Thursday, February 13, 2014

Review + Giveaway: Sensible Solutions for Kids: The Pocket Occupational Therapist + Weighted Pocket Scarf + Mini Push Pathz

Thanks to Albert Dungca, OTR/L, who helped my kid learn how amazing sprinklers can be.  Other therapists like Cara Koscinski and Aviva Weiss (see below) are also making miracles by helping kids enjoy their primary occupation: PLAYING.

Sensible Solutions: Strategies to Help Kids Get Back On Track

The Pocket Occupational Therapist (Book) ($19.95) author: Cara Koscinski 
Weighted Pocket Scarf, invented by Aviva Weiss  ($29.99)
Mini-Push Pathz by Abilitations (School Specialty $19.99)- part of the giveaway! (Read review here)
TOOLS: My Body Needs to Move, Family Fix-its
GIVEAWAY PRIZE: Your copy of The Pocket Occupational Therapist and All Five of the Mini Push-Pathz (the BIG HIT of 2013)

I remember first learning about weighted vests and weighted this-and-thats.  Wasn't that such a strange idea? Why would anyone want to put weights on a child?  In my head I pictured a furrier form of shackles or even a ball and chain.

Then I read about something called Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) Some skeptics may call it a "made-up disease" but if you lived with MY CHILDREN, especially five years ago, you would have been a believer.  DSM-V or not, sorry, but this SPD thing is real and I don't need a big book of medical codes to tell me that. 
This book is just what it is. It's a pocket reference guide for people who want to spend time doing things with their kids rather than reading about them.

Actually, all anyone needs is a little book called The Pocket Occupational Therapist written by someone who is probably THE BEST PERSON TO BE WRITING such a book. Why?  Well, she treats these issues as a therapist for kids AND................ she treats her own two angels who have special needs. 

One look at the book and I had a I feeling I wasn't the best person to be putting it to the test.  Rather it was my friend Rachel whom I greatly admire.  It was less than a year ago that this mom of two, who works full time (outside of the home) received a diagnosis of high-functioning autism for her quirky-since-birth-son named Bert.  Bert, 6 1/2 years old is a happy, extremely bright twice-exceptional kid who can drive the people he loves crazy.  I sent this book to Rachel to see what she could get out of it and she got tons.

Cara with her son Joshua in a clinic on a platform swing. photo: Cara Koscinski

Joshua in a clinic on a tire swing. photo: Cara Koscinski

This is was the first book that she had read that was all about OT (short for occupational therapy or therapist).   Here are her great points:
  • incredibly useful and detailed book
  • excellent layperson's primer on OT -basic overview of major issues in gross and fine motor function and sensory processing disorders
  • advises on what you should look for in a therapist
  • organized so that you can read chapter to chapter or just go to what is most immediately relevant to you and your child
  • tone is friendly and informational, never preachy or pedantic 
  • activities are home-friendly such as cutting fingernails for her son, she found that tip miraculous.

Rachel also recommends this book as a refresher for parents who have been in the special needs
trenches for awhile - even if just to skim the chapters for the tips.  She's had this book since September and she still often comes back to it, especially when she wants to have a dialogue with her son's OT.

 There are more videos at
Cara's family: (L-R Clockwise: Cara, her husband Brant, Jacob-13, Joshua-10)

Before moving onto the the review of the gorgeous product below, I want to take a moment to say how important it is to get a good grasp on really reading about sensory issues yourself.  I think it will make you a better shopper of tools and more importantly, you will be able to see how you can modify things to make a better family and school environment for your child.  That said, you are going to love this new thing I found.


Weights+ Soft+ Plus Pockets+ Warmth + Fidget holder and hider = GENIUS

This thirty dollar scarf has as many features as one of #007's tools.  It's really smart design.  I got this because my little one is always running around at night.  I don't know why it has to be only at night but really, he runs everywhere!  Kitchen, bathroom, snack time, play time, the only time he doesn't run is when he goes to bed but otherwise he's running.  We have the added bonus of his hands flying all over the place when he is excited.  Sometimes, I just want to take a ribbon and tie his cute little self up into a bow.  But that would be an odd "punishment."

The key here is that "punishment" for the sin of running non-stop won't really help them anyway.  And punishment for walking and jumping all over my couch is not going to be effective either.  And yelling... well you know what a losing battle that is. So what can we do? I say, we feed them and then teach them how to feed themselves.

This scarf... Man, I love it.  I want one for me but I think it's a bit too short for me- I'm 5'4". The length is good for tweens and shorter teens.

You Are Shivering, You Must Be Cold! Here's An Idea... Put On a Jacket!

When I say feed them, I don't mean food... rather, we must feed their senses.  They will stop being so hungry and trying to feed their senses in socially and financially irresponsible ways. One of the best discoveries for 2014 happens to be the weighted pocket scarf.  If you have busy kids with busy fingers, especially when they are out and about, this is the scarf to try.  TOP five reasons are:
  1. It's soft. Cuddly in a yummy kind of way.
  2. It's got POCKETS- big ones. Crazy hands that touch everything have a place to chill. Especially if your kid's pants don't have pockets.
  3. You can hide or even sew an incognito fidget in there... you know the ones that look like "toys" which many classrooms frown upon.
  4. It doesn't scream "A therapist gave this to me"
  5. You can use it as an outdoor or even indoor scarf
So you can see how large the pocket is...

