Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

Remember Gak?

That slimy, icky stuff that for some reason we loved as kids?

Well, we just made a new batch of Gak at POTS and here is why:

1. Touch Processing

When little hands explore and experience a variety of textures and temperatures (ever notice that Gak is always a little bit cold and wet?) tactile processing in the hands is enhanced.




Manipulating materials of various shapes, sizes and resistance gives opportunities for different muscles in the hand to develop.





3. Creativity: Amorphous and open-ended materials such as Gak, Play-Doh and shaving cream allow children to really work their imaginations.

What can I do with this stuff?   Mix!   Bounce!   Squeeze!   Twist!


 What can I create?   Melting monster blood!   A snot tower!   Slime bubbles!


Check out this little girl’s ideas  here

And if you make your own gak…

 4Sequencing: Help your child make a list of materials, organize them and sequence the project. Encourage your child to decide what you materials you need for each step and what comes first, second and third.





5. Bilateral Coordination: Mixing ingredients requires the two sides of the body to work together; one hand stabilizes the bowl while the other mixes




You Will Need:

2 cups of glue  (An 8oz bottle of Elmers glue will do)

2 tsp Borax – this is a powdered soap from the grocery store

Food coloring

1.5 cups water

1 cup HOT water



  1. Combine glue, 1.5 cups water and food coloring in a bowl
  2. Dissolve borax in cup of hot water in larger bowl
  3. Slowly add the glue mixture to the soap mixture
  4. Mix well (this will be tough, so extra strengthening for little arms)
  5. Pour out excess water
  6. Let stand for about 10 minutes
  8. Be sure to store in a baggie so it doesn’t dry out

Special thanks to our office manager, Maria, who created the Gak  for POTS when some of our more tactile defensive occupational therapists could not tolerate it!


This entry was posted on Thursday, January 2nd, 2014 and is filed under Fine Motor Fun, POTS Favorite Toy Ideas.

Fred iCreate Stylus

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

At POTS we use the Fred iCreate Stylus to help kids on the autistic spectrum with fine motor difficulties to write on the iPad. We are having amazing success with this tool! Something about it must be non-threatening and motivating, because children who typically avoid crayons and markers are jumping at the opportunity to use the iCreate.




Here is why we love it:

  • It is motivating and FUN! Kids love to use it
  • The friendly black lines “tell” your child exactly where to hold the stylus for that essential tripod grasp
  • The rubbery tip provides just the right amount of friction to remind kids to put the breaks on and end the letter at the appropriate place


Some Friendly Tips:

  • Children who struggle with fine motor skills may prefer to use their finger to draw on the iPad. To encourage use of the Fred iCreate Stylus, make sure to designate certain (very fun) apps that may only be used with the stylus.
  • When to provide a B R E A K:
    • As with a regular crayon, go for quality over quantity. If you see the quality of grasp, writing or drawing deteriorate, take a break
    • When a goal is spontaneously assuming (versus sustaining) an appropriate grasp, find reasons to take frequent breaks. This gives your child the opportunity to practice assuming a grasp over and over again
    • I like to build breaks into the activity. For example, when playing trace & erase on the Dexteria Junior app, have your child draw lines through paths with the iCreate stylus, and let him/her erase with a finger



This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 10th, 2013 and is filed under Autism, Handwriting & Fine Motor Coordination, POTS Favorite Toy Ideas, What's App Wednesday.

Logical Choices

Monday, November 11th, 2013

Holiday season is rapidly approaching, particularly for those who celebrate Chanukkah. For children ages 8+ who enjoy games of logic such as the now classic Rush Hour, Thinkfun has several similar, but unique options.

Laser Maze:

This game combines logical reasoning and problem solving with the very appealing technology. Players reflect and split the laser beam using mirrors and targets on a puzzle grid to reach their goal.

Good Housekeeping magazine rated this game amongst the Great Board Games of 2013.


Turnstile Puzzle:

Remember the turnstiles in the NY subway system? The goal of this game is to move the colored tokens through the maze to their respective corners by passing through turnstiles and shifting walls to form new pathways and construct new barriers.



The object of this game is to get the green sliders to drop through the center exit hole in the grid without letting any of the blue sliders fall through. To add to the challenge, each tilt of the grid must be a full tilt, such that all circular tokens must slide completely from one side of the grid to the other.

