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Resource Spotlight: Assembly Toys

Updated: Jun 30

Assembly toys, very literally, are those designed to be pieced together, or assembled, from parts. These toys typically include various screwdrivers, sometimes drills, screws, bolts, and objects with holes for fastening. They can be used to address a wide range of therapeutic goals across different skill areas, and can be both engaging and challenging for children at different ages, depending on the sorts of toys chosen (e.g. mechano, versus a 4-piece plastic car).

Lets take a closer look at some skills that can be targeted with Assembly Toys:

Fine Motor Skills

  1. Hand Strengthening: Using screwdriver toys helps to build hand and finger strength as clients grip and twist the screwdriver.

  2. Dexterity: The precise movements required to align the screw in the hole, then the screwdriver with the screw, and then finally turn it develop fine motor control and dexterity. Some assembly toys come with drills, which can be used to downgrade this challenge.

  3. Unilateral and Bilateral Coordination: Manipulating the toy generally requires the use of both hands simultaneously, one to hold the object and the other to use the screwdriver to drill, enhancing coordination between the hands, as they're doing different tasks. This can also help integrate the motor skills of the dominant hand.

Visual-Motor Integration

  1. Hand-Eye Coordination: Aligning the pieces, then the screw in the hole, and then screwdriver with the screw towards visually guiding the movement to fasten or unfasten the screw improves hand-eye coordination.

  2. Visual Tracking: Following the movement of the screw and the alignment of the tools can help with visual tracking skills.

Cognitive and Executive Function Skills

  1. Planning and Organisation: Deciding which screws and tools to use and organising the steps needed to complete the task enhances planning and organisational skills.

  2. Problem Solving: Figuring out how to use the screwdriver toy and understanding how screws and bolts work together encourages problem-solving skills.

  3. Sequencing: The process of selecting the correct tools, positioning the screw, and then turning the screwdriver involves understanding and following sequences.

  4. Attention and Focus: Completing the task of screwing and unscrewing requires sustained attention and concentration.

  5. Task Completion: The structured activity of using screwdriver toys can help individuals work on beginning and completing tasks, improving task persistence and completion rates of other potentially challenging tasks. This is important for those individuals who have difficulties initiating tasks they would otherwise perceive as difficult, as it's a fun activity.

Sensory Integration

  1. Tactile Feedback: The tactile input from holding and manipulating the tools and materials can be beneficial for individuals with sensory processing difficulties to work out how their body impacts upon their environment, such as when they do (this), it causes (that) to occur - this is called Ideation.

  2. Proprioceptive Input: The physical effort involved in using the screwdriver provides proprioceptive feedback, which can help with body awareness.

Social and Communication Skills

  1. Turn-Taking: In a group setting, children can take turns using the screwdriver toy, promoting social interaction and turn-taking skills.

  2. Instruction Following: Following verbal instructions from a therapist or peers on how to use the screwdriver and complete tasks can improve receptive language skills.

Language Development

  1. Descriptive Language: Children and therapists can describe what they are doing, using terms like "turn it over", "rotate", “tighten,” “loosen,” “screw,” “bolt,” and “align.” There are so many language gains that can be made in activities like this, especially within a group environment, where sharing can also occur.

  2. Following Directions: Therapists can give step-by-step instructions that clients must follow, which enhances listening and comprehension skills. Alternative, following written or visually presented instructions works on these skills in different ways. We hope this series helps you understand how the use of certain resources in occupational therapy!

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