Holiday Gift Guide For Kids With Special Needs (Part 5 of 5)



By Nancianne Chin

As we round up our 5-part blog series we take a look at gifts that focus on literacy, an incredibly important life-skill. We’ve complied some great reads for children of different ages. But don’t worry we haven’t forgotten about the parents – we encourage you to check out  a couple highly-recommended books in Part 3 of our holiday blog series.

While shopping for gifts this holiday season, remember that children learn through their play. Which means parents don’t need to feel guilty if they choose to sneak a little bit of education onto the Christmas wish lists. Here are a few gift suggestions for targeting literacy.

Ages 0-2 

For children ages 0-2 literacy is about exposure to books and letters. Visit the 0-2 year old section of your local book store and you’ll find Peek-a-Boo books with flaps to move for any child who likes exploring, and Touch and Feel books to support children who enjoy a sensory experience. These are great for showing little ones that books can be fun. To build on alphabet familiarity choose toys that sing the alphabet, or giant blocks with letters on each one will help your child learn while they build, bang and chew away.

Peek-a-Boo books

Ages 3-5

For ages 3-5, kids are learning the alphabet and that letters make sounds. Try LeapFrog Alphabet Pal Caterpillar for a many footed friend. A letter sits on each one of this caterpillar’s feet and says the letter’s sound when pushed. LeapFrog also makes Word Whammer Fridge Phonics Set. Magnetic letters that move around, and can be placed in the set to sound out your letters, read your words, and provide positive verbal praise.

The Leap Frog Alphabet Pal Caterpillar

Older Children

In kindergarten, literacy ability ranges across the classroom. Some kids are learning letter names and sounds, others are learning site words, and sounding out 3 letter words, while some kids will be reading simple sentences. Boggle Junior and Scrabble Junior are nice games for this age group. Both involve searching for letters that match the given 3-4 letter words with their brightly coloured pictures.

Boggle Jr.
Boggle Jr. is a great game for older children!

Books continue to be good for all age groups. Some kids prefer stories, while others prefer pictures of items of interest. Try a book on pigs for the piggy lover, a book with many tractors for the car lover, or Charlie Brown’s Encyclopedia for the child who generally likes to learn. Starting the tradition now of giving your child a book now will definitely benefit them today, tomorrow and in the future.

Holiday Gift Guide For Kids With Special Needs (Part 4 of 5)


Gifts to Build Your Child’s Language Skills

By Aynsley Warden

Our 5-part blog series has covered lots of great gift-giving ideas for kids with special needs, and now we’ve got ideas that can help build their communication skills and still have fun! Here we focus on great gifts help build your child’s language skills. At Canoe Therapy we are committed to making children’s therapy fun so that you as a parent, as well your child, are comfortable. Here we share some of our favourite books, toys and games that we use in speech-language therapy sessions.


1) The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
This book builds food related vocabulary, rote counting skills, and descriptive vocabulary. Take things one step further and get real objects and puppets and act out the story with your child to engage them in pretend play.

2) Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.
This book is a repetitive story that has a fun flow to it and allows your child to remember and say parts of the story easily. Work on animal vocabulary while looking at the bright colourful pages. Start talking about rhyming words that repeat throughout the story.


Some other great books include the following:

  • “The Napping House” by Audrey Wood
  • “Are You My Mother?” by P.D. Eastman
  • “Pajama Time!” by Sandra Boynton
  • “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” by Bill Martin Jr. and Bill Archambault
  • “Toes, Ears, & Nose!” by Marion Dane Bauer
  • “Peek-a-Moo!” by Marie Torres Cimarusti
  • “Yummy Yucky” by Leslie Patricelli


1) Barnyard Bingo is a simple game to learn matching skills, animal names, and to practice turn taking.

Barnyard Bingo

2) Cariboo carries an element of surprise by letting your child find hidden balls that will help open a secret treasure. Work on colours, turn taking, alphabet and word knowledge with your child in this fun game!


3) Pop-Up Pirate allows for turn taking with multiple players and can be used to work on colours, counting and as a fun motivator for language learning.



To help encourage a child’s problem solving skills and functional exploration of toys, think about getting blocks, puzzles and shape sorters. These are great, especially for the little tiny tots.

1) Melissa & Doug produces a variety of excellent puzzles that make noise and are fun to touch. These can keep your child engaged and help you highlight new words.

2) Toys that resemble real life activities. Build your child’s imagination and pretend play skills using toys that resemble real life activities. Toy food that you can cut apart and dishes are great for acting out kitchen activities. Dolls and dress-up clothes are abundant and allow your child to play parent.

3) Little People has a variety of toy animals and people that can live in a farm, house, or zoo and drive in buses or planes.



