We recognize December 3rd as International Day of Persons with Disabilities Day. This day is an international observance promoted by the United Nations since 1992, with a 2018 theme, “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality” (http://www.un.org/en/events/disabilitiesday/).

Sensitive Santa events consider the needs of children with sensory deficits and other developmental, cognitive and/or physical challenges. These events typically take place in a calm, quiet
environment prior to taking a photo with Santa, and exclude harsh/bright lights, music and long lines. Visit here for local listings and

– CTC will also host a sensory-sensitive experience with Santa at our Winter Wonderland event on Friday, December 21. Whether a child is scheduled for a therapy session that day or
not, families are welcome to come visit Santa from 3-7 pm.

– Holidays can be a stressful time that brings joy, but also wreaks havoc on routines, bedtimes and more. Disruption in these events- particularly for children who like to adhere to daily routines and are easily
upset by changes- can make tidings of joy feel more like bindings of angst. Here are some helpful
tips to helping kids with sensory issues enjoy holiday outings.

Holiday Highlights

Welcoming the newest members of CTC’s staff!

Caryn graduated from Rush University in 1991 and has practiced primarily in pediatrics since then. She has worked in a variety of settings including home health for medically fragile infants, early intervention,
schools, and pediatric outpatient clinics. Caryn has certifications including aquatics therapy and academic fieldwork coordination. She is recognized by the OT National Certification Board as a pediatric specialist. She has been trained in a
variety of different treatment techniques and theories including Sensorimotor Integration, Neurodevelopmental Treatment, Myofascial Release, Cranial Sacral Therapy, Therapeutic Listening, Zones of Regulation, Brain Gym, Assistive Technology
Assessments, and Picky Eaters among others. Caryn has also had roles as a clinical director, lead therapist, teaching occupational therapy students, owning an EI company, and working as a private consultant with clinical owners in the area of
business systems development and implementation. Caryn enjoys learning something new everyday from children, parents, families and my coworkers. One of her favorite quotes came from an occupational therapy instructor in grad school, “The more I learn, the less I know.”

Caryn grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida and currently lives in Midlothian. She is married to Brian and has 3 children, Shannon (25), Caitlyn (23), and John (21). Shannon and Caitlyn are engaged and will be getting
married in 2019. John attends college in Wisconsin. Caryn has a granddaughter, Savannah who is 7 months old, who she adores. Caryn enjoys trips to Florida, being outdoors, and loves to draw and paint.

Kristen graduated from the University of Illinois with her BS in Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in Early Childhood Development in 2014 and from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with her
MSOT degree in 2016. She has completed a variety of pediatric-focused experiences throughout her undergraduate and graduate career, including specialized research focusing on infants born to teenage mothers, as well as research on
developmental outcomes for infants born in the NICU. Kristen is a twin and loves to be outdoors and traveling. In her spare time, she is most often going on long-distance runs, going rock climbing, or re-watching more episodes of Friends than
she would like to admit.

Congratulations to Eric Thompson, the winner of our Sensory Tent whose name was drawn from our raffle on December 3! We hope Eric and his family enjoy all the sensory
fun in the comfort of their home!

To our dear families who call CTC home,

We thank you. For your time, your commitment, and your camaraderie. For trusting us in the care of your children. For allowing us the privilege of being a part of their care. As 2018 comes to a close, we reflect on our breakthroughs as well as our challenges, recognizing that great success does not come without hard work. Here’s to 2019 and the amazing milestones we hope to help your child achieve in the new year! Happy Holidays from all of us here at Children’s Therapy Connections.

CTC will be closed December 24th and 25th

OPEN ON DECEMBER 26th! ( the festival continues!)