Our "Beau"tiful Blessing

Monday, August 1, 2011

Learning Tools....

A few weeks ago a good friend (a fellow ACC family) asked me what we used for teaching toys with Beau.  Sometimes it's nice to see what other people are using and compare notes.  I'm interested in knowing what other families use with their ACC children so I'm hoping maybe this will help others.

The 2 board books shown in the pictures above have been used and used and used by Mr. Beau.  He absolutely loves these books and has really learned from them.  As you can see from the cover they are offered through Scholastic and we have a family member that is a teacher and was able to order them for us.  These are the only 2 books that these particular authors have out. One title is My First Signs and the other is What Do You See.  What's worked good for Beau is that there are real pictures of real people, cartoon characters and real children doing the sign. Beau seems to understand learning signs/words when using real life pictures.  The authors are Michelle Anthony and Reyna Lindert and you can find more about them at and you can find other products there as well.  Below are the flash cards that we ordered from the same company and these are pretty nice cards and fairly inexpensive as well. They are on a ring and have different themes to each pack.  They show an adult and a child doing the sign.

  Some other items that have worked good for Beau are ideas that came from watching his therapists do their work with him.  Below are some items that I was fortunate enough to find at garage sales - items that I have seen his teachers and therapists use. 

Above are 2 magnetic books that I found brand new, never opened at a garage sale and paid $5 for the pair - one is a Zoo book and the other is a Farm book.  Beau's speech therapist uses these at EDI.  The one she uses is actually a classification board and you place certain magnets in certain sections of the board.  For example, the apple magnet goes in the food section, the socks magnets goes in the clothing section.  Each magnetic board that I got includes a small book that describes each of the magnets, plus lots of different magnets.  What we often do is put all the magnets to the side where he can't see them and I pick up two different magnets.  I'll ask Beau, "Which one is the cow?".  I will also sign the word I am asking.  If he tries to pick the wrong animal, I hold it tight and force him to look at the other animal and pick it up and place it on the board.  Then we go over the sign for that word once again and I try to manipulate his hands to do the sign.  We continue the process with 2 different magnets.  

The picture above is another item from a garage sale - a FREE item.  This peg board is used for a couple things.  You can use it for colors - "Pick up the BLUE peg, Beau."  You can then work on occupational therapy by using the small motor skills to stack the pegs on top of each other or to just place them in the slots.  Below are some other toys that are great educational and developmental toys that have worked well for Beau. 

 This board is made by Melissa and Doug and works good for small motor skills, colors and counting.  Beau's just getting into this as far as colors and numbers are concerned, but we've used it for stacking and small motor skills.
Melissa and Doug toys are just plain GREAT!  These are just a few of the puzzles that Beau has.  The noise ones are great.  There are so many ways to learn using the puzzles.  These puzzles are good because they have the same picture below the puzzle piece making it easier to put it in the right spot.  Again, small motor skills are used, especially using the pincer grasp with the small pegs on the top 2 puzzles.  The bigger knob puzzle worked really well early on for Beau because it allowed him an easier way to lift the pieces since he didn't do well with manipulating smaller pegs.  You can learn colors, numbers, shapes, recognizing animals, instruments, vehicles, etc.  We have a large collection of Melissa and Doug puzzles.

Fisher Price also makes some great toys that double as learning toys.  Below are the gumball machine, the piggy bank and the block giraffe, shape sorter cookie jar, and shape sorter box.  These are pretty self explanatory.  Shape sorting is great for small motor skills, the gumball machine worked great for cause and effect.  It took him quite some time to figure out that you had to pull the lever to get the gumball to release from the machine. The piggy bank was a huge challenge for Beau when he first tried it 1 1/2 years ago.  I remember how he hated this toy and hated it because it was so hard for him.  Practice, practice and more practice, and now he's a pro at it! 

