Reviews, Toys

Helping Hands & Play Foam Review from Learning Resources

As the parent of a child with ASD, I’m always on the lookout for fun and interesting ways to engage and help Neil develop his skills. I have spent many a night on the Internet looking at special needs toys, and sensory toys. There is a lot available, but it’s disappointing to find that a lot of ‘special needs’ toys carry quite a high price tag.

A little while ago I was introduced to Learning Resources and was amazed by the huge range of educational toys on offer. I was very pleased to find they had a dedicated section devoted to special needs toys, and the big winner for me was the price… Everything was so well priced! I have loved the place ever since, and I was very pleased when they asked if we would like to try a couple of their products.

We received the Helping Hands Fine Motor Tool Set and an 8 pack of Play Foam, and we couldn’t wait to give them a go.

The Helping Hands set contains four tools for various activities, to grab, squeeze, scoop and drop. The tools are all brightly coloured and immediately appealing. The tool set is designed to help children develop their fine motor skills, which is an area we are keen to work on with Neil.

To test out the Helping Hands, we gathered together Neil’s collection of miniature Minecraft figures which were just the right size for grabbing and scooping with the various tools. We started with an empty bowl and the Squeezy Tweezers and I gave Neil the task of collecting up each of the figures and dropping them in to the bowl. This tool is great for developing hand eye coordination. Neil struggled at first because to open the tweezers you have to squeeze the handle, so it took him a while to coordinate his movements, but once he got the hang of it he was flying!

I then filled the bowl with water and asked Neil to retrieve the figures using the Handy Scooper. This is my favourite tool, as it is very similar in shape to scissors, and is perfect for developing the movements needed to control scissors properly, which is something Neil does struggle with a lot. The handle is designed perfectly for little hands, but I could also use them comfortably too. The large scoop has lots of little holes around it making it ideal for water play. Neil had a lot of fun lifting his characters from the water then watching the excess water drain away,

This was Neil’s favourite activity and he could have played with the water and the Scoopers for hours. They are great for water play, and would be a perfect addition to bath time fun. I think this tool would be great for playing with flour or fine sugar too, but we haven’t tried this as Neil doesn’t like to get messy. Another great water play tool is the Twisty Dropper. The dropper helps strengthen the muscles in your child’s hand because there is a lot of squeezing required to suck the water up in to the tube and squirt it back out again, and Neil enjoyed playing with this too.

The last piece in the kit was the Gator Grabber which looks like a little pair of tweezers, and is designed to help develop the pincer grip which is essential when learning how to hold a pencil properly, which is something a lot of ASD children can really struggle with. The grabber is very similar to one that we use in Occupational Therapy, and is great for picking up and sorting small objects.

The Second item we received was the Play Foam. We had never tried anything like play foam before, and were completely intrigued by it. It claims to be mess free and non drying and I was very interested to put the claims to the test.

Upon first inspection, the Play Foam looks like lots of tiny polystyrene balls stuck together. The pack we received contained four very vivid colours, including found original and four sparkle. The texture of the foam is bizarre. It feels sticky, but isn’t sticky…. I know that doesn’t really make sense but that is the way it is. The tiny little balls stick to themselves, but not to you. As soon as you put it in your hands you just want to squeeze it, and the squeezing is great for strengthening the hand and finger muscles.

It was out of the box for about one minute before Neil had mushed the 8 colours together, which is fine because it looks just as pretty.

The Play Foam is great for children who like a bit of sensory input. It feels like nothing I have felt before, and Neil spent a lot of time just touching it and squeezing it.

It is so mouldable, and will hold its shape until it is squashed back down. Neil had a lot of fun moulding shapes and words. The great thing is that is doesn’t dry out, unlike other popular mouldable products, so there is no need to worry about squashing it up and putting it away too soon. This means that the product can be played with for hours! All of the shaping and moulding takes place with the hands and fingers, and again is a great way of strengthening those muscles and developing fine motor skills.

Its quite common for children with ASD and Sensory Processing Disorder to chew things and put them in their mouths but I just want to let you know if your child does like to taste or chew not to be put off by this as it is non toxic and doesn’t expand in the stomach and so if the odd piece is swallowed there is no risk to your childs health with this.  I feel completely fine with Neil using the product and he is compelled to taste and chew everything around him.

We were very impressed with both of the products we were sent. What I love about the Helping Hands Tool Set and the Play Foam is that they are so good for helping develop fine motor skills, but they are so much fun at the same time. I don’t think Neil realised how much work he was doing with his hands because he was too busy enjoying himself. Both of the products would be great for children with ASD, ADHD, Sensory Processing Issues, Dyspraxia and many others. I feel the products would also be great for preschoolers who are still developing their motor skills.

The 8 pack of Play Foam is currently selling at £9.00, with the Helping Hands set selling at £7.14 which I think is a bargain! These two items, alongside many more great resources for children of all abilities are available from the Learning Resources Site, which you can find here.

If you would like to see the play foam in action you can do so in our youtube review:

To celebrate World Autism Day on the 2nd of April, Learning Resources UK are kindly giving one of my lovely readers the chance to win their own pack of Play Foam. To be in with a chance, please enter below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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  • Reply Samantha March 24, 2015 at 8:20 am

    What a wonderful set of toys / learning aids. Thanks for the in depth review would definitely find these very helpful for our little one.

    • Reply Lauren March 31, 2015 at 11:21 pm

      Thanks Samantha, definitely worth checking them out!

  • Reply Catherine @ Story Snug March 24, 2015 at 10:09 am

    The play foam looks a lot of fun- i'd like to play with it!


