List of toys and activities focus on DIR ® levels

List of toys and activities focus on DIR ® levels
(List of toys and activities focus on DIR ® levels)
9 LaCrue Ave. Suite 103
Glen Mills, PA 19342
Phone (484) 840-1529
(484) 840-1560
[email protected]
The toy/gift ideas were compiled from a combination of the following areas: Positive, relational
experiences with children and their families during P.L.A.Y. Project ® home visits and/or with A Total
Approach center based clients, parents in general and ATA therapist individual recommendations, online
research from individual reviews and specified toy catalog exploration. The majority of toys/games are
categorized by themes of play ideas.
Age level range 2 years up to age 10+.
DIR ® stands for Developmental, Individual-Difference, Relationship Based.
Dr. Greenspan and Dr. Wieder developed what they call a functional developmental roadmap where we
now understand to be the core levels that synthesize and integrate all of the different developmental
capacities. The six core levels are briefly explained below and on the following pages will state which
toy/activity may support those levels. E.g. -Dress up/role play activities provide the opportunity to focus
on level 3 and 4 leading into 5.
Level 1 : The Ability of Regulation and Shared Attention
Level 2: Engagement with Warmth, Trust and Intimacy
Level 3: Intentional Two- way Communication
Level 4: Interactive problem solving/use of gestures in a continuous flow.
Level 5: Functional use of Ideas, emotional/symbolic thinking (In language,
for example, it would be, “Me hungry, juice please”, or in pretend play,
feeding/ hugging the characters, themes of power and magic, etc. … )
Level 6: Ability to Build Bridges Between Ideas (Logical thinking and the
ability to shift gears between reality and fantasy. )
Water play toys activities & other tactile and science experimental activities:
Tactile play provide opportunities for regulation/exploration (level 1), engagement (2) leading to expansion of circles of
communication (3) and scaffold to level 4 with problem solving, sequencing, pretend play themes. Most toys are found on, on line at Toys R Us, Target and individual stores mentioned. Otherwise will be specified under description.
Ages participating in most tactile experiences during play sessions started as early as age 2-10 with full adult supervision.
The Ultimate Book of Kid Concoctions:
By John E. Thomas & Danita Pagel –
More than 65 tactile based recipes to create
using common household ingredients.
(Very successful during P.L.A.Y. Project visits especially
volcano experiments) Found in various bookstores.
Helpful Tips during play – allow time for
exploration, present tools for mixing/pouring
various size containers/color bath
tablets/eye dropper/paint brushes and have
pretend play figures/animals/vehicles, etc.…
available when your child is ready for
expansion. Have fun!
Play doh – various sets:
Aqua Sand:
(e.g. Burger Builder & Magic Swirl Ice Cream Shop
for expansion to level 3 & 4) Kids seem to enjoy.
Gluten free recipes to create dough found on line
Pour into water, sculpt, take it out and wow It's dry
Medium is also reusable Successful at play sessions
Bendaroos or Wikkistix:
Moon Sand Moon dough:
Colored wax sticks – ideas - create numbers, letters,
animals, etc... direction guide based on kit purchased.
Children/parents have enjoyed exploring together and
Provided tactile and creative exploration.
Found at locations mentioned above and in craft stores
Various play sets available for expansion to level 3 & 4
- pretend play) P.L.A.Y. Project family positive feedback
Finger-paints, window markers:
Engagement, scaffold to higher levels during play sessions
Disney / Pixar CARS Color Changers and play set:
Lightning McQueen and other CARS characters
Successful with children promoting spontaneous language
and opening more circles of communication due to
high interest in McQueen character. Will change color
quickly based on temperatures warm to cold and
back again and again! (need to be icy cold/ warm contrast for best results)
Beginner's Science Lab (Found online at
Children discover the magic of science…with a ready-to-use lab designed just for beginners! Kids just follow the step-by-step
instructions to complete 12 simple experiments—from building a volcano and growing colorful crystals to creating realistic
snow and experimenting with space sand! Ages recommended 5-12
Functional/structured activity ideas:
Cooking/baking – a natural tactile experience,
promotes sequencing/ problem solving and
family time.
Gross Motor activities below are mostly recommended by therapists and/or parents
Activities provide opportunities for sensory input – e.g. proprioceptive, vestibular, calming, alerting, postural work, motor
planning, etc. Some of the equipment promotes child to create obstacle courses for higher-level interactions and overall
physical exercise while having fun. See your OT and PT for your individual child’s sensory programming needs.