For a rave review of this game, read this:

Blog written by: Aviva Goldwasser, MS, OTR/L

This entry was posted on Monday, November 11th, 2013 and is filed under POTS Favorite Toy Ideas.


Thursday, November 7th, 2013

I recently discovered a fantastic open-ended building toy that my  preschoolers love and is great for elementary schoolers too. UN-BLOCK is a unique set of interlocking blocks with tracks that enables the creation of everything a young mind can imagine, from buildings to animals and people.

As the winner of the Creative Child Awards 2012 Top Toy of the Year Award, it is a wonderful toy for sharpening eye-hand coordination, sequencing and executive function, and is just plain fun!

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 7th, 2013 and is filed under POTS Favorite Toy Ideas.

Pool Toy Review: Swim Thru Rings

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Swimming season is here! As you stock your pool with toys, keep in mind that the pool is a great place for developing your child’s strength, coordination, motor planning and socialization. Use this opportunity to buy pool toys that will challenge your child’s skills in a fun, creative, and interactive way.

What are Swim Thru Rings?

Swim Thru Rings are collapsible vertical floating rings. Air chambers connected to each ring are adjustable, allowing you to set rings at different depths. Each pack contains three rings.

What games can I play with them?

  • “Blast Off”: Start at the side of the pool and use legs to push off and glide through rings. Start with one ring and gradually increase the challenge by adding rings or placing rings father from the wall. Gliding through water provides controlled vestibular input. Vestibular input from gliding together with hydrostatic pressure provided by water and proprioceptive input from kicking off the wall heightens sense of body position in space and enhances motor planning.
  • Obstacle course: To bolster sequencing skills and spatial awareness, include swimming through rings in a pool obstacle course. Incorporate obstacles that require moving over, under and through.
  • Aim underwater torpedoes: Challenge visual perception skills but aiming and shooting underwater torpedoes through hoops. This requires eye-hand coordination, pressure modulation and motor control.

For information on occupational therapy sessions in the pool, click here

Submitted by: Ariela Harcsztark, OTR/L

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 27th, 2013 and is filed under Gross Motor Activities, POTS Favorite Toy Ideas, Seasonal Tips, Sensory Integration.

Why We Love: Connect 4 Launchers!

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Getting a new game at POTS is just as exciting for the therapists as it is for the children. It allows us to explore new, exciting ways to address our therapeutic goals. Connect 4 Launchers fits the profile perfectly. Here’s why:

  • This game is a great way to work on pressure modulation, or the degree of force applied to an object. Controlling the amount of pressure exerted is an important pre-writing skill. If a child does not use enough pressure when writing/coloring, it can appear too light. Conversely, when too much pressure is applied, a child’s hand is likely to fatigue and the pencil point might break.
  • For maximum effect, the index finger should be used to launch the pieces.  This provides a child with the opportunity to practice isolating an individual finger, another pre-writing skill since refined fine motor control is the product of isolating joints and movements rather than using the whole hand as a single unit. When writing/coloring, the thumb side of the hand controls the movement while the pinky side of the hand provides balance and stability.
  • Another benefit of Connect 4 Launchers is that is offers different levels of play, which allows for the “just right challenge” for the child.
  • Purchase the “original” version of Connect 4 Launchers for 2 players, or upgrade to the deluxe version, which can accommodate up to 4 players at a time.

While this game is a great deal of fun, we would be remiss if we did not mention a few cons to the game:

  • Connect 4 Launchers requires less strategic planning than the original version we remember playing as kids.
  • While the rules of the game can always be modified, according to the instructions, there is no turn taking in this game and players launch pieces as fast as they can until they get 4 in a row. Therefore, it might not be a great match for a child who fatigues easily or has difficulty following the constant movement and action without the lull offered by turn taking.

Blog written by: Aviva Goldwasser, MS, OTR/L, Chaye Lamm Warburg, DPS, Director of POTS

This entry was posted on Thursday, December 13th, 2012 and is filed under Fine Motor Fun, Handwriting & Fine Motor Coordination, POTS Favorite Toy Ideas.

Cardboard Boxes = Endless Fun!

