Friday, May 28, 2010

Therapy in PLAY!

Someone just posted asking for things that they might get to be ready for their child with Ds that they are adopting. Here are a few of my favorite things for my little ones and a fwe thoughts along with it :)

Kids with Ds are KIDS first :) :) So... if a kid will like it, a kid w/ Ds probably will too! Of course all kids are different and all kids w/ Ds are different so there's really not one catch all.

That said, sevaral things that we have around the house that I find the most 'useful' for my kids w/ Ds in different areas I'll write about here!

A trampoline with a handle is the newest and 'greatest' thing at the moment! Brianna has just learned to jump and this is a great way for the kids to get exercise and to learn new skills. It helps that big brother Kristopher can jump high and do jumping tricks on it, encouraging the other kids to try, but all 4 kids w/ Ds and Kristopher all get quite a bit of use out of it!

The rice bin that I wrote about the other day is a great one that all my kids use as well- even Lynae! It is just a large rubbermaid bin with high sides on it and a snap on lid that I poured several bags of rice in. The vacuum is always handy after it comes out, but the kids love it and it's perfect for rainy day fun inside- or to take outside on a sunny morning and play in the grass! This is a great alternative to a sandbox because it can be inside and helps with sensory as well as fine motor skills. We have plastic spoons, cups, a set of stacking cups that have different size holes in the bottom of it (for the rice to pour out of) and some metal pots and pans for the play kitchen in ours. The kids pour, scoop, and play in it and love the sound of the rice 'dinging' off of the metal pots!

A water table is also a great thing, but we don't use it nearly as much as the sand. You can do warm or cool water and funnels, cups, and bowls. I love to put these outside when we're having playtime in the front yard and get out the McDonald's toys and such for the kids to play with in the water as well. Great for sensory, great fun, and a good way to stay cool in the hot FL weather!

Rubbermaid drink boxes with straw are a great 'tool' for teaching kids to drink from a straw and for keeping leaky drinks contained :) They are about $1.50 and the worst part is that their straws are made pretty cheap and can easily be lost. We have several of these, though, and use them for Brianna and Emma. When the kids are first being introduced to the straw, a juice box or these boxes are great for squeezing the liquid up into their mouth. Then once they learn to sip, the straw isn't very long, it's not so wide that the amount that comes up is too much, and it does NOT have a valve. Valves are a little tricky for kids to figure out sometimes! Emma still prefers the Rubbermaid boxes to a cup with a straw and we're just starting using juice boxes and these straw cups for James and Micah.

'Jigglers' are little sticks with a rubbery character on one end of it that when you twist the stick part the mechanism jiggles. THese are a fun way to learn body awareness as well as fo oral motor. Kristopher plays 'teacher' with ours and will say "head" and touch it to his brother or sister's head, "toes" etc... The soft rubbery texture is intended to be chewed on and for kids with oral sensitivities or just needing the sensory input or stimulation they are great! Micah has slowly warmed up to ours and will now put it on the outside of his cheeks but isn't so big on putting them in his mouth yet. The one thing we WANT him to lick... he doesn't ;). But these are a great alternative to the more expensive "z-vibe" which is a smaller and more 'medical' device which vibrates. The z-vibe has multiple tips for different things and is intended for oral motor exercises and stimulation. The z-vibe isn't something I'd leave in the room for the kids to pick up and play with (and throw) by themselves, whereas the jigglers are plastic and pretty resilient (and about 1/5 of the cost!).

Shape sorters, puzzles with knobs, and magna-doodles are other favorites for kids that are easy to find, easy to use, and easy to replace when they get broken :) Aside from their obvious uses, shape sorters and puzzles can also help with color recognition and shape recognition as well as their 'puzzle' nature of fitting the shape in the hole. Speech skills can be reinforced as kids say the colors and shapes' names, names of animals and their sounds (with an animal puzzle), and learning basic directions like "turn, try again, up, down, etc. Using the shape sorter and knob puzzles also help with wrist rotation to fit the shapes in.

