Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ten Toys Your Baby Wants

A baby with Down syndrome enjoys toys just as much as any other baby. But which toys are best-suited for your newborn? Here is my list of favorites and why...

(Got a baby that is further along down the development path? Visit Stage Two Toys and Stage Three Toys.)

#1 Bright Starts Rattle and Shake Barbell Rattle 

The textured twisty handle is easy to grasp and hold onto. A newborn’s arm-waving reflex will produce instant auditory feedback as well as lots to look at with the tiny beads shaking around. One side has a mirror behind the beads for added viewing excitement. It is light-weight so even my low-tone, cardiac baby could play with it. $1.99 at Walmart.

#2 Wrist Rattles 

Babies with Down syndrome at some point notice their hands and then, for some, the obsession with them begins. They will hold up a hand as if to admire an imaginary manicure and the staring goes on for quite some time if not interrupted. Wrist rattles are a great distraction for hand-watchers. $4.95 at

#3 Oball Rattle 

The oball is one my daughter’s super favorite toys. It comes in a rattle version as well...

This light-weight ball has plenty of places to grab and is fun to mouth. When tethered with links a baby will have lots of fun watching it roll away and retrieving it. Plain Oball $3.99 at Target, Oball rattle $9 at

#4 Bright Starts Lots of Links

Get a couple packs of these. You can use them to attach other toys to the carseat, swing, playgym, etc. The links themselves are brightly colored or highly contrasting, and are textured. Your baby will love holding them, looking at them, and mouthing and teething on them. The textures are great for oral stimulation and getting your baby used to different feelings in his mouth. $4.99 at
#5 Vtech  Soft Songs Baby Phone

This toy phone gives lots of return on effort. It lights up and plays a short greeting and then a song when the buttons are pushed. This is a very durable toy which was actually purchased for my oldest child 8 years ago and it has been passed down. Each of my babies loved it. There is also an on/off switch to save the 2 replaceable AA batteries and keep baby from accidentally setting it off and waking herself up from a nap! $19.99 at

#6 Infantino Foot Rattles

Babies with Down syndrome can be wonderfully flexible and quite wriggly. That makes these cute foot rattles very entertaining for your baby. They are fun to look at and listen to, and encourage baby to exercise her legs and feet. $5.99 at
#7 Brilliant Basics Tug & Giggle Kitty 

This toy giggles and vibrates when you pull the tab. Babies with Down syndrome like the feel of the vibrations and it wakes up their muscles. For little ones, you have to do the pulling but an older baby will have the fun of doing it himself and learning cause and effect in the process. The batteries are replaceable. I bought my baby’s at Walmart for about $5 but if you can’t get there, you can find it online at for $9.95.

#8 Sassy Crib and Floor Mirror

You can set this mirror up on a playmat, tie it to the crib, or stand it up on a table. The mirror border has great contrast and fun stuff to touch and pull on. But who baby sees in the mirror is super for self-awareness. It comes with a surprise bonus of having an mp3 player jack in the back so your baby can listen to her favorite songs or even recordings of your voice (or hers!) while checking herself out. It is very light-weight but can be easily secured using the ties. $14.99 at Target.

#9 LP Santana Chick-itas Shakers Blue 

This little Chick-Ita is light-weight and easy to hold. It sounds like a genuine maraca when baby shakes it. It will be your baby’s first real musical instrument. The Beyond Play website recommends it for three years old and up, probably because if you leave your baby unattended there is a risk of him whacking himself in the head with it. My child’s physical therapist brought it to us on her first visit and my baby loved it. I figured she has just as much chance of smacking herself with any other rattle, so why not this one? 2 for $7.95 at

#10 Neurosmith Sunshine Symphony

I saved my daugher’s absolute favorite toy for last. This toy motivates her to reach, stretch, roll, etc. It is a physical therapist’s dream. I’ll give you the official description of it, "This huggable, plush activity toy plays beautiful classical music while sparkling lights flash. Features four musical compositions activated by a simple touch and can also be used in a long-play lullaby mode. Fun tactile activities include a crinkle, squeak, beads and teether." It takes three AAA batteries and has two volume settings. It is easy to activate with even a gentle touch from baby. It is very durable, too. We’ve had it six years through three babies, but my Down syndrome baby girl adores this toy more than her siblings did! $28.95 at

Your Turn
So that's my list. How about some of you other ds mommies comment about your infants' favorite toys?

Other People's Favorites
Check out Lucy's (Teeny Tiny Hopkins) favorite toys

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Stage Not Age

One of the first things to get over when you have a newborn with Down syndrome is looking for milestones based on your baby’s age. We have all heard stories about so-and-so’s baby who held his head up before the placenta was delivered and walked at six months old. Most of us have read some form of a What to Expect book and have a general idea of how old a baby is when certain things happen. Flush that knowledge from your mind and try not to pay too much attention to Mrs. So-and-so.

Babies with Down syndrome develop along the same path as a typical baby, meaning they reach most milestones in developmental order but they do it on their own schedule. They also have a lot more milestones to celebrate. Who knew there were a zillion sensory and gross-motor skills that are reached before a baby rolls over? You are going to need a whole bunch more cute stickers for that First Year Calendar than the measly 10 that came with it.

There is an amazingly detailed resource out there for setting expectations for your baby’s development and tracking your child’s progress from birth through about the first five years. It is called the The Developmental Journal for Babies and Children with Down Syndrome. It is put out by the English government program, Early Support. The material is provided for free online in pdf format. The hardcopy journal can be ordered and shipped free anywhere in the UK just by requesting it. I had my copy shipped to a friend’s mother and got it once my friend returned to the US after a visit home to England. When you see the journal you’ll realize that this group has put a ton of research and effort into this project, and you will be thankful to the Brits for this contribution to your resource arsenal.

The journal includes the five areas of development (communication, social-emotional development, cognition and play, motor and sensory development, and self-help) and is categorized by 11 developmental steps. For each item, there are three columns to track your baby’s progress. There is also room for adding notes and questions.

Enjoy your baby's stages because while they sometimes seem like they'll last forever, they won't. And, make sure you go get your journal!