Thursday, 1 March 2012

Get Messy!

Never underestimate the educational value of messy play!

Kids with Down Syndrome can find sensory play a little bit challenging. They will often not take too kindly to new textures and will shy away from them. The earlier you introduce your child to sensory play, the better.

We've made a point of letting Felix have lots of messy play since he was tiny, and we try and expose him to lots of things that he can touch, feel and taste.

Tearing at some paper
Like most babies, Felix loves paper! He loves to rip it, scrunch it up and of course, try to eat it! We've found junk mail to be the best for this and usually let him go for it until he has a mouth full!!
Sticky fruit

Felix is a big fruit eater. He loves watermelon, strawberries and banana (I still don't give him anything hard that he might choke on). Over Summer we've given him lots of chances to 'play' with his food. We have noticed him opening and shutting his hands as he feels the stickiness, and his coordination has improved as he has learned to pick up the small pieces of fruit and bring them to his mouth.

If you're brave, you can try finger painting. With Felix it ended up more like tongue painting!! He wasn't quite sure what to make of it at first, but after a while he enjoyed it and even realised that he could make lines and dots with the paint and made some deliberate moves to do so. It was a very proud moment! (NB Invest in a smock with long sleeves!)

Finger painting fun
He loves water
Generally babies either love water (and bathtime) or they hate it. Felix loves water, whether it be rain, the bath, the beach or a pool. He is a fish! We have shown him how he can splash his hands or kick his legs. We can now give him the instruction to 'splash' or 'kick' and he knows exactly what we are asking. He responds with gusto and we end up a little soggy! A few times lately he deliberately puts his face below the surface of the water to see what that feels like. He usually lifts his face back up with a big grin! Another thing we do is to leave Felix in the bath as the water drains out. He places his hand over the plug hole and feels the water being sucked down the drain. He'll sometimes put his face nice and close too, to watch the water disappear. By doing that he is experiencing a new sensation, but also learning cause and effect.
Felix enjoying a gelli-baff

We were given a great sensory product for Felix's first birthday (called Gelli-Baff, I think). You add a powder to the water and the bath turns into jelly! He sat with his hands above the level of the water initially, not quite sure what to make of it, but slowly started playing with the jelly and squeezing it between his fingers. In the end, it was hard to get him out. He really enjoyed it.

One thing he didn't like was sitting in a tub full of rice. He hated the sensation between his toes and couldn't get out quick enough! We'll have to try that one again.

Felix learns so much through messy play, and it's a good excuse for me to ignore the dishes on the sink and get out the paints and play with him instead. Babies learn an incredible amount over the first few years of life. Babies with Down Syndrome benefit even more from playtime in those early years. You will find that they are very willing participants and so eager to learn and try so very hard. It's even more special to see Felix learn something new because he sometimes has to work that little bit harder to make it happen. There are lots of celebrations at our place each day.... Just as I write this he's found the right button to turn on the TV, clever boy!!

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