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Quick Wins - Sensory Play and Sneaky Exercise

By Jess

All babies benefit from sensory based play. The science around how it supports development through play is sound and even in lockdown it is easy to find someone who runs baby sensory classes - showing how many people think it’s a great idea for their baby’s development.

But you don’t need to attend a class to get involved.

Other than more repetition with certain ‘games’, the use of Makaton to support play and a greater focus on her positioning whilst play, we’ve not looked at doing anything different for Frida whilst playing than we did (and still do!) with Ada. There is a lot that they can do together, even with an age gap of nearly 4 years.

Babies with Down Syndrome don’t need to do anything different, although it is helpful to see a physio to set you off on the right path for positioning and you’ll need to avoid some positions for play if they’ve had surgery and need time to recover. You’ll need to be mindful of energy levels for babies with additional heart concerns.

This morning I set out a tray (I used a shallow IKEA tray from our play storage unit but you can find anything similar; so long as the sides are strong) of lentils, corn flakes and Shreddies and added some different toys and cups and both girls played really nicely for a good half an hour (win, right?)!

They each got something different out of it and it is the beginning of them learning to share their toys as sisters - another brilliant (and sometimes hard fought for) skill to start to develop as early as possible. Ada chose to add more items into the tray and made herself ‘potions’, talking us through what she was doing the entire time. Frida wasn’t quite ready for scooping and pouring but she was able to practice a few of the key ‘physio’ tasks we’re working on for her at the moment. Good tummy time practice with added reaching was the main one! And she loved it! She was grabbing fistfuls of cereals and releasing them back into the tray and seemed to be enjoying the sensation, with the added benefit of building up those shoulder muscles as she went. With her slightly lower muscle tone it was a good workout without her knowing that was what I was up to! Sneaky, but very much like dancing is for me - exercise whilst having fun!!

We sat up for a bit too and she leant forward to grab and with my support sat herself up and held an item in both hands - another task to work on at the moment. The gorgeous pixie’s from my talented friend’s Etsy Shop - Pixie Play, are exactly the right size for her hands and stunning to look at too. They are likely to feature so many ways in our play a lot as she gets older.

Some of the tasks I’ve mentioned have come from the brilliant PADS Early Intervention Group (PEGS). The stage based course will mainly (I think!) focus on early speech development (I’m going to do a post on that in due course but want a bit of time to see how we go with it first) we’ve also been shown some helpful play based ideas to improve grabbing, reaching and choosing. All things we introduce and practice through play - what better way to do them by messy play and get some strengthening in, too.

Frida is still working on her rolling, so anything to make tummy time slightly more interesting whilst she builds those tummy muscles is a win for me!