Thursday, May 28, 2009

Development: Learning Joint Attention

"Joint attention" means the active sharing of an experience with your preemie. When both of you are actively looking at an object or event - sharing in the moment. This can be a very difficult skill for some preemies to learn but it is really important for learning speech and social skills.

Here are some ways for you to help your preemie develop this skill:

"Look at me" - While your preemie is sitting near you, tell him/her to "look at me" and wait for him/her to look. If he/she doesn't than say it again but gently tap his/her face and then your own face. Again, wait for your preemie to look.

"Look" Part 1 - Hold up a toy and say "look." Wait for your preemie to look at the toy. When he/she looks, give him/her the toy as a reward. You can also point to a toy and say "look." Once your preemie has looked at the toy than give it to him/her to play with.

"Look" Part 2 - Blow bubbles and say "look." When your preemie looks at you, blow more bubbles and then say "look" again while you point at the bubbles.

"Look" Part 3 - Reading books is a great way to help encourage your preemie to grasp the "look" concept. As you read a book, point to the picture and say "look." You want your preemie to look at you and then look at the picture.

You can practice this concept anywhere or with anything that your preemie might be interested in. A balloon, family member, trees, anything that will attract your preemies attention and get him/her to share the experience with you.

Friday, May 22, 2009

New Blog

I've started a new blog - sort of an extension of this one. It's called Entertaining Kids on the Go. After having to take my kids to weekly appointments and being forced to come up with some fast ways to keep them entertained and quiet - I decided to start a blog that shares those ideas for other moms and dads.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

So Excited

I am very excited to announce that I am now an official March of Dimes Mom. They should have my picture and bio up soon. My husband and I have gotten so much out of the amazing March of Dimes community so I am delighted to be able to give something back. Being able to read information from a trusted source in addition to stories from other families who “have been there” was (and is) very helpful to us. I’ll be blogging about topics related to prematurity (like I do now) but as an added bonus, I’ll be linking to some great information from the March of Dimes.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Keep Talking: Part 2

This is part 2 of the Keep Talking series. This series provides suggestions for ways to talk to your preemie even though he/she isn't talking back. Today's post will give you more ideas to keep the conversation going. Keep Talking: Part 1 has some additional ideas for you.

1) Action - when you talk to your preemie and narrate what you or he/she is doing, use action words like jump, run, sit, sleep, etc. This is a great thing to do with a stuffed animal. Make the doggie jump high or lay down. Give a stuffed animal to your preemie so that he/she can do it with you. Try to repeat the word and action as many times as possible in a row so your preemie really starts to process the word and the meaning. If you go for a walk you can say "look we are walking. Let's walk. Look we are walking together. Wow. You are so fast. Maybe tomorrow we can walk again." This is also a great activity to do with siblings. Narrate what they are doing or get them to play Simon says so that you can repeat an action several times.

2) Description - Help your preemie understand more about what is going on around them by using descriptive words. Try it right now - grab the closest object to you. What words can you use to describe it? For example, I have a little rubber ducky next to me (courtesy of my daughter). I can say that the ducky is yellow. The duck has an orange beak. The duck has a purple crown on her head. The crown is very pretty. The duck has a purple star too. This duck is small. You can squish the duck to make a squeaky sound." And on and on you can go. To start, try picking a single descriptive word and use it as many times as you can. Put your creative hat on and just start talking. Make it a game. Get siblings involved. If you have trouble thinking of things - talk about the shape, size, color, weight, location, noise, size, etc.

3) Keep it simple - Sometimes preemies have a hard time processing all of the words that we say. Especially when we are trying to tell them to do something specific. I've found that if I keep the request down to 2-3 words my daughter has a much easier time understanding me. It may sound weird to a stranger but trust me - it works. Some examples are: if I want my daughter to put a toy in a bin, I simply point to the toy and then the bin while I say "put in." As she gets older and understands more I will expand that to "put car in" and then "put car in bin," etc. Start simple and see how your preemie reacts. Chances are he/she will have a much easier time following your direction.

It may seem hard to do these things but trust me, once you get started it will quickly become a regular part of your day/routine. Just like anything else, start small. Pick one time of a day where you will narrate everything you are doing. Or choose bath time to describe the toys your preemie is playing with. Choose one activity where you simplify your language.

Happy talking!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Drawing a line

As your preemie starts to develop his/her fine motor skills - encourage him/her to "color." At first just have your preemie hold the crayon and touch a piece of paper. Make sure you point out the color marks that appear on the paper. Take a crayon and color with your preemie.