 Below is another wonderful Melissa and Doug toy.  These are blocks designed to be strung onto a string.  Because the string is too flimsy and difficult for Beau to use, we use a pipe cleaner instead.  It's firmer and gives him a better opportunity at success.  Don't get me wrong, it's still very difficult but he is doing better than expected.  We just tie a knot at one end of the pipe cleaner and then he holds the pipe cleaner in one hand and holds the block in his other hand. 

Below are pop beads and they are good for colors, counting and small motor skills.

Below are counting cans I bought at our local university book store.  The university is a big teaching college so the book store carries tons of teaching tools and developmental toys.  These are made by Learning Resources.  These cans are great and Beau loves them!

Above is a sample of one of the cans.  It's great for counting, sorting, colors, item recognition, etc.  This was a more expensive toy at $42.  This toy gets kept up in the closet and only gets used when we are working on learning.

Above are some more items I purchased at University Book and Supply.  Each box of flash cards was only $2.99 each.  They show the picture on one side and the actual word on the other side.  They have it in English and Spanish.  We've been working on cards with Beau in different ways.  We started with holding out 2 cards and asking him to pick up the card that has the cup on it.  He would have to pick up the picture of the cup and hand it to me.  The next phase after a few weeks of the previous phase was saying, "what do we drink out of?".  There are many different types of cards and you can do lots of things with them. Beau's speech therapist also has ones that show the complete color on one side of the card and the word of the color on the other.  The cards I have are made by Trend Enterprises and their website is . 

HiHo Cherry-O is a gift that an early developmental intervention educator gave Beau so that he could work on the pincer grasp as well as sorting colors.  This requires direct supervision as the pieces are very small.

Below are more cards that I purchased from University Book and Supply that are approximately 5x7 in size and show lots of different scenes and actions.  You can use these in a variety of ways.

One thing I've learned about Beau is that we need to use things that he enjoys and use them to our advantage when trying to teach him something.  He LOVES Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars.  I try to teach him when he doesn't know he's being taught.  I will pull out his cars and work on colors based on the color of the car or truck.  He thinks we're just playing cars, he doesn't realize he's being taught at the same time.  We can also work on counting using the cars.  We can also sort the cars based on color.

We are lucky that we have a college senior, Erin, that babysits for Beau and works with him.  She is an elementary education major with a minor in severe and profound disabilities.  She brought some small trucks, paints and small wooden trucks to our house the other day.  She had him run the Matchbox trucks through the paint and then onto the white paper.  He used them as a paint brush.  It was easy for him to hold on to the car and he loves playing cars so this task was perfect for him.  He painted a cool picture - the tire tracks made for a neat design.  She then got him to paint using a paint brush on some small wooden cars that she had purchased at Wal-Mart for $0.99 each.  She used what Beau enjoys to teach him. 

These are just a few ideas but hopefully you can gain something from them.  I'm always looking for new ideas - as most of mine come from watching therapists.  Let's face it, teaching a child with an intellectual disability is a struggle but when they accomplish any of these tasks, it's like a mountain has been climbed!  Good luck and happy teaching (and playing)!


  1. I love this blog post! Thank you so much for sharing such fantastic ideas for "learning tools" that you use with your child, Beau.

    I positively agree with you regarding the huge importance and benefit of incorporating a child's motivational factor to help encourage the child's learning process. I have seen it work wonderfully many many times with my own child, Matthew, who has ACC.

    We have some of the same toys (and sound puzzles) that you try with Beau but now you gave me some new ideas to try with my using a pipe cleaner to string beads (for fine motor control--and hand/eye coordination).

    Love the ideas and LOVE your new blog!

  2. This post was VERY helpful for me. Thank you for putting pictures and so beneficial. I just made an amazon order! :)

  3. Thank you guys - those are such nice comments and I'm glad that you were able to find some ideas/toys that might work for your children. If you have any ideas you can share with me, I'd love it! Thanks for reading.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing! I need to do a little amazon shopping right now:)

  5. Thanks Laura - I really appreciate your comment! Happy shopping to you!