This USD professor made an occupational therapist-approved … – Argus Leader

It’s the holiday season and the time for gift-giving. You might be shopping for coworkers, friends, family and relatives, and some people are easier to shop for than others.
If you’re still guessing what to get those 18 and younger on your list, especially the littlest ones, have no fear. Shana Cerny, an associate professor of occupational therapy at the University of South Dakota, has created a gift guide for the children in your life on your nice list this year.
“For children, their most prominent occupation is play,” Cerny said. “A lot of times, when I’m talking to parents or caregivers about gifts to get children, I break it down by developmental area. Is there anything that the child needs to work on as far as a developmental skill?”
Christmas in particular is a great time to shop when thinking about different gifts for children to allow for play in different ways.
For babies and toddlers, Cerny groups gifts for them separately, because they are learning through exploration and sensory motor play at that age, she said. For example, little ones like to grab items and look at them, she said.
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Gifts Cerny recommends this group include rattles, bath toys, a ball, a shape sorter, nesting cups, push toys, activity tables, blocks and more.
For children ages 3-4 and up, Cerny recommends they start expanding into adaptive, daily life skills and social forms of play. For example, a play kitchen can teach kids to roleplay as parents, restaurant workers or customers. A toy like a wooden fruit that they can pretend to cut apart in the play kitchen could teach them manual coordination skills, she said.
Adaptive and daily life skill gifts Cerny recommends also include a wooden toolset, an activity board, dress-up clothing, cook books and craft supplies or kits such as pottery, jewelry, needlepoint or sewing, depending on complexity.
Children of any age can start working on their gross motor skills, which Cerny explains are working on “big muscle” movement like jumping, running, throwing or other activity. She recommends children stay active for at least 60 minutes each day.
Gifts Cerny recommends that relate to gross motor skills include a sit-n-spin, ball pit, slide, a mini trampoline, jumprope, the game Twister or rock climbing wall holds, for example.
Cerny’s gift guide also recommends dozens of different fine motor play gifts. Fine motor play focuses on “small muscles” like in the hands, and could involve something like creating jewelry, holding a utensil to eat or grasping a pencil.
To work on fine motor skills, Cerny recommends gifts like a Rubix cube, crayons, play dough, finger paint, Lincoln logs, Legos, pick-up-sticks, jewelry making kits, the game Operation, Jenga, Spirograph and more.
Children from 18 months to 18 years old can also benefit from sensory play gifts, Cerny said. People receive sensory input from our vision, smell, taste, touch and sound, but also from proprioception or body awareness, vestibular sense or sense of motion and gravity, and their internal awareness of moods or hunger, for example.
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There are different activities and different toys that can give sensory input on each of those senses, Cerny said. A weighted blanket, for example, could give someone proprioceptive input, while a tent could dim light, reduce sound and be soft to the touch, overall calming for a child.
Sensory gifts Cerny recommends include a weighted blanket, weighted stuffed animals, a lava lamp, a tent, kinetic sand, a bean bag, an exercise ball, a balance board or modeling dough, for example.
Parents and other caregivers know their children best, though, Cerny said, so ask them what their children prefer, and “go with what (the children) like or what makes them feel good.”


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