Last year one of the popular posts on this blog featured the the 2011 Toys -R-Us “Differently-Abled” Buying Guide and recommended products for the church setting. I just downloaded the 2012 guide and thought I’d do a quick post on a few products that caught my eye this year. I love going through resource catalogs like this because I can usually get inspiration for an activity or illustration to tie to a Bible lesson (note some of my comments below). You can download a FREE 2012 Toys-R-Us Toy Guide For Differently-Abled Kids here: Toys R Us 2012-DAG-English
Below are some of my favorite products that could be helpful in the church setting:
- Rainbow Blooms (Page 12) – This activity is like a glorified cause-and-effect puzzle. I love the tie to flowers and think this could be a great independent or introductory activity to use in conjunction with the creation story.
- Kid Tough Digital Camera (Page 21) – Kids of all ages and abilities love to be celebrated and have their picture taken. Take turns assigning participants the role of photographer on Sundays mornings, during Summer day camp or VBS experiences. Even kids with limited fine motor skills can use this camera to capture good times and silly moments in the church setting. Feature a collage of student photographs periodically on the ministry’s Facebook page, website, or display board on the church campus.
- Bouncy Horse (Page 22) – For a child who is always antsy, provide him or her this toy to perch on during the Bible lesson. This is a much safer version of a hop ball or therapy ball. I do not recommend providing therapy balls because without stabilizing feet, a child will inevitably lose control, rolling over the ball and onto the hard floor. (For a larger version of similar bounce toy – good for older/larger children, see http://www.RodyToy.com)
- Wagon for Two Plus (Page 23) – For children who struggle to move easily throughout the church campus, a wagon ride can make for a fun journey between the small group setting to the kids worship experience. I also love having a wagon on hand for various Bible stories. I can’t tell you how much fun the children I’ve taught have had re-enacting scenes from various Bible stories, taking turns transporting each other (e.g. The Good Samaritan or the friends who took the paralyzed man to Jesus.)
- My First Crayons & My First Washable Markers (Page 30) – For kids who lack strong fine motor skills, the crayons are easier to grasp and control, making art activities more accessible. And the markers are fantastic for a child who has even less control over fine motor movement – as this product can be used much like dot markers.
- The Big Map (Page 41) – For high functioning and older learners, it can be so helpful to provide visual reference and context for a Bible story. When beginning Bible stories, point to the region of the world where David killed Goliath, where Caesar Augustus ruled, where Baby Jesus was born, and where Paul took his historic journeys, etc.
- King/Knight Reversible Tunic (Page 42) – These are my absolute favorite products in this catalog! There is no better way to help an abstract learner connect with God’s word than to allow that participant to re-enact the Bible story. Invite the uninhibited child (e.g. student with ADHD) to go first, then after putting on the dress up clothes and acting out the motions, make sure the literal learner (e.g. child with autism) gets a turn being part of the drama reenactment. There are oodles of Bible stories that feature Roman soldiers, Philistine fighters, kings, rulers (and the list goes on) that could use these dress up props.
- Jumpsmart Electronic Trampoline (Page 46) – I’m a big fan of trampolines! A quick set of 20 bounces may help the otherwise disorganized , fidgety (and sometimes uncooperative) fellow recollect. I’m not credentialed so I can’t explain why, I can just tell you its true! For many kids who seem out of sorts and agitated, providing them the opportunity to get a quick fix of physical exertion may help them calm and reengage more constructively after a turn on the trampoline.
- Wheelchair and Crutch Set shown with 18″ Dana Doll (Page 55) – If you’ve got dolls and toys provided in a play area why not provide pretend props that mirror the participants playing with them? These toys can also be used as visual aids when talking with all children about differences. Take this doll into the typical setting and begin a discussion about disability and differences among the students….ask students to comment on the differences they notice about the doll. Help to normalize differences by asking kids to name differences others may have that are not so easily noticed….(e.g. lactose intolerance, allergies, challenge with eye contact, anxiety with a change in schedule, wearing contact lenses, trouble speaking.) Using props like this provides opportunities to talk about the fact God created each of us with unique abilities, unique differences and that God loves and values every person that he creates.
- Voice Changing Rockstar Boombox (Page 56) – Play a song that ties to a corresponding Bible story or promotes active praise (songs from Amber Sky Records, Stephen Elkins, or Yancy). Invite kids to take turns singing into the microphone…you may be surprised to see a participant come out of their shell who enjoys hearing the different sounds they can make with their voice and the Boombox.
My #1 recommended product from Toys-R-Us is actually not in this product guide – the Fisher-Price Little People Nativity Set. During the month of December this is a fabulous visual aid to help tell the Christmas story. Many of the figures can also be reused during the year with other Bible lessons involving a male or female Bible character, sheep, etc. For an introductory and hands-on activity, in December I’m providing a large clear storage container filled with dried pinto beans. Inside my homemade sensory bin, I’ll be hiding various characters from this nativity set (so durable!). Participants will be invited to search for the hidden figures that we are focusing on in that day’s lesson. As the children discover the angel, the sheep, Baby Jesus, etc, buddies and classroom helpers will share one sentence about that character and how it relates to the Bible story.
For more ideas of products for the special needs ministry environment see the following posts:
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