Plasma Car or Scooter - Kids hop on and can put their feet up, rotating steering wheel from side to side to go
forward –smoother surface, faster it goes – kids & adults up to 200 lbs. – vestibular & motor planning. Positive
reviews from parents. ( &,
Razor scooters - various types to view on line based on age – encourage balance, motor planning and provide
Fun Slides - Fits over shoes. Ages 3 & up P.LA.Y. Project - positive experiences. Just need area of carpet for best
results. (Target stores &
Moon Shoes - Fits over shoes (based on reviews for ages 8 & up) – (back to &
Moon Walkers - slip over socks or bear feet – one size ages 5+ - Moon shoe type, but looks more like a platform
flip flop type. (
Super Fun stilts - ages 6 & up (
Sit N Spin - recommended more for toddlers
Balance boards - ages 3-7 two types – side to side or all around (Toys to Grow on –
Additional balance boards - Balance Board (exclusive in ages 5 & up – challenge to guide five
colored balls thru maze on surface by moving from side to side/back and forth.
Wobble Deck - Works muscles and mind! Follow game’s audio commands while on board. Opportunity to build
concentration, coordination and quick reflexes. Positive reviews from parents. Ages 5 +. (
Therapy balls, scooters & various therapy equipment - (see your OT & PT for more specific suggestions
based on your individual child’s sensory programming needs),
Tunnels, tents, ball pit play centers – different assortment. Recommended are ones that have mesh see
through sections. Provide more security during beginning exploration. Also parent suggest tunnels and tents that
are easy open and close. See online selection and customer ratings at to best fit your play
Glow in the dark themed toy activities and ideas:
Playing in the dark creates
drama, mystery encouraging a
scaffold to higher order thinking.
Crayola Glow Station - Draw with a penlight stylus to draw on the light-sensitive surface to create glow in the
dark drawings or tracings. It requires a darkened space. It fades away in a few minutes and can create drawings
over and over. Exploration experience - wave the wand over objects like keys, shapes, hand and the shape of
object “magically” appears on surface .Provides consistent engagement during Floortime sessions with drama
when lights are dimmed or dark space like a tent. (Target,, craft stores). It is an award winner of
Finger flashlights - Colored lights that you can put on fingers or hold in hand and play various light games. Able
to find at Five below, Oriental Trading online and craft stores.
Crayola Glow Dome: Kid can draw directly on the clear plastic dome and center panel with included neon
markers – a drawback is that the markers do not last very long if not properly capped. It is innovative how kids can
control the different speeds and light settings. Many opportunities for exploration and drama created with the
lights out.
Mini Plasma Ball – Electric lamp – referred to as the “Magic ball.” It is a big hit with an array of
children ages 5 and up. It promotes language and back and forth interactions, symbolic ideas of level 4 and 5.When
anyone touches the dome a stream of light moves to the direction of your fingers. Children really like the sound
mode button particularly because they can control when it lights up and stops by their voice and individual
sounds/vibrations. (, and other unique websites when you Google it.)
Other ideas for glow in the dark fun: Keep an
assortment of different size flashlights. Play hide n
seek and treasure hunts with use of flashlights.
Dollar stores/craft stores carry small flashlights that
have attachments that project images on the wall.
(*Note safety concern with attachments that can
be put in the mouth) Opportunity to create stories
on the walls/ceilings, etc.…
Structured games promote model of back and forth turn taking or require simple one or twostep directions. Level of interest is all depending on individual child’s developmental level.
Don’t Break the Ice – Consistently
successful for engagement during
Floortime due to the set-up process
and back and forth of knocking the ice
blocks down. Promotes simple
sequencing and
problem solving. Recommend using a
different tool like a play
hammer if difficult for some children to
manipulate. 4 years+
Elefun – Butterfly catching game.
Very visual and one or many children
can play together scurrying to find
the “butterflies” that shoot out of the
elephant’s trunk Ages 3 +
Hungry Hungry Hippos – Fast
paced game where there is a race
for hippos to “eat” the marbles. Kids
seem to enjoy! (Caution for children
that put objects in mouth) Ages 4 +
Honey Bee tree – (Award
Winner) Kids carefully
remove the leaves without
waking the marble like
Ages 3+
Hisss card game - As each Hisss snake
slithers its way across the playing area
it introduces color identification and
visual logic: Does it make sense to have
a snake with two tails and no head?
Are those two colors the same or not?
