Photo credit: Becky Branch Photography
As a pediatric occupational therapist, Keri Wilmot discovered a knack for finding the right toys to help her young clients, earning her the nickname “Toy Queen.” Keri regularly shares her extensive knowledge on toys and play with Genius of Play readers. Keri shared about her favorite toys and offered tips on screen time limits—for kids and parents.
You’re an expert in play and a pediatric occupational therapist—we’re excited to hear some of your tips and recommendations! Do you have any favorite new developmental toys for infants and toddlers?
What’s great about infants and toddlers is that the types of toys designed for this age group tend to be really true to the roots of basic play. The toys are still a lot like what we had as kids ourselves!
My favorite fine motor toys for this age group include sensory rattles with a lot of textures to explore, shape sorters, peg boards, ring stackers, puzzles, wooden blocks, and any toys that can be used for dump and fill play where kids can enjoy putting items in and out of different containers.
Playing regularly is an important teaching tool and is closely tied to the development of various physical and social skills in children. One area of development that is important at a young age is a child’s gross motor skills, as they are the foundation for so many other skills that children need and become critical for success in the school aged years. It’s amazing that babies learn how to roll, sit, walk, run and climb, all within a year. So while it’s easy to find toys that help kids develop their fine motor skills, there also needs to be a balance of play, so kids can develop their gross motor skills, too.
I compiled a complete list of activities here, but simple activities, such as running, jumping, rolling and skipping all build strength and coordination.
A lot of parents are struggling with striking a balance between traditional toys and screen time—any tips for finding this delicate balance?
Yes, it is definitely a struggle for me, too. Not just because we spend more time on social media, but for those of us who now work from home or need to be available to answer emails and attend to issues outside of traditional work hours, our children often see us on our phones and laptops.
Parents should incorporate various types of play into their children’s playtime. It’s important to mix up all different kinds of play, as they benefit children on physical, emotional, social, cognitive, communication and creative levels, all helping raise well-rounded children. This report provides parents with guidance on how to incorporate digital as well as traditional play into a child’s daily routine.
Since tablets and phones aren’t going away, the best way to attempt a balance in my opinion is to be aware. Try and set limits on use of devices for yourself and the children. For kids using tablet toys and other devices, spend time getting to know the parent settings— this will help you understand what kinds of content your child enjoys, but also lets you set a limit for the device to shut off after so many minutes of play.
Photo credit: Becky Branch Photography
What are your favorite summertime toys that help keep kids active?
Summer is perfect for outdoor play! We have a collection of fun and different ride-on toys in our garage that can be easily put in the trunk of the car and taken to the park, playground or friend’s houses. I always have a stash of water balloons for the backyard and a large collection of water blasters and unique pool tool toys. A few more of my favorites are listed here.
If you could hand off one chore to someone else each day, what would it be?
If you had asked me six months ago I would have said laundry, but we recently got a puppy and vacuuming is a full time job!
What is your favorite thing to do to relax and unwind?
We spend a lot of time outdoors playing with friends when it’s not too hot. We love meeting friends at the pool, walking or riding bikes to the park, playing corn hole in the backyard, watching football games on Sundays, and attending local events like baseball or basketball games. We also love looking for new family-friendly restaurants to meet up with friends, where the adults can relax and connect while the kids happily play together.
What is your best parenting hack?
When my son started school it was such a struggle to pick clothes out every morning, so we found some Under Armour shirts, shorts and pants he liked, bought a bunch in different colors that could be mixed and matched, and created a “uniform” for him. He was comfortable, got dressed on his own and it saved us so much time in the morning!
If you could describe motherhood/fatherhood in one word, what would it be?
What’s one moment in your motherhood journey that has made you proud?
I often wonder what my son will be like as an adult and I’m so proud when I see him demonstrate compassion by consoling a hurt friend, watching out for a younger child to make sure they are being treated fairly, cheering on his teammates on the sidelines and giving a high five or a fist bump to a team member when they score.
What is one piece of advice you want to pass along to your children?
Be open to adventure and new ideas. Try not to get overwhelmed with change and transition, see it as an opportunity, you never know where your life will lead you!
What is one piece of advice you would pass along to other moms?
I know every mom’s day is busy and children have their own crazy schedules, but learn to live in the moment, take time to play with your family and your adult friends, too.
How do you tackle the work/life balance?
I struggle with trying to figure this out every single day! I run out of hours in the day for both work and play every single day. Sometimes I’m doing work at midnight, other times I’m waking up at 5 a.m. I just try and prioritize what’s most important on a daily basis, and what doesn’t get worked out that day will hopefully get figured out in time.
Favorite Beauty Product:
Favorite Form of Exercise:
What is on your DVR?
For kids, anything created by Toca Boca. For me, Facebook
Favorite Kids Store:
Janie & Jack