    • Reply Lauren March 31, 2015 at 11:22 pm

      I think I was enjoying it as much as the kids!

  • Reply Redpeffer March 24, 2015 at 10:36 am

    A friend gave us some play foam-my son really likes it. it's easy to use and manipulate but doesn't get too messy. He needs help with his hand and eye co-ordination and this foam really fits the bill.

    • Reply Lauren March 31, 2015 at 11:24 pm

      That is one of the best things about it, that it doesn't get messy, and it is great for coordination!

  • Reply Kim Carberry March 24, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    What a great sets of toys…..The Play Foam looks like fantastic fun x

    • Reply Lauren March 31, 2015 at 11:25 pm

      It is a lot of fun, the kids are still enjoying it a few weeks on which is unusual for my children!

  • Reply LittleOandme March 24, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    These look fab! My son would love the play foam! x

    • Reply Lauren March 31, 2015 at 11:25 pm

      They are awesome, the play foam is a lot of fun x

  • Reply Kate Fever March 25, 2015 at 10:03 am

    We have some play foam and it's fantastic stuff – much less messy than other options! Thanks for linking up with #TriedTested

    • Reply Lauren March 31, 2015 at 11:27 pm

      It is great, and I love that it isn't messy because I'm never a fan of the big clean up after play!x

  • Reply ghostwritermummy March 27, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    How fantastic does this look? Never seen that play foam before- might have to look into getting some 🙂 x x

    • Reply Lauren March 31, 2015 at 11:27 pm

      You should definitely look for some, it is a real treat to the senses and a lot of fun x

  • Reply Colette B March 28, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    Wow they look ace! Definitely going to look at investing
    Lovely to see you on #TriedTested this week x

    • Reply Lauren March 31, 2015 at 11:29 pm

      Yes you should definitely have a look at getting some, it is great fun x

  • Reply Jenny Eaves March 29, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    The foam looks great! So much fun! 🙂

    • Reply Lauren March 31, 2015 at 11:30 pm

      It is great fun, i would recommend it to anyone x

  • Reply Ricki Wenn April 2, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    An enjoyable review of the products. Looks great fun.

  • Reply Lynsey Buchanan April 5, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    My daughter would love this looks fun

  • Reply Tracy K Nixon April 5, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    Lovely review and giveaway! Thank you! You little boy looks like he enjoyed himself! Happy Easter!

  • Reply Patricia Avery April 5, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    Thank you for the review. I would love to win for my youngest grandson. Happy Easter 🙂

  • Reply Sarah Palmer April 5, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    this looks amazing thanks for the chance and Happy Easter xxx

  • Reply Kerry Kilmister April 5, 2015 at 5:52 pm

    These look fantastic and would be for my daughter <3

  • Reply Lynsey S April 5, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    Until your review if never heard of play foam it looks great, and hours of entertainment

  • Reply jade April 5, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    This looks like a lot of fun

  • Reply Claire Nutman April 5, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    We would be so happy if we won x

  • Reply mummy24 April 5, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    Looks great fun!


  • Reply Kelly Hirst April 5, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    This look like amazing fun!
    Kelly Ellen Hirst

  • Reply Alana Walker April 5, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    This looks great for little fingers, I have three young boys and I'm sure they'd have great fun with this little lot.x

  • Reply kasza April 5, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    Hi and thanks for the lovely giveaway

  • Reply matphil April 5, 2015 at 7:52 pm

    They look great fun, I think I'd enjoy playing with this as much as my children.

  • Reply Anonymous April 5, 2015 at 8:20 pm

    I love this stuff great for my childminding children @bexallum

  • Reply Elizabeth Hinds April 5, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    Absolutely love this stuff and my youngest adores it too! The best thing about it is that it doesn't dry out so lasts for ages! 🙂

  • Reply Roz April 5, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    this stuff looks awesome

  • Reply Kirsten April 5, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    That would be a great toy

  • Reply Dani Graves April 5, 2015 at 9:16 pm

    these look fab that play foam looks like something i might like to play with never mind my son lol

  • Reply Victoria April 5, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    Thanks for the giveaway, my daughter would love this!

  • Reply Lorraine Tinsley April 5, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    Brilliant prizes, I would love to play with the foam myself!

  • Reply Richard Tyler April 5, 2015 at 10:04 pm

    TOP Banana! Count Me IN! 🙂

  • Reply Zoe G April 5, 2015 at 10:07 pm

    Enjoyed reading your review, the play foam looks great

  • Reply Megan Adams April 5, 2015 at 10:09 pm

    These look amazing! Have never heard of these before. Will def be trying out if I'm not lucky enough to win. Thank you.

  • Reply Alison Joyce April 5, 2015 at 10:24 pm

    This play foam looks amazing. Much less messy than playdoh and won't end up sludge brown either 🙂

  • Reply Robyn Logan Clarke April 5, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    Looks amazing! My son would love it.

  • Reply Sarah Phillips April 6, 2015 at 5:15 am

    My girls would absolutely love this! That love dough/foam in any form and am sure this would be no exception. Thanks for the review 🙂

  • Reply dwerry April 6, 2015 at 8:08 am

    Thanks for the giveaway, it looks fun.

  • Reply Kristy Brown April 6, 2015 at 9:55 am

    How fantastic x

  • Reply weir shane April 6, 2015 at 10:25 am

    What a great sets of toys – these look like a godsend – leanne w

  • Reply Stephanie Whitehouse April 6, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    This looks intriguing to me and I'm in my 50s !

  • Reply Rebecca Phillips April 6, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    such a great idea for playtime!

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