Every child loves to play. Here's an idea for a fun-filled day
of play that encourages the special child in your life to explore
all of their senses:
Start with introducing your child to their senses by exploring
their breakfast. Ask them to describe the foods they eat. Is the
toast soft or hard? Is the cereal hot or cold? Is the milk thicker
than juice? Does the orange smell?
Morning play session
Begin with sculpting, which engages the child in tactile
experiences. One of my favorite sculpting mediums is Model Magic
because of its unique texture and pliability. It also saves you
time because it air dries. You can use any Play-Doh-type product
or, if you're really ambitious, make your own. Adding a fragrance
by mixing essential oils or kitchen flavorings like vanilla or
clove oil can add the dimension of smell. Another tactile favorite
of mine is Wikki Stix, which are similar to, but way cooler than,
pipe cleaners. They have a fun, sticky texture that is easy to
mold. Either can introduce color and endless molding/making
Have children create a lake by designating a rug or large
tablecloth or blanket on the floor. This will help them to focus on
the activity. Serve fish-shaped crackers on a plate. Use a bendable
straw to make a fishing pole and add peanut butter or cream cheese
as bait on the end of the bent part of the straw. Have the children
dip in and capture their morning snack.
Imagine winter is coming and encourage kids to build a cabin to
protect themselves from the elements. Talk about being wet and
cold, even put on coats and turn a fan on for wind effect. Whether
you use chairs, pillows and blankets for your structure or decide
to invest in a fabulous building unit like Zinkotek Play House,
once inside the kids can unwrap and unwind.
As the children get hungry for lunch, clean up by introducing
them to the sensory experience of wet/dry. Whether you fill a
bucket to have them wash up, imagining it to be a cold stream (ice
cubes added), or you use one of the new water sets like the Fun
Flow Play Sink, talk about the feeling of the water, the
temperature and wet versus dry.
At lunch, have the children close their eyes or blindfold them
as they guess foods. Ask questions about textures, temperature,
smells and whether it's sweet or sour, salty or spicy.
Now that the kids have their camp and their stream, they need to
cross it. Still using the rug, blanket or tablecloth as a river,
have them place "stones" to cross the raging river. This can work
on the vestibular sense, which is a sense of balance. For stones
use carpet pieces of different textures, folded towels or Rainbow
River Stones Balance Toys by Wee Blossom. Start off with an easy
reach and crossing, then place the stones in harder positions to
cross at different points. Make the children take their shoes off
in case they "fall" into the water and have them describe the
different textures on their feet as they practice their
As a final evening experience tuck your children in with their
softest stuffed toys/animals and encourage bedtime cuddles for all.
Some parents may be concerned about asthma and allergy risks with
stuffed toys. If you are, check out the asthma- and
allergy-friendly series of plush toys from Kids Preferred.
With so many toys to choose from, picking the right one
for a child with disabilities can be difficult. That's where
AblePlay, created by the National Lekotek Center, comes in. Its
independent toy reviews and ratings help parents find the best toys
to match their child's abilities and interests. Search for
AblePlay-rated toys at www.ableplay.org.
Deidre Pate Omahen is a mom, a Chicago Special Parent
advisory board member and director of programs at the National
Lekotek Center in Chicago.
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