Even elementary counting skills come
into play during scoring at the end of
the game.
Recommended age 3+
Irresistible stacking game for kids
Includes 10 wooden elephants, 5
wooden jokers, 3 wooden balancing
bars, 1 wooden die and illustrated
Winner of multiple awards and
parents recommend
 For 1 to 4 players Ages 3+
 Blue Orange plants two trees
for every tree used to produce
their games
Pizza Pile Up game – Help Poppa
pile on toppings to make a pizza.
Place toppings on pizza without
toppling the pie. Includes fun
plastic ingredients of cheese,
tomatoes, mushrooms and
pepperoni pieces. (Different ways
to modify game)
Guess Who A wonderful blend
of deduction with a form of 20
Questions. Two players try to
deduce the identity of their
opponent's "Mystery Person."
Using game boards with 48
frames apiece and an equal
number of cards displaying
character faces, players ask one
another yes or no questions that
help narrow the pool of
possibilities. Through process of
elimination, the identity of the
Mystery Person slowly becomes
evident. Age range from 6-12
Cranium Cariboo – The magical treasure hunt game designed especially for young children.
Unlock secret doors to find the treasure. Ages 3 + Cranium games in general parents highly
recommend. Refer to age range when searching for selection of games. (,
Other Cranium games recommended by parents 3 +:
Duck Duck 1 2 3 - Mama’s ducklings are loose in the park, playground and at the
picnic. Pick up all the lost baby ducklings and take them to the pond. Spinner and
board game.
Puppy Pals Bingo – Match colors, shapes, patterns. Make a match to give a puppy a
home. Three ways to match and learn.
Step To It – Kids have to walk, hop, and
jump all around the house. Ask a player
to give you a card with a specific number
of steps to take. Then choose an object
that you think you can reach in exactly
that number. Can you walk to the fridge
in 9 steps? How about hop to something
red in 15? Reach your goal and you walk
away with a win! Potential to work on
higher order of thinking during Floortime
sessions. 5+ (
Scavenger Hunt for Kids Game –
With the 2-minute timer set, kids
quickly search the room for a hat, a
coin or something blue! Seems
great for peer groups. Ages 6 +
Scaventure game – Award winner
Team playing game that provides
opportunities to go on nature hunt,
draw ideas based on card directions.
6+ (,
Around the House Treasure
Hunt Game – Hunt for hidden
treasure at home. Includes 30
riddle clues that lead children
from one place to the next
until they find the treasure of
gold coins. Ages 4-10 (Toys to
Grow on –
Treasure hunts in general are
very successful for P.L.A.Y.
Project families and Floortime
sessions. Other ideas for
expansion of pretend play and
power themes–Pirate treasure
hunts – such fun!
Don’t Wake Daddy
Shhh! If you can sneak past sleeping Daddy without waking him, you can
have that midnight snack you're craving. The first person to slip around
all these obstreperous obstacles to get to the fridge wins. Players spin a
spinner to determine what color space they'll move to. If the player's
card doesn't match the picture on the space, Daddy's alarm clock button
must be pushed the number of times indicated. Just hope that Daddy
will sleep through the alarm. If not, he'll pop up and make his nightcap
fly off! For two to four players. Ages 4+
Fun and led to emotional focus during P.L.A.Y. Project visits!
WHAC-A-MOLE Arcade Game: A 1-2
player game based on the classic arcade
game where moles pop out and you
whack them. Play against the clock or
against a friend. Features lights and
sounds and loads of fun.
Other fun games enjoyed by many at A Total Approach.
Candy Land
Chutes and Ladders
Battle tops
Animal Soup
Strategy and Logical thinking focus
Master Mind
Ravensburger Labrynth
The big winners expressed by our DIR kids - Promotes play ideas of
exploration (Level 1) up to (Levels 4, 5, & 6) deepening the plot and higher order
of thinking
Hoberman Sphere - Unfolding Architecture - Expands in Volume -- These spheres expand
from 9.5" or 5.5" (mini) clusters to 30" or 12" (mini) geodesic spheres with just a little pressure. Push
gently and they collapse back to their original condensed form. Fully assembled. This is highly
recommended by Floortime therapist – huge success with all ages of children beginning at age 2 to age
10+. Smaller children can problem solve to fit inside and older children can fit it over their head. Targets
DIR levels 1-6 with Floortime knowledge of scaffolding strategies. Immediate exploration and
opportunities for problem solving even w/ children that have motor planning challenges. The structure
is rigid enough to roll and throw, yet if touched in the right way, it will suddenly collapse again. Size used
and recommended – large -30”. (Found on,
Snap Circuits® makes learning electronics easy and fun! Just follow the colorful pictures in our manual
and build exciting projects such as AM radios; burglar alarms; doorbells and much more! You can even
play electronic games with your friends. All parts are mounted on plastic modules and snap together
with ease. Enjoy hours of educational fun while learning about electronics. No tools required. Includes
Projects 1-101 manual. Awards: The National Parenting Center-Seal of Approval, Dr. Toy 100 Best
Children's Products, Dr. Toy Best Educational Products Highly recommended by ATA therapists and
families. Ages 8 and up, but our kiddos 5 and up love exploring it to when carefully supervised!
