Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Playing with Dolls

Having your preemie play with a doll or teddy bear is a great way to encourage language and communication skills. Therapists often call it symbolic play. Here are some tips for encouraging your little one to play and how to make a great "play box" for your preemie and his/her doll.

Finding a doll - for this type of play any doll or stuffed animal will do. Make sure it is one that has an obvious mouth (if you aren't using a doll). It should be big enough that your preemie can easily give the doll/stuffed animal a hug. The doll doesn't need to do anything fancy. Depending on the age or interest of your preemie, it may be helpful to name the doll or stuffed animal.

Play time - A doll is a great way to encourage symbolic play. Things such as giving the doll a hug/kiss, feeding the doll, putting the doll to bed, brushing the doll's hair are all good ways to encourage language and communication. You can also use the doll to help learn body parts. Our daughter likes to touch the feet on the doll and then touch her own feet. In the beginning you can show your preemie the doll and let him/her play or examine it (or in the case of my kids - drop it or poke it in the eye). Try one activity at a time - "Let's give the doll a hug." First you hug the doll and then encourage your preemie to do the same. Depending on your preemies interest, build in other activities slowly.

Play Box - You can easily create your own play box for the doll. Here is a picture of our play box along with a list of items that you need to create your own quickly and cheaply:
  • plastic box with an easy to open lid
  • blanket - I used one of my son's old receiving blankets that he didn't need anymore
  • spoon
  • small container for pretend food
  • hairbrush
  • toothbrush
  • Optional: bottle or sippy cup. The doll for my daughter came with a small baby-sized bottle but you can certainly use a regular one.
Happy playing!!

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