Specialty toy lending program supports play therapy
By Jessie Forbes
Created to address the lack of access to specialist toys, which often come with a hefty price tag, a UK charity called Newlife has launched an innovative toy lending program that allow a child to borrow what’s called a Play Therapy Pods (PTPs).
Each therapy pod holds a hand-picked collection of toys curated to meet a child’s developmental age and needs Their purpose is to both encourage learning and improve relaxation as well as enjoyment. In some situations, the toys are selected to help distract the child from the pain they are experiencing.
Families with a child who lives with a disability, or who is terminally ill child can access the program on a complimentary basis and borrow one of 4 different age- related pods for 12-week period.
Play Therapy Pods range from Sensory Pods that are designed to be suitable from birth, Adventure Pods for 18 months plus, Discovery Pods for children 3 and older and Explorer Pods that are suitable from 5 years old.
Each of Newlife’s therapy pods is categorized into visual, auditory, tactile, interactive, and communication related toys. They also all contain specialty toys that focus on individual sensory elements.
Families can also purchase the toys after they have tried them for free and figured out which ones are most beneficial to their child. Another program benefit—there is no limit to the number of times you can apply for a pod, so children have the opportunity to trial the ever changing selection in their category.
In general, play has many developmental and therapeutic benefits for children. It can help children to:
• Discover different forms of fun and self-expression
• Develop their communication skills by exchanging thoughts and information
• Explore different shapes, textures and colours through sensory play
• Learn cognitive skills such as reasoning and paying attention
• Practice social skills through collaboration and compromise with others
• Learn to cope with big emotions such as frustration or anger in situations they control
• Develop their physical literacy and spend their natural energy
According to the organization, playing with specialist toys has allowed families to gain a better understanding of their child’s needs, improving family relationships while identifying opportunities for purposeful development. The toys have also encouraged some children to play with their siblings for the first time or speak their first words.
The Play Therapy Pods have received plenty of positive feedback, including: 87 percent of families claiming that specialist toys have actively improved their relationship with their child; 82 percent of parents claiming the toys gave them a better understanding of their child’s needs; and 72 percent of parents recognizing a significant improvement in practical skills and abilities, such as improved hand-eye coordination.
Over six years (as of 2020), the charity’s service has provided 6,000 loans of pods to children across the United Kingdom highlighting the need and importance of childhood play.
Jessie Forbes is an editorial assistant at BCS Group and is based in Cobourg, ON.