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

In this article from Gawker via Ohio’s NBC4, preschool teacher Pete Kaser had the novel idea to switch from his classroom’s name brand toys to cardboard boxes.

This article goes to show that children can use anything as toys–they do not require brand names, cartoon characters, etc, just basic “open” toys–those are items, like balls or boxes, that do not demand a specific action, but allow the child to use his imagination and use them in a multitude of ways (the toy does not constrain or place limits on the player). What’s interesting to us is that this is news! What do you think? Would you incorporate a cardboard box into your child’s playtime?

This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 12th, 2012 and is filed under Infants & Toddler Tips, Infants & Toddlers, Parenting, POTS Favorite Toy Ideas, Uncategorized.

When Daddy Buys the Presents

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Since this is the season in which parents usually buy toys, and therapists often recommend toys to facilitate various aspects of development, this article in The New York Times, “More Dads Buy the Toys, So Barbie, and Store, Get Makeovers,” by Stephanie Clifford made us think about different elements of the gift-giving season.

While Mattel has applied marketing research to capture the dads who are a larger proportion of the gift-buyers than in the past, little girls stand to benefit from Legos and Mega Bloks with girl-appeal, as research as long supported that “playing with blocks, puzzles and construction toys helps children with spatial development.”
This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 and is filed under Fine Motor Fun, POTS Favorite Toy Ideas, Seasonal Tips.

Toy Review: Thin Ice Game

Friday, July 6th, 2012

If your child comes to P.O.T.S. for occupational therapy, chances are that he/she has played Thin Ice. It is a favorite amongst the children and therapists alike. Let’s take a closer look at the game’s therapeutic value.

This game is a great way to carry over practice with tongs (see last week’s blog on tongs) to a natural play opportunity. It will help build your child’s fine motor skills as he/she works with tongs to pick up marbles. Grasp and release patterns will be practiced time and time again throughout the game. Careful placement of the marble on the tissue is required, making it a good opportunity to modulate/control the degree of pressure used, an important pre-writing skill.

One of our favorite aspects of the game is that it comes with only one pair of tongs. The advantage to this is that each time it is your child’s turn, he/she gets the chance to practice assuming a proper grasp on the tongs. Many children benefit from repeated opportunities to pick up writing implements and utensils the right way, so that it becomes habitual.

How do you play? 

Each game consists of an igloo base, tissues, 3 legs, 2 hoops, marbles, and oversized tweezers. Players use the tongs to take a marble out of the water channel and place it gently on the tissue at the top of the rings before passing the tongs to the next player as quickly as possible, so that he/she is not holding the tongs when the ice breaks.

Who can play? 

The game is intended for 2 or more players, ages 5+. Since the rules of the game are fairly easy to learn, we have had success playing with children as young as 3½.

Blog written by: Aviva Goldwasser, OTR/L

Dr. Chaye Lamm Warburg, OTR/L, Director of P.O.T.S.

* Thin ice is available at amazon.com.

This entry was posted on Friday, July 6th, 2012 and is filed under POTS Favorite Toy Ideas.

Toy review: Feed the animals game

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

These games are a great choice if you are in search of a game to boost the fine motor skills of your 3-5 year old child. You can purchase all 3 together, or choose the animal that is most appealing to your child. Each game comes with a pair of large tongs that will be used to “feed” treats to the animal. The pretend food treats are an appropriate size, making it challenging, but not exceedingly difficult to pick up.  The larger mouths of the animals are conveniently designed to make it a “just right challenge” for young children to get the treats inside. 

After having played the game, I have listed below a couple of pointers and adaptations to maximize the fine motor benefits accrued while playing:

Place a piece of colored tape around the tongs exactly where your child should hold them (approximately two-thirds of the way down the tongs) so that he/she automatically knows where to place his/her fingers.

Each game comes with 30 treats. By taking turns with your child, you will keep the small muscles of the hand from fatiguing quickly. 

  • Quality counts! If you notice that your child is struggling to hold the tongs, or is beginning to use the entire hand to grasp them, discontinue the game or alter the game play to pick up the treats using fingers only. 

Aviva Goldwasser, OTR/L

Dr. Chaye Lamm Warburg, OTR/L

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 13th, 2011 and is filed under POTS Favorite Toy Ideas, Seasonal Tips.