Monday, November 30, 2009

Dear Santa Claus,

Once your baby can sit or has better body and head control, you can introduce stage two toys. (Not here yet? Check out the stage one toy recommendations. Or if you have already moved on to the next stage, check out these toys.) I’m going to list 10 toys you might want to put on your baby’s Christmas... Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Three Kings Day... list. Though this post comes too late for Eid-el-Fitr (and Black Friday), you will hopefully still get some good ideas from it.

Fisher Price—Roll-a-Rounds Swirlin Surprise Gumballs
Lights! Action! Wow! This oversized “gumball” machine releases four see-through balls that have “candies” in them. Each time your baby taps the lever, he is rewarded with lights, music, and a gumball that swirls around as it makes its way out of the dispenser. This toy teaches cause and effect, as well as the concept of in/out. The lights and sounds can be turned off and the volume has two settings. Comes with 3 AA batteries (but the ball dispensing would still work with no batteries). $22.99 Toys-R-Us
Picture credit: Sheridan from Genetically Enhanced

Fisher Price—Little Superstar Sing-Along Stage
music table
This toy gets an A+ for entertainment value as it will keep your baby interested for long periods of time. It also gets high marks for teaching cause and effect, encouraging self-recognition and communication, and promoting sitting, reaching, and fine motor hand control. For an in-depth description of this toy, check out Ria’s review. (3 AA batteries included) Overpriced ($83) at Look for it in-store at Toys-R-Us.

slinky1Who knew a slinky could be so much fun? Put your baby’s amazing feet to work with this toy and then sit back and enjoy the show. The plastic version comes in two sizes, several bright neon colors, and is easy to untangle. This toy encourages your baby to practice gross and fine motor skills, but even if it didn’t have any therapeutic or educational value, I’d still recommend it because it is the most fun your baby can have for five dollars :-) Small plastic version, $4.99 Toys-R-Us

Fisher Price—Rainforest Jumperoo
DSC01400Many babies with Down syndrome love to bounce and the Jumperoo provides the perfect opportunity for it. Once your baby has good core strength, he’ll enjoy pushing off with his feet and bouncing himself like crazy. The jumper has lights and sounds with various settings, but your baby might be too busy jumping to notice!. Babies up to 25 lbs. and 32 in. can enjoy this toy. (3 AA batteries not included) $69 at
Picture credit: Joey from Our Bundle of Joey

Fisher Price—Sesame Street Singing Pop-Up Pals
This pop up toy features Sesame Street figures who sing clips of their songs when they pop out. The toy teaches cause and effect and prompts your baby to practice his fine motor skills to twist, press, click, and slide the knobs. The characters’ doors close in two different ways adding to your baby’s coordination skills. The sound can be turned off and the pop ups still work (nice feature for when you run out of the 3 AA batteries that come in it). $21.99 at Toys-R-Us

Fisher Price—Moo Sounds Milk & Cookies
Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar? Your baby will! This little jug comes with 5 cookie-shaped colored discs that your baby can put in and take out. For beginners the jug opens up completely and for those who have practiced a bit, the cover fits on with just a cookie-sized slot in it. When you dump the cookies out, the jug “moos”. This is a great way to work on the concept of in/ out, colors recognition, and beginning counting, while also working on the coordination skills of targeted placing and reaching for objects. (2 Alkaline Button Cell batteries included) $9.99 at Target

Melissa & Doug Nesting Boxes
What’s more fun than building a tall tower? Knocking it down of course! Your baby will likely master the destruction part of this game before the building part. That’s ok because she has you to stack and restack the boxes for her :-) Eventually she will learn to stack the boxes and to nest them by herself. You can work on the concepts of up/down and in/out with this toy, as well as practicing the motor skills necessary to build and knock down the boxes. These nesting boxes have the alphabet on them and lots of pictures that you can use to teach some common words to your baby. Melissa & Doug Deluxe 10-Piece Alphabet Nesting and Stacking Blocks are $9.99 at Amazon

Fisher Price—Stack 'n Surprise Blocks Songs 'n Smiles Sillytown
sillytownPop up, peek-a-boo, stacking, music, lights, and a race car... there is much to do with this toy. Your baby will practice fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and cause and effect. This set comes with 8 stacking blocks (one that is a car) and features a pop up section and a tumble down section, as well as a car ramp, and a stacking shelf. After seeing how much fun Summer (and her 3 yo brother :-) had with the Count and Build Snail Pail set, I knew this one would have a spot under the tree this year! (3 C batteries included) Songs ‘n Smiles Sillytown is about $40 at Walmart and the Count and Build Snail Pail is $19.97 at

Munchkin Mozart Music Cube
Music therapy here we come :-) This cube features 5 individual instrument buttons: harp, flute, French horn, piano and violin, and an orchestra button that plays all the instruments at once. It has 8 Mozart compositions and the lights flash in rhythm will the songs. The buttons are big and easy to push with hands or feet. The toy teaches cause and effect as well as the different sounds instruments make. (3 AA batteries not included.) $15 at

Discovery Toys—Go Go Caterpillar
Our PT brought this toy over one day and Summer was very interested in playing with it, though for a while she seemed a little mad that it “ran away” :-). If you are ready to urge your baby to crawl or scoot, this is a good toy to have. Your baby can make it roll away by gently pressing on its back. The wheels are filled with beads that fly around as the caterpillar zooms across the floor. The toy reinforces the concept of cause and effect, and prompts your baby to strengthen his gross-motor "Go Go Baby" muscles. $15 at Discovery Toys

And Santa, please bring shares of Fisher Price stock for mom and dad...

