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Tips & Tricks :: Inexpensive & Creative Therapy Toys

With the school year starting up in just a few weeks (I know, I know), many of you are probably starting to stock up on new materials for your classrooms and offices. If you’re looking to save a little money, here are some creative ideas to help you get the biggest bang for your buck!

Dollhouse

If you don’t have the money to spring for an awesome actual dollhouse like this one, Kim’s Counseling Corner has a few great ideas for saving money  – just use a bookshelf or dresser from a garage or rummage sale, add a little paint, and you’re done! Amazon also has some really cheap bookshelves that would work perfectly here.

DIY Dollhouse

If you’re REALLY on a budget, just tape cereal boxes together to make walls and voila!

Dollhouse 3

Play-Doh or Clay

While Play-Doh isn’t really that expensive, you could include your students in a project to make your own! Here’s an easy recipe you could do for kids of all ages (they make great kneaders after it cools – obviously don’t let them handle the boiling water!):

  • 2 cups all-purpose flourplaydoh
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • food coloring (optional)
  • few drops glycerine (optional, but adds nice shine)

Mix the flour, salt, cream of tartar and oil in a large mixing bowl. Add food coloring to the boiling water then into the dry ingredients (color optional). Stir continuously until it becomes a sticky, combined dough. If you’re using it, add the glycerine. Allow it to cool down then take it out of the bowl and knead it vigorously for a couple of minutes until all of the stickiness has gone. If it comes out a little sticky, add a bit more flour until you reach the right consistency. Store in plastic bags and it’ll last for several months!

TotikaJenga

There are tons of great icebreaker get-to-know-you type games out there, but my personal favorite is a variation on Jenga. One game you could buy is called Totika, which combines Jenga with many different types of questions to get kids talking. If you don’t want to spend the money and have a bit of free time on your hands, you could use regular Jenga or wooden blocks and tape your own questions to the bottom of each block. It makes them a little harder to balance when stacking, but definitely gets the job done!

Stress BallsStress Ball Pool Noodles

One of my favorite crafts for the beginning of the school year are stress balls. We’ve all seen the flour-filled balloons that inevitable get holes in them and spill all over the place. Well, here’s a no mess, no fuss, dirt cheap solution…pool noodles! Just grab a bread knife, slice 2″ segments and you’re set. At the beginning of the year, I leave a bunch in the teacher’s lounge (or teachers or kids!) and have received an awesome response!

Sand/Sensory Tray

There are a lot of really great sand trays out there. However, you don’t necessary have to spend a lot of money unless you want to! When I was younger, my mom bought a huge bag of rice and dumped it into a storage bin. I loved playing with little toys, measuring cups, etc. in it and it was significantly less messy than sand.

Therapy TangleFidgets

There are a million different types of things you can use as fidgets. I’ve shared a great resource that details many of them here, but examples include keychains, pieces of exercise band, paper clamps, pipe cleaners with pony beads on them, therapy tangles, beanbags…the list goes on and on!

Have any other ways to create therapy toys? Share below in the comments!

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New Product :: Summer 1 Backgrounds & Alphabets

Summer 1 Backgrounds

If you’ve been looking for a way to spice up some of your TeachersPayTeachers or homemade classroom activities, check out my new Summer Digital Background Pack!  It includes 30 different 12″ x 12″ backgrounds in PNG format, so they can be scaled to fit any sized project. And because you’re all awesome, loyal blog readers, you can get 2 of them for free!

Diagonal Stripes

Yellow Circles

 

Another thing I’ve been playing around with is designing clipart letters. I wanted some letters to match all the backgrounds for new products, but also that could be used for bulletin boards. So, here they are!

Summer 1 Alphabets

It contains 10 different patterned alphabets, for a total of 260 letters. Each letter is a 6″ x 6″ png. Here’s one of the alphabets for free! Just click the “A” below to download the entire alphabet as a .zip file! After you’re taken to Google Drive, just click “file” –> “download” and you’re good to go! For the rest of the alphabets, click the image above!

A

 

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Tips & Tricks :: Visuals for Students with Autism

Siblings Taking a Picture

One of the most effective interventions for students with Autism is using visuals. Yet whether your school district uses PECS, Boardmaker, Microsoft Office Clipart, or my personal favorite…Google Images, the process of searching for and resizing images can easily eat a big chunk out of your day.

happy-choice-visual-sequence_page1_image1

Visual Schedule

Classroom Rules

And since none of us have lots and lots of time laying around, I was really excited when a special education teacher in our district shared this site with me! It’s called ConnectAbility and on the site there’s an awesome tool called Visuals Engine. The Visuals Engine contains thousands of images you can choose, and what I really love is that they’re REAL images. Then, you can select page layouts of 1, 2, 4, 6, 12, or 16 images per page – the site automatically resizes all your images to be the same size! You can also add in whatever text you want to accompany your images (or leave it blank). After you create your page of visuals you can choose to either print the page or save it as a PDF. There’s nothing worse than spending all your time making visuals for a student only to have them lose all the pieces by Friday! Since you can save your work super easily, it can be a huge time saver.

Here’s a page I made with 12 images per page. This took me less than 2 minutes!

screen-shot-2014-01-28-at-9-40-24-am

Hopefully this will help you save a few minutes while allowing you to make great visuals for your students!

Enjoy!