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March
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U Play Mat Review

The U Play Mat is more than the sum total of its parts. I was expecting something like flash cards in a convenient display case. But it turned out to be much more. Though it receives accolades as a toy for autistic children, there's more to it than that.

As a mother of six children (Ages 12, 10, 7, 7, 4 and 9 months) it's rare we encounter a toy that all of them enjoy playing with. The U Play Mat is the first (and only) toy they ALL play with. With such a wide range in ages and such varying play styles, it's just about impossible to find one toy that would be educational for them all. But the U Play Mat exceeded my expectations. It was a natural vehicle for interactive play.The U-PLay Mat & Autism

Perhaps I should back up and explain.

I was in my 40's when I had our last baby; consequently, I was given copious amounts of literature and warnings about the increased likelihood of autism. After our daughter was born, I watched everything she did — like a hawk. So when she began to flip her wrists a lot (similar to a pageant wave) I took her to the pediatrician. The doctor assured us that she's fine; apparently, she twists her wrists like that because she wants to. That's all. It appears I made much ado about nothing. However something good came out of all my research on autism. I discovered that the U Play Mat is a great, natural toy for children. Children can enjoy engaging in interactive play and learning with the U Play Mat.

A Cognitive Development Toy?

Naturally, I ordered one — just in case. And I got the complete, professional edition. Even though all of my children are extremely verbal, high honor students, I hoped the U Play Mat might be helpful just getting the bigger kids to play nicely with their younger sibling. When it came in the mail, I was excited to try it out. However my children had other ideas. THEY wanted to play with it! I can't say that I blame them. It comes in a sturdy carrying case. Much higher quality material than I expected. And the inside pocket has an easy-to-skim instruction book. (That little detail was important with an overly eager toddler breathing down my neck to play with it the minute I took it out of the shipping box.)

 

This is how it went:

I opened the mat, and Joshua (our 4-year-old) selected the first set of cards he wanted. He chose "U Dress." (The cards with various clothing) We placed several cards into the mat, and set the baby in the center. Then our four-year-old patiently explained:

"Gracia, these are pants!" (As he pointed to the pants)

"Say 'pants', baby."

"Ahh!" She gurgled, laughing and waving her hands with a toothless smile.)

"Can you find the other pants?" He said with exaggerated inflection in his voice.

(He held up the matching card.)

"There it is! Yay! Good job, baby!"

(Then they clapped, laughed and celebrated her "finding" the right card.)

The U-PLay Mat & Autism

They went through all the U Dress cards and played for over 20 minutes! Then they switched to the U foods cards. In fact, we ended the play session because the pictures made Joshua realize that he was hungry and ready for lunch!

In just that first play session we discovered a few things. First, the cards are durable. They held up well in spite of the baby's chewing on them and bending them. Second, the U Play Mat is easy to use. Even a four-year-old can do it. And ultimately, we discovered that a pre-verbal baby could get something out of the U Play Mat. (Attention, affirmation, and the opportunity to laugh and play.)

This was important to us as a family. Our oldest son will be leaving for college by the time the baby is seven years old. Not a lot of time for them to create shared memories of growing up together and playing together. The next test would be to find out whether the U Play Mat would actually be a good method for the older children to play "school" with their younger siblings.

It was.

And they discovered a way to make the U Play Mat challenging enough for them.

Foreign Languages!

They study foreign languages in school, and the U play provided an opportunity for them to show off and expand their budding bilingualism.

"Mom, how do you say 'bananas' in Spanish?"

They've transformed the time with it into a competitive, interactive vehicle they use to teach their littlest sister how to talk while sharpening their multilingual abilities. (Very clever.)

Conclusion

The U play mat is a wonderful, educational toy suited for a wide variety of children of different ages and abilities. It facilitates interactive play, it's fun and can be particularly beneficial in facilitating speech for children who are still learning.

Sabrina O'Malone signature
Sabrina O'Malone



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