Friday, June 3, 2016

Weavable Toys – Focus on Therapist Small Business Owners

Weavable ToysOur series continues today taking a closer look at small businesses that are owned and operated by Pediatric Occupational and Physical Therapists. Today, the focus is on Weavable Toys, created by Barbara Smith, OTR (whom many of you know as the “Recycling OT”).

Q:  First just tell a little bit about yourself – job experience, years on the job, etc. and about your product.

A:  I began my career working with developmentally disabled adults shortly after earning a B.A. in English. This was back in the 1970s when people were being moved out of institutions and introduced to community living. I worked in a group home and sheltered workshop before meeting my first occupational therapist and subsequently earning a M.S. at Tufts University’s Boston School of Occupational Therapy.

Over the past 30 years I have worked with children and adults with fine-motor delays in a variety of settings including schools, institutions, early intervention and even hippotherapy farms. I have learned the importance of adapting activities to provide a just-right challenge and to meet the client’s sensory needs.

Weavable Toys1

Q: What made you come up with your product?

A:  When my son was little I noticed that many toys were made of plastic similar to what was used to make colorful and sturdy detergent bottles. I also noticed that the bottle handles were designed to be comfortable, very strong and came in a variety of sizes.

I began to design and fabricate my own therapy materials out of the plastic products that we normally recycled and this was great because the activities could then be individualized, made cheaply, available quickly and easily replaced when lost or broken. I cut plastic containers with leather shears to make many manipulation activities including lacing boards (with extra large holes) and flat donut shapes used in stringing activities. Many of my clients who did not have the motor control to string beads were able to successfully use these materials.

Weaving is a wonderful fine-motor activity that develops finger dexterity, strength, sequencing skills and spatial concepts such as under and over. These are important skills that help children to manipulate buttons, buckles and tie a knot. I made a variety of weaving activities out of plastic containers (see them on my and they were so effective and fun to use with my clients that I decided to ask a designer friend to make a prototype. The product he created is made of plastic that gives just the right amount of resistance to weave. They can be used in a variety of ways, allowing for open ended creativity and best of all- they do not have to be “Do-It-Yourself”, although that is always an available option.

Q:  How do you produce/manufacture the product?

A:  My friend works at an industrial design company that allows him to manufacture with their machinery using a somewhat slow process. I have not yet decided whether or not to invest in purchasing dies that would enable mass production and lower costs.

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Q:  How you deal with liability and/or risk when creating a product for children?

A:  There is a warning on the packaging that this product has small parts. It is not recommended for children under 3 years of age or with individuals who put objects in their mouths.

Q:  Where can we find your products? 

A:  Weavable Toys are sold as a set consisting of 4 basic shape boards (square, rectangle, circle and triangle), strips that are woven through the boards and small shapes that are woven onto the strips to create designs. They are sold on Amazon and via paypal with free shipping. Information is on my website page

Need more fine motor activity ideas?  Check out the Your Therapy Source fine motor section for immediate delivery of electronic downloads.

Are you a pediatric therapist who owns a small business?  Let us know so we can feature your products.

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