Educational Gadgets and Toys We Love!

Here is a collection of the educational gadgets and toys I have used in my classroom. They are great instructional aids, and all are kid tested and approved.

Clicking on each toy will take you to the item as it appears on Amazon, though some items may be purchased more inexpensively elsewhere.

Pointers for Reading Words

Star Wars has captured the imagination of children for a lot of years and continues to hold its appeal with kids of all ages. We have two kinds of light sabers, and my students love to use them to read words from our word walls.

Light saber for pointing to and reading words from the word wall.

Another light saber pointer for use at the word wall.

Laser pointers shaped like mice, typically used for exercising cats, are fun gadgets for reading words on walls (with supervision.)

Laser pointers shaped like mice which kids love to use to read words from word walls.

Gadgets for Improving Focus

Bop It and Bop It XT by Parker Brothers are portable and great for improving focus. I use them both along with Hasbro's Cosmic Catch which is totally the best game ever for focus - and fun. Kids of all ages love it! (So do I) It was recommended to me by a physical education teacher.

Bop It may be used to improve focus.

Cosmic Catch by Hasbro may be used to improve focus, and children of all ages love it.

High energy and ADHD kids can learn to hold stress balls to fiddle with during times of formal instruction. With direction and support from you, this may help them focus because it gives them something to do with their hands at these times.

If it becomes airborn or a distraction to others, it is a simple matter to take it up that day and try again another day.

Stress balls can give ADHD kids something to do with their hands during instruction.

Paddle ball games have been around for a long time, and they are inexpensive and great for building focus. If you don't believe it, try looking away while you are doing it!

I generally teach them to bounce the ball downward first.

Classic paddle ball games are good for improving focus.

Another educational gadget which helps kids learn how to focus is a Nintendo Wii. Many of the games require periods of intense focus, and children learn to sustain their ability to pay attention by playing these games.

Treatment of the Vestibular System

The vestibular system, our sense of balance, is the entryway to the brain. Yet through the years, we have forgotten that in order to "get in" to the brain, we must pass through it.

"In reality, the brain is part of the vestibular system," says Dr. Fritz Mengert, neuro cognitive learning expert. So helping children learn to balance and giving them opportunities to develop their vestibular system is going to help them learn better. It just is.

In the years I worked with Title I, we used a Wii not only to help children learn to focus but also to develop the vestibular system and improve coordination. Wii Fit Plus with its balance board is especially well suited for the task and has many games which can be used to treat this area.

Wii Fit Plus may be used to treat the vestibular system as well as develop coordination and improve focus.

Balance beams, though not gadgets as such, are an important piece of equipment for helping children with balance. A 4X4 board works well if braced properly (so that it doesn't turn over.) Some teachers I know put down a line of tape on the floor and have children walk on it when entering or leaving the room. Genius!

Balance beams for treating the vestibular system should be in use in every classroom.

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More gadgets and toys

Educational toys for coordination

Teaching children to skip (coordination), jump rope, and dribble with each hand individually (ordination) are three of the most important skills you can teach children to help their reading. It's true, and scientists have known this for some time. It has to do with organizing the brain and building connections.

"Any problems with either ordination or coordination has a direct influence on the sensory system," explains Dr. Mengert. "In reality, the only contact the brain has with the outside world is communicated through the sensorial. It is, therefore, critical that the vestibular system provide a stable foreground for accurate interaction with the sensory system on which the brain is dependent."

Equipment for developing ordination and coordination skills is inexpensive, and kids really love it. You can even practice while learning words in sight word games like the Skipping Game

Children who move smoothly are able to read smoothly. So teaching children to jump rope is important to developing reading fluency! Additionally, when they jump with a "double hop," they establish a steady beat which may improve memory

Jump rope, an important skill for developing reading fluency.

Dribbling a ball with each hand separately for a sustained period of time establishes a steady beat as well. It is important to note that this activity is an individual activity and that it should be done while standing in one place. It is not basketball!

These balls are perfect, too, for word wall relays at the word wall.

Dribbling a ball with each hand separately can improve reading.

Crossing the Midline

Students who are cross dominant have dominant hand and eye on opposite sides of the body. This almost always causes difficulty at the midline and problems when reading. (I am right-handed with left eye dominant, so I have first-hand experience, if you will pardon the pun.)

The following games are all very good for helping build connections in the brain by crossing the midline.

Pick Up Sticks can be used to help treat problems at the midline and improve reading.

Jacks may be used to treat problems at the midline and improve reading skills.

Our occupational therapist suggested that I use laser pointers and have students follow mine as it traveled about the room. It requires very close supervision and must be done in small groups, but the kids love it, and the mouse pointers are perfect for this activity, too.

Another activity she suggested is blowing bubbles and having students reach across the midline (when possible) with the pointer finger of their dominant hand to pop them. This is a big hit with children, too.

Blowing bubbles so that children reach across the midline to pop them helps treat problems at the midline.