Magna-doodles are a favorite of THREE of my kids w/ Ds and we have one in the car most days, one comes to dr's appts with us, and one even comes to church since James is sitting in the service with us at the moment. They are great for SO MANY reasons! Even kids with a weak grasp or no grasp on a pencil can make scribbles and color on it because the magnet doesn't need 'pressure' to work. You can write or draw anything on it! We use it to practice side strokes, up strokes, down strokes, and circle strokes. We use it for letter and number recognition, and name recognition of family members. We use it for shape recognition. We use it for animal recognition (when my animals don't look like they should I say "this is a dog, what does the dog say?"). We practice signing when we practice letters and animals and such as well, by signing and saying all the answers and encouraging the kids to do the same. "Easy" toys to come by... LOTS of 'educational' uses!

Macrame beads! These are great for stringing! Use a pipe cleaner or a thin straw to give some level of stiffness to make it a little easier at first. Stringing beads is a great skill that all of my kids are still working on getting 'just right' and these are neat ways to learn along with lacing cards with shoelaces and hole punches through them (make your own with cardboard or buy them with pictures on them).

One of the more unusual toys that we use all the time are counting bears. We have ones that have 5 different colors and 3 different size bears. We sort them by color, by size, we count them, we pour them, we play Goldilocks and the 3 bears with them, and then we start all over again. The kids like them, especially Brianna!

One of my favorites and Micah and Emma's is the swing we have. It's from IKEA and is called a hammock swing. It is great for vestibular stimulation and one of those things that every kid with any type of sensory needs just LOVES! Micah will sit and sing in it for an hour if there's nothing stopping him and all the kids want a turn when we're giving rides! This swing has ONE picot point so it swings in every direction and spins too. It's a lot of fun!

And the last one for today- crawling tunnels! A crawling tunnel is easy to find at most toy stores and crawling is a great skill for our kids. Some tunnels are colored, some are 'darkened', some have a 'flap' at the end rather than being open at both ends, some connect to tents, and some are longer or shorter. ALL of them encourage the child to get down on all 4's and quad crawl with reciprocal motion (each hand and foot goes at different times, not 'hopping' on hands and knees) through it. Having had 2 'scooters', the tunnel is a great way to reinforce this important step of brain development.

Ok, that's all for today, I'm sure there's many more things I could add to the list but nap is over so I'm back to the land of the little ones :)

If you have favorites of your own please feel free to post them in the comments!


  1. You are AWESOME!!! Thank you so much Meredith! I've picked up a few toddler/baby toys for Darya but suppose I'll just have to wait and see where she's at when we get her. I know all the usual toys can be used for learning/stimulation (as with my "typical" boys), but was wondering if you found anything particularly helpful for not only play but also for some therapy.

  2. In my classroom, we use the dry rice (or beans). With the rice, you can (while wearing rubber gloves) mix in a few drops of food coloring, rubbing the rice together and letting it dry. Makes it safer if some gets eaten. We make it appropriate to the season, and use green at Christmas and red at Valentine's day. You can practce writing letters or names in the dry rice, as well as measuring, pouring and putting in, on, under and on top. The kids love it!

  3. I use dry beans or rice in my classroom, and we love it. We use a few drop of food coloring to make it more visually interesting. (Mix in a few drops, and rub the rice to mix it.) We can use the colors that go with the season. We write letters, numbers and words in it. We also can do under, on top, etc. The food coloring makes it not such a problem if it's eaten. :)

  4. Hi Meredith! This is more in response to your previous post, concerning onesies. There is an awesome site that we use that has items called "SmarT's", which are basically onesies for bigger children and adults. Our "little" guy is 13 and has a Mic-Key as well, and they can add a G-tube slot in the onesie for $3 to your order; this is excellent if your little one (like ours!) sees the onesie unsnapping as bath time. :) The items can be a little pricey, but if you have no sewing talent to speak of (like myself) then it is worth the money; otherwise the site is great for some ideas you can do on your own. Hope this helps! Congratulations on the new amazing addition to your family! You and your family are such an inspiration to us.