Build over 100 projects including:
• Flying Saucer
• Spin draw
• Sound Activator
• Alarm Circuit
Angry Birds: Knock on Wood Game - Based on the on the best-selling phone app game, Angry Birds
Now kids can play their #1 favorite app game in real life. Build, launch and destroy with an exciting skilland-action Features three Angry Birds, green pigs, one slingshot-style launcher, structure pieces and
mission cards. For 2 or 4 players – A favorite of kids of all ages. Nice motor planning, problem solving
focus as well.
Robot claw: Have fun picking up items with the robot claw! The claw makes a ratchet sound
when you squeeze the handle. This has a strong grip, picks up almost everything! Fun for all ages and
useful for hard to reach places. Another favorite for Floortime – promotes problem solving, motor
planning, abstract thinking, ideas of power and so on… Recommended for ages 5 and up, but our
younger kids are intrigued by it as well. It is a nice playful obstruction tool for parents/play partners
coached during P.L.A.Y. Project! (Particular one was found in Toys R Us, but other variations found at
Five Below stores and online)
Marble Race by Imaginarium – Many children of different age ranges and developmental levels
show great interest when presented this activity. Encourages problem solving, sequencing, interactive teamwork
and self-esteem “building “as well! Build the maze various ways and watch the marbles twist and turn down the
track. (Caution: Marbles are a choking hazard for young children or children that may put objects in mouth) (Toys R
Cardboard building bricks -– Fun engagement, anticipation of crashing, leading to expansion for
higher DIR levels during P.L.A.Y. Project visits beginning with children at ages 2 and up. Found in various stores
and websites such as Target, Melissa &,, toys r us, craft stores.
Crocodile Dentist – Children simply pushes on crocodile’s tooth one at a time until the mouth “snaps”
safely closed. Exploratory and rapid turn-taking opportunities. It is unpredictable each time to what tooth will close
the mouth. Builds anticipation, drama, relationship building. Used regularly for P.L.A.Y. Project & other Floortime
sessions leading to level 3 & 4 – recommended for ages 4 & up, however successful experiences with younger and
older children engaging in simple game play) One drawback – the one that is sold now is much
smaller than one presented to children in Play Project. It is the older game. Still works, but larger one is more
Melissa & Doug Castle – This has been very popular and a safe place during many children’s DIR
sessions to explore pretend play ideas and work on those ideas expanding into the deeper symbolic world. All
wood construction. Note - castle interactions described is based on plainer structure than the newer model,
however receives good reviews on
Fisher-Price Imaginext Eagle Talon Castle and other castles: Check out varieties at
This particular one has really good parent reviews. It has sound and light effects.
Many kids of all ages have been enjoying an older version of this castle during Floortime sessions so
recommended for children that are working to expand on story ideas including bad guys and good guy
characters. You can also take batteries out or switch sound off if too overwhelming when first exploring.
Musical instruments – (based on child’s interest & level of development) – drums (without a lot of buttons or
animation), harmonica, horn, xylophone, shakers, piano etc.… Drum play is consistently successful with engaging
children during P.L.A.Y. Project for timing and rhythm leading to more back and forth.
Discussed on many P.L.A.Y Project family feedback DVDs how important music is for the rhythmicity and timing
work of the temporal lobe.
Favorite children’s music CDs to dance and sing along.
Pretend Play Themes toys and tools listed below encourage imaginative play ideas dealing with a
child’s sense ofself, perspective taking, exploration and processing of good vs. bad roles in safe way
through pretend and so on…
Dress up clothes/hats/masks – Occupations, fantasy, Superheroes, princess, animals, etc.… (,, Dollar Stores, craft stores, etc.…)
Puppets – assortment of animals, characters, monsters, Children often request for puppets that can open their
mouths. etc.… Consistent engagement and potential to scaffold to level 4 and 5 during Floortime.