4) The Twist and Drill Set lets your child work with child-friendly tools.Twist and Drill Set

5) The Critter Clinic toy lets your child pretend to be a veterinarian to toy animals.

Critter Clinic

Play With Your Child!

Whatever your child likes to play with and read, remember to join in! Building your child’s language skills is never something limited to their speech therapy sessions but rather something that should follow them home as they develop their social skills. Follow your child’s lead as you play with him or her and have fun!

Holiday Gift Guide: For Kids with Special Needs (part 3 of 5)


By Diesje Hiltemann

We’re excited to give you part 3 of our Holiday Gift Guide, which includes gifts to help children with Sensory Integration Difficulties as well as their parents. Here at Canoe Therapy, we love finding creative ways to get your child engaged as well the rest of the family!

Not only do the kids need gifts at this time of year, but mom’s and dad’s too – especially those who have recently received the diagnosis for their child(ren)! While there is plenty we can do at Canoe Therapy including speech therapy, behavioural therapy and more. So many of the skills we work on can be easily integrated into home life. The best way to do this is to educate you as the parent so you can better understand and work with your child.

Here are two fantastic books for parents. The first is one to help identify where your child may fit and see that there are many areas where they could fit in the spectrum of sensory integration dysfunction! Both these books are available at Chapters as well as in paperback ($12.64) and for the kindle ($13.99).

The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder by Carol Stock Kranowitz

 TUntitledhe Out-of-Sync Child broke new ground by identifying Sensory Processing Disorder,  a common but frequently misdiagnosed problem in which the central nervous system  misinterprets messages from the senses. This newly revised edition features additional  information from recent research on vision and hearing deficits, motor skill problems, nutrition and picky eaters, ADHA, autism, and other related disorders.

The Out-of-sync Child Has Fun: Activities for Kids with Sensory Integration Dysfunction by Carol Stock Kranowitz

Untitled1A collection of more than 100 fun, easy activities designed to be used under adult supervision to help children develop and strengthen their sensory-motor skills. Grouped into: general issues, touch, balance and movement, body position, vision, hearing, smell and taste, oral-motor skills, motor planning, motor skills, and bilateral coordination.

And now for the children… here are some amazing toys that can be used in the home to assist with generalizing skills learnt in their therapy sessions to the home environment. The items mentioned in Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog are also amazing to assist with the sensory needs that our children have and would also be fantastic to have in the home.

Therapy / Exercise Ball

This can be used in the home as a ball to sit on while watching TV, playing games or sitting at the dining table; in order to keep your child focused on the task at hand while still allowing for movement Therapy Exercise Balland core activation. Furthermore it can be used while jumping on the trampoline or just standing on the floor for a game of catch. It is versatile and oh so helpful in calming the over-aroused child or waking up the under-aroused child.

Hope you enjoy these! At Canoe Therapy we are always looking for ways to assist our patients and their families in whatever way possible. These fantastic gifts allow our your child and family to take the skills they learn in therapy home with them. Check back soon for our next gift suggestions!

How to Prepare for Halloween with Children with Special Needs


It’s time again to get ready for Halloween!

For many families this means choosing costumes to wear and candies to distribute to our little “Trick or Treaters.”

With food allergies, food sensitivities and childhood obesity becoming increasing concerns in our society, we are welcoming and encouraging a new Halloween fad. Why not try offering non-food or non-candy treat options to your little ‘trick-or-treaters’ this year?  Here are some suggested ideas:

  • A page of fun stickers
  • Bubbles
  • Bracelets
  • Toy cars
  • Decorative pens
  • Bouncy balls
  • Decorated adhesive bandages
  • Mini pumpkins
  • Whistles
  • Charms
  • Balls of homemade play-dough
  • Reusable twisty straws
  • Hair barrettes
  • If you are crafty, you could decorate items. Maybe, glue some googly eyes to little acorns or twist black pipe cleaners around black pencils to make them look like spiders!

If you, yourself, have a little one who would benefit from non-food treats, you may wish to begin to drop subtle hints to friendly neighbors soon. For example,  ‘Have you heard about the non-food treat option fad? I’m excited to be doing something to keep Halloween fun, while still considering our children’s health. We’re trying to decide if bouncy balls or princess and car bandages would be more liked.”

You could also print off the attached sign to carry with you on Halloween, as a visual request.

We don’t wish to rain on the Halloween parade, as distributing candy has been an exciting tradition for our children for many years. We’re just hoping to see a few pumpkin erasers amongst the pumpkin candies in more and more Halloween bowls to come!

The team at Canoe wishes you a happy, safe and healthy Halloween!!!