Once your preemie gets the idea, he/she will start to dot the paper and then draw random lines across the page. There won't be any rhyme or reason to the drawing and that is fine. In fact - feel free to cheer your little one as if they have just completed a masterpiece on par with DiVinci or Van Gogh. Normally kids do horizontal lines first. As your preemie masters the art of a horizontal line, you can start to encourage him/her to draw a vertical line. This can be a difficult concept to understand so here are two ideas to try. The ideas come from my daughter's awesome developmental therapist.

1) Go/stop. Draw a circle at the top and bottom of the page (vertically). Connect the circles with a green dotted line. Color the top circle green and the bottom circle red. I would suggest starting out with about 5 of these lines. Put your crayon on the green circle and then draw a line to the red circle (you have now made a vertical line). As your draw the line say "go" and then say "stop" at the bottom. Do the first two lines yourself and then encourage your preemie to do the same. Continue saying go/stop as each line is drawn.

2) Vroom. This is basically the same concept as go/stop but instead of saying go/stop - you say vroom while the line is drawn. This is an especially good thing to use if you have a little boy who likes cars.

Having a sound associated with a specific movement or activity is very useful for getting kids to try and then remember it. I had tried to get Olivia to draw a vertical line with zero successes. Seriously. We talked about. I showed her how to do it. She was very excited - yes was heard several times when asked if she wanted to try it. And so the crayon was handed over. And then she promptly made horizontal lines over and over again. After our developmental therapist told me about the go/stop trick I tried it out and in one try Olivia was making vertical lines.

The funny part is that she continues to say go/stop when she draws the lines (even without the circles).

Happy coloring!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Favorite Products #33

A current favorite product in our house is the Doodle Pro.

Recently my daughter has become nothing less than obsessed with the Doodle Pro. She excitedly points at it and says "draw, draw." I have always loved Doodle Pro type products because it provides endless amounts of possibilities - don't like your drawing? Erase and start over. Do you want to practice drawing circles or other shapes? Go for it. This is a great product for kids because you can take it anywhere, it doesn't make a mess and kids of pretty much any age can have fun with it.

Here are some ways to encourage your preemie's development:

1) Fine motor - This is obviously a great product to help your preemie work on fine motor skills. Holding the pen and then drawing with it takes hand strength and coordination. If your preemie has trouble at first, help him/her hold the pen and draw. Some of the Doodle Pro products now come with magnetic shapes that can be "stamped" across the board. This is another great activity for fine motor work. You can have your preemie work on lines (horizontal first) and then circle drawings. My daughter loves to trace her (or my) hand too.

2) Cause and Effect - a great way to demonstrate this is by drawing a picture and then sliding the eraser bar so that it disappears. Tip: make sure you demonstrate the erasing part with your OWN drawing first. Some kiddos don't want to erase a masterpiece right away.

3) Shapes, counting, etc. - as your preemie gets older you can use the Doodle Pro to practice naming shapes or count how many of something you have drawn.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Proof is in the Pudding

Or yogurt as the case may be. I would like to present my latest adventures in the world of feeding/weight gain issues. Otherwise known as "how to tell that your life is slightly left of normal."

Proof #1: Last night I was at the grocery store (THE happening spot on a Friday night). I was cruising through the yogurt section and stopped to buy some Danables Crush Cups. For those of you unfamiliar with this item, it is yogurt in a cup that you squeeze in order to slurp the yogurt out. I see it as a personal testament to how much I love my son that I let him eat these things - I hate the sound of slurping. Anyway, lately he has been eating two of them each day during his snack times. As I went to pick up more of them last night I did a happy dance. Not because they were on sale (that dance came later) instead it was because they are 100 calories each. That meant an extra 200 calories each day! Exciting stuff for a mom whose son needs to gain weight and doesn't seem to be able to.

Proof #2: At the checkout I was unloading the baby food I had bought for my daughter. She still isn't eating orally - we are putting it down her tube. Anyway, as I was doing that I was hoping with my whole being that the checker would not ask how old my baby was. Because my baby isn't really a baby anymore. She's two. I wasn't really prepared to explain the whole reason why my two year-old is eating stage 2 fruits and vegetables. And not really eating them at that. So instead I was fully prepared to take complete ownership and parental claims of my nephew. My sister's beautiful, healthy eight month-old who does eat stage 2 baby food. I'm sure she will understand. With his adorable cheeks he never stood a chance against me taking ownership anyway.