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!

Holiday Gift Guide: For Kids with Special Needs (part 2 of 5)


Par Jess Urcuyo

We’re excited to give you part 2 of our Holiday Gift Guide, which includes gifts to help tune your children’s motor skills. Here at Canoe, we love finding creative ways to get your child engaged to work. We’ve got five kid-tested, therapist-approved activities to build hand strength, coordination, and dexterity.

1) Discovery Putty. What better way to wake up your hands than by rescuing animals from a mudslide or finding tasty treats in a custardy goo! Discovery Putty puts a fun spin on traditional therapeutic putty exercises and gives kids a workout for their finger muscles without even realizing.


  • Winner of the 2014 Dr. Toy’s Best Vacation Products Award.


2) Eye Popping Squeeze Stress Toys. Next in our workout, these crazy characters, which I’ve graded by level of difficulty based on the amount of force and positioning of the fingers required to pop their eyes out of their heads. The iconic Sock Monkey gives an easier warm-up, with the Dinosaur providing a medium resistance, and the slim-line shape of the Cow proving to be one of the harder challenges. How many times can YOU make those eyes pop in 30 seconds?




3) Happy Puzzles by Oops. As a self-correcting activity, puzzles are a great way to teach children problem solving. Manipulating each piece to fit correctly requires our brains to assimilate both visual and physical skills to be successful. The trial and error involved in completing a puzzle teaches persistence and adaptable thinking skills. Although rated for infants twelve months and above, we’ve found the abstract nature of  Happy Puzzles bring a unique challenge to children as old as five years. And we agree…they make us happy too!



4) Balancing Cactus by Plan Toys. A hands-down favourite, the Balancing Cactus challenges both strategy and coordination. Ideal for turn-taking social play, kids can also play by themselves practicing bilateral hand use by stabilizing the base with their non-dominant hand and positioning the pieces with their dominant hand. Encouraging creativity and abstract design, kids can build their cactus a different way each time.


  • The German Design Prize (Deutscher Designpreis Holzspielzeug)
  • Good Toy Award by Spiel Gut, Germany
  • Good Toy Award by Good Toy Association, Japan
  • Good Toy Award by Thai Toy Industry Association.


5) Stormy Seas by Hape Toys. The Stormy Seas balancing game is a great way to teach a child to grade the force of their movements as they learn to place the items carefully on the deck without tipping the ship off balance. Each type of cargo is weighted differently to add to the challenge. Turn-taking, language development, and imaginative play are all potential extension activities. Roll the dice, choose your cargo, and load ‘er up!


  • Able Toys Awards – Rated Toy
  • Parents Choice Awards – Silver




Holiday Gift Guide: For Kids with Special Needs (part 1 of 5)


Written by Marie-Eve Dubois

Tis’ the season for giving! Do you or anyone around you have a child with special needs and you’ve been trying to find great gift ideas that would not only be fun, but helpful? Over the next few weeks, our team will be sharing with you some of their great finds. We hope this will inspire you!

Gifts for Children with ADHD

A few weeks ago, I bought two little pieces of twistable plastic, and put them on my desk for children to fiddle with. I used to have them in my office back in Quebec, and they were quite popular. However, I didn’t expect the kind of reaction I got at Canoe! All my colleagues were trying them, and while they were initially intended for the children I see, it turns out many parents have enjoyed them too! Everyone (including clients of my colleagues I had never met) were now asking where they could purchase them! This is where the idea of this blog series came from: what if we shared our favourite tools, toys and books for all to enjoy?

Here are three of my favourite items for children with ADHD

1) The Tangle! This is the famous piece of plastic referred to above! I currently own a bigger version with textured rubber and a smaller, fuzzy one. The simple plastic ones are also great for children who do not like the added texture. These are meant to be manipulated to increase calm, focus and attention, and provide additional sensory stimulation. These are quite inexpensive and make a great stocking stuffer!

