Friday, March 27, 2009

Favorite Products #32

Lately one of the favorite products in our house is the Fisher Price Little People: Animal Sounds Farm.

Olivia got this as a Christmas gift and she really enjoys it. She hasn't quite gotten to the point of doing any imaginary play but she does like to make animal sounds and move each animal around the farm.

Here are some ways that you can encourage your preemie's development with this toy:

1) Animal Sounds - encourage your preemie to imitate the animal sounds for each animal. The toy does make sounds however it's often easier to just make sounds yourself. Start with one animal and then add in more as he/she masters them.

2) Turn taking - help your preemie learn how to take turns. Drop one toy through the "silo" area and then let your preemie do the same. Turn taking is an important part of language and social development.

3) Fine motor - show your preemie how to open the little doors or operate other parts of the farm.

4) Imaginary play - have the animals talk to each other. Maybe they all want to go for a walk around the farm. Any type of role-playing/imaginary play is great.

Happy farming!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fine Motor Skills in the Highchair

As kids get more mobile it becomes harder to work on fine motor skills. What preemie on the go wants to sit still? One of the best ways to help your preemie focus on fine motor skills is to do it while he/she is in the highchair. With some planning and enthusiasm you can really make some great progress. Here are some games and activities to try that I posted on a message board recently.

Cheerio Drop and Dump - Get about 10-15 cheerios and put them on the highchair tray (eating the cheerios is always okay and encouraged). Put a small bowl on the try next to the cheerios. Encourage your little one to drop the cheerios into the bowl one at a time. Try and get him/her to use a pincer grasp (thumb and first finger) to pick up the cheerios and drop them in. Once all of the cheerios are in the bowl - let him/her dump it out and do it again. Once he/she has dumped them out once he/she may only want to put a couple in before dumping but that's okay :)

Raisin Drop and Dump - same as above but with raisins - smaller and harder to do.

Stickers - Get a bunch of stickers - bigger ones to start. Start by taking a sticker and putting it on your little one's hand. Encourage him/her to take the sticker off and put it somewhere else. Use smaller stickers as he/she gets good at it. Once he/she gets the hang of it, let him/her peel off a sticker (will probably need you to start it) and then let him/her put it on a paper.

Coloring - tape a piece of paper to the highchair tray. Give your little one a crayon and encourage them to color on the paper. take a crayon yourself and draw some lines on the paper. At first they will probably just make dots and then tentative lines. Once they master a straight line, encourage them to draw a circle and make a cross. Some kids like to hold a crayon in their fist at first so you may want to break a crayon in half or buy the little beginnings crayons.

Popsicle Sticks - Get a travel coffee mug that has a slot at the top. Take some small popsicle sticks and have your little one drop them into the cup through the slot. Once they put them in, open the lid and let them dump them out. Repeat.

Playdough - this is a tough one because kids may try and eat the playdough. You have to be really careful. Take some playdough and just let your little one touch it, squish, roll it, etc. Encourage them to roll small pieces of the dough in between their thumb and first finger. Make snakes by rolling pieces with their whole hand.

Toy suggestion - Right now Target has a great little mini-barn and small plastic animals in the $1 section. They are great (slightly larger) items that can kids can play with and practice picking up, etc.

For drawing - you can get one of those portable drawing boards that erase (Doodle boards) or the Aqua Doodles - uses water to color and then dries so you can do it again.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Songs to encourage communication

Babies love singing. Singing is a great way to entertain, calm and even teach your preemie. It's also a great way to help your preemie learn communication skills.

A great song to start with is "The Wheels On The Bus" Here are some ways to help your preemie participate in the song.

1) Hand gestures - Try to use a hand gesture for each verse of the song. Encourage your preemie to copy you. If you don't know the "typical" hand gesture - make one up. You can tailor it to your preemie's abilities. As my daughter started signing she was much more interested in this song because of the hand gestures she could make.

2) Pause - During the song, try to pause during each verse in order to give your preemie a chance to "sing" along. Any sound or attempt at sound that your preemie makes should be celebrated and encouraged. Taking turns helps your preemie learn how to talk and communicate.

3) Add verses - there is nothing to say that your bus can't have additional people (or animals on it) to make the song longer and/or more interesting for your preemie. If you preemie has some favorite animal sounds or people - put them on the bus too. Here are some verses I add to our bus song here at home:
"The Aunties on the bus say give us a kiss"
" The Grandmas on the bus say we need a hug"
" The Uncles on the bus say give us a high five"
" The doggies on the bus say woof woof woof"
" The kitties on the bus say meow, meow, meow"

Happy Singing!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Focus on sign language: Book

This sign language post is devoted to the sign for "book." Since most kids like having books read to them, this is a great sign to start teaching your preemie how to ask for specific items .Go here for an explanation and pictures on how to do the sign.

For beginning tips on introducing sign language to your preemie, click here.

How to incorporate the sign:

  • Start introducing the sign each time you read a book to your preemie. Start by using the word and the sign together. After your preemie has watched you a few times, help him/her do the sign him/herself.
  • Use the sign and word in a question. Do you want a book? What do you want? A book? Anything that helps your preemie realize that if he/she uses the sign, you will get him/her what they asked for.
  • If your preemie brings you a book to read, use the sign or encourage him/her to use the sign before reading the book. You can take the book and say "do you want mommy to read the book?" and use the sign.
  • Each time you read a book, use the sign as you talk about it. Look - we are reading a book (use the sign) about Bob the Builder.
  • Remember to read a book if your preemie uses the sign (as appropriate).