Your Turn
Got a favorite stage two toy recommendation for Santa? Want to tell us what gifts are you giving to your children with Ds this year? Please do, inquiring minds want to know :-)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Peek-a-Boo, I See You


A while back it was thought that object permanence—the ability to understand that objects still exist after they are no longer in sight—was an intellectual all-or-nothing milestone. New research1 is showing that the concept of permanence is a process that begins with object identity, moves into understanding the transformational event in which it participates, and then ends with an understanding that objects themselves are permanent.

Huh? In English please...

What this really means is that babies don’t just one day “get it” that objects that have disappeared are still there. It is a long complicated process of understanding that begins around 3-5 months old (and perhaps even earlier) and continues until about 24 months old. Babies learn the concept of permanence in pieces. For example, a baby who is just beginning to understand permanence will look for a toy that has been covered by a towel by lifting the towel but this same baby will not do this if the toy was placed under the towel from a person’s hand. This is because the baby expects the toy to reappear where he last saw it, in the person’s hand. If he does not see it there, he will not yet think to look under the towel. In this case the baby thinks that the towel method makes things permanent but that the hand method does not. He does not yet understand that the property of permanence is inherent to the object not the method of disappearance.

Peek-a-boo games have always been one of the best ways to encourage an understanding of object permanence and given the recent new theories they still remain the best way to teach this concept. However, it makes sense to utilize several varieties of the peek-a-boo game to stimulate the various steps of understanding.

Peek-a-Boo Variations
If you use a particular tone and cadence when you play peek-a-boo variations, your baby will begin to anticipate that something is going to disappear/reappear. This will be helpful to your baby as the games get more complex.

1. Hands covering face or just eyes. This is the classic newborn peek-a-boo game that infants love. You can mix it up a little by asking baby while your face is covered, “Where’s (mommy, daddy, whoever)?” and then saying “Here I am” when you remove your hands, or by starting with “Peek-a” and ending with a rowdy “boo” when you uncover your face. You can also change your expression before and after you cover your face to stimulate your baby’s interest in the game.

2. Pop up person peek-a-boo... Use a hand towel or burp cloth to lift up in front of your face so that you “disappear” and then lower the cloth as you say “here I am” or “boo”. If your baby is not remaining focused on you when you play this variation, only lift the towel up over your nose so that your baby does not lose eye contact with you.

3. Peek-a-boo baby... Use a small scarf or burp cloth to gently cover your baby’s face (start by only draping the cloth over part of your baby’s face) and say, “Where’s (baby’s name)?” and then pull the cloth off and say, “There he is!” Soon your baby will pull the cloth off by himself and before you know it he may even initiate the game by pulling his bib or blankie up to his face.

4. Peek-a-boo books... Read books to your baby that have fold out pages or flaps. Use the flaps to play peek-a-boo by saying “Where’s (anything under the flap)?” and then “There it is” when you pop open the page. One of our favorite peek-a-boo books is Farm Peekaboo by DK Publishing.

bunny5. Jack-in-the-box pop up toy... You probably shouldn't use a traditional jack-in-the-box musical toy for this game early on since the music takes a while and the “reappearance” requires the means-to-an-end motor skill of turning the knob. We have a hand-me-down pop up bunny that works perfect for playing a traditional peek-a-boo game using a pop up toy. At a later stage when your baby is able to sit and perform the fine motor skill of turning the knob, I would recommend the plastic musical jack-in-the-box available at It is very easy to manipulate the knob and does not require the fine motor skills that a traditional metal jack-in-the-box knob does.

6. Hidden toy peek-a-boo... place a small favorite toy on a highchair or swing tray, or the floor, in front of your baby. Cover it with a towel or other cloth and then ask your baby, “Where’s (the toy)?” Pull the cloth off the toy as you say “here it is” and then encourage your baby to remove the cloth by performing the action hand over hand with your baby. Keeping in mind what we now know about the early concepts of permanence, do not spice things up by placing a toy in your hand and then sliding in under the cloth or by switching the toy that is already under the cloth with a different toy.