Inside the pocket one side is the smooth feel as the scarf material extends into the pocket and the other side within the pocket is a regular cloth texture.

Fertilize Independence

What is so great in this day and age is that our kids have more and more options to take care of themselves in a positive way. We don't just tell them to stop running or jumping, we are going to teach them how.  Tools like the scarf and all the strategies mentioned in The Pocket Occupational Therapist are going to help us understand how to TEACH our children to R+R+R

Recognize Their Needs and then Respond with Reality in Mind

Most kids just do the "Respond" part and that is why they get in trouble.  I think that first part (Recognize) is so critical.  You can't go anywhere until you know how to teach your kid how to recognize that things are not quite right with himself. (Hint: You got yelled at twice in ten minutes and your goal wasn't to make mom mad so.....)

"Did you know that every night, you run to any place you need to go in the house? You may not know it but you are tired and tired means that not just your body is tired.. your brain, your executive control center is tired and not doing a great job of calming your tired nerves.  Here, this scarf will help you. Try it."  

He did try it and it's great.  The only problem is that we always have to look for it because it travels around the house.

Being a "200 Kid" opens all kinds of doors

Tools Help You Do What You Need to Do

I tried to teach my kid that there are kids who can master things (ie handwriting) after say 100 tries.  Then there are kids who for some reason have a hard time with that (ie handwriting) and so they may master it after 300 tries.  

BUT - if they use tools and strategies like the ones taught in the Pocket OT or use things like the Weighted Scarf or even Mini Push Pathz, they STILL may not master that skill after 100 tries but I would bet that they might get it by 200 tries. This is how to accept the REALITY and use the tool and be a "200 kid" because why waste your time and happiness by being a "300 kid" if you don't have to? 

One of the ways, we tried out the scarf was actually last week when I took my kids to an advanced screening of the LEGO movie.  


Choosing the "200" Way of Life

Think about it, if my kid is running around my apartment at 7PM, what would he do in a movie theatre, crowds, LEGO toy displays everywhere, building block tables, popcorn, huge LEGO sculptures of the characters everywhere?   Seriously, for a good week, I was set on NOT taking my kids. I didn't want them to go bonkers.  But I thought... hey buddy, we got this scarf.  You can even wear it in the theatre after you take your jacket off.  

I remember this night of being a night we enjoyed the movie. I only remembered the scarf when I was making sure my kids were zipped up before we left the theatre. And that is the point of the scarf or any effective tool.  It's just to help us get back to what we were supposed to be doing in the first place.  I know the LEGO movie was extraordinary but I do hope that my kid remembers that in that same night, he chose the "200" way of life.  This is more important than any movie, even dare I say it, the LEGO movie. 

Watching the SuperBowl can be a calm event.. well sort of....

And now try to win this sensational solutions package for you!!!

Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter to win these prizes!

One of those books you not give away

The Mini Push Pathz was one of the most POPULAR reviews from 2013.  I happen to have an extra pack for a lucky reader.  You don't want to miss out.  Bert's mom who reviewed this book also bought these.  She loves them. Oh, and word on the street is that this was invented by a mom too.  Of course it was!
  educational toy, best educational game, best educational toy, learning tools, toys for learning, toys are tools, child development, therapeutic toys, special needs toys, gifted children toys, games for gifted kids, 
RAFFLECOPTER!  Question of the Raffle This Time is.... Toy Fair starts this Sunday! Where would you like me to go visit?  Who are your favorite toy companies?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And if you are an Amazonian, then here are the links to support Toys Are Tools!  Thanks in advance. 
Cara Koscinski
Best Price $12.12
or Buy New $14.65
 This isn't the same as the Mini - they are weighted and larger but they're cool.

Best Price $22.99
or Buy New $22.99
Go to Fun and Function to buy the Weighted Pocket Scarf  ($29.99)

 Mini-Push Pathz by Abilitation School Specialty $19.99


Disclosure:  Toys are Tools was not compensated by the manufacturer for the publication of this review.  The reviewed items were provided to Toys are Tools to facilitate a review.  Reviews are never promised. 

This post is dedicated to all the pediatric occupational therapists in this world especially the married dynamic OT duo- Faye and Albert Dungca who listened to hundreds of my questions and gave me thousands of answers in response. I know that I am a total pain in the ass to those poor OTs who have the misfortune of dealing with me as a parent but please know that your job, as elusive as it is to the rest of the world is so so so very important.  I hope all OTs know that I and many of the readers of this blog think that you guys are rock stars and just wish that our school systems and insurance companies would stop being so damn cheap and give our kids more time with y'all!.


  1. You have to check out uKloo! They will be in booth 6263 Tell Doreen that Melanie sent you.

  2. Okay, Melanie. I am there. Thank you!