Tangle Therapy (available at Scholar’s Choice $14.99)
Tangle Jr. Fuzzies Fidget Toy (available at Scholar’s Choice $5.99)
Tangle Jr. Neon & Sparkle Fidget Toy (available at Scholar’s Choice $3.99)

2) Cushions. We’ve all known a child (or adult!) who had trouble staying in their seat, kept moving around, etc. Some may have tried sitting on an exercise ball, but sometimes that’s just too much movement, or is inconvenient. A great alternative are cushions designed to allow the child to sit on a surface that moves and gives them additional sensory input. You may need to look for the perfect one for your child, but luckily, many different styles are now available, from the spiky one (it’s not nearly as uncomfortable as it seems) to the wedge cushion.

Spiky Tactile Cushion – 13′ (available at Scholar’s Choice $32.99)
10″ Wedge Cushion (available at Scholar’s Choice $32.99)

3.) My Brain Needs Glasses. This little gem exists in an extended parent version in French, but this children’s book is pretty awesome too! This book reads as the journal of Tom, a child diagnosed with ADHD. He shares helpful information for children with the same diagnosis, but also their siblings, parents and educators (did you say you were looking for a gift for your child’s teacher?). The fun part is that there is also a version for adults with ADHD called My Brain STILL Needs Glasses.

My Brain STILL Needs Glasses Book for adult with ADHD (available online $19.95)

Hope you enjoy these! Check back tomorrow for part-2 of Holiday Gift Guide!

5 Holiday Activities to Build Your Child’s Language


Written by Aynsley Warden

There are many great opportunities that you can take to build your child’s language skills while you are busy getting ready for Christmas. The best part is, your child is included and has fun! Here are a few ideas of things you can do with your child, while highlighting language skills:

1) Read Christmas or holiday stories with your child. Here are a few favourites:

  • “Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas” by Jane O’Connor
  • “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Suess
  • “Dream Snow” by Eric Carle
  • “The Kvetch Who Stole Hanukkah” by Bill Berlin and Susan Berlin
  • “The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
  • “Olive the Other Reindeer” by J. Otto Seibold
  • “Bear Stays Up for Christmas” by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman
  • “Biscuits Hanukkah” by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
  • “That’s Not My Snowman” by Fiona Watt
  • “The Wild Christmas Reindeer” by Jan Brett
  • “Li’l Rabbits Kwanzaa” by Donna L. Washington

2) Decorate the Christmas tree. Talk about sizes of the ornaments you are hanging (big or little?). Talk about where to hang the ornaments (top, middle, or bottom?). Teach new words by highlighting the names of any ornaments (reindeer, Santa Claus, sled, candy cane, angel, bell, wreath, snowflake, Rudolph, etc…). Emphasize colours when hanging the lights on the tree.

3) Bake holiday cookies. Highlight new words by emphasizing the names of ingredients and kitchen utensils you use to make the cookies. Talk about the steps to follow for making cookies. Use icing and sprinkles to decorate the cookies and emphasize colour and descriptive words.

4) Make crafty ornaments to hang on the tree. Highlight new words and talk about the steps to follow when making your crafts.

  • Cut out Christmas tree shapes from green felt. Glue buttons on it. Thread and tie a string or ribbon at the top of the tree to hang it with. Materials needed:  green felt, buttons, glue, string or ribbon, scissors.
  • Collect pine cones during a walk outside near a forested area. Let them dry inside the house before painting them. Use sprinkles or glitter glue to decorate if you like. Materials needed:  pine cones, paint & paintbrush, sprinkles & glue (or glitter glue).

5) Let your child help you wrap presents or wrap presents they made. Talk about the names of things you need (scissors, tape, ribbon, etc…). Your child can practice printing, naming letters, and sounding out words when making name tags for the presents.

Remember to highlight new words by saying the word many times using emphasis. Add gestures to demonstrate what you mean and show pictures or real objects of the new words. Encourage your child to use these words on their own and to use more language by telling you the steps of activities. Most importantly, have fun!