(, Dollar stores,, toys to grow on, etc.…)
Pretend Doctor’s kit (,,, Toys R Us)
Pretend food & Kitchen set, accessories (,,,
Pretend Tool bench/ tools – (Toys to Grow on,, toys r Us, Target, etc.…)
Foam swords and magic wands – found in Dollar stores, craft stores and Five below too.
Dolls and accessories for dolls – Can find in a variety of stores mentioned throughout to work on nurturance
play. Plush animals and characters can be used for nurturance as well.
Barbie play sets including the camper and Puppy pool are highly recommended for fun water play and building
on fun adventures with characters.
Favorite TV/Video character figures – plush and plastic small figures (Target, Toys R Us, WalMart, Kohl’s, etc.…) Most popular are Angry Birds, Disney Toy Story Woody (removable hat) and Buzz Light-year,
CARS Lighting McQueen and TV Dora characters, Diego, Disney Princesses and Power Rangers
Play cars/ buses/ trains/ boats, etc.… – Figures can sequence to locations encouraging a deepening of
pretend story ideas as well as playing out reality based themes.
Play Animals – farm/jungle, friendly, powerful, fierce, e.g. lions, tigers, bears, sharks, fish, elephants, giraffes,
dogs, cats, dragons, horses, cows, birds, etc.…
Dollhouse and play locations – Preferably without animation (, www., Target,
etc.…). Dollhouse with stairs recommended, as well as a variety of other locations like farms, train stations, gas
stations, town building, etc.…
Play Mobile play sets – Promotes kids to use their imagination, interactively problem solve and bring in details
of level 4 -6 story and play ideas. It is recommended for children that have the ability to handle many small
intricate pieces. Stress that are a great deal of accessories with each set. Various themed sets available are
camping, hospital, animal nursery, pirate, dragon, castle. It can be very time consuming to build and definitely
needs an adult to take charge of assembly. Once assembling process is over, it provides opportunity for higher
order of thinking. (,, Toys R Us)
Melissa & Doug Ice cream scoop set - magnetic four flavors of wooden ice cream scoops, two cones, scoopers
and sturdy box included. Introduction to simple level 4 pretend play ideas. A big favorite with P.L.A.Y. Project kids
(Found on, Toys R Us,
Melissa & Doug pretend food products – pizza, sandwiches, fruits/vegetables and Happy Birthday themes all
with Velcro to “cut,” etc.… A big favorite with P.L.A.Y. Project kids (,, Marshalls, craft
stores, etc.…)
Cash Register – Look for toys without a lot of talking or singing for focus on back and forth interactions.
(, Toys R us, etc.…)
Emotional tools for parents to help their children work through emotional and symbolic DIR
The Berenstain bear books – This series of books
come highly recommended from our experienced DIR
parents. They have been wonderful resources to help
their children understand and deal with a variety of
emotional themes and social experiences in a positive
way. Recommended age beginning at 4.
Kimochi is Japanese for feeling. Kimochis are made out of felt in bright colors with a
facial expression on one side and the name of the emotion on the other side. Children learn by placing
the cushion that best matches their feelings. The process can calm comfort and instills confidence
when having a physical item to help them express how they are feeling each day. Other ideas, draw a
Kimochi from a hat and take turns acting out the feelings – Just one of the awesome ideas created by
our ATA children when exploring in play!
Lastly - Don’t forget about the packaging! – Save your boxes and packing peanuts or air
packs from shipping.
Playing with boxes, different kinds of yarn, crepe paper ribbon, craft materials of construction
paper, markers, stickers, stampers, crayons, recyclable materials of paper towel rolls and paper
plates, popsicle sticks, masking tape and so on… can provide fun, ideas for expansion and creative
moments together as well! This activity is important for abstract and representational thinking!
This toy/activity guide is a tribute
to all of the past and present
P.L.A.Y. Project and Floortime
families that have devoted so much
of their time “playing” with their
children to support them to reach
their highest potential. It continues
to be an inspiration being able to
witness the incredible bonding
process between child and parent as
they triumph over developmental
obstacles together!
Thank You!
Any questions or comments
Please contact [email protected]
Floortime Practitioner/P.L.A.Y. Project certificate
Hope some of these ideas are helpful!
Have Fun!
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