Early Childhood Intervention
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challenges pertaining to their child's development and
It is a place to find answers and practical suggestions.
That's what Early Intervention Support is all about.
Whether a family has a child with a challenging behavior,
a disability or developmental issue, childhood is short - it
should be savored and enjoyed.
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of Special Needs children. We spend a great deal of time
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No Batteries Required
When It Comes to Toddler Toys This Summer, Go Simple!
As a developmental therapist I am always amazed when parents tell me that
they weren't aware that their young children would enjoy such "old
fashioned" toys as stacking blocks, nesting cups, ring stacks & stringing
beads. Not only do toddlers enjoy these activities, but they learn a lot of
important cognitive, fine motor skills and other developmental skills by
playing with them. These days it seems like most toys are designed to be
"tech gadgets" and because we are so high tech ourselves many parents think
that this is what is most appealing to their children. Many toddler toys
require batteries and they use lights, sounds or music to entice children to
play with them. Batteries are expensive and what usually happens when the
batteries run out? No one replaces them and the child no longer plays with
Let's consider some fun, simple alternatives to battery operated toys
that your child will love and will teach him some important developmental
Wooden blocks: A lot of parents buy their children Mega
Blocks or Legos instead of wooden stacking cubes. But what I find as a
therapist is that little ones who start out with blocks that always "stick"
together don't learn the important fine motor skills of voluntary release
(being able to let go of something in a controlled manner), balance or good
hand-eye coordination. In fact many toddlers who see regular wooden stacking
blocks for the first time often try to press one block into another, causing
the blocks to fall down rather than being able to gently release a block and
balance it on top of another. And how much fun is it for a toddler to knock
down a stack of blocks once they built a tower? Listen for their giggle and
you'll know, as they repeat this task over and over. Sets of wooden blocks
are typically sold in a variety of colors, so you can also work on skills
such as matching colors, sorting colors and later building more complex
structures as a child gets older.
Nesting Cups: This is an item that exists in your
kitchen...measuring cups! You can buy sets at your local dollar store and
they work just as well as store bought toy versions. Toddlers love to play
with kitchen items! Nesting works on perceptual motor skills, as well as the
concept of size as young children use trial and error to make the cups fit
together. Store bought versions can also be stacked according to size and
many have little holes at the bottom so they double as bathtub toys. You can
work on speech skills such as the prepositions "in" and "out" during the
Ring stacks: Forget the Fisher Price graduated ring
stack that everyone buys for one year olds. The problem with that ring stack
is that the rings only fit on the post according to size and most children
don't start to understand the concept of size (biggest to smallest) until
they are 3 years old or older, so no wonder your one year old doesn't play
with it! Look for the old fashioned wooden ring stack with a dowel post,
where rings can be placed on the post in any order. This is a fine motor and
perceptual motor task. The rings are typically various colors, so again this
toy can also be used for color matching and later on as the child nears
preschool age you can start to work on getting the rings onto the post by
size. I find that many toddlers will repeat this task over and over again.
They also make this toy with several posts with different shapes that go on
each post, so again shape matching and sorting can be encouraged. And don't
forget you can work on speech skills too by using the prepositions "on" and
Bead stringing/lacing cards: Bead stringing is another
old fashioned task that three quarters of families I visit have never tried
with their toddlers. They are often surprised to see their children pick up
this skill after a few minutes of help from an adult and then repeat it over
and over. Bead stringing works on two handed fine motor skills. Think about
how a child must be able to hold the string in one hand and the bead in the
other, find the hole in the bead, push the string through and then switch
hands to pull the bead onto the string. You can work on speech by
emphasizing "push" and "pull". When children can master large 1-2" beads,
move down to smaller beads (be careful as smaller beads pose a choking
hazard so this should be a supervised activity). Later you can work on
patterning beads by color, placing 3 red, 3 blue, 3 green, etc. There is
also no need to buy a set of beads, you can simply use any shoelace and
rigatoni pasta or wagon wheel pasta. If your child is having difficulty at
first, tape about a 1/2" of the end of the shoestring with masking tape to
make it firmer to grip, or start by placing pasta or beads onto a pipe
cleaner before moving to string.
If your child has mastered bead stringing and gets bored with it, move
onto lacing cards. This is almost like "sewing". The cards usually have
pictures printed on them and a child starts with one hole and laces the
string in and out of the card until all the holes are filled. You can easily
make this at home, by drawing various shapes on cardboard and using a hole
punch to make your own lacing cards.
Sidewalk chalk/paint with water: This is a great summer
fun activity if your home has a sidewalk or driveway where children can
safely color. Sidewalk chalk is fat and easy for toddlers to grip and it's
fun if mom, dad or siblings encourage imitation of circles, lines and other
shapes. Toddlers also love to paint, but if finger paints & water colors
prove too messy for you then in the summer time try giving your toddler a
small container with water and a large (think household painting) paint
brush and let them go to town! If you have a chalk board you can bring
outdoors let them paint with water on the chalkboard, but otherwise they can
paint anything outside without worry.
Using household items for play: Remember, some of the
best toys are not store bought. Here are some ideas for using things you
most likely have in your house right now:
Toilet paper/paper towel tubes: Collect a bunch of tubes
and set them on end and use them as bowling pins indoors or out. Let your
child paint them if they like. Use them as telescopes or megaphones too.
Some children with speech delays will be more likely to imitate sounds when
projecting their voice through a toilet paper roll.
Empty food containers: Kids love playing with pots &
pans and pretend food right? Some of the store bought pretend food is so
expensive so why not just save your own empties? Wash out plastic ketchup
bottles, Chinese take out boxes, syrup, milk or salad dressing bottles. Kids
will love playing with the "real" adult versions rather than the tiny child
sized ones. You can also use them in the tub or pool.
Empty egg cartons: For little ones working on using a
neat pincer grasp (thumb & forefinger) to pick up tiny items, place one
single Cheerio into each egg slot and encourage your toddler to reach in
with his fingers to get it out.
Empty trial sized bottles: Travel bottles or trial size
shampoo bottles can be great entertainment for toddlers, especially at
restaurants. Kids love putting things in and out and I have seen some
toddlers spend 20 minutes entertaining themselves by dropping Cheerios or
Puffs into a bottle and then dumping them out again, all the while working
on their fine motor skills of a neat pincer grasp and wrist rotation
Cardboard boxes: If you've never offered you child the
chance to play in a large cardboard box, watch out! Use any large storage
cartons, or better yet find an empty stove or refrigerator carton. Kids can
color on the outside and create their own "club house" and most children
from toddlers up to school age will find these very large boxes provide
hours of fun.
Old socks: Remember sock puppets? You can use Sharpie
markers and draw faces on them to make hand puppets or roll them into balls
to make an assortment of soft balls that can be thrown in the house (use the
garbage can for a basket).
Piggy banks: This is also a supervised activity for
toddlers since coins present a choking hazard. Let children drop coins or
bingo chips into a piggy bank, this also works on fine motor skills and
requires them to turn the coin in a certain way to make it fit into the
slot. Most toddlers can master this after they are able to drop Cheerios
into a tiny opening in a trial sized bottle.
Old pillows & blankets: Push some chairs together and
throw a bunch of cushions, pillows and blankets on the floor and help your
kids create a tent or fort indoors or out. Most children love doing this as
much as playing in a large cardboard box and it's a great game for rainy
Parenting Tips in Other Areas Include
Learn More About Early Intervention
Thankfully, there are many ways to deal with childhood developmental
delays and behaviors. These include in-home services, outpatient (you take
your child to a clinic), inpatient (following injury or surgery) and school
based services. Which type of therapy should you choose?
Visit our Therapy Options
area to learn more.
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