7. Peek-a-boo picture of you... Print a 5x7 or larger photo of your face and affix it to a piece of cardboard. Raise the photo in front of your face so that you disappear behind it. Say to your baby, “Do you see (mommy, daddy, whoever)?” and then lower the picture while saying “Here’s (mommy, daddy, whoever)”. This game not only helps your child understand permanence but also helps him to understand transference between a picture of an object and the real thing.

8. Paper towel roll peek-a-boo... Take a paper towel roll and as your baby watches, stuff a small scarf or cloth into the end of it. As you ask your baby where the cloth is slowly pull it out of the other end of the roll. You can also use hand over hand to help your baby pull the cloth out of the roll himself. This is a more advanced peek-a-boo game because the object is not reappearing the same way it disappeared and so for a while your baby might think it is a different scarf coming out though it’s doubtful he’ll tell you that ;-)

(Research Credit: New Findings on object permanence: A developmental difference between two types of occlusion—M. Keith Moore and Andrew N. Meltzoff, University of Washington, USA)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Calling All Advocates (That’s You!)

The Center for Disease Control wants to revamp their web pages about Down syndrome. They are working with Lisa over at Genetically Enhanced. She has shared this chance to give feedback and make suggestions with all of us. Wow, what an opportunity to help get accurate and encouraging information out there!

Go on over and find out how to get involved. The CDC requires feedback by Nov. 25th, so hurry up :-)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Stage One Oral Toolkit

In a way, speech therapy begins naturally for all babies on day one with eating, crying, yawning, rooting, burping... As those instinctual actions occur, a baby’s brain receives information and mouth muscle coordination beings. A baby’s brain also receives information about its mouth through stimulation, texture, and pressure (as well as taste... but stage one babies are usually getting only one yummy taste via bottle or breast.) Our babies need a little bit more information and more practice as the mouth masters its jobs.

Enter the oral toolkit, a treasure chest of goodies you can use to orally stimulate and train your baby. Most items can be purchased in a department store or baby store, some must be ordered online, and for those on a tight budget... your fingers are free :-)

The Nuk Brush

The Nuk brush is great for oral stimulation inside and outside of a baby’s mouth. On the outside, you can roll it down from just under your baby’s nose to her upper lip. You can do this same movement all the way around her mouth, rolling toward the mouth with each stroke. This stimulates lip closure. Used inside the mouth, the textures expose your baby to new sensations. Later on it can be used to introduce trace amounts of food to a beginning eater. $3.70

Red Cross Infant Oral Care Kit

This kit has a couple very useful tools in it. The finger infant toothbrush is used for gum tracing exercises and applying pressure to the lower jaw to encourage and strengthen the bite reflex. The gum stimulator is perfect for tongue walking and for gently pressing the center of the tongue to encourage your baby to make the bowl shape with her tongue. You can use the infant toothbrush on occasion in place of the Nuk to expose your baby to different textures. $7.99

The First Years Massaging Action Teether

The First Year's "Star" teether has different textures on each star tip. When baby puts pressure on a tip, the teether vibrates and wakes up the mouth muscles. This is also a great tool for demonstrating cause and effect. Though it is slightly big for a newborn, it can be used by a parent in small doses to stimulate the baby’s lips and cheeks. This teether is easier to trigger than other brands. 7.99

The Grabber

Easy to hold, your baby will love to mouth and bite on the Grabber teether thereby strengthening jaw muscles and control. It is a smooth teether and great for babies with who are showing signs of texture aversion. $6.50

Soothie Pacifier

A pacifier is good for letting your baby practice sucking and keeping his tongue down. I had some unused orthodontically correct pacifiers (my boys wouldn’t take them) and I tried to use them but was quickly corrected by our speech therapist who said the shape is not good for babies with Ds. Who knew? The hospital style Soothie is a good paci to use and luckily most hospitals will give you a handful on your way out the door but if not, you can get them online. Two for $4.79.

Your Finger
Nice clean fingers can be used to tongue tap, press the jaws to stimulate the bite reflex, rub the gums, gently pinch-pull the lips and cheeks, and trace lines on baby’s cheek skin. Your speech therapist, or a lactation consultant who has experience with children who have Ds, can show you many exercises you can use. You can also find detailed oral stimulation techniques in the books, Early Communication Skills for Children with Down Syndrome and The Down Syndrome Nutrition Handbook: A Guide to Promoting Healthy Lifestyles.


The Z-Vibe is a great tool for babies who have moved on to stage two but it is too powerful for newborns. I will do a post on this tool in the future.

Your Turn
Do you have a tip or trick you used for your baby's oral aerobics? Do you love/hate any of the tools in the toolkit? Share your thoughts with us.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Shake Your Bootie

There’s no better way to celebrate a Buddy Walk than with a new pair of homemade sweater booties. Lianna over at My Life With Gabriel is giving away a free pair everyday this week in honor of Canadian Down syndrome awareness. All you have to do is visit her blog and leave her a comment to be entered in the daily drawing. Well, what are you waiting for... shake your bootie on over there!