My Family

My Family

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Power of Play

Just so you don't think that I have spent all this time down in the dumps, I will have you know we are off to a much better week.  True, we are expecting snow.  The weather people keep changing their minds.  So far it is somewhere between lots of rain and we will be buried till the end of time.  Or at least March.  I have lots of doctor's appointments to go to so I will strap some skis on the car and call it good.

I am in the middle of fighting my IFSP plan and life trudging on.  But I wanted to take time to post about well, play.  From all that moaning and groaning I did at my last post people were curious about toys.  Plus, I posted on Facebook about it as well.

I am a big believer in play.  Play is how children make sense of their world and create, imagine and move.  I am a big time follower of Lisa Murphy, the ooey gooey lady.  If you go to her website you will find all sorts of really neat ideas, books, discussions.  My favorite is her house of higher learning.

You wouldn't build a house without a firm foundation, would you?  Play is the strong foundation that  cements the child's brain for higher activities.  As a teacher I can always tell what kids watch lots of TV and what kids have lots of time to play.  It shows.

As a mom with two special needs kiddos play is critical to their development.  We use play with Marvin to help him develop expressive vocabulary, act out situations that may lead to stimulation overload, and help empower him to make the right choice.  Recently there was a fire and a family lost everything.  After hearing about it in church Marvin pretended to be a firefighter and "save" them.  This helped him feel powerful in an otherwise scary situation and I used it to roll play as well.  I pretended that I needed saving and we brainstormed on what we could do if it was our house.  I used the boundaries of play to help establish a fire escape plan in our home if that should ever happen.   WE have done this many times and I was able to present this idea in a nonthreatening way.

As for Cary, as she grows play is something that she is starting to enjoy.  We play peek-a-boo, sing nursery rhymes, and bounce on my knee.  All the normal stuff.

When we first got her Cary was not overly interested in toys.  I was the toy she liked best.  In the past month or so that has changed.  It started with me tripping over one of her sound toys.  It made a noise and she lit up and laughed.  I was super excited and pushed the toy close to her.  That was when the problems presented.

First the main two problems are that Cary's hands are often balled up, like this.

Not the best pic, but most of the time her hands are curled up in a fist.  There are three possible reasons for this.  1.  Blind newborn preemies do this and it is very common.  2.  She has Cerebral Palsy and it is very common.  3.  She likes to keep us guessing and is secretly laughing at our stupidity.

Anyway, whatever the reason it makes it hard for grasping and flat palm touching.  The other problem is her touch.  I submit exhibit A for your examination.

Nice toy right?  Perfect for little ones?  Ahhh, but examine the toy from Cary's perspective.  Cary can't grasp things yet so she can't manipulate the pieces.  Not a huge deal.  She also cannot sit on her own.  Still not the end of the world you say.  Cary touch is as light as a butterfly landing on your arm.  So it takes some pressure to push Mr. Star down and make him sing and light up.  Cary does not have that skill yet.  So since the toy can't grab her attention and teach the cause and effect and problem solving it is only good for a paperweight in our house.

So being a Montessori teacher and taking pride in my skills to adapt things I started looking around to see what I could do.  With a few simple tools.......
.......I was able to adapt (and break, it's a learning curve here) a few toys.  So this is one that a few hammer strokes loosened up things and it now responds to fairly easy touches.   We also find things that are not typical toys and put them to use.
What do broken beads and sad dollar store Christmas objects have to do with play.  Not much on my chair, but when you drill some holes in a bucket and hang them from the doorway..... have a really fun toy that bounces noise around if you shine a flashlight on objects it gives something to bat at.

There are some downsides with adapting toys.  One, you can break them and render them useless.  Two, you have to be careful because these can be unsafe for your little one if they are not supervised closely.

So I walk a fine balance.  I use things, make things, and destroy modify things.  I am also always on the lookout for affordable adaptive toys.  We have some minor luck.  I have found some very affordable books in braille from seedlings catalog.  I am also saving money for their braille ABC blocks.  Even though Cary is not grasping much yet she is taking small steps in that direction.  I would love to get her these blocks as blocks are great for open ended play.

I also find myself lusting after some pretty neat toys from the Enabling Devices catalog.  Some of the stuff I could make myself or even buy cheaper elsewhere, but there are some toys that would be fantastic.  Like this one.

It's called the Textured Carousel Busy Box.  It has all the bells and whistles.  It responds to light touch, has bright colors, and textural interest.  It would be awesome.  But what is not awesome.  The price tag.  This bad boy is $236.00.  Ouch.

When we got Cary we went to a one family income.  We were never rolling in the dough, but even less now.  There are some pretty nice toys in here that I will only end up dreaming about.

It kinda makes me mad too.  Why should adaptive toys cost so much??  I understand they are not for your everyday child, but don't our kids deserve to have toys to play with as well?  I believe that they need play just as much if not more so than an everyday child.  Play makes therapies more bearable, gives them a chance to strengthen weak areas of development, and most importantly, when we play we are all equals.  This gives my children a chance to be like your children.  And that is important.  The most important thing of all.

On that note, I have some playing to do with my rocking kids!  And a soapbox to put away:).


  1. Have you seen the blog Adpations 4 Kidz? This mom adapts toys and shares how she does it.

    Here are some that caught my eye for your daughter:
    Musini (not even adapted, just one she shared):
    Super simple way to adapt toys part 1:

    Part 2:

    Toy bar:

  2. Your state should have a Lending Library for Assistive Devices. We use ours often. When Emma was smaller we would borrow toys, use them for the 4 weeks lending period then send them back for more. It's a great way to get some switch toys, etc. without the expense. Ask your IFSP team about the lending library. It's a federal program so every state has one. Not sure what state you are in or I would look it up for you.

    Also, check out Adapted World on wordpress. The mom who writes the blog has a little girl and adapts so many things for her and gave me lots of ideas.

    Good luck and congrats on the little ones!

  3. thanks so much for visiting our blog, adapted toys are ridiculously priced and it sounds like your daughter is much like my little guy at that age. People were his favorite toys though he did love lights and noise. Love the bucket idea.

    1. Thanks Junior! That is the one